I’m on a mission these last few weeks. I know we’ve talked about it before, but this is my furnace. 

It is very old. It is bigger than Utah, takes up just about the whole basement,  and it works great.  It’s an old gravity furnace.   It has no fan or electrical parts, so I have heat when it the power goes out, and if our bills are compared to our neighbours, it’s actually pretty efficient, which shocks the hell out of me because it can’t be true… but we’re not spending much more than them.  It makes no noise, except for the tiniest little gentle and friendly ting-ping sound of the ducts expanding when the heat comes on, and because there’s no blower, it doesn’t even dry the air out the way a forced air one does.  In short, I love this furnace, and up until the last winter, it’s been as reliable as your favourite grandpa.  

Last winter though, there were two really scary days (because not having heat mid-winter in Canada is scary) when the thing died, and even though it was simple to fix (Joe did something with a screwdriver the first time, and I thumped it Fonzie style the second) it was also scary because it’s not really a repairable furnace.  If we can’t fix it, it can’t be fixed, because the minute a repair guy gets  look at that he’s going to be obligated to "lock" it for safety.  (I don’t necessarily buy that – I think they’re just scamming to sell and install new furnaces some of the time.)  If that happens, we’re suddenly obligated to buy and install a furnace on their terms, not ours, and at a time we don’t choose.  That didn’t sound good, so as I type there’s an energy auditor here to figure out what we need, and dudes, I’m getting a new furnace.

This makes me happy, partly because I won’t have to worry that the extended lifespan of the beast in the basement will run out on a Saturday morning in January when it’s -40, because as cheap as this one is to run, the new one will be cheaper and have much, much lower emissions, which is fantastic, and because as much as I love my furnace, it is old, and it does have a hard time keeping up when the weather is really cold… which, as I may have implied, is most of the time here.  (We put our heat on only when absolutely necessary and that’s usually 8 months of the year.  October to May.)  It also gives us the option to someday install central air conditioning, which isn’t possible with a gravity furnace.

The downside is huge.  First, and I’m sure you might know this.  Furnaces are not cheap.  Mine is particularly not cheap, because it’s a shocking thing to have extracted from your home and takes some special handling, and because gravity furnaces work entirely differently than forced air does… I need to have ducts installed throughout the house.   Gravity furnaces are essentially big fires – with ginormous ducts that run from it.  Two big ones go in the bottom of the furnace, and about six come out the top.  Cold air sinks (is pulled down by gravity) through big returns in the house down to the bottom of the furnace,

and it gets heated in the big fire and warm air rises through a central "chimney" which has a few runs to some other rooms, but mostly pumps out heat into the center of the house.

Modern forced air though, has cold air returns in the middle of the house and the heat at the edges… which means that even though my house is full of ducts twice the size of escape tunnels dug out of Sing Sing… none of them are any good and they have to chop up my house and install a whack of them, which is sort of thrilling, because when this is done, we will actually have something that we’ve never had before, which is the absolute decadence of heat in every single room in the house.  (Megan’s room is one of the unheated ones, as is my office.  We’re both pretty pumped.)

The down side to this is that people are coming into our house, they need to move things, go into all rooms, shift furniture, climb in the attic,  cut holes in the walls and floors…. and really, I don’t know if you’ve gathered anything from this blog over the years, but I have a really tiny house (like… 1100 square feet) and four of us living here (it was five before Amanda moved out) and it only has two closets in the whole building (built before closets were popular) and I’m not at all the organized minimalist who would do well in this sort of set up and…  I can’t stress this part enough. 

I have rather a lot of wool. 

I’ve spent a week gutting the hell out of the house, destashing (some of my buddies have scored huge) and getting rid of anything that I can to make room for the new ducts and make it possible to move furniture around.  I’m  living in fear of the moment they tell me to move the wardrobe in my office and that means moving everything in it – and that means emptying it into another space that doesn’t have space and…

I hope this is worth it.

227 thoughts on “Upheaval

  1. It will be so worth it. The thought of your winter makes me shiver. And the UK always is complaining about their weather!
    Good luck on keeping some of the stash safe!

  2. It will SO be worth it! Even the ass pain of the install will all be a fleeting memory when your fingers aren’t frozen into the typing position!

  3. Oh my word. What a huge undertaking. But safely warm in Jan-Feb is seriously worth it. And think of being comfortable in your office from now on! And if you have to move the yarn wardrobe, just consider it as *voluntary* reorganizing and prioritizing. You’ll be fine.

  4. i had to smile at that photo of the furnace. up until recently its mate lived in my cellar. sad to say it had to be replaced when a crack was discovered inside and it was leaking exhaust into the house. its removal was a major undertaking and disposal of the “body” not so simple as the old gal contained materials that are today considered toxic. i miss it terribly. it was warm and toasty when running and the grates made a great place to dry my wet wool items. thanks for the trip down memory lane

  5. I say when the workers arrive, just take a very large portion of your stash and the appropriate needles and DISAPPEAR. Go to the yarn shop, or your mother’s house, or the middle of a crowded subway station…anywhere. Leave and don’t come back till it’s done and your house is warm.
    (I know you won’t do this, because you’re cut from the same control-freak cloth that I am. But I had to say it.)

  6. A new furnace is worth it (though my gravity fed furnace was a boiler/hot water heat, so no new ductwork). The hardest thing to get used to is hearing the motor kick in in the middle of the night. And the new one will look very tiny in comparison!

  7. I have to say you’re hard-core when it comes to winning the furnace wars…you are having yours REMOVED in October so there can be no chance of some weak-willed member of your family turning it on before Ian!
    (no coincidence, I am sure, that this wasn’t scheduled in June or July)

  8. Heat in January tho, it will be worth it.
    And just think of all the joy you’ll have rebuilding the stash once it’s done! Look! A bonafide excuse to go yarn shopping (as if we needed one). :) Best of luck!

  9. I feel both happy and sad for you. I know what it is to get a new furnase. We are currently looking into replaceing the one we have because it is not working the best. But to have such a big thing removed from your home is quite a task, and its dirty to.
    If having men work inside your home area, cover all your wool and anything you do not want to get dirty. Because from the sounds of it you are going to have lots of dirt to deal with.
    Grab a good knitting project and relax while they work and dream of a nice warm winter. :) At least inside of your home will be warm. :)

  10. It will be well worth the trouble. We bought a new furnace about 3 years ago, and installed central air at the same time. So worth it. Usually when we do a house upgrade we can’t see (like a new roof) I hate it, but the a/c brings me joy every summer. Yeah, I’m a heat weenie!

  11. The first house my husband and I owned didn’t have heat. At all. So one of the first things we did was install a furnace. We went through the same process as you are going through now and I can tell you, it was totally worth it. It was worth the dust, noise, inconvenience, etc. to not wake up in the morning and see my breath. While I was still in bed!

  12. It will be absolutely worth it. Better a warm and fuzzy modernist then a damp and cold luddite. As a fellow Canadian, I know -40 so I know that trying to survive a bitter cold (and damp) Ontario winter with a broken furnace would be a catastrophe. Remember the ice storms about a decade back? Exactly. Give the new furnace a hug and give the tradesmen hot coffee and a smile :)
    Good luck, Mrs. McPhee.

  13. Having had one of those forced to replace on their terms kind of events in our lives a couple of years ago I can tell you that you really really DON’T want to be forced to go there…
    Think of the basement space that will be freed up to store things so that there is more room upstairs for… wool!

  14. Um, Stephanie…does this mean that when you get the new one installed that it will have to be turned on to be tested, thus taking you out of the furnace wars?
    (Your furnace competition with your family makes me laugh my butt off every year, I’d hate to see you lose on a technicality!!)

  15. Just think how much more space you will gain to stash yarn once that huge furnace you currently have is gone!

  16. I have one of those furnaces too – which is actually very efficient and my heating bill is much lower than those of friends with much newer furnaces. I will keep my furnace until its last gasp – and I hope that isn’t the middle of a MN winter. The cost of removal is ginormous since there is inevitable asbestos to deal with. Good Luck and enjoy your more spacious basement!

  17. Congratulations.
    I know the fear of having the furnace go out on you in Canadian winter, the one in my place (that I RENT) went out on the 2 coldest nights of our extremely BITTERLY horridly cold winter last year, both nights were likely around -56C with the wind, and my basement suite is nowhere near airtight at the BEST of times, nevermind with Prairie Blizzard conditions and bitter cold pummelling the drafty windows. I was lucky that both times my children were with their father rather than staying with me, but it got to about 5C in my place before I could find someone to help me, and being alone and not having money to fix something that wasn’t mine was absolutely TERRIFYING…

  18. You will love it !!! I grew up with gravity heat and even though science tells us that heat rises, it rises very inefficiently -like only to the room which is directly above it. Sadly that was not my room so I froze in a Michigan winter and sweltered in a Michigan summer.
    After I moved out and married my parents got a new furnace which heats all with efficiently –I think it was plotted to get my brother and I out of the nest.
    The gravity heat was fun in one way–sitting on the large register was a great way to warm up –but we had to move the dog and the cat as they spent their whole winter on the darn thing.

  19. We used a kerosene heater in the kitchen and family room until my father died when I was ten. My uncle who built elaborate houses was at our house that evening along with the rest of the family to see what they could do for my mother. My uncle asked where the thermostat was to turn on the furnace (since it was almost Halloween and no one had bothered to light the kerosene heaters in all the chaos). He was so horrified to learn what we had been using to heat our house with for so many years that we had a brand new furnace installed almost the very next day by his contracting minions.
    My sister and I have good memories of the kerosene heaters, but honestly? New furnaces seriously rock. You’ll enjoy yours immensely, even though you’ll probably have to buy more lotion.

  20. My father-in-law died 11 days ago and we are in the process of cleaning out his house and getting ready to sell it. We had a guy in to look at the furnace and service it, and we knew it was old but we had no idea exactly how old it is. Turns out we found the paperwork from the purchase of the furnace – which was 1945. That was the year after my mom and dad got married…!! I’m guessing your furnace is a little newer than that?! Good luck with the new one – you’ll be thrilled once it’s all done and running smoothly. And warmly.

  21. Just think of all that extra space for more yarn!!! all that space in the basement…all those extra wide ducts becoming narrow ducts. I bet you could pile an extra thousand pounds of yanr in your house thereby making your new furnace even MORE efficient! Because saving the environment is what it’s all about…yeah…

  22. Yes, reliable heat will make it worth it. And will be easy to identify when you wonder where your money went! Me? I’m facing several thousands of dollars in plumbing bills to ensure I can flush without sewage flooding my basement. While, yes, I do think flushing peace of mind is a great thing to have, it’s not nearly as glamorous as heat when it’s -40!

  23. I so feel your pain. We six lived in half our house for a year with most of our belongings in boxes taking up the space, then moved back into the other half and did it again.
    And AFTER that, we were told the heating had been botched and some guy wanted $60,000 to install new vents, etc etc. Although, when I mentioned that bid to the second bidder, he burst out laughing. We got what needed to be done to fix that one last bit on the heating done for about $600.
    Good luck!

  24. Good luck on your new furnace. We too are getting a new one, a boiler, in Colorado, as the old one was apparently trying to kill us with carbon monoxide and is leaking in four places. Looking forward to radiant warmth as I knit this winter. Don’t envy you your new ducting placement, though.

  25. Just be sure you (and anyone with any gas-fired appliances) have a carbon monoxide detector in your home! Whether it’s brand new or old, they can leak (especially if there is faulty installation). They’re very cheap and could keep your family alive. I have friends who have been poisoned and almost died, and friends who have been saved due to a detector.

  26. Ahhh…we also had a gravity fed..but she was a water one. Poor Bessie left us a number of years ago. They actually had to saw her into pieces..apparently she was put in place and they built the rest of the house around her. My sister and I would dare one another to run past her..with all her arms up top and a funny grate..she looked like a person.

  27. You may have extra “stash room” once the old furnace moves out and a smaller one moves in….
    We just replaced our gas furnace last week. I’m much more at ease with the new once. It was only a matter of time before the old one went – which probably would have been on the coldest day in Wisconsin.

  28. I know the process is pretty awful now, but think how happy you’ll be when it’s subzero outside and you’re nice and toasty inside.
    Hang in there! Mimi

  29. NO! DON’T DO IT! Forced-air heat is horrendous. If you are going to be doing all that tearing up and installing, go for radiant heat instead. More efficient, warmer, doesn’t dry out your sinuses, and doesn’t make noise.

  30. Oh my goodness…why do I think there will be a back hoe involved in getting that behemouth out of there?! You could alway keep the old guy in the basement for sentimental reasons :-P
    Best wishes for a very happy, warm winter and one more vote in favor of “Totally Worth It”.

  31. Congratulations & good luck on your soon-to-be-improved heating situation! We replaced our old (but not as old as yours) furnace about 2 years ago with a super high-efficiency one. Even though we keep it set really low, we’ve definitely noticed that the whole house feels more consistently warm. And the programmable thermostat has been delightful (I realize that this is a bit sad to say, but it’s the little things, you know?). I hope that the duct work is smooth & speedy, with minimal gnashing of teeth.

  32. Will the removal of the old ducts (twice the size of escape tunnels dug out of Sing Sing) make room for small yarn stash closets?
    For those who don’t know, Sing-Sing is a prison in Ossining NY. I grew up near there, and my parents were always threatening us kids with incarceration.

  33. Forced hot water is vastly better than forced hot air. Is it too late to change your mind?
    And Steph, if you need someone to store some yarn, I’d be thrilled to help. I won’t charge much, just a skein a day.

  34. I feel your pain, AND you will love it once the chaos is over. As we speak I’m having all the old 1926 windows replaced in my house, and though it is not nearly as invasive as what you are doing (they are not cutting holes in my walls) I have had to rearrange everything in my house so they can actually get to the windows (I also have an obscene amount of fiber in my house). AND it will be lovely and warm when both our projects are complete.

  35. Heat in a cold winter is a truly magnificent thing, there is no doubt about it. However, central air in the midst of high heat & even higher humidity allows one to have a normal sex life in the middle of the dog days of summer.
    I’m not exactly a warm weather loving kind of gal.

  36. Maybe you could put the yarn and fleece (in special rodent-proof bags- I presume such a thing exists) in the attic as insulation?
    (Only downside to this would be going up to the cold old attic every time you started something new…)

  37. can I recommend a storage unit…? – they don’t have to be all that expensive for a small number of months, and you’d have *more* space, not less in which to sort everything out, and be able to sort it back into the house a bit at a time when you are done… just sayin… *grin*

  38. I can store some of your yarn for you and I totally promise to give it all back. OK, yes, I do have my fingers crossed behind my back (but that doesn’t mean anything).

  39. It will totally be worth it. We had to do the same thing a few years ago (coal furnace converted to oil in the 1950′s) including all of the duct work. It was surprisingly non-invasive. Even the ducting. And you will love love love the results.

  40. Maybe you should not just gut the house, but accidentally knock it down and rebuild it all, as long as you’re going to all that trouble to remove stuff and holes will be drilled…. you probably would like some new windows in places that have none, yes? New fireplace? New closets and storage shelves? Just sayin…..

  41. Clearly this is the hand of the universe telling you that you should pack your stash in a nice, large, unmarked van, and spend a week…or whatever….driving to and from a little town in New York called Rhinebeck, (If you leave now, you can be in Kingston in time for the cheese party in our room, yeah?) and then, you know, just driving around on a little vacay. Just you and the stash. Doesn’t that sound romantic?

  42. Im with the person who said NO to the hot air furnace. I moved to Virginia from Maine. We have forced air here and I freeze all winter, the air is constantly dry and our noses bleed. No matter what we set the temperature on in the house, when the furnace comes on it’s blowing air and it feels cold. It totally sucks.
    In Maine we had forced hot water heat. It was economical, very warm and I miss it like crazy.

  43. I have my fingers crossed for you, Steph. May your new furnace be all it’s advertised to be, and may the serious cold weather hold off until the installation is complete.

  44. It will be worth it. I promise. Think of it as a form of child birth for your home. It’s painful while it’s happening but when it’s done you have something that you love.
    P.S. We just got a brand new elevator in my apt building. This meant no elevator for 9 weeks. And to get to the laundry you have to go downstairs, outside, around the back, down more stairs and then backwards coming up. Now that it’s done, it’s like it never even happened!

  45. It will totally be worth it. We installed a new furnace a few years ago and it really does make a noticeable improvement. Doesn’t your MIL live (relatively) close? Could you possibly store some of your stash there or at Rachel H’s? Do you guys have P.O.D.’s in Canada? (they are movable rental storage units.) You could rent one for the furniture, stash and miscellaneous debris that doesn’t have anywhere else to live while the ducts are being installed. Good luck during the whole shebang and don’t forget to breathe!

  46. Can I just say (in the unlikely event that this has not occurred to you) that the new furnace will be way smaller than the old one, thus FREEING UP MORE SPACE in the basement? That has to be a plus….

  47. Wow! Our house originally had the same octopus in the basement (we bought it from friends so we know). Our friends installed a new furnace just like you’re doing and it’s great. We still have those old huge vent thingies like you have — decorative, right? I love the furnace though — mainly because as soon as we moved in, we also moved in central air. Yum!!

  48. I feel your pain. Last month I had to squeeze three floors of possessions into two (extensive mould throughout the said 3rd floor rendering it inhabitable). Not pretty, but doable. Just treat it as a on-going game of “furniture tetris” and drink lots.

  49. I can see how the cold would not make you happy with a furnace like that!
    Just two things: May I suggest a storage unit temporarily? Then you wouldn’t have to get rid of so much stash. Second, and I know this will scare you as you’ve made your feelings on dusting well known…but a forced air furnace can put a lot of dust in the air in your house. So, make sure you have a very good filter. It cuts down on the dust…and dusting! Or use it as an excuse to finally get house cleaners! (Best money we spend twice a month!)

  50. it is entirely pleasureful to get a new, efficient furnace heating a house. You will have a long week, which you’ve had about once a year, by my count- your stove, your bedroom,your back walkway– and now this. I hope you take all sorts of explanatory pictures. Honestly, the anatomy of a socket plug- I’d seen diagrams, but I didn’t belive they were true, until you took pictures.
    You’ll have a remarkably livable house by the time you are done.
    YOur sweater looks lovely,
    and what a great Thanksgiving post.
    We are very lucky that you are the local, resident writer,

  51. Ok, as your friends I think we can all agree that there is only one solution. You must divide up your stash and send it to us. Or if that’s too much trouble, just send it all to me.
    No, no. Don’t thank me. I consider it a valuable service that frees up space in your home. And then you get to go out and buy more yarn. It’s a win-win situation!!

  52. Like everyone up above is saying, you’re gonna looooove it! Nice even temperatures of your choosing AND more space for stashing woolly goodness. All my best to you and the family during the frustration that is installation.

  53. That furnace is comically huge.
    If the wardrobe you are mentioning is the one with all the spinning fiber in it, you can just send that right on down to Delaware. Lots of room in my 900 sq ft house!

  54. When we moved into our house in 2000, we knew the furnace was old and on its last legs. Then we found out that the company that made it went out of business in 1963! The Energy Audit guy was all impressed that it was still running (and fairly efficiently) for its age. We did replace it, but not until 2004, and our utilities bill did go down, but mostly due to the handy dandy programmable thermostat we had installed along with the new furnace. Best wishes on your upgrade!

  55. I can totally relate – our clutter and pack-rat lifestyle is the main reason Larry does the repairs around here and we have many projects not done that would require moving things around so workmen could get in! I keep dreaming of the day when I go “minimalist” and we could rewire, get new carpeting, etc.

  56. We replaced our central air/furnace a few years ago and Oh.My.God. what an amazing difference!
    So… yes… totally worth it. :D
    Yay new furnace!!!

  57. Congratulations on your advance winter planning. I want to echo Jenny’s post:
    “Just be sure you (and anyone with any gas-fired appliances) have a carbon monoxide detector in your home! Whether it’s brand new or old, they can leak (especially if there is faulty installation). They’re very cheap and could keep your family alive. I have friends who have been poisoned and almost died, and friends who have been saved due to a detector.
    Posted by: Jenny in Vail, CO at October 14, 2009 1:44 PM”
    Unlike a natural gas leak, carbon monoxide has no odor. You are installing a new furnace for the safety and comfort of your household, why not include a wee bit of vital protection against a potentially fatal leak? A carbon monoxide dectector is now required in all new homes in my area. Please, please just do it.

  58. i live in winnipeg. we keep electric radiant heaters on hand so that we never feel ‘stuck’ if our furnace decides not to work for a while.
    that being said, shopping for a furnace pre-emptiveley is super-smart. and hrtc eligible too! win-win, my dear.
    on the other hand, no furnace does justify more knitted items…hmmm…this one is tough.

  59. I had sort of the opposite problem. Instead of having no heat in the dead of winter, I’ve had (three times now!) no cooling in the middle of some wicked DC heat waves. My place is fairly old (1948) with little ducts added some time in the ’70s, I think, so getting a new heat pump and air handler was a little traumatic.
    Anyway, I hope the new furnace installation goes smoothly! Enjoy the efficiency and warmth!
    P.S. What, if anything, does this mean for the furnace wars?

  60. Ever since your first post about your strange “gravity” furnace I’ve wondered how it works. Thanks for explaining it! I’m always amazed at how efficient (and simple!) older technologies can be. I hope your new, modern, efficient one is everything you need it to be, and that you don’t loose any sock yarn into a duct, ’cause I bet that would smell bad once it started to singe…
    (I’m guessing now would be a bad time to mention that I heat my entire house with one 2ftx2.5ft wood stove with no duct work, but I can’t resist)

  61. “Two closets, where did they keep their yarn?
    Posted by: Gwyneth at October 14, 2009 2:40 PM” — seems to me they were like our Stephanie The YH – they spun what they needed for THAT project – no stash, you see? Clothes, now! I wonder where they hung those – I also have two closets (House built in 1911) – Creative rods and shelving have ‘helped’ -

  62. This is definitely a good thing. I’m thinking that you’ll have all that extra space in your basement once they haul that monster away. I’m thinking stash enhancement :-)

  63. Oh wow…heat anywhere in the house? Sounds wonderful! But one question: can they get the old furnace out/new one in past that cabinet in the kitchen? Here’s hoping they can do it in pieces. And congrats on your future warmth!

  64. Oh boy am I a wimp..know your limitations I say..Ha! I live in southern California and have my heat on from late October to May, too. You’d probably never need heat here. I went to Ottawa in February one year to experience a real winter…dude it’s cold up there and heat cannot be underestimated! You’ll love the new furnace!

  65. ‘Member that box you were going to send me? I mention this absolutely for your own comfort and sanity during this stressful time. Really.

  66. My condolences!!! I lived 30 years w gravity flow and absolutely adored it for all the reasons yo well know. I now live w forced air in the main house, but my little Gramma home has heated floors. My part of the home is very pleasant, but up in the main house the forced air heat is wretched in so many ways–you already know them. Just know you will adjust, but radiant heat of some kind is way better than forced air. We are all thinking good thoughts for you and know you are resilient—you’ll adjust just fine, because you’re a woman, and we bend!
    Sure hope the price isn’t a total killer, having your beloved heater gone, your home messed and your stash pillaged is enough to bear, not good to add in outrageous expense–sounds horrid!
    Blessings and good thoughts!

  67. All this time I’ve been assuming that “furnace” was Canadian for the kind of heating boiler I have in a little cupboard to heat my little house here in the UK. But no – it’s the real Mike Mulligan thing (as someone else has already remarked) and I am in awe at its size and splendour.

  68. i can’t imagine how happy your friends are at the forced destash. they are so very lucky.

  69. you can store your good stash at my house, where it can mingle with my good stash, and maybe I’ll end up with little balls of great stash rolling around my house. You can bring it when you come to Aurora… you ARE coming, aren’t you?

  70. Boy can I relate! We moved into our 85 year old farm house 11 years ago. A building we refer to as ‘The Little House’ became our storage-studio-stash building, but now we have a young Amish family moving in to it, and I’m having to remove all that accumulated treasure-stash-stuff-s##t into the old farmhouse, which much like yours was built before closets. Somehow knowing someone else is doing the same thing makes it just a tad easier.

  71. while getting rid of some stashed yarn and moving things around, have you found any tape measures? You might have the workers that are removing the old furnace check to see if there are any hidden away in it. It’s a gravity furnace, perhaps some tape measures fell down?

  72. How strange…my house has the return ducts on the outside walls and the hot air vents on the interior walls, and it’s forced air! Now I’m horribly curious how common that is! (My house is a young’un compared to yours – built in 1928!)
    As for stashing the wool – just put it in large bags and shove it into the old gravity ducts for safekeeping. You can’t let all that valuable space go to waste, can you? Besides, then it will be insulation and close off the old ducts for you! Think of them as wool cupboards…

  73. Just think. The old furnace is huge and the new one will be tiny. That means lots of new space for shelves for storing… oh, I dunno… yarn!

  74. Good Planning
    First Christmas with my very small twin babies and the furnace went out in our rented uninsulated house. It was -25.
    We put the babies on the oven door and kept them warm that way. The furnace people came to our rescue at midnight. Makes a good family story but not something I ever want to do again!

  75. Deep calming breaths may help, I would recommend a nice hot bath with some wonderful bath bombs, but that may not be as good an idea. What with all of the construction people that I assume this project will involve. It will be worth it in the end, though the old furnace may make your art more appreciated (hard to wear slippers, sweaters and hats inside when it’s toasty warm), the new one will make it easier to get out of bed…kinda

  76. Perhaps, maybe, possibly – when everything is all done some of the space from the old duct work might become closets or hidey holes?
    I’ve got a built in bookcase that is about 15 inches wide and 9 inches deep that used to be covered up. When I moved into my tiny house (650 square feet) – it was the top of the cold air return and was walled over. We opened it up, added shelves, ta-da built in bookcase.

  77. “bigger than Utah” – look at you, gettin’ all south of the border and stuff! (does that make mine smaller than PEI?)

  78. Doesn’t every Canadian, and probably every northern US resident, have a scarey heating story? Our furnace died sometime Christmas Eve before my youngest started school, so say, 20 years ago. Christmas morning it was freakin’ cold and despite my husband’s contention that cooking a turkey and have three very excited kids leaping about would make the house warm, I wasn’t buying it. I called my furnace guy and he came that afternoon. My oldest son told his class his spent Christmas day helping to fix the furnace, whatever cool gifts he received totally forgotten.

  79. My aunt had a furnace like that, though it fed the water heat for the house…but it had the boiler bottom with a neato grill on the front you could see the burners throught. When it went out one Thanksgiving (Nov in South Dakota) she just made sure to make the appointment after the holiday and invite everyone and their kids over for dinner to keep the place warm enough. When she got it replaced they had to put a 2 foot tall concrete pedestal for the new one to sit on. They figure the boiler had first had been installed and worked on coal around 1900 and then was converted to gas as some point in the 1940s.
    I do agree with everyone above that forced air is pretty sucky, go for water heat(radiant) or the like. I miss that style of heat.

  80. I had a new boiler put in two years ago–but that was easy compared to what you’ll be going through. Ours was really just a swap–old for new. I don’t envy the upheaval–I just assembled and put up a new media unit, and shifting books, knick-knacks, etc drove me crazy. And that was just bookcases! But that lovely, warm scent of heated air will be so comforting when it’s all done.

  81. One thing I do know is that the new furnace will be 1/4 of the size of the old one. Could that mean some new built-in storage space for the stash? Could some of the huge old ducts be somehow repurposed for storage? Don’t pass up the opportunity while you’re torn up anyway.

  82. I know how you feel about people working in the house. Hopefully it will be over quick and you can get back normal :) Maybe removal of the gravity furnace will result in room for a new wool cupboard?

  83. I’m thinking of all the new storage space you’ll have for wool in the basement, once the new furnace is installed.

  84. When my sis had to have her heating redone, they found asbestos-lined ducts. Quick way to add a zero to the price tag.
    SIL has radiant heat–I love a warm floor on a cold winter morning.

  85. I’m looking forward, with much trepidation, to hearing more about this adventure. My house is ~110 years old, and has NO heater, and therefore no ductwork… but I live in California, so this isn’t really a big deal. I know that eventually, in order to sell it, I’ll have to have it installed, but I hate to think what that will involve. I’m both sorry and glad that you’re doing this first, since you have inspired me to do other things I didn’t want to do (like knit socks and learn to spin), so maybe you can do the same thing with the heater.

  86. Best of luck with the furnace! We had to replace ours a few years ago (ours was perhaps older and bigger than yours). We had no head for 2 weeks as they had to special-order the size furnace we needed for our huge house. BUT the tip I wanted to pass on to you is that you can have the installers just dissemble the furnace and leave it in your basement. Then you call one of those guys who are always looking for scrap metal and they’ll come and take it away for you. They make some money on the recycling and you don’t have to pay to haul it away. (that’s what we did and it was fantastic.)

  87. Hm… Is this going to interfere with the furnace wars? How are you going to keep the furnace folk from turning it on prematurely? Are they going to want to test how it works?
    Do you get insulation in the outside walls, too? Your heating bill may just end up unbelievable! Now that will be worth it! Money for wool (isn’t all “extra” money for wool?)
    Sorry for so many questions… just noticing this little coincidence!

  88. I’m sure it will be a great asset, I’m sure it work well and I am sure you won’t miss it too much because it’s not named mr gravity heater or mr warmy warmy. However, the fact that you have to stand up and do a “my name is YH and I am an addict” makes me feel for you. I hope you and your yarn pull through.
    Sending hugs
    PS Of Course I’ll Store Some For You!

  89. I was reading your posting and feeling a bit of deja vu … not because of the furnace issue you are having, but because of how you spent the Thanksgiving weekend. I was doing exactly the same thing! Moving yarn around, destashing, and doing a major Fall clean up and clear out because someone is going to be coming to our house and looking around (and I didn’t want them to think I am a crazy knitter lady, nor did I want to have to move the stuff whhile they are there). I’m a bit afraid they will think I have the “hoarders” lifestyle, minus the rotting fruit and veggies! I am liking the new look of my tidy rooms so much, that (it is hard to believe) I am going to knit only from my stash until I have seen a noticable dent in it! It is going to be tough, but I think it is doable!
    Anyhow – good luck in your destash and tidying up, and I hope the installation of new ducts, furnace and any other furnace related thingys go well!

  90. New heating is just about the most disruptive thing you can have done to your house, I think – joint first with new plumbing. And hey, you’ve had some of the plumbing done!
    We were lucky enough to get new heating installed before we moved in – when I saw the holes in the floorboards and the mess and the disruption to an entirely empty house, the thought of doing the same to an inhabited house made me feel woozy.
    You’ll get through it because you have to, and in mid-winter in your office I’m sure it will feel completely worthwhile – you just have to keep on telling yourself that…

  91. We had a gravity furnace in one house we lived in when I was small — but it wasn’t fired by gas or oil, it was a sawdust furnace! Only in the Pacific Northwest. I remember my dad having to shovel sawdust into the thing once a week or so, and a fresh sawdust delivery was really fun, when we could sneak down and play in it. It worked surprisingly well, too.
    Alas, furnaces these days are not nearly as interesting, but they do their job much more efficiently. And it’s definitely better to get it done before you *have* to. Next summer, when you’re enjoying your central AC, you will never again question whether you did the right thing. But in the meantime, don’t lose the Furnace Wars because of a technicality!

  92. You are so smart to do this now and not wait to be forced into it by a very large gas utility (I live in Toronto, so you know of whom I speak). Our gas was cut off last winter because the hot water tank died and the workmen didn’t like how some pipes were directed out of the house (even tho’ their own company had done the work!). The fear of freezing temperatures (February in Toronto) and their hard-sell was the stuff of nightmares. If you have a humidifier attached to the furnace, the air will not be too dry. Also, and probably most important, a working carbon monoxide detector is a must. Friends of ours had a brand new furnace installed and nearly died because a valve was incorrectly installed; they didn’t have a CO detector and only survived because one of their teen-agers woke up feeling weird and realized what was happening. The moral of this story is….teenagers are good for something!

  93. If there is still time to decide, radiant heat is better than forced air. Hot water radiators are the best! But, I’m sure whatever you get will be nice. Your new Drops jacket will keep you warm during the transition.

  94. Anything to clean out a closet (or two) is worth it. Do you have Garage Sales in Toronto? And if you’re living in 1100 square feet with four people, used to be five, I ahve news for you: you are already a minimalist and don’t know it! P.S. No wonder you design neckwarmers!

  95. My in laws in MI just replaced their coal furnace and steam heat system for electric heat and AC. They too had to clean out the attic and have ducts installed everywhere. At one point, the contractors wanted to get a barge to ferry the new furnace up the river to their house – they said no to that one! Unfortunately, after all that, the furnace STILL isn’t enough to heat their house (they had told the contractors it wasn’t, and they swore it was bigger than they needed – it’s a 10,000 sq. ft house built over the river.) So they are still winterizing and moving out for the winter.
    Um. But I’m sure your house will be toasty warm after it’s all done :)

  96. I wish someone would have warned me about the down side of one of these new-fangled so called high-efficiency furnaces that our provincial government is so keen on they promised a $1K kickback for. $250 of the $1K gets swallowed up with required “inspections” like we’d put in a new furnace if we didn’t need it. Ours was old too and anybody who pretended to know anything about furnaces said it was ‘crap’. Our new one is noisy (like an airplane coming in) the air moves so fast you always feel a cold wind blowing and we have to turn the thermostat up at least 6 – 8 degrees higher than we had with the old one in order to not be freezing all the time. What’s high efficiency about that I wonder. Besides there are really ugly pipes sticking out the front of our house (yes, the front, they can’t put them in the back for some unknown reason) that were never there before. I’d take our old ‘crap’ furnace back any day. But I’m trying not to complain, can’t you tell? I have not been comfortable in my own home with this expensive new furnace. Thank goodness for wool. I wish you better luck with your new furnace – I am sorry you need one. I’d really like to hear from others about their furnace experiences. We bought a top good-quality furnace from a reputable company but I still feel I’ve been duped and wish I would have looked into radiant heating like some of the commenters have suggested.

  97. Maybe all your friends could store some of the wool (temporarily!! mind you) and such in their garages, and then bring it all back when it’s over? Ditto books, clothing, et cetera?
    Then it doesn’t all have to be shoved around and put back too quickly.

  98. Good Luck! I live in a Minneapolis suburb in a one story house with basement and a 420 square foot footprint (yes – 20 x 21). When I moved in I had gravity heat and LOVED IT. Gentle, effecient, quiet and relatively cheap. It developed a rust spot and was “red tagged”. In the US, there are NO manufacturers making furnaces for a dwelling as small as mine. The “Powers That Be” – the city inspectors – would not approve a direct vent fireplace manufactured in MN which has an additional 2 vents to the basement and would heat a 1,000 sq ft room. They would not approve electric radient heat. SO… I now have a forced air gas furnace capable of heating a suburban split level house. In order for the furnace to burn effeciently and correctly, I have to bring cold outside air into the furnace via a pvc pipe, otherwise, the furnace would shut off before reaching its correct operating level. My annual gas bill is approvimately 3 times what it was before and I’m frequently cold because of the way the beast cycles. The cost was almost 3 times what the direct vent fireplace (which is rated as a furnace) would have cost to install. As soon as this recession is over, or as soon as I win a lottery, I am installing my fireplace and shutting the furnace down. (The city actually threatened to condemm the house if I did not install a conventional furnace).

  99. Ok, I was feeling pretty perturbed today because Joseph was supposed to get home from Ft Benning today and it will be at least tomorrow or Friday so in the midst of cooking chicken and dumplings I get the call he won’t be here today. Then Allison put the apple pie in the oven and we got nothing. The oven died with the pie in it. No oven. So I am thinking I guess now I have to go tonight and get the oven that I have been looking at for two months or there will be no cooking. As I write all this in very long run on sentences I just have to say that going and buying a new oven is absolutely nothing compared to having to tear your house apart for new heating. We did that a few years ago, not quite to the extreme you are having to go to, but I definately think that you have made my day feel easier. I mean all we have to do is jerk the oven out and put the new one in. Good luck, you will love “the heat” once everything is in place.

  100. Believe it or not, Steph, that’s a modern gravity fed furnace. My grandmother’s was round … and even bigger than yours. I remember when that house had the new furnace installed, heat runs, cold air returns, etc. It was brutal. I hope your experience isn’t.

  101. Can you use the old ducts for stash storage? Or… surely you are recouping some basement space that could be used for same?
    Just trying for another ‘up’ facet to this project. Good luck!

  102. Getting a new furnace and all that goes with it is like giving birth. You”ll forget all the bad things leading up to the event and remember only the good things that come after.

  103. Heat.In Canada.In January.Yes,very worth it.I would really love(and hate) to know how much your furnace is costing you because our new one is costing us an arm and half a leg and we already have all the duct work in place.I guess it’s either live someplace cold and pay for heat or live someplace hot and pay for air conditioning.(I’d rather live in the cold-I’ve gotten rather fond of wool.)

  104. We had a LP furnace that got tagged a couple of years ago. Of course, they wanted to give us a quote on new right away, but we showed them! We also had an older wood furnace that we used as back up, so we ended up getting a new, much more efficient wood furnace and installed that. Of course, you need to be careful about the kind of thing. Not all insurance companies allow indoor wood furnaces and you need to have a reliable source of good wood as well. We live in an area with a fair amount of trees and have plenty of trees on our property–we can always cut anything that has died as those trees are liable to fall down and break things around them anyway. Better to use what we have been given anyway. The hard part is that the furnace doesn’t just turn on when it starts to get cold. You’ve got to go and actually build a fire. Oh well, I was a girl scout and my dad was a boy scout leader–I know how to build a fire!

  105. You will survive – I did. I know that I have much, much more yarn than you do (I’ll win the death prize), and we had central air installed this past April. We have forced hot water heat, so all duct work had to be custom made and installed (read move a lot of yarn). The guys were great, we survived, and survived even better over the summer with the A/C. You’ll be glad you did it. (I have so much yarn because I have worked in a total of 4 yarn shops – hence, I worked for yarn – you know the name for that – “yarn slut”, yeah that’s me!)

  106. I haven’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if anyone mentioned this, but because forced air heat is drying, it needs a humidifier. Problem solved. With a programmable thermostat for the heat and a “humidistat” to control the humidity, you’ll be cozy and you won’t shrivel up and blow away in the dry heat. Just keep in mind that humidity is relative to temperature, so when it’s colder outside, you need to lower the humidity setting.
    I don’t know if there are humidistats that operate automatically, but if not, manual operation is easy. Just keep an eye on your outdoor thermometer and adjust the the humidistat accordingly. The gauge on the device gives the appropriate settings based on outdoor temp.
    If you forget, your house will tell you if humidity is too high–you’ll see inside condensation on the windows. When the outside temperature warms up, your body will tell you when to raise the humidity, because you’ll start to feel cold at the same indoor temp. at which you formerly were comfortable. (Because the proper humidity makes it feel comfortable at lower indoor temps., a humidifier can help save fuel.)
    Also, since you’re doing this thing, be sure to get a furnace with a HEPA air filter. This filters out pollutants, dust, and allergens, and just keeps the house cleaner. If you like, you can run the filter year round, even if you’re not using either heat or air conditioning. (This is only useful, of course, if most or all of the windows are closed. I used to keep them closed during spring and fall allergy season.)
    As a homeowner of five houses over a period of 46 years, I’ve struggled with a lot of furnaces. The one described above was the one I installed at my last house after the old furnace cracked and had to be replaced. It was a revelation.
    Enjoy your new furnace! You’ll love it!

  107. I miss our old furnace because we had HEAT when the electricity was out. Now we don’t ;*
    Bring that subject up and see what they say.
    p.s. I think it is funny that you would even think of central air cause you’d never turn it on!!

  108. Oops, I should have said homeowner for 36 years, not 46. I guess I can’t count today. Not that it matters to anyone but the editor in me. :)

  109. {hugs} and turning it on to test functionality once the thing is installed does *not* count in the furnace wars right? sending good thoughts… and here’s a virtual beer. one day i’ll get you a real one.

  110. You will be sooo happy when this is done, and when it’s -40 you’ll be praising yourself that you had the foresight to replace the bugger.
    Good job Steph.

  111. Tell the contractors where the TOILET is, and prepare a hot WATER pump (Thermos-like)for them near their work area and a tray with tea, coffee, sugar and mugs. (You don’t need to make scones for their morning tea). These are the things people always forget.
    Shame that the New York Bestseller Author had to spend money on this. I can’t even begin to imagine what -40 degrees feels like – from balmy Auckland, NZ where it doesn’t snow. Our winter heater is an enclosed wood fire with a wetback to heat the water – our power bills go down in the winter. I guess it is ‘horses for courses’.
    I am dreaming of movable storage cabinets, with a ratio to be worked-out for Stephanie/Joe/Megan/Sam.
    Put tarpaulins over the house stuff to keep the dust clearing to a minimum.
    Remember this time too will pass.

  112. Even forced hot water (radiators) can be dusty. SusanOD at 5:27 is right: get the HEPA air filter. Humidifer is optional; they need a little upkeep. Simple is better. Heat when the power goes off would be nice. Do any modern furnaces work that way?
    fibersong at 4:57 beat me to it – I bet most of your friends could store one big ziplock bag of wool for a week. Or find a friend who also needs a short-term storage locker, share the space and cost. Would a pod in the yard interfere with the contractors getting stuff into and out of the house?
    I grew up with a round wood-coal hot-air furnace; sat on the “heat place” a lot. Warm without electricity but we couldn’t travel at all in winter lest pipes freeze.

  113. That central grate has “built-in cabinet” written all over it, even if it’s shallow… hmm, what could be stored in such an oddly shaped cabinet?
    Just don’t be tempted by the new ducts, no matter how clean and shiny they are. Not even the cold-air return ones.
    With a house that old, you’re probably losing a bunch of heat out your windows, or will be once all the heat is coming up right underneath them. You can pretend I didn’t say that.

  114. Oo, oo, think of the space you’ll have in the basement! STORAGE! You need to go buy some yarn to fill that hole the furnace will leave!

  115. My last house in Minneapolis had a gravity feed furnace. (We called it an Octopus furnace) It was even older than yours. It was the original gorgeous 1925 cast-iron coal furnace that had been converted over to natural gas many years before. It was a beautiful monster in the basement. It did a beautiful job. I miss it.

  116. I’ve been reading your blog for a while.
    I enjoy it so, and your books, and that insane way you knit on You Tube, that I’m trying to learn. I loved your recent Thanksgiving blog. Delightful writing.
    Why, of all the things to comment on for the first time, is the furnace issue? It stumps me, but so be it. It is in the stars.
    When you get over the shell-shock of pricing the new furnace, you still might want to buy a small generator before you buy cashmere–well maybe not.
    Small house you don’t need a big one at all.
    Keeps you warm enough, and the pipes from freezing…How do you do that if the heat and power quit at -40? Anyway a backup generator is the way to go. Just remember this for later. Actually you could keep your furnace for a while. Not.
    Those old ducts, cleaned up and spray painted, and nice freestyle openings cut into their sides –the metal stickys from the tin shears cushioned with some sort of I-cord application, then spray painted and fastioned to a wall, seem to me a perfect–albeit Hi Tech, or retro Mod, wall-art stash holder!
    You could have a whole wall of them in great colors, full of yarn in Ziplocks. I just had to tell you this!
    Love the jacket, Perfect on you. Great choice.

  117. WHOA!
    Well, you’ve just become the poster child for “No pain, no gain!”
    It will all work out. And if it doesn’t, you are intelligent and a problem solver extraordinaire so it will all work out!

  118. I’ve hear of octopus furnaces but I’ve never seen one. I bet it was state of the art in it’s day. But I have a feeling you’ll be very happy with the new furnace despite the upheaval.

  119. I own a design company, and regularly walk people through the upheaval process. My two cents worth is to mentally prepare yourself that the process will take at least two weeks longer than whatever they tell you. That way, if parts are back ordered, or something weird comes up, you won’t be devastated, and if the contractor is on time, then you will be surprised that they are “early”!

  120. We got a new furnace a few years ago but it was fairly easy. Remove the old and pop in the new. Yours definitely looks like a huge job with new duct work. Maybe they can make you some new yarn cubbies with any leftover spaces.
    Not trying to say anything about your housekeeping, mine is pretty close but I am trying something new ever heard of Flylady?

  121. First thought:
    How many walls will have to be removed to get that thing out of the basement? ;-) (I just keep thinking of the Mr. Washie adventures)
    Second thought:
    Lovely, toasty, wonderful warm heat. Some things are so worth investing in!

  122. I suppose, if you wanted to split hairs, you could say that your furnace is not *quite* as efficient as your neighbours’. If it’s only heating, say, 80% of your home and your neighbours’ homes are being heated to 95-100%, their furnaces are probably much more efficient. Just sayin’. The thought will probably help you in justifying the hassle…
    Hey, just a thought…you could just duct tape the stash into a sumo costume/robe and wear it to keep warm, as a space-saving strategy while they’re performing the work… Two birds, one stone. You’ll stay warm that way.

  123. Oh, and think of all that extra stash space you’ll have in the basement! You could fit a lot of Rubbermade bins down there!!

  124. My parents went through what you’re going through, although in a much bigger house,(ergo much more stored stuff than you could possibly ever have,) when they decided to replace their old furnace and get central air. Every room in their house got trashed while duct work was being put in. But then, the hot humid weather arrived, and oh joy, the bliss of air conditioning at the push of a button! Come winter, you’ll love the warmth, and when the inferno of summer hits, you and the cats will be in heaven.

  125. Ah your furnace reminds me of my old one in my old house – tiny entry to basement plus very large furnace – I have no idea how they got it in originally but for getting it out, it went something like this – six of my volunteer fire fighter pals and me in the dirt floor basement – many tools, dismantled as much of said dead furnace as we could, hauled out the assorted littler bits and then came down to the still fairly large and heavy and now very sooty due to aforesaid dismantling, carcus – so we get it wedged in the stairwell – wedged really really tightly – many manly friends pushing and swearing over the thing, four of us now stuck in the basement behind the newly named stairwell plug, wondering a) what happens if we get a fire call – half the town’s fire dept is stuck in my basement, b) which one of us will we eat first if it comes down to canibalism? We did finally manage to birth the stupid thing out of there but it was looking sketchy for a while there and the mess on the kitchen floor took six Magic Erasers to finally get off! In my current house we have electric heat – I don’t like it as much but it does give the always chilly son a chance to set his own bedroom tempurature while his brother and I enjoy ours a little less tropical. Good luck with the reno – perhaps you can foster the wool stash out to loving friends for a bit

  126. It will be sooo worth it when you don’t have to thaw out your fingers and toes after working in your office for 10 minutes. Besides, this gives you the chance to see what was behind the stash.

  127. I got a kick out of the number of people who could relate to your gravity furnace and the new one. Sounds like you have a whole support network in place!!
    Loved your new sweater made from your handspun. You are a great spinner.

  128. for just a moment, I though “why do you need a new furnace, just go without like I do” but I am TOTALLY spoiled, living in northern CA. the coldest it gets here is freezing, and that is only at night and maybe for a month in jan/feb. i do not envy you the cold. I also HATE being cold, so I know that it will be worth it for you

  129. for just a moment, I though “why do you need a new furnace, just go without like I do” but I am TOTALLY spoiled, living in northern CA. the coldest it gets here is freezing, and that is only at night and maybe for a month in Jan/Feb. i do not envy you the cold. I also HATE being cold, so I know that it will be worth it for you

  130. Is *that* what those are called! In any case, it’s too bad they can’t use the ducts and stuff that’s there, on the other hand, you’ll have all new ducts with a guarantee of no mold, no dust, no weird crap that’s been growing in the bottom of the tube for a century… and you can install a hepa filter should your children or grandchildren have serious allergies. We replaced our boiler when we bought the house. We debated putting in a forced air furnace and decided to go ahead with the hot water system which was in place– just replaced the boiler. It’s really efficient and much cheaper than the old one…

  131. Hello, I have never posted before, but this is important. *When do we hear the ramifications on the Furnace Wars!* I always “play along.” (Although I must occasionally remind myself that I have nothing to be smug about; where I live the winters are quite mild!)

  132. Just think, in the space left by the new furnace (new ones are incredibly tiny) you can build another closet!!! Or, storage unit!!

  133. Just think how nice and toasty you will be this winter. I understand the hassle of remodeling. We just had new carpet put in upstairs. The guys return at the end of the month to put the hardwood floors in downstairs.

  134. Have you explored the possibility of radiant floor heat? I have a 1100 sq ft home that was retro fitted with hot water radiant heat. It’s the bomb! When your feet are warm, your whole body is warm. It only had to be installed downstairs, because heat rises. And the upstairs is warm too.
    It works when the power is out too, at least until the water cools off, which takes about 12 hours.
    Very economical too!

  135. My advice is …. the car. I store all kinds of stuff there, mostly yarn and mostly to keep it away from my dogs! You can use your car as a temporary holding pen for your yarn……… You just have to plan trips carefully.

  136. Have you explored the possibility of radiant floor heat? I have a 1100 sq ft home that was retro fitted with hot water radiant heat. It’s the bomb! When your feet are warm, your whole body is warm. It only had to be installed downstairs, because heat rises. And the upstairs is warm too.
    It works when the power is out too, at least until the water cools off, which takes about 12 hours.
    It would take away the need to do all the new ducts.

  137. Honey,
    The new furnace will be so much smaller that it will enlarge your stash storage area. Getting that behemoth out will be the tough job.
    May the Force be with you.

  138. My grandmother had one of those furnaces – I remember the awesome-scary vents! (My childhood home had an ancient hot water furnace, and my room was alway very, very cold. (It had a radiator in it, but rarely worked)
    My current home has radiant heat through the floors (in addition, it uses geothermal to heat the water so its really efficient). I’m really enjoying it so far. (but, we’ve not gone through a whole Minnesota winter with it). However, I know people with the same system i have for whom it works very well.

  139. PAINT CANS! Don’t get rid of the old ones. You’ll need them for touch-ups after the new ducts are cut. Such a great time for de-cluttering and cleaning just before Christmas holiday time.

  140. I’m trying to forget that we need a furnace, too. We do have the appropriate ducting. I think. Although I didn’t have heat in my office until I took out a wall that gave me access to the heat in the adjacent room.
    Good luck.

  141. Do you know, I’ve never seen a furnace? Here in Florida, air conditioners are the necessity. It’s the middle of October, and we still have 90F highs. (Granted, it is unseasonably warm this year, but still.)

  142. It’ll be totally worth it!
    And now for MY heat story. Here in the suburbs of DC, it DOES get down to 15F (-9 C) occasionally. The last time it did so, we had a 1 year who was quite frail and subject to asthma attacks.
    That was the February that we lost power for 72 hours. We had to curtain off one room to live in, keep a fire burning and we all slept in that room. The lack of heat was maddening, because we have a gas furnace – only the ignition is electronic.
    IMMEDIATELY after the power came back, we hired a HVAC contractor to rewire the power to the furnace ignition, so that in the event of a power outage, we can use a small generator and plug the furnace ignition circuit into it.
    And of course, we’ve never lost power for more than 6 hours since!

  143. I am glad you are finally selling the Pretty Thing pattern. You need the revenue to help finance this renovation. I am sure all will be worth it in the end. And I LOVE the pattern!

  144. There are four of you living there?!? What happened to the CAT????
    And get the new furnace fitted with an automatic humidifier. They work lots better than those table-top jobs — and even more better than pots of water sitting on the radiators!

  145. Very smart to plan ahead. We had the reverse problem this summer. For the 10 hottest days of Texas summer we had no ac and were at the mercy of home warranty people and an ac company that was two hours away from us. The most miserable 10 days of my entire life. The worst part was it was way too hot to knit. So now we are saving money each month so we can avoid that horrible nightmare again. Come March or April we will hopefully have a new ac.
    By the way, my mom and I have a similar war each year. We see who can make it the longest each spring without turning on ac. Neither one of us has made it past the middle of April.

  146. I think that probably it will be hair-pullingly awful while all of this is going on, but then you’ll be really happy when it’s all over, and you’ll have one less big thing to worry about. (We had renovations done last year to add a 2nd bathroom–woohoo!–which I love dearly but it was tough…)
    Do you think you could store some of your stash in the car? How about at a nearby relative’s house? Could you ship some of it to trustworthy friends who would ship it back? (that last part might be tricky…) Good luck!

  147. My house is 1600 sq ft and we would still have problems if we ever put a new floor in the kitchen, or new carpeting in the living room. I don’t know where stuff would go, so that those things could be accomplished. Kitchen has stove, fridge and kitchen table. Living room has couches, a stereo, a curio cabinet and a piano! Yikes. Boggles my mind. No money for this stuff, so no worries now.
    We had a 1956 furnace, when we moved here in 1996. First summer, we had water in the basement, but it wasn’t enough to hurt the old furnace (Gas-mizer my foot.) We talked to insurance people about water in the basement and decided to add sewer backup insurance to the policy. What a good thing that was, because in 1998, we had an epic rainfall (10.74 inches in 24 hours!) and the basement flooded again – this time enough water to damage the furnace, so the insurance company bought us a new furnace. Of course, now the “new” furnace is already 11 years old. Time passes so quickly with that kind of stuff.
    Now we have a sump pump so basement doesn’t flood to epic proportions now. Phew!
    You will enjoy new furnace, after it is all installed.

  148. Do keep us posted on how they’re going to get either the old furnace out or the new furnace in … because this is the same house that had to be taken apart to receive a washing machine, yes?
    Good luck with everything. I have zoned electric baseboard heat and I really miss forced air.

  149. Sad to see the death of a gravity furnace. There’s one in my home in San Francisco where it gets cold but it doesn’t snow so lack of heating is not dangerous merely inconvenient (I was wearing a wool coat to go outside for a full week this July). The gravity furnace is a wonderful thing and I love how quiet and gentle the heat is. No idea how ancient the one here is but I’d be sad to have it quit. While I understand that the world has moved on, I still think this type of heater is a great design.

  150. I can’t believe I just read 168 comments on furnaces! But every post was riveting. And I have lots of “guy talk” to transmit to my husband tomorrow morning at breakfast. BTW, your furnace on second glance (first glance, I nearly fainted) is not as “big as Utah” but more like Ripley’s “Alien.” Also, three cheers for a programmable thermostat. Insist on one.

  151. Best of luck with the furnace install. Having survived the complete replacement of water pipes in my 1920 home, I understand the panic!..just about when you think you’ve provided the workers sufficient space to work, they advise you, they need to get to that wall, the one you’ve just moved everything in front of…but the thought of heat to every room is delicious!

  152. I sort of envy you. Up here in the Himalayas, we have COLD winters and NO central heating or possibility of such. Nor do we have any closets, just a couple of free-standing armoires. You’d probably do just fine here – you’d definitely win the furnace wars!

  153. New smaller furnace, humidifier, quality air filters, (we use the ones with pleats) programable thermatsat, all to the good. Of course, this does bring up the question of insulation. But that, as they say, is another story.

  154. my only advice (though you didn’t ask for any) is just this: follow behind them with a dustpan and brush. No matter what kind of furnace they install they’ll make a godawful mess. Ask me how I know.

  155. I think I have a crush on your big ol’ furnace.
    I, too, used to live in a tiny house (900 sq ft) with my office in the unheated upper story and those open registers to “circulate” warm air upwards. Need I say that I knitted a LOT of fingerless mittens?

  156. In Los Angeles, we have a similar house and an identical furnace. I am petrified that they will have to actually come out and look at the thing, as I know it will be instantly condemned. I know it’s rather incredible to contemplate, but even in L.A., we do have need of heat from time to time! Good luck with this. I don’t envy the process, but totally envy the results!

  157. Hang on in there!!!! Heat in winter is important — my worst experience was living in Jerusalem in an old house with high ceililngs and big gaps under all the doors that had an oil heater which had to be fed from a tank, filled once a year. My housemate and I couldn’t afford to fill the oil tank, and survived a very cold winter (yes, it snows quite heavily in Jerusalem, though not every year) with one smelly, antiquated paraffin Friedman heater. She was at home more than I was, so it lived in her (very large) room — we spent our time huddled around it wrapped in all the clothes we possessed and blankets, making forays out to the (totally unheated) kitchen to grab food. When I had to go to bed I just got in with clothes and blankets, taking a cat with me for added warmth (though it usually deserted me by morning). The next year we found the money to fill the tank, and just winged it on food!! Moral of the sotry: do what you have to do to be warm in winter.

  158. I love all these furnace stories! I bought my 1832 stone house in 1989. The first winter the furnace died when it was -20 (F). I was clueless. I found someone to replace the motor part although it wasn’t the same make. That worked for 15 years or so. Then when I had the oil/energy company do a tuneup, I came home to a cold house with a furnace not working (this was only October)Turned out the furnace had been red tagged (I didn’t know what that meant and had to call the next day). Part of the duct work to the chimney had rusted so CO was an imminent problem. I was really miffed – no explanation on the tag no suggestion a new furnace was needed. The company explained the next day and since I was really busy at work I did not shop around and went with their new furnace proposal. It’s fine, but it is bigger and uses more oil than the other one. But I had a wood-stove installed in 1990 so I really only use the oil furnace part-time. It(the oil furnace) is forced air and does dry things out a lot. So the Blog’s advice to get a humidifier if you can sounds like a good one.
    Love the jacket sweater too (I’m behind in reading). Inspires me to assemble enough of my own hand-spun to do something with it. And, thank you for the cowl pattern and help getting it. I found my one skein of cashmere in my stash. Now, can I justify starting yet another project? It’s only a little project right?

  159. We are also replacing our furnace (from oil to gas and steam heat to forced hot water) and I’m in complete denial about all of the work and moving furniture and good lord cleaning out my BASEMENT(?!?)
    We will be very happy to have the aesbestos out of our house but I think I’m just fast-forwarding through all the construction that will get us from here to there. I should probably start organizing obsessively. eek.

  160. I feel your pain but the house will be so much warmer afterwards. If nothing else, having the heating ducts out by the external walls will counteract the cold that seeps in from outside.
    BTW, we wouldn’t call your house “small” in the UK – we’d call it “average”. :o)
    - Pam (new boiler and wall insulation on the horizon)

  161. Eeeek. While we aren’t having furnace problems, we are doing some work around the house and having people in and out during the day. I don’t like having to move my stash from it’s rightful places… It is nice to see pretty things that I forgot were here though.
    If you are in need of help, I’d be happy to become the new adopted family to some of your stash. It will have lots of other yarn to keep company with and I’ll treat it with the greatest respect. Really. It would be a hardship, but it’s the least I could do after all the enjoyment I get from your blog and books.

  162. We had one of those, only it was wood powered. I’m glad you are getting rid of it. Back in ’71 or so, we all dang near died. This is before carbon monoxide detectors. That sucker pumped out the CO all night long one night. What saved us was that it was in Prince George, and a chinook hit, and the hoouse was hotter than Hades, we woke up to open windows to cool the place down. Very very scary, and no warning what so ever.
    Then I had one again out in the bush. As you say, you have no worries about power! which is nice when you are living where the power is up and down like a yo-yo.
    After all those years, if yours had ever broken down and I lived next door, with a screw driver, a wire, and a piece of wet dry sandpaper, I could have gotten yours going. And charged you one cup of coffee.
    Barb B.

  163. Gosh – what a huge boiler! Think off all the lovely storage space, once that has gone! Seriously, don’t bother cleaning the house until the workmen have gone – waste of time! Good luck!

  164. Steph, it will be so worth it. It may not seem like it now, but when it gets really cold, you will love the heat in every room.

  165. Honestly, I don’t know whether to cheer for you or send you flowers in sympathy. All that cutting the walls and floors makes me cringe. Added to all the upheaval, you are going to have sawdust and plaster dust everywhere.
    I’ll cheer that you are getting something more reliable and efficient, and hand you a hankie and a dust cloth when they cut that first hole in your floor.

  166. My first house had gravity a gravity furnace, I loved the steady stream of heat. I wish I had a picture of the beast because it was less modern than yours, it still had directions for burning coal hanging on the side.

  167. Wow- that brings back a lot of memories! I grew up with an old gravity furnace. There was fierce competition between my sister and I on cold winter mornings for the best grate to sit on- it was the only warm place in the house until the wood stove got going.
    But mostly I have to comment on all the comments about forced hot air being ‘drying’. This made no sense to me. The reason interior air is dry in winter is that the outdoor air is cold. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air. That’s why we measure ‘relative’ humidity- it’s the amount of water in the air compared to the total amount of water the air can hold at that temperature. Interior air is dry in winter because when you heat cold outdoor air, it can hold more moisture warm than it could cold, and the *relative* humidity drops- the warmer interior air can absorb more water, which it tries to do- from us.
    However I was struck by all the people who talked about forced hot air being worse, so I went looking around on the internet to see if there was some kind of good explanation for why there should be a perceived difference. And what I found was this: http://www.advancedenergy.org/buildings/knowledge_library/heating_and_cooling/dryness_in_the_winter.html – which makes a lot of sense.
    Basically, what it’s saying is that a house that is leaky and pulls in a lot of outside air is going to lower the relative humidity inside the house, because it is constantly adding outside air (which has less moisture). (Remember that we exhale water vapor, so keeping interior air in will tend to raise relative humidity.) The article also repeats something I’ve heard about humidifiers (that they have to be extremely carefully maintained to avoid becoming breeding grounds for bacteria and mold). And that you can reduce dryness by stopping leaks in the house, and in the heating system.
    ..on a related note I just put in little insulated pads into all the electric outlets in exterior walls this autumn- an inexpensive and nifty innovation my husband found at the hardware store- we’d noticed some drafts in them last year. Next up, new weatherstripping!

  168. I sure hope you can give us progress reports as this is very exciting news!! Here’s hoping that it all goes smoothly and you don’t have to move that cupboard in your office:)

  169. Living in Florida we have similar issues with our air conditioners. Living near Orlando and Mickey means I don’t need my a/c as much as I did living in Miami, but we use it a LOT! I feel your pain. And good planning on your part. And yes, I am sitting in shorts and a tee with my a/c running.

  170. I recognise that duct! I believe my 5 1/2 mm knitting needle is in there. I was just looking for it the other day when I came across it’s mate.
    Hurray for a new furnace. We have duct problems as well that can’t be fixed, which means we are living without heat except for a woodstove and baseboard electric in the bedrooms again this year. The energy audit guy is booked. I need to put on an extra sweater.
    Or two.

  171. Dang, your old heat registers are just iike mine! I just bought this house in the spring and thought those old registers gave the house CHARACTER.

  172. It will be worth it.
    Is there any way they can remove the old ducts and turn that into usable space? Fantasies, I know…and at least you’ll get some new space in the basement, right?
    At least you have a furnace…my heat pump is my only source of warmth…if the power goes, so does it. There’s a chimney that I’m hoping to open back up into a fireplace, but I’m a little afraid of what I’m going to find…there have been no happy discoveries in this house thus far.

  173. Yikes. Does that mean that the full extent of THE STASH will finally be revealed to Joe, or did you already manage to whisk some away that he never knew about, therefore it never existed?
    RE new furnace though. Always a good thing. Especially when my neighbor works in plumbing and heating and does the installation and maintenance for me!

  174. I have been through many major upheavals you have my sympathy. Can you hire a storage unit for a couple of weeks to keep any excess stuff until it’s over. It is so worth it if you can, makes loads of room and keeps things out of the dust, plus you don’t have to give it all away. All that hard earned stash could find space beside the new furnace

  175. A practical solution may be to rent some lock-up storage for the period of the refurbishment. That shouldn’t cost too much, and you will be able to visit your stash if you need to.

  176. Yup, there is no good way, can you sort of move stuff to the middle of the rooms? I remember redoing my kitchen and heating things up in the microwave in my Moms sewing room because that was the closest thing. Good luck

  177. Heat is good. Just look forward to the end result. Warmth!
    I’m not sure I’m going to make it till November before I turn my furnace on. It’s cold in here. Maybe if I put on my snow pants…

  178. We switched from a gravity furnace to a forced air one last winter, when the old beast died on the coldest day of the year. Husband took the kids out to heated public places, I stayed home and played the drums to keep warm in coat and hat and mittens. They could use our old ducts for some reason, so it was a quick affair.
    Let me tell you, we keep the thermostat on the same temperatures as before, but it is so very much warmer in the house. Heating bill didn’t go down much, sadly, but my fingers, while chilly, can actually move in the winter.

  179. I am guessing the new furnace will be much smaller – hence you will acquire more stash storage space. There is a silver lining in everything.

  180. Congratulations on the new furnace! Surely, there will be new adventures beyond what you’ve written today, but hopefully, they will be of a new and improved heating system. Think of all the extra space you’ll have in the basement!

  181. 1,100ft. You were lucky! (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
    I grew up with four other people in a 950ft house which, as was stated above,was considered fairly average in the UK.
    However, now that I live in a much-the-same-size-flat with only one other (large) person, I still don’t have enough room for all the books and yarn, and I feel your pain.

  182. We, too, decided to finally schedule the removal of our old gravity furnace in October! (Northern Ohio winters aren’t probably as bad as Canada, but it is calling for snow tonight). After putting it off all summer, we have spent the last 2 weekends on this, and are starting a third (we our doing the work ourselves with experienced family, I’m sure it won’t take you as long). I have gotten lots of mileage from your joke about insulating my house with my yarn stash! Good luck and keep warm! I’m sure we’ll all be very grateful for new efficient furnaces when it’s over!

  183. It absolutely will be, especially since they are calling for, sigh, flurries tonight in the GTA.

  184. This has sure been the year for major appliances. Ouch!Just make sure the new furnace can fit through the stairwell before you start carrying it down (unlike certain washing machines).

  185. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but the new WILL be smaller so MORE storage space. YEA!!! That alone will make it worth it.

  186. I’m sure it will be worth all the trouble. I need to have my entire house re-plumbed due to bad pipes. Maybe your story will motivate me…or not.

  187. I’m sure you’ve done your research and selected the best furnace for you, but I can’t help but add my voice to the choir of “No forced hot air!”
    When I was little my parents did not have a furnace (I grew up and live in Vermont). They had a woodstove and it was delightful. I hated it when they got the furnace.
    Fast-forward to now: DH and I are building a house and made sure to include two woodstoves (nice handsome Jotuls from Norway). The bank insisted on a furnace, so we got a used forced-hot air and will install all of 5 vents into the main floor to appease them (no vents going to the upstairs sleeping area). We also lose power often enough to make me dislike most things electric. For the December ice storm last year we ran the poor little generator for 2 days to keep the furnace going enough to keep everything from freezing.
    I know a woodstove might not be the best for you — rural living with lots of loggers nearby and lots of yard to store wood is important. But radiators are nice.
    Best of luck with the transition!

  188. We did this in our new/old (~1890) house when we moved in 4 years ago. There wasn’t any heat (except space heaters) on the 2nd floor and 2 gas sucking furnaces pumping through asbestos covered ancient duct work in the basement. Everything was ripped out (luckily it was summer) and replaced by new high efficiency furnace and brand new duct work to both floors. We had to go through the floors because part of the house is post and beam so nothing could go through the walls. Long story short, it was a mess briefly, but has been wonderful with the addition of a programmable thermostat and AC. Not that we use the AC all that much due to hot weather(home is western NY) but during hubby’s allergy season, everyone is happier and more comfy ’cause we can close up for a couple of weeks. It’s a pain while the work is in progress, but you’ll be truly pleased with the result.

  189. I’m not getting it. What kind of gravity furnace was it? Gas? Because I had an oil one that was a converted sawdust burning gravity furnace (mine was as big as Utah too) and had to have an electric starter. So did elves start yours?
    Take care and relax. Joe’s a good guy in keeping you mellow.

  190. Where in Australia is Amanda staying? I’m hoping to study abroad in Perth for the 2010-2011 academic year and would be delighted to hear about Amanda’s adventures.

  191. I grew up in an old house, and my room was an unheated one. Central heat was new to me when I went off to university.
    You can put this towards the renovation tax credit though, and by having the energy audit, get even more back!

  192. While you’re at it — spend the extra $600 and get a tankless hot water heater — that 50-gallon monster next to the Octopus is an energy suck, a space-waster (9 square feet that I now use for storage), and a potential flood hazard. I got one a few years ago and I love it! Showers are forever with those bad boys — and I seem to recall that mine was made in Canada!

  193. Wow! I thought I had the only other gravity heater on the North American continent. We have to bang ours occasionally but she’s still pumping out the heat. I hope we can get at least one more winter out of her. This year’s house fund is already earmarked for a long overdue new roof. Our weather is much milder here in Northern California, and I would rather put on more sweaters than a rain coat and buckets when it starts raining inside.

  194. Oodles of good luck with all of it! Heating in every room is something I only moved up to (loooxury) once I moved to Europe, and can only heartily recommend it, as we have to have the heating on from October to May as well. One thing tho – was that irony about the “tiny” house being 1100 square feet? That would be a mansion over here, where some of my work colleagues live in flats which are 40 metres square (really). And our house is considered large at 144 square metres (the land it’s on is 85 square metres, including the car park out the front)! Thank goodness wool is squishy. (-:=

  195. For some reason, I’ve seen that picture of your heating duct before. Makes me grin every time. That is EXACTLY the same duct cover I have in my home in Connecticut. Mine is also painted white like that. Funny! Small world.

  196. I don’t know, Steph — I have much the same problem you have with too many “things” in too small a space, and I can’t bear to have anyone rooting around in my stuff just to put in heating pipes. Winters aren’t that long, really, when you have bins and bins of wool. It’s good insulation — really, it is. Oh, I sympathize with you on the stress you must be going through! Move away, keep knitting — when you come back, it will all be made correct again. I hope.

  197. We’re just opposite the lake from you, and we did our boiler last winter. Best move we could have made: more space in the utility room, programmable thermostats, lower gas bills.

  198. Oh Stephanie! I think you are soooo right!!! What the heck do non-knitters do in a situation like that? I most assuredly use knitting to keep myself together in times of stress. I think it works so much like meditation. Slows my breathing, its rythmic and soothing…. Well, I have no furnace right now either. We live in Vermont, and its been getting chilling already, but its not so bad we risk freezing to death…YET. The new oil tank was supposed to be installed yesterday, but, well, it wasn’t. Good luck with your renovations!

  199. I’m so happy for Sam that her toy was found! A cherished memory from her past…I am sure that she will be pleased! We have “unearthed” cherished items of the kids here and there over the years and it is always a celebration. The last time we found one of the girls (they are now 21 and 19) “babies” and you would have thought it was a real baby with how excited we all were. HaHa! My husband thought we were nutso. Their brother (16) rolled his eyes to the heavens and swore he was adopted. He was singing a different tune when we rescued his prized marble from the sink drain a few years back. How soon they forget!
    Glad for you that you will have your furnace fixed soon. Such a pain but I am sure it will end up being so much nicer what with the efficiency and lots more space in the basement. If nothing else it was another of life’s adventures and good fodder for your blog. :-)

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