What! No Heat? You’re Kidding Me!

Well, as much as I love the snow we just had and I don’t really mind cold weather, I was not happy to come home last night from work and find my heater not working.

We have the boiler system in our house. It looks like this

It has a large tank that holds around 2,000 liters of red diesel fuel in the garage.

When we moved in to the house last summer there just happened to be a fair amount of fuel left in the tank from the previous owners. Sheer joy and luck for us cuz that meant we wouldn’t have to worry about filling the tank while all this other construction stuff was going on around us.

Every day since we started using the boiler we would check the gauge on the tank and every day it would still show that we had fuel. Yaaay! We’ve been trying to keep the usage of fuel down this winter and we only use two of the six radiators in the house.

I have to say that I love this type of heating system. I’ve come across some writings lately where people are doing away with the boiler system and wanting to go for electric heaters, solar heating, or some other type of heating system because they feel that the “chaudière au fuel”, which is what we’ve been told it’s called, is too expensive in fuel costs.

Since we haven’t paid a dime yet for the fuel I don’t really have an argument for that one. I’ll get back to you next winter with my commentary on that subject.  I do however have an opinion on the heating. This system is the bomb. I swear that the two radiators we have going, heat our house up just fine and it’s always nice and toasty. That’s saying a lot too since our house is large, old and made of cold, stone walls.

Before buying this house we lived in a new apartment building which has those newfangled electric radiators. I swear I had those things going all day long on top speed and I still had to stand right in front of them to get warm!  On top of the fact that they dried out the air so bad that we kept getting the s**t shocked out of us constantly! I hated them.

The water/fuel system we have now makes the heat radiate throughout the room evenly and it gives a very nice, all encompassing, warmth. It’s wonderful! We even have radiators in the bathrooms! Love it 🙂

Dude did some research on the system we have and they are quite expensive to put in so I’m not sure I would recommend it if one was wondering about installing it new. I do have to tell you that the old owners spent bucks on our system. They most likely installed in sometime in the 1970’s (Dude’s best guess), but because they died in the early 1980’s and the house has been vacant, it wasn’t used much at all and is in really good shape except for a few odds and ends (aka the pump- which will be written about in a future post), but for the most part it’s been working like a charm. They totally went to town on this thing, copper piping, back up hot water for the house, and all, which is another reason why I would hate to do away with it. Also, I just love the old school radiator heating system. It’s totally retro and fits my old house!

Okay-back to my story on no heat. When Dude and I got home and found that the heater wasn’t working, of course the first thing we did was check the fuel gauge to see what was up. All good there. Then Dude started to get worried that something major had broken and was running around cussing, like he always does lately about this house, and was all up in arms about the fact that he didn’t want to fix this thing right now when it was freezing, that he wasn’t a heater expert, and that this was definitely the wrong time for it to go out.

Well, we put on our grubbies and got to work to figure out what the deal was. He took off the cover to the motor and checked it really good, he checked the lines and inspected the electrical and nothing was wrong. So the only thing we could do was open the hole where the gauge was and look down into the tank with a light to double check that everything was okay and there really was fuel still in there like it said there was.

Guess what?? No fuel was left. That gauge lied to us! It flat out told us we still had a decent amount of fuel left and it lied to us. Nice time to start not telling us the truth, in the middle of the coldest winter Provence has seen in years!

So Dude inspected the gauge and now we are going to have to fix it so it will tell us the truth from now on. In the meantime we have no radiator heat in our stone cold house.

Today we found a place not far from us who can deliver fuel to our house. They said that it couldn’t be today or tomorrow, though (big surprise). Tomorrow was out of the question because we are due for another snow storm tonight AND tomorrow all the way through the afternoon, so the lady said if that happens it’s completely interdit for large trucks to be on the road.

Well, what were we going to do about that? Nothing is what. So, we booked a delivery for Monday morning for 1,000 liters of fuel. Yes, that’s gonna cost me (at least I had a heads up on pricing from Piglet in France), but I will be nice, warm and happy for the duration of the upcoming cold days or weeks.

So now, we are all living in the kitchen with a tiny electric heater.

The rest of the house is too cold to be in. I guess it will be this way for the next two days. So to help us out we’re having homemade chicken stew for dinner. Not only will that help warm up our little kitchen/living area, but it will also warm our tummies, as well.


About backyardprovence

I was finally able to realized my dream of living in France when I moved here in 2010. I love to read,I love history and road trips. I want to be doing anything outside in the fresh air. I want to have an entire room devoted to a personal library.

Posted on February 3, 2012, in The House of the Farmer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Seems awful sketchy how many little details the previous owners “forgot” to mention, no? Stay warm!

    • No kidding, Corey! We’ve been really keeping an eye on the system (the electrical and mechanics of it), but never really thought about the gauge not telling the truth since the needle was always moving down. We’re definitely cold, but, oh well, that’s life and we aren’t totally frozen….yet. I think we will make it through the weekend okay, but I sure will be glad when the fuel comes!

  2. You POOR thing! I feel your pain running out of oil, we ran out last week and our boiler (very similar looking beast to yours) keeps shutting itself off, it’s too cold! I hope you manage to stay warm and that the Oil company deliver quickly!

    • Hey Piglet, so far we are managing to keep somewhat warm. I am a bit worried about the delivery on Monday, I hope they come, too! You know how that goes in France! I still can’t believe we ran out. When we first started to use the boiler sometime in November it was checked out. There was fuel in the tank, it was looking good, our friend changed the filter for us and helped us out with details on how to fix the pump and all was great for the last couple months. No problems. We just never thought that the gauge wouldn’t be taking and accurate reading. Can you believe this thing decided to run out at the coldest time! We haven’t had it ever shut off due to the cold but I think the area we live in doesn’t get as cold as the area you’re in. Can you put some kind of wrap around yours to insulate it so it won’t shut off? Not sure it that would work, but we did that to our hot water tank to help it out. I sure hope you guys are staying warm with baby Piglet and all!

  3. Brrr! I feel for you! The French say of this weather: Il fait un froid de canard – it makes a cold of duck!

  4. Dear Ashley, if there is bad luck to be found, you seem to find it everytime. Unbelievable, running out of fuel for your heaters during the coldest spell of the year. I hope they deliver quickly for you.We have the same kind of heating system at our house in Sablet and I am thankful our tank is clear so we can see easily without even checking a guage whether or not we have got fuel. Which reminds me, I need to ask the people who look after our house whether or not we have enough fuel to keep things from freezing. Have a good weekend.

    • Hi Michel, It seems my bad luck arrived the day I arrived in France! Prior to the big move and house buy I had always considered myself a “good luck” person. Some how the move to France changed all that! I have no idea why. I swear I never really had a bit of bad luck before that. You know what they say though, when it rains it pours, and it seems to be pouring bad luck constantly so I guess the saying holds true for me! The clear tank sounds like a good idea and it would have definitely helped our situation, although the current tank we have is pretty sweet. It’s all old school looking so I guess I’ll keep it. I hope your fuel holds out, too. I hear in your neck of the woods it’s much colder than in mine.

  5. Come and meet Bertha also circa 1970s I guess, http://web.me.com/tournesol_bp/The_French_Village_Diaries/Blog/Entries/2010/11/8_Big_Berthas_heart_transplant.html
    She is a darling and a demon all rolled into one. Thankfully by being careful (and stocking up when 1000l only cost 560€) we haven’t had to buy fuel this winter, but we will soon. Oh and our gauge doesn’t work either, Ade has a dip stick that he uses every month to monitor her.

    • Hey Jacqui! Loved the story you wrote. The guy who brought us the fuel said the best thing to do is use a dip stick so I think we will go that route, too. The price of fuel was higher here than what you paid, but I think we might try another place next time to see if we can get it cheaper.

  6. It is higher here now too, about 91c a litre – which is why we are being careful and trying to eek it out for as long as possible! We do always shop around about 4 local suppliers, but the prices are usually similar.

    • Ours was 96c a litre and that included the delivery. I about died writing that check! I saw my life flash before my eyes! I’m with you on vendors having similar prices, they probably price fix around here. We found 2 other places close to us that sell the same fuel so I’m going to have a chat with them soon so I can get a feel for it. They really got you since they know desperate people will pay any thing for fuel when they are cold!

  1. Pingback: working in the kitchen « Stiod – Stupid Ideas of the day

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