Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Toto, this sure ain't Kansas!

Sometime while I was busy with puppies, Vancouver Island must have floated north and we are now anchored just a few miles south of Alaska. At least, that's what it feels like. Crofton is said to have one of the most moderate climates in Canada, protected as it is by Saltspring Island and Maple Mountain to the east and south, and a smattering of other small mountains stretching to the west and north.

But for the past couple of days, the wind has been blowing from the ocean right to my back yard, the ground is a mess of very hard, cold ice chunks, and I can hardly keep the house warm enough with the inefficient electric heaters. A five hour power outage the other day didn't help, but since then the power has only flickered off once or twice. Thank goodness, because the windchill factor last night brought the temperatures down close to minus 20 according to the radio.

It occured to me last night that I haven't shut off the two outside faucets, so I went scrambling around with a flashlight to find the turn off thingys. I found what I thought was one under my kitchen cabinet and far to the side through another little cut out, but there was no way that this chunky body was going to fit through a 14 x 14 inch space to reach it and my arms just aren't long enough. Besides, it looks like it also controls the water to my kitchen sink, so maybe it isn't even the right one.

The other shut off should be in my hall closet. I remember that is where the plumber told me it was when I first moved in and thought to ask about these things (of course, I failed to write down the answers, so now I don't remember most of what he said). My hot water tank is in the same closet. Again, flashlight in hand, I searched and searched but there is no shut off. Unless it is behind the drywall. Which I am not about to remove. I did have a bunch of bathroom renovations done last year, which changed the plumbing adjacent to the closet, so maybe that also changed the shutoff location.

So, failing to find any way to shut them off, I wrapped both taps in comforters and bungy cords, and will keep my fingers crossed that pipes don't burst. When I think back over the 25 years or more that I have lived alone as an adult, I don't think I have ever shut off outside faucets in the winter - even during the three years I lived in the Northwest Territories - so either I live a charmed life, or the threat of busted pipes isn't as great as people seem to think. And now I have probably just jinxed myself.

I did inquire about alternate heat sources for this place - a lovely little woodstove that costs $699 will cost another $2,900 to install. And then I have to chop wood, take out ashes, and do all that other dirty stuff that I don't care for. I don't have gas, and both gas and pellet stoves are going to run about $5000 to install. But Home Depot showed me a unit that fits outside like central air, runs off propane, and is wired directly into the home so it comes on automatically when the power goes out. The really big ones come with REALLY BIG price tags, but a smaller one that runs eight circuits is about $2300 plus an electrician's installation - which sounds like it wouldn't be much more than the other options. Today I make some phone calls. It would really be nice to have a source of heat and light and cooking potential around here if this really is going to be the worst winter in fifty years. We live in an area that gets lots of power failures, and Crofton is the last place on the grid to get repaired as we have no urgent services here.

And who likes this cold? Ms. Lucy! She goes crazy every time she is outside, and she constantly wants to go outside. And since Ms. Lucy can't be left alone outside (if I disappear back inside the house, she jumps the gate to the carport to try to get back to me, instead of just coming to the back door and asking to be let in!) , that means I stand out there in the blowing wind and freezing cold, impatiently watching her run, jump, dig, sniff, and just plain sit with her head into the wind and her ears blowing back like some sort of strawberry blonde movie star on a photoshoot.

I want spring to come. This is just toooooo darn cold. I'll even welcome dreary dark days of rain.


Janice Gillett said...

I am the same here Jean. Came home with Panda from his neuter and the commercial tent was smashed in between the house and my truck. Sheer luck no windows were smashed. My sump was working bu the hoses were frozen and i am lucky again it didn't burn it out. but the cheap previous home owner had done a hose repair on two pieces of crap hose and i couldn't get them apart to thaw. So an hour with the hair dyer failed and have what hose i could get into a tub with a trouble light on in hopes that will work. I was so scared the power would go down with what sounded like 100 mile winds as everything needs electricity here , even the water and no wood stove either. I need a generator but that is over my head in how you connect it as a power source. Will go out with a hammer to break up the ice and hand pail water out to the kids this morning. And feed well so they don't have to come out in this cold for dinner again. Not working today is a double edge sword.. need to be here need the money.

hornblower said...

Guess whose water pipes froze & burst! Yes! Mine! In Coquitlam!!!!

We remembered to drain the outside pipes etc but it turns out that the main supply line wasn't as insulated as it should have been. And I didn't leave a cold tap running. :-(

Are you sure about the costs of the pellet stoves? Because I was chatting with someone online who was pleased as punch about her new pellet stove, one that vents out through the wall & I'm sure it cost her considerably under $2K installed. She was so happy with it, it heats a large space & the pellets are inexpensive & easy to use. She went for just a straight horizontal vent but I think that relies on electricity for a fan. You may want a straight out & up vent which would have enough draft to operate without power.

have a look at the diagrams about 1/2 way down here:

Either way, 2900 is an INSANE installation cost. There's no way it should cost that much. Venting pipe is not that expensive & I don't think this more than a day's work even. It's: cut hole in side of house, insert vent pipe, attach pipes together & secure.

Stay warm!

Jean said...

Janice, generators have the plugs built right in, and then you just run a heavy duty extension from them. My only reason for not getting a generator is that I am hopeless with any gas-driven items that use a pullcord, and the ones that start with a key are really expensive, heavy and big (and I have nowhere to store one here). It's certainly something you might want to look into for the sanctuary. Oh, and when I lived in Mission, I always kept an indoor tap dripping through the winter so the pipes wouldn't freeze. In fact, I'm doing the same thing here now - won't help the outdoor taps, but at these temps I'm concerned about my indoor ones which are along the exterior walls and not well insulated.

Hornblower, I spoke with all four woodstove/pellet/gas stove places, and all told me that any of the three would cost around $3500-5000 installed. I had the least expensive company come out to give me a written quote for a wood stove (the least expensive wood stove) and they came back with a total price of $3593.00. And they told me it is much less expensive to put the flue through the roof than out the wall, as the angle pieces are outrageously expensive, so that's what the estimate is based on.
Pellet stoves with battery backups so they work in power failures are the top of the line, and would cost much more.
Ah well, three more months and I'll be posting pictures of daffodils and tulips and cherry trees in bloom.

hornblower said...

Oh Jean - what a bummer about those prices! I've got to say that I love having not one but two fireplaces - one gas, one wood. It's part of my slightly anal over prepping for emergencies..... :-)

Anonymous said...

Pellets are really expensive here. We looked at installing a pellet stove in my studio room. The gas - high as well.
We use our wood stove in the family room - Lots - and I like it the best.
There is just something so nice about a wood stove, and when the fire goes out - no fan, no problem.
It is messy -more so than any other way.