Sunday 18 October – The Heat is On

In last week’s blog I mentioned that, if a company showed up when they said they would, we were having something lovely done in our own home.  This would focus my efforts for the first couple of days of the week.

The ‘something lovely’ was having a new boiler installed and my efforts would be to empty the utility room where the old boiler was situated.  Our utility room has become essential to the business. It is our main laundry area; the general clean up area for DIY projects and, being off the kitchen, is also a bit of a larder space as I put up all the old wall cupboards we took out of Hayloft and Granary in our original renovations of 2015.

It is only a small room and, like so many of our other ‘storage’ spaces(!) had become a little disorganised and overfull.  It was also the source of so many drafts coming into the house and chilling it down over the winter as the external slate walls have lots of holes and the ceiling has massive gaps between the boards!

In this small and chaotic space was an oil-fired boiler of indeterminate age but our estimation is in excess of 20 years.  The timer function had long since stopped working so it could not be programmed leaving 2 power options, on or off.  You could switch off the pump so I wouldn’t feed the radiators and just provide hot water.  We did this when we first arrived at Kergudon and had the luxury of hot water whenever we wanted but we did get through 500 litres of oil in less than 6 months.

As it was so old it was extremely inefficient.  More so when there were 2 radiators running off the system in Priory which were completely ineffective at heating that large space.  Consequently, for the last 5 years we have only been turning the boiler on for periods of 15 minutes or so once or twice a day when we need to shower and wash up.  This meant we didn’t use so much fuel oil but it did mean the house was always between chilly and arctic-cold in the winter and we used a lot of firewood instead in the poêle.

During our refurbishment of Priory in the spring we removed those radiators and installed an air source heat pump as, we understand, they are extremely efficient.  So far we have been very impressed with it.  While Priory’s heat pump only heats air which is used to heat the gîte, hot water being provided by an electric immersion heater, some friends showed us their system which heats water and plugged straight into their exiting radiators.

Having convinced us that this was the way to go for our own home, our friends then sealed the fact by telling us that the French state, as part of its efforts to combat climate change, are providing assistance to householders wanting to replace inefficient oil boilers with super-efficient heat pumps.

This week saw the work done but did mean that it took me a while at the start of the week to completely empty the utility room so the team could do their work.  The room is so different when empty, and much lighter, but now our lounge is (temporarily) full of laundry and cleaning things!

The 2 guys who came to do the work were really efficient.  Two days of work was all they required to rip out the old boiler, and the extremely unattractive fuel tank on our side terrace, and replace with a new system.  Unfortunately it was less than 2 days before I broke it(!) at 5 pm on Friday.  I was really impressed when at 9 am Saturday their maintenance team were with us and within a couple of hours all was back up and running.  In my defence I hadn’t broken it but, while they were quick, the installers hadn’t done something quite right and a few tweaks were required to get it operating correctly.

Now we have some of those things others take for granted and we provide in the gîtes, hot water on demand and a warm house all day long!

We are so impressed with heat pumps that we are having a Priory style air-air system installed in Granary in the next couple of months to make sure it remains toasty in the winter season but in a more efficient way.  One of the other tasks I did during the week in preparation for this was to create a concrete pad behind Granary on which the external unit will eventually sit.

Now we have the new system, next week will be the start of me rebuilding the utility room and first will be to dry line the ceiling with plasterboard to reduce the drafts coming into the house.  Having ripped out the old sink but it being essential, we spent much of Friday in Brest looking for a replacement as well as new wall cabinets Dave having authorised their purchase.  The old Granary and Hayloft units will get re-re-used in the garage and our new cabinets are white which should mean the new utility room will seem lighter, and larger, and we have been able to maximise the space so will be able to store more stuff!!

We continued our weekly walks yesterday with the longest yet.  We did a 17.2 km circuit on the north side of the presqu’île de crozon (Crozon peninsular) starting and finishing at the pretty town of Landévennec.  Another beautifully clear, crisp autumn day and another fabulous walk through forest, woodland and along the south side of the Rade de Brest almost exactly opposite where we walked a few weeks ago.

Unlike last week when we were too early for the autumnal colours, this week we saw some fabulous signs of nature and the amazing year we’ve had.  I haven’t seen as many holly berries as this year for a long time.

Going onto the Crozon peninsular means crossing the Térénez Bridge which is a fabulous feature of the journey, the French do build amazing bridges, and we got some good views of it on the walk.  Other interesting views were of the French Navy’s warship graveyard which is in the protected waters where the curves of the river Aulne enter the Rade de Brest estuary.  When warships get to the end of their useful life there are a number of things that can be done with them.  France uses this part of the estuary to ‘store’ their old hulls before final disposal so the number and size change frequently but they always hold an odd fascination.

Next week will be busy – lots more shed and garage clearing to be done!  It is also the start of the French Toussaint (All Saints) holiday and we are looking busy in the gîtes so lots to do!