It is a strange time of year to live in New England. It’s a place that people leave, ostensibly, because of the weather, but in September it’s hard to imagine anyplace having a better mix of enjoyable climactic conditions. It’s cool at night, warm during the day, it rains now and again, and some of the leaves are just starting to turn orange and red.
There are other seasons of course, but I’m amazed at how temperate the environment here really is year round, even in a home without modern climate control. To explain: it’s not just that this summer is our fourth without air conditioning, but circumstances obliged us to go without central heat since the beginning of the year as well.
The air conditioning was a choice. The attorneys who sold me this townhouse left me 9 air conditioners. I used as many as 5 of them, but after first painting the roof membrane white, and then getting a new reflective roof, I decided to try blowing cooler air into the house at night and closing up the house and keeping the sun out during the day. It has worked wonderfully well: even on the occasional 90 degree day the house rarely gets above 75.
It isn’t just the roof and the strategic use of curtains: of our four walls one is shared and the other three have been super-insulated along with the cathedral ceiling. This ended up being as helpful for going without heat as for going without cooling. On January 1st the 36 year old Utica steam boiler we inherited when we bought the place cracked. It’s replacement had a tiny defect in a small part which was not discovered and repaired until August…meaning that we went from January through the remainder of the winter without central heat.
Having foreseen the demise of the old boiler my wife and I had purchased a wood stove to act as a back-up system. Unfortunately the complexities of our 6 flue chimney scared our wood stove dealer into giving the installation responsibilities to a subcontractor they felt was better able to do the job. He arrived at our home and casually remarked that he hated Springfield, hated our neighborhood, and hated having to drive here. He took a down payment of $150 to start the work. And never returned. Yeah, cities suck. Filled with so many dishonest jerks. You know, the types who take your money but don’t actually do the work they’ve promised to do. I’m sure rural folk never behave in that manner.
Luckily our basement has a small forced hot air system designed to keep the 600 square feet in that apartment warm. By cranking that furnace up to 70 and opening the doors to the upstairs the house stayed at 58-60 degrees…with a little help from a space heater in the bathroom now and again, and making sure we captured every ray of sunlight possible from our south facing windows. In response we’re getting a much smaller wood stove (from a different contractor who loves Springfield’s old neighborhoods).
Back to the weather, there have been enough sunny days for our peach, tomato, and pepper crops to be among the best ever, and there has been enough rain to keep the rain barrels full for when the sunny days start to pile up.
Yup, people leave here for Texas, Florida, and California. For the weather. It’s true, I had to shovel snow a dozen times last winter, and wear a jacket, but that’s hardly the end of the world. When I finish shoveling, my house is still there. Every time.