Thankfully our new heat source was installed just in time. Last year we were still in camping mode, surviving with the likes of the caminetto and a space heater. A few months of day-in and day-out fire-building grew a little wearisome, especially for the girl of the house who had to tend the homefires each evening while her Eagle Scout hubby was teaching in Potenza. Not that she wasn't grateful for a fireplace that worked well, mind you. But interrupting my writing thought stream or students to poke the coals and throw on logs every half-hour left a lot to be desired. An alternative needed to be found.
Mom warming up near the fire
There was much discussion about this - between us and our engineer who advises us on all manner of work and maintenance for a 300-year old stone building, as well as among everyone of our acquaintance who felt the need to weigh in. Because a side note of village life is that nothing goes unnoticed and so everyone is pretty much up everyone's business (but this also means that there is no crime and they know approximately when you'll need to obtain more firewood based on your last delivery date and the ensuing number of cold days and will then huddle you into the truck to go load up said firewood and help you carry it through the pedestrian lanes to your house.)
So round about the time that neighbors started asking how much wood we'd need this year- because dry wood must be ordered well in advance- we started looking at options. A gas-powered heater was gifted to us, its owner saying we could hook it up to the natural gas line or to a bombola tank. It puts out good heat, he said, and would be a simple solution until we decided on future renovations. Seemed sensible. Until the guy who would need to install it started talking about busting a hole into the fireplace flue for the exhaust pipe (an idea I wasn't too keen on), but then the fireplace buco would need to be filled in, but then since there's no draw with the buco closed a fan might be needed to ensure gas exhaust doesn't get trapped between the pipe and the former openening, and then...
Eyes glazed over as our ears strained to catch all of this in heavily-accented Italian that tended toward the dialect variety, which we don't understand. A few other exhaust pipe options were discussed, which would be even more complicated given the thickness of the walls and proximity of other habitations. I escaped the overload with a trip to Potenza, where, still enjoying a tank top and cotton capris with brilliant sunshine, I savored a gelato to regain equilibrium, then hauled myself off to Eldo, an electronics store, to explore my options. I found a heat pump, a quality one, which happened to be on sale for half price. I ran home and consulted the engineer. He was so impressed with my find that he called to have it held for me, along with two for himself for his studio tecnico.
The electrician came to install it two days ago. It was more of an ordeal than I'd imagined - not so easy as just tapping into drywall and mounting the sucker - because trenching in the stone had to be done for the electrical lines as well as the drain tubes from the compressor unit. They arrived at 8:30 and left at 3:30, but when the dust cleared I beheld my shiny new heater with awe. And just in time. It looks like it's going to be put to good use very soon.