The oil-burning furnace in my house is a Mueller Climatrol, a great bureaucracy-green monster of a thing that, after being salvaged from the wreckage of the USS Maine, somehow found its way into residential heating.
Its tank holds about 300 gallons, or about $1,200 worth of heating oil, four times the trade-in value of my last car. They say you’ve got to get that filled a couple of times each winter, but they also say you should drink eight glasses of water a day and eat five to 13 servings of vegetables.
In all of those cases, I can get by with a lot less. In fact, here we are in January, and Alana and I have just now put 100 gallons into the old battle-axe and fired her up for the first time since moving into the house in September.
The absurd up-front cost of heating oil was a significant part of the delay. The local heating oil retailers — who really like to rub it in, how you need heat to live and all — insist you buy at least 100 gallons at a time. That’s about $400. We don’t always have an extra $400 lying around on account of how we like to eat food every day and pay for our dog’s mange antibiotics. (Oh, yeah, that’s a great thing they don’t tell you about being a dog owner; your dogs will sometimes get the damn mange and you’ll have to pay about a million dollars to fix it. For real. Mange.)
The other part of the delay is that Alana and I were trying to last as long as we could. There’s a warped sense of, like, pioneer spirit or survivalist pride or whatever in braving the 48-degree home, morning after frigid morning. We spent the first half of the winter building fires, keeping our coats on indoors and, mange notwithstanding, letting the dogs sleep on our legs while we watched TV.
We were practically a couple of Daniel damn Boones for the entire months of November and December. I’d get home in the evenings, satchel full of tallow and hardtack, and start fixing the night’s fire. Alana, in a bonnet and full-length gingham dress, would help me take off my boots and examine my suit of clothes for new tears she’d have to mend that evening. Brushing the snow from my shoulders and stroking my thick, matted beard, I’d say something like, “’Tis good to be home, woman.” Then we’d have a mug of strong ale, cook a rabbit over the fire and watch something on Netflix Instant.
There was some old-school rustic appeal to the cold, is what I’m saying.
Then one of the editors here told me he had 100 gallons of heating oil leftover from when he converted to gas heat. It was in barrels in his back yard, and we could have it for free. The hell with Daniel Boone and hardtack and gingham. Heat, man! We could have heat. Not just in one place, but throughout the whole house.
We pumped that oil into our tank and, after having the oil-heat man out to inspect the Mueller Climatrol, fired her up. The Climatrol, a utilitarian draft horse of a machine whose beauty had till that day been lost on me, roared to life with nary a cough or sputter. It was glorious. We were instantly back in the 21st century. We set the thermostat to a robust 58 degrees, which (no duh) is not really that warm but which feels like a Tahitian beach when you’ve been living sub-50.
We kicked it up to 60 one evening last week, but that was a little much; we want to stretch this oil as far as we can. So now it’s at 59 on a day-to-day basis. Not warm, exactly, but liveable.
And when this 100 gallons runs out, I’m refilling the tank. Heat, it turns out, is really great.
— The Indoorsman