One of the reasons that Mrs. Freeholder and I were able to agree on this particular house to be The Freehold v2 was the existence of a large masonry fireplace with a lined flu. A plus is that the fireplace had a heatolator insert with fan. As a special bonus, there was an additional, never used flu to the basement.
All this appealed to the preparedness streak in me. The fireplace meant we could have nice, crackling fires in the winter and generate extra heat for the house, which Mrs. Freeholder wanted, while the flu to the basement meant the possibility of a wood furnace--great for emergency heat or for simply keeping the house warm for less.
Last winter, time didn't permit us to do anything much about the subject. I was adamant that we would not use either without a professional chimney inspection, and we had way too many higher priorities. So we put up with a cold house. I can testify to the fact that heat pumps suck. Sure, the house was warm, but it was the coldest 70o I've ever lived in. I was glad to see warm weather.
This year nearly saw us back in the same place. However, rising energy costs plus a pretty decent supply of wood goaded me into getting things done. I called a local chimney guy who came very well recommended. He examined the flues, and gave me the bad news. One, the one to the basement, was a total loss. Because of poor construction when the house was built 28 years ago, the liner would have to be broken out, a cleanout door installed, and a new stainless steel liner installed. Major $$. The other was salvageable, however, it was too small and too short for a fireplace. It would have to be relined, and a wood insert installed. Also major $$.
After much discussion, we decided to write off the one to the basement. Chimney Guy had an old Emerald woodstove in excellent condition, and he would make us a package price on it plus relining. Mrs. Freeholder and I decided we would live with the compromise.
Last Thursday, Chimney Guy and Associates arrived and relined the chimney and installed the woodstove. (Pity the poor Chimney Guy and Associates. They wound up having to break out the liner in the fireplace flu as well, all for the lack of 3/4". Hard work.) We had our first fire Saturday night, and have had one every night since. Even though I spent my teens through 20s heating with wood, every stove and every house is different, and we're still learning how this particular combination of house and stove works. Tonight, the house is warm without being hot for the first time. The cheery crackle of the fire is still visible behind a removable screen, and Mrs. Freeholder doesn't mind the mess that goes with a wood stove (so far). The heat pump is not running, even with temps in the lower 30s as I type. There is enough wood to get us through the winter already cut and stacked. Son and I will split some of it Saturday.
I am content.