Farmhouse heating has come a long way…

Posted October 14, 2017 in Real Estate Trends

Krista Cunningham, Clark County WA real estate agent

As I’ve discussed in previous articles, I remodeled and restored the 1940s farm house that my grandparents built in rural Benton County, Oregon. In reminiscing of the history of the home that my father grew up in, I am reminded of how far we have come in heating homes.

The original heating source for the house was a sawdust burner in the basement. Such a contraption only made sense in the Northwest during the 40s, 50s & 60s as there was ample supply of sawdust as a by-product of the lumber industry which was booming with the old paper mill in Millersburg, Oregon, not too far from the homestead. Once or twice a year, a sawdust supplier would actually blow in sawdust through a little window in the foundation at ground level. My dad shared his memories of the smell of the sawdust in the house for days after the sawdust was delivered. There was a hopper that needed to be filled and a chimney. It heated the home for a couple decades and was eventually replaced because paper mills started shipping all of the top-grade sawdust to Japan where it was made into particle board. As a young kid, even though the sawdust burner had been gone for at least 10 years, I remember sweeping sawdust cobwebs in the basement.

In the late 60s my grandfather, a well-known HVAC specialist in the industry, replaced the sawdust burner with oil heat and “the most beautiful duct work you’ve ever seen” quoted from our current HVAC service company. Timing perhaps not so great with the early 1970s Energy Crisis with oil consumption rising and domestic oil production declining. I still remember stories from my dad of gas stations running out of gas and price wars. The oil heat was cozy and seemed to be a safer and cleaner alternative to the sawdust burner.

My grandparents used the oil heater until 2009 when I finally talked them into an energy efficient gas furnace after they had been paying $300-$400 every six weeks to have the oil tank filled. Today, we enjoy the even-ness of the gas forced air providing warmth to the top level and basement of the home. With the installation of new energy efficient windows and the gas forced air system, it doesn’t feel like a drafty old farmhouse anymore, with the exception of my stubbornness to keep the old farm door on the back of the house for memories… which is another story for another day.

Krista Cunningham
Marketing Guru for The Columbian and Sprout Digital