When we purchased our home in Provence, with the advice of a local mason, we decided to break our fireplace and have a poele, or woodburning stove, installed. This is a popular heating method in France, and you’ll find all home improvements stores stocked with them during fall. Installed by a licensed professional, you can have a tax break. If you complete two energy efficient renovations at the same time, you could qualify for a 0%, 10 year loan. We decided to replace all our single-pane wood windows with double-pane pvc, and installed the new poele.
With no experience with using poeles, nevermind burning wood in a fireplace, this was a large step for us. All we knew was that this would be an affordable and efficient way of heating our downstairs, and it could heat our upstairs. We live in the countryside, so there is an abundance of wood and no worries about air pollution caused by burning of wood.
The reason why we decided to break our nice stone fireplace:
- Most of the heat generated in fireplaces go up the chimney, not outwards to heat the room.
- We could add an insert into the fireplace to help the heat go outwards, but the stone around the insert would absorb much of the heat, not efficiently heating the room.
- Our living room is very small, and the stone fireplace was overwhelming.
After researching different brands, we decided to go with an Invicta poele. The one we chose can burn for up to 10 hours without reloading. Since we wanted to use the poele as our main source of heating, this was good news for at night usage. We later found out that this is when it’s on it’s lowest setting. During the day, we keep it on it’s highest setting to keep the house especially toasty. Early winter we do the low setting at night, and then rest of winter it’s at the medium setting.
This is our third winter using a poele (two in Provence and one in Normandy), and here’s what I’ve found so far…
- I love heat generated by fire! The sensation feels so comfortable and cozy, especially in the morning and evening when relaxing on the sofa.
- It saves money. The cost of the amount of firewood we use per month is less than the cost of electricity for our electric heaters. We had fuel heaters at our house in Normandy and decided to install a large poele to heat the downstairs.
- Easier to budget. After a few months, you know how much wood you need per month and there are no unexpected surprises. With electricity or fuel, you often don’t realize how much you’ve used until it’s too late. If we’re going through wood too quickly, we can decide if we want to get extra or just cut down on how much we burn per day.
- Warm in the morning. We load up the poele at night and put it on the medium setting, and when I get up with the kids in the morning, the downstairs is still warm. There are usually some hot coals, making it easier to start a new fire. Our poele at this house is so small, loading it up means we put in three 40cm logs. Yes, it’s VERY small.
- Backup burner. Our kitchen has a gas stove and oven (my preference), and sometimes we run out of gas when it’s not convenient to go get a new tank from the store. If this happens, we can heat leftovers or cook on top of the poele. Even if we don’t run out of gas, we often us it to make tea or warm soup.
- Source of heating during power outages. From time to time the electricity goes out, and for those times, I’m glad we’re not relying on electric heaters. No matter what happens, we always have heat and a way to cook. We often had power outages when we rented a house nearby before buying this house, and it was rough when the power was out for hours and we had a small baby in the house.
- Lugging wood inside the house. At the beginning of winter, it’s no big deal. However, as the winter gets colder and damper, it becomes a tedious chore. At this house, our firewood is kept downstairs on level with our cave. Each time we need more wood, we need to go downstairs to get it. When it’s an icey night, it’s not fun.
- Mess around the poele. I feel like no matter how much I clean, there is always some ashes, broken branches, or small pieces of bark from the logs around the legs of the poele. The mess quickly spreads by the kids or puppy, making cleaning around the poele a daily ritual.
- Wood deliveries. We were lucky at our house in Normandy because the delivery guy used to unload his trailer and stack the wood for us in our storage building. At our house now, it gets thrown over our fence into the garden. We have to take it all over to the correct place and stack it. Two winters ago, he delivered it in the rain, so we had to rush in the rain to try and stack it. All our wood was saturated with water, making it hard to build fires for weeks.
- Storing wood. We’d love to buy all the wood we need at the beginning of winter, so we don’t have to worry about winter deliveries. However, stacking wood takes space, so it’s not always possible to be able to do this. We only have enough room in the sheltered area to stack wood for half of winter, so mid-winter deliveries are a necessity.
- Temperature differences downstairs. The living room is the warmest since that is where the poele is located. Luckily, our living room is the center of the house, with the kitchen and bathroom to once side, and the playroom and office on the other side. The kitchen gets additional heating twice a day when I make lunch and dinner with our gas stove &/or oven, which also warms our small bathroom. My husband uses an electric heater in his office. Since the playroom is between his office and the living room, it stays warm. We converted our veranda into the dining room so I could have a large kitchen, and warm it using a space heater. Some heat mounts the stairs into the bedrooms, but we use electric heaters up at night.
All-in-all, I love using the poele and we have no intention of switching our main heating. Yes, there are some annoyances, but we love the heat generated by fire and the savings from using wood. We have no unexpected surprises when it comes to our heating bill, and the cost of wood is consistent from year to year, making planning easy.
It was a risky choice we made when renovating this house, as we both never even seen a poele before. I’m very glad the mason recommended it to us, and can see why it is a very popular method for heating in France. It’s a little more work for us in particular because we’re both home all day, so we need to keep it loaded with wood all day long. However, it’s worth the extra effort!