Let’s discuss fireplaces. Or more precisely why there’re only scattered open fireplaces left in all of Kinrowan Hall these days: one in the Library, one in the Pub and in the senior staff residences (RHIP). Why this is so is what led to us getting rid of open fireplaces save these ones.
Centuries ago, there were more fireplaces here than I’d care to detail. Suffice it to say that it was a major undertaking to cut the firewood, chop it into the proper sizes and dry it properly, haul it in to be used, remove and dispose of the ashes properly, and keep fireplaces and chimneys cleaned right.
Now understand I like an open, roaring fireplace crackling and warming the room with both its light and heat. Well forget the last part — fireplaces lose at least ninety percent of their heat up the chimney! That’s why Kinrowan Hall, like similar buildings of its age and size, was cold in the winter even with all the fireplaces roaring away. Even the sleeping rooms that had fireplaces in them, and not all of them did so, would have their inhabitants wake in the morning to really cold rooms and a thick coating of ice on their wash basins. Only the landed gentry (which we are most decidedly not) who could afford servants could expect to have hot water delivered to their rooms. And even their bedrooms were fucking cold most of the year. So in the Sixties, we started to install a central hot water heating system here that ran off a boiler in the basement. Yes, it was costly to purchase and extremely difficult to install but it made an amazing change for the better in the comfort of everyone here. We use the latest wall mounted flat heating units and, at the same time, installed triple glazed windows. We’ve since updated the system, again with noticeable improvements.
There’s still the really big fireplace in the Pub, though there’s an ingenious flue system there that recovers eighty percent of the heat that usually goes up the flue; and there’s the one in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room in the Library that also uses the same technology.
There’s a few other places we use wood such as in the Kitchen for fueling one of the ranges, for heating the saunas, and even in smoking salmon and pork, and drying fruit for winter use though the latter’s now done using solar driers more and more.
Fortunately the new electrical heating system runs on a combination of low-head hydro, Mill Pond turbo wheels, and, on sunny days, solar power, and on windy days, wind power using low-impact turbines up in the High Meadow where the wind I swear is always really strong.
So if you want the ambiance of a fireplace roaring strong, have a drink in our Pub while you enjoy listening to the Neverending Session, or go read a book in one of the comfy chairs in our Reading Room. Otherwise just enjoy that this centuries old building is actually warm this time of year!