HFHI Global Village, Amarante, Portugal – Work Day 2

Light fog and mist covering the surrounding hills disguised our town this morning in what would have been a mystery had we not seen it yesterday. The temperature was about 65 degrees F and none of us minded the cooler weather.

We happily resumed our work and made significant progress on the house. I have enjoyed working with my entire team on one single house, rather than dividing ourselves among multiple worksites. All eleven of us get to be together and I think I speak for everyone when I say we love it!

It occurred to us that there is quite a significant income disparity among the residents of our small village. Some of the houses appear quite large with in-ground swimming pools, manicured lawns and expensive cars parked in the driveways. This reflects the fact that some have left and gone to work in other countries, France for example. Those who stay and farm the land are poor by comparison. Those like Celeste.

And, although Celeste’s finished house will be a huge improvement in her life and the life of her family, her home will not have a central heating or air conditioning system. Portugal gets quite cold in the winter. For this reason, Habitat invested in moving the fireplace to the interior of the kitchen more in the center of the house. The heat from the fireplace will help to warm her home when it’s snowing outside.

So, how do the more affluent members of the community heat their homes? Glad you asked! Propane powered and electric systems are available but are expensive to install and run. The more efficient system combines both solar panels and a wood fired radiant heat system. The solar panels are used especially in the summer to heat water and the wood fired oven heats water which runs through pipes to radiators in the house for heat and also heats water. There is a significant expense up front to install the system, but wood is plentiful and relatively cheap to purchase, and the savings make up for the installation in as few as two years.

Celeste won’t have this system because the operational expenses are too much for her to afford, even for wood. But the insulation we are putting on the exterior walls and in the attic of her house combined with the fireplace will get her through the winter. And it’s a far cry from the cold, damp, dark garage-like lower floor of her home, where she lives now.

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