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Wood Stoves and Fireplaces SPRING AND FALL WOOD STOVE OPERATION
by Ken Rajesky

Over the many years in Technical Service during the early Fall, we would receive calls from customers complaining of awakening in the middle of the night to a smoke alarm, and finding a smoke filled room where their stove was located. Obviously this was disconcerting and prompted a call to see what was wrong with their stove. We would first ask how cold was it outside during the night and how they loaded and set the stove for nighttime operation. Almost 99% of the time, the answer came back that it was in the high forties, early fifties (Fahrenheit). These temperatures would make the house uncomfortable if some type of heat was not utilized so it made sense that the woodstove was used. The problem that caused the smoke to fill the room and/or house was not a mechanical failure or design defect but instead, a lack of draft. The stove was improperly operated for the season.

What do I mean by that?

First, you need to understand draft, and how it works, so here is a quick Draft 101 course. First of all, draft is not shipped with stoves. If you don't have draft, you don’t have a chance, even with the best of products. Draft will vary from house to house on the very same block because of the many factors involved even though the homes may have been built identically. Draft evacuates by-products of combustion (smoke / gases) by a pulling or sucking action. This action pulls air into the stove for combustion purposes, and at the same time, pulls gases out of the stove through the chimney connector (stovepipe) and flue (chimney).

Draft is determined by contrasts——-the temperature of the air outside of the flue, versus the temperature inside the flue. The greater the temperature contrast is, the stronger the draft. Chimney height, flue size, chimney connector configuration, fuel, and altitude are also important factors, but temperature contrast is a greater factor. That’s why stoves typically operate wonderfully in the winter, and...
Most people have heard of R-Values, which are used for rating common building materials such as fiberglass insulation and glass. However, many texts which cover stoves and fireplaces use K-Values instead of R-Values. Although the two are somewhat related, there are differences.

R-Value: The higher the R-Value, the better the insulating properties of the subject materials. R-Values are most often used to express the thermal resistance (ability to stop heat flow) of a building wall, ceiling or floor. Because of this, most R-Values are calculated at normal temperatures of approx. 75 F. R-Values are easy to add together so calculating the total R-Value of a wall is simply done by adding the values for the sheetrock, insulation, sheathing and siding.

K-value is a measure of heat conductivity of a particular material. Specifically, it is the measure of the amount of heat, in BTUs per hour, that will be transmitted through one square foot of material that is one inch thick to cause a temperature change of one degree Fahrenheit from one side of the material to the other. The lower the K-value for a material, the better it insulates. If the K-value of the material is known, the R-value per inch can be determined by dividing 1 by the K-value (R-value per inch = 1/K value). The LOWER a K-Value, the better its performance as an insulator.

R or K values have nothing to do with whether a material is flame proof, flame resistant or combustible. Styrofoam, cork, wood and polyester are just some examples of materials which are good insulators but will burn or smoke dangerously when exposed to excess heat.

Technical - For those who desire to calculate their own K or R values, please use the following formulas:

1. R value can be calculated by dividing the thickness by the K value.

For US calculations, we use inches as the unit of measurement.
“In the inch-pound units, thermal resistance is measured in degrees F times square feet of area times hours of time per Btus of heat...
Nicely stacked piles of firewood have been part and parcel of the American landscape for many centuries. The burning of wood fueled all our homes from the tepees and huts of the Native Americans to the Pilgrims of Massachusetts. However, as we entered the modern era, coal and then oil and gas took over much of the work of home heating.

Wood burning has enjoyed a resurgence over the last 30 years as more and more Americans have begun to understand the consequences and the cost of heating with imported oil and other fossil fuels. Wood burning stoves have been joined by their modern cousin, the Pellet Stove, which provides a more automatic and easier operation.

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Wood is Good
The stoves of today have changed greatly from the past. Modern technology has been used to design stoves which burn the wood much more cleanly - so clean, in fact, that little or no smoke exits the chimney! These stoves are much more efficient than the pot belly stoves of yesteryear, which means they heat more using less wood.

Wood and Pellet stoves come in many shapes, sizes and price ranges. In addition to the free standing stoves you may be familiar with, they are also models which are designed to build into a wall and finish off like a standard fireplace. There are even units which can go into a basement or shed and heat your entire home by circulation of heated air or water through your existing central heating system!

We hear a lot about the benefits of supporting local family farms, shopping local, walking and using our bicycles and other such environmental and community-building efforts. Responsible and clean burning wood burning allows you to Heat Local, while also saving you money and keeping you cozier than many other fuels. Both firewood and wood pellets are renewable fuels and come from close to home. Biomass used for home heating is but a tiny fraction of the yearly growth of the forest, so the use...
Electric Space Heaters - Initial Costs and Operating Costs

Modern electric heaters are a popular way to take the chill off a room in the fall or to help with temporary heating in hard to heat parts of your house. However, it is important to become educated on the basics of electric heat to avoid spending too much money on the initial purchase and on the continued operation of your space heater. Safety is another issue, as some electric heaters are capable of lighting a piece of paper or other combustible household materials on fire.

You might often see TV, Magazine and Newspaper advertising for electric heaters and electric fireplaces making claims which are suspect. Some of these heavily advertised units are called “Amish Fireplaces”, “Eden Pure”, “Ceramic Disc Heaters”. etc. The ads would have you believe that these units are more efficient - that is, that they produce more heat for your dollar than a less expensive unit.

But the fact is that these heaters do not save money over a much less expensive electric heater. They are simply evidence that if you confuse customers with enough technical terms, the customer may be impressed and buy such a unit. And, make no mistake, millions of these units are sold! Be sure to understand the efficiency factor - there may be reasons you want an upscale unit…looks, features or just wanting something different than the hardware store models…but the price of the actual delivered heat is not a reason to buy the fancier units.

Plug-in Electric space heaters are limited in heating ability by the capacity of an average electrical wall socket. As a result, you will see that most are labeled as 1500 watts maximum, which works out to the same as 5100 BTU/HR. Such a heater on full would use 1.5 KWH of electricity for each hour of use, which would cost about 24 cents in our service area. Electric heat is usually more expensive than any other forum - BTU to BTU, but your savings results from being allowed to stay warm in one...
Reduce Your Heating Bills This Winter - Overlooked Sources of Heat Loss in the Home by:
Mark D. Tyrol, P.E., http://www.batticdoor.com

Imagine leaving a window open all winter long—the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, fireplace or clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in—costing you higher heating bills.

Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.

But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home—the folding attic stair, the whole house fan, the fireplace and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

Attic Stairs

When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.

Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door—do you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair...
Editors note: Many firepits don’t come with decent instructions - our thanks to John Ansart of Chimineas.com for the following guidelines.

Fire Pits and Portable Patio Fireplaces are becoming increasingly popular. Their popularity has generated an influx of new styles, designs and materials from the leading outdoor fireplace manufacturers. With their popularity increasing patio fireplaces are appearing more and more in a wide variety of retail stores from home center chains to grocery stores and specialty shops and catalogs. Unfortunately some retailers both on and offline do not provide comprehensive use and care instructions vital to the safe and fun use of their outdoor fireplace.

Our use and care instructions are simply a guideline based on our experience. These are not meant to supersede but enhance the use and care instructions you may have received with your outdoor fireplace.
If after reading these instructions if you still have questions please be sure and contact the retailer who sold you your firepit or the manufacturer directly before use!

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Selecting a Firepit

There is a large selection for firepits on the market each with its particular pros and cons. Here are some things to think about when selecting your firepit.

-If your firepit will be traveling with you it is a good idea to purchase a model which breaks down easily and is relatively light weight.
-If you will be using your firepit as a centerpiece for your patio a “dish” or “bowl” design which is viewable from all sides works best.
-If you select a “bowl” or “dish” style be sure it has a screen dome or cover to help prevent flying sparks.
-Be sure to consider the firepit size if you intend on burning fireplace size logs.
-When purchasing a model with a grill be sure there is a tool included to lift the grill from the firepit when you are done cooking so you may enjoy...
Most Chimneas don’t come with decent instructions - our thanks to John Ansart of Chimineas.com for the following guidelines.

Chimeneas and cast iron chimeneas are definitely a great addition to your patio or deck. As chimeneas are becoming more common in yards around the US and the world it is becoming more and more important for us to reiterate the need to use caution and common sense when using your chimenea. Cast iron chimeneas are a safe and fun way to enjoy a cool evening outdoors however it is very important that you take a minute to read our safety instructions before using your chiminea.

Cast Iron Chiminea Use:

Before you purchase your Chiminea be sure and consult your local fire Marshall. Cast iron chimeneas require a little less care than their brother the clay chimenea however they require more caution. When your new chimenea arrives at your door please follow these steps to insure a safe and fun cast iron chimenea experience. Chimeneas are for OUTDOOR USE ONLY and should NEVER be burned indoors!

Getting started:

When assembling your new chimenea be sure to read all of the assembly instructions. It’s a good idea to assemble your new chimenea in or around the area you will be using it. Cast iron chimeneas are very heavy and the less you have to move it the better. Assemble your chimenea making sure to fasten all bolts and screws securely.

Selecting the area:

Select a firm, level, immovable surface for your chimenea. If your chimenea will be on your deck be sure to place your cast iron chimenea on a fireproof base. Never place your cast iron chimenea right on the deck.
Remember. ALL chimeneas are for OUTDOOR USE ONLY! Never have a fire in your chimenea indoors or anywhere there is an overhang! Be sure to keep you’re cast iron chimenea away from your house, railing or anything else that could potentially catch fire. Be sure the area above your cast iron chimenea is free...
Outdoor Appliances CLAY CHIMINEA USE AND CARE
Editors note: Many Clay Chimineas don’t come with decent instructions - our thanks to John Ansart of Chimeneasinc.com for the following guidelines.

Introduction

As with any product that involves fire it is necessary to use caution and good judgment. Although the vast majority of companies that are offering Chimineas to their retail customers are conscientious, there is that occasional instance where a Chiminea is misused due to lack of knowledge. Below you will find detailed information covering the use and care of your firepot. Although these instructions are applicable for most clay Chimineas we suggest that you ask for an instruction sheet from your vendor at the time of purchase.

Handling and Preparation

Before you purchase your Chiminea be sure and consult your local Fire Marshall. Chimineas are for OUTDOOR USE ONLY and should NEVER be burned indoors!

From the moment you purchase your Chiminea there are specific guidelines you should follow.

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Handling

A large percentage of clay Chimineas are manufactured in two parts. The base or bowl and the neck. During the manufacturing process each of these pieces dry separately for several days. After this initial drying process the neck and bowl are fused together into a single unit. When handling a chiminea it is important to never lift from the neck as the bond between the neck and bowl could separate. The best way to carry a Chiminea is to grab hold of the chiminea mouth with one hand and cradle the point where the neck meets the bowl with your other arm.

Transporting your new Chiminea

Most people are under the impression that they must have a truck or van to transport their Chiminea from the store to their home. This is not the case. In fact it is easier to set the chiminea in a car seat and fasten a seat belt around it much like a person. If the seat belt crosses the...
Installing an insulated HT chimney up through another floor is often the best way to run a chimney in a multi-story situation. This scenario might include the basement of a ranch house for a furnace or finished basement stove, or a first story of a typical colonial house. This straight up technique will result in better draft than a chimney which goes out and up (Tee installation) and also may cost less in materials for the DIYer.

As with any chimney installation, planning is the key. Study the layout of your house and the proposed location of the stove. It may be that there is a large closet or the unused corner of an upstairs room that the chimney can extend through.

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The sketch in figure 2 shows a typical manufacturers drawing on how to accomplish such an installation. However, your real world layout may differ in some ways. There is a good chance that some of your floor joints, ceiling joists and rafters may not line up verticually, which might call for the use of 15 degree elbo offsets in the second floor or attic. Once again, careful planning BEFORE you cut too many holes is the key!

Tools needed - ideally a cut-saw (reciprocating saw), circular saw and drill - as well as common carpentry tools such as hammer, caulk gun, plumb bob, level and measuring tape.

The series of pictures below are courtesy of Hearth.com forum member Pagey, who was good enough to share them with all of us. The basic steps can be described as:

1. Make your Plan - measure, use a plumb bob to determine exactly where your holes will go and whether you will need 15 or 30 degree offsets in your insulated chimney. Also plan the setting of your stove and the chimney connector (the pipe from the stove to the ceiling) type and layoout. Chimney connector can also be offet using adjustable or fixed els.

2. Purchase all needed chimney and material. In the case of a straight up chimney, this would usually include...
Note: This article will guide you though the selection of materials and parts to complete a typical chimney lining job. With this information and your measurements, you should be able to price out the complete kit that will suit your particular installation.

Figuring out the cost can be overwhelming when deciding to reline your chimney with a stainless steel chimney liner. This step-by-step guide will help you determine what is included in a chimney liner kit and how to buy the right size. Getting educated about venting is important to vent your appliances safely and efficiently. Chimneys are made unique to each home. There are various applications and styles of stainless steel chimney liners that can be used to vent the appliance correctly. Choosing the least expensive option can cause various problems such as inadequate draft and smokiness entering your home. Look at all the options and choose the best option that suites your chimney. For more information on the benefits of using a chimney liner, please visit another article: Benefits of Chimney Liners

To begin, you will determine which size chimney liner is needed. Next, you will need to figure out which connection adapter and top plate are required. All of these factors determine how much your specific chimney liner kit will cost.

Chimney Liner

To determine the cost of the stainless steel chimney liner, you will first need to figure out the appropriate diameter and length of the liner. Round, corrugated chimney liners are the least expensive and, if at all possible, should be used. Round chimney liners draft better than rectangle and oval liners. Rectangle and oval liners have corners that can cool the flue and produce more creosote. Measuring the size of the exhaust hole of the appliance is a great place to determine the diameter of the chimney liner. Once the diameter is established, measuring the height of the chimney is the next step. Make sure to measure the entire length of the...