Hearth News

Learn Helpful Tips & Tricks from the Community

Electric Fireplaces, logs and stoves have increased in popularity over the last few years.

Electric Hearth Products

Electric Fireplaces, logs and stoves have increased in popularity over the last few years. Simplicity of installation and convenience in use are responsible for this resurgence. Electric hearth products do not need a chimney and can be easily installed almost anywhere. Because the heat output can be regulated or turned completely off, they are ideal and economical for year-round use and for the more temperate areas of the county.


Recent advances in technology have resulted in amazingly realistic flame simulation - in fact, it’s difficult to distinguish many electric fires from their gas or wood cousins. There can also be an environmental advantage to electric hearth products since no smoke or local pollution is created. Electric Cost and Use Electric Fireplaces use a very small amount of current to create their visual effects - usually about as much as 1-2 light bulbs. The cost of such a unit will be only pennies a day. Some units have optional electric heaters. The cost of operation for these electric heaters is the same as any other electric resistance heat, which is usually higher than that of gas or wood. If the heaters are used sparingly you should not see much of a jump in your electric bill. There are three basic types of electric hearth products:

Electric Fireplaces

Electric Fireplaces look similar to wood and gas models and there are countless ways to dress up and install them. One typical installation uses a prefabricated wood mantel to surround and enclose the firebox and logs. Other homeowners choose to purchase just the firebox and logs and create their own built-in look. These fireplaces are similar in size to wood models, with 36” to 42” being the...
Coal can be a viable option for those folks who live within a few hours drive of Pennsylvania’s Anthracite (hard coal) mines. This hard coal is packed with an enormous amount of energy. Coal stoves usually can burn longer on each fuel load than woodstoves and they provide a more even and controllable heat. Coal is also “American Made.”

Pennsylvania Anthracite coal is very clean burning and produces no visible smoke or creosote. However, the mining of coal can produce some negative effects on the environment. Coal is not renewable (at least not without waiting a few million years).

Coal is most efficient when burned in freestanding stoves. Some stoves are “dual-fuel” and capable of burning both wood and coal. Coal fires are difficult to start, but once alight a fire can last for weeks or even months. For this reason, coal is best suited to those who use their stoves on a full-time basis.

Maintenance—Coal Stoves—Coal stoves produce no creosote or tar, and the chimney and smoke pipe will usually only contain a white or brown fine ash coating. It is important to clean the coal stove, smoke pipe and chimney immediately following the burning season as this ash can be quite corrosive when combined with the heat and humidity of the spring and summer.

How Long will they last? A quality coal stove could easily last ten years or more. Coal burns much hotter than wood, so it should be common to replace coal grates and liners as time passes.
Some Folks say that “there’s no fuel like an old fuel” and these words definitely pertain to our favorite fuel—Wood.

Wood just seems to have more “soul” than many other fuels and it can be used in a tremendous variety of ways. Wood is truly a renewable fuel. The heat released from wood is actually stored solar energy—released from its bounds when consumed in a stove. Our country has vast resources of wood. Properly managed, these forests could provide large fuel wood supplies forever. In addition, the new EPA approved stoves burn wood cleaner and more efficiently than ever before. As older stoves are replaced with newer ones, any concerns about “wood smoke pollution” will quickly fade.

Types of Wood Burning Products

Wood Burning Stoves, Freestanding—New EPA approved clean burning stoves are now available in many styles, sizes and colors. These are perfect replacements for older stoves or to add heat and ambiance to any part of your home.

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts—There are a wide selection of units which will fit into your existing fireplaces and turn it into a “heating machine.” Many Freestanding Stoves will also sit on an existing fireplace hearth and vent up the chimney.

Wood Burning Fireplaces—Two types are available. Zero Clearance wood burning fireplaces that make it easy to add a fireplace to your existing home. Prices for complete Zero Clearance fireplaces are very reasonable. There is also a new breed of fireplace—the so-called “Built-in-Stoves.” These are heavy-duty units which heat like a stove, but are built into a wall like a fireplace.

Wood Burning Central Heat—Some Hearth dealers carry Wood Burning and Multi-Fuel (Burn oil, gas, wood,coal—all in one unit) furnaces and boilers. This provides a good alternative for the serious woodburner who wants to keep all the mess in a basement or garage / outbuilding—and heat the house evenly through duct work or baseboard radiators....
Of all the non-renewable fossil fuels (Gas, Coal, Oil), Natural Gas is the cleanest burning.

Environmental Outlook—Gas

Of all the nonrenewable fossil fuels (Gas, Coal, Oil), Natural Gas is the cleanest burning. The United States’ supply of Gas is mostly homegrown and the production and distribution of this fuel is quite clean. On the down side, there is only a limited amount of Natural Gas on the earth, so we should use it efficiently and leave some for the future generations.

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Types of Gas Products

Gas Stoves-Freestanding

Who would have ever thought that we’d have Gas stoves that look AND heat just like wood stoves? The biggest difference is that they turn on with the flick of a switch or the turn of a thermostat. These stoves are available in many sizes, styles and colors. Three venting options are available, Direct-Vent, B-Vent and Unvented.

Gas Fireplace Inserts

These are decorative units which install into your existing masonry or pre-fab fireplace. They have large glass viewing windows with glowing ceramic logs that simulate a wood fire. A substantial amount of heat is produced which can help to heat your living areas. Most newer gas inserts are Direct Vent, which means that a two-pipe system is used to vent the exhaust gases and also bring fresh air into the unit.

Gas Logs

These are decorative logs with burners and safety controls that are designed to convert a wood burning fireplace to gas. They are available in different sizes and styles. Most gas logs are designed for style and convenience and are not used as room or home heaters. An exception are unvented gas logs. These logs are extremely efficient and can act as a temporary backup source of heat.

Gas Fireplaces

Hearth Retailers carry a large selection of gas fireplaces. They are available in all three basic types, Direct Vent, No Vent and Natural (B-Vent). Direct vent gas fireplaces need no...
Coal fires are not as easy to start as wood fires and the ease of burning will vary with different types and makes of stoves. The burning of coal requires patience and a specific and regular procedure of loading, shaking, adjusting, etc. If you do not follow the right procedure the coal fire will go out. This can happen in a short period of time and once the extinction process has begun, it is almost impossible to reverse.

In this article:

Starting a Coal Fire

Additional Tips on Starting

Raking and Shaking your Stove


Safety First


1. Use paper and dry kindling to start the fire.

2. Add small pieces of hardwood when fire is burning hot. Keep the draft control fully open till a hot fire is established.

3. When a decent bed of red wood embers is built up, start adding coal—small amounts at a time. Keep the draft control open!!

4. Continue adding small amounts of coal until there is a 1” to 2” bed of burning coal. Don’t add too much coal at one time and allow sufficient time between each small loading for the coal in the stove to thoroughly ignite.

5. It is important at this point to fill the stove to the highest level possible. A deep bed of coal is critical for the proper function of all coal stoves. Since coal can be regulated better than wood, a deep bed does not mean that you can only run the stove hot - rather you can control the stove by setting the air control on your stove.

6. After all the coal has been ignited and is burning with a blue flame, then the draft control can be turned down. Serious damage can result if the stove is run wide open for extended periods of time. Make sure that the ash pan door is closed at all times.



1. Some users have...
History of Fire


Throughout the centuries there has been such an intimate connection of fire with the cultural growth of humanity that whatever relates to the antiquity of fire is important in tracing- the history of early progress.’ And because all inventions make use of what has gone before, the steps, which lead up to the making of the first stoves, are necessary in writing of their history. Logically, of course, we may assume there was once a time when man had no fire, but very early he must have become acquainted with fire derived from natural sources, and made use of it; for no remains of man’s art show him without fire as his companion. Much later in the scheme of things he invented processes for making fire artificially.


Many of the legends or myths relating to the origin of fire are vivid and dramatic, and while they vary in detail there appears to be a similarity in many of the episodes that form the fire-origin story in all countries of the world.’ Stealing fire from the gods, one of the first incidents, was made more or less exciting by the strategy employed in acquiring, it. Prometheus, for example, stole fire from the heavens in a hollow tube, one of the feats which gave him the reputation of being a great benefactor of men.’ After the transportation of fire was solved, it was occasionally borrowed, and while the meaning is lost, the phrase is still used when one says: “May I borrow a light?”’


With the acquisition of fire came the problem of preserving, it and interesting examples of the ingenuity of man were presented. First, the fire was buried; preserved in the ashes of the fire itself. Next, a type of slow-match or fire-stick was developed, and later, when man worked with metals, the...
Burning shelled corn as a fuel can be a feasible way of dealing with the high prices of more conventional fuels such as fuel oil, propane, natural gas, coal, and firewood. Utilizing corn as a fuel does not compete with the food supply needed for nourishment throughout the world. While it is recognized that malnutrition is a serious global problem, the world is not experiencing a food production problem. Instead the world faces political challenges associated with providing infrastructure systems for food distribution and storage.

Countryside Magnum Corn Stove

Contemporary agricultural systems can produce sufficient quality and quantity of food for the world’s population, with additional resources available so that agricultural products can be used as fuel, pharmaceuticals, and chemical feedstocks. Shelled corn is a fuel that can be produced within 180 days, compared to the millennia needed to produce fossil fuels.

Corn fueled appliances include stoves, fireplace inserts, built-in fireplaces and central heaters. As with many Pellet Stoves, Corn units often do not need an entire chimney system since they can be vented directly out the side wall (Direct Vent). Ask your dealer or installer for more information once you select a model.
(written by Corie Podschelne)

Perhaps you’ve been a long time wood burner and are looking for a stove that requires less tending; or maybe you’re new to solid fuel room heating completely. Burning coal, especially for a new coal user, can be particularly daunting due to difficulties in igniting a coal fire. Also, coal burning has some unfortunate (and false) stigmas surrounding it that come from a different era of coal burning. Modern coal stoves are amazingly simple to operate, extremely efficient and clean burning and require significantly less tending than a similar wood burning unit. This article will focus primarily on burning hard coal, also referred to as anthracite coal, however of the concepts will be just as useful when considering soft or bituminous coal.

-Coal Sizes

Anthracite coal comes in a variety of sizes; certain stoves require a specific size of coal whereas other stoves may be able to burn a few different coal sizes. While there are more sizes of hard coal than those listed blow, these are the primary four sizes that will be used in most coal stoves.

Rice - 3/16” to 5/16”

Pea - 9/16” - 13/16”

Chestnut - 13/16” to 1 5/8”

Stove - 1 5/8” to 2 7/16”

-Stove Types

1) Stoker

A. Introduction

A stoker stove is an automatic coal burning unit, wherein some type of stoker mechanism feeds fresh coal to a burning fire at a feed rate set by the user. Air is generally forced through the fire from the bottom by a blower or by a flue mounted draft inducer. The coal stoker stove operates on much the same principle as the pellet stove. The user must simply keep the hopper filled with coal and the ash pan empty and the coal stoker stove will run continuously.

B. Venting

Stoker stoves, depending on manufacturer, can often be “power-vented” because of the forced draft within the unit, greatly simplifying the venting system and reducing cost. In other words, many coal stokers can be direct vented much like a pellet...
Original article by:
Dennis Buffington
Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Penn State University
Reprinted with permission


Do not purchase a corn-burning stove or boiler without first identifying a reliable supplier of shelled corn. To find suppliers of shelled corn, contact the feed and seed stores in your area as well as any feed mills and grain elevators. The Extension Office in your county or the land-grant university in your state may also be able to identify suppliers of shelled corn. If you know any farmers, contact them directly to inquire if they or other farmers they know will sell shelled corn to you on a direct basis. Be sure that the moisture content of the shelled corn that you buy is no higher than 15.5 % for good combustion characteristics and for safe storage of the corn. (See the link for “Quality of Shelled Corn” on the homepage of the web site.)

Generally, it will be cheaper to buy the corn directly from a farmer than from a feed mill or elevator. Probably the most expensive place to buy shelled corn is from a fireplace/hearth shop where the corn is sold in cute little decorated bags. In many cases, it will be necessary to purchase a large amount of corn at a time to get the cheapest price for the corn. You may find it is necessary to purchase 25 bushels (1,400 pounds) to 100 bushels (5,600 pounds) to negotiate the cheapest price. Whenever discussing price, be sure to consider the cost for the delivery of the corn to your home.

The price of corn fluctuates throughout regions of the U. S. and throughout each year. It is impossible for any supplier to provide a firm price for corn over an extended period of time, unless you buy the corn on a futures contract. You may be able to negotiate a price that is a fixed number of cents higher than the price of corn on the commodity market at the time of your purchase.


For best results,...
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.

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...