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Saturday, October 29, 2011

High-efficiency heating with wood-burning appliances

By Marge Padgitt

With the increased prices of gas and electricty, many people have turned to alternatives for heating their homes. The new heating appliance options are varied and high-tech. Manufacturers have had over 30 years to perfect their art- new appliances are much improved over their predecessor’s- offering wood-burning stoves and fireplace inserts that are not only efficient, but use much less wood to provide the same amount of heat as their older counterparts. The re-emergence of old world masonry heater and Rumford technology offer these benefits as well. Using the renewable resource of wood makes modern wood-burning appliances very “Green” and earth-friendly.

Homeowners now have lots of choices for heating with wood.
The Rumford Fireplace– Designed by Count Rumford in the 1700’s, the shallow depth, curved throat, angled side walls, and higher opening, combined with a smaller flue provide much more heat than the standard “box style” fireplace. Compared to a standard fireplace, which produces –30% to +5% in efficiency (meaning most of the heat goes up the chimney), the +40% efficiency Rumford far surpasses its competitor. Recent testing shows that properly designed and built Rumford fireplaces, are very clean burning and produce low emissions. Don’t expect to heat the entire house, but a Rumford will definitely heat the room it is in and more.

Historic homes are perfect for utilizing the Rumford design, which looks authentic and ads ambience to the residence, but a Rumford looks great in modern homes, too.


A Rumford style fireplace

A new method of “Rumfordizing” existing fireplaces has been developed, where a box-style fireplace is transformed into a Rumford style to gain more heat. Some masons and CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are employing this method. Not all masons are trained properly in this method of fireplace building, so find a qualified Rumford builder at www.rumford.com, www.csia.org, or www.midwestcsc.org. 40,000 + BTU output.


 

Wood-burning Stoves- Today’s wood stoves require less wood to heat the same amount of space, and that translates into savings in the cost of wood, and in your time to prep wood and load the stove. Where loading was once required every 2 –3 hours, it is now only needed every 4-10 hours. The addition of an electric built-in blower will push the warmed air through the house, but is not necessary for the stove to work.
A wood-burning stove can be installed almost anywhere, provided there is an existing chimney that can be used, or an outside wall where a Class A chimney can be installed. Existing chimneys must be brought up to current standards with the installation of a 6” - 8” insulated stainless steel chimney liner.

Wood stoves come in a variety of styles including standard matte black or a beautiful porcelain enamel finish, and are constructed of heavy steel, cast iron, or soapstone. All stoves require a non-combustible floor and clearance to combustible walls, which is different with each manufacturer. The old 36” rule no longer applies with the newer models, so more usable space is available in the room. The EPA regulates woodburning stoves so be sure to get one that is EPA approved and do not use an older model. A professional should do the installation. 55,000—85,000 BTU output.


Hampton wood-burning insert

Wood-burning Fireplace Inserts- This appliance is inserted into an existing masonry fireplace. A correctly sized stainless steel flue liner is necessary with a connection to the wood stove. Do not install an insert with out the required steel flue liner with ceramic wool insulation—and have a professional do the installation. If used without a steel liner, the existing flue that was sized originally for your fireplace will be too large for the new appliance to draft correctly and excessive creosote will accumulate on the flue walls. Usually glazed or tar creosote is the type that occurs in this situation, and since it is highly flammable, it is the cause of many chimney fires.

A wood stove insert will produce enough heat to warm a large area (800—3,000 sq. ft.), and is extremely efficient—usually in the 73 % + range for efficiency ratings. Most inserts are EPA approved non-catalytic, which means that a catalytic combustor, which requires maintenance, is not necessary. The addition of an electric built-in blower will push the warmed air through the house, but is not necessary to provide heat. Burn well-seasoned hard woods and you’ll be happy with not only the heat your insert produces, but how little wood is used as well. The EPA regulates fireplace inserts, so be sure to get one that is EPA approved and do not use an older model. 60,000—85,000 BTU output.

Wood-burning Furnace/boiler - Capeable of producing 80,000 to 300,000 BTU’s and designed to heat an entire house or building via ducts, many woodburning furnaces may be installed alongside an existing gas furnace (provided a separate flue is available), or outside the home in a shed or protective covering. Most furnaces have electric fans and use ductwork to distribute the heat throughout the home. Wood-burning boilers use the underfloor hydronic tubing to distribute heat.

Either a Class A stainless steel chimney is required; or when using an existing masonry chimney an approved stainless steel flue liner is necessary. Do not use a tile flue liner in a masonry chimney due to danger of excessive creosote accumulation and risk of chimney fire. It is extremely important to have a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep or approved manufacturer installer do the analysis of the installation area and the actual installation of the furnace and flue. This is not a do-it-yourselfer project, as there are many critical items that must be taken into consideration includingthe size of flue, location of the furnace, distance of the connecting pipe run, type of materials used, and clearances to combustibles. Find an installer at www.csia.org, or www.nficertified.org or ask the manufacturer for help in finding a qualified dealer. Do your homework when selecting a furnace or boiler as there are large differences in efficiency. The EPA currently has no restrictions on woodburning furnaces in most states (except California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado), but has plans to do so soon. 80,000—250,000 BTU output.

Masonry Heaters– Old world technology is making a comback in the United States. Masonry heaters are a site-built or pre-cast heater core inside of a brick, stone, tile, stucco, or soapstone exterior, and built on site. The masonry mass will be at least 1,760 lbs. The heater has tight fitting doors that are closed during the burn cycle. It has an interior construction consisting of a firebox and heat exchange channels built from refractory components. A masonry heater has the ability to store a very large amount of heat, which means that you can rapidly burn a large amount of wood without overheating the house. The heat is stored in the masonry thermal mass, and then slowly radiates for the next 18 to 24 hours. Loading of wood is only required approximately once every 12 hours. The heater burns the wood quickly and all of the energy in the wood is used so there is no waste. Masonry heaters burn very clean, with little emissions, so they are environmentally friendly.

This type of heater, designed and used extensively in Europe, is now gaining popularity in the U.S. The initial cost is more than other types of heating, but due to the savings in energy bills that cost can be recuperated in as little as seven years. The heat is evenly distributed through the home without the use of ductwork or forced air. It is best to design the home around a masonry heater to get the maximum efficiency—homes that have large, open spaces with the heater in a central location are well suited for this type of heating appliance.
Added options to masonry heaters may include a pizza/bread oven, heated bench, mantle, heated hot water, and wood storage spaces. A masonry heater should be built by a qualified heater-mason contractor. Find a builder and get more information about how masonry heaters work on the Masonry Heater Association of North America website at www.mha-net.org. 80,000—250,000 BTU output.
Custom built masonry heater by Gene Padgitt

 What you need to know about wood fuel
  • By burning wood for fuel, less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere than if the wood was left to rot on the forest floor
  • Modern EPA approved woodburning fireplace inserts and freestanding stoves produce low particulates when burned properly
  • While not EPA approved yet, masonry heaters are also very clean burning
  • Wood fuel is less expensive than gas or electricity, and in some cases free if the homeowner has trees on his property
  • Cordwood should be cut, split and stacked for at least six months prior to use and used when moisture content is below 20%
  • Only burn dry cordwood – never burn treated wood since it produces toxic fumes
  • All wood produces flammable creosote, which must be removed from the flue or chimney periodically to avoid chimney fires
  • Have all wood-burning appliance flues checked annually and swept by a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep

Resources:

National Chimney Sweep Guild: www.ncsg.org

Chimney Safety Institute of America: www.csia.org

Midwest Chimney Safety Council: www.midwestcsc.org

Masonry Heater Association of North America: www.mha-net.org

National Fireplace Institute: www.nficertified.org

Rumford Fireplaces: www.rumford.com

Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association: www.hpba.org

Woodheat.org





Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Heating Safety Tips

By Marge Padgitt
Padgitt Chimney & Fireplace, Independence, MO
816-461-3665 www.chimkc.com

GAS FURNACE HEATING: Every year, many people become ill or die due to a back up of Carbon Monoxide gasses from the furnace or hot water heater flue or connecting pipes. This can be avoided with regular maintenance of the chimney. Have the furnace flue checked annually by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep (www.csia.org) to be sure it is not clogged or damaged, and that there is no Carbon Monoxide backup into the home. Make sure the flue is sized correctly to the appliances so it will draft well. Flues that are too large cause excessive condensation and damage the flue walls and mortar joints. Keep trash and storage containers at least 3’ away from the heating system. Have a heavy duty stainless steel chimney cover installed to keep damaging rain, animals, and debris out of the chimney. Have the furnace checked annually by a qualified HVAC technician to be sure everything in the furnace is clean and in good working order. Only have a trained technician do needed repairs.

ABOUT CARBON MONOXIDE: CO is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that is the natural by-product of combustion. It is called the “Silent Killer,” because the victims may not know they are being poisoned. Your body absorbs CO more easily than Oxygen, and mistakes it for Oxygen, causing illness and sometimes death. Even low levels of CO have been shown to cause irreversible brain damage. Some Symptoms of CO poisoning are: Dizziness, headaches Unexplained Flu-like symptoms Fainting, nausea Death Get to a hospital as soon as exposure to CO is known so proper treatment can be administered.
Source: The Midwest Chimney Safety Council www.midwestcsc.org


TIPS FOR USING WOOD-BURNING STOVES, FIREPLACES, & FURNACES:

Most fires in wood stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys occur because of a lack of regular cleaning to remove creosote, which is the residue left behind by unburned fuel (ALL fuel burns incompletely). The National Fire Protection Association recommends annual inspection and cleaning as necessary by a Certified Chimney Sweep. Don’t burn treated wood, railroad ties, trash, or colored paper since they emit toxic fumes. Don’t burn pine trees or railroad ties since they create excessive amounts of flammable creosote and may overheat and warp your steel or cast iron appliance.
Burning Hedge is also discouraged since it burns very hot. The best wood to burn is oak. It is very dense and burns slowly. However, soft woods may also be used – you’ll just have to load the stove more often. Burn your stove hot (400-700 degrees) to assure complete combustion, which is how the stove is designed to be used, and it is cleaner and better for the environment. After establishing the fire, you should see white or clear smoke coming out of the chimney. If the smoke is grey or black, something is wrong with the wood, your burning methods, or with the system. 

Have the chimney checked annually (every 2 months during the heating season if used for the primary source of heat) and cleaned as necessary by a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep (www.csia.org). The sweep will remove flammable creosote, bird nests, and dead animals, and look for holes and gaps between the flue liner sections, cracked flue tiles, unparged or damaged smoke chamber, correct construction of the chimney, clearances to combustibles, and more that most homeowners do not have the training to indentify. Follow operating instructions by the manufacturer (if applicable) to assure safe and efficient heating.

Keep combustible materials (including furniture) at least 3’ away from the appliance. A screen should be placed in front of open fireplaces to keep embers and sparks from popping out. Place a child guard screen around stoves to keep children from getting burned. Never use flammable liquids to start a fire—the fumes can ignite and explode. Use an approved gel, fatwood, or firestarter. Remove flammable materials such as stockings from the mantel before starting a fire. Use a metal container to transport ashes to the exterior of the home. Do not build large fires or long-burning fires in open fireplaces. Fireplaces are designed for small, ambient fires only, and are not heating devices.

If you want to make your fireplace energy efficient and a heating source, have a wood or gas fireplace insert installed by a professional. Have a heavy duty stainless steel chimney cover installed to keep damaging rain, animals, and debris out of the chimney. If you suddenly notice that draft stops while burning a stove, a chimney fire may have occurred which makes creosote expand to many times its size and chokes off the flue. If a chimney fire occurs, close the damper (if possible, get out of the house, and call the fire department. DO NOT use the chimney until it has been inspected by a Certified Chimney Sweep.

HOW TO FIND A QUALIFIED CHIMNEY SWEEP

Like any other type of contractor, there are good and bad chimney sweeps. You can greatly improve your chances of finding a qualified sweep if you follow these simple guidelines: Look for a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep at www.csia.org. A Certified Sweep has taken classes and testing on the methods and tools necessary to do the job correctly and knows the codes and clearances to combustibles. He/she also has training in inspecting fireplaces and chimneys and will likely have the equipment necessary to do the job right. Check your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints or unresolved issues the company may have.  If having repair work done, as for references and samples of the company’s work to review.

Ask to see certificates of insurance for Worker’s Comp and Liability. If the sweep is not insured, don’t allow them on your property because you could be liable for any damages to your home or injuries to the sweep. Be sure to check out the company’s website – there is likely a lot of information there for you to review. If anything about the company makes you wary, don’t do business with them. Other sites to visit are the Midwest Chimney Safety Council at www.mcsc-net.org and the National Fireplace Institute at www.nficertified.org.

OTHER TIPS: Install a digital CO detector on each level of your home. Install a hard-wired fire alarm system with an alarm on each floor and in the attic next to the chimney. Do not leave open fires unattended.

Bad utility flues can cause carbon monoxide poisoning

By Marge Padgitt


Utility flues serving furnaces, water heaters, and boilers are often forgotten and ignored, yet can pose serious hazards for the occupants of the home. Most problems lie with older masonry chimneys with clay tile flue liners, or chimneys without liners. Homeowners are generally not aware that these flues need to be inspected annually as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association 211 Standards, and that professional chimney sweeps maintain these flues. HVAC contractors do not sweep or inspect flues, or install replacement flue liners.

Masonry chimneys deteriorate over time, starting from the interior, due to exposure to rain and acidic flue gasses, which damage mortar and clay tile liners. Over a period of years, this mortar falls and accumulates at the bottom of the flue, sometimes causing large restrictions that can cause carbon monoxide backup. Flue liners have been required by code since 1927, yet many homes built prior to 1950 do not have liners. Flue liners are installed to provide a complete sealed exit for toxic flue gases. They have mortar joints between each two-foot section of tile. But mortar joints that are deteriorated, have holes, or are missing can allow gases to escape the flue liner and enter the living space via a neighboring flue liner serving a fireplace, or through the masonry chimney.

Masonry chimneys are designed to last for many years as long as they are maintained. However, lack of homeowner education usually results in improperly maintained chimneys and flues, which can be a health hazard to the occupants and cause appliances to work inefficiently. Flue liner size is very important – and must be correct in order for draft to occur. A flue liner that is too large for the appliance may cause backup of gases. This is common in homes where newer, mid-efficiency appliances have been installed which need a smaller liner, and in cases where a high-efficiency furnace is installed and vented through the side of the house, leaving an “abandoned” hot water heater to vent on its own in a flue that is very over sized.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that is the by-product of incomplete combustion. The current standard for CO alarms is 9 ppm, however, recent testing proves that even very low levels of CO exposure over a long period of time can cause irreversible brain and organ damage. The Environmental Protection Agency states that CO detectors are to be used as a backup and are not a replacement for maintenance of appliances and flues. Even so, the EPA recommends the use of CO detectors placed strategically throughout the house.

Dr. David Penney, author of Carbon Monoxide Toxicity and Professor of Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine has devoted years of research to this topic and posts his findings on his website at www.coheadquarters.com. Penney suggests that SIDS may be due to low level CO exposure and that children, the elderly, and pets are more susceptible to its effects.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 15,000 people visit emergency rooms and 500 people die every year due to CO poisoning. Symptoms of CO poisoning may include flu-like symptoms that go away or lessen after leaving the house, unexplained headaches, nausea, and dizziness; fainting, muscle weakness, inability to wake up, and death. If more than one family member has the same symptoms the EPA recommends visiting a doctor or hospital and mentioning that you suspect CO exposure.


Spalling flue liner with missing mortar joints

Utility flue safety tips:
  • Have the flue checked annually by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep who will look for clogs caused by bird nests, leaves, debris, dead animals, and mortar or bricks, cracked flue tiles, missing tiles, and missing mortar joints.
  • Have a heavy duty stainless steel chimney cover installed to keep damaging rain and animals out of the flue.
  • Make sure the flue is sized correctly to the appliances
  • Never connect another appliance (water heater excepted) to the same flue as a furnace or boiler
  • Have the flue examined when changing appliances

According to a chimney sweep in Kansas City, Missouri, he has encountered numerous utility flue problems over the years, citing that it is a common issue. “People don't think about the inside of their chimney and it is usually ignored until a chimney sweep finds a problem or someone gets ill,” stated the sweep. In one example, another chimney sweep broke out flue tiles and left them in the flue, clogging it completely, which made the homeowners very ill for weeks. In another example, over five feet of debris was removed from a boiler flue that had not been maintained for years and had blocked the flue by 90 percent. The clog caused an entire church congregation to become very ill.


Resources:






Marge Padgitt, Education Director for the Midwest Chimney Safety Council, is available to speak to groups about chimney safety issues, appliance installation and maintenance, choosing a wood-burning appliance, chimney construction, and codes. Contact her at margepadgitt@comcast.net.


Chimney builder receives award for masonry skills

By Marge Padgitt

Gene Padgitt, Vice President of HearthMasters, Inc. in Independence, Missouri eceived a First Place award for his skills in masonry design and construction.

Kansas City, Missouri September 15, 2010


The Masonry Heater Association of North America contest had entries from all over North America. His peers awarded Gene the First Place trophy for his skills in historic chimney restoration. Historic work is much different than current building styles, using historic bricks from the time period, smaller “butter” joints, and intricate designs. The winning project was an 1880’s Queen Anne Victorian home in Northeast Kansas City at 303 N. Garfield where Padgitt tore down and rebuilt five chimneys, all with different designs, and restored eight fireplaces.

Gene is a 29-year chimney industry veteran and self-taught mason. He has won numerous awards for his chimney and fireplace masonry skills from the National Chimney Sweep Guild, Midwest Chimney Safety Council, NARI, and The Home Book.


Gene’s work is posted at www.chimkc.com.

Contact Gene at 816-461-3665 or e-mail ympadgitt@yahoo.com

Kansas City Family Escapes CO Poisoning

By Marge Padgitt

On December 1, 2010 the new owners of a 1996 home in Kansas City, Missouri asked local chimney and fireplace inspector, Gene Padgitt of HearthMasters, Inc. to inspect their gas fireplace, which is located in their son’s bedroom on the lower level of the home. The homeowners called a fireplace expert after suspecting that they did not have an adequate report from their home inspector, who had provided a report stating that the fireplace was in good condition. The report was provided as a part of the normal inspection process before they purchased and moved into the home, but the new homeowners felt uneasy and decided not to use the fireplace until it was examined by an expert.

Padgitt said what he found was “disturbing, to say the least.” After running a test with Carbon Monoxide testing equipment he noted that the flames were unusually yellow, and that the levels of CO increased to 800 ppm and were climbing. He had a bad taste in his mouth which was caused by the other by-products of combustion. At that point, Padgitt turned off the direct vent gas fireplace in order to avoid poisoning himself and the occupants of the home.

A reading of 800 ppm is extremely high and unexpected for a gas fireplace. Carbon monoxide alarms are set to go off at 9 ppm, and as levels increase danger to the occupants increases. The fireplace had been installed and set up incorrectly, most likely by the installer, but modification of the air to gas ratio quickly improved the problem and brought the CO readings down. The inspector plans to return to do more testing before giving the OK to use the fireplace.

Carbon Monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. CO can cause seizure, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, abnormal reflexes, irritability, extreme fatigue and weakness, confusion, disorientation, coma and death. According to Dr. David Penney, Professor of Physiology and Occupational and Environmental Health, and Director of Surgical Research at Wayne State University, exposure at these levels over a short period of time can cause death or permanent brain damage. On average 439 persons die annually from unintentional exposure to CO, but the statistics of illness due to CO are not possible to determine. Penney said that thousands of people are exposed to constant low levels of exposure to CO and are unaware of it, often miss-diagnosing illness. “If a person feels better when they leave their home, this is an indication that a source for CO should be investigated, “ said Dr. Penney.

Padgitt, who has 28 years experience in the chimney industry and is a State Certified Fire Investigator and CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep says that most home inspectors do not have adequate training on chimneys, fireplaces, gas appliances, or woodburning appliances to make an accurate inspection and report. “This part should be left to a professional in the industry, someone who is at a minimum a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep or a F.I.R.E. Certified Fireplace Inspector. We are talking about fire and CO in your home, and it is just too important to omit this inspection by a professional.”

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends that a Level II inspection be performed during a routine annual inspection or at the sale of a home by a professional in the industry. This usually means hiring a Chimney Sweep who is Certified and also does repair and installation work. Janie Rickord, owner/operator of Alpine Chimney Sweep Company in Des Moines, Iowa and president of the MCSC said that the best person to inspect these systems is someone who also works on them and is familiar with their unique and sometimes complicated problems. Rickord said that she believes it is unlikely that the average home inspector has the experience with fireplace and chimney systems to accurately diagnose problems, which may be a potential hazard to homeowners. She also cautions homeowner to only hire National Fireplace Institute Certified installers to install hearth appliances.

Most cities have switched to using the International Residential Code in the past few years, which unlike the NFPA 211 Standards for Chimneys, Fireplaces, and Solid Fuel Appliances, does not include the requirement for a Level II internal camera inspection of fireplaces or a Level I visual inspection of other appliances at the sale or transfer of property. This may leave unsuspecting homeowners unaware of hidden dangers in their furnace flue, fireplace, chimney, or heating appliances. The Midwest Chimney Safety Council is encouraging building officials to re-introduce this inspection requirement.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Go Green by Heating with Wood

By Marge Padgitt


There is nothing like the warmth and coziness of a hearth fire for a comfortable evening at home. But with the increased prices of gas, many people think “energy efficient” first, and “ambience” last, and have turned to alternatives for heating their homes.

When the energy crisis hit the U.S. hard in the 1970’s, manufacturing companies answered the call for wood-burning stoves with large, heavy, and inefficient appliances. Today’s options are varied and high-tech. Manufacturers have now had over 30 years to perfect their art; new appliances are much improved over their predecessor’s, offering high-efficiency and low emissions, and appliances that use much less wood to provide the same amount of heat. Using the renewable resource of wood makes modern wood-burning appliances very Green and earth-friendly. Homeowners now have a large selection in heating options. I hope these suggestions will be helpful to you in making a decision about which type of wood-burning appliance to purchase.

The Rumford Fireplace– Designed by Count Rumford in the 1700’s, this design has not been improved on to this day. The shallow depth, curved throat, angled side walls, and higher opening, combined with a smaller flue provide much more heat than the standard “box style” fireplace. Compared to a standard fireplace, which produces –30% to +5% in efficiency (meaning most of the heat goes up the chimney), the +40% efficiency Rumford far surpasses its competitor. Recent testing shows that properly designed Rumford fireplaces, throats, and flues are very clean burning and produce low emissions. Don’t expect to heat the entire house, but a Rumford will definitely heat the room it is in and maybe more space depending on the square footage in the area.

Historic homes are perfect for utilizing the Rumford design, which looks authentic and ads ambience to the residence, but a Rumford looks great in modern homes, too.

A new method of “Rumfordizing” existing fireplaces has been developed, where a box-style fireplace is transformed into a Rumford style to gain more heat. Some masons and CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are employing this method. Not all masons are trained properly in this method of fireplace building, so find a qualified Rumford builder at www.rumford.com, www.csia.org, or www.midwestcsc.org. Cost range- $4,500—$8,000.

Wood-burning Stoves- Gone are the days of the catalytic combustor, since the new EPA approved “non-catalytic” appliances are extremely low in emissions. Today’s wood stoves require less wood to heat the same amount of space, and that translates into savings in the cost of wood, and in your time to load the stove. Where loading was once required every 2 –3 hours, it is now only needed every 4-10 hours. The addition of an electric built-in blower will push the warmed air through the house, but is not necessary for the stove to work.

A wood-burning stove can be installed almost anywhere, provided there is an existing chimney that can be used or an outside wall where a Class A chimney can be installed. Existing chimneys must be brought up to current standards, and this means the installation of a 6” - 8” insulated stainless steel chimney liner. The flue can only be used for the stove—no other appliances can be attached to the same flue.

Wood stoves come in a variety of styles including standard matte black or a beautiful porcelain enamel finish, and are constructed of heavy steel, cast iron, or soapstone. All stoves require a non-combustible floor and wall behind the stove, with clearance to combustibles being different with each manufacturer. The old 36” rule no longer applies with the newer models, so more usable space is available in the room. The EPA regulates woodburning stoves so be sure to get one that is EPA approved and do not use an older model. 55,000—80,000 BTU output. Cost range—$3,000—$4,500


Wood-burning Fireplace Inserts- Sister to the wood-burning stove, this appliance is inserted into an existing masonry fireplace. A correctly sized stainless steel flue liner is necessary, with a connection to the wood stove. Most flues will measure 6” - 8” in diameter—some are in an oval shape. Do not install an insert with out the required steel flue liner with ceramic wool insulation—and have a professional do the installation. If used without a steel liner, the existing flue that was sized originally for your fireplace will be too large for the new appliance to draft correctly and creosote will accumulate on the flue walls. Usually glazed or tar creosote is the type that occurs in this situation, and since it is highly flammable, it is the cause of many chimney fires.

A wood stove insert will produce enough heat to warm a large area (800—3,000 sq. ft.) , and is extremely efficient—usually in the 70% + range for efficiency ratings. Most inserts are EPA approved non-catalytic, which means that a catalytic combustor, which requires maintenance, is not necessary. The addition of an electric built-in blower will push the warmed air through the house. Burn well-seasoned hard woods and you’ll be happy with not only the heat your insert produces, but the fewer times you need to load wood. The EPA regulates fireplace inserts so be sure to get one that is EPA approved and do not use an older model. 60,000—85,000 BTU output. Cost range $3,500—$5,000.

Wood-burning Furnace/boiler - Similar to the woodburning stove, but larger and produce 80,000—300,000 BTU’s or more. Many woodburning furnaces may be installed alongside an existing gas furnace (provided a separate flue is available), or outside the home in a shed, or stand alone outside. Most furnaces have electric fans and use ductwork to distribute the heat throughout the home, boilers use the hydronic underfloor method to distribute heat.

Either a Class A stainless steel chimney is required; or if using an existing masonry chimney, an approved stainless steel flue liner is necessary. Do not use used with a tile flue liner in a masonry chimney due to danger of excessive creosote accumulation and risk of chimney fire. It is extremely important to have a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep or approved manufacturer installer do the analysis of the installation area and the actual installation of the furnace and flue. This is not a do-it-yourselfer project, as there are many critical items that must be taken into consideration including size of flue, location of the furnace, distance of the connecting pipe run, type of materials used, clearances to combustibles, etc. Find an installer at www.csia.org, or ask the manufacturer for help in finding a qualified dealer. Do your homework when selecting a furnace or boiler as there are large differences in efficiency. The EPA currently has no restrictions on woodburning furnaces in most states (except California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado). Currently, there are no 80,000—250,000 BTU output. Cost range -$5,000 - $7,000.

Masonry Heaters– Arguably the best value in heating alternatives, masonry heaters are old world technology at its best. Designed with a site-built or pre-cast heater core inside of a brick, stone, tile, stucco, or soapstone exterior, and built on site. The masonry mass will be at least 1,760 lbs. The heater has tight fitting doors that are closed during the burn cycle. It has an interior construction consisting of a firebox and heat exchange channels built from refractory components. A masonry heater has the ability to store a very large amount of heat, which means that you can rapidly burn a large amount of wood without overheating the house. The heat is stored in the masonry thermal mass, and then slowly radiates for the next 18 to 24 hours. Loading of wood is only required approximately once every 12 hours. The heater burns the wood quickly and all of the energy in the wood is used so there is no waste. The heater burns very clean, and practically no emissions are produced so it is environmentally friendly.

This type of heater, designed and used extensively in Europe, is now gaining popularity in the U.S. The initial cost is more than other types of heating, but due to the savings in energy bills that cost can be recuperated in as little as seven years. The heat is evenly distributed through the home without the use of ductwork or forced air. It is best to design the home around a masonry heater to get the maximum efficiency—homes that have large, open spaces and tall ceilings are well suited for this type of heating appliance.
Added features may be a pizza/bread oven, a heated bench, mantles, heated hot water, and wood storage spaces. A masonry heater should be built by a qualified heater-mason contractor. Find a builder and get more information about how masonry heaters work on the Masonry Heater Association of North America website at www.mha-net.org. 80,000—250,000 BTU output. Cost range- $12,000—$30,000.

Wood appliance safety tips:

 Never install a wood burning appliance in a garage or any area where flammable vapors from gasoline, kerosene, or other flammable products are stored.

 Always have a qualified, licensed professional who knows the NFPA 211 Standards and International Residential Code do the installation. Look for an installer who is NFI or CSIA Certified.

 Keep children and pets away from hot appliances with special gates and guards made for this purpose.

 Keep the chimney and connecting pipes clean and have them serviced annually by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep (www.csia.org) to avoid chimney fires and improve the performance of the appliance.

 Keep furniture and other flammable objects at least 36” away from the front and sides of the appliance.

 Do not burn trash, treated wood, railroad ties, colored newspaper, magazines, or pine trees in a fireplace or woodburning appliance as toxic fumes and increased risk of a chimney fire may result.

 Burn your appliance very warm to hot—this means open the damper fully, provide enough combustion air for it to function, and use dense, dry, hardwoods. Read the manual and follow the instructions for the best performance of your appliance.

Resources:
National Chimney Sweep Guild: www.ncsg.org
Chimney Safety Institute of America: www.csia.org
Midwest Chimney Safety Council: www.midwestcsc.org
Masonry Heater Association of North America: www.mha-net.org
National Fireplace Institute: www.nficertified.org
Rumford Fireplaces: www.rumford.com
Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association: www.hpba.org

Marge Padgitt is the owner of HearthMasters and Padgitt Chimney & Fireplace in Kansas City, Missouri, and has 27 years experience in the chimney industry. She is a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, an NFI Certified Woodburning Specialist and is the Educational Director for the Midwest Chimney Safety Council. She can be contacted at marepadgitt@comcast.net or 816-461-3665.




Turducken Recipe for Wood-fired Bake Ovens

By Marge Padgitt

A turducken is a chicken stuffed inside a duck which is stuffed inside a turkey and it's becoming more popular for Thanksgiving dinner. Each slice contains portions of chicken, duck, and turkey with stuffing in between the layers. If your bake oven is outdoors, this is a great way to keep heat out of the kitchen or allow room for other dishes in the indoor stove.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups prepared bread stuffing of your choice
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 (10 to 14-pound) turkey, deboned
  • 1 (4 to 6-pound) duck, deboned
  • 1 (3 to 4 pound) chicken, deboned
  • 5 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh or dried thyme leaves, chopped fine
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 6 fresh or dried sage leaves, chopped fine
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt or Kosher salt and black pepper

Preparation:

Place a small fire in the bake oven the night before cooking, then build another small fire in the early morning. The temperature of the oven should be between 300 F and 325 F. When the oven is at the desired temperature remove any remaining ashes. Place a pan of hot water in the oven for moisture.

Debone the turkey, duck and chicken (do the day before if desired) and save the bones for soup stock. Keep the poultry refrigerated until ready to use.

Chop the garlic, sage, parsley, and thyme and mix with the butter.

Run your hand under the skin to separate and make a pocket, but do not separate skin completely from the meat. Place the butter herb mixture evenly under the skin.

Rub the skin of the Turkey with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place the turkey skin side down, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread the stuffing evenly over the turkey cavity. Place the duck on top of the stuffing, skin-side down. Spread stuffing over the duck, then place the chicken on top of the duck, skin-side down. Spread stuffing on the chicken, then sprinkle pecans over the stuffing, Skewer the back of the chicken, then duck, then turkey until they are closed. Turn turn the turducken over, so it is seam-side down and breast-side up and place in a heavy roasting pan. Remove all of the skewers except the one holding the turkey together. Alternatively, tie the birds together with heavy string or twine.

Roast 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours, basting every hour with pan juices, until meat thermometer inserted in the very center of the chicken stuffing reaches 165 F. Place a tent of aluminum foil over the turducken after it is a nice golden brown so it doesn't get too brown. Cooking in a wood-fired oven is not an exact science so you'll need to be flexible with dinner time. If there is room, bake other prepared dishes along side the turducken during the last hour of cooking.

Let the turducken rest for 20- 30 minutes before carving so it will hold together better. To serve, slice turducken across the breast to show off each layer.

Yield: 12 to 16 servings


The Chimney Safety Institute of America reminds Homeowners

For More Information, Contact:
Marge Padgitt
President

HearthMasters, Inc
816-461-3665


The Chimney Safety Institute of America reminds Homeowners
that Preventative Maintenance Can Save Money and Homes

September 30, 2011, Kansas City, Missouri - While many homeowners are struggling to keep up with regular home maintenance expenses this home heating season, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) shares the reminder that saving money in the short term by delaying routine maintenance may mean additional expense in the long run. Preventative maintenance is one way to keep down the cost of keeping your home safe and warm this season. The Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fire Protection Association both recommend that homeowners call a qualified professional for an annual chimney inspection. Only a qualified professional, like a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® will be able to identify and resolve structural and maintenance issues before potential carbon monoxide intrusion and chimney fire hazards risk your time, health or money.

Qualified chimney professionals do much more than simply run a brush up the flue. A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will identify and help address installation issues, identify possible venting issues, provide needed maintenance and they will help you identify ways to operate your heating appliances more efficiently.

In addition to encouraging that chimneys and vents are inspected on an annual basis and maintained as needed, CSIA also recommends the following winter heating safety tips:

  • Test your firewood’s moisture content. Well-seasoned firewood, with an average moisture content of 20-25 percent, is easier to start, produces more heat and burns cleaner. An inexpensive handheld moisture meter, available at home improvement stores or local specialty hearth retailers, will allow you to test your own wood. In a pinch, you can simply bang two pieces together. When two pieces of seasoned wood are banged together, they make a “clunk” sound. When two pieces of green wood are banged together, they make a “thud” sound. (Learn more about how to select firewood.)
  • Learn the language of your chimney and fireplace to level the playing field. The interactive fireplace glossary at www.CSIA.org outlines the thirteen most important terms you need to know to communicate with any professional chimney sweep. The site also offers short presentations on the chimney sweeping and inspection processes.
  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. In addition to having your chimney inspected annually, experts also recommend installing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on every level of your home and in all sleeping areas. Place detectors in hallways or other large areas of the home where they can measure overall general atmosphere and where they will be most likely to alert you in the case of an emergency.
Annual chimney inspections and chimney maintenance is best left to a qualified chimney professional like a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. The Chimney Safety Institute of America administers the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep program by which chimney sweeps prove their technical aptitude by passing a series of two exams on industry codes and standards and by signing the CSIA Code of Ethics and maintaining a required level of continuing education. Learn more about chimney safety and locate a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep in your area by visiting www.CSIA.org.


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The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to chimney and venting system safety. CSIA is committed to the elimination of residential chimney fires, carbon monoxide intrusion and other chimney-related hazards that result in the loss of lives and property. To achieve these goals, CSIA devotes its resources to educating the public, chimney and venting professionals and other fire prevention specialists about the prevention and correction of chimney and venting system hazards. The CSIA sponsors National Chimney Safety Week each year during the week prior to NFPA’s National Fire Prevention Week. This year, National Chimney Safety Week is October 2-8, 2011.




Bake Oven Workshop Recap

By Marge Padgitt

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council held its first-ever Bake Oven Building Workshop June 2 – 5, 2011 at the home of Kirk and Sally Scott in Cedar Hill, Missouri. Kirk and Sally have served on the MCSC board of directors for years, and had the perfect spot on their property for a permanent outdoor bake oven. In fact, they had room for two ovens, so it was decided that a brick oven and a cob oven would be constructed.

Gary Hart, owner of Aaron's Ltd, in High Ridge, Missouri was the lead instructor for the Cob oven building project. Gary is a Certified Heater Mason by the Masonry Heater Association of North America. The MHA has conducted many workshops on bake ovens over the years and most heater masons also build bake ovens.

 Cob ovens are usually made with clay, sand, and straw. The base or support for the oven can be built with stones, blocks, bricks or even a portable wood frame on wheels. In this case, Kirk built the bases out of blocks on 6-inch+ thick concrete foundations before the workshop began in order to save time. Clay can be purchased from a brick supplier or dug out of the ground. Gary purchased clay for this large project to save time.

The process involved installation of an insulation layer on the base, then building a wet sand dome to support the cob oven structure, laying damp newspaper over the sand dome and a “slip” or coating of clay on top of that. Then the fun began. Clay was mixed with water on a plastic tarp and the workshop attendees took off their shoes and stomped through the mixture until it was of a good consistency. Straw was added and mixed in the same manner until the materials was uniform. The ideas was to get the clay to a workable consistency without being too dry or too wet.

Finally, the cob was applied to the sand dome to cover it, being careful not to change the shape of the dome. The cob can be shaped as desired, and in this case was made into a pig, which was appropriate not only because of the large size of the oven, but because of what is likely to be cooked in the oven later. Gary built a brick arched opening to allow for a door to be installed.

Cob ovens are good for heating and cooking meals quickly. They are fairly easy to build, (especially with lots of help) inexpensive, and will last for years if protected from the weather with some type of roof or covering. However, cob ovens do not retain heat for like brick ovens do and are considered to be less permanent. Expect to do repairs to cracks in the cob once in a while. Average time to build: three days.

Gene Padgitt, Certified Heater Mason and V.P. of HearthMasters, Inc. in Independence, Missouri headed up the brick oven building project. Gene builds commercial and residential brick ovens, and had learned about a new oven style designed by Pat Manley, owner of Brick Stove Works in Washington state. Gene used Pat's design and modified it slightly for this project.

Foamglass insulation was installed on the base first to keep heat on the oven floor rather than allowing it to travel through the concrete blocks. Next, the oven floor was built out of firebrick without mortar to allow for expansion and contraction. This method also makes it fairly easy to replace firebrick in the future. Then the walls, arched doorway, landing, flue outlet, chimney, and finally the dome were built with firebrick. Forms are pre-made out of wood to support the brick arch and sized exactly to the calculations for the dome. Measurements needed to be exact and levels used throughout construction. A steel door was fabricated by a sheet metal company for use in this oven, but a wood door could also be used. Finally, cladding was installed over the dome. Cladding is insulation made with reinforced concrete and poured over the aluminum foil covered dome. This must set up for two weeks before adding the exterior face. A steel frame was installed for roof installation to protect the oven from the weather.

Brick ovens are permanent structures designed to retain heat for long period of time and can attain a high temperature. Brick ovens are perfect for cooking pizza at 600-700 degrees, or meals and breads at lower temperatures. Since they retain their temperature for long periods many people plan to cook for an entire day once the oven has been fired up. Brick ovens use more expensive materials than cob ovens and take longer to build. This type of oven should be built by an experienced mason. Average time to build: two-three weeks.

The exterior finish work on a brick oven can be brick, stone, stucco, man-made stone or tile. The exterior finish work on this oven will be completed at the next MCSC workshop in May or June, 2012, which will include instruction on how to cook in a wood-fired oven by a professional baker, flashing techniques, anda first aid course.

Watch www.mcsc-net.org for information on the upcoming workshop.



Hire a Qualified Specialty Contractor for Historic Chimney Restoration Work

By Marge Padgitt

Most homeowners and contractors are not aware that training in Historic Chimney and Fireplace restoration is limited, and there are very few masons and/or chimney contractors who do this type of work across the U.S. Many contractors are not aware of the International Residential Code requirements or NFPA 211 Standards for Chimneys and Fireplaces – or that each city has its own set of rules. Additionally, the original look of the exterior chimney and fireplace must be retained, which is outside the scope of standard masonry training. Historic masonry style, bricks, and mortar – are much different now than they were in the 1700′s and 1800′s. The main difference is that lime mortar was used with very thin “butter” joints. The mortar was often dyed to match the bricks for a more pleasing appearance. Typically, chimneys were built with “Little Reds” style bricks, which are still available in limited supply from brickyards that keep historic bricks on hand. These bricks are no longer made.
Gene Padgitt at work on an 1880s Victorian chimneyHomeowners should also be aware that the structure must be brought up to current codes and standards before attempting to use a fireplace. This is required by code at the time of sale of any residential property.

Following are some tips for homeowners:
- Hire a professional chimney inspector to inspect all chimneys, flues, fireplaces, wood stoves, or gas appliances once a year and at the time of purchase of a home. Home inspectors do not normally get the necessary training in this area that Chimney Safety Institute of America Certified Chimney Sweeps do. Home Inspectors do not normally have the proper equipment to perform an adequate chimney inspection. The interior of chimneys cannot be evaluated with the naked eye, so a Chim-Scan camera is used.
- Get recommendations for repair options from the chimney inspector, who will also likely do repair work. Be sure to check credentials and insurance. Other credentials to look for in an inspector are National Fireplace Institute Certifications in Wood and/or Gas. Some inspectors are also Fire Investigators. Ask to see samples of their work and a list of references where work on historic chimneys was performed.
- The item most often needed when doing historic chimney restoration work is a chimney flue liner. Liners are required by code and must be a U.L. listed and/or approved product. Types of flue liners vary from stainless steel, custom stainless steel, and Ceramic poured systems (as seen on This Old House). Clay tile liners are generally no longer used in restoration work due to the difficulty in getting them installed properly and the fact that there is no warranty on the materials by the manufacturers. Clay tiles break when chimney fires occur, whereas stainless steel or ceramic flue liners can withstand temperatures up to 2100 degrees without failing.
1880's Victorian chimney completed- Look for a contractor who has experience in building Rumford fireplaces or installing Bellfires fireplaces if you want an open wood-burning fireplace, or someone experienced in gas appliance installation.
- Look for a contractor who is specifically skilled in historic masonry restoration and ask to see photos of their work and references.
- Your city may also require that the contractor has a Master Mechanical License. Ask for proof of this license. The contractor must pull the permit for the work in most cases.

-There are many options for historic fireplace restoration available now, including historic style mantels, open historic yet functional Rumford style fireplaces, historic look wood stove inserts and freestanding stoves, and closed direct vent gas fireplaces with an historic look.

- As with any contractor, ask for certificates of insurance for Worker’s Comp and Liability, proof of any Certifications, MM License and work samples.

Marge Padgitt is available to present a lecture called Historic Chimney and Fireplace Restoration, which is popular among historc preservation and homeowner associations.  Contact Marge at 816-461-3665 or ympadgitt@yahoo.com.

Links for more information:
Midwest Chimney Safety Council: www.mcsc-net.org
Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association: www.hpba.org
Chimney Safety Institute of America: www.csia.org
Thelin period look Wood and Gas freestanding stoves: www.thelinco.com
Hearthstone period look gas fireplace inserts: www.hearthstonestoves.com

Get your chimney ready for fall and winter now

By Marge Padgitt

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends annual inspection of all flues and chimneys serving furnaces, hot water heaters, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, and wood stove inserts by a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep in Spring or Summer before the Fall rush.
MCSC Educational Director, Marge Padgitt, says that many people are unaware of the condition of their chimney, which can be a serious problem for homeowners. “Carbon Monoxide backup or leakage can cause the occupants to become ill or die,” says Padgitt. This can be caused by a faulty flue that has missing mortar joints, missing flue liner, cracks in the liner, or flues that are clogged with debris such as mortar, bricks, twigs, and bird nests. CO problems usually arise when a gas appliance such as a furnace or hot water heater is not venting correctly. HVAC Technicians do not inspect or maintain chimneys or flues, but professional chimney sweeps do.
Another issue is creosote accumulation from wood-burning, which is a fire hazard. All wood produces creosote, even dry hardwoods, so an annual inspection is necessary to see if sweeping is needed and to check the chimney for cracks, holes, flammable nests, and construction issues. Sweeping is usually done annually for flues serving fireplaces, and annually or bi-annually for flues serving wood stoves used for heating purposes.
Chimney fires are caused by a spark, or heat above 1,000 degrees, which is the temperature that can ignite creosote. Padgitt says that most chimney fires go unnoticed by the homeowner and are only found later by a chimney sweep. However, if there is sufficient creosote in the flue and air for combustion, a large chimney fire can result which can lead to a house fire. Chimney fires almost always cause damages to the flue liner and smoke chamber, and these need to be repaired before further use of the chimney. “It is more dangerous after a chimney fire to use a damaged chimney, because creosote has more places to go between cracked flue liners and blown out mortar joints, and the next fire may be worse,” said Marge.
Padgitt says that inspecting a fireplace flue properly usually requires the use of an internal video inspection camera in order to see the entire flue. She suggests that homeowners do some research to make sure their chimney sweep uses a camera system for inspections and is Certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Visit the MCSC website at www.mcsc-net.org for more free consumer information.
Marge is the President of HearthMasters, Inc. in Kansas City. Contact her at ympadgitt@yahoo.com or 816-461-3665 

Outdoor Heating and Cooking

By Marge Padgitt

The outdoor room concept is very popular across the U.S., and Kansas City is no exception. Outdoor fireplaces are definitely all about aesthetics, but they do keep the area in front of them warm, too. Sitting around the fireplace on a cool fall or spring evening is more comfortable and encourages people to stay outside longer. And roasting a few marshmallows for s’mores can’t be beat.


Outdoor fireplaces can actually be built more efficiently than a standard box-style fireplace by building in a Rumford style. Count Rumford created this design in the 1700’s and it has not been improved on since. Instead of a box with straight walls, the fireplace is built with a sloping back wall, angled side walls, and smooth throat transition. This allows more heat to be directed out of the fireplace—about 40% more heat than a box style. So when planning an outdoor masonry fireplace, homeowners may want to consider this method.

Fireplace by Gene Padgitt


Another trend that is becoming more popular is the outdoor bake oven. This is a site-built brick oven or a pre-fabricated Italian oven that can be built alongside or on top of a fireplace, or as a stand-alone appliance. This is a “black” oven, meaning that wood is burned inside the oven where it turns black from the soot, then as the temperature gets higher the soot burns off. The ashes are removed after approximately three hours, leaving a 700-degree oven with even temperatures that are perfect for baking delicious pizzas. As the oven cools, artisan breads, and even whole meals can be cooked. Some folks “fire up” the oven weekly and bake their own breads, which are much healthier than store-bought bread.

My husband, Gene Padgitt is a master mason who builds fireplaces and ovens.  He built us an outdoor bake oven in our own back yard so we could entertain, but it has turned into more than that because now we cook our own breads weekly and often cook entire meals in this oven.

We often have guests over to have fun throwing pizza dough and making their own pizza, and everyone who tries it says that the pizza from the bake oven is by far the best they ever had.

Every Thanksgiving the entire family comes over to have roasted turkey from the wood-fired oven.  The flavor can't be matched in our gas oven!  Now we can't get the family to go anywhere else! 

For more information on outdoor fireplaces and bake ovens please visit www.chimkc.com.

Wood-fired oven built by Gene Padgitt

Masonry Heaters Best Option for Heating with Wood

By Marge Padgitt

Masonry heaters have been around for hundreds of years in Europe, but are just recently catching on in the U.S. And the great thing about heaters is that they are GREEN. People needed to heat their homes in an efficient manner in olden times just as today in order to save their forests. Inefficient open fireplaces took too much of their valuable resources, so another method had to be developed. No one knows who the first mason was who came up with the idea of devising something that would retain heat for long periods of time, then radiate it into the home while using much less wood, but whoever he was he was a genius.
Masonry heaters have been redesigned and altered over the years by different masons in Finland, Russia, Germany, Austria, and the United States. But heaters all have the same characteristics with complex channels to slow down and trap heat from flue gasses, and a mass of masonry to retain that heat, then radiate it to the living space over a period of up to 20 hours. By the time the products of combustion get to the exit of the flue, the smoke is white and the particulate emissions are very low. One load of wood can usually provide heating for the average size home for 8-12 hours. Compared to even the best high-efficiency wood–burning stoves on the market today, gas and oil-fired furnaces, and certainly inefficient open fireplaces, masonry heaters can’t be beat. Homeowners may use a masonry heater as their sole source of heat, or in conjunction with another system.
Another benefit masonry heaters offer is that they don’t require electricity, gas, or ductwork to distribute the heat. In a properly designed home with an open floor plan and the heater in the center of the home, the heat will radiate evenly throughout. Ideally, heaters are built in new home construction, but they can be added to existing homes if the layout is right. If planned in a passive solar home, the masonry mass of the heater will also absorb and radiate heat from the sun. Heaters require a suitable foundation to support the massive masonry, which weighs three to six tons by the time all of the firebrick, block, cast iron doors, dampers, and exterior masonry facing is installed.
Heaters can be enhanced with heated benches to sit on, mantels, wood storage bins, and even bake ovens. Pizza and bread from a wood-fired bake oven has an incredible and unique taste that is not to be missed, and entire meals can be cooked in the oven if desired. An experienced heater mason can not only design and build the right size and type of heater for a home, but make it beautiful to look at as well. An exterior finish of soapstone, tile, sandstone, or brick can make a dramatic statement. Heater masons will work with the homeowner to come up with a custom design that suits the home, or use one of many masonry heater kits that are available from several manufacturers (usually incorporating soapstone) in a variety of designs.
Use of natural non-toxic materials and the renewable resource of wood make masonry heaters the perfect solution for a green home.
The trade is very specialized, with only a few heater masons scattered across the U.S. Fortunately, most of these masons will travel to do installations. Some have even traveled to Japan, China, and South America to build heaters. Often several heater masons will help each other out since these are big projects. In days of old, the heater masons kept their trade secret, even to the point of not leaving the room until the heater was completely finished so no one else could see how the interior was built. At that time, the livelihood of the masons was dependent on this secrecy. The trade is so skilled that the only way to learn is to do hands-on assistance with an experienced heater mason, and that is part of the reason the Masonry Heater Association was formed. The older masons do not want this to become a lost art, so they help train others. The Certified Heater Mason program was developed by the experienced MHA members in order to assure that the knowledge is not lost.
In the U.S. most people are not yet aware of masonry heaters, so it is a challenge for a heater mason to make a living out of just building heaters. Most heater masons also build other types of projects such as fireplaces, chimneys and outdoor bake ovens. Some are timber frame or log home builders or own brickyards. Most are very aware of the green building trend and are interested in sustainable living.
Many heater masons will travel to build a heater because they love doing it, and because they love the satisfaction they get out of building something that is very specialized.

Pricing for heaters is what most would consider being on the high end, and a long-term investment. The average cost a homeowner may expect to pay is from $18,000 to $30,000, with price depending on the complexity of the heater, material costs, and labor. The expected time to get a return on your money is approximately 10 years. The time to build a completed heater may be more than four weeks, depending on how many skilled craftspeople are working. Many homeowners will elect to be an assistant on the job in order to lower their costs. In some cases, if a heater mason is traveling the homeowner will put him up at their house or a local hotel. When traveling the masons usually work long hours in order to get the project done sooner.

Mark Twain discovered masonry heaters while traveling through Europe and wrote about them: “All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable … Its surface is not hot: you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt. Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day: the cost is next to nothing: the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns… America could adopt this stove, but does America do it? No, she sticks placidly to her own fearful and wonderful inventions in the stove line. The American wood stove, of whatever breed, is a terror. It requires more attention that a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time: and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half… and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano. It is certainly strange that useful customs and devices do not spread from country to country with more facility and promptness than they do.”

To find out more about masonry heaters visit www.chimkc.com or www.mha-net.org
I set up a chat list set up for anyone interested in masonry heaters at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MasonryHeaters


Marge Padgitt was on the board of directors for the MHA and is president of HearthMasters, Inc. and Padgitt Chimney & Fireplace in Kansas City, Missouri. Her husband, Gene Padgitt, is a Certified Heater Mason.

Midwest Chimney Safety Council Warns about CO Poisoning and Chimney Fires

Carbon Monoxide is the natural by-product of combustion of fuels. CO is produced when gas, propane, kerosene, or wood is burned. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is sometimes called “The Silent Killer.” Symptoms of CO poisoning include nausea, dizziness, disorientation, fainting, and death. Long-term exposure to even low levels of CO can cause irreversible brain damage, motor function impairment, and cognitive impairment.
“The most often overlooked maintenance item in the home is the furnace flue,” says Marge Padgitt, Educational Director for the MCSC. Furnace flues clogged with debris, bird nests, fallen mortar and bricks, etc. can cause CO backup, and cracked flue tiles or missing mortar joints can cause CO leakage into the living space, which may go unnoticed by the homeowner. It is critical that flues are in good working order and are sized correctly for the appliance in order for proper draft to occur. It is worth mentioning that most HVAC contractors do not inspect or maintain furnace flues, and that this is normally done by a chimney sweep.
“The second most overlooked flue is the one serving a wood-burning appliance such as a wood stove or fireplace,” says Padgitt. Many people don’t realize that creosote is flammable and needs to be removed periodically, usually once per year for a fireplace and twice per season for a wood stove. Build up of creosote can result in a chimney fire that can spread to the rest of the house. A little-known fact is that most chimney fires go unnoticed by the homeowner and are only identified when a chimney sweep sees the flue. Damaged flues are a fire hazard and must be relined before they are used again.

Tips:
  • All flues should be inspected annually and cleaned as necessary by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
  • Wood burning stove and fireplace stove insert flues may need to be swept twice per season to remove flammable creosote.
  • ALL wood produces creosote—even dry hardwoods.
  • Only burn seasoned hard or soft wood (except soft pine) in a fireplace, wood stove, or wood-burning furnace.
  • Never burn trash, railroad ties, or treated wood in a fireplace or stove. Toxic fumes can result.
  • Never burn Christmas trees—they burn so fast and hot that a chimney fire will likely result.
  • Furnace/hot water heater flues should be inspected annually for clogs by debris or nests, or breaks or gaps in the flue liner that could pose a Carbon Monoxide hazard.
Visit the MCSC website at http://www.mcsc-net.org for more free consumer information.
Contact Marge Padgitt, Vice-President and Educational Director, Midwest Chimney Safety Council at 816-461-3665 or e-mail margepadgitt@comcast.net for more information.