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Friday, August 30, 2013

Be Prepared for Cold Winter

Farmer's Almanac predicts a very cold winter for 2013-2014 with large areas of below-normal temperatures over the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes.  Precipitation is expected to be higher than normal in the Midwest, Southeast and Southern Plains.

HearthMasters encourages people to be prepared for power outages by installing a wood stove or fireplace insert for heating. Gas furnaces do not work without a fan, which is run on electricity.

Hearthstone soapstone wood stove

Wood stoves or inserts may be used for everyday heating purposes as the primary source of heat or as a supplemental heat source to cut down on fuel costs.

Gene and I use a wood stove at our own house, and prefer using it to the gas furnace because there is low fan sound and it feels better than heated air coming through the registers.  Wood stoves produce convective heat, and radiant heat - like the sun - so the warmth penetrates the body, which helps people with conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

During 2013 a $300 tax credit may be applied to a high-efficiency wood stove purchase.  Stoves should be sized correctly for the home, placed in the correct location for even heating, and installed by a professional stove installer, who should also install the chimney or flue liner.  This is not a DIY project, and most cities require that a permit be pulled by a qualified contractor for the installation. An improper installation can be a fire hazard.

Wood-burning stove insert
Wood stoves are freestanding appliances and inserts are installed in existing masonry chimneys.  They cannot be installed in a manufactured fireplace.

Wood stove or insert flues must be swept on a regular basis - once per year for supplemental heating, and twice per season if used for primary heating.  In some cases, sweeping more often may be necessary. 

This wood is not seasoned yet - there are no splits
or cracks in the ends
Use of the proper wood is critical to the performance of the stove.  Use only dry, seasoned hard or soft woods such as oak, hickory or maple.  Less wood is used when hardwoods are burned because they are more dense.  Purchase or cut wood at least six months in advance of the burning season and be sure to check the moisture content before burning, which should be between 15 - 20%.  Wet wood does not heat, the moisture must be burned off first which delays the heating time. 

Inexpensive moisture meters can be purchased from us or a hearth retailer, but a quick way to tell if wood is seasoned is to look for splits or cracks in the ends of the wood or bang two logs together - if there is a hollow sound it is pretty dry.  Keep wood off the ground and covered to keep rain off, but leave the sides open for air ventilation.

Never use dry pine logs or discarded Christmas trees in a wood stove or fireplace because they burn very hot very quickly, and chimney fires often occur when this is done.   If using hedge, use only one stick of hedge and two sticks of other wood at a time.  Hedge burns hot and fast as well and can cause overheating and warpage of a wood stove, which is costly damage and a potential safety hazard. 

Chimney fires are caused by the accumulation of creosote in the flue which ignites from heat or a spark.  Avoid chimney fires by having the chimney swept on a regular basis.

See more information and homeowner tips at

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