Like the inviting smell of fresh bread, just out of the oven, and the comfort of a roasted chicken on a Sunday night with all the fixings and the family gathered around the table, the warmth and comfort of a fire in the hearth welcomes you home. With Maine’s weather turning warmer, we are lately more inclined to toss open the windows to let the spring breezes fill our home than we are to reach for the thermostat, making spring the perfect time to start thinking about creating a warm and welcoming hearth in your own home.
The Fireside Stove Shop, in Auburn sells, services and installs wood, pellet and gas stoves and fireplaces, including attractive “High Efficiency Zero Clearance Wood Burning Fireplaces” which use “natural convection” as a means of delivering heat from the fireplace to the home.
“All fuels are not for everybody,” explains Gary Asselin, proprietor of the Fireside Stove Shop, and there is a “big range in both quality and style for wood, pellet and gas stoves”. Mike Farnham, of Michael & Son Chimneysmiths in Poland, also services and installs both wood and pellet stoves. He prefers “the quiet of the wood”, and many “Mainers” agree.
According to Asselin, “there is also a large range of sizing” and the size of the woodstove will determine the square footage that it will heat. A properly sized woodstove and a sufficient amount of firewood can efficiently and economically heat your entire house all winter.
Many of our neighbors make their living by harvesting firewood. Phil Mitchell, of Phil Mitchell Firewood in Poland, has been cutting and hauling firewood for more than 30 years. Seasoned firewood will cost about $250 per cord, but it’s hard to find this time of year. Although Mitchell still has “green” wood for sale for $200 a cord, his wife, Louise, advises that “it needs to sit outside in the sunshine for a couple of months” before it is used. Some households burn multiple cords of firewood every year.
“A 2000 square foot home will burn 3-3.5 tons of pellets per year,” said Asselin, and Fireside Stove Shop sells “premium hardwood pellets for $259 per ton.” Three tons of pellets occupy roughly as much space as a cord of firewood.
Linda Chaisson and her husband Tom chose to install a pellet stove in their drafty 14-room 1893 farmhouse in Poland because they “didn’t have a chimney that was appropriate for a woodstove [and a] pellet stove can be vented to any outside wall.” Although it does not effectively heat the entire house, “the pellet stove allows us to keep the downstairs warm and cozy.”
Asselin adds that with a pellet stove the homeowner is able to set the temperature in the room where the stove resides, and the pellet stove will maintain that temperature. Another advantage is that pellet stoves “are more automated, so it takes less [of the homeowner’s] time. You have to fill the pellet reservoir about once every 24 hours,” and the automatic feeder does the rest. Also, they have safety features that will shut down the stove in certain situations, including when the stove becomes overheated or when the pellet reservoir door is left open.
There are pros and cons associated with every means of producing heat for your home. Although many people like to heat with gas because it is “clean, convenient and it doesn’t need power, a gas stove or fireplace cannot heat a whole house,” said Asselin. The Chaissons chose pellet over gas because they found it to be less expensive. The biggest drawback, however, is that the system that feeds the pellets is dependant on electricity. Therefore, with pellets, when the power goes out the heat goes off.
Perhaps the most significant negative aspect of burning wood is the danger of a chimney fire. According to www.csia.org, “The Chimney Safety Institute of America is dedicated to chimney and venting system safety and to the elimination of residential chimney fires, carbon monoxide intrusion and other … chimney and venting systems hazards.” Statistics found at this website, originally compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, suggest that, “Heating and cooling equipment fires constituted the second largest share of total residential fires” over a three-year period. Of these, nearly half were caused by “fireplace, chimney and chimney connector” related problems. Michael & Son Chimneysmiths agrees that wood burning is the biggest cause of chimney fires.
In response to the question: “How often should I have my chimney cleaned?” CSIA states: “The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, ‘Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances.’” Farnham, who has 26 years of experience as a chimneysmith, stresses the importance of making sure that “everything is properly installed” and in accordance with fire code. Also, “Depending on how much you burn, and the quality of the wood,” he recommends at least one cleaning per year. “Even with good, dry wood,” Farnham recommends having your chimney cleaned “after about 2 cords. Burning your stove at a low temperature compounds the problem as it makes for a buildup of creosote." The average cost for a cleaning (creosote removal) and a thorough inspection of your chimney and stove by a professional chimneysmith is around $125 to $130. A small price to pay compared to the cost of a chimney fire. Farnham also specializes in the installation of stainless steel chimney liners and rain caps.
In addition to stoves and fireplaces, the Fireside Stove Shop also stocks everything that you need to customize your hearth, including hearth rugs, ash vacs and buckets, replacement parts for all stoves, steamers, fans, hearthside tool sets, gasket materials, screens and child safety gates. The Chaissons purchased their pellet stove at Buy The Fire in Oxford. According to their website, www.buythefire, like the Fireside Stove Shop they also sell, install and service wood and gas burning stoves and a wide variety of tools, parts and accessories for the hearth.
When planning your heating with fire project, be sure to consult the experts to determine what option will meet your needs, fit your budget, and safely warm your hearth and home.