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A fire on the hearth once again

Back in October, the glass cracked in the wood burning stove. It’s not safe to use with cracked glass, so I got right on the phone to the company that installed it for me. The stove was still under warranty and I needed to go through an authorized dealer to get the part. Unfortunately, after getting the process started, this dealer stopped returning my calls and emails. I checked with some other authorized dealers of this brand of stove but with no luck. I finally contacted the manufacturer to report that their preferred method of using authorized dealers to service their stoves had broken down. Fortunately, their warranty service provider was very helpful and with some info about my stove, got a new glass panel shipped to me at no cost. So after suffering through the worst of this winter’s cold snaps without the use of our stove, this weekend we got to work replacing the broken glass.

I’m not sure how the break happened in the first place. This type of glass is actually a form of tempered ceramic and it’s supposed to withstand the hottest of temperatures. From what I understand about glass in general, it could have been a fault in the glass itself that finally gave way. I could have been that it was screwed into the door unevenly (as we discovered when taking it apart.) Some of the screws holding it in place were wrenched down really tightly and that may have caused it to crack when everything expanded with the heat.

The bolts have to withstand pretty high heat too. They hold the little metal clip that curves over the edge of a round metal bar that holds the glass snug against the inside of the door.

Here are the clips and bolts disassembled.

Our cat, Charlatan, was on hand to provide proper supervision.

The bolts were pretty tight, either from having been tightened really hard at installation, or from all the heat. With some muscle, K.O. was able to get them all undone while I steadied the door.

The broken pieces came out pretty cleanly. You can see the braided gasket still attached to some parts of the glass. The new piece of glass had this gasket already attached.

We gave the door a quick cleaning to make sure there wouldn’t be any debris between the door and the glass.

While I held the new piece of glass and the bracing bar in place, K.O. carefully re-assembled the clips.

Using a flathead screwdriver in one hand and a Phillips screwdriver in the other, K.O. held each clip in place so it wouldn’t twist sideways as the bolt was tightened.

Ta-da! Shiny new glass!

A fire glows warmly on our hearth once again, keeping our home toasty warm on a very low budget.

Even our fluffy overlord approves.

Winter is coming!!!

I know it’s still a little ways off, but I have a whole list of projects, some of which I’d like to complete before winter, some that MUST be completed.

  • Install gutter apron (PRIORITY ONE, ASAP)
  • Finish landscaping wall
  • Transplant hostas and ferns
  • Make kindling bundles out of the sticks in the backyard
  • Borrow a chainsaw and cut the logs that are too big for the wood burning stove
  • Finish the shed or at the very least gather all the pieces and move them inside

Let’s see how many of these I can finish before the first snow.

[tags]wood burning stove, gutters, yardwork, retaining wall, landscaping, future plans[/tags]

How much wood… something something… chuck chuck chuck

My uncle Mike has his very own forest and he has generously shared some pieces of his forest with me!  Now, normally I’d generously share a photo of the pieces of forest with you, but today we had an ice storm and color me indifferent, but I’m just not going back out there.  If this makes you feel like your happiness is less important to me than sitting on my duff watching reruns of old BritComs for the evening, then let me save you a couple hundred dollars’ worth of therapy and tell you it’s all your mother’s fault and you shouldn’t rely on distant, small, cranky housebloggers to find happiness.

Still cranky,

Love,

Kelli

Wood Burning Stoves: Sharing what we’ve learned, OR: “The Care and Feeding of Stoves”

When Brandon and I learned how much more efficiently a wood burning stove would heat our house than an open fireplace, we were very eager to try it out. Neither of us had any experience with a stove, though. Brandon had grown up with a fireplace, so he had that experience to go on, and I’m pretty good at building campfires outside and getting piles of wet leaves to burn, so we felt pretty confident that we could build a nice hot fire inside a stove. However, we had a few flops before we really got the stove hot enough to heat the house.

At first we were timid about letting the fire get too hot. We didn’t know how much heat the metal and glass could take. In addition to that, we didn’t quite know how to manage the damper and updraft in an enclosed stove as opposed to a fireplace or an outdoor fire. I kept building a nice crackling fire with the door open, then I’d close the door, and lose the fire. Before long, the embers would go out and I’d have to start all over again. I burned through a whole box of kindling wood this way, closing the door too soon, being too timid to add more wood, and generally just rushing the whole thing. Once I did learn how to get the fire going, I’d let it burn for a long time but it would never get hot enough to trigger the sensor on the automatic blower. Finally through a lot of trial and error, Brandon and I worked out how to have a roaring fire and let it get hot enough to kick on the blower within an hour. Once the fire got going that hot it was easy to maintain, burned less fuel, and heated the whole house comfortably all day and most of the night.

Today I had some time to clean out the stove. We had burned 9 or 10 fires in it over the past couple of weeks and it’d built up about three inches of ash and cinders.

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NEVER PUT ASHES FROM YOUR STOVE INTO A COMBUSTIBLE CONTAINER. Here’s why: Our fire had been out since about six o’clock this morning. It was about 8:30 this evening when I started cleaning out the stove. All the embers in the above photo look cold and burned out, right? No smoke curling up from the ashes? No glowing embers? Well, I stirred the ashes around a bit and here’s what it looked like:

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That’s right, red hot coals were smoldering just below the surface. They don’t give off smoke, they don’t even feel that warm if you hold your hand over them. But touch a piece of paper to them, or drop them into a plastic container and leave them on your front porch, and you’ll have an unexpected fire on your hands in no time.

The best type of container for your discarded ashes is a metal one. If you don’t have a metal one available, a plastic bucket with plenty of water in the bottom works too. That’s what I had to use, since all of our coffee cans these days are plastic.

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(The paper towels in there are from when I cleaned the outside of the stove. Seemed like a good place to discard my soggy dirty rags too.)

I scooped out the ashes and embers with a metal shovel (left behind by our previous owners) and dumped them into the bucket of water.

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With a wood burning stove you don’t want to clean the ashes out completely. Since you’re not burning the wood on a metal grate raised off the bottom of the firebox, you need the ashes to allow air circulation along the bottom of the logs. They give a nice cushioned base for your embers and logs to rest in. Here’s how much we left in ours:

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After a few fires, the glass on the door was pretty grimy too, so I washed it. The owner’s manual and the person who installed the stove for us recommend using only water and paper towels or cloth rags to clean the glass. It’s a special ceramic glass that can withstand high heat, but harsh cleaners and coarse scrubbing pads or brushes can etch the glass. Once there’s a weakness in the glass it’s vulnerable to cracking under the intense heat.

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Plain water and paper towels did a pretty good job!

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Once it was all clean it was time to start a new fire. Here’s the method I use to start a reliable fire that will be hot enough to build up into a roaring blaze that heats the whole house. If you have a method that works for you, share it with me, I’d love to find out what others have learned with their stoves!

First I make sure the damper is wide open to allow a full strong updraft.

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I roll up a single sheet of newspaper and make a V shape with it.

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Then I lay kindling across the open part of the V and light the newspaper on fire.

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The newspaper lights the kindling on fire, which then burns hot enough and long enough to catch the first log on fire.

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This next part is crucial and was one of the things we were doing wrong when we first started. Before you close the door on the stove you’re supposed to make sure the log has really caught on fire and started to burn steadily. I was closing the door right away and that deprived the fire of the extra oxygen it needed to really catch the log on fire. Once the kindling fire has started, it creates a very strong updraft that draws air into the stove and out through the top of the chimney. I found that by closing the door to about a half inch from being fully closed, I created a sort of bellows effect, funneling the air into the fire faster, thus blowing it hotter and hotter like the bellows on a blacksmith’s furnace. I usually let the fire burn with the door slightly open for at least five or ten minutes, or as long as it takes to really have the log burning on its own.

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I’m still fighting with my impatience and this time I tried to add a second piece of wood before it was really ready for one. I sort of broke apart the flames and the fire started going out. When this happens, I wad up a ball of newspaper and set it in between the logs on top of the glowing embers and let that get the fire started again. Often this takes a little blowing and some more time leaving the door open, but before long it catches the wood back on fire and starts heating up.

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Once the fire is going strong I close the door completely and slowly start closing the damper little by little. Eventually I can close the damper almost all the way down, which allows the fire to burn very hot but very slowly, thus using less wood to put out a lot of heat. Here’s what the stove looks like when the damper’s closed down and the automatic blower is circulating hot air into the room:

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We turn the ceiling fan on in the living room to the lowest setting and that helps move the hot air from the top of the room out into the rest of the dining room and down the hall into our bedroom.

It’s been pretty efficient so far. We keep our gas furnace set to 65 degrees and with the fire burning the thermostat never kicks it on. Our bedroom, which is the furthest room from the stove stays comfortably warm through the night.

The last thing we’re figuring out how to manage is controlling the damper and the amount of fuel well enough to add a couple of logs before going to bed and have the fire keep burning all through the night until we get up in the morning to add more wood. As it is, the fire usually burns out by five or six o’clock in the morning and the house gets kind of chilly around the time we have to get up. We’re still experimenting with that. But all in all we’re super happy with the comfort, the ease, and the potential for reducing our gas bills this winter. We love how it makes the neighborhood smell all toasty, and we love how homey it makes the rest of the house feel having a fire on the hearth. Our whole house is still in shambles as we work on it piece by piece, but I can forget all the work I have to do and all the aches and pains from the day’s work that’s behind me when I sit down in front of my cozy fire to write my blog posts.

Come on baby, light my fire!

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Isn’t that a nice, cozy fire? I’m so thrilled with our new fireplace insert. We need to buy some less expensive wood than the couple bundles we picked up at Quik Trip ($3.99 for a bundle of about eight pieces). I’ve been calling around to a few places and I’ll let you know what we ended up spending and how much wood we got once we get it.

We haven’t really run it long enough or hot enough to seriously heat the house yet. It was still curing the first time we burned in it so we didn’t want to fire it too hot right away. I’ll see what it can do tonight since it’s going to get pretty cold.

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