Having worked in the retail sector for more than 40 years, I have found it very interesting to see how trends tend to come and go in a full circle, not only in fashion but also in our homes. I was looking at a very old film with my wife recently “The Imitation of Life” which was made in 1959, and noticed that the kitchen (with a few modifications) was in general almost identical to our own kitchen, which we only recently had re-modelled. The “60’s” look is coming back with furniture and kitchens, and now wood burning and solid fuel stoves, a stalwart of times gone by, are back in vogue big time. One thing that appears to be not repeating itself is the basic, old fashioned maintenance that is necessary around the home, and in particular with stoves and heaters, so this motivated me to give a few basics on this subject.
With solid fuel burners, as with any heating system the first and most important thing to do is to ensure you hire a fully qualified fitter to install them, and ensure you have a “carbon monoxide” and “smoke alarm” fitted in the general area where your burner or stove is located. Read up on the brochure provided, and follow the instructions of the manufacturer. If you don’t have a stove, consider investing in a “Fire-front Door”, which will help increase the efficiency of your fireplace.
To get the best return on your investment from a stove, always endeavour to use the “best quality” fuels you can obtain. Damp logs or low quality fuel can damage your stove, and even block the flue. This is most important in particular with a wood burning stove, for which it is best to use “kiln-dried logs”, with a moisture content of between 10 and 20%. Kiln-dried logs are easy to light, will burn cleanly, help keep the glass clean and produce low emissions. This is best for the environment, and with Ireland currently well below par on our emission limits, you will also be doing your bit to help achieve targets, in this area.
A relatively new product worth purchasing is the “Grate Saver”, a unique product that will prolong the life of your grate, and save you money on fuel bills. The standard fireplace 14” and 16” grates are relatively cheap, but try replacing any other grate and see the cost involved.
Shop around for your fuel and ensure you have a dry storage area, either a good quality “bunker” or fuel shed to store it, and keep it dry and ready for use. Keep a good “companion set” nearby for incidental stoking and cleaning.
It is very important to keep your chimney and flue clear of blockages and soot, and to clean your stove and chimney regularly. The more you use it the more you will need to clean it.
A wood-burning stove must be swept at least once every 12 months, sweep the liner with a “specially designed brush”, and use “chimney rods” and brushes to reach difficult flues. Don’t forget to give the stove’s insides a thorough clean out, and remember to remove any fire bricks, or other items in the grate area. In truth you are better off to get the services of a good chimney sweep, who will have the necessary brushes and equipment to do the job properly. In addition to the annual sweep, I would suggest that you get your stove serviced, at least every two years (depending on usage) to ensure the burner’s air controls are working efficiently, to test door seals for wear and tear, check flue and liner connections, and to ensure your stove is operating correctly. Finally make sure to check the carbon monoxide, and smoke alarms are doing their job to keep you and your family safe and sound in your now cosy home. Stay safe this winter.