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WOOD BURNING STOVES, BY MIKE FOURNIER, TULSA


Traditional fireplaces are wonderful because unlike other heating systems, you're able to add a little romantic ambiance to your home. Since you're able to actually see the flames, a hearth creates a natural, cozy feel to any room, which can create a sense of warmth beyond the fire itself. The problem with a fireplace is that they are expensive, take up lots of room, and are often centered around looking nice instead of supplying efficient heat.

Wood stoves, on the other hand, generate all the aesthetic benefits of an open hearth, but they are also designed to effectively distribute the warmth evenly throughout the room.

Prevent Waste Because of their classic design, wood burning stoves are a beautiful addition to any home. They create a rustic atmosphere, a throw-back to a simpler time. But, oddly enough, making things simpler can still be costly. Wood stoves aren't cheap, but if you look beyond their initial cost (and the supplementary investment in firewood), they will actually save you money in the long run due to their efficiency. Unlike fireplaces, these freestanding units don't depend on the fire; they actually warm up a room through radiation. Since they are constructed out of cast iron or steel, these hearths emit heat through the material, which makes for a more continuous current. Also, since this thick metal is black and encloses the fire, these units burn slow and depend on less fuel than an open-air fireplace.

Installation and Maintenance Like any heating system, a wood stove has to be properly installed and maintained. If poorly installed, there could be fire risks and ventilation problems, so always hire a professional. These experts can help you select the right model to fit all your needs because once they obtain all the appropriate information (where you want the unit, how much heat you'll need to be comfortable, your price range, your sense of style, etc.) these contractors can help you select the right size for optimum efficiency. Plus, they'll know which units are up to code and which are EPA certified for the cleanest burning. Then, as they install, they'll select the best forms of ventilation (chimney, dampers, flues, blowers) and place them in the best areas for the most effective heat distribution. Plus, these specialists can also be contracted for annual inspections, maintenance, and sweeps to keep your system running smoothly.

Some Safety Tips If you acquire professionals for installation, you can avoid a lot of future problems. But there are some things you'll want to keep in mind since you'll now have a contained fire burning inside your home. Clean It Often: Even if it is installed properly and is EPA approved, wood burning stoves work like any other hearth: creosote will build up in the ventilation system, which impedes on efficiency and increases fire hazards. Plus, debris can occasionally form in the chimney, so make sure to have it inspected and swept every year to keep safe. Leave It Closed: Except when loading or cleaning, make sure you leave the door closed. Not only does this increase efficiency (which saves you money), but it helps keep you safe by avoiding any flying sparks. Feed It Fresh: Always start fires with clean kindling (newspapers are best). And make sure to use fresh, evenly split, dry firewood to burn a strong, hot fire at all times. Plus, frequently remove excess ashes into a separate container, which should then be stored somewhere safe. Emergencies: Store combustible products or flammable debris away from the wood stove at all times. And for added security, keep an extinguisher on-hand, install a smoke detector in the room, create a perimeter in the room to keep children away, and always call a technician in case of an emergency.

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