Archive for the ‘heat’ Category

So, as my sister so kindly commented ;o), I’ve been poor about posting lately. Sorry. I have lots of good reasons, some of which you know, and some of which you will hear about in the days to come. Basically, life is full, and I am mostly pleased with that. It just leaves me exhausted and less bloggy, which I am not pleased about.

I will work on getting that post sticky completed. Our wood stove is humming along nicely, keeping us toasty through this frigid November. I’ll update on how that’s going – how warm/cold we’re staying, how much wood we go through, and how dirty the hearth is. Constantly.

Snow. My gosh, the snow. I know we’re back in a snowier area, but even just being a little west of where we were before when we lived in Michigan also makes a big difference. We get inches more than folks slightly east. It’s the lake effect, blah blah blah. Mostly, it’s awesome, and gorgeous, and we just stay home a lot. Our street is rarely plowed and never salted, so it’s treacherous out here. The rest of the nearby city could have perfect streets, but since we have to skate on 2 – 4 miles of ice to get there, we don’t go into town nearly as much as before.

And how is our 1300 foot long driveway treating us, you ask? Just fine, thank you. We haven’t paid to have it plowed once. Jason has shoveled a two track down it a couple of times, much to his back’s chagrin. But our Wovel (a “wheeled shovel” – I almost bought it just for the name) finally arrived, and we’re hoping it’s a fossil-fuel-free solution to our snowy driveway woes. I will post a review on it just as soon as we have the chance to use it. (The first comment people make when they visit us for the first time is, “Wow, how will you get out of here in winter? Do you have a truck/plow?” It’s a loooong driveway. But we’re committed to finding a human-powered solution, at least for this first year. Perhaps next year, I’ll be posting about our new snow plow guy, but I hope not.)

On the kid front, things are going swimmingly. Maya continues to become the bookworm her mother was, and I’m finding myself reading more (in order to complete books before she gets to them, as I like to read her books first). I haven’t read so many children’s novels since I took Children’s Lit in college. (Currently reading: The Secret Garden.) Ellery is teaching herself to write, and surprises me by writing new words every day. She has eczema for the first time, much to our dismay. Asher has learned to spit water from his sippy cup, so mealtimes are wetter and more adventurous. He will walk soon, I predict (and I hope).

It’s Advent! How wonderful. We are doing our nativity scene Advent calendar, and making a chain of all the names of Jesus, adding one link daily. It is simple and just the right pace for us at this point in our lives. We miss Advent services at Ascension, and are praying continually for God to lead us to the right church home. The church we visisted last Sunday didn’t even mention Advent!

What are you doing to prepare your hearts this Advent?

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Fireplace Insert Update

After my last fireplace insert post, I was feeling pretty lousy. The dealer guy came out (the same young dude who installed it!) and said his installation was perfect (ummmm) and the leak was due to the masonry on our chimney, which is original to the 1975 house. We ran some technical tests (Jason squirted a hose at the suspected leak spot) and had to agree with him on his latter assertion. (His installation, while okay, left much to be desired. But that’s another post.)

So Jason used the shop vac to remove the standing water and ashes. Then he removed all the firebrick and put it on the deck to dry in the sun. Next, we dried out the inside of the insert to the best of our ability with rags and paper towels. We left the door open and did the only thing left to do: wait.

Thankfully, that record rain was followed by almost two weeks of straight sunshine. We eventually replaced the firebrick, waited for a cool evening, and lighted a small fire. The dealer guy had warned us that a roaring fire might crack the brick if there was any moisture left in it at all. A few days and a few small fires later, our insert was back to almost-new. There is rust in a few places, but it is hidden and minor. The dealer guy (and other knowledgeable folks at the Hearth.com forum) pointed out that inserts and wood stoves will rust anyway, so those little streaks won’t be alone.

As for the leaking chimney issue…Jason recalled that our chimney sweep had mentioned that we had “about $600 worth” of repairs necessary on the chimney, but “nothing major,” and nothing that couldn’t wait even a few years. Jason had asked him quite a few questions, and they were both confident that the repairs could wait. Water or leaking were never even hinted at. The dealer installers never mentioned anything about noticing cracks or holes up there. And our home inspector, who was up on the roof inspecting the roof and chimney, didn’t catch it, either. It was frustrating to us that we paid three separate professionals who should have caught this leak (which *is* pretty obvious, now that we look at it), and none of them warned us of the potential for leaking. In retrospect, I heard water leaking on the fireplace insert during some earlier, minor rains (Jason never heard it and thought I was nuts), but it was never enough to flood the interior of the insert. It took the monster rain weekend and a seriously flooded insert for us to find the problem.

Anyway, after consulting our new favorite fireplace insert and wood stove experts, Jason spent a couple of hours up on the roof with a tube of silicone caulk. A few weeks and several rains later, including some gusty ones, we have had no more water problems. He will need to go back up and check the caulking job soon, as caulk does tend to frustratingly shrink after its initial application.

I’m not sure what lessons there are to be learned here. The biggest lesson for these diehard DIYers is never trust the professionals! That is, do your research before you hire someone, and also do basic research on the job they’re about to do. You can’t know everything (that’s why you’re hiring someone else!), but you can know the basics. In this case, I don’t know that even the best research could have prevented this problem. In reality, one of the three professionals paid to do work up there should have warned us to the potential issue. It’s done now, and I can give you some very sage advice:

Always check your masonry chimney for leaks, even if your fireplace insert/wood stove his its own chimney liner.

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water in fireplace

We had over eight inches of rain in 48 hour period this weekend. Awesome, but not awesome, you know? My husband spend the weekend splitting firewood on our rented splitter. In pouring rain. He is amazing, that man.

But please pray for our fireplace situation. Our new insert, which has only been used once and saw its first rain this weekend, has 1″ of standing water in the firebox. Water also leaked onto the hearth. This is not normal, nor acceptable, and the dealer should be sending someone out tomorrow. We would like a replacement insert, not a quick repair, and we would like more experienced installers this time. (Our last two had been on the job three weeks and three years, respectively.)

This fireplace insert is our main source of heat. It’s supposed to last us 10-15 years. I am concerned that they wont want to replace it. Please pray that I will not worry, and that the dealer will do the right thing.

Also, that my kids won’t get too cold tonight. No fire = cold house.

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Isn’t she pretty? I can’t wait to fire her up this fall!

This Hampton HI300 should be able to efficiently heat most of our house for the winter.

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week three

The first week, we housesat for friends

The second week, we camped in a borrowed camper.

For week three, the kids and I are staying with my parents (an hour away, sadly) while Jason sleeps in a tent and his parents re-inhabit their camper and help with flooring installation.

It will be good when this is all over. We enjoy not being homeless.

Since I’m with my folks, and their nice internet service, expect progress photos of the house (and some gratuitous cuteness of my kids) soon.

By the way, the chimney sweep came and cleaned our fireplace. All I can think about when I hear the term “chimney sweep” is Mary Poppins.

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We are having an EPA-certified, efficient wood stove fireplace insert installed in our home next week. It’s this one – the Hampton HI300. It’s made by the same company that makes these inserts, Regency, only it’s a little prettier (in our opinion). There certainly isn’t a lot to choose from when shopping for good looking efficient inserts.

We hope to heat with wood a majority of the time, and rely on our fuel oil furnace as backup only (just to use up the oil that’s already in the tank). We will replace the fuel oil furnace eventually, too. The sooner, the better. Fuel oil is craaaaaaazy expensive now.

We have ordered dry firewood from a local guy (only 3.6 country miles to his house) for this year, and hope to split our own from our property this winter for next year. We hope to manage the woods properly and harvest mostly dead trees or trees that need to go for thinning. (I think we need to find a good book on woodlot management!) Even with buying the wood this year, we will save a ton of money on heating. The cost of the insert, installation, and firewood all together is less than we would have paid for fuel oil this year!

The firewood we’ve bought was cut to length last winter, but still needs to be split. We’ll have to rent a splitter for a day, we think, because it will be too much for “us” (Jason!) to split by hand this year.

I’m so excited! The fireplace in the living room is brick and was painted black by the previous owners. I just scrubbed it down last night, and Jason put a coat of white primer on it this morning, and the difference already is just amazing. The room is lighter, less heavy, and more comfortable for me. It will probably take at least 2-3 coats of China White semi-gloss to cover the black, but it will be worth it. The insert is matte black, and will be easy for us to touch up with high heat paint, if necessary. The porcelain finish, while gorgeous, was significantly more expensive and harder to repair if chipped, so we decided to pass.

In other news:

  • The kid bedroom has been painted Turquoise Mist. The color is a nice blue-green, not at all heavy. With the white window trim, it looks fantastic.
  • Camping outside the house is getting old.
  • Pine flooring installation starts in a day or two!
  • I can’t wait to move in! Can’t! Wait!

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