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Archive for June 2009

Bellows- a popular accessory to help boost combustion in wood fires, feeding air to the flames as it is forced out of an expandable bladder. Though unnecessary for a gas hearth where the combustion level is easily controlled with the turn of a knob, bellows' lovely finish in attractive blends of fine woods with vinyl or leather makes them a decorative accessory.BTUs- British Thermal Unit, the primary heat measurement unit used by the hearth industry. It is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 lb. of water by 1 degree F.Catalytic Combustor- a device used on some wood stoves to increase combustion efficiency by lowering flue gas ignition temperatures.Clearance- the distance required by manufacturers and building codes between stove, connector pipe or chimney and any combustible materials.Creosote- deposits of condensed wood smoke in the chimney and connector pipe resulting from incomplete combustion. It can ignite and cause a chimney fire.Direct Vent- an appliance with a sealed, specifically designed venting system, that draws combustion air from outdoors and exhausts its combustion products to the outdoors, eliminating the need for a standard chimney system. A glass panel in direct vent units is critical to keeping the combustion system sealed from the home.Emissions- unburned gases and particles as a result of incomplete combustion.EPA Regulations- government regulations of wood-burning appliances mandating that products sold after July 1, 1992, emit no more than 4.1 grams of particulate matter per hour for catalytic-equipped units and no more than 7.5 grams for non-catalytic-equipped units.Firebacks- protect fireplace masonry and mortar, shielding them from extreme heat of the flames. Cast-iron firebacks store heat from the fire and radiate it into the room after the fire has died down. Firebacks work just as well in a modern gas fireplace as they do in a traditional wood burning one.Fireplace Inserts- heating units that retrofit into an existing fireplace (masonry or factory-built). They burn wood, gas or wood pellets and offer superior efficiency.Flue- the passageway in a chimney for conveying gases to the outdoors.Freestanding Stove- a heating appliance normally on legs or a pedestal.Gas Logs- an open flame appliance with ceramic or ceramic fiber logs placed over a burner to provide dramatic realism of a traditional flame. Manufactured log sets have a burner that uses either natural gas or propane.Glass Doors- doors attached to a fireplace to close off the opening of the hearth from the home to prevent heat from escaping up the chimney and prevent cold air from entering the home when the fireplace is not being used.Grate- a metal frame used to hold and contain burning fuel in a fireplace.Hearth- traditionally refers to the floor of a fireplace on which a blaze is built. Today it is also used to refer to all the devices and equipment used in connection with the fireplace and the stove industry.Heat Shield- a noncombustible protector used around appliances, smoke pipes or chimneys to protect combustibles from heat sources.Hopper- a container attached to an appliance in which fuel, either coal, nuggets or wood pellets, is stored and from which the fuel is fed to the burner.Island Fireplace- a fireplace that has four sides of glass, for viewing from any angle.Kindling- thin, dry wood used to start a fire.Liquid Propane- liquefied petroleum gas, available in cylinders, for home use.Mantle- an ornamental facing surrounding the fireplace or simply a shelf above a fireplace.Metal Liner- used primarily with fireplace inserts and placed inside an existing chimney (usually masonry) to reduce the diameter of the flue for more rapid exit of smoke and combustion gases. Also used when an existing chimney is unlimited or deteriorating.Natural draft (B-vent) Appliances- a gas-burning appliance that takes in combustion air from the home and vents byproducts of combustion outside the home.Natural Gas- clean-burning fossil fuel transported to homes via an extensive pipeline network.Pellets- are made of 100% compressed wood sawdust with no additives. A renewable fuel source made from sawdust or wood chips otherwise destined for landfills.Peninsula Fireplace- a fireplace that has three sides of glass.Seasoned- refers to cordwood that has been allowed to dry before burning. Seasoning generally takes six to 12 months. Wood burns much more efficiently when its moisture content has been reduced.Unvented or Vent-Free Appliance- an appliance that draws combustion air from inside the home. The appliance is designed to burn so efficiently that it eliminates the need for venting.Zero-Clearance Fireplace- a factory-built fireplace that is constructed so that it can be placed, safely, with close clearances to combustible materials.

While people agree that a fire on the hearth makes their house a home, choosing from the many options can be confusing. The following questions are intended to help you identify the right unit for your home or outdoor living room. Remember that the starting point is you, your home, your tastes and your lifestyle.

From there, a trained hearth products retailer can help you choose the best heating fuel and the ideal product.

  1. Where will your hearth product go? With today's venting options, fireplaces, stoves, inserts and other hearth appliances can be installed almost anywhere in the home. Consider a fireplace for nontraditional locations, such as the kitchen, home office or master bedroom or bath. Even creating an outdoor living room by installing fireplaces on patios and decks is a very popular trend today.
  2. Do you have an existing fireplace or stove? If you have a unit that is inefficient or seldom used, converting to a new hearth product may be simple and surprisingly affordable. Gas logs or a fireplace insert may be just right for you.
  3. Are you building a new home or remodeling? You can add atmosphere and focus to your home by incorporating a hearth product early in the design stage. Talk to your architect or remodeler about stove and fireplace ideas.
  4. Do you want a fire for its aesthetic appearance or for its warmth? Some hearth products are simply decorative, while others are extremely efficient and beautiful to watch at the same time. How much heat output would you like? Consult HPBA's home heating buyers guide for more information.
  5. How much of your home do you want to heat? Once you decide whether to use your hearth as room, living zone, or entire house heat source your local hearth dealer can help you determine the right size appliance for your home. Your retailers can also help you decide the best heating fuel factoring in your climate, floor plan and lifestyle.
  6. What fuels are accessible to you? Use the HPBA home heating calculator to determine your best options and savings based on your local fuel availability: firewood, natural gas, propane, wood pellets, coal, oil or electricity.
  7. Are you concerned about having heat during power outages? One of the benefits of most hearth products is that they can operate during power outages, when you need the heat the most.
  8. Are there any other special considerations? Having a fire can be as simple as pushing a button on a gas stove or fireplace, or engaging as supplying your own wood, building and tending a fire. If someone in the house has allergies, that needs to be considered.
  9. What finished look do you want for your home? The hearth products industry offers many choices to consumers.
  10. How much do you want to spend? Price is always a consideration. Hearth product prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Fuel prices also are a factor to consider and vary by region.

Hearth manufacturers say consumers want to save money on energy costs.

American consumers are so concerned with their rising energy bills that they are purchasing various types of wood-burning hearth products at an astounding rate for supplemental warmth and to help save money on energy.

A recent consumer survey by the Arlington, Va.-based Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) finds that more consumers are turning to efficient EPA-approved wood stoves, fireplace inserts, and pellet stoves and inserts to heat their homes. Shipments of pellet stoves and inserts for the first six months of 2008 increased by an amazing 212 percent as compared to the same period in 2007. Wood stoves and inserts increased 54 percent for the same period.

Unlike a fireplace, an EPA-approved freestanding wood stove performs an efficient, controlled burn that generates substantially less smoke than a traditional wood fireplace. These units, made of cast iron or soapstone, store heat, radiating it into the house. This allows the stove, depending on the size of the unit, to heat a space as large as 2,500 square feet. A pellet stove or insert accomplishes the same feat using a renewable, clean-burning fuel made from sawdust or other wood waste.

These hearth products are typically used for zone-style heating of the most frequently used rooms in a home, allowing homeowners to turn down the thermostat on the home's central furnace. This reduces fuel consumption, providing energy savings of up to 20 percent to 40 percent, HPBA says.

According to the HPBA survey, roughly 70 percent of buyers upgraded their fireplaces for energy efficiency; 51 percent did so to help save on heating costs. Additionally, consumers upgrading to an EPA-certified wood stove found that their wood use dropped by one-third because the units improved efficiency over older fireplaces, according to the survey.

Demand for stoves and inserts could continue into next year. Beginning in January 2009, homeowners can take advantage of a $300 federal tax credit to purchase a new pellet or 75-percent-efficient wood stove.

Nigel Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.

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