I'm cold. cheap heat!

behaviorkeltonJanuary 1, 2008

I've been considering a fireplace *insert* to heat my 1000 sq ft. house... apparently, even the smallest size will do.

I live in a heavily treed neighborhood and neighbors are always having dead trees cut down (or trees that are at the end of the life cycle). These cut trees are left on the curb side for days until the city comes and picks up the chunks of tree left by the arborists.

When I had my trees cut down, a couple of neighborhood folks came by and took all the wanted (probably only 5% of what I had cut!).

As far as I can tell, I could have a free heating fuel supply for as long as I live here... heck, the entire neighborhood could probably provide it's own heat supply.

So the fireplace sucks as a heat source, but I understand that there are wood burning inserts that do a fine job of cranking out useful heat.

Does anyone have information about this stuff? Anything that I should be considering?

I have posted recently about my brilliant-but-simple idea for cutting energy use when it gets cold. What I do is put one of those electric oil-filled radiators beside my recliner and throw a quilt over myself and the heater. It only uses 600watts, but it cranks out more heat than I want. Given that it's just me (and my GF), I hate to heat an entire house with the central heat system.

So anyway, perhaps I can live a bit more luxuriously by heating most of the house with one of those wood burning inserts... that way, I don't have to shiver when I get out of the recliner!

Thanks for any opinions, info, or links!

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as i told you before, a GOOD WOOD INSERT will heat the room and maybe even a couple other rooms for pennies. check your local home improvement stores and cehck with local chimney sweeps for a good one. you cannot beat free wood as a heat source.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 2:05PM
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Heat source is just one aspect. Some things you can easily, quickly, and some inexpensively, do indoors that will contribute to a warmer house:

1. Bubble wrap insulation on your windows (cheap or free). http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Conservation/bubblewrap.htm

I have a new house with energy efficient windows and I've covered all our windows with bubble wrap, except one bay window in the dining room where we look out to the back yard all the time. We can't believe the difference in the temperature around the windows - even energy efficient ones. Our windows are also covered with energy efficient Levelore blinds. These blinds fit inside the window casing so that there isn't transferance of air from the bottom of them through the top.

2. Window Quilts - http://www.commonwealthsolar.com/cwquilt.htm

I made Window Quilts for all the windows in a townhouse we lived in a few years ago. They really made a huge difference in the energy bill and how much warmer rooms were.

3. Build pelmets around the windows to prevent warm air from rising from the bottom of the curtains, cooling on the cold windows, and going out the top of them - a virtual flu for heat and cold exchange. Having energy efficient window coverings is just one aspect of energy efficiency. Without pelmets the air just tracks from the bottom to the top of the window coverings which isn't really very energy efficient.


4. Move furniture away from windows and cold walls. Hang wall-mounted quilts on cold walls.

5. Purchase an infrared space heater (Sun Cloud - www.suncloud.com) and heat your living space with supplemental heat. They are more energy efficient than other types of space heaters, including your oil-filled heater, low cost to run (about $1 a day), heat a larger area than most space heaters (we heat our living room, dining room, and kitchen), and much more safe to use than other types of space heaters. They are rated with a zero-clearance from flamable materials and has an A-1 Insurance rating. Doesn't dry the air, and helps prevent condensation on windows.

6. Add humidity to the air if it's low. Even a small humidifier in a room will make it feel warmer from the extra humidity.

7. Build a permenant or temporary interior or exterior air-lock around the entrances - especially if you have a lot of people coming and going.

8. Cover huge expanses of windows, such as patio doors, especially at night. Open them in the day IF you get some passive solar out of them. Put some dark tile on the floor in front of a large area such as a patio door, to absorb heat during the day. You can do this temporarily by covering a sheet of ply-wood with dark tile and using it like a tile-covered rug.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 2:18PM
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David and Grain... thanks!
Yes, I think I can remember your wood stove recommendation, but they aren't cheap.

However, I just realized that there seems to be an almost constant supply of oak trees being cut down around here. If I can learn how to split the stuff, I'm in business! (I'm a fairly strong guy, but don't have the know-how.)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 10:04PM
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in my experience you want to split the oak as soon after felling as you can. if you let it sit for a few months, it gets HARD and the splitting is rough on you. a good axe and splitting wedge/maul will make short work of it.

a couple years ago my BIL brought me a bean truck full of oak and pecan. my mom and i went in halves and rented a hydraulic splitter, cost a grand total of 90.00 for 2 days since i picked it up Sat morning and did not have to return it until Monday morning. i split 8 cords of wood with it and gave my mom 2 cords of it. she was happy, since a cord usually costs 150 stacked and delivered.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 11:11AM
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Probably if you could find someone that has one to get rid of... they might give it to ya. Those things are heavy.

I have one that I keep debating if I should try to sell it or otherwise figure out how to get rid of. But the back of my mind keeps thinking I should re-install it somewhere the next time I get out the chain saw.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 12:14PM
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As was noted, free wood is good, free oak is better but it needs a good amount of time to season properly even if split. If your fireplace is big enough I would suggest you consider a freestanding stove in the fireplace area. This will generally give you more heat than an insert. You won't have to bend down quite so much and you wouldn't be so dependent on the blower for the fireplace insert both for the noise aspects as well as for when the power goes out. They're also easier to move to clean out and around when you need to sweep the flue. Odds are with either option you will also need to re-line your fireplace chimney flue so factor that in as well.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 9:39PM
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Some years ago Mother Earth Magazine had directions for building a gas log splitter & my husband made one. Sure saved a lot of backbreaking work & served us well for many years. Got to where we switched from an old cast iron kitchen wood burning stove to a pellet stove so he gave the splitter (was on wheels) away this Fall. The old Mother's issue may still be available.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 5:21PM
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behaviorkelton ~ I live with a fireplace insert. Have also lived with wood stoves. Have not lived with a pellet or multi-fuel stove.

If you have the floor area, wood stoves are a great source for additional heat. But you MUST have sufficient space around it to not chance bumping into it. If you have children, guards should be installed all way around it. Burns hurt.

A cast iron fireplace insert will give you a great deal more heat than a plain fireplace, but not quite as much as a freestanding woodstove. I use the larger Ecofan on top of the insert, and -at 25°F outside- the fan pushes just enough air to comfortably (76-78°) heat 15x30 DR/LR + 14x14 BR (door in-line) + bathroom and keeps warm the 14x18 BR and 12x18 kitchen. BTW, this is an old house with minimal insulation in walls (because they are plaster over brick) and no updated windows.

The negative issue is that all stoves require regular and rather frequent attention to maintain heat, and wood stoves can be difficult to bank for overnight. Also consider that hauling boxes of wood into the house can be heavy work. However, if you consider an insert solely as an **extra** source of heat, I think you will be very pleased.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ecofan

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 10:04AM
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Grainlady - you presented some good advice in your post, but there is also some misinformation. All electric heaters work with the same 100 percent level of efficiency. Spending hundreds of dollars on a heater does not buy you any more efficiency. That's all there is to it. Electric heat is electric heat, and all portable electric heaters are limited to, and consume, about 1,500 watts. A heater costing hundreds of dollars uses just as much energy and heats just as much space as a $10 heater from Wal-Mart.

Also, there is no difference between electric heaters in terms of how much they dry the air. None dry the air more or less than any other. Electric heating, as a general rule, does not dry the air as badly as some other types of heating because there is no indoor combustion, and as a result no oxygen demand and less infiltration of outdoor air. Those factors tend to preserve indoor humidity.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 11:52AM
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I heard about a friend of a friend who supposedly got on every junk mail list available and received loads of it every day in the mail, he would roll it up into logs and burn it in his woodstove.
Talk about cheap.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 1:26AM
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If you're lookung for an ethanol fireplace (insert), please have a look at http://opdecodesign.googlepages.com

    Bookmark   August 13, 2008 at 9:20AM
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I heated primarily with wood last year using a fireplace insert. I absolutely loved it- this was our first year in a cold climate (we moved from South Florida) and we were very concerned about freezing all winter. I can honestly say I never spent a warmer winter anywhere.

But don't neglect to think about how much work it is. My husband chops wood all spring and summer to stay a year ahead so it is all properly seasoned. These are trees we took down on our own property so there wasn't even a truck involved- just hours of intensive labor. They have to be messed with fairly often (I can go around 7 hours or so between loads if I do everything perfectly), and in order to do it safely you have to study up on how to burn properly.

The wood storage itself takes up a fair amount of yard space and isn't particularly attractive.

It is messy. No matter how careful you are you will track in grime and drop little pieces, and it will be a daily chore to keep the area around the fire clean. You'll bring in a bug from time to time. Every time you scoop ash you try and not stir up too much dust, but you do anyway and so dusting chores are multiplied considerably.

A safe installation is key and with a full chimney liner (highly recommended for safety) the whole shebang can run you an easy $3500. Regular inspections and chimney cleanings are essential and depending on your roof you may or may not want to attempt this yourself.

So don't just see "free wood" and think it is a walk in the park- it's hard. But it is the warmest heat you will ever experience, and the fire itself is like a living entity- I miss it terribly in the warmer months. It is great when it's the right choice, but wrong for many households who are away the major portion of the day, fussbudgets, or even remotely lazy.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 9:16PM
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For people who think gas heat is comfy, there is no substitute for wood. It is incredible compared to anything else I have been around, but it involves a lot of work. I would have a wood furnace but I moved to town a couple years ago and it just don't make sense to do wood here.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 10:21PM
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lol,wood heats you up every time you handle it!
op, fwiw, we have a vermont castings winter warm system. it heats our two thousand sq.ft. home well enough. but we've had to replace the cast iron insides every year since they warp so easily. hubby is a welder and says the materials are just the lowest quality around.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 9:14PM
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We plan to put a wood stove in our basement this year to cut down on propane costs. Looking for some insight from those of you who have burned wood for quite some time - how essential is it to reline the chimney?

To give a little history. The house was built in the early 70's. My grandparents used an insert upstairs as their sole source of heat. The chimney in the basement was used for one year. I am having it checked this month. If there are no cracks or other problems, is there really a need to have it lined again?
Thanks for your input.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 9:09AM
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Electrical Outlet Switch Sealers Gaskets

One thing that helps retain heat in a home is outlet sealers. They really help no matter what heating source you have. I would consider them "Cheap Heat" for what they accomplish.

I found a company that sells the "Decorator" or "Decora"
Leviton switch and outlet sealers/gaskets. I looked all over for these foam gaskets. Home Depot or Lowes did not have them. For those of you don't know, the Decora are the fat, contemporary rocker style switches found in newer homes. They will also work on bathroom GFI outlets. You can find them at: http://www.reducemyenergy.com/draftproducts.htm

Here is a link that might be useful: Electric Outlet Sealers/Gaskets in Bulk - Decora - Leviton - Decorator

Here is a link that might be useful: Electrical Outlet Switch GFI Leviton Decora Sealers Gaskets

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 8:18PM
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We live in Vermont and heat with wood. It's our main heat source with oil backup. I LOVE my woodstove! It's currently 2 degrees outside and the house is a comfy 70 degrees. I enjoy watching the fire too. It's a LOT more entertaining than watching young women full of silicone open suitcases on TV!

Wood is carbon neutral too. There's an endless supply and it's renewable. Today's modern stoves are EPA rated and burn less wood and put out more theat than the "smoke dragons" of the 70s. But if you're going to put anything besides seasoned wood into a stove, do NOT get a cat stove. Burning kiln dried wood or junk mail will destroy the catalytic converter.
Wood is a lifestyle. You do have to cut it (or have it delivered) stacked, seasoned and brought into the house. Most wood dealers sell seasoned wood, so the cutting and stacking a year in advance isn't always the case. Again, I love my stove. I wouldn't have anything else.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 7:27AM
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