As the heating season draws to a close, and before you lay the fireplace to rest, there are some maintenance items you should perform depending on the type of fireplace you have. A full fireplace or stove cleaning ensures you are ready for the next season while making it more attractive to look at during the warmer months.
If you are not comfortable performing the maintenance or running short on time, you can always call in a professional.
NATURAL GAS OR PROPANE FIREPLACES
Doing these will ensure you are ready when cold weather hits:
Don’t skip your fireplace maintenance this year.
Clean your glass using cleaner specially formulated for gas appliances. Don’t use ammonia based household cleaners as they will etch ceramic glass when heated and leave permanent damage. If your glass seems to get dirtier quicker than usual or leaves funny streaks on the glass, it is a sign that a tune up is required by gas technician.
Check your gaskets around the glass to ensure they are still soft and pliable. With age they harden and no longer provide a tight seal to keep the exhaust gases in and leak room air into the fireplace hence decreasing its performance.
Book your annual servicing by a licensed gas technician as recommended in your owner’s manual to maintain a valid warranty. There is a series of tests they perform to ensure your fireplace is operating at maximum efficiency. Technicians usually have more availability in the spring than fall, providing you more convenient scheduling. Any issues will be fresh in your memory helping technicians diagnose problems quicker.
WOOD BURNING FIREPLACE
Start by thoroughly cleaning your chimney with a chimney brush to remove corrosive creosote build up. If you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, call in a chimney sweep.
Wood burning fireplaces need more care than gas fireplaces do.
Then empty your ashes and clean your firebox with an ash vacuum or shop vac with a fine dust filter. While in the firebox, Inspect and replace any cracked or broken firebricks or baffles. These protect the steel firebox from overheating and warping while improving the life of your stove.
Next, check the condition of door seals and change gaskets if they feel at all crunchy and have lost their spring. They are meant to create tight seal around door and keep air out for better control and efficiency. If the fire seems to burn hotter than usual on same damper setting, or if your glass is getting dirtier than usual, or burning through wood sooner, then gaskets may be the culprit.
Finally clean your glass using cleaner dedicated to wood fireplaces, or use a damp paper towel with some ash soot to scrub followed by a clean moist damp paper towel and finally buff with a dry paper towel.
Once your fireplace or stove is prepped for the next season, start processing your firewood for next two seasons. Next year you only need to prepare wood for one season. Then you will be ahead of the game with guaranteed seasoned wood each year. The drier the wood, the more efficiently you extract heat from it when burning. Efficient burning saves wood meaning less chopping and stacking for you.
PELLET STOVES OR INSERTS
Always follow the manufacturer’s instruction in the owner’s manual for specific instructions as they vary by stove manufacturer. If in doubt, call us to book a professional cleaning and tune-up for your stove.
First, burn up all the pellets in the hopper and allow the stove to cool down. Then scrape the burn pot free of any clinker build up, remove the ashes, deep clean the firebox with an ash vacuum, removing baffles as needed. Next, check your gaskets to ensure they are still soft and pliable providing maximum sealing. If in question, replace. Follow up with a glass cleaning using a dedicated cleaner for wood/pellet stoves. Ammonia based house cleaners will etch the glass over time.
To clean the auger, open up the side panels to gain access. Service anything else within as recommended by the owner’s manual.
Finally, clean the venting with a chimney brush.
To ensure your next seasons supply of pellets, order your pre-season priced pellets in the spring, taking delivery and storing in the summer. Call us for details.
BACKUP HEATING OPTIONS FOR YOUR FAMILY THIS WINTER.
You don’t have to live totally off the grid to see the benefits of an off the grid or backup heating option in your house.
Most homeowners will continue to rely on the same old furnace long after it should be replaced. We don’t recommend it, but we also understand why. A new furnace isn’t a purchase to be taken lightly.
But as your furnace gets older, the likelihood of it breaking down during the winter increases. And if that happens, you don’t want to be without heat. That’s where backup heating options like fireplaces or freestanding stove in gas, propane, and wood come in handy.
Even if you never have to rely on your fireplace or stove to stay warm during an emergency, it can also ease the strain on your aging furnace, stretching its life a little longer and potentially save on your heating bill.
WHY NATURAL GAS OR PROPANE?
The greatest strength is ease and convenience of gas. Most fireplaces and stoves now operate from a thermostat, so you set it at the desired temperature and it will regulate the flame accordingly for maximum comfort. This way if the furnace unexpectedly stops working, the fireplace or stove takes over.
We find our customers are consistently surprised by the realism our gas fireplaces and stoves display. The logs look incredibly real (most people can’t tell the difference until they get very close), and the flames dance beautifully.
There are gas fireplaces or stoves that don’t require any electricity to operate, perfect for off-grid or power outages. They provide a soft radiating heat without any noisy fan.
Installation is quick and easy too, although you still require a professional to handle the gas line and venting.
Maintenance involves occasional glass cleaning and an annual preventative servicing by one of our licensed gas technicians.
A gas fireplace or stove might be slightly more expensive to operate than wood, but you can’t beat the ease and convenience.
WHAT ABOUT PELLET?
are among the most environmentally friendly backup heating options, and some families choose to heat their homes exclusively with 1 or 2 of these on different levels of the house.
Some of our customers swear by pellet stoves because:
- They use waste biomass like sawdust from wood mills which burn as well or better than raw wood and divert waste from the landfill.
- They are a very efficient source of heat, converting small electrical input to extract many times that energy out of wood.
- They are thermostat controlled so your fire burns evenly for a long time without constant human intervention other than daily cleaning and refueling.
Most pellet stoves do require electricity, so if you’re looking for a off-grid or power outage heating solution, this may not be a solution for you.
Being mechanical devices, they also require regular cleaning and maintenance: daily, weekly and monthly. You may need to pull out the screwdriver and ash vac and get a bit dirty regularly, but the time savings over preparing firewood may be worth it.
Just like firewood, you should gather your winter’s pellet supply early to ensure availability. Pellet supply can be a bit unpredictable, particularly if it is an extremely cold winter and suddenly demand goes up. So stock up in the off-season when pellet pricing is the best.
TRADITIONAL WOOD STOVES
There are three main arguments for the traditional fireplace or wood stove.
- Fuel is very affordable and readily available.
- They have a uniquely comfortable ambiance.
- Wood burning stoves are reliable and can keep a large area of your home warm in the event of a furnace meltdown.
Wood stoves require more upfront firewood labor, however maintenance is as simple as regular emptying of ashes and annual chimney cleaning.
If you’re in the market for a backup or off the grid heating option, these are 3 great options. Is one better for your home than the others? That depends on your wants and needs.
Give us a call today for an estimate and see how far your budget can go.
It is very common for customers to ask “should I repair or replace my stove” when they visit our Sudbury storefront. The answer – as it usually is- is that it depends on a number of factors.
WHAT’S THE LIFESPAN OF A STOVE?
The length of time a stove can last varies considerably with the style & type, whether you live in an area of high humidity, how diligent you are about performing maintenance on a regular schedule and the burning habits, among other factors. Properly maintained, it’s not unusual for a stove to last 20 or more years; however, during that time you will likely have to have some parts replaced including (but certainly not limited to) door and glass gaskets, baffles, firebricks and in the case of gas stoves sensors and possibly logsets.
There is a difference between maintenance and repair, especially when models and spare parts are no longer available. This is when replacement is the only option.
I HAVE AN OLD STOVE; SHOULD I USE IT?
While using an older stove instead of purchasing a new one may seem cost effective, operating an old stove that has surpassed its life expectancy can significantly increase the risk of fire. It’s just not worth the risk. In addition, old stoves are not as efficient or eco-friendly as today’s modern EPA advanced technology stoves and in most cases, you’ll find savings to offset purchasing new with reduced fuel consumption to provide the same heat. New stoves produce emissions by up to 90% and burn about 1/3 less wood. That’s less time chopping wood or less money spent on firewood and you’re saving trees and the environment.
If you have a model that is more than 20 years old, and you’re unsure of whether it is safe to operate, a specialist can visit your home and inspect it. Even easier, send a picture of the stove and the data plate. We can advise on parts status or possible recalls on that model.
ROUTINE MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS
When most people think of maintaining a stove, they think of cleaning the chimney and there’s good reason: Keeping the chimney clean reduces the chance of dangerous chimney fires.
While you can do some sweeping on your own, it’s a good idea to have your chimney professionally swept at least once a year, usually before the heating season. In addition to sweeping the chimney, your sweep can look for gaps or potential flaws in your chimney that may affect the draft. Part of the cleaning is a certain amount of disassembly of the stove which provides a good opportunity to inspect for cracks and other deficiencies. The best time is June or July before the sweeps are really busy with last minute work that always occurs from August onward.
Your stove’s finish also needs to be kept in good shape. Maintaining the finish does more than make it look nice. For most stoves, the finish is designed to reduce rust and even to help heat the surrounding space by allowing heat to radiate more efficiently. The type of maintenance required varies based on the finish. Your owner’s manual will be able to provide you with guidance on the proper maintenance of the finishes used. For all types, be sure to promptly remove any spills or moisture on the surface to avoid pitting the finish or having the stain become “baked on.”
Door gaskets or seals are relatively easy to replace; the owner’s manual that came with your stove will provide the part number for your door gasket and other components. If you don’t have a manual, we may have one in our archives that can be printed for a nominal fee.
Contact us or visit our showroom to ask us any questions about your replacing, repairing, or maintaining your stove.