Now that autumn is drawing in, there’s nothing much nicer than sitting near a crackling log fire. Cats love being near the warmth, and the flames seem to fascinate the little assassins. Almost every woman you meet will love to curl up in front of a log fire, if you’re lucky right next to you ~ or the cat anyhow. Burning wood is environmentally friendly, (more or less), and it’s a much cheaper and nicer way to heat your living-room than oil or gas.
Well, let me tell you, if you’ve never had a log fire, (or a wood burning stove), then it’s all a lot more complicated than you’d think. First of all do you have a fireplace, or a wood burning stove? Do you even have a chimney? Look outside, are there neatly stacked plies of seasoned firewood?
Start with the basics, and assume that you at least have a fireplace.
When was the last time the fireplace / stove was used, and when was the chimney last swept? Burning wood creates ash, smoke, soot, and tar, which then goes up the chimney, and some of it sticks there. Birds and other creatures nest in chimneys, or on top of chimneys. Dead stuff and other crap falls into chimneys. If in doubt thoroughly clean out the fireplace and chimney, (this should be an annual job anyway). If you’re a useless wimp and in real doubt get some guy to do it for you, (if you have never seen a fall of soot you have no idea how filthy, stinking, dirty that is). If you don’t have a clean chimney some very bad things could happen; the fire may not light, your house may burn down, you may die.
Do you have some firewood? Have you any idea how much seasoned firewood you can get through in one winter ~ even if you only light the fire / stove at weekends? Do you know the difference between hardwood and softwood? Have you ever used an axe, log splitter, saw, chainsaw? Do you own a truck?
We could see that gas was costing us too much money. That’s why we made the choice to go to the wood burner. It’s easy to do. Cutting firewood is putting a little sweat equity into it, is all. ~ Jerry Lambert.
An average sized home could easily get through two cords of wood in a winter, just to heat the lounge in the evenings ~ Jerry Lambert must be one fit actor, or he buys in his firewood by the truck load. I have cut, hauled, split, stacked, and brought firewood into my home ~ and let me tell you it’s hard work requiring some expertise in everything from forestry to using hand tools.
The Finns have a proverb; Judge a man by his firewood. If you can haul enough firewood to heat your lounge in a cold winter, then you’re a real man.
Open log fires can spit sparks onto the hearthrug, burning embers can fall out, and they are quite inefficient, (maybe 10 to 15%). Really, an open log fire is for looks, cooking the odd whole side of lamb, (cooking with wood is by far the best way to do a lot of meat), and for snuggling near in the flickering light, (much better than scented candles).
To actually get some heat into your home by burning wood, what you need is a wood-burning stove. These are heavy, expensive, usually iron or steel, use much less wood for the amount of usable heat you get, and you can also get your hot water and central heating from the thing. Some come with pretty glass doors so you don’t lose the joy of watching the flames, (or you can open the doors while your girl is snuggling with the cat).
If you don’t already have a stove, you may need a professional installer to put the thing in for you ~ or you could start learning some practical skills. One benefit of a wood-burner is that you do not need a working chimney, you can run a steel flue outside of the house. (If you don’t understand that, then you do need a professional installer.)
The choice of stoves is huge, and mostly limited by your wallet.
The last time I built my own place I had a pretty little stove with glass doors in the lounge, and a much bigger, utilitarian, stove in the kitchen for cooking, central heating, and hot water. I also owned 18 acres of woodland, a tractor, and passed my chainsaw certificate. My cat, Pyewacket, loved those stoves, but I was always too damn busy shifting firewood to take his picture sitting next to one.