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Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that not everyone knows everything about fireplaces and all of the lingo that surrounds them. We’ve been at this a long time and are continually continuing our education so we can bring you the best and most knowledgable service possible.

We find ourselves frequently answering the same questions from our customers and have decided to put together this FAQ’s section in order to help you understand more about the products you are looking at. It is our hope that we have answered your basic questions here, however, we are ALWAYS happy to talk to you in person and help you in the process of purchasing, using or maintaining your fireplace.

Please feel free to contact our knowledgable staff any time if you have questions.

Thanks! – Greg Brown 

Wood Stove And Wood Burning Fireplace Maintenance Tips

Nothing compares to the experience and knowledge of a real Fireplace & Stove Hearth store, below, you will find some frequently asked questions regarding Wood Stoves and Fireplaces

What are the main types of fireplaces?

There are 3 main categories of fireplaces, they are DIRECT VENT (DV), NATURAL VENT (NV or BVENT), VENT FREE (NO CHIMNEY).

Direct Vent (DV)

In general there is a single pane of glass that has springs or screws to take off where the fire is and can be vented either UP (Vertically) or OUT (Horizontally).

Natural Vent (NV or BVENT)

Natural vent usually have doors that open and a damper in the middle towards the top of the fireplace opening. There is a pre-fab style with metal pipe and typically bi-fold doors with metal showing above and below the opening. A masonry wood burning fireplace usually has brick on outside and a glass door that fits on the outside of the opening. The top of the chimney would also have a flue tile. That being said, you can have a gas log in a wood burning fireplace which does not make it a gas fireplace, but rather a wood burning fireplace that uses combustion are from the room.

Vent Free (NO Chimney)

Vent free is a fireplace with no vent pipe and emits the unused burnt gas back into the house. This allows the fire to use indoor air for combustion and allows all of the heat to stay inside the house. With newer, more tightly sealed homes, you must be cautious with this type of fireplace to prevent build of of unspent fuel.

How Much Of My Home Can My Wood Burning Appliance Heat?

This actually depends on a number of factors. Most importantly, is the size of your firebox. Your firebox is measured in cubic feet. The larger it is the more fuel you can burn and the more space you will be able to effectively heat. Also, the type of wood you burn, the amount of heat loss your home experiences, the quality of your windows & doors, the amount of sidewall & ceiling insulation, and even how big your rooms are all affect how well your wood burning appliance heats up the air around your house.

What Type Of Wood Should I Burn?

The wood you burn can affect the performance and longevity of your wood burning appliance. Choosing the right type of wood can make all the difference in the amount of maintenance or service your fireplace, stove, or insert requires. It can even affect the heat efficiency and output. For top performance and minimal maintenance requirements, it’s best to use properly seasoned wood. The wood should be cut & split, then left to dry for a minimum of 6 months, with one year being optimal. Wood should be protected from rain & the elements while it is left to season, so make sure you have a good location to store firewood while it dries.

An extremely important fact to remember is to never burn wood that contains chemical that could harm your wood burning appliance, the environment, or you when it is burned. This includes painted wood, pressure treated wood, drift wood, particleboard, or wood containing nails or screws.

While you may burn either hard wood or soft wood, we recommend burning hard wood for higher heat output and longer lasting fires. Maple & oak are both great choices.

The type of wood you use will ultimately determine the heating value and how well your wood burning appliance heats surrounding air. Each type of wood has its own characteristics from aroma to amount of crackle, but all wood contains essentially the same amount of energy. The main difference between types of wood is density. You will get more heat from hard wood versus a lighter, soft wood. This also means that a cord of firewood that consists of mostly hard wood like hickory or oak will cost more than a cord of pine which is a soft wood.

Most firewood that you cut or purchase will not be adequately dried and may contain a lot of moisture. If you are unsure if the firewood you’ve purchased is suitable to burn, use a moisture reader, which is a hand-held device that can read the moisture content of wood. If it reads below 25%, the firewood is ready to be used in a fire.

Check out the following charts to find out which types of wood are good to use in your wood burning appliance. You should also consider how easily the wood will split, ignite & burn, and how much smoke it might produce.  It is helpful to know that “coaling” is the ability of the wood to turn into a bed of hot coal that will last throughout the fire. Hard wood generally has greater coaling qualities which will lead to hotter fires.

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How Much Should I Pay For A Wood Burning Appliance?

Homeowners often hunt for the lowest price when it comes to making a large purchase. While finding a good deal on major appliances is always a plus, it’s important to remember that the performance and longevity of the product you purchase is just as important as the price you paid it for. The saying goes “It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little”- John Rusking.  Instead, you should look for a quality product that will deliver the expected performance at a price that is fair and affordable. Nothing is worse than purchasing a product that you thought was a great deal only for it to break down shortly after you bring it home. It’s better to look for quality construction that will last many years than it is to simply buy the cheapest product on the shelf.

Do Wood Stoves Burn Clean?

Recent Environmental Protection Agency regulations have put strict standards on how much pollution a wood burning appliance can produce. Smoke from a wood fire is often filled with particles & gases left over from the combustion process. Before these strict laws were mandated, an average wood burning stove created 70-80 grams of particle pollution per hour. Now, non-catalytic stoves must produce less than 7.4 grams of particle pollution per hour and catalytic stoves must produce less than 4 grams per hour.

Which Is Better: Catalytic Wood Burning Stove Or Non-Catalytic Wood Burning Stove?

In order to comply with EPA clean air standards, a special component called a re-burn system is required to be built into wood burning stoves in order to reduce particle pollution. There are two different types of re-burn systems, catalytic & non-catalytic.

In a catalytic wood stove, there is a combustor that is similar in appearance to a honeycomb. Smoke is routed through the combustor when the homeowner closes the damper. The extremely high temperatures in the combustor burn the by-products left in the smoke, leading to cleaner output. In general, a combustor will need to be cleaned annually and typically has a life of around 10,000 hours.

In a non-catalytic wood stove, a system of secondary air tubes located at the top of the firebox mix the smoke with hot air that burns away the left over by-products. There are a number of benefits with secondary air tubes. Firstly, they do not require any regular maintenance, and secondly, the re-burn system is automatic unlike a catalytic version where the damper must be engaged or disengaged at precisely the right time to function properly. The secondary burn tubes generally last 5+ years.

While both types burn cleanly and efficiently, non-catalytic stoves are typically known for their ease of operation. There is only one control necessary for this type of system. For more heat, simply increase the flow of air with the air controller. For less heat & longer burn times, reduce the air flow again with the air controller. In a catalytic stove, the damper must be engaged and disengaged manually. Homeowners must monitor the flue gas temperatures to determine the correct time to close/open the damper.

Are They Any Regulations Regarding Installation For My Wood Burning Appliance?

Every wood burning fireplace, insert, or stove will come with an owner’s manual. The manual contains detailed instructions and even drawings or photos for proper clearance requirements and installation regulations. If the stove you purchase is an older model that is untested & unlisted, there is a list of default codes (NFPA 211) that must be followed for correct installation.

What Is The Difference Between Radiant Heat & Convection Heat?

Convection heat involves a process where air is blown across a heating element. The air absorbs the heat and is then blown out to heat the air in a room. Convection heat will raise the ambient temperature in a room and everyone will enjoy the benefits of the warmth. On the other hand, radiant heat only heats nearby objects such as people or furniture in a room. It will not raise the ambient temperature in a room, so is better for smaller spaces.

How Do I Child-Proof My Wood Burning Stove Or Fireplace?

The best way to keep children and pets away from a burning fire is to install glass doors or to put up a fireplace screen. There are a number of beautiful mesh screens that will allow everyone to enjoy the view & beauty of a burning fire while keeping wandering hands out of harm’s way.

How Do I Keep The Glass Doors Of My Wood Burning Stove Or Fireplace Clean?

The glass doors on your wood burning fireplace or stove may accumulate creosote deposits from the by-products of the combustion process. Creosote also forms in the flue of your chimney and is highly flammable, so proper maintenance is required. To prevent or reduce the amount of buildup, always burn dry/seasoned wood and build small but hot fires. Leaving the air control open will also help reduce deposits.

Also, always burn wood that has been properly seasoned & dried. Wet logs will actually cause more creosote buildup. Small but hot fires reduce the amount of creosote accumulation because they burn the contents of the fire more completely. Not only will this greatly reduce the amount of smoke and subsequent creosote buildup from forming, it also will provide more heat for your home.

Finally, to help prevent creosote from building up on your glass doors, burn your fires with the air control open.  The air will keep the smoke away from the glass, therefore preventing deposits from forming.

Creosote Deposits Have Already Formed On My Glass Doors, Now What Do I Do?

Once the glass doors are completely cooled down, wipe the inside of the glass with paper towels or newspaper to remove any powdery material. If the buildup is sticky like tar, burn a hot fire for several hours with completely dry, seasoned wood. The hot fire should be enough to burn off the deposits. Many of our member stores carry a specialty glass cleaner which is perfect for removing those stubborn deposits. Another tried-and-true method for cleaning wood burning appliance glass doors is to dip a damp wad of newspaper into wood ashes and then scrubbing the glass with it to remove any tough deposits. Next, wipe the glass clean with a clean, damp newspaper.

Can My Wood Burning Fireplace Be Converted Into A Gas Fireplace?

Yes. Gas logs, fireplace inserts, and even gas stoves can be used to convert a wood burning fireplace into a gas unit. You simply need a source of gas or propane & proper venting in order to complete the conversion. Typically, we will need to evaluate the fireplace to determine the best options. A visit to our show room will show you the various options for converting a wood fireplace to a gas appliance. Also, this requires expert knowledge and qualified installers to ensure that the new system is safe and working properly.

Can My Wood Burning Stove Be Converted Into A Gas Stove?

No, wood stoves can never be converted into a gas system. This is extremely dangerous. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to convert a wood burning stove over to a gas unit.

Why Am I Experiencing Chimney Drafting Problems?

If you notice that smoke is entering your house instead of escaping up and out of the chimney, your chimney is not drafting properly. This is actually a very complicated topic since there are a number of potential causes.

First, wood burning stoves & fireplaces must be installed properly to ensure they are safe and up to code. Unfortunately this doesn’t always mean that they will perform as they should. The correct size chimney is crucial to the performance of your wood burning appliance. More importantly, the firebox & the flue must be the correct ratio for proper chimney drafting to occur. For wood burning stoves, a six inch diameter chimney flue is typically necessary. Most manufactured zero clearance wood burning fireplaces will require an eight inch chimney.

Also, the design of your chimney can play a role in poor chimney drafting. Smoke needs to travel straight up. Every elbow or offset creates a point of resistance that can cause drafting problems. The chimney should be constructed as straight as possible.

Chimneys that are constructed the outside of a home tend to be very cold. This means it will take considerably more heat to warm up the flue enough to create a good draft.  If you plan on installing a prefabricated metal chimney on the outside of your home, make sure to enclose it in an insulated chase to help prevent chimney drafting issues.

Another common problem that causes drafting issues is negative air pressure. This is especially true for newer homes. As homes have been built tighter in recent years, there is less air to replace the air that is used in the combustion process. Basements are known to have considerable negative air pressure problems. Kitchen fans, clothing dryers, and even exhaust fans remove air from your home and can cause your fireplace or stove not to draft properly.

Some other external factors include roof design, trees in close proximity to your chimney, excessive wind patterns, and even the location of your home. Since there are so many factors involved in chimney drafting, the best way to diagnose the problem is to hire a professional chimney sweep. They can quickly identify potential problems and offer the best possible options for correction or repair.

How Can I Prevent Smoke From Entering The Room When I Open My Wood Burning Stove Door?

You can reduce the chance of smoke entering your room by slowly opening the door. It’s best to crack the door at first, then wait a few seconds before opening the door the rest of the way.

How Often Does My Chimney And Wood Burning Appliance Need To Be Cleaned?

The National Fire Protection Agency recommends having a cleaning performed annual. It’s also a good idea to have an inspection to help identify potential problems.

Gas Stove And Gas Fireplace Maintenance Tips

Nothing compares to the experience and knowledge of a real Fireplace & Stove Hearth store, below, you will find some frequently asked questions regarding Gas Stoves and Fireplaces

What Kind Of Maintenance Does My New Gas Burning Stove Or Gas Fireplace Need?

Keep your home and family safe with regular gas appliance maintenance. Every few months, clean off the glass door on your gas fireplace or stove. This will keep your unit from accumulating a sticky build up overtime. Make sure to only use a glass cleaner specifically intended for this purpose.

Annual inspections are also very important for gas appliances. While these units are typically low maintenance, it is still important to have a certified service technician check your system from time to time. These appliances can still accumulate build up that can lead to a chimney fire, and it is important to check for gas leaks or venting issues.  Schedule your yearly inspection with a certified chimney professional to make sure that all components are working correctly. An annual inspection is a small price to pay for the peace of mind and safety that it brings in return.

How Do I Turn On & Off My Gas Appliance?

The operation of your gas appliance will depend on the make and model of your unit. There are options that enable you to operate your stove or fireplace with a simple wall switch, remote control or thermostat. The thermostat will help you maintain a steady temperature in the room, while the wall switch simply ignites or shuts off the flames.

How Do I Re-Light My Pilot?

First, make sure that the supply line of gas to your fireplace or stove is on. Then, find the gas control knob with the options of “on”, “off”, and “pilot”. This knob may be located behind a removable panel on the front of your unit. Push this knob in and turn it to “pilot”. This setting will begin to release a small amount of gas to enable the pilot to ignite as long as it is held down. Then, at the same time as you are pressing in the knob on the “pilot” setting, press down the red or black igniter button. Press this button a few times if it does not ignite immediately. Now, continue to hold down the control knob on the “pilot” setting for about 20-30 more seconds to ensure the pilot stays lit. After this, the pilot should remain lit, just turn the knob to the “on” setting on the control panel and leave it.

If the electricity is out, follow these same directions, but use a match to ignite the pilot instead of pushing the igniter button.

Should I Leave My Pilot Light On Year Round?

Yes, it is best to leave the pilot light on year round. While this wastes a small amount of gas, the money spent keeping the pilot light on is much less than any repairs resulting from turning the pilot light off will cost. Leaving the pilot light on year round helps keep the system working and helps prevent bugs and animals from causing problems with the system.

Why Won’t The Pilot Light Stay Lit?

Follow the pilot lighting directions carefully and continue to hold down the control knob on the ignite setting for up to one minute after the igniter lights the pilot. This will help ensure that the flame is lit and sustainable. If the pilot continues to go out after this, schedule an appointment with a certified chimney professionals to further assess the problem.

How Do I Child-Proof My Stove?

The heat from a gas-heating appliance can be very intense within a few feet of the fire. While most children will feel the heat from the flames and stay away, there are additional precautions you can take. There are many varieties of screen shields that can be placed in front of the fire to keep children a safe distance from the flames.

What’s The Odor (Smoke) Coming From My New Gas Stove Or Fireplace?

When you first burn a fire in your new heating appliance there may be some initial smoke or smells produced. This scent comes from the paint and finish on the appliance. During the first fire, the paint is curing and some of the oil in the finish burns off. It is advisable to open a window during this time to send these odors outside, but this is a normal occurrence. If the strange odors and smoke continue for longer than 3-4 hours after the first burn, discontinue use and set up an appointment with a chimney technician to ensure the appliance is in good working order.

Will I Need To Clean The Glass Door Or Does It Stay Clean By Itself?

The glass door with eventually begin to develop buildup after consistent use. The glass should be cleaned at least once a year to keep the glass clear. This can be done more often if you notice the buildup accumulating quicker than this.

Can I Switch From LP Gas To Natural Gas?

Yes, gas fireplaces can usually be switched from propane to natural gas. Gas appliances are not compatible with different types of gas without the correct parts, but there are gas conversion kits to switch your appliance from liquid propane (LP) to natural gas. It is advisable to hire a chimney professional to make this switch to ensure the system is safely and correctly installed. So many things can go wrong with a gas conversion; letting a professional perform the installation is the best and safest option.

Pellet Stove And Pellet Fireplace Insert Maintenance Tips

Nothing compares to the experience and knowledge of a real Fireplace & Stove Hearth store, below, you will find some frequently asked questions regarding Pellet Stoves and Fireplaces

What Are The Benefits Of Heating With Pellets?

Pellet stoves have become extremely popular due to the fact that they are environmentally friendly & easy to use. They use pellets created from recycled materials as fuel and are extremely heat efficient which can help lower heating bills. They can also be installed in places where gas or wood units would be impractical. Also, you can store four times the amount of pellet fuel in the same space that an equivalent amount of cordwood requires.

Are Pellet Heating Appliances Efficient?

Yes. This is one of the reasons pellet stoves & inserts are so popular. Homeowners can enjoy an overall heat efficiency of 80 – 85%.

How Are Pellets Created & What Are They Made Of?

Wood pellet manufacturers take wood waste product like bark, saw dust, ground wood chips & other combustibles and press them into ¾ “ pellets. Every pellet is the same size, shape & density and has the same moisture level so that it produces the same amount of energy.

What Type Of Pellets Should I Use?

There are currently two types of pellets available: premium grade & standard grade. In general, premium grade pellets are the most recommended as they have low ash content and give off a higher heat output. While there are a number of great brands to choose from, each contains different types of wood, binders, additives, and saw dust. Always check the owner’s manual of your pellet appliance to find out what types of pellet you should be using.

How Do Pellet Stoves Operate?

First, pellets are loaded into a hopper on the top of the appliance. Next, the pellets are delivered to a stainless steel burn pot. A state-of-the-art circuit board controls the precise amount of fuel that is delivered to the burn pot to determine heat output & burn time. High pressure air is then pulled into the base of the burn pot and forced through the burning pellets. This achieves nearly complete combustion of the pellets (usually over 95%) and allows the greatest amount of heat value to be transferred to your home. The heated air is then drawn through heat exchange tubes at the top of the firebox and transferred into your home by a variable speed fan. The burned pellets leave a powdery, residual ash that will need to be cleaned out periodically.

Are Pellet Stoves Reliable?

Pellet stoves are extremely reliable and typically have a long life span. Pellet stove manufacturers create quality products that are often backed by great warranties. Seven years warranties and limited lifetime warranties are most common. It’s important to purchase your pellet product from a reputable hearth dealer who will properly install quality products. Buying from a big box store or online may cost a few dollars less, but there is a huge difference in quality, performance, reliability, efficiency, heat output, maintenance requirements and product support.

What Type Of Chimney Or Venting Do I Need For A Pellet Appliance?

Most pellet appliances require a 3″ or 4″ Type “L” vent pipe, unless you are planning to connect the unit to your current masonry chimney or a factory built stainless steel chimney system. Type “L” vent pipes can be installed through a side wall or vented vertically, directly through the rough. This will all depend on the location of the unit and the details of your particular installation.

How Do I Store The Wood Pellets?

In general, pellets will come packaged in 40 pound bags. These bags stack easily and you can actually fit four times the amount of pellet fuel in the same amount of space that one unit of cordwood takes up. On average, a full winter’s supply of pellets will take up an area of about 6′ wide x 6′ deep x 6′ high. It’s best to store the pellets in a dry area like a basement, shed, utility room, or garage.

Are Pellets Messy To Store Or Use?

Pellets are a great alternative to wood. They are clean & easy to handle and store, and do not contain bugs, bark, or dirt as is common with storing wood. They also offer a clean and environmentally friendly way to heat your home.

How Do I Light My Pellet Stove?

Many pellet stoves & inserts rely on an automatic ignition system which makes lighting your pellet stove as simple as flipping a switch. A wall thermostat can be installed and used to control the ambient temperature in the room. It’s best to avoid purchasing pellet units that require gelled alcohol and must be lit manually.

How Much Space Can I Heat With A Pellet Appliance?

This is actually determined by the pellet appliance you purchase and the amount of BTUs it produces. The more BTUs/hour it produces, the higher the heat output and the more space you can effectively heat.  Some pellet appliances can produce a range anywhere from 40,000 to 45,000 BTUs per hour when turned to full power. Since BTU output is adjustable, you can heat a smaller area by simply turning down the BTU output. A small pellet stove will typically operate between 8,000 and 28,000 BTUs/hour, while a large pellet stove can operate at 14,000 to 45,000 BTUs/hour. With a pellet appliance, you can effectively heat anywhere from 300 to 2,000 square feet.

How Much Maintenance Does A Pellet Appliance Require?

Regular maintenance for pellet stoves & inserts include cleaning the stainless steel burn pot, heat exchange tubes, and exhaust blower. The ash pan must also be emptied on a regular basis to ensure safe and optimal operation. Occasionally it’s important to check around the glass doors and ash pan to make sure there is no air escaping. An annual inspection is a great way to make sure that your appliance is in good working order and is being cleaned properly.

How Do I Clean Out Ashes From My Pellet Appliance?

Each pellet stove has an ash pan that collects the ash from the burning pellets. The ash pan has a handle for easy access. The ash can be removed even while the fire is going. Simply pull the ash pan out from underneath the door and dump out the ashes.

How Can I Control The Amount Of Heat Output From My Pellet Stove Or Insert?

The amount of heat produced that your pellet stove or insert produces is determined by the rate at which the pellets are fed through the burn pot along with the speed of the blower fan. The more pellets that are added to the system, the more heat the appliance will produce. This can be controlled automatically with a thermostat or adjusted manually.

How Much Should I Pay For My New Pellet Appliance?

Many homeowners search for the best deal possible when purchasing a large appliance. While finding a good deal on major appliances is always a plus, it’s important to remember that the performance and longevity of the product you purchase is just as important as the price you got it for. The saying goes “It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little”- John Rusking.  It’s more important to look for a quality product that will deliver the expected performance at a price that is fair and affordable, than to just choose the cheapest product on the shelf. Nothing is worse than purchasing a product that you thought was a great deal only for it to breakdown shortly after you bought it. If you have questions on the quality of a pellet product, turn to a trusted hearth retailer. They have all of the necessary knowledge and know-how to direct you to the perfect product at the right price.