How does your wood pile look? Mine is looking a little thin, but I think we will make it through. I have always loved a good wood pile. I guess as a kid, it just represented work and lost Saturdays, but as an adult it is a comfort and a joy. Some say it is like money in the bank. So it is. Some take great pride in their wood piles. Each piece is flush with the others, they face due south for maximum sun, and are spaced perfectly to allow for air flow. You know who you are. Others just cut and throw it in a pile to be sorted out later. You usually find these piles near an outdoor boiler and a tired owner who has a part time job collecting wood. Dryness doesn't matter so much, but large volume is important. Some people take it to a whole new level and make an art form out of it. I recently came across a beautiful wood pile picture contest. They really can be an art form - for those of us with fuego-itis.
The heating season is off to a roaring start, and I hope everyone is keeping safe and warm. At the Waite household, we have just gone through a wonderful Christmas season of which our wood stove played a big part. It is definitely the center of our home. It is where the kids dry their wet clothes. Where we gather to drink coffee on a cool morning. It is where we roasted chestnuts until they were too hot to handle. It is where we warm rocks for a bit of warm rock therapy on a tired back. It is where we relax and read a book in the soft glow of the fire. It is where I enjoy a quiet evening with Mrs. Waite after the littles have gone off to bed. A fire is and always has been the heart of a home. Many modern homes are missing this piece of life, but fret not - Black Duck Chimney can enhance your home too with a wood or gas appliance safely installed in your home. Call today to discuss the possibilities.
I love this time of year! We finally have those October blue skies (even though it is November), beautiful sun-rises, the geese migrating in formation, and the smell of wood smoke in the air. I have become quite a connoisseur of wood smoke aromas. My favorite is a good hot fire with dry American Cherry. It has a sweet nutty aroma that I can pick out anywhere. Really, any of the fruit trees have a very nice nose. For a more traditional smoke, it is hard to beat red oak. When you think fondly of wood smoke, you are probably remembering a nice red oak burn. Of course, hickory is an old favorite - especially if it is mixed with the distinct hints of ribs and BBQ sauce. Maple, birch, and beech are all in my top ten as well. Pine has a distinct smell, but for me, is the smell of a summer camp fire by a small lake in the upper penninsula.
Smells have a way of triggering memories. For me, the smell of wood smoke is a fond one. I also remember (not so fondly) the smell of a smoldering house. A pungent foul odor that is the smell of destuction. We had a house fire when I was a child, and I will never forget that smell and what it represented - Loss. I pray that no one would have to ever smell a house fire as I did. It was a horrible experience, and I guess that is some of my motivation to provide the service that I do. Chimney safety is one of the most important forms of fire prevention.
Like many things in life, fire can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Let's work together to make the smell of wood smoke a pleasent one for everybody.
This can be one of the most frustrating issues for a wood burner. There are several causes, but it can usually be solved if you are methodical. Chimneys work on pressure differential, so you need to think about pressure issues. In general, air pressure is higher the lower you are, so the bottom of a chimney is higher pressure than the top of a chimney, so the air gets forced up. This is the same thing that makes straws work.
Chimney size - if your chimney is smaller or larger than the flue collar on your stove, it can cause downddraft. A chimney that is too small increases the flow resistance and increases the pressure in your stove. This causes smoke spillage. A chimney that is too big will cause a pressure drop in you chimney and can change the pressure dymanics again.
Competing draft - dryers, bathroom fans, range hoods, and attic fans can decrease the pressure in the house and pull air/smoke down the chimney to make-up for the exiting air. If you have an intermittent problem, check these things.
Tight houses - today's houses are very air tight to reduce energy loss. Stoves need a constant supply of make up air to "make up" for the air going into the stove/chimney. Try cracking a door or window open to see if the problem goes away. If it does, a make up air kit can be installed.
Maintenance - soot, broken tiles, air leaks in connecting pipes and other maintenance related issues can be a leading cause of down-draft.
Hills & Dales - If you live in a valley or around a lot of trees, air can get trapped in the depression and cause a locally higher pressure. This is a hard one to solve, but sometimes a power-vent can be used.
Weather & Inversions - If you have problems in fall & spring or when it is raining it could be weather patterns or a local inversion. These can usually be overcome by pre-heating the chimney or adding height. The rising heat & elevation differential should overcome the inversion.
Other - low end stoves, living in the 4th dimension, bad luck, and not going to church can sometimes cause down-draft. This can be the hardest one to solve because it usually doesn't make sense.
Call Black Duck Chimney if you are having down-draft problems, maybe we can help.
I decided to start a blog to share some of the things I learn as I travel around and work on chimneys. The heating season is off to a roaring start. The combination of high energy prices, poor Michigan economy, and available tax credits have made many people take a second look at wood heat.
A word about safety:
- Do not cut corners with wood heat! I have seen too many people try to do a wood stove installation for a minimal cost. Many are finding old used stoves and putting them in their living room for heat. BE CAREFUL. The mechanical codes exist for a reason. We have heard of several house fires in West Michigan this fall, one resulting in the death of 3 people.
- Fire can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It all depends on the installation. Modern wood stoves can be very safe and efficient if installed properly.
- Do not vent a wood stove into an old un-lined chimney. You don't know what is going on with mortar joints and old bricks/blocks. At least have it inspected by us to make sure it is safe. This service costs $55. Money well spent for peace of mind.
- Be careful with old wood stoves. Wood burning technology has come a long way, and modern wood stoves burn very clean and efficiently. (70-80%) Exactly the opposite of stoves made before 1990 which burn dirty and in-efficiently. (40-50%)
- Clean your chimney every year. I often take bushels of creosote out of chimneys that have not been serviced in years. If that fuel ignites, it burns at 2000 F and there is no good way to put it out. Minimum damage - cracked tiles. Maximum damage - house fire.
Matt Waite - Chimney Guy Owner Black Duck Chimney MI Mechanical Contractor - Specialty Wood & Gas