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November 2014

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Heating The House: The Smoke Monster

Written by , Posted in Heat, Sustainability

Heating The House: The Smoke Monster

And with a puff of smoke, the stove let go and sagged to the floor, bereft of the energy that would elevate it to the status of hearth. Instead it was a six hundred pound paperweight that only looked marginally pretty.

Thankfully it isn’t true. Thankfully it’s still salvageable, able to heat the house at least one more year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a weak puff of smoke, but a plume of angry smoke, billowing from the firebox like it was a fire-breathing dragon about to exhale and lay waste to the village. That was our Friday night.

At our previous house, we’d never had the chimney swept. The cook stove was new. We didn’t need it. When we moved into our new house we recognized that the stove was more like your grandfather’s old Ford; faithful when you needed it, but still old and always had the chance of leaving you stranded at the side of the road. We had the chimney swept last year so we assumed everything would be fine. Sure, the sweeping company suggested that we do it twice a year, but they were in it to make money right?

So this year, we built a new woodshed, brought all the wood in and had it nicely piled. Granted I’m cheap so when my wife went to visit her parents with the baby for two weeks, I threw on another layer and braved the elements. To be fair, if I’d had to, we do have a furnace backup, but I refuse to turn it on just for myself, when it isn’t THAT cold. When it finally came time to put the fire on, I have to admit, I was at work. It was my wife who opened the draft, and painstakingly placed the paper and kindling so it would ignite perfectly. For the record, she’s good. Not as good as I am at starting the fire, but good nonetheless. I say this knowing that she taught me how to start the woodstove at our old house.

Anyway, so that billowing smoke monster? Ya, it was eyeing her and her sister and both babies. When I finally got home, the house was aired out. My wife and her sister(twins) had spent several hours trying to coax a decent draft from the stove, Googling various methods of achieving the goal our ancestors had mastered before we were even a glimmer. Alas however, nothing would go. All attempts failed and the tear-jerking mist permeating the house was proof.
So in frustration – though I still couch it as prudence- I suggested having the chimney swept. What? It was just done a year ago. There’s no way it needs it again. We’ve had stoves . well she’s had stoves forever and not had to have them swept … And when I was younger … a few decades ago younger we had a woodstove at home, I never remember a chimney sweeps climbing on the roof. No, the only time we went up on that roof was to replace shingles … which coincidentally was quite often.

Anyway, suffice to say, the chimney sweep was aghast at how filled the chimney was. He did his job with poise and examined the stove letting us know what we could do. He indicated we had a good quality stove which should last a few more years with a bit of maintenance and then passed us the bill.

The moral of this story? We have a twenty year old furnace and a twenty five year old stove and I’m looking into geothermal.