Monday, February 02, 2015

Heating Fuel Survey - Where Do You Fit In?

I run a poll on the home page of Alternative Heating Info that asks visitors which heating fuel they use. The poll is not scientific and I don't know where the voters come from, but the results as shown below seem to coincide with other surveys I've seen for New England and the Northeast.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Michigan Pushes Back At EPA Wood Stove Rules

As the deadline approaches to implement the EPA's stricter wood burning stove emission standards, states are starting to fight back with legislation of their own.

The most recent example is SB910 sponsored by Michigan State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, a city located in the Upper Peninsula.

SB910, which has already passed Michigan's Senate, would essentially gut the new EPA rules by prenting enforcement at the state level.

Aside from the onerous cost burden forced on wood stove manug=facturers and users, the new EPA emmission rules are a one size fits all solution which doesn't take into account the widely divergent population densities of different cities, counties and regions around the country.

Why should the same emmission standards apply to Upper Michigan with a population density of only 19 people per square mile as well as Connecticut with an average population density of 679 people per square mile?

I can understand and sympathize with a resient of New Haven, CT, for example who complains about the smoke from an outdoor wood furnace located 50 feet from their home. But what chance is there of a Yooper (resident of Upper Michigan) complaining about an outdoor wood furnace located 50 miles away?

yes, emmissions from carbon based fuels should be controlled as much as is practicable, but not in the uneven and heavy handed way proposed by the EPA.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stop The Wood Burning Madness With An Electric Fireplace

Rather than begin this article with the usual two or three paragraphs of happy talk to set the stage for what’s to come, let’s have a sing-a-long instead:  “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping…..”  Mel would be proud.

Now that the mood is set for a fireside chat, or a chat about firesides, let us begin.

In 2012, the most recent year available, a survey done by the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Assoc. determined that: ”36 percent of homeowners said their fireplace or stove was a major factor in choosing to purchase and/or live in their current home”.

In other words, 36 % of those surveyed couldn’t wait to start hauling firewood, cleaning up the mess,  inhaling harmful airborne particulates and, most disurbing of all, watching 80-90% of the heat generated by their wood fire go up the flue.

(Just for reference, if your oil fired furnace was only 20% efficient it would be the equivalent of paying $23 a gallon for heating oil at today’s prices.)

The alternative to this wood burning madness is the clean, emission free, 100% efficient heat from an electric fireplace.

If you haven’t seen the latest models of electric fireplaces you’ll be impressed by the level of workmanship and surprised by the realism of the new LED powered flame displays. Long gone are the cheesy flame displays consisting of some christmas tree lights hidden behind a tumbling aluminum cylinder.

A model and style for every room in every home
Electric fireplaces come in numerous models and styles. Here’s a quick overview of the most common model types to give you an idea of the decorating possibilities.

Traditional mantels Traditional mantels, as they’re called, are modelled after the classic wood burning fireplace and are what most people envision when they think of an electric fireplace. These traditional models are classified as large, medium and small according to the width (facing the fireplace) of the mantel.

Large mantes have a width of 56” or greater. Medium size is 45” to 55’ and small mantels are 36” to 45” in width.

Compact fireplaces Compact fireplaces have a mantel width of 35” or less and include the Amish style fireplaces with casters for for easy mobility.

TV stands - media centers Now you can integrate your TV and electronics with an electric fireplace console that includes built in wiring channels to keep things neat.

Corner fireplaces Corner fireplaces are a possible solution to limited placement options. Depending on the brand name, the corner models are also available as TV stands/media consoles to keep your electronic devices organized. Some, but not all ,corner fireplaces are convertible to a flush-against-the-wall standard configuration.

Stand alone firebox - fireplace insert  At the heart of every electric fireplace is the firebox. These can be purchased in different sizes and used as an insert for your existing fireplace, as the starting point for your own custom built surround and mantel, or just set on the floor and plugged in.

Built in fireplaces These are designed for recessed in the wall installation. Since they are hard wired to your home’s circuitry you have the option for either 120 volt service (1,400 watts) or 220 volt service (2,800 watts) effectively doubling the heating capacity of a standard fireplace.

Electric log sets Made to resemble burning logs resting in a fireplace grate ,they are used as fireplace inserts.

Wall mounted fireplaces If you have a flair for contemporary decor and want something unique as a focal point, a wall mounted fireplace will satisfy your goals and then some.

Nuts and bolts
The following features pertain to all electric fireplaces.

Heat output The maximum heat output of all plug in electric fireplaces is 1,500 watts or 5100 BTUs. This is sufficient to heat a self contained room up to 400 sq ft or add significant supplemental heat to larger unenclosed spaces. Make sure to check the specifications of each fireplace you look at to make sure it has the heating capacity you need.

Size doesn’t matter Many of the smallest fireplaces offer the same heating capacity as the largest models.

Flame display The flame display operates with or without heat for year round enjoyment.

Remote control The remotes come in two varieties. The first is a simple On/Off. The second type is fully functional and controls all aspects of the fireplace’s heater and flame display.

Warranty Warranties vary according to the manufacturer. Most offer 2 year warranties and on some select models the warranty is in effect for up to 5 years.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Really Expensive Electric fireplaces

Got an extra five grand laying around the house you don't know what to do with? How about a really expensive electric fireplace to brighten  up your favorite room this winter?

As is often the case, while searching for one thing, I stumbled onto something else that interested me. In this case it was an Amish electric fireplace media center that sells for around $2,900. What intrigued me was the price; almost three grand for an electric fireplace is a lot of kindling.

Since I was wasting my time I decided to waste some more and look for other examples of outrageously priced fireplaces. As it turned out, the price of the Amish fireplace shown here wasn't even close to some of the others I discovered.

So what I did was assemble pictures with prices for 17 of the most expensive electric fireplaces I could find and put them on a board on Pinterest. Who knows, maybe someone reading this can actually afford one or more of these beauties.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fuel Corn Prices For The 2014/15 Heating Season

The abundant corn crop and near ideal harvesting conditions have had a positive effect on the price you will pay this heating season for bulk fuel corn.

A one ton bulk bag of corn which sold last year for $265 is now priced at $225 -  a savings of 16%. This price applies to those in the Midwest where corn is plentiful. If you live in the Northeast where wood pellets are the norm, the bulk corn price per ton is just under $300.

 Fuel corn is dried to a moisture content of 10-12%, generates around 7,100 BTUs per lb., and has an ash content of around 1.75%.

Cost to heat with corn vs wood pellets
With fuel corn at $225 a ton, the cost to generate 1mil (million) BTUs of heat is $15.64 before you factor in the efficiency (or inefficiency) of your heating appliance. At the Northeast price of $295 a ton for fuel corn, the cost is $20.85 per 1mil BTUs.

The cost to heat with wood pellets averages around $17.44 per 1mil BTUs - also before factoring in stove efficiency.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How National Fire Prevention Week Got Started

National Fire Prevention Week was started in recognition of the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8-9, 1871. Since President Calvin Coolidge issued the first national proclamation for the week in 1925, it has been held during the week in which Oct. 8 falls.

Blame it on the cow
According to legend, the fire started when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern in the barn, resulting in a fire that killed 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, burned down more than 17,400 structures across 2,000 acres.

Last year in the United States half a million house fires occurred and 2,855 Americans lost their lives in fire.

Home heating safety checklist
If you haven't already, you can download a free, printable home heating safety checklist here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wood & Pellet Stove Safety - PenBay Pilot

 If you heat with a pellet stove, here's a quick reminder to help you brush up on pellet stove safety

Wood & Pellet Stove Safety - PenBay Pilot