Time to venture away from the politics for a moment and talk about something completely different – fireplaces. Our house came equipped with a wood burning fireplace, and I absolutely love it. What’s better than a roaring fire tempering a cold morning, or a soft romantic glow in the evening? I often sit entranced just staring at how the flames curl around the edges of the logs, blue-green at the base and gradating to the orange-yellow licks that evaporate into the air.
Our last house had a fireplace with a gas insert in it. It was functional and heated very well, but offered none of the zen-like qualities of a real fire. The main advantage of the insert was that there was no work involved in getting a fire going, and no maintenance except for cleaning the glass once a year. This was good because it was in a room that was always very cold. You’d walk into it, flip the switch on the fireplace, and within 15 minutes you’d be in Florida.
Our current house has hot water baseboard heat (which I also love!) and the added bonus of a HydroHearth system that allows you to route the water flow through the fireplace, allowing you to capture what otherwise is a lot of wasted heat that goes up the chimney and effectively use it to heat the entire house. It works great, especially at this time of year when you really don’t want to fire up the furnace, or boiler in my case. I just build a decent sized fire, and within half an hour you can feel heat radiating from the baseboard registers.
Sure, you have to buy and stack some firewood, but at about $0.11-$0.12 a piece, you’re only spending about $1 on mornings like this to get the chill out of the air. I purchased three face cords last fall and ended up only burning about a third of that. We actually use the fireplace more at this time of year that during the winter months, when the heat is on regularly. So for about $70/year, you have ambiance and heat. Awesome.
Some people complain that wood fireplaces are dirty, but cleaning out the ashes in our fireplace is relatively easy. There’s a trap door in the center that we open up, shove the ashes into, and they fall into the base of the chimney where they can be vacuumed out from the outside. We don’t do that ourselves, as it requires a vacuum with a very fine dust filter. We have the fireplace/chimney cleaned and inspected every other year.
Having had both a gas fireplace insert and a real fireplace, I’m sticking with the real fireplace. The atmosphere can’t be beat, and it’s really not as much work as some people think. The dancing flames and the smell of a nice hardwood burning, just can’t be replicated with gas. Even Frosty thinks so.