ATTN: Wood Burners! How to prepare for next season…

•March 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This article should be enjoyed by newbies and “seasoned” wood burners alike.  Owning a wood fireplace, stove or insert can be a rewarding experience and heating your home with a renewable resource is both practical and beneficial.  Regardless of whether you dwell in a bustling downtown metropolis or on the outskirts of anything remotely resembling civilization there a few tips and tricks we’d like to share that are sure to appeal to your lifestyle.

First of all, if your home still has an open masonry fireplace your hard-earned money is going up in smoke along with all the heat from that lovely crackling fire.  Likewise, if you’re the self-sufficient-I-chop-my-own-wood reader out there all that back-breaking work isn’t getting you the reward you deserve.  Don’t get me wrong, open fireplaces are gorgeous and reminiscent of a simpler time…a time when people thought Earth was the center of the universe, you needed a cart and oxen to go grocery shopping, and an eclipse meant the end of the world.  In today’s homes they’re just drafty, smelly, and extremely inefficient.  As you consider how you’re going to heat your home for the 2012-2013 season, put some serious thought and research into high-efficiency stoves and inserts.   Either your pocketbook will thank you or you’ll know you didn’t sweat through those flannel shirts for nothing.

Now, on to the good stuff!  Did you know it can take a whole year for wood to completely dry?  Sounds crazy, right?  Yet, it’s a crucial fact for you as a wood burner and for building the  most efficient fire possible.   The drier the wood the hotter the fire.  Why is that important?  Hotter fires lead to reduced smoke and creosote build-up…this is good for you and the air and land surrounding your home.  It’s important to be a conscientious  wood burner and care about the health of your environment. 

Tangent:  Have you heard that we’re coming out with some 2012 wood appliances that produce LESS THAN 1 GRAM/HOUR of emissions?  Trust me…that’s unheard of emissions reductions, and we’re so excited to be paving the way for greener and more efficient ways for you to heat your home.

Back to our regular program:  Wood should have a moisture content less than 20%.  Hmmm, how can you tell how much water is in wood?  Well, you could buy a moisture meter.  These are readily available at hardware stores, most hearth retailers, and online.  For the more experienced out there with a well honed ear you can also knock two pieces of wood together and listen for that nice empty hollow sound.  Just find a technique that works best for you. The bottom line is that you don’t want to burn wet wood.   Picture this…every five minutes you open the door to your fireplace and throw a glass of water on it.  That’s the equivalent of burning wet or green wood.  Boiling off all that water makes it impossible to produce any heat.  It also creates a huge buildup of creosote…and it’s in your best interest to avoid that gentle but firm lesson your chimney sweep will give you on the importance of burning dry seasoned wood.   Which reminds me! Be sure to have your chimney cleaned annually.

For all you DIYers out there, here’s a handy-dandy “How To Build A Wood Shed” article that’s right up your alley.  Get started right away…it’s already March!!! 

Once you’ve got that superbly dried wood all ready to load into your high-efficiency wood fireplace, stove or insert it’s time to build a fire!  Stack your wood with kindling on the bottom and build up to larger logs.  We prefer the “Jenga” method of stacking wood…criss-crossing pieces and leaving space between the firewood.  Start with your damper and air control completely open and adjust them as the chimney heats up and your fire gets going.  Always leave about an inch of ash in the bottom of the firebox after cleaning…this will help for your next cold startup. 

Did I mention that whole “less than 1 gram/hour” emission thing?  We also just designed the first ever electric-ignition for a wood stove…call your local Avalon dealer and ask them about GreenStart.  And yes, you read that correctly; an electric-ignition for a wood stove.  All you do is load the wood and push a button.  I know, shameless advertising, but we completely geek-out on this stuff.  It’s 2012 groundbreaking technology and we hope you’ll be as excited about it as we are!

Keep those fires burning!

Annual Maintenance

•December 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The end of 2010 is rapidly approaching, and as we prepare to begin another journey around the sun I’d like to give you a few annual maintenance tips that will ensure a safe and warm holiday season and a properly working fireplace for the new year.

We recommend scheduling your annual maintenance with a qualified technician from your local Avalon dealer, but many of these tasks can be performed yourself. Be sure to refer to your Owner’s Manual as more detailed instructions about daily and annual maintenance may be found there. Make sure the appliance is completely cooled prior to conducting service.  If any problems are found contact your local dealer to schedule an appointment.

GAS APPLIANCE OWNERS…

  1. Clean the glass with a soft cloth and fireplace glass cleaner.  Inspect the gasket around the glass; make sure it forms an airtight seal against the face of the firebox.
  2. Clean the log set with a damp cloth to remove soot and dust.
  3. Clean the air channels, ducts, and blower (if applicable.)
  4. Check the burner, pilot, and interior firebox for cracks, warping, or damage.
  5. Inspect the gas control valve and gas lines for cracks or wear.  Make sure all the connections are tight.
  6. Replace the Power Backup batteries.
  7. Check the vents for blockage, as they tend to be inviting spots for birds, spiders and insects to build nests.  Remove all debris and vegetation from the vent termination. If you have a chimney be sure to have it cleaned by a certified chimney sweep.
  8. Light the pilot and turn the fireplace on to inspect the flames.
  9. Last but not least, test your carbon monoxide detectors and replace the batteries if needed.

WOOD APPLIANCE OWNERS…

  1. Vacuum the air duct and blower (if applicable.)
  2. Inspect the firebrick and baffle.  Make sure the bricks are intact and have no gaps between them.
  3. Check the secondary air tubes for severe deterioration. Confirm the push pins hold the air tubes in place.
  4. Check the door gasket; it should form an airtight seal with the front of the firebox.
  5. Clean the glass and inspect it for cracks.  The glass gasket should also form a tight seal against the door.
  6. Examine the chimney for creosote build-up (this is what causes chimney fires.)  Have it cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. Remove all debris and vegetation from the vent termination.

PELLET APPLIANCE OWNERS…

  1. Inspect the exhaust venting system for fly ash and soot.  Clean if necessary.
  2. Clean the exhaust and convection blower.
  3. Examine the chimney for creosote build-up (this is what causes chimney fires.)  Be sure to have it cleaned by a certified chimney sweep.  Remove all debris and vegetation from the vent termination.
  4. Check for air leaks around the door, glass, and ash pan.  Replace the gaskets if necessary.  Clean the glass with fireplace glass cleaner.
  5. Clean the pellet logs with a damp cloth to remove dust and soot (if applicable.)

With proper care and attention your Travis pellet stove will last you for generations to come.  Click below to view our Pellet Homeowner’s Video.

From all of us here at Avalon we wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy new year!

Zone Heating

•December 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

These days everywhere you go you hear the terms eco-friendly, green, energy-efficient, etc.  We all want to do our part to save the environment, and when it comes to heating your home “going green” also means putting more “green” back in your wallet.  It’s a win-win situation, and here’s one way of doing it – Zone Heating.  Zone heating is an excellent way to add a little more “green” to your home’s résumé, save some money on your heat bill, and once and for all end those family thermostat wars.  Allow me to explain….

The majority of homes in America use a forced air central heating system.  Now, regardless of the type (gas, propane, oil, electric, and so on) they all distribute air through a series of ductwork.  These ducts may be made of sheet metal or plastic flex and can be insulated or un-insulated. Some common disadvantages of this framework are leaky ducts, uneven heat distribution, and wasted energy going to ductwork in attics and crawl spaces.

An advantage of forced air central heating is that it efficiently works via a thermostat, but while I might favor a comfortable 68 degrees my significant other might continually (and quite subtly) raise it to a tropical 76.  Another major advantage of this system is that it quickly heats up the entire house.  However, I’m guessing you probably don’t spend the majority of your time in the laundry room, bathroom, or spare bedroom(s). So, why are you spending money heating those areas?

Zone heating offers a practical solution to these dilemmas by only heating the rooms in which you live.  This strategy may easily save you 30% or more on your energy bill as a result of the overall decrease in your fuel consumption.

You have many, many options for which type of hearth product to install, including fireplaces, freestanding stoves, or fireplace inserts that may burn a variety of fuels, such as firewood, pellets, corn, natural gas, or propane.  Avalon makes almost 40 different models to choose from, which can be overwhelming to say the least.  All of our wood and pellet models are energy-efficient and qualify for the $1,500 Tax Credit towards biomass burning appliances.  (Just a side note; this tax credit is only good for purchases made through December 31st, 2010, so if you’re considering a wood or pellet stove act fast.)  Our GreenSmart gas models are efficient, self-adapting, and offer an adjustable turn down rate to provide you with your ideal comfort zone. (Please read the article on GreenSmart to learn more…we’re quite proud of this technology.)  Some models also have optional heat ducts so you can vent heat into adjoining rooms.  Avalon’s electric fireplaces make a quick,  easy, and beautiful addition to any room requiring a low BTU space heater, and they make a great holiday gift…hint, hint.

An Avalon specialty retailer can guide you through the process of determining which product is right for you.  Be prepared to answer these questions:

  • What is the square footage of the zone you wish to heat?
  • What fuels are readily available in your area?
  • What is your design style?
  • What type of central heat do you have?
  • What is the age and construction of your house?
  • Is there available space to install a freestanding stove?

Just think, soon you could be sitting around the kitchen table on a chilly winter’s eve enjoying dinner by the warmth of your new gas (or wood or pellet) stove, and all the while your mind is at ease because you know your home is more efficient and that next heat bill is going to be a few dollars less.  And let’s be honest, you don’t miss the sound of that pesky furnace cycling on and off either.  Visit www.AvalonFirestyles.com to find your local Zone Heating expert.

Wood Fireplace Insert…a solution to your open masonry fireplace.

•November 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Are you considering having an open masonry fireplace built in your home? STOP! WAIT! Do some research or talk to someone about their love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with their open fireplace. (This article also applies to you…frustrated open fireplace owners.)  We’ve heard the complaints. The builders, contractors, and masons have heard the complaints. Don’t despair; we also have the solution.

A couple hundred years ago a traditional masonry fireplace was state-of-the-art design; function and beauty wrapped up in a neat little array of bricks and mortar. Today’s energy efficient homes are tightly constructed, well insulated around windows and doors, and have the latest in advanced heating equipment. Yet, the past is alluring, and many homeowners make the mistake of installing an open-hearth fireplace smack dab in the middle of tens of thousands of dollars worth of 21st century technology. Seems like a conflict of interest, right? They quickly discover that their quaint and traditional open fireplace is inefficient, filthy, smoky, requires an inconvenient amount of wood for the small amount of heat output, stinks, blows cold air into their house, and sets off the smoke alarm. Then they wonder why.

Air wants to flow to zones of lower pressure.

Most homes built today have the fireplace against an exterior wall on the ground floor.  Whether or not the chase is insulated in this position it’s likely that the outside cold air will decrease the temperature of the flue. Meanwhile, the air inside the house, which is warmer than the outside air, rises. So, the air pressure high in the house is slightly positive, which leaves the pressure on the ground floor slightly negative. When the temperature of the flue falls below the temperature of the bottom floor that cold air will get sucked into the home.

Modern homes also come equipped with powerful exhaust fans such as dryer vents, kitchen ranges, and negative pressure ventilation systems.  These fans will quickly depressurize a house…again causing air to flow down the chimney into the home.

Even the simple physics of operating an open fireplace in a home today just don’t add up.  Today’s homes can’t tolerate more than 200 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of expelled air without becoming depressurized.  An open-hearth fireplace will easily consume 200 – 600 cfm depending on the size of the fire.  So, here again, we have a positive outside air pressure combating a negative pressure home.

In all these examples we see what is called “back-drafting.”  The house is acting as a better chimney than the chimney itself.  It explains why there’s cold air emanating from the fireplace and why you get a face full of smoke when you go to light it.   Combustion also produces toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and methane.  You know where I’m going with this, right?   When your open fireplace is back drafting those toxic gases are being pumped right into your living space.  Excuse the sarcasm, but that’s probably not the healthiest stuff to be breathing in.

There are options though. Many wood fireplaces and inserts can be installed to look like a traditional masonry fireplace. Avalon manufactures highly efficient, EPA certified models. You don’t have to sacrifice design for functionality or vice versa. Our units have aesthetic appeal while delivering an impressive heat output to your home.  The Olympic Insert shown in the photo below is the cleanest burning large insert on the market.  The Olympic can be installed recessed into the fireplace opening or extended onto the hearth for additional radiant heating and a handy cook-top surface.  The unit features a built-in convection chamber that circulates and distributes warm air throughout your home, and a bypass damper for smokeless startup and reloading.  Click on the photo to review Avalon’s entire line-up of energy efficient wood inserts.

Your 21st century home deserves a 21st century fireplace. Do the research. Choose the wood fireplace or insert that’s right for you and make sure to have it installed by a certified specialty hearth retailer.  Visit www.avalonfirestyles.com to find a dealer near you and to learn more about our wood fireplaces.

To learn more about heating with wood go to www.woodheat.org.

Electric Fireplaces

•November 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Do you live in an apartment or condo?  Have you always pictured a fireplace in your living room or bedroom, but don’t have the time or budget for a big re-model project? Are you looking for an elegant alternative to a space heater?  Do you live someplace warm where having a “real” fireplace just doesn’t make a lot of sense?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, an electric fireplace is right up your alley.  Here’s what we love about our electric fireplaces…

  • You can install one anywhere in your home in less than an hour; all you need is a standard wall outlet.
  • The built-in 5,000 BTU heater is great for zonal heating.
  • They operate at 100% efficiency – every bit of power goes into heating your home.
  • The pulsating logs and ember bed combined with a unique light filtering technique create a realistic flame that can be enjoyed even when the fan is turned off.
  • The glass does not get hot so they’re safe for small children to be around.
  • You have MANY options of our designer faces to choose from to customize the look of your fireplace.
  • You can control EVERY feature from the comfort of your couch via the hand-held remote control.  Check out how many features there are!
  1. Thermostat setting              4.  Accent Light Dimmer
  2. Sleep Timer                         5.  Air Purifire® Speed (564 E Only)
  3. Flame speed                        6.  Audio System Volume Control (21 E Only)

Let’s take a quick peek at the two models of electric fireplaces we have.  We’ll let you decide which one is right for you.

21 E shown with Bungalow Double Doors

21 E Electric Fireplace

The 21 E is a portrait style fireplace inspired by our famous Bed & Breakfast gas fireplace.  This electric fireplace is the only one to include a built-in audio system.  We’ve given you the capability to plug in any mp3 audio device to the speaker system so you can listen to your favorite songs while staying warm and enjoying the ambiance of the dancing flames. There’s even a handy USB port so you can charge your audio device as well.  You won’t find such a unique combination of features anywhere else.

And, here’s a little perk…through December 20th, 2010 we’re giving you a FREE iPODSHUFFLE with the purchase of your 21 E!!!

564 E shown with Tree of Life Double Doors

 

Seattle 564 E Electric Fireplace

The 564 E is a traditional landscape style fireplace that includes the Purifire® clean air system.  You have three installation choices to finish off the 564 E:  (1) Install it in a freestanding cabinet,  (2) Build it into an existing wall, or (3) Install it as an insert into an unused masonry fireplace.

 

 

Click HERE to read more and to find an Avalon dealer near you that can show the magic of these electric fireplaces in person!

What’s all the hype about GreenSmart?

•November 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“GreenSmart” refers to an innovative system we’ve developed and integrated into our gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts.  Basically, it’s a collection of components that are designed to provide a highly efficient source of heat while making your life as easy as possible.  Let’s take a closer look at how we’ve accomplished this by first defining each component as a unique aspect.

1.  Intermittent Pilot: A pilot light is just a simple name for the flame used to light the gas in a fireplace. When you turn your fireplace on that gas is lit by the pilot light and then emitted through the ports in the burner creating that desirable and realistic wood-like fire that we all love. In the past, gas models have used what we call a standing pilot light, meaning that the small pilot flame is continuously on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You’re probably thinking to yourself, ‘Since I don’t run my fireplace 24/7 year round, isn’t this a waste of energy?’ The answer is yes, absolutely.  A standing pilot wastes .552 therms (a unit of heat) each day.  One therm of gas costs $1.10.  This means the unit costs $0.61 to run every day, even when you’re not using it.  That’s $222 of wasted energy each year. So, we decided to get “Smart” by using an intermittent pilot system instead. This system does exactly what the name suggests, turns the pilot light on and off intermittently. The best part is, you have all the control.  When the fireplace is turned on a high voltage spark ignites the pilot light.  When the fireplace is turned off, the pilot light turns off as well.  It’s as simple as that.  All our GreenSmart models come standard with an Intermittent Pilot Ignition system, as well as the option for a standing pilot with just the flip of a switch.

2. Split-Flow Burner with Comfort Control™: The burner that comes in your gas fireplace has tiny holes in it, called burner ports, which release ignited gas and produce dancing yellow flames.  In all of our GreenSmart models those ports are separated into a front and rear section. We’ve done this so that you can turn the rear portion of the burner off, while leaving the flames in front burning.  This is the Comfort Control™ feature. It’s what allows us to achieve such high turndown ratios and what allows you to use your fireplace year round.

3. Battery Back-up: This is a very important feature when deciding whether or not to buy a gas fireplace.  You need to be able to heat your home in the event of a power outage, and our battery back-up allows you to do this by supplying the energy required to ignite the pilot as well as run the Comfort Control feature.

4. Flame Height Adjustment: There’s a small knob on the control panel of the fireplace that allows you to customize your flame height.  Yes, this does tie in to the GreenSmart system and we’ll get into that when going over the GreenSmart Remote. However, and perhaps more importantly, this element allows you to personalize the look of the fire to your tastes or mood.  With the flip of a switch a fire can completely change the feel of a room.  It can add merriness to a party, coziness to a small gathering, or romance to an intimate dinner.

5. Convection Blower: A blower, or fan, is basically a way to increase the heat transfer from the fireplace into your home.  By using the blower you also greatly increase the efficiency of the fireplace and reduce your heating costs.

Whew! We’ve covered the integral parts of the GreenSmart technology except for one…the GreenSmart Remote Control.  This remote is almost like a little robot that adjusts the flame height to maintain whatever temperature in the room you decide. It really is a “Set It and Forget It” system.  All you have to do is set your desired temperature and the remote does the rest. This system allows you to conserve fuel by not overheating your room or cycling the fireplace on and off endlessly. By using the “Smart” function remote you’re operating your fireplace as efficiently as possible, which means you’re heating your home as efficiently as possible.

We’re not done yet.  All our GreenSmart models come standard with a few luxuries that we feel you deserve.

Accent Lights – These lights add a warm glow to the logs and fireback and are perfect as a soft nightlight when the fireplace is turned off.

Concealment Door – The control panel, valve and wires are all neatly hidden behind an elegantly designed concealment door that conveniently opens and closes for easy access to the controls.

Control Panel Lighting and High Visibility Dashboard – Once the concealment door is opened the entire dashboard is lit up by automatic LED lights.  This makes the high resolution silk-screened lettering on the controls easy to view even in a low light environment.

So, all the hype about GreenSmart is well founded.  Take some time to browse through our GreenSmart units on our website: www.avalonfirestyles.com, then head down to your local Avalon showroom so they can show the magic in person.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Child Safety

•November 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Children, like most of us, are fascinated by fire, and for families with young children, fireplaces pose a potential safety hazard. Here are a few things you can do to keep your kids safe around your new fireplace.

1.  Take the time to educate young children about the dangers of fire and the hot surface temperatures of glass and metal surrounding the fireplace.

2.  Never leave young ones unsupervised around a burning fireplace as children, toddlers especially, like to throw things that could potentially break the glass or melt to the surface and release toxic fumes.

3.  If necessary, secure the fireplace doors with a lock or latch so they don’t get opened when you’re not around.

4.  If you have an infant or toddler consider installing a fire screen. Make sure it’s tall enough so that children can’t climb over it, and that it’s placed far enough away so that reaching arms can’t touch the surfaces of the fireplace.

Only you know your child’s abilities and the unique configuration of your fireplace and room.  Try to look at it through their eyes so that all possible precautions are taken.  Implementing a few safety measures such as these will allow everyone in your home to safely enjoy the comfort and warmth of your new gas fireplace.

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.