Are you Ready for Winter?

Not too sure where summer went but it sure was a wet one. No worries this year about your well running dry. My lawn has been green all summer and as a result, I’ve spent a lot of time on the lawn mower. I received our PPL Electric Bill and the average temperature for August was five degrees cooler (72F versus 77F) then last year and accordingly, it was less costly to operate our air conditioner. We live along Pine Creek north of Jersey Shore which is a very popular canoe and kayak run. Except for a few days the stream was “boatable” all summer. Can’t remember that happening since we’ve been here.
Grange Fair is history and Labor Day is soon upon us so we know Winter is not far off. Time to turn our attention to the upcoming fall and winter season. This means if you haven’t done so, it’s time to maintain your current heating system; or, if the budget permits, upgrade it to obtain greater operating efficiency, reliability, comfort and very important, reduced operating cost. There sure is a great selection of affordable high efficiency heating systems available. Be sure to do your homework and select the system that is best for your home, lifestyle and budget.
If you heat with wood and you didn’t do any wood stove maintenance in the spring it’s time to check it out and make a list of the things you need to accomplish to safely make it through the upcoming winter.
Have you had the chimney cleaned and checked for structural integrity? Check your smoke pipe. Has it been brushed clean of creosote? Is the pipe 24 gage and is it secured with screws at each joint (minimum of two per joint 180 degrees apart). Is the smoke pipe securely attached to the stove and chimney? Are your clearances to combustibles correct according to your instruction manual. Is the stove located on a rated noncombustible surface (stove board, concrete floor, etc). Do you have at least 16” of non-combustible surface in front of the loading door(s). If it’s a fireplace installation is there adequate distance between the stove and a wooden mantle or wood trim around the fireplace opening? Check the wood burning fire box. Are there any firebricks cracked or broken that need replaced or any cracked castings or broken welds. Does the charging and ash doors close tightly or is it time to re-gasket them? If you have a masonry chimney and your draft was marginal last year do you want to consider the installation of a stainless steel chimney liner to improve the draft. A magnetic flue thermometer is always a good idea so you can monitor the temperature at which the stove is burning. How bout a humidifier for the stove top to add a little moister to that dry winter air.
Wood stoves burn best if there is 2” to 3” of ash on the floor of the firebox. The fire lasts longer and you have a better chance of having red coals in the morning so with a little dry kindling you can easily restart the fire. I have a Jotul Oslo which is a cast iron stove with cast iron grates and a steel ash pan. Jotul makes a stove without an ash pan but I like the convenience – so – when my ash pan fills up I don’t take it out but instead allow the ash to build up on the floor of the fire box. When there is too much in the firebox I pull the ash drawer out and empty it. Although I have no factual proof it appears to me there is less ash generated using this method. I assume that is because you are truly burning everything that is combustible.
With everything checked out and maintained you can look forward to a safe winter of warmth.

Curt Bierly is president of the bierly group incorporated of which Stanley C. Bierly is a division. He graduated from Penn State with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and is the chair for the Penn College HVAC Advisory Board. You can contact him at or call him at 814-349-3000.