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Technology languishes, but aesthetics are hot.

The marketplace for woodburning stoves and ovens woke up with a headache on the first of January. Y2K worries had propelled this relatively small segment of the hearth industry into the national spotlight, and the allure of of true wood heat, independent of wires and gas lines, had buyers lining up around the block.

"It was tough for some manufacturers to keep them in stock," says Mike Van Buren, technical director of the Hearth Products Association. "Though the efforts involved in chopping, carrying and storing wood have lately made wood heat a tough chore for some owners, millennium fears definitely changed the landscape."

When our lights stayed on in the first days, then weeks, of January, the lights went out on the woodstove craze. This year, as with most years, gas and electric stoves regained their 70% market footprint, with gas and pellet returning to 25%. More interesting than simple figures is the fact that three-quarters of gas and electric stoves are used for "aesthetic" purposes only. In other words, they provide a home with beautiful flames, but any heat generated is basically an afterthought. As we walked through the hundreds of stove models at this year's Hearth Products Expo in Baltimore, the concept of "flame as art"--evident in models such as Heat & Glo's CFX Diamond--struck us as an increasingly important selling point for stovemakers. One particularly striking addition to some gas stoves this year has been the inclusion of a "heat dump"--a system in which heat from a gas stove is actually vented outside. "This system's designed for homeowners in warmer climates," says Van Buren, "who want the beauty of a fire but can't comfortably retain the heat." In truth, most owners of gas stoves are grateful for the heat, but the aesthetic burners are gaining ground every year.

It's hard not to feel despondent watching gas being consumed for the sake of visual pleasure, and we had to keep out tongues in check as we watched heat dumps busily wasting fuel. Blaming the manufacturer for a questionable market trend, however, is like blaming Italy for a preponderance of pizza: They build what we want.

On the traditional wood heat side of the $2.5 billion hearth products industry (which has doubled in the last ten years), manufacturers breathed a sigh of relief when the EPA chose not to modify its emissions standards in 2000. As a result, design seemed to make a more determined stride toward the more traditional. If wood heat is your preference, Morso's Squirrel (see page 58) typifies this return to old-time stoves. Waterford's entire line, from the smaller Trinity up to the full-blown Stanley Cookstove are also wood heat standouts. Thelin's Gnome (page 58) and Martin's Vent-Free Cast Iron (page 56), though gas burners, look too, as if they came from Grandad's living room.

The last trends in true woodburners worth mentioning are the masonry stove, exterior furnace and the fresh-air vented model. The short, hot burns and lasting heat produced through a heavy masonry stove, such as Tulkivi's TU1000 (page 56) and similar models by Temp-Cast, take some of the chore out constant fire maintenance and wood hauling. Soon after you light a fire in a masonry stove, the temperature in the firebox rises to 1,200 [degrees] F or more. The extreme heat results in secondary combustion, which consumes most of the gases produced by the burning wood. Thus, a considerable amount of heat that would otherwise go up the flue heats the masonry instead. Woodstock Soapstone also uses soapstone as a heat sink, but on a smaller scale than full masonry models.

Central Boiler's outdoor furnaces, such as the Classic CL 4436SB can make off-the-grid living a more practical consideration by combining your air, hot water and even radiant floor heating systems into one woodburning appliance.

An efficient home in the winter is, of course, effectively shut, caulked and sealed. This exclusion of outdoor air can make for easier heating, but it can also radically compromise indoor air quality. Travis Industries' Xtrordinair woodburning fireplace draws outside air into the firebox via an exterior electric fan, thus assuring a continuous flow of clean air.


A fire needs three ingredients: fuel, heat and air. Eliminate one factor and a fire can be extinguished. Within the United States, fire departments respond to calls approximately every 15 seconds, and a life is lost every 120 minutes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)'s records report approximately 30,000 individual injuries from fires, over 40,000 annual fatalities, and billions of dollars in property damage. House fires are attributed to accidents with heating and cooking equipment, defective electrical systems, open flames and sparks, flammable liquids, chimneys, cigarettes, and children playing with matches.

The first line of defense is, of course, working smoke detectors throughout the home, especially in sleeping quarters. Although 90% of American homes have smoke detectors, about two-thirds of them lack batteries or are obstructed by dust or decaying insects. New detectors with lithium batteries cost between $5 and $10; the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every residence with fuel-burning appliances be equipped with at least one of these. Underwriters' Laboratories Incorporated suggests installing a carbon-monoxide alarm as well--they range in price from $20 to $80 at your local hardware store. Fire extinguishers should be located on every level of the home, one for every 600 square feet of living area. The Department of Transportation (DOT) puts out information on pressurized containers, while Underwriters' Laboratories lists approved fire extinguishers and manufacturers.

Different fire extinguishers are appropriate for different types of fires: A, B and C. They can cool burning material, deprive flames of oxygen, or interfere with chemical reactions. There are four types including dry chemical (A, B, C), halon (A,B,C), carbon dioxide (B,C) extinguishers and water extinguishers.

--Rachel Rokicki

Class A--combustible solids: wood, paper, plastics, cloth, rubber

Extinguisher Type: [H.sub.2]O or ABC

Class B--flammable liquids: oils, fuels, oil-based compounds, grease, gasoline

Ext. Type: BC or ABC

Class C--electrical equipment: heat lamps, bare wires, Christmas lights, fuse boxes, circuit breakers

Ext. Type: BC or ABC

Class D--combustible metals: magnesium, potassium, sodium

Ext.: Type D

Multiclass extinguishers: BC (carbon dioxide) or ABC (dry chemical) can be used on more than one class of fire. Since most households contain potentially flammable sources from all three classes, an ABC or multipurpose dry-chemical fire extinguisher is most effective. They can range from 2 1/2 to 30 pounds. Recommended brands include Kidde, FirstAlert, Fireater, Badger, General, Pemall, Flag, Fireline, SRT and Amerex. Both one-use-only, rechargeable extinguishers are available. Homeowners should service extinguishers every two years and/or when pressure dents, cracks or holes in the cylinders are manifest. Prices range from $20 to $100.

For more information in woodstove models and a list of manufacturers, log on to
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Title Annotation:wood-burning stoves
Author:Scanlon, Matt
Publication:Mother Earth News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Next Article:DUST BUSTER.

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