Most times we really enjoy our electric heat pump. It does a good job of heating and cooling our little old condominium, requires little maintenance, and seems to cost less than heating with gas. But (you knew that was coming) there are times when it just can’t cut it. When the outside air temperature falls much below 19 degrees (F), the heat pump and its auxiliary “electric furnace” can barely keep up. When the temperatures fall closer to zero, we lose ground and the house grows colder. Electric space heaters help but can’t (shouldn’t) be left unattended. The fireplace works but requires regular attention and can’t be left unwatched and can actually result in net heat loss due to the need for leaving the damper open. She Who Must Be Obeyed froze in the house last year and decided something must be done — we would purchase a word stove insert and make a permanent conversion of the fireplace.
Based upon the measurements of our condo’s manufactured fireplace, the folks at Country Stove Patio & Spa immediately recommended two models and we quickly decided upon the “Lopi Republic” by Travis Industries. We paid our deposit, scheduled an installation date, and went home.
November 24 rolled around quickly and our installers had a break in the cold, wet weather. Good thing, too, as they had to climb to the top of the roof, remove the chimney cap, and run a new liner down the chimney. Fortunately there were no obstructions and the liner dropped straight down and into the fireplace. A new cap was installed and the outdoor work was complete.
Muscling the little stove into place wasn’t easy. Fortunately the installers were both strong and experienced and had the 380-pound, cast iron wonder in the house and on the hearth with no damage to house or stove. The damper was removed from the flue, the stove eased into the fireplace, and the stainless steel liner attached to the stove.
Facing trim and support legs were attached and the job was done. The narrative makes the job sound quick and simple though entire process took several hours of nonstop work by two skilled installers. The end result is, I think, an improvement — I actually prefer the look of the little black stove over the former fireplace. She agrees.
On December 3 I spent a day off firing up the stove for the first time. It’s a recommended process meant to provide a final curing of the stove’s finish. The manufacturer warns that, while non-toxic, the fumes produced can be irritating and open windows, even leaving the premises are recommended. Bring the stove slowly to high heat, keep it there for a couple of hours, and that should be the end of the unpleasantness. It was smelly in the house that day but neither I nor cat Tasha felt inclined to leave. In fact, Tasha quickly realized the benefit of a wood-fired stove: soothing heat without the risk of popping sparks flying into the room!
Today and tonight promise to be the coldest of the season and the temperature here never rose above the mid-teen degrees (F) today. We’ll be using the wood stove tonight to warm us as we lounge in the living room and will be able to head off to bed leaving the fire to safely burn out on its own.
Thing is, it burns wood at an alarming rate compared with the tiny fires we built for mood. We need to store lots of firewood!