Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Man Makes Fire! (And Woman Takes a Picture of It)

After an initial glitch, the gas fireplaces in both our house and Mom’s have been tested and are now operational!

MTH pointed the remote, clicked, and POOF, there was fire!

If Neanderthal man felt half as much satisfaction as we did when the flame popped up, he must have been one satisfied guy. Granted, our fire-making didn’t require much skill or muscle, but the primal joy in watching the flames dance is probably the same.

Main House Fireplace

Our fireplace is a 42” Town and Country model.
TC42 from their brochure

We chose it for the extra-large glass front that offers a big view of the fire. Although that model isn’t rated as a heat source, the sheer size of the glass and maximum output of 61,000 BTUs means that it will still put a lot of heat into the house. Its primary purpose however will be as a source of enjoyment.

Town and Country gas fireplace with our vintage mantel/surround propped up around it--still to be installed and repainted.
We had a decorative gas fire in our old house and found that we used it a lot. There is no denying the superiority of a real wood fire for sound and smell, but in the city you can’t beat a gas fireplace for convenience. If we had to keep a wood supply and clean out the firebox regularly, we probably wouldn’t use the fireplace nearly as much. At the old house we had a gas fire going 4-5 times a week in the winter and even once or twice a week in the summer. I can’t wait to position my favorite chair and ottoman by the side of the new fireplace and settle in with a good book!

Cottage Fireplace

Lopi Hearthview with blower, hi/lo flame, accent light, and other features

The fireplace on Mom’s cottage is a smaller one, the Lopi Hearthview. that IS rated as a heater. We selected a rustic wrought iron fire screen that suits the more casual, Craftsman style of the cottage.  

The Lopi also flips on with the flick of a switch and can be hooked up to a programmable thermostat so Mom can wake up to a warm home and turn down the heat at night just like with her old forced air furnace. With 37,500 BTUs, the Hearthview will easily heat the entire 1000 sf space, but just in case we are also adding some Convectair electric wall heaters to her den and bedroom. The bathroom will have electric radiant heat in the floor.

Speaking of other heat, I don’t think I have mentioned the system we chose for our house. We decided to go with a combination of hydronic radiant floor heat (in the bathrooms) and wall radiators in the other rooms using a Munchkin boiler and Buderus panel radiators.

Buderus panel radiator
The system has already been on now for about three months and the radiant floor heat really heats up the bathrooms—and even the rest of the 2nd floor! Since the radiators are not installed yet, it is hard to tell how much heat they will put out, but if it is anything like the floor heat, we’ll need to turn down the thermostat.

I like radiant heat for how even it is; no hot air blowing at you, no fluctuation between hot and cold, and completely silent. What may take some getting used to is that the system isn’t designed to respond quickly to adjustments. Sure, you can dial the temperature up or down, but unlike a forced air furnace, it takes a while for the change to percolate through the system and shift the house temperature.

But overall I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. We’ll just have to fine-tune the radiators in each room to create ideal conditions for each space—cooler in the bedrooms, warmer in the living room, etc. I’m still hoping for some good passive solar gain too from all the windows that face south. Combined with the foam insulation, I think we can look forward to a warm and toasty house at less cost than our old house’s heating bills. I’ll report back in January 2012 with the results!

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