Winter means bad weather in many parts of the United States. And bad weather means power failure for many people. In cold weather be prepared to use your fireplace or woodstove to keep your home warm until your power is restored. What do you need to do to be prepared? Here we will review what you need to do in preparation along with what to do in the midst of the power failure and also after the power has been restored.
Be Prepared! Long before you lose your power you need to be ready for it. You never know when the power will go out (or how long before you get your power back). Here’s your To Do List for preparing your fireplace before the power failure:
1. Stock up on whatever fuel source you use in your fireplace or woodstove. If it is wood, make sure you have split and stacked it properly allowing for good air circulation while keeping it dry so it will age properly. This will allow your fire to burn hotter and minimize the buildup of creosote while making it easier to start and maintain your fire. Also have a good supply of kindling on hand such as Fatwood.
2. Make sure your fireplace or woodstove is in good working order. If you are not sure, call in a professional to have it inspected. You may have to use your alternative heat source non-stop for many days.
3. Have quality fireplace tools, fireplace screen and fireplace accessories. You will be using them ALOT! If you don’t have them, invest in them NOW! They will make your job significantly easier and fire building safer. Here are some key fireplace items and why you need them:
a. Fireplace Tools (Shovel, Poker, Tongs and Brush) – helps in the ease of building and maintaining fires and the cleaning of the fireplace after use. Much safer than trying to reposition burning logs with your hands!
b. Fireplace Screen – critical item to prevent embers from flying out of the fireplace and still allow that necessary heat to flow into the room. You want to prevent starting a house fire caused from a spark flying out of the fireplace and landing in the room.
c. Fireplace Bellow – building a fire is critical when you have a power failure and you do not want to be struggling to get it started. Fireplace bellows easily provide the oxygen rich air that helps to get that fire going. A good flow of air is critical for a successful fire.
d. Fireplace Andirons – It was discovered many centuries ago that if your fuel material is up off the ground the fire burns better and with less smoke. Andirons keep your logs off the floor of the fireplace and the vertical front piece of the andirons hold the logs in place and prevent them from rolling out of the fireplace. Fireplace grates can also accomplish this task.
e. Fireplace Log Holder – this will allow you to keep extra logs by the fireplace. The fewer times you have to op en the door to the outside to get more wood the better. Every time you open the door you are letting cold air into the house. Keep it to a minimum by stocking logs in your fireplace log holder.
Get these items stocked and in place before a power outage so you can build the easiest, best fire possible when it is critical to have one.
4. Practice building a great fire before the power failure:
a. Make sure your damper is open
b. Place tinder (crumbled paper perhaps) on the fireplace floor between the andirons. This is material that will catch fire instantly.
c. Place kindling such as Fatwood on top of the tinder. This is material that will catch fire from the flames of the tinder.
d. Stack several fire logs on top of your fireplace andirons or fireplace grate making sure that everything is spaced about 1/2″ apart to allow for good air circulation. Your burning kindling will start the logs burning.
e, Light the tinder with a long match If you have a problem with back draft (smoke flowing into the room instead of up the chimney), open a window a little before you start the fire to create a flow of air from the outside to inside and up your chimney. Once the fire has started and the smoke is going up the chimney close the window.
f. If the flames are not taking off don’t forget to use your fireplace bellow to help the fire get going
g. Keep it going by adding wood from your fireplace log holder as needed and keep the burning logs stacked properly by using your fireplace tools to reposition the logs as they burn down and shift. When not working on the fire keep your fireplace screen in place to prevent fire embers from entering your room.
Your power is out. Now what?
1. Close off rooms you do not need to use. The more areas closed off the better. Let the fire heat only the rooms you need.
2. Build that fire and keep it going.
3. Fill containers with water and place on your fireplace hearth near the fire. This is a great source of hot water for multiple uses while your power is out and your water pipes are running cold. If you are using plastic containers make sure they are placed where they will not melt.
When the power comes back on:
1. You may want to continue your fire as your heating system begins to heat the whole house. Keep in mind if you have only one thermostat and it is in the heated area then you will want to open the doors to the closed off rooms so the heater will kick on. If this does not cause your heater to start you may need to raise the setting on the thermostat to above room temperature to get it to start.
2. Once the need for your supplemental fireplace heat has ended let your fireplace cool completely (this may be longer than 24 hours) before you clean your fireplace using your fireplace tools and prepare it for its next use.
There you have it. With some good preparation, the next time you have a power failure you will be prepared to use your fireplace to stay warm. Whether it is a few hours to over a week before you get power back on (depending on how wide spread the outage) if you have prepared properly you will have heat.
CAUTION!! Do not bring into your home or garage BBQs, gas fueled generators, or any other heat generating devices that are designed for outdoor use. People have died from the undetected gases given off by some of these devices. Please use caution and be safe when you lose your power and need heat.