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Is Your Wood-Burning Fireplace Saving You Money?

The warm, cozy feeling a fireplace invokes makes one want to trade traditional central heat and air conditioning for a fireplace. The crackling fire, the warm fuzzy feeling you get from sitting around it with hot chocolate and the family, can make you wish for a three-day snow-in. A fireplace sounds nice, but if you’re using it to save money you may want to consider the following:

The Cost of Wood

At the top of the list of things to consider is the cost of wood in your area. Wood can be expensive to purchase and find. To get the true cost of burning wood for heat, you need to consider the age of the wood. Seasoned wood burns hotter and faster than newer or greener wood. You may need less wood to reach the temperature you desire, but you will burn through it much faster. Unseasoned wood is heavy and burns more slowly, but it's hard to get the fire started and may require several attempts to get the wood to burn. When calculating your savings be sure to add the cost of accelerates. Accelerates also called fire starters are kerosene soaked logs that catch fire easily and stay burning to help your wood catch on fire. Most people even experienced fire builders will need at least one fire starter brick to start each new fire.

The Availability of Wood

Additionally, you may want to check on the availability of wood in your area. Some newspapers list advertisements from wood sellers. Wood is sold in stacks, half cords or full cords. In some cases, you may have to travel to a woodlot to pick up the stacks or cords yourself. The wood farms will usually load your wood, but you will have to unload it. A covered shed is necessary to keep the wood dry. Wet wood doesn't burn. If you are lucky, you can purchase a cord of wood and the supplier will deliver and stack the wood for you. But you will pay a premium for this service. Another option is to buy individual small wood bundles sold at many local grocery or hardware stores. Convenient, but you'll pay the highest price per bundle. The cost of a cord of wood and the services available vary across the country so be sure and check prices in your city before installing that fireplace.

The amount of wood one uses depends on several factors such as the consistency of cold weather in your area, the efficiency of the fireplace itself and the amount of heating one expects to achieve from the fireplace. If you live in the South with only a few cold days, a fireplace may be ideal because you won't be building a fire daily. If you live in the North with consistently cold days, a fireplace may be a nice addition to your traditional heating and air conditioning but keeping a fire burning daily almost constantly will burn through wood and dollars quickly.

Moreover, when considering the efficiency of a traditional fireplace, the savings don't stack up. For example, it will only heat the room in which it is located. You'll need to use your traditional central heat for individual rooms. You may like cooler bedrooms, but a warm bathroom is a must. A small portable furnace can help here, but they can be expensive to operate as well as create safety issues for small children.

The Cost of Maintaining the Chimney

Finally, with the use of a fireplace, you will generate waste products from the burning of wood, namely creosote. This substance is produced when wood is burned and builds up inside the chimney of your fireplace. Creosote buildup can cause chimney fires that can damage the chimney and surrounding structures. You'll need to have the fireplace chimney cleaned annually. Check your area for the cost and availability of Chimney sweeps near you.

Additionally, the ashes must be scooped and removed daily. Many times they are hot and contain bits of smoldering wood. You'll have to wait until the ashes cool before disposing of them in your garbage.

Fireplaces are beautiful decorative additions to any home. But when considering whether they save you money, you may want to take a second look at the cost of that beauty. Considering the cost of wood, the availability of wood, and the cost of maintaining the chimney itself may far outweigh that cozy feeling generated by a few crackling flames. A warm blanket, the ease of flipping a switch on your thermostat and some holiday movies can be just as cozy and a lot easier on your Christmas budget.

No matter how you choose to warm your home this winter, keep Maxson Air Conditioning & Heating at the top of your list for all of your HVAC needs. Contact our experts at (630) 556-8434.