Cozy fireplace can help ward off Chicago ‘polar vortex’

28-Nov-19 ?? After suffering from the epic winter of the polar vortex in early 2019, many Chicago homeowners look forward to pouring a mug of hot spiced wine and crouching around a cozy fireplace over the holidays.

Meteorologist Tom Skilling’s outlook for early December predicts a “cold upper air pattern”. That requires the cold Arctic air to hold over Chicago and the Great Lakes and reach the Gulf Coast as the Jet Stream moves south.

Do you remember last January? The icy knife of The Hawk, Chicago’s brutal sea explosion, pushed the wind chill to 30 degrees below zero.

That’s why wise homeowners winterize their digs, tune stoves, weatherproof doors and windows, add more roof insulation, order fresh firewood, and make sure chimneys are cleaned and ready to provide additional heat.

?? A working fireplace, either a wood stove or a gas block, is a coveted feature that gives a home thousands of dollars in value. ?? noted realtor Sara Benson (left), president of Benson Stanley Realty in Chicago. ?? Homeowners planning to put their home up for sale next spring and looking to set a top dollar price should make sure the fireplace is in good shape for the holidays. ??

If you own a high-end residence, buyers expect a fireplace, says Benson. She estimates that in Chicago, a working fireplace can add $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 to the value of an average home, depending on the selling price.

According to a recent survey, buyers rank fireplaces as one of the top three things to have in their home. Sixty percent of new homes have a fireplace, compared to just 36 percent in the 1970s.

A survey by the National Association of Realtors found that 46 percent of home buyers would pay more for a home with at least one fireplace.

Stove purists say a wood burner? with its ambience, crackling and scent? is the most romantic option. However, wood fires can be a costly problem even for the inexperienced or busy homeowner.

After years of hauling two flights of stairs to a master bedroom with a wood-burning fireplace in a vintage house in the Sauganash neighborhood, this writer decided to have gas logs in my current home.

?? Is a wood fireplace expensive, a waste of energy, and just too much work for the average homeowner? agreed Steve Alleyne (right) of Firefixer, a Chicago-based company that specializes in the maintenance and repair of ventless and ventilated fireplaces. ?? First, need to buy the protocols, which can cost $ 175-300 per cable? a pile of firewood four feet high and four feet wide and eight feet long? made of mixed hardwood or pure hardwood. ??

There are also likely to be shipping and stacking costs.

Steve Alleyne

By the time you finally get those chimney logs burning, 90 percent of the heat will go down the chimney, said Alleyne, a Chicago firefighter who has worked as a chimney fixer and plumber for two decades.

?? If the fireplace doesn’t have an ash dump, then you need to clean up a mess and you need a professional chimney cleaning every two years to keep flammable creosote at bay. ?? he warned.

Image obtained from Don DeBat

Most fireplace-related tasks can be done by converting a wood-burning fireplace to a natural gas burner and installing gas logs. A deluxe set of ceramic gas logs costs anywhere from $ 750 to $ 1,500, depending on the size.

For push-button lighting, you can also add a variable thermostat remote control for around $ 200. Firefixer does the wood-to-gas conversion for $ 195, without the cost of running a gas line and electrical work.

(Left) A gas fireplace.

Another option is to install a fireplace insert with direct ventilation or to support an existing old flue and install a new damper for the chimney ventilation.

What’s the most energy efficient option? ?? The ventless gas fireplace is the best choice when you want to keep most of the heat in the room, ?? Alleyne advised. ?? A ventless fireplace is 98 percent efficient and can save up to 40 percent on your gas bill. ??

Ventless fireplaces are an affordable source of heat because the burner is small and less expensive than running the stove during cooler months, according to Firefixer.

?? Vent-free fireplaces are very popular in high-rise condominiums and rental apartments because they do not require a fireplace or chimney. ?? said Alleyne. Maintaining ventless units is more than half of Firefixer’s business.

However, annual cleaning and maintenance is required to remove dust from the logs and prevent the burner pilot from clogging. A clogged pilot is the result of a build-up of dirt in the chimney and causes the unit to shut down.

(Right) A ventless chimney.

Duluth stove & fireplace

Firefixer also recommends opening a window in the first few hours after cleaning and checking the log record.

?? Running the log record without cleaning it first can result in characters in the logs. ?? said Alleyne. He says he went to houses where the entire wall to the ceiling was blackened by a fireplace that was never cleaned.

Vent-free wood sets burn clean as long as the logs are in the correct position and stay clean. Firefixer’s inspection checks for gas leaks and shorted cable connections and ensures that everything complies with building code requirements. He also checks the clearances for flammable materials around the chimney and checks the gas supply hoses and ventilation for ventilated units.

Photo by Alexander Raths

Firefixer does the job for a $ 160 service call that includes replacing batteries for remote starters, installing fresh embers and lava rock, and a seasonal warranty.

Ventless fireplaces require an annual cleaning and maintenance check to reduce carbon monoxide emissions and a professional safety inspection every fall before the harsh winter months, Alleyne said.

Many homeowners have a ventless fireplace but don’t use it regularly because of a lack of knowledge. If there is a vent odor problem with no vent gas, Firefixer recommends burning the gas logs for an hour with the window open at the start of the season.

?? If you experience problems with your ventless fireplace during the heating season from October to May? from bad log starter batteries to accidentally switching off the pilot light? We will call you back free of charge, ?? Said Alleyne.

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