Welcoming blaze vs. smoked out

| 04 Jan 2013 | 11:51

    A welcoming blaze

    Nothing gives a home more ambiance than a good-looking fireplace. So when Maureen and Ray Quattrini decided to add a family room onto their 1860s Goshen home, Maureen definitely wanted a fireplace.

    In fact, Maureen designed the nearly full-wall, seven-foot-wide by eight-and-a-half-foot high brick fireplace herself, and her contractor husband created her country design.

    “The fireplace in our family room is the focal point at family gatherings, obviously during holidays and through the winter,” said Maureen. “Nothing says welcome home to our children and grandchildren more than sitting in front of the fire.”

    But fireplaces do have a practical side, too. “When we’re without power, we always have heat; we’re never cold,” she said. In fact, as a long-time camper, Maureen said she could even prepare a meal on the fire, if need be. “I’m not immune to cooking on an open flame,” she said.

    Ray agreed that fireplaces are built for ambiance and their efficiency is questionable; however, on the positive side, once the entire masonry heats up with a roaring fire, it radiates heat into the room. He explains that the beginning fire draws heat from the room; it becomes efficient with the roaring fire; and then efficiency dwindles again as the fire dies.

    According to Ray, “During the 70s energy crunch, building codes changed to include glass or steel doors to prevent air from leaving the room.” He added that the rule of thumb in older homes is to crack open a window near the fireplace to draw air from the outside.

    It’s all about ambiance and the Quattrini family enjoys every moment of it. Said Maureen, “When the family gathers together at our home, we have the fire going for a two day stretch. It’s our cherished family tradition.”

    Geri Corey, with input from Maureen and Ray Quattrini

    Homeowners, Goshen, NY

    Smoked out

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the pioneer atmosphere in our area, and the aroma of a nice small crackly fire as much as anyone. But there is a limit, and over the past two years my lungs have told me that some people in our area are going way over that limit. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the prevalence of downed trees from last year and this year’s storms. Maybe it’s a lack of education about the proper kinds of wood to cut and the way it is supposed to be aged before being set on fire. It’s also supposed to be dry wood, and certain kinds of wood retain moisture more than others.

    Living in a house that is high up on a hill, I am fortunate not to have had to deal with issues of flooding from the recent storms. Since the hill is somewhat protected by ridges on either side, I also have some protection from the wind. But the many woodpiles in the yards of more than half of the houses in my neighborhood give witness to the number of residents that are trying to heat solely with wood.

    From late fall until mid-spring it has become increasingly impossible to spend time outside from about 4 o’clock on because the smoke rises to the highest point, my yard. Often I can smell it in my living room, as well, through much of the evening. And that doesn’t even address the impact of all that smoke on the environment, and possibly even on global warming.

    While fireplaces are an economical alternative, there is a large percentage of heat that is lost up and out the chimney unless there is some kind of updated and efficient insert, or state of the art wood stove or wood pellet stove. To keep them running in an ecological and healthful way it is also important that the chimney piping is done correctly. I would encourage people to have options, perhaps some gas heat, some electric and supplemented by a fireplace or wood stove, for their own health as well as others.

    Edie Johnson

    Homeowner, Blooming Grove, NY