Question - I want to add a wood-burning fireplace to my living room. I want it to provide some heat, but I don't want an ugly insert with tiny glass doors. What types of regular-looking fireplaces should I consider? C. B.
Answer - Adding a new attractive and energy-efficient fireplace, or replacing an old one, is an excellent investment. Not only will you enjoy it and reduce your utility bills, but you generally get more back in higher resale value than its initial cost. You should easily be able to install a prebuilt zero-clearance fireplace yourself.
An old open hearth fireplace loses more heat than it generates. Most of the heat loss is the result of already-heated room air being drawn up the chimney. This pulls cold outside air into your home. You feel toasty warm in front of the fireplace, but the rest of your house feels like an icebox.
There are many energy-efficient "regular-looking" fireplaces available. The most important features to look for are tight-fitting doors, a tight damper, heat-circulating blower, and provisions for outdoor air. These features are all needed to reduce the indoor air loss up the chimney.
For the maximum heat output and energy efficiency, you should consider heat-circulating types of fireplaces. These look like regular fireplaces, but they have an extra shell around the back of the fireplace firebox.
A small blower circulates room air around the hot firebox and blows heated air out into your room. This increases the efficiency dramatically and reduces the load on your furnace to heat the rest of your house. The more expensive models have thermostats and multispeed quiet blowers.
There is a new type of circulating fireplace that uses a "positive pressure" blower to heat your home more evenly. A small blower is mounted on the wall outdoors behind the fireplace. Outdoor air is drawn in and ducted to the circulating heating shell around the firebox. There it is heated and blown out into your room.
This slight positive pressure keeps cold air from being drawn into leaky doors and windows in your home. It also minimizes the possibility of smoke and dust leaking out into your home and provides some fresh air ventilation. With the blower motor and fan mounted outdoors, it operates very quietly.
In addition to reducing the cold drafts as with standard fireplaces, you can better control the flow of the heated air throughout your home with a positive pressure fireplace. By cracking open a window just a little in a specific room, more of the heated air will naturally flow there.
You can write to me for UTILITY BILLS UPDATE No. 430 showing a buyer's guide of high-efficiency "regular-looking" circulating fireplaces listing manufacturers addresses and telephone numbers, heat output ratings, and product information about standard and positive pressure fireplaces. Write to James Dulley, The Deseret News, 6906 Royal Green Dr., Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. Please include 1.50 cents and a self-addressed BUSINESS-SIZE envelope.
Question - When we take showers in the morning, there is only enough hot water for one shower. Our 50-gallon electric water heater is not leaking. Do I need a new one or can I fix this one? N. M.
Answer - When there is only a small supply of very hot water from an electric water heater, it is usually caused by a faulty lower heating element. You can easily install a new heating element yourself. Purchase one at your hardware store and follow the simple installation instructions.
While you are at the hardware store, get a water heater tank insulation jacket or make one yourself. Old water heaters are not well insulated.