Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Wilfred Promise

I promised to tell you about our new Wilfred, rather Wilf III.  I'm here to make good on my threat.  A promise is a promise.

Wilfred the First came with the house, and one of the first things we did was to replace him with Wilf the Second.  The original Wilfred always gave us the impression that he was a pyromaniac in training.

Wilfred the Second lasted 15 years.  While that's not an eternity, and we hoped to eke a bit more life out of him, it wasn't to be.  The glass cracked last winter (the door was probably warped), and the refractory bricks were starting to crumble.  I tried calling Rika in Austria, but their customer service leaves much to be desired.  I can understand companies that deal only with distributors, but we learned that even Rika distributors slap their foreheads and say "aaach" with such disdain when asked about replacement parts.  Rika might want to consider revamping their mission statement and their day-to-day business dealings with some solid proactivity, but what can I say?  We won't have to deal with them again.

Ideally, we'd love to have a thermal mass heater made of soapstone, the kind that Tulikivi makes.  One day, when we build a new house, we're going to build that sucker right around a central soapstone heater and live happily ever after.

Our chimney is built along what used to be an outside wall, so the placement isn't ideal for a thermal mass heater.  We'd also need to build a concrete base in the crawlspace to accommodate the few tons of soapstone, and that ain't happening either.  When Eric starts to talk about 3000 psi air-entrained concrete and talk wistfully about his rebar bender, I quickly change the subject.  No real desire to go there, ever again.

So, we knew we wanted something modern with a touch of soapstone.  We checked on-line and narrowed down a few possibilities.  We particularly liked the Bari model, made in Germany by Hase and distributed through Hearthstone in Vermont.  They have dealers in Quebec, and after a visit to the showroom, we took a leap of faith and placed an order.  It's difficult buying a wood stove sight unseen, but we were offered a great price.  We also had confidence in the seller.  Plus, they took a cool thousand off the bottom line if we would pick it up and install it ourselves.  Whoohoo!  What's not to like?  We welcome a good DIY challenge, a chance to use our forklift, and the opportunity to have a shrink-wrapped stove sitting on a skid in the middle of the living room for 2 months.   Where do we sign up for this amazing offer?

What we hadn't considered was the new stove has a CENTRAL chimney and would require either an entirely new chimney, or some interesting calculations regarding elbows and whatnot.  In the end, Eric managed to figure things out, and ordered the parts he needed to adapt our existing chimney.

Time stands still in our house for a variety of reasons.  Installing Wilf III might have taken two months, but the wait was worth it. 
Here's another view.  This model can be turned 180 degrees, so we angled him a bit and found that it does radiate more heat where we want it.  People coming into the front door remark they can "feel the heat from here", which always makes me laugh.  That's the idea.  Welcome to radiant heat, and why we put up with ash dust and splinters and cutting our own wood.  There is nothing like standing in front of a wood stove until you can't stand it anymore.  It's like having the sun right in your living room.

You might have noticed that the wood is placed upright into the firebox.  We weren't too sure about this initially, but I'm convinced it heats better than the traditional stoves where the logs sit flat.  There's more flame in the firebox, coupled with the fact the firebox is circular, it seems to reflect the heat that much better.  It's like a half-pipe rotary incinerator, right in our very own living room.  It's also easier to light than the former, so we're giving it two thumbs up.  Time will tell if we've made the right decision, but as it stands right now, we're toasty warm and that's what counts.


Stephen Andrew said...

It's a beauty! I need to research this soapstone thing as I've never seen one and am now very curious. I'm not sure I've ever experienced real wood heat. I like the smell!

Shim Farm said...

Stephen! Wait are you waiting for!?! Get thee to a fire, STAT! Yes, it's messy and a pain to clean, but nothing beats radiant heat. Come summer, I'm happy to stop the routine of cleaning out the ashes and bringing in firewood, but when fall rolls around with cooler nights, we're always happy to light the wood stove again.

Soapstone has really amazing properties. It stays warm for ages. Next morning, the soapstone sides and top are still warm to the touch. Our next house will be designed around one, that much is for sure.

Claudia said...

Toasty warm, I'll bet! My husband keeps saying he wants a wood stove (a small one for our very small house). But it would be so obtrusive in the living room in front of our charming fireplace (which we don't use by the way). I love fires and have wanted to convert our fireplace to gas for the entire 17 years we've lived here. Maybe one day. The fireplace is very small, as it used to be a coal-burning fireplace when the house was built in the early 20s. We can get faux coals with real-looking embers and everything. It's just that there have always been projects more important to get to. And since we have short winters here (though sometimes very cold, like this week), it hasn't been a priority.

Enjoy your new heater. I hope you'll have it many, many years!

Shim Farm said...

Hi Claudia!

We are really happy with it. Time will tell if it lasts as long as the others!

I understand your dilemma. There is always something more pressing and necessary to throw money at. But hopefully, one day, you'll have your little gas insert! We have a lot of friends converting their old wood-burning fire places to gas, so I know it's not a cheap proposition.

Yes, it has been cold lately. Our coldest night so far was -18F just the other night, but we have been spoiled so far this winter so I can't complain. We're being pounded by snow right now, with freezing rain on the way, but we're also half-way through February so the end is in sight!

Take care and stay warm!


Robin said...

That is one sleek looking wood stove!

Shim Farm said...

It is super efficient and we are in looove with it!

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