From: Stephen Bushway <sbushway(at)>
To: Norbert Senf <mheat(at)>
Subject: brick/stone heater
Date: Sun, 09 Jan 2011 


I went to Halifax, VT today on a heater consult for new owners of a nice house that had an owner-built 20 year old custom, brick contra-flow.  They had complained of thick, black "plastic-y smelling" smoke during the first part of a burn this year.   The first thing I noticed when I got there was how badly warped the UPO door was.  The firebox floor was mostly grate and the owners had a large teepee fire laid with all nice, dry  2-4"  pieces, newspaper at the bottom- like the owner showed them (They wanted to "replicate the problem", they told me).   They also explained that they left the ash dump door open during the fire.  I told them I suspected their fires have been too rapid for complete combustion. I told them they didn't have to replicate the problem: I already knew what it was.  (Internet chat lists they'd consulted suggested plastic got lodged in the chimney, the adhesive holding on the recently installed chimney cap was burning off, etc., etc).   I had them remove the wood from the firebox while I looked at the system.  

Then I laid a large-to-small cross-hatched load with kindling/paper at the top.  As always, I brought wood from home, needed this time because the didn't have any larger pieces for the bottom of the load.  The husband, a Yale environmental science professor was, at first overtly  skeptical when I described the problem with his fuel load configuration,  too much fuel trying to combust at once from too much flame-quenching air from the grate. (like playing Jethro Tull on a 70 watt cranked up receiver through 50 watt speakers..... but I didn't use that analogy).

I closed the ash dump door and its slides, opened the door slides, let him light the paper on the top of the load, and watch a nice fire proceed.  Outdoors, we observed very little smoke, then just water vapor coming out the stack.   My clients were very happy: such an easy fix!
A very satisfying Saturday afternoon in Vermont!

On my way I stopped at a job I did with Antoine for the building inspector of Charlemont, MA.  He and his family are living in a 24 x 28' carraige house they built while they can make enough money to finish a very nice 2,000 s.f. cape he's building.  He's a site engineer and, on principle, will not go to the bank to finance his house.  Exceptional and very noble today....
The heater features a couple panels of their favorite stones.