Sometimes, even I, home repair juryrigger extraordinaire, call a professional.
Our front room has a built-in woodstove. It’s a long skinny room (20’x10′) with one of those 70s flagstone fireplace walls on the short end. That’d be kinda horrible (fireplaces are really inefficient ways to heat anything), but it’s got a stove insert in it! When we bought the house we decided it was some obscure heatolator, and due to air quality stuff it was sold as-is, so we didn’t really know much about it.
I suffered through a truly horrible winter with $4/gallon propane (like $15/day in winter) and the tiny woodstove in the den, then last fall I got the front stove cleaned and inspected. My chimney dude said it appeared to be in good shape, but it was totally homemade. But the fan came on when you plugged it in and flipped the switch, so that’s what I ran this winter. And dude, it might be homemade and woefully inefficient compared to modern stoves, but it seriously put out some heat!
Back in January or February the thermostat quit working. A male person who resides here part time fiddled with it, and after he’d fiddled with it, it didn’t work anymore. We googled but couldn’t figure out what model it was, much less what we could comparably replace it with, so I just turned the blower on manually when I lit a fire and turned it off in the morning. No big deal.
Then I went to Rides of March and came home victorious and sat on the couch all day Sunday. I built a roaring fire that night and slept toasty warm on Sunday night, except that I had this really weird (even for me) dream about a zombie washing machine detaching itself from the wall and coming to kill me. I woke up a little and thought, in that half-asleep way, that it wasn’t a zombie washing machine, it was the dryer, with rocks in it. Then I woke up more and realized (a) there were no rocks in the dryer and (b) the dryer wasn’t running at 3 am. I staggered up and investigated the very real very loud noise and determined that one of the ball bearings had gone out in the stove fan and it was killing itself. The fire was almost out, so I flipped the switch and went back to sleep.
When I got up I sort of wondered if I’d dreamed the whole thing, but when I turned the fan on it made a very sad sound and turned half a rotation and died completely. Well, hell.
I unscrewed the grill, just to see if I could get the fan out of the firebox somehow, and the fan fell down inside the box and I threw up my hands in despair. I’d just gotten a new tank of propane, and it wasn’t very cold, so I kind of ignored the problem. For a whole week. But eventually I started feeling really guilty when I turned the thermostat up to 70, and really cold when I left it at 65, so I broke down and called for help.
I’ve used Morin since we moved to Reno, and he’s just a great guy. He’s a full-time firefighter / part-time chimney sweep. He laughed at my stoves the first time he came out, but he did it in a “laugh with me, we’ll get through this” way, not a “you idiot!” way. He told me how to get the most out of what I’ve got, and promised that if it can be fixed, he can fix it. So when I called and said “I don’t know if you remember me, but I live in Lemmon Valley and I’ve got that homemade ancient Heatolator…” he knew right who I was.
(See the switch? that’s the switch to turn the fan off and on. Totally homemade, dude.)
There was a fan on the other side of the box, too, but it didn’t work when we bought the place. We didn’t know why, and we didn’t really investigate. While Morin was out here, he did investigate, and this is what he found. Looks kinda like a fan…
Looks like long ago it seized up, and after it quit working the heat of the fires melted the plastic bits. Classy.
He mounted the new blower on the first opening and bolted some metal over the second opening to close it off. The new blower is slightly quieter than the old fan and pushes even more warm air out, so I’m just thrilled.
I asked about the thermostat – it’s a 40 year old dealie from an oil furnace. We’re just not touching it. Flip the fan on when you build a fire, flip it off when it goes out. Good enough.
IN OTHER NEWS
That’s all I got!