One of the missing features when we bought our house was a fireplace. Not that it really matters in this day and age and, it goes without saying that it certainly did not put us off the purchase. Nevertheless when we had issues with our central heating last year we thought that a fireplace would have been a nice back up, as well as the æsthetic appeal of a flame – to satisfy the pyromaniac in me.
We, therefore, have kept an eye on the many house-related magazines that Lucinda buys for general decorating tips and fashions for fireplace-related ideas. It was in one of these magazines that we saw a woodburning (to be strictly accurate: multifuel) stove that we liked. It is amazing when you start looking into areas in which you are not familiar, how big and complex such a market is and so it was for stoves. Nevertheless we both like the company, the company name and more specifically the stove itself. Established in 2001 Chilli Penguin are small family run business located near the stunning coastline of the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. We liked the fact that it was a UK based company; we liked the fact that they are highly efficient; we liked the design but above all that we liked the chilli penguin logo.
Chilli Penguin have developed a unique clean burn system. Air is drawn in from the underside of the stove through stainless steel channels within the firebox. These channels direct jets of oxygen directly into the fire and down the back of the glass. This pre-heated secondary combustion air ignites the unburnt combustable gases. This means that the wood burns far more efficiently it also means that the blackening of the stove glass is minimised, giving a clear view of the fire.
To prevent the stove from dominating the room we decided that we would like a shallow but wide stove and Chilli Penguin have just the design: Woody. The Woody is the ‘widescreen’ of woodturning stoves, slim but wide allowing longer logs to be burned. It is also their most efficient stove with 82% efficiency burning wood (increasing to 87% for coal!). To give you some idea of what that means, burning wood in an open fire is between 20-30% efficient, so we will get about 3 times as much energy out of the same volume of wood which effectively means that we will only need a third of the wood that an open fire would require. It has also passed its DEFRA testing which allows it to be used in smoke control areas.
Now we had chosen a stove we needed to chose an installation company. Windsor and Eton Stoves had a fantastic on-line reputation and when Chris came round we immediately liked him and put us at ease about the construction and gave us some design ideas. Then those magazines came in handy again and we came up with what we wanted and booked him in.
We were very happy with Chris and his team, although his e-mail communications was sometimes wanting (great on the phone, not so good on email) but would quite happily live with that for the work that they did in installing our new fireplace. It is amazing to see the amount of work that was required behind (and under) the scenes to make a safe and sturdy install. There is a real science behind not only burning wood but the safety required to ensure that we do not poison the family with carbon monoxide (carbon monoxide detector fitted as part of the install).
With this in mind I asked, and received, for Christmas a book on wood: chopping wood, storing wood, burning wood the Scandinavian way – and as a people that are the pre-eminent experts on wood there can be no better teacher. I have bought my 6.5 lb splitting maul and a 1.5lb hand axe; I have yet to build my log store (out of pallets that brought the material to build the fireplace) then I will be all prepared for a cold spell – even if, as fate, would have it, we have experienced the warmest December on record.
Let’s hope it turns cold so that I have a real excuse to start to burn things! For those of you that like that sort of thing here is the story of the build in photo form (redecoration to begin in the new year):
Peace and Love