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Dear Editor

I have a blower insert that I fitted into a prefab fireplace. It heats my 1600 sq. ft. house on all but the coldest nights. I have blocked off the blower vents. The hot air now exits into a manifold on the opposite side from the blower and through the floor into a trunk line that is tied into the return line on the HVAC system which sends the heat throughout the house! It works great; the only thing you have to do is keep the circulating fan on the house system running whenever the fireplace is burning. However my chimney gets loaded with creosote quickly. I have a sweep and use it often but the stuff is very hard to scrape or sweep. My question is; is there a cheap alternative to the chimney cleaning logs or powder type sticks? If I used them as often as recommended I wouldn’t save a dime on the free heat!


Thanks for all that you do!

Stayin’ warm in NC

Dear Stayin’ Warm,

My first question for you would be what type of wood are you burning and is it well-seasoned? If you’re cutting your own wood, you need to cut at least a year in advance and allow it time to dry out. If you’re buying wood, you need to buy a year in advance and again, allow it time to dry out. Here in my neck of the woods, we burn mainly oak. It seasons well and doesn’t have as high a sap content. Here is an article we did last year on successful wood burning (//www.offthegridnews.com/2011/02/07/successful-wood-burning/)  You’ll notice that the harder woods (such as oak) burn longer and hotter which helps with what builds up and accumulates in your chimney. Unfortunately, I ‘m not aware of any cheaper way to clean your chimney.

However, I am concerned about one thing with your set-up. Normally, any air introduced into the return trunk line of your central system is filtered first through the return air grille. If you don’t have a filter system in place before your circulating air dumps into your return line, you are probably introducing contaminants that are going to foul the coils on your central system, necessitating more frequent coil cleanings and shortening the life of your unit. This might be a concern you’ll want to consider.

If any of our readers can give North Carolina some hints, we’ll be glad to print them in a future edition of the newsletter!

The Editor

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Dear Editor,

There are just some days that I want to give up. If it’s not the economy, it’s the government looking to take away another right or to slap another tax on me. Gas prices are on the rise again and every time I try to talk to my husband about learning some of these things you talk about, he makes me feel like I’m dumb because I’m worried about stuff like food shortages, GMOs, and our health. Our church is trying to start a small program to teach people how to be more self-sufficient and I’m really interested in going, but my husband thinks it’s silly (as do a lot of our congregation). Where do you turn when you feel like the whole world is against you?

Trying to Stay Positive

Dear Trying to Stay Positive,

I really do understand how you feel. Sometimes I wonder how so many people can have blinders on to what is going on around them. My neighbors think I’m a bit daft in the head, my family thinks I’m nuts because I really do worry about the future of America, and even in this poor economy, I can’t find many people willing to put out the effort to learn self-sufficiency. It’s like watching Rome burn and everyone is fiddling!

My first suggestion is to pull your Bible out and take comfort in the words of God. I am convinced that He meets us in our deepest needs and despairs, and helps us to cope and survive. You want to read about someone really mocked and castigated for preparing? Read the story of Noah!

In addition, Solutions From Science has put out a wonderful new book titled Proverbs for Preparation. They had this book written with people just like you in mind. It’s a wonderful compilation of advice on everything from preparing to dealing with the skeptics in our families. It’s truly inspirational and I have thoroughly enjoyed having it to read. I think it could be a comfort to you as well.

The Editor

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