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Staying warm and safe, with wood stoves

HARLEM VALLEY — It’s getting cold out there, colder every day, in fact. Along with winter and below- freezing temperatures, residents throughout the Harlem Valley are doing what they can to stay warm, without spending a bundle. One option many homeowners are exploring is installing a wood stove — an economic solution to Mother Nature’s most wicked wintery weather.“There are different options, but the best bet is a wood stove,” said Amenia’s Tractor Supply Co. manager Patrick McNally, who further said the stove’s size is determined by the amount of square footage that needs to be heated. “You can install it downstairs and it should heat up the upstairs as well. And you can do things to disperse the heat, like install ceiling fans, to get the heat to areas it needs to go to.”All wood stoves on the market must meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Air Act. McNally said wood stoves are “the most economic heat source,” and that after Mother Nature strikes with a storm like the one that hit in late October, there are plenty of downed trees to take advantage of.“Especially with storms like that you have a lot of wood,” he said. “And you can still find people selling cords of wood for fairly good prices, too.”What helps out most of all, he said, is the boost those buying a wood stove get from the government.“You get a $1,500 tax credit that you can submit to your tax adjuster or accountant because you’re using a renewable fuel source,” McNally said. “So that’s a big part of why customers look at that as the cheapest fuel here.”GuidelinesOnce a wood stove is purchased, a building permit must be obtained from the building inspector. Each municipality in New York has its own building inspector (although many municipalities share building inspectors among themselves). To get started, there are specific guidelines that must be followed to make sure the stoves are installed properly. Those guidelines consist of state regulations which can be found online (they can also be obtained from your local building inspector). The information is part of the New York state codes division.The actual directions for the installation should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, according to Amenia Building Inspector Don Smith, who said each model is slightly different.Once a stove is installed, the building inspector visits the property to inspect the stove. That inspection includes a review of the piping, the hearth and the chimney, as well as the overall unit. If all is well the inspector grants the stove approval. That approval is in the form of a Certificate of Compliance, which is proof that the stove was properly installed. While Smith said it’s not necessarily difficult to install a wood stove, he did say that its placement is key.“Where to locate it is very important,” he said. “If it’s in the basement, don’t put it too close to mechanicals [like water heaters or boilers]; leave it at least 5 feet away from them. Never put it in a hallway or at the end of a hallway; it could effect the way they operate.”There are also details that need to be followed when building a chimney, like ensuring the height of the chimney is above that of the roof or that there are no other structures within 10 feet of the chimney. Smith recommended having a professional install a chimney if that’s part of the project, as it’s a bigger job than installing the wood stove and could be more than a homeowner can handle. As far as the results, however, he said the warmth that emanates from a wood stove is well worth the process one must go through to get a town-approved heating source.“I have a wood stove myself so I’m a little biased,” he said. “But then I also have a pellet stove, and they’re a lot less work. You don’t have to cut wood, split and stack it with a pellet. But they both work, one as well as the other.”To contact your building inspector for details about installing a wood stove, call your local town hall. To access a list of certified wood stoves and guidelines for wood stove installation, go online to www.epa.gov.

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