December 10, 2018

Something I'm Glad I Recently Bought

Blogging this morning from the public library because our internet is down. Here's why -

What we woke up to Sunday morning.

After an inch of rain on Saturday, we got three inches of snow overnight. Plus, everything was coated with ice.

I dread ice worse than snow. While our northerly neighbors get snowed in under feet of snow, we get iced in by as little as a quarter inch of ice. It coats absolutely everything and makes it near impossible to drive (or walk) anywhere. It's not uncommon for tree branches to be so heavily laden with ice that they break and fall onto power lines. That can mean days or weeks without electricity.

These two pine trees didn't fall on power lines, but they fell on pasture fence!

What's interesting is that Dan was just talking about thinning out some
pines to mill into posts for his carport repair project. Here they are!

Fortunately, we only lost power for two hours. I know some areas in the Southeast are still without, so I'm thankful we didn't have it worse. Still, it made me glad I recently bought something that has been on my winter preparedness to-get list for several years - an Ecofan.

Top of the line AirMax 812 model

It sits on top of the woodstove and makes its own electricity from heat differences between the top and bottom of the fan (technical explanation here). It's a brilliant off-grid way to help circulate heat, because heat from a woodstove typically tends to stay in one room and be slow to move to other parts of the house. Our ceiling fans help with that, but when we lose power they're of no use. That's why I've had my eye on an Ecofan.

It's a bit pricey, however, so when I noticed a huge price drop for it on my Amazon wishlist, I thought, I can live with that. Most folks seem to agree that we're in for a severe winter, so it seemed prudent to finally invest in one. I clicked on the link and discovered that the nice price was for Prime members only. The rest of us would just have to pay the not-so-nice price (unless, of course, we wanted to join Amazon Prime, hint, hint).

That annoyed me. I immediately deleted the Ecofan from my wishlist and set off on a search for a better price. I found it too, at Tractor Supply. Fifteen dollars cheaper than Amazon's exclusive price and with free shipping to my home. I bought two.

So what do we think and how do we like it?

I'd hoped for a photo with blurred spinning
fan blades, but my camera wouldn't cooperate. 

Dan was dubious at first, but after using it for a week or so, we both agree that the house is warmer. And with smaller fires. We can position the fan to direct heat toward us, into the next room, or down the hall. That means that rooms which rarely benefit from woodstove heat are warmer than without the fan.

Whirling away on the back of the wood cookstove.

We still do other things to help the house stay warm: close off rooms that aren't in use, keep curtains closed unless the sun is hitting the windows, and open or close specific room doors to direct heat where we want it.

The only thing I wish I'd known before I bought it is that the Ecofan has a little motor which is recommended to be replaced every several years. Looking back over various web advertising, I can't find that information anywhere, but it was in the leaflet in the box. That's not a deal breaker, but it's disappointing because I'm not keen on things that need me to keep buying stuff for them. It would have been nice to know this beforehand, but that's the downside of shopping on the internet (and fodder for another soapbox).

Still, I'm happy to have another useful item crossed off my preparedness list. It's well made and has some heft to it, so in spite of the one downside, I would still recommend it. For the mechanically minded, here's a link for a DIY model.

A technician is coming out tomorrow to look at our modem, so hopefully, I'll be able to respond to comments and return blog visits soon.


Rain said...

That's interesting Leigh, the Ecofan. I like the idea, but yeah, it sucks if you have to keep paying to maintain it! Eegad about those two trees...I know how you feel about ice storms. Our weather is nuts, it goes from frigid to above zero all winter long so we get snow and ice a lot of the time. One of our trees lost a lot of branches last month, scary stuff. Be well! I hope they fix your internet soon.

Gorges Smythe said...

Looks like a winner!

The Wykeham Observer said...

Those downed pines will make some good posts!

Debbie - Mountain Mama said...

I never heard of that, interesting! In a previous home we had a tiny fan in the upper corner of the doorway leading to the hallway and the bedrooms - it helped move warmed air from the woodstove down the hall. I should probably do the same in my current home, but instead I just leave the door to my bedroom open during the day while I'm at work to get some of the warm air in there. I close it when I get home to keep the pups and cooking smells out. It warms it up just enough - I hate a warm room, these hot flashes keep me warm enough!

Ed said...

I definitely don't like ice as well. Fortunately this year we've been ice free but since we've been so cold that isn't unusual. It is the warm winters when we get all the ice and associated problems.

wyomingheart said...

Excellent tree fall! Ask and ye shall receive, as they say. I have looked at those fans for quite awhile, and have been skeptical. Thank you for sharing this info, as it will be easier to seriously consider, especially since the power can be sketchy on the ridge.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

That fan looks keen. Hope it works well for you this winter. Each time I lament leaving our big farmhouse with all the rooms, we have a situation, like loss of electricity, that makes me happy we are in our Looney Bin. With only 300 square feet downstairs and about 370 SF upstairs the rocket mass heater is able to keep all of it warm. But I wonder on the days of temps below zero if the ecofan would help us decrease the amount of wood we burn to keep both levels comfy? Hmmmmm, something to look into. Thanks Leigh.

tpals said...

Ice is the worst; I'd always rather have feet of snow.

I've had that type of fan on my stove for a few years now. Had no idea it would need part replacement, but no problems yet.

Lady Locust said...

One is also on my wish list! I was never sure as to how well they worked. The only person I know who has one is a bit of a nut so not a very reliable source. Thank you for the review. Also, glad you are safe and keeping warmer. Ice is not nice.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Ice is the great fear and crippler here as well. An ice storm will easily shut our major urban metro area down.

I want to say that I have seen those fans without the fancy motors - that said, I have no idea where.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hi! What a clover little fan! Unfortunately we on't have a wood stove. Nancy

Quinn said...

I'm in rural Massachusetts and often say I'd rather have 2 feet of snow than a quarter-inch of ice. For so many reasons!
I bought one of those fans - made in Canada, I think? - many years ago. Mine looks a bit bigger than yours, and it was very expensive (by my standards) but it really made a huge difference in terms of circulating the heat throughout my house. And was so delightfully quiet! One of my best investments ever.
Unfortunately, two years ago I accidentally knocked it to the floor and it stopped working. I cleaned it, I talked to it, I spun the blade encouragingly to prime the pump...but no luck. I looked up the website and it seemed to me that replacement parts were also very expensive, plus I wasn't even sure what had broken, so I just put it aside "for later." But your discovery that the motors NEED to be replaced regularly is certainly news to me! I'll have to do a bit more research. Thanks!

Sam I Am...... said...

Thank you for that information as I have thought of a fan for my wood stove. I also wondered how you maintain your chimney? Creasote buildup etc. I used to have a chimney sweep but he retired. He recommended one who came and told me he couldn't clean it until I got it fixed. He said it was installed wrong and leaking carbon monoxide fumes and I shouldn't use it. That's funny because I've been using it for 14 years and I'm still here!?! He then charged me $50 for nothing. I got some of those creasote logs at Walmart but not sure if that's enough. I don't have to use mine as I have a furnace but I need it for ice storms and I close off my family room with curtains hung in the doorways to keep the heat in as there is no way to heat this whole house with it. Actually, the chimney sweep I had was probably a con man too as some people had just had their chimney swept and the next day they had a flue fire! Anyway, I always wonder because the pioneers didn't have chimney sweeps. What did they do back in the day? As always, thank you for your great and thorough research and information.

J.L. Murphey said...

I've been searching for one of those in second hand shop. So far I haven't found one. In lieu of that, we have one box fan on low by the wood stove, and another one on top of the bookcase to circulate the heat throughout the house. Cockeyed

Michelle said...

A huge drawback to our efficient wood-burning insert is that it doesn't have a "top" to set things on, so it can't be used for cooking or benefit from something like an Ecofan.

Powell River Books said...

We don't have an ecofan, but several years ago we purchased a woodstove thermoelectric generator. It works on the same principal, the heat from the woodstove and a cool surface provided by a water pump results in power. It worked for several years but was prone to getting the cells burned out if the stove temperature got too high. I still think the concept is a good one for homes that use wood heaters. Too bad there aren't any reliable products on the market. - Margy

Leigh said...

Huzzah! Our internet is working again. Apparently, the snow and ice fried the modem, which had to be replaced.

Rain, I'm curious as to how long the motor will really last. I've noticed that manufacturers often recommend replacements frequently, I assume to guarantee profits!

Georges, definitely!

Phil, yes they will! Just wish they hadn't taken out the fence as well.

Debbie, I've seen those doorway corner fans and always wondered how they worked. I should look into one. Anything to help warm the farthest parts of the house are welcome.

Ed, yes, those warm winters cause the most ice problems, which I reckon is why we have ice storms so frequently.

Wyomingheart, I just wish they'd missed the fence, LOL. Several more came down in our woods, also on top of fences. So there's plenty of good wood for the sawmill, along with plenty of fence to repair. :)

Donna, that's a good question. Keith's handy, maybe he can make one(?) Having a round space to heat instead of corners probably helps as well.

tpals, I'm glad to hear yours has lasted so long. There are several different models, so later I wondered if the motor is only in this one or the others too. The original is smaller, requires a higher temperature to get going, and doesn't circulate the same volume. This one sounded like it would move the most air at the lowest temperature, but there was a higher price tag as well. But we've got it now, so we'll just have to see.

Lady Locust, I'd defnintely recommend it! Worth keeping on your wish list.

TB, I know there are other makes and models of the ecofan, but it didn't occur to me to do a lot of research beforehand. Too late now, but maybe that will help someone else.

Nancy, they also make them for pellet or gas stoves! ;)

Quinn, yes, made in Canada. And yes, expensive by our standards too. Was very glad to find it at such a discount. I'm not sure about the motor in all models, nor whether it really needs to be replaced so often (or if the manufacturer is just hoping you will.) It's a shame yours broke. Have you looked into replacement parts?

Leigh said...

Sam, Dan cleans out the chimney pipe in September or October with a chimney brush. Then he uses his shop vac to completely clean out the space between the firebox and outside wall. We bought the equipment at Lowes. It's a long circular brush with several extensions. Not expensive, but you have to do it from the top so it means getting up on the roof!

I was surprised by the chimney sweep's comment and insistence that your stove needs repair. Was he specific about the problem? I had to look it up and found this statement at A Guide to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

"With a wood stove, always use seasoned dry firewood, and do not overload the chamber with burning materials. Have your chimney and stove serviced annually to keep the flue, dampers and all other components working well and free from creosote build up, which is a natural residue caused by flames, and needs to be removed regularly in order to keep your home safe and your wood stove efficient."

Seems you would know there was a problem with any of those because of poor draft. Our stove has a catalytic combustor, so we get the benefit of reburning all the gases made in the stove. Hopefully you can find someone who is honest and knows what they're talking about!

Jo, the rental house we used to live in had the wood stove in the basement. To get heat upstairs we hung a box fan in the basement stairway. It didn't work well, but it worked! In this house we've used our ceiling fans, but I'm happy to report that the Ecofan works even better.

Michelle, that's a bummer! But you're right, it is a disadvantage to inserts.

Margy, interesting! I'd not heard of a thermoelectric generator. I'll have to do some research. Maybe there's an improved design(? one can hope!)

Glen Filthie said...

Do you ever have issues with frost and condensation inside, Leigh?

Goatldi said...

Well no snow this low yet but wonder filled views on all sides from Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta . Cold on my 42 acres of Paradise with the special multiple ecosystems I have. Must be the season for downed trees as there have been two in the last few weeks. One expected one not so much. But both fell in appropriate places resulting in no damage just potential firewood for next winter.

Nifty little fan there. Even with the blowers in the fireplace extraordinaire it could be of additional benefit. Will check it out. I still sing your praises every time I pop on one of the two barn solar barn lights. Be safe.

Kaat said...

We also have the ecofan. Our insert said nth about replacing the motor. We'll check that. Thank for mentioning it. The one issue I have with ours is that the blades are black. Against the backround of black stove, black backing, and black fan, people don't see it is spinning. Kinda hazardous!

Leigh said...

Glen, do you mean inside the house? Only with the windows that we didn't replace. They are single glazed and tend to condense on the inside when it's really cold outside and warmer inside. Eventually, I hope we can replace all our windows. Good windows are an excellent investment.

Goatldi, downed trees are worrisome! Glad to hear yours are potential firewood. I do love wood heat, but the fans have made it all the better. :)

Kaat, there are three models of the Ecofan, but I didn't research all of them, just chose this one. The others weren't quite as "powerful," so maybe they don't have to motor(?)