Contrary to popular belief, the sun is not
always shining in southern Spain, and the temperature is not
always a comfortable 25 degrees. We do have occasional
cold spells, we do experience a mild ground frost every now
and then, and the mountains do accommodate frost pockets and
cold micro-climates. Besides, once you've got used to summer
temperatures of 35 degrees or more, a winter low of 5 will
feel much colder than it would back home. Especially if you
live out in the campo, you'll need some form of heating
for your house during the winter months.
Nothing beats a wood stove when it comes
to comfortably heating your home. Some of the up-market air
conditioning units will do the trick, but you'll always feel
the draught of the forced air circulation. Most gas heaters
are easy to operate and convenient, but they increase the
air humidity considerably. And open fires are a very romantic
but dangerous waste of money, since they are extremely inefficiency
and prone to chimney fires and other accidents. Our personal
favourite is the wood stove with glazed door. These are efficient,
safe, comfortable, and romantic.
Lighting a Wood Stove
seems like a simple thing. Just put some wood in the stove,
light a match and there it goes. Not! Anyone who regularly
fires up a stove or fireplace knows there is much more to
it than meets the eye. Lets break this down to a simple series
of steps. Each one must be done or the fire will be a bust.
Make certain the chimney is drafting
upwards. Many chimneys will reverse (cold air falls)
when not in use. Open the door of your stove. If you feel
a cold draft coming down then your chimney has reversed
itself. Keep this in mind and follow step 4 below in order
to reverse your chimney.
Set the kindling. Place fire
starters, fatwood or crumpled newspaper (3 or 4 sheets
balled up fairly tightly) on the floor or grate of your
stove. Place small kindling over the paper or starter.
The more dry, small kindling you have, the easier and
better your fire will start. Crisscross the kindling so
there is plenty of air space in between each piece. Wood
that is packed too tight will not burn properly.
Set more wood. Set larger wood
on top of the kindling, and continue to set larger and
larger pieces on top until the stove is over 2/3 full.
Countdown. If you determined
in step 1 that your chimney was drafting upwards, go ahead
and light the newspaper or starter. If you think your
chimney has reversed, do the following: place the piece
of balled newspaper as high up in the stove toward the
chimney (usually above the baffle plate) as you can get
it, then light it. It should get sucked upwards and reverse
the chimney with its warmth.
Ignition. Assuming that you've
lit the starter, stand back for a moment and watch the
fire do its thing. Keep the draft control and damper fully
open at first. In fact, it may help to keep the stove
door slightly open for the first few moments until the
fire is caught.
Blast-off. The fire should quickly
catch and spread through your load of wood. Don't make
the mistake of closing your air control or damper soon
after you start the fire. It may look good, but until
you've warmed the stove up, warmed the chimney and established
a good bed of coals (red embers), your fire is not really
at critical mass.
Mission accomplished. Keep the
fire going. Keep these simple points in mind. Always
keep a "flame" on your fire. A smoking or smouldering
fire is a cold and inefficient one that produces pollutants
and creosote (tar in the chimney). Add more wood
before the fire gets too low. This will assure the continuation
of your hard-earned fire. Use Dry, seasoned wood.
If your wood sizzles and refuses to light or burn it's
probably not ready for prime time. Store your wood in
a dry place and cut and split it at least 8 months prior