Tribune Article “Fired Up”

Atascadero’s Stove and Spa Center offer ways of increasing your home’s toasty/cozy factor

Next to post-holiday credit card bills, winter heating bills might be the biggest hit to your wallet in January. You could layer on another sweater — or, according to Lora Dawes, you could find another way to stay warm in the wintertime.

Lora and her husband Wesley Dawes own Stove and Spa Center in Atascadero selling freestanding stoves, fireplaces, fireplace inserts, spas, and above-ground pools. They also have their own in-house installers.

Lora believes that an energy-efficient stove or fireplace can be a big money-saver.

“The bottom line is that propane and electric are the most expensive way to heat a house,” she said, noting that electric or propane heaters can cost $250 to $450 a month to run during the winter.

Heating with natural gas is much more cost-efficient. She stated that an efficient gas fireplace burns at least one-third to one-sixth less gas than a forced air unit.

Even if you already heat your home with a stove or fireplace, it may pay to upgrade.

“Efficiencies have gone up tremendously over the last 10 to 15 years,” she said.

Another inexpensive way to heat your home is with a pellet-burning stove, fireplace or insert, which only costs around $30 to $90 a month for pellets. For those without natural gas lines, pellet stoves may be the best option.

Pellets are also an eco-friendly material. They are made out of compressed sawdust and wood chips — materials that might have ended up in landfills. They also burn at 90 to 94 percent efficiency.

The downside of pellet stoves includes the noise created by blowers, and the hassle of buying bags of pellets.

“I have a bias in favor of gas,” said Lora, who recommends gas units to anyone who wants something clean, quiet and low-maintenance. “They’re programmable, so you can get up in the morning to a toasty warm house, or in the evening, pull into the driveway and the fire is already on,” she said.

According to Lora, many people don’t realize that wood burning fireplaces are still an option. They are — if the fireplace or insert meets county emission standards. She recommends wood-burning units to those who like the sound and smell of a wood fire, or who have access to free firewood.

A common concern is whether a single fireplace or stove can heat an entire house. Lora will look at a home layout to see if ceiling fans can be installed to distribute warm air around the house, or if a second small unit might provide added heat in a bedroom area. For the most part, she doesn’t believe it’s an issue.

“Most of us don’t care for our bedrooms to be super hot,” she said. “Most of us want our main area living area, what I call community space, to be cozy.”

The feedback Lora gets from customers is that an efficient fireplace or stove isn’t just a money-saver — it can be a boost to the quality of life. “People come in afterwards and say it’s made such a difference, that they enjoy being at home more,” she said.