On the Care and Feeding of Your New Awning

So you’ve just gotten a fabulous new awning/canopy/solar shade. First of all, congratulations on all of your newly-usable outdoor space! We hope that your new awning beautifies your home and improves your summer afternoons for many years to come. By keeping direct sunlight from entering your home, your new shade product should also keep your home much cooler, significantly reducing your air conditioning bill. Although both Aristocrat and Eclipse shading products are made with a coated, durable aluminum-frame construction and sturdy marine-grade fabric, some basic care and maintenance will help to extend the life and beauty of your awning or canopy.

Routine Maintenance

You should clean your awning on a regular basis, before dirt, bird droppings, or roof residue have a chance to get embedded in the fabric. Loose dirt can be brushed off with a soft brush, and you can hose the fabric down without having to remove it from the frame. To remove stains, use a mild natural soap like Ivory® Flakes or Woolite® in lukewarm water (no more than 100 degrees F). Do not use harsh soaps, detergents, or chlorine bleach. Allow the fabric to dry completely before you retract your awning, and don’t let water pool or puddle on the fabric. When retracting your awning, make sure no twigs, leaves, or other debris get rolled up in the material. We recommend retracting your awning in strong wind, hail, rain, or snow, particularly in winds of over 20 mph. The fabric should roll off the top of the roller tube, never from underneath; if your awning fabric is unrolling from below the tube, rather than above, please schedule a service call.

At the start of the outdoor season, it’s a good idea to hose down the aluminum arms of your awning and wipe them with a soft cloth, to make sure no dust or grit has accumulated during the winter. Although the framework is self-lubricating, it’s a good idea to lubricate the moving parts yearly with a dry silicone spray lubricant to maintain optimal, quiet operation. If unusual creaking occurs when you operate your awning, try lubricating it before calling your dealer. The most prevalent place where an awning needs lubrication is at the end of the roller tube, on the side opposite the motor or gear. Be sure to keep the spray away from the fabric.

Preparing Your Awning for Winter

You should retract your awning for the winter season. If your awning has a hanging valence, you should remove this and store it in a dry space, following the instructions below. Do not store the valence in a plastic bag, as this can trap moisture.

Valence removal and replacement

Awnings and fire do not mix.

Awnings and fire do not mix. (click to enlarge)

A Final Note

Please, readers, don’t store or use grills or smokers underneath your awning. This picture shows the damage that can result from having such a high heat output underneath your awning or canopy. In addition to posing a danger to your home and family, this is a sad fate for such a lovely awning.

 

 

Grill Safety & Maintenance: Refresher Course

Ed. note: It’s that time of year, so here’s our grill safety and maintenance post once again.

Summertime, and the grilling is easy! Everybody loves food cooked outdoors, whether on a gas, charcoal/pellet, or electric grill or smoker. But, as with any heating or cooking appliance, grills require regular maintenance, and some basic safety precautions to keep you, your family, and your home safe.

Grill fire

This picnic has ended badly.
Image: Countryside Fire Protection Dist., Vernon Hills, IL

Let’s start with the safety precautions:

  • Never use your grill indoors; carbon monoxide can build up in an enclosed space, posing a significant health hazard to everyone in the home.
  • Grills should never be used underneath a deck or balcony, or directly next to a wooden structure. Keep your grill away from flammable materials, and make sure that all children and animals stay at least three feet away from it.
  • When starting a gas grill, the lid should always be open. If the flame has gone out (blown out by the wind, for example), turn off the grill, wait 15 minutes for the propane to dissipate, then re-ignite the pilot.
  • Before you use your grill for the first time each year, be sure to check the gas line and connections. You can do this by applying a soap-and-water solution to the hose, gasketing, and connector valves. If bubbles form, there is a leak. Turn the gas off immediately and wait to see if the leak stops. If it does stop, be sure to have your grill serviced by a professional before trying to use it again; if the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, get away from the grill and call the fire department.
  • If you’re storing your propane grill during the off-season, disconnect the gas tank and store it outdoors, never in the house or garage.
  • And, of course, always read the user manual that comes with your grill, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding use and proper maintenance of the grill.

As to maintenance:

  • Clean cooking grids and drip trays thoroughly. Grease and salt speed up corrosion, and pooled grease can easily ignite.
  • In addition to checking for gas leaks, check all valves and connectors for rust and other corrosion. Remove all rust with a wire brush, and apply a rust-proof paint or sealant to the area.
  • After you finish grilling, leave the grill on high for about 10 minutes; this will vaporize most of the remaining drippings and grease (although you should still clean your grill thoroughly at the beginning and end of grill season).
  • Protect your grill with a fabric-lined grill cover. A tarp or other non-breathable cover can trap moisture inside, speeding up the rusting process.
  • Finally, have your grill cleaned, serviced, and inspected by a qualified technician once a year.

Enjoy your grilling, and have a safe and happy summer cooking season!

We’ve Applied for a Small Business Grant, But We Can’t Do It without You!

Chase Mission:Main Street is offering 20 $100,000 small business grants, and Wooden Sun hopes to receive one of them! The money would be used to invest in new products and administrative tools, as well as the hiring of new employees to enable us to more effectively help you “Bask in the Warmth”! We need 250 votes before June 19th to be considered for this grant, so please follow the link below to put us in the running for this fantastic opportunity. We can’t do it without you!

https://www.missionmainstreetgrants.com/b/68081

Wooden Sun Summer Warehouse Sale!!

As the summer orders come in, we’ve realized that we have too many products in our warehouse, and not enough space to store them all! In order to make room for new products, we’re clearing out some of our overstock stoves and gas log sets, at prices ranging from 15-50% off! Click on the link below to see a .pdf of all of our warehouse items for sale!

All products are new and have never been used.

WS logo bullet point Wooden Sun Summer Overstock Sale

Backyard and Patio Projects

Spring has finally sprung. Time to get out in the garden, give everything a good spring cleaning, and think about how to best use your outdoor space this season.

Part of an outdoor landscaping project done by Blake and his dad.

Part of an outdoor landscaping project done by Blake and his dad.

Is this the year for that patio, outdoor kitchen, or landscaping project you’ve been considering? Whether you’re looking for a small patio, a new outdoor kitchen, or an entire outdoor room, we can work with you to make your project a reality! Our lead mason, Blake Hunter, has been doing stone work for 20 years, learning from his father, Peter. Their top-notch stonework graces fireplaces, patios, and decks throughout the Charlottesville/Albemarle area.

Outside our showroom – a glimpse of the luxury an outdoor kitchen can provide.

 

Once your lovely stone patio is complete, you’ll need a focal point for your new space, and what better choice than a firepit or firetable? With a huge variety of products from HPC, R.H. Peterson, and the Outdoor Greatroom, you’re sure to find something at Wooden Sun to complement any outdoor space, and help you “bask in the warmth” at your next backyard gathering!

 


Enjoying coffee in the shade. Pergola canopy by Aristocrat Awnings.

Is your outdoor space too sunny and hot? Do you get rained out whenever you try to host a party or enjoy your garden? A retractable awning might be just the thing for your deck or patio, or maybe you need some screens by Eclipse to keep the bugs off your porch. A pergola can turn a patio almost instantly into an outdoor room, and an under-pergola canopy keeps the sun and rain off you while you’re enjoying that room.

Relax by the pool. Awning by Eclipse.

Relax by the pool. Retractable awning by Eclipse.

 

 

Whether your plans are large or small, we have the products and expertise necessary to bring an extra touch of luxury and comfort to your outdoor space. Give Wooden Sun a call, and let us help you create the outdoor room of your dreams!

Wooden Sun Receives Super Service Award!

Wooden Sun is pleased to have received the Angie’s List Super Service Award for the 2nd year in a row! We pride ourselves on our courteous, professional service, performed by fully-certified technicians. We strive to treat your home as well as (if not better than) we would treat our own. Our customers are the most important part of our business, and we appreciate your confidence and feedback!

Wooden Sun Angie's List Service Award

2014 was a great year for Wooden Sun. 2015’s been good to us so far, and with your help, we hope to make it our best year yet!

Company Road Trip: Update

The Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Expo was great! The HPBA show is an annual opportunity for us to meet with other Hearth & Patio retailers, manufacturers, and distributors to exchange ideas and discuss the current state of the industry. We’ve never taken the entire company before, so this was a brand new (and exciting) experience for most of the staff.

As part of our commitment to ongoing education and training, Wooden Sun employees attended a variety of classes and training sessions. Josh Thornhill, our warehouse manager, is now an NFI-certified gas technician (congratulations, Josh!).We’re waiting on the results for two of our other employees (including your faithful blogger), who took the woodburning certification exam. The certification exams required a full day of class work and a four hour final exam. The whole Wooden Sun team also attended a variety of courses on sales, job site safety, customer service and maintenance and  troubleshooting procedures for wood and gas products.

HPBA trade show

HPBExpo show floor. Photo courtesty of HPBExpo on Facebook

The trade show portion of the week was, of course, amazing. We caught up with our vendors and distributors (or, in some cases, met them in person for the first time!), got some refreshers on the products we sell, and enjoyed a sneak peek of upcoming product releases. We found some new-to-us vendors and products to explore, for both our indoor and outdoor categories. Several of our current distributors are releasing new products and product lines this summer or fall; watch this space for ongoing updates about exciting new products you can find in our store.

HPBA outdoor burn

The BBQ Dragon in action. Photo courtesy of HPBExpo.com

 

Even in the chilly weather, the outdoor burn area was going strong. Grills, smokers, pizza ovens — everything was fired up and producing amazing food (it was also nice to be able to stop at a firepit every few feet to take off the chill). As hearth professionals we were, of course, obligated to sample several different vendors’ offerings, to see which products we might be interested in bringing to our outdoor kitchen and patio line.

All work and no play make for a dull road trip.  Fortunate enough to arrive and leave in the good weather that bookended the storm that had I-40 snarled for 32 miles, we all had a great time in a snowy Nashville. The next time you are in Nashville, we would heartily recommend Morton’s Steak House, especially if you can get a high quality supplier like Olympia Chimney to take you out for dinner! Some of us also took a turn as rodeo stars on the mechanical bull at the Tequila Cowboy, bathed in the Nashville sound at Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Bars (three floors, each with its own band), or tried to break into the music scene at a karaoke bar, which will remain unnamed in case they have video of the performances.

From stoves and fireplace accessories to grills and patio furniture, there was something for everybody at the HPB Expo, and we enjoyed our time there. We went to Nashville filled with questions and excitement, and came back filled with new information, freshly-polished skills, and lots of great products and ideas for the future!

 

 

 

Zone Heat Your Home to Save Fuel and $!

Running your central heating all winter can get expensive, as well as putting a great deal of pressure on your heat pump. Why waste money heating unoccupied space? Zone heating is the practice of using a heating appliance to heat only a few rooms at a time while keeping the rest of your house fairly chilly, letting you focus all of your heating money and energy on the parts of your home you’re actually using. Central furnaces can be very inefficient, and constant use can overtax even the best heat pump (the worst heat pump, on the other hand, is likely to start making terrible noises, and eventually just refuse to keep your house as warm as you’d like it).

G3 gas insert zone heating

The G3 gas insert, from Valor Fireplaces.

Prefer your living room kept at a toasty 75 degrees, but don’t want to break the bank? Using a stove, fireplace, or fireplace insert to zone heat just part of your home can save 20-40% on your heating bills*, as well as providing a cozy ambiance for the space you choose to heat. Put an efficient wood stove or gas fireplace insert in your living room, turn down your thermostat, and give your central heat a bit of a break!

*ACEE 1990 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. Proceedings. Vol. 9

Company Road Trip!

Dear Friends,

As part of our commitment to ongoing education, Wooden Sun will be closed the afternoon of Tuesday, 3/3 through Friday, 3/6, while we attend the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association Expo in Nashville.

This annual event provides training and certification courses, as well as opportunities for us to meet with our vendors, investigate new industry products and technologies, and remain up-to-date with the latest industry standards and practices.

When we return, we’ll respond to your phone and email inquiries; in the meantime, we’re looking forward to spending a few days with other hearth professionals, increasing our own knowledge base, and coming back more confident than ever in our ability to help you “bask in the warmth!”

Catalytic vs Non-Catalytic Stoves: Which One’s Right for You?

So you’ve looked at your options, and are trying to decide on a wood stove. One important choice to make is whether to purchase a catalytic or non-catalytic stove. Which one is the best option for you? Each comes with advantages and disadvantages; there’s no “best” stove, only the best option for you and your home.

Whether you chose catalytic or non-catalytic, Wooden Sun wants you to make an informed choice. Catalytic stoves sometimes get a bad rap, but much of this is based on a previous generation of stoves. Early catalytic stoves were non-catalytic stoves which had been quickly adapted to meet EPA standards; the catalysts were often difficult to get to and hard to maintain, and the stoves simply weren’t as efficient as they could have been. Since then, manufacturers have vastly improved the design of catalytic stoves, and the result is a better, easier to maintain stove.

Here are the facts we have gathered together to help you make an informed choice between catalytic and non-catalytic.

Advantages of a Catalyst

If you’re looking for maximum efficiency and the cleanest burn, a catalytic stove is hard to beat. Just like the catalytic converter in your car, the catalytic combustor in a wood stove traps the smoke and other byproducts of combustion, and has a chemical coating (generally platinum and/or palladium) which interacts with the smoke and ignites it at around 500 degrees, rather than the 1100 degrees normally required. This increases the efficiency of your wood stove 5-10%, especially at low temperatures, and reduces emissions by 3-5 gm/hour. With this increased efficiency, and the ability to burn the fire very low without risk of it smoldering and producing creosote, catalytic stoves can achieve very long burn times — up to 40 hours!

Disadvantages of a Catalyst

There are a few drawbacks to a catalytic stove. The first is that the catalyst is another part that can break down, and it will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. The catalyst can also be ruined by the use of treated lumber, coal, colored or glossy paper, or other non-pure wood and fire starter sources (much as you wouldn’t put lower-grade gasoline in a high-end car). While unseasoned firewood won’t permanently damage your combustor, it will crud it up (again, like non-premium oil or gasoline in a high-end car), reducing its effectiveness. And there is an extra step in the combustion process — opening and closing the bypass damper at the correct times. A final potential drawback of a catalytic stove comes only if you have a particularly short chimney. A shorter chimney may not have the sufficiently strong draft a catalytic stove requires to function at lower temperatures, and the stove won’t be able to achieve its maximum burn time.

Advantages of a Non-catalytic Stove

So you’re concerned that a catalytic stove might require more attention than you want to give your wood stove. In short, a non-catalytic stove is simpler to operate. It doesn’t require the extra step of engaging and disengaging the bypass damper (although we still recommend monitoring the temperature to make sure you aren’t over-firing and damaging your stove). With no catalyst to damage and replace, green wood and the combustor killers mentioned above aren’t as serious a problem, although we still recommend burning only well-seasoned wood and approved fire starters at all times, and never burning trash or treated lumber. Green wood just stinks!

Non-catalytic stoves operate at their most efficient and burn the most cleanly at a moderately hot temperature. This can be an advantage in leaky old farm houses or huge spaces that need a maximum BTU output to maintain a warm environment.

Disadvantages of a Non-catalytic Stove

Although it’s easier to operate, a non-catalytic stove can’t achieve the highest levels of efficiency and the lowest levels of emissions, as compared to a catalytic. Moreover, a non-catalytic stove won’t burn as cleanly at low temperatures. And since it can’t manage the very low burn rates of a catalytic stove, a non-catalytic stove won’t be able to be able to achieve the very long burn times of its best catalytic cousins.

A Tale of Three Stoves

Blaze King Princess

The Blaze King Princess catalytic stove is among the most efficient wood stoves in the world, at 88% efficiency with only 2.42 gm/hour of emissions. On high heat, the Princess will burn for up to 10 hours; on its lowest heat setting, the stove will burn for as long as 30 hours!

 

Pacific Energy Summit

This is the Pacific Energy Summit, an exclusively non-catalytic stove. It’s 80.5% efficient, with 3.9 gm/hour of emissions, and a burn time of up to 14 hours. Simple to operate, this stove is both tough and reliable!

Vermont Castings Encore

The Vermont Castings Encore Flexburn (along with its big brother the Defiant) is unique  in that it can function as a catalytic or non-catalytic stove. Its readily-accessible combustor chamber makes it easy to examine, maintain, and replace the combustor. If you don’t engage the catalyst, this stove is 78% efficient. In catalytic mode, the efficiency jumps to 86%, with only 1.2 gm/hour of emissions.