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On these long winter nights I am not finding the central heating enough to keep us cosy. It's not that the central heating doesn't go high enough, it's more a case of, warm downstairs and cooked upstairs if I increase the temperature on the dial to one that suits the living room. With the comfort of everyone in the house in mind, I prefer to keep the central heating low and light the fire as a boost in the evenings for those of us who burn the midnight oil downstairs while the younger members of the household sleep upstairs.
I am a lazy firelighter. I love the warm glow of real fire. I find the leaping flames enchanting and appreciate the comforting, flickering light that comes from a real fire, but I hate the work required to get a' proper' fire going and the continual addition of smaller bits of wood or paper required to get a real log fire raging. The effort never quite seems worth it.
Although I do occasionally use real logs, particularly if I intend to keep the fire going for most of the day, more frequently I use easy instant light fire logs. I simply place the wrapped log in the centre of my fireplace, slightly towards the rear, and light the wrapper seam in two places (on top, at either end) with a standard disposable cigarette lighter. Within two minutes half the log is blazing silently in the hearth. It takes a further ten minutes before the entire log catches but when it does it burns evenly with a row of leaping flames, not just one huge flame. The log doesn't give off a great deal of heat. On a cold night this would not warm my small 14 by 12 foot lounge on its own and I would have to switch the central heating on too, but it definitely makes the difference on those cold nights when I turn the heating down to make the bedrooms more comfortable for the sleepers.
Each log is said to last 2-3 hours, but I find they generally last closer to 2 than 3 hours, perhaps I have a particularly drafty fireplace. They burn to leave a fine layer of ash, much of which falls through the grate, and being, as I said earlier, a lazy firelighter, I generally use half a dozen logs before I even contemplate sweeping the hearth (I have been known to vacuum the ash out!). I have lived in this house for ten years and last year was the first that I had the chimney swept. Even after at least nine years without a sweeping, the chimney sweep told me that there was barely any soot up there and there was no real reason to do it. As I know next to nothing about soot, I cannot say for definite that using these logs has prevented a build up, but the penny-pincher in me likes to think so.
As for penny-pinching, these logs are not a cheap alternative to solid fuel, either coal or wood. Currently retailing (January 2009) at £1.70 per log from Asda, I can easily light 2 in an evening. Racking up an extra £23.80 per week on my heating bill!
No fire lighter or kindling required
Quick and easy to light
No crackling wood sound as it burns
Does not provide a lot of heat
Can work out very expensive if used regularly.