Meet Pete Hillier Director of Eco Fires and Stoves
In this interview, Sean Usher talks to Pete Hillier, one of the directors of Eco Fires and Stoves. Pete talks about
- The main benefits of wood burning or multi-fuel stoves
- The process of buying a stove, from enquiry to installation
- What time of year is it best to buy a stove
- Why its not a good idea to buy directly on the internet
Plus he talks about the range of fires and stoves that they have available. Spend 12 minutes listening to Pete’s advice, he could save a you a fortune in time and money, if you don’t get the basics right
To read the interview..Click on the “more” link
Pete Eco Fires Interview
Sean Usher: This is Sean Usher, and today I’m talking to Pete Hillier, a Director of Eco Fires and Stoves, who are based in Church Crookham, near Fleet, in Hampshire. Eco Fires and Stoves is a well-established, family run fireplace and stove company, with a reputation built on quality and customer service. They’re a local company for local people, and serve customers within a 25-mile radius of Fleet. They supply and install a vast range of log-burning stoves and fireplaces with gas, electric, or wood-burning fires.
So, Pete, first of all, tell me a little bit about you and Eco Fires.
Pete Hillier: Well I'm a Director of Eco Fires and Stoves. There’s me and Philip Edwards. He’s my business partner. Philip runs the installation side of things, and I basically run the showrooms and the surveying side.
Sean Usher: Oh, good. So, what do you think are main benefits then, Pete, of wood-burning or multi-fuel stoves?
Pete Hillier: Lots of different benefits. People see it in different ways. I think the main benefit of a wood-burning stove is that its an alternative to other fuels. Obviously there’s a lot of talk about shortages and prices going up, that sort of thing. But people also like wood-burning stoves because they’re what we call nature’s television. So, they’re nice things to have and use, so you’re going to enjoy them and you’re going to reap the benefits as well when you’re using them. So, that’s the main reason. There’s a natural attraction to fire – to real fire. That’s what people like.
Sean Usher: And people say they actually warm the whole house, but is it a psychological thing?.
Pete Hillier: Well, there’s a lot of misleading talk going around. I mean you’ve got a box that’s getting very hot and it’s one local area of the home. So, if you’ve got a big, open plan living, then the heat’s going to go around the house. If you’ve got a wood-burner in a lounge and then you’ve got a door going through to a stairway, all that heat is going to go up the stairs and it’s going to miss your kitchen and dining room.
So, don’t believe too much about what you hear. It all depends on how your house is setup, and that’s what we do. We get called out. We advise properly, and we’ll tell it like it is, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting and how it’s going to heat your room. But it’s not just about heating a stove. It’s about a visual feature as well.
Sean Usher: Okay. So, you deal with a lot of brand names. Name some of the brand names that you actually supply and install.
Pete Hillier: Well, we’re very, very much into British companies, and they do produce some of the best stoves in the world, it’s where Britain are doing really well. Companies like Charnwood. They’re based in the Isle of Wight. We’re a premiere dealer for Charnwood, and we’re great believers in their quality. And there are other good companies. Like Town & Country. You’ve got Mendip Stoves and Stovax: They’re a very big company that’s maintained the manufacturing in this country. Not to forget though the Scandinavian companies, Dutch, Swedish. They produce some of the best wood burners in the world as well, and they’ve been doing it for a long, long time. So, with the best quality out there, we bring into our business our here as well. But predominantly we like the freestanding, more traditional stoves. Especially we like to keep it British.
Sean Usher: So let’s talk about the process of actually buying a stove. What things have to be considered first when anyone’s thinking about installing either a wood or gas-fired stove in their home?
Pete Hillier: Well, the first thing is, especially now is: “Do you want wood burning or do you want a gas fire?”
Sean Usher: Can you have both in the same fire?
Pete Hillier: No, you can’t.
Sean Usher: Right.
Pete Hillier: It’s one or the other. You’ve got wood burning, you’ve got gas, or you’ve got electric. Electric is people just going for the feature. They’re not worried about heat at all. Gas fires, five years ago, were not competing with wood burners at all as far as efficiency goes. Now gas fires are well up there. So, we’re selling a lot of high efficiency gas fires as well as wood burners. What you have to decide is what you want to use. Do you want the convenience of a gas fire, where you can just switch it on with a remote control? There’s no cleaning out. Or do you really like the romantic side of having a wood burner crackling away in your lounge and creating some sort of atmosphere? But there’s going to be a little bit of maintenance, although they’re a lot cleaner than they used to be. So, there is weekly removal of ash. You’ve got to keep the glass clean. Although they have their own cleaning systems in them, you’ve still got to do a little bit of maintenance. And obviously whether it’s gas or solid fuel, there’s still an annual maintenance that you’ve got to keep up.
Sean Usher: Would you have to have a flu built into the house already?
Pete Hillier: If you’ve got a chimney. This is what a lot of people don’t understand and it’s one of the most common questions when people come into our showroom. For a wood burner, you use your existing chimney, but you do have to line it. Now, when you line a chimney, you put in a twin or stainless steel liner all the way down that connects to the stove. In some cases, it’s required from a safety point of view. If you’ve got a very old chimney that might be leaking, it’s classed as a repair to your chimney. But also, even on the most modern of houses, where you’ve got modern clay-part liners going down, it can cause other issues with stoves. It causes condensation. It can cause down draft, which means you can’t get the stove working properly.
So, to line the chimney is always a must. There’s only one type of chimney you don’t need to line, and that’s what we call a pumice lining. And that’s usually done from when the house is built and it’s quite an expensive thing to do, but there’s a few out there that you don’t have to put a liner down. And we’d obviously advise you on that when we do the survey.
Sean Usher: Because that’s one of the things you do pride yourself on; is the fact that you have got long-term experience and experts really in the showroom.
Pete Hillier: This is it, and it’s absolutely vital. Ask any fireman, especially in this area. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good, smaller businesses out there. They’re doing good jobs, but there are a lot of people out there that haven’t got the knowledge. They just, you know, got themselves registered, they go outfitting stoves and they go and cause problems because it’s all about experience. There are little things that we know what to do on an installation that’s going to save issues later on down the line. And it’s after you’ve had a stove for two or three years that these problems are going to come to light, including chimney fires, smoke in rooms, carbon monoxide issues. It’s got to be done right. It’s as simple as that. And yes, we do pride ourselves on it and we pride ourselves on the fact that we keep ourselves up with all the regulations, the proper insurances, and everything that’s required to run a business.
Sean Usher: Are all of your fitters Corgi Registered to fit the gas-fired stoves?
Pete Hillier: I’ll correct you there. There’s no such thing as a Corgi Registered anymore.
Sean Usher: Okay.
Pete Hillier: As a lot of people don’t know, it’s not gas safe. The gas fires. And it’s Hetas registration for wood burners. We don’t only register our fitters. We register the sales staff as well. So, even they know how to advise properly. They’re not just salesmen. They know it, black and white.
Sean Usher: Excellent. I’m glad you corrected me.
Pete Hillier: That’s all right.
Sean Usher: Okay. So, we’re recording this interview in April. How long would it take today to get a complete installation?
Pete Hillier: It’s a very good time of year. Any time where it’s not so busy, because it is a very seasonal business. It’s very busy from September right through to beginning of March. Then it tends to tail off. So, it’s a good idea to do this sort of thing in the warmer months, especially if you’re doing something else like decorating, carpets, and that sort of thing. It’s the best time to do it. Not from a cost point of view. It basically doesn’t change that much throughout the year, but certainly from a convenience point of view and lead time point of view, this time of year or the warmer months, anything from two to four weeks is a sort of normal, depending on what product you’re going for.
When you hit the colder months, what we call our seasons, you’re sometimes up to eight weeks before you can have it installed. That’s just because everybody tends to go for it at that sort of time of year. But yeah, if I was going to advise somebody what is the best time, I would say springtime right through to August.
Sean Usher: Okay. So, we all know that it’s possible to buy fires on the Internet, but what do you think are the pitfalls or dangers of doing this?
Pete Hillier: Copied products are a massive problem, especially with companies like Stove Stovax are popular models. Also, a lot of people don’t realise that when you buy a product off of the Internet, you generally don’t get the guarantees that you get from the manufacturer than if you bought it from a proper fire and stove showroom, like ourselves, where we’ve given the proper advice and then installation service. For example, Stove, I think, now are giving a one-year guarantee if you buy it from an Internet company. You buy it from a showroom like ourselves; it is now a three-year guarantee, and that’s because they’ve got the backing of a company that basically are prepared to go out and maintain the stoves for them.
That’s getting more and more common now because the problems that manufacturers have been having by selling off the Internet, selling to people that don’t really know what they’re fitting. They’re asking the company to replace on the guarantee where it isn’t actually their fault, so they’re not getting it fitted properly or they’re doing it themselves or getting it done by somebody inexperienced. So, that’s the reason they’re doing it. It’s actually more cost-effective for them to give us longer guarantees.
Sean Usher: All right. Now, is it always possible and easy to get fuel?
Pete Hillier: In Hampshire, it’s very easy, especially wood, but it’s very regional. In Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, it’s very much wood burning anywhere south. When you get passed London and then you go in towards the north of the country, there’s more what we call solid fuel being burned, which are basically coal-based products. So, yeah, we’re very much a wood burning sort of area around here, and it’s very easy to get a hold of. There’s a lot of companies, like Winchfield Logs that we use a lot and we recommend, that do good quality, well seasoned wood, which is vital.
There are also companies, national companies, that sell kiln-dried wood, which you can get onto an Internet site, you can order direct, and if it’s kiln-dried, it’s usually guaranteed maximum 20% moisture, which means it’s going to be ideal for wood burners, because it’s different for wood burners than it is open fire.
Sean Usher: And what’s your favourite? Is it kiln-dried or the normal?
Pete Hillier: Well-seasoned wood always gives you a better burn, I think. They say that kiln-dried is the best and the most efficient, but I’m not so sure. I just like the little bit longer burning you get from a seasoned piece of wood. It seems to burn nicer, but that’s maybe just me.
Sean Usher: Okay. Pete, thanks for the call today.
Pete Hillier: You’re very welcome.
Sean Usher: We’re going to be doing a series of these, so people can come back and listen to some of the interviews about individual products as well in the future.
Pete Hillier: Yeah.
Sean Usher: So, we look forward to that. That’s Pete Hillier from Eco Fires and Stoves. For more expert advice from him and his knowledgeable staff on any subject relating to wood burning and multi-fuel stoves, visit their showroom in Church Crookham, near Fleet, or you can visit their website at www.EcoFiresandStoves.co.uk, or of course call them on 01252 815 100. I’m Sean Usher.