Apart from electronic heaters, using a wood stove is a great way to keep your house warm and cozy during winter. This natural heating system is an excellent backup plan, especially on days when you have power outages. Learning how to use a wood-burning stove need not be a daunting task. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to use a wood-burning stove.
Step 1: Building a Fire on a Wood Burning Stove
Before starting a fire, read the manufacturer’s manual first. Some wood stoves come with manuals that contain essential information on how to operate the stove. If your wood-burning stove didn’t come with a manual, you could always look it up online on the company’s website.
The basic requirements to start a fire on your wood stoves are pieces of wood, mostly dry kindling, some old newspaper, and a box of matches. You may use a lighter if you have one. Here’s how to light a fireplace, something similar to this task.
Your choice of fuel is crucial since it will determine how fast you get the fire going. Use seasoned dry wood as fresh wood may not be dry enough to light up. Additionally, fresh wood has too much water and will create a lot of smoke.
When choosing the type of wood to use, consider the seasons. During winter seasons, hardwood is most ideal since it is denser and produces hotter and long-burning fires. Cool spring weather calls for softwood fuels such as pine and spruce, which are less dense, thus producing cooler fires.
To start the fire, make sure the wood stove damper is fully open to allow air to circulate freely. This will also help the smoke to escape to the outside.
Break small pieces of dry kindling and arrange them on the bed of the woodstove. You don’t need to use pieces of paper if the twigs are small enough to catch fire quickly. If you use larger pieces of wood, crumple up some old newspaper, put the wood on top of the newspaper.
When starting a fire, avoid using silky pieces of paper such as ones for magazines. Such paper doesn’t catch fire easily and produces a lot of smoke.
Arrange your pieces of wood in a crisscrossing manner on the bed of the stove. This gives room for air circulation. Light up the newspapers and keep feeding small pieces of dry kindling into the fire until it is big enough. At this point, the damper door should be partially open. If you leave it fully open, too much air might blow the fire out.
Step 2: Warming the Flue
It is vital that you warm the flue as a cold flue can prevent fire from catching quickly. To illustrate, when your wood stove is not in use, the air vents are usually full of cold air, which is heavy. If you start a fire on your stove without warming the flue, the initial heat and smoke aren’t strong enough to push out this cold air. This will result in cold air and smoke escaping into your home.
Therefore, a cold flue can prevent your fire from catching up or put out any small fire you manage to light. This is why it is important to prep your flue to create a good draft in your chimney.
You can prime up the flue by simply opening up the woodstove door. This warms up the duct to room temperature. When it is freezing, room temperature may not be enough to warm up the flue. To quicken things, you can set some old newspapers on fire and place them under the flue.
A good sign that your flue is warm enough is when smoke rises from your burning newspaper into the flue.
If you frequently burn wood on your stove, the chimney may be clogged, and this restricts airflow, preventing it from warming up. Consider cleaning up the vent once in a while.
Step 3: Keeping your fire going
It is one thing to light up a fire in your wood-burning stove and another thing to sustain the fire. The fire might go out as soon as you get it going. To prevent this, you have to keep feeding more wood into the fire.
To keep your fire going, the door of the stove should remain closed. This is because every time you open the door, heat escapes the stove, thereby lowering the temperatures inside it. The only time you can open the door is if you are adding in more wood. Open the door slowly and steadily to prevent a blast of cold air from entering the stove. Cold air might even put out the fire.
Consequently, keeping the door closed is also a safety measure as it prevents hot embers and sparks from flying all over the room.
Once the fire has become self-sustainable, you can keep it going by adding larger logs to it. Be careful not to wait until the fire is almost dying before adding more firewood. When flames start to wane, add in larger logs.
The best time to add more fuel is when there are enough burning embers with visible fire. You can only add two or three medium logs at a time. If you choose to use larger logs, one is enough. Adding too much wood may snuff out the fire and create smoke. If the fire dies out before you can add in any more logs, rekindle it using some dry kindling.
If you wish to leave your wood stove burning overnight, it is advisable to add larger logs. This is because they burn for more extended periods, and you won’t need to keep adding wood to the stove.
A lot of air in the firebox may put out the fire. To prevent this, close all the air vents (primary air vents, secondary air vents, and the damper) partially and leave just enough space for small amounts of air to pass through. The air should be enough to keep the fire burning but not too much to set it ablaze.
How To Use Your Wood Stove Efficiently
There are several ways to use our wood stove efficiently. Here are some of them.
Always use dry wood
You must use dry wood on your wood stoves. The choice of fuel matters as it determines how well your wood-burning stove will function. When you buy wood, you always choose firewood whose moisture content is less than 20%.
Wet wood smolders a lot and creates creosote buildup. This is because wet wood doesn’t burn completely. Creosote is dangerous since it can clog your chimney and potentially cause a chimney fire. Furthermore, wet logs don’t produce enough fire to keep you warm.
Use fans to distribute the heat
Your stove will do an excellent job of heating your house, but it’s your duty to find a way to distribute the heat. You can get a fan that fits on top of the woodstove and help circulate heat throughout the room.
Only use wood and old newspapers on your stove
Sometimes you may be tempted to use other materials to light up your wood-burning stove. These materials may include plastics, nylons, or metal. Even though plastics and nylons quickly catch fire and burn faster, they are dangerous materials to use. Not only are they damaging to your stove, but they are also hazardous to your health.
Moreover, don’t burn rubbish and compost waste on your stove. Some materials leave a harmful residue when burnt. Compost matter, for instance, has a tar-like residue that destroys the lining of the flue.
A wood-burning stove cannot function without a chimney. For efficiency, get a chimney that fits your specific stove. The chimney should be of the correct length-long enough to dispel off smoke and short enough to sustain the pressure produced by the fire. Here’s your guide on chimneys and installing wood stove to understand how it works.
For equal and efficient heat distribution, ensure that your wood stove is strategically positioned. Although it may be impossible to put it at the center of the home, ensure it is as close to the center as possible.
Use the top-down method when lighting up your stove
From practice, a wood stove lights up faster when the flue is warmed up. You can achieve this if you light up the stove from the top down. While lighting up a stove from the bottom going up is the norm, using the top-down method is a guaranteed way to maximize efficiency. The top-down method ensures that the combustion chamber at the top of the woodstove is heated up first, thus creating an ideal environment at the bottom.
You can maximize the heat produced by each burning wood by closing the air vents in stages. This ensures that there is enough air in the firebox to fire up only a limited number of logs. It minimizes waste and ensures that larger logs burn entirely.
Leaving the air vents open gives room for air to enter into the firebox. The result of this is that the wood would burn faster and produce less heat.
How To Put out a Wood Burning Stove
It is imperative that you completely extinguish the fire in your wood-burning stove once you are using it. This is because, in the right environment, a tiny, dying ember can cause a horrific fire outbreak. Here are a few steps you can follow to put out a fire in your stove correctly.
- Close the stove door and starve the fire of oxygen by closing all the air vents on the woodstove.
- Stop adding any more firewood to the stove. Let the logs in the stove burn off completely. This is particularly true for putting out fire pits.
Once you do this, give the stove a few minutes for the fire to die down. Once it does, you can spread the embers on a surface and allow them to cool down. Some people use baking soda to stop the combustion process completely.
For your safety, don’t close the chimney damper. This is because you need to leave some space for all the harmful carbon monoxide to leave through the chimney. This gas should never be allowed to leak into your house.
Once the hot coals have cooled completely, you can sweep them up and dispose of them into the dustbin. Always remember to leave your fireplace clean and free from any residue.
How to clean your wood stove
Cleaning your wood stove is important as it prevents accidental fire outbreaks and also makes it more efficient. There is a lot of harmful residue and buildup on your stove that needs to be cleaned out. Residue such as creosote is flammable and may easily catch fire. Before cleaning out your stove, here are a few safety tips to consider:
- Only clean the stove when it has cooled down.
- Wear gloves when scooping out the ash as some coals take longer to cool down.
- Dispose of all the ash and leftover coals in a metal container. A` plastic container will melt if this ash is not adequately cooled
Wood-burning stove cleaning majorly entails scooping out ash and sweeping out debris. If there is a lot of creosote buildup, you will need a chimney brush to scrape it off. If your stove has a glass window, the best way to clean this window is by using a damp flannel square.
Don’t forget to clean out your stove pipe lest you find a bird’s nest in there.