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Tricks to the wood stove

Discussion in 'Everything Else Energy' started by hqueen13, Feb 1, 2018.

  1. Feb 1, 2018
    hqueen13

    hqueen13 <Insert Snazzy Title Here

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    I figured this was the best place to put this...
    We have a wood stove with our new house, and so I figured since a wood stove is a little different than a regular fire place, I thought I'd check in with some folks that burn in a wood stove and see if there are any tricks of the trade that will make it easier on us and cut out some of the learning curve (so we can be warmer faster!)

    Our stove (I'll have to get a photo of it) isn't big, and it has 2 solid doors that don't have glass in them, so I can't see how it's doing inside. Last night we started a fire in it, and I forgot how much you have to feed a fire to really get it going so that the big logs will catch. I managed, but it's been a while. We did get the big logs to start burning, but the BF seemed to think it should be burning more than it was. I had no idea what kind of wood we're using, but it was some old cut up stuff that somebody had lying around that was free. It's definitely not ideal, but it should burn ok, at least. We never really got it very hot, according to the little thermometer on the stove pipe, it only went up to about 200 degrees, of course I have no idea how hot the stove pipe should be, but still. The stove itself never really got that hot, either. We only burned for a few hours, and the BF kept opening the doors to check on it. It did seem to burn better with the doors open, but I have a feeling that it probably isn't going to "burn" quite like the fireplace because there is less air flow, which is fine, but we are not sure how it's supposed to really work.

    So, anybody that's heated with a wood stove long term, advice and suggestions would be helpful!
     
    Beekissed likes this.
  2. Feb 1, 2018
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Mountain Sage

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    The stove should have dampers on it somewhere....little ways to open it up to allow airflow into the stove to encourage a hotter fire. You shouldn't have to open the door in order for this to happen. Each stove is different, so a good, close up pic or even a model and make of the stove would help us find the individual dampers for you...once you find those, you will have to play with them a little to see which combination of open or closed yields you the hottest fire.

    The wood could be damp inside if it's been "lying around", especially older wood...it's like a sponge if left out in the elements to absorb the rain and snow. If damp inside, it will not yield a hot fire no matter what stove it's in. If it's been under good storage and isn't too pithy(turned to sawdust inside by bugs...this sawdust will absorb moisture whether the wood is out in the elements or not), it should burn well enough.

    Stove pipe...just like chimneys, some pipe configurations draw better than others(draw refers to the amount of air flow out the exhaust...up the pipe). If there are too many bends in the pipe, pipe placement on the stove out the back, the type of cap on the pipe, etc. can determine how well it draws. If it doesn't draw well, the stove won't keep a good fire...there must be adequate intake of fresh air and adequate removal of the smoke/fire by products in order for the fire to burn well. Some pipes have a damper built into the pipe...this is one way you can control the draw and becomes useful if the stove is TOO hot and you want to "damper it down a bit" to slow down the burn. If your stovepipe damper is closed, though, and you want a hotter fire, it's best if you open it.

    Leaks in the seals around the seams, pipes and doors. If your stove model takes seals and they are old, bad or missing, they can allow TOO much air into the stove when you don't want it, causing your fire to burn up too quickly and not allowing your stove to "hold a fire", which is why so many people can't seem to bank up their stove at night and expect there will still be a fire in their stove the next morning. Leaky seals will allow too much air into the box and not allow that all night slow burn needed to keep a fire going 24/7.

    Another way a hot fire is inhibited is when the stove has not been cleaned out of it's bed of ashes and spent coals...this build up can smother the fire in the logs, so keeping it cleaned out can help promote a hotter fire.

    Last, but not least, some stoves are just crappy designs and never will be good at heating a home...some are more decorative than functional and some just never had a good design to begin with. Folks who have never done wood heat won't know the difference if they don't have good mentors on it, so they buy whatever is cheapest, available, saw in an ad, the salesman~who usually don't know much about them either~sold to them, or was given to them by someone without understanding how much heat they can expect from any given stove.

    Most will stick with smaller models but still expect big heat...some small stoves are designed to really pipe out that heat, while some are just small stoves that look good in the home, but mostly you won't get huge heat output from a very small wood stove. Big stove, big fire, usually holds true.

    Generally, I've never seen a stove with two doors hold heat well...too hard to seal the fire box when utilizing two doors that close against one another. This makes for a leaky stove that you can rarely bank up for the night and expect a fire in the morning. I'm not saying there can't be exceptions to that rule, just saying I've never seen it yet.

    Hope that all helps. If you can post a pic or model make and number, we could maybe help a bit more than generalities about what could be happening.
     
    tortoise likes this.
  3. Feb 1, 2018
    sumi

    sumi Super Self-Sufficient Administrator

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    I have a small wood burning stove in my house and I know it was new when I moved in here. I burn a combination of sticks, peat and coal in it and get the best heat from the coal. (I cannot sit near that thing when it has a good load in it!) To get it going I used to start it with fire lighters, small sticks (kindling) and paper, bigger sticks on top, followed by proper logs. I found it a bit of a learning curve and lot of messing around with the air flow before I got it right, but then I only learned to make fires about 2 years ago, so everything was a learning curve lol Nowadays I use some wood chip and wax fire lighters that burns quite long and coal.

    As Beekissed said above, air flow plays a big part! When starting the fire and getting it going properly, adequate airflow is important. In your situation, I may use it opened for a bit, let the heat out and just keep fuelling it.
     
  4. Feb 5, 2018
    hqueen13

    hqueen13 <Insert Snazzy Title Here

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    Thanks ladies!!
    I think the wood was most of the issue. The BF got a load from a friend that was actually seasoned, we think it's locus, but we're not sure. It's got an interesting color to it, and annoying likes to throw fire fairies everywhere when you add air to it trying to get it going. But it burns HOT! And not too fast. We've been able to keep the basement at about 71 or 72, which is really nice for the bedrooms above it! I'm glad we figured it out for the most part!
     
  5. Feb 6, 2018
    TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Lovin' The Homestead

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    Yes as said above there should be a lever somewhere to act as a damper so you can shut the doors. Its ok to leave the doors open when starting the fire, but you don't want all the heat going up the stove pipe. So shut the doors and open the damper completely. When the fire has lite everything, close the damper about 1/2 to 3/4. Heat will the radiate out of the stove. You don't want a roaring fire, a small one will work fine. You might use a directional ceiling fan to pull air throughout the house, this way heat doesn't build up in one room becoming too warm. You can heat quite a few rooms with a wood stove. You will learn how to best use it the more times you build a fire. Good luck! :)
     
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  6. Feb 8, 2018
    hqueen13

    hqueen13 <Insert Snazzy Title Here

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    Thanks @TwoCrows
    We're learning, we got it almost too hot (the water in the pot on top was boiling.... Oops!), but we've mostly settled into a rhythm with it. We are able to get it going enough that there's still good coals in the morning to get it restarted easily, and it lasts all day, so we're mostly tending it only 2 or 3 times per day, which is great. The new wood that we got was a big help! It burns beautifully!

    So far we've gotten the basement up to 73 degrees at the warmest, and the thermostat is across the room, and is next to the other half of the basement, which, while walled off and we keep the doors closed, is unheated. Last night we pulled the shades down in the bedroom, and this morning it was 70 in there, too, which is right over the wood stove. It's keeping the floor warm for sure! We need to get a couple of strategically placed fans so that we can move more air, but I'm just happy if it warms up the floors so upstairs is a little warmer. Once we get new windows it will make a big difference, too!
     
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  7. Feb 8, 2018
    frustratedearthmother

    frustratedearthmother Sustainability Master

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    So nice to know it works like it should and that you've got it all figured out. I'm no help in that area... never had a wood stove. Kinda feel like I've missed out on something, lol!
     
  8. Feb 8, 2018
    sumi

    sumi Super Self-Sufficient Administrator

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    It sounds like it's working really well for you now! And yes, good wood does make a big difference in those.
     
  9. Feb 12, 2018
    hqueen13

    hqueen13 <Insert Snazzy Title Here

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    FEM, I was excited to have it! I always wanted one, and I'm liking it a lot better than the goofy pellet stove that we had before. You can't find pellets for free, but you can find firewood for free! Even though the pellet stove had settings and was more automatic, I'd rather have the wood stove. You don't have to turn it off to clean it! The pellet stove was bad because you had to let it come all the way down in temp in order to clean it out, and if you ran it on a higher setting for too long it would get to the point where it would put itself out with the ash. And then your heat would be gone. At least with the wood stove I can scraped the coals to one side, scoop out the ash, and keep on going and not lose the heat!
     
  10. Feb 12, 2018
    sumi

    sumi Super Self-Sufficient Administrator

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    I was about to say when I started reading your post, watch out for small coals hiding in the ashes! I used a small brush to wipe out the ashes and it's burnt down quite a bit already.

    On the free fire wood, YES! Huge benefit of a wood stove. You can save yourself a small fortune there.
     

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