How to operate a wood burning stove

July 29, 2015

The most important thing about heating your home with a wood stove is learning to use it properly. Here are some tips to get you started.

How to operate a wood burning stove

The right way to begin

  • To start a fire in a wood stove, place a pile of kindling (thin slivers of quick-burning wood) over some crumpled newspaper in the firebox, and top the pile with some light pieces of split wood.
  • Open the air regulator (and the flue damper if there is one), light the paper and shut the stove door.
  • Never use fuel, oil or kerosene to get the fire going — an explosion could result.
  • After a few minutes, when the fire is going well, add larger and heavier pieces of wood. If a long burn is desired, enough wood should be loaded to nearly fill the firebox while leaving sufficient air space for efficient burning.
  • As soon as the large pieces of wood have caught fire, close down the air regulator by about two thirds. The narrower the opening, the slower and longer the fire will burn.
  • Bear in mind that a slow-burning fire may increase soot build-up in the flue, leading to problems later.
  • With practice, the air regulator can be set to give a comfortable room temperature whatever the conditions outside.
  • A new stove may require breaking in to prepare the metal of the firebox for long exposure to high temperatures. Do this by lighting a series of small fires for short periods of time; lightweight wood should be used for a fast, hot burn.

Temperature control

  • A stove must not be run too hot. If too intense a fire is created in the firebox, it is possible that even a well-made stove may crack or burn through. A firebox overloaded with wood wastes energy because volatile gases will simply escape up the chimney.
  • A well-made stove can safely be left to burn unattended. For overnight burning, load the stove at least half an hour before going to bed.
  • To minimize soot build-up, turn the air supply down to minimum only after all the wood is charred (generally after about 20 minutes). Most stoves will burn for eight hours without difficulty.
  • In the morning, to clear soot build-up in the flue, the fire should be burned hot (with the air regulator set at about three quarters open) for an hour or more.
  • Most slow-combustion stoves operate well when there is a bed of ash in the firebox to help insulate the base. The ash bed should not be allowed to build up too much – when it reaches the level of the grate or the lower lip of the firebox opening, ash should be removed. Leave any charcoal in the ash as fuel.

A wood stove can be an effective way to warm your home. Keep these tips in mind and learn the safest way to use your wood stove.

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