Keeping it in Order
While many innovations in modern wood stoves have made it easier to use, maintenance is still needed for the stove to operate properly. Maintenance helps you keep the stove at its peak working condition as well as prevent excess pollution and keep accidental fires from happening.
Depending on your type of stove, there may be extra requirements needed for maintenance. Take a look at your manual to know the any special maintenance procedures. A quick list of the usual maintenance requirements are also given below. You can refer to these so you can have a checklist of what to do whenever you get around to cleaning or using your stove.
Before Using the Stove
- Proper Fuel Selection – basic wood burning stoves can make use of a variety of fuel including wood pellets, hardwood and softwood. But for wood stoves that have anti pollution devices such as catalysts, it may be necessary to use only a particular type of wood. Wood or fuel which causes excessive smoke or creosote and soot can clog up or damage catalysts.
- Setting up Draft – make sure that there is enough air to start the fire. You have to make sure as well that the air is going into the stove and out of the house. You can set up the draft by lighting up crumpled pieces of newspaper very near the stovepipe and flue. This will warm the air and start the correct direction for air flow. Otherwise, you may find that the house will be filled with smoke.
While Using the Stove
- Feeding the Stove – whenever you put more firewood in, make sure to put in around 3 or more pieces. Placing firewood one by one consumes more energy since you open the stove door more frequently. Make sure the heat will be used to burn the fuel and isn’t wasted in regaining energy lost whenever you open the stove door.
- Adjusting Vents and Dampers – opening the air vents will help you start up a fire. But keeping it open will use up fuel faster and heat will be lost to the flue gasses and out of your home. Adjust the inlet and outlet of air in order to maintain warmth and continuous burning, but not a large and raging fire. This can take a little practice so you can start by slowly closing the vents and valves until you get the right burning rate.
While Not in Use
You should do most of these maintenance steps when the stove is not in use and is cool. This is to prevent any accidental burns or fires from starting. Ash removal can be done intermittently and as needed but always with safety in mind.
- Ash Removal – firewood can burn best when it rests on a bed of ashes. Excess ash however will reduce the heat produced and can make it difficult to start a fire. Take out ash and any embers when they start to take up a lot of space, just maintain enough ash cover for your wood to rest on. Make sure to use a fireproof container and dispose of it properly and away from anything that can catch fire. You can also choose to completely empty out the ash first if you’re doing general cleaning. You can put enough for a cover later on.
- Checking Vents and Valves – check your valves and vents for good working condition. Make sure that these vents turn to open or close properly together with the knobs or switches.
- Cleaning the Glass door – there are commercial products which you can use, but ammonia or vinegar that has been distilled with water can also work.
- Cleaning the stove pipe, flue, and chimney – a certified chimney sweep should be considered when cleaning all ducts that the flue gasses pass through. This will ensure that the build up of soot will be avoided. Soot can cause accidental chimney or flue fires since soot is still flammable. Soot will usually fall back into the stove. You may have to remove any accessories in between the stove and flue such as catalysts or combustors first. A plastic or polymer chimney brush should do the trick to remove soot.
- Cleaning the Stove – remove all build up of soot from inside the stove. Hot and clean burning-fire can also remove soot. You can choose to do this a day or two before cleaning the stove. This will remove large build up of creosote. For any left over soot, a brush or small scraper will work fine. Check the stove for cracks, rust or fades. Repair these spots immediately.
- Checking Accessories – check any special accessories your stove may have. Secondary combustors, catalysts and any insulation should be checked and cleaned. There are specific manufacturer’s instructions for this which should be followed to avoid damaging these.
- Use a professional chimney sweep – if your DIY skills aren’t up to par, you definitely should get a certified chimney sweep to do general cleaning. If the cleaning chores are limited to cleaning the inside of the stove and the stove glass, you can do it yourself. For larger jobs, always consider a professional.
- Take caution when using commercial chemical products – or any chemical or product in general. It is usually safe to use small amounts of cleaners and polish, but larger amount can cause problems especially when the stove becomes hot. Follow any special directions on these products.
Maintenance of wood stoves isn’t too technical but it does require following instructions and keeping safety in mind. Make sure the stove is well maintained and clean especially if you haven’t used the stove for a long time.