Using Your Stove

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You should check the manufacturer’s information for specific details on the operation of your stove. The majority of stoves in the UK are “multi fuel” although the most common fuel is wood logs. Most stoves (wood burners) are not suitable for burning normal “house coal”. Many manufacturers will specify “smokeless coals” only if using a coal based fuel so you should check the instructions.

Basic Guide

  • Use plenty of small kindling / sticks or suitable firelighter so that the fire is quickly established. Slightly larger logs should go on top. Use wood with a moisture content of 20% or less. Look for the Ready to Burn logo when purchasing bags of fuel.

  • Set all air controls to fully open, light the fire and close the door.

  • Allow a reasonable burn for 10 to 15 minutes. The flames should fill the box without being sucked up the chimney.

  • Re-fuel now with slightly larger logs and allow a few minutes to establish. It is only when these small logs are burning that full size logs should be added

  • If your stove has more than one air control then this is the time to close the one which allows air directly in from the room. This is often called the primary control. See the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Once the “primary” air control has been closed the temperature will continue to rise. Using a “flue pipe thermometer” will help you know when you have reached the best temperature. If you are using a thermometer then aim for the middle of the “best operation” range.

  • Once you reach optimum temperature you may now be able to reduce the amount of air using a “secondary” control. Reducing this air will slow the rate of burn but it is vital not to close it off too much. There should always be a reasonable amount of flame in the box and glass should stay clear.

  • When the stove has been running at optimum temperature for 15 minutes or so, you can check to see if you have set the controls correctly by simply looking at the top of your chimney. If you see smoke, then there is not enough air getting in to the stove. Open the control up a bit, allow the fire to build for a few minutes and have another look.

Take Control

The single most important factor affecting the burn temperature is the way you use and control the stove.

If the air controls are shut down too much, the burning temperature drops and lots of pollution is produced. You may be completely unaware of this, so please take time to read the manufacturer’s instructions and understand them.

You can have a good stove attached to a good chimney and use nice dry wood but if you close the air controls too much, then lots of damaging pollution is produced. This process also wastes your fuel and soots up the chimney.

OVERNIGHT BURNING IS A BAD IDEA

Never try to “slumber” your stove for long periods / overnight with the air controls closed off too much. Loading up the average stove to slumber for a long period can easily produce more than a kilo of tiny damaging particles which then pass out the top of your chimney and in to the air we all breathe.

HOW TO CHECK IF YOU’RE USING THE CONTROLS EFFECTIVELY

Symptoms of very poor burning habits include:

  • Blackened glass

  • Constant smoke from the chimney – the chimney will smoke when first lit and perhaps when refuelling but otherwise there should be no smoke – smoke is simply unburned fuel, loaded with damaging particles

  • Unburned wood or charcoal left after the stove goes out

  • Your chimney sweep may say there’s a lot of “tar / creosote” in your chimney. Please follow their advice on how to address this