When the days get shorter and the temperature gets colder, it is that time of the year to start thinking about the up and coming wood stove heating season. Preparing the wood stove and chimney while it is still warm out will significantly reduce the chance of your wood stove being out of commission when the temperatures are far colder.
Clean Chimney and Inspect the Flue
One of the first things to do before the heating season is to clean and inspect the chimney flue and stove pipe. Never assume the chimney flue is OK for use. No matter how little you use your wood stove, the chimney should always be cleaned and inspected at the very minimum of once a year. If the stove is used often, the chimney should be checked and possibly cleaned during the heating season as well.
Check Firebrick and Stove Baffles
Now that the chimney flue is clean, the next thing to do is inspect the wood stove firebrick and baffles. Firebrick is critical to have inside the wood stove firebox. Firebrick is what insulates the inside of the stove and ensures the wood burns clean so the gasses that contain the creosote do not enter the chimney. If your firebricks are crumbling and falling apart, it is important to replace them to ensure a proper burning wood stove.
If you have a newer and more efficient wood stove, you will find fiber baffles resting above the firebox. Like the firebrick, the fiber baffles are crucial to ensure the wood stove is burning properly. The baffles are the key ingredient that allows you to get the long, overnight burns from a load of wood. The baffles take the brunt of the flame to significantly keep the heat inside the firebox. If the baffles are cracked or falling apart, you will not be able to choke the wood stove down and the fire will burn out quickly. Each wood stove manufacturer has a unique baffle. Contact your wood stove dealer to get a replacement baffle.
Proper Firewood Storage
One of the biggest mistakes people make when burning wood is the failure to properly store the wood. Wood that is uncovered and stacked tightly will not dry enough for proper burning practices. The moisture content of the wood should be in the 15 to 20 percent range for proper, clean burning. Just because the wood has been sitting outside for 2 years doesn't mean the moister content of the wood is low.
If you hear a hissing sound coming from your wood stove, your wood is likely too wet and will cause a lot of creosote to enter the flue. The wood should be loosely stacked to allow air movement through the stack and should be covered at the top. Air movement through the wood is important and causes the wood to dry more rapidly. Completely wrapping the wood stack with a tarp will actually trap moisture in the tarp making it more difficult and longer to dry the wood.
Having the right tools makes any job easier - especially when running a wood stove. A Moisture Meter is a must for any one who burns wood. The Moisture Meter will tell you the exact moister content of the wood. The next best tool is a stove or stove pipe thermometer. The Thermometer will let you know what the actual flue temperature is. This is important to know because if you are burning low fires, you will be sending all the creosote up the chimney. Hotter fires burn cleaner with less possibility of creosote.
It is very important to properly maintain a wood stove to ensure proper functionality and performance. Making sure the wood stove is maintained before the heating season will ensure a happy and warm heating season.