There’s not much better than the warm glow coming from your wood stove in the dead of winter. However, if you’ve noticed that your stove isn’t heating up a room the way it used to, chances are you’re due for a little maintenance. Practice regular care and maintenance to keep your stove working as efficiently as possible.
You can prevent a lot of future maintenance by ensuring you only burn properly seasoned wood in your wood stove.
Avoid burning the following:
• Treated wood
• Artificial logs
• Any material containing zinc, sulfur, lead, or plastics; these will damage the catalytic combustor
Avoid burning anything other than seasoned or kiln-dried wood, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble down the road. The weight of unseasoned green wood is 50% moisture, which needs to be burned off first before any of the heat reaches your home. Kiln-dried firewood is without a doubt the best option because of maximum heat output, less creosote buildup, economy, and health (trash or plastics may contain materials that could produce harmful gases when burned)
Practice Consistent, Ongoing Maintenance
Keep the fire in your stove burning small and hot. This type of fire is more efficient, and you’ll have greater heat output. A smaller, hotter fire helps to lessen creosote output which means a warmer room and less maintenance down the road.
Keep the stove vents clear by consistently removing excess ash (you’ll have little to none of this when you burn kiln-dried wood).
Every year at the start of the heating season, have a professional stove dealer or a chimney sweep inspect your wood stove.
Check the integrity of your stove doors
Are your stove doors sealing properly? An easy way to test this is by placing a dollar bill in the door crack (MAKE SURE NO FIRE IS LIT), close the door, and try to pull the dollar out. If you can pull the bill out easily, the door gaskets need to be replaced. These doors should seal tight. Doors that seal improperly will cause additional soot buildup and reduce your heat output.
Check for Creosote build-up in the flue
Creosote is a chemical used for wood preservation. When you burn only ‘real’ seasoned wood or kiln-dried wood, the creosote in your stove is a buildup of tar that comes from the actual burning of wood. The creosote in your chimney can be thick tar, dust-like particles, or even a foamy hard substance. When you let creosote build up, this can cause an obstruction in your chimney or even a chimney fire. You can test for this when your wood stove is cold by tapping on the flue and listening. If you hear debris falling, it’s a sure sign that you’re overdue to clean the flue yourself or hire a professional like chimney sweep to do it for you. A good standard to stick with is to sweep your wood burning stove’s flue once a year.
Look at your stove pipe for signs of warping
Free-standing wood stoves typically have a stove pipe that extends from the stove to either a chimney or the outside. Inspect this pipe for signs of corrosion, ill-fitting joints, warps, or cracks. If you find any of these, it’s time to replace your stove pipe. This job is easy to do, but messy!
With a bit of thoughtful care and maintenance, you’ll keep your stove burning hot and bright through many winters to come.