Solid Fuel Stoves
When your stove is initially installed there are some things that you need to note and this guide is prepared in order that you understand what is required.
We will also cover the best way of working your stove to get the maximum efficiency and clean burning possible from the appliance, whether it be a multi-fuel or a dedicated wood burning stove.
Starting with your stove
Do not use the stove immediately. The plaster should be allowed to dry thoroughly, which can take up to 3 days. This is to ensure that the plaster does not crack when the stove gets to temperature. Please be patient!
The first 2-3 burns should be small, i.e. just kindling and one log. Leave the air fully open for this process because the paint on the stove needs to temper and will go soft and then hard again under the process. Also, the flue liner has an oil lining which requires burning off. This process will produce a nauseous smell and a considerable amount of smoke. You will probably need to open a window or door to clear the room, particularly on the first burn. This is a natural process.
Once the first few burns are completed, you can use the stove normally.
Working your Wood Burning Stove
When you are about to light the appliance, it is good practice to open all the doors to allow adequate ventilation and also heat the whole area rather than just one room. This is better than sitting in an intensely hot room, which, when a door opens, allows cold air to enter and hot air to exit.
Build a ‘Jenga’ using 6 -8 pieces of kindling. We recommend the kiln dried kindling that shops such as B&M provide as the lengths are perfect at 100-150mm.
Light the appliance with a natural fire lighter (e.g.Twizzlers, Flamers) or the crystalized petroleum sachets, Tiger Tims. Using the cheap paraffin based BBQ firelighters leaves a rancid smell and marks the stove glass.
Leave the kindling to burn for a few minutes. Adding logs too early reduces the amount of oxygen available for the fames and we want the stove to begin the warming process.
After a few minutes, add a log to the top of the ‘Jenga’. If it is exceptionally cold outside, add 2 logs in a cross (X) formation to increase the warming process.
Leave the Primary air control (Bottom) open fully for at least 15 minutes to allow the flue to warm properly in order to be able to ‘draw correctly. (If you have a single lever operation, leave the air control fully open). When cold, the flue has a downdraft and we need to warm this up in order for the flue to ‘pull’ correctly.
Once the flue has reached temperature, the fames will be being pulled upwards and you can now shut of the Primary air and just use the Secondary (top) air. On a single lever stove, moving the lever from fully open disables the Primary air and operates Secondary air only. On a dual lever appliance, the bottom control is the Primary air and the top control is the Secondary. Read your manual for other configurations such as 2 levers on the base.
Now we need to find our ‘happy’ spot. That is the setting where we have sufficient heat and fames to enjoy without burning too hot or cool. Try the secondary air halfway initially, but we find that most users prefer around ¼ or ⅓ of air. Altering this will allow a long burn time as opposed to the 25-30 minutes when a log is burning on full Primary and Secondary air.
Do not remove the ash from the base of the stove. It should be 50mm – 75mm deep to restrict the Primary air as wood does not burn from the base like fossil fuels but from the centre.
Approximately every 3 hours, or when you refuel the stove, turn the air controls up to clean the particulate build up from the ash and the glass, as they have not been burnt of fully, due to the reduced temperature.
When retiring to bed, ensure that the air controls are open fully for both Primary and Secondary air to allow the cleaning of the stove overnight. The air wash will clean the particulates of the glass and the ashes will burn hotter to dispel particulate matter, nitrous oxide and carbon. The ash will burn hot enough to reduce any build up of clinkers and allow it to reduce, thereby extending the removal time.
Do not be perturbed about leaving the house or going to bed whilst the stove is lit. It is perfectly safe. We only install with a flue liner, so there is steel from the base of the stove right up to the top of the chimney pot where the anti-downdraft cowl is installed.
As a rule of thumb, if you are going out for a short time then just turn the air controls down to keep the house warm until you return. If you are intending to go out for a longer period of time, turn the air controls fully open to keep the stove clean and keep the property warm.
Remember that the stove is only as good as the fuel that you burn, so the key is to use kiln-dried or well seasoned wood on a wood burner and smokeless fuel or anthracite on a multi-fuel burner.
It is worth purchasing a moisture meter when burning seasoned wood to ensure that the wood is dry enough to burn. The moisture content should be less than 20% to create a good dry burn which will provide adequate heat. A moisture content below this will just produce a mass of black smoke and the log will fail to ignite.
Remember to have your chimney/flue swept at least once a year. This is dependent on the fuel you are burning and how much the appliance is used.
Good Practice on Stoves
Too much fuel actually smothers your fire and may lead to over-burning! Little and often is the way forward for clean burning. Believe it or not, your stove can get too hot. If you don’t control the temperature your stove can run so hot that it over-fires and damages your stove. 1kilogram of wood can create 5.25kW of heat so if you have a 5kW appliance, you would not use more than 1kg.
Over-firing will destroy rope seals, glass and the vermiculite fire bricks in the chamber, hence why no manufacturer covers the interior of the stove under warranty. It is expected over a period of time to replace stove ropes, etc as they are in direct contact with the fire but these are relatively cheap to renew (around £10).
Never burn large amounts of fuel with the air controls on low for too long as it causes a build up of tar, creosote, particulate matter and nitrous oxide. Occasionally burning on high, during the time the appliance is lit, will reduce this dramatically.
Wood burners should be left with ash in the stove whilst solid fuel burning of fossil fuels and their variants (smokeless) require a clean firebox. When burning solid fuels (Coal, coke, anthracite, smokeless, peat, etc), if hot ashes are allowed to build up in the ashpan, they can come into contact with the lower side of the fire grate. Having the grate sit in hot ashes can cause it to distort and lose shape. Empty your ashes everyday to avoid this problem with solid fuels such as coal, coke, anthracite and smokeless fuels.
Stoves are really only efficient when they are burning hot and this is achieved by using the right combination of air for the conditions. The Primary air feeds in at the base of the appliance and is useful to start a fire, but it is then best closed down entirely with wood burning stoves and partially closed when burning fossil fuels. Use the Secondary air to control the heat/flames then.
Kiln dried wood is far superior to seasoned wood and will burn hotter and cleaner. Kiln-dried wood can also be stored indoors (garage, shed, etc) as it has not been dried outside.
Check the moisture content of seasoned wood, using a moisture meter, prior to burning as the moisture content should be below 20%. Kiln-dried wood is often around 10-12%. You can generally tell if wood is dry because the bark will come away easily in the hand and the log will have splits across the grain.
Wood burning appliances are designed to burn wood products only. However, there are some wood burning models that can be converted to a solid fuel appliance using an optional multi-fuel kit.
You can put wood on a multi-fuel stove, but you cannot put fossil fuels (coke, coal, smokeless, etc) onto a wood burning stove.
Most modern stoves are now fitted with air wash systems that help to keep the glass clean. If you have a stove that does not have a dedicated air wash system, clean your glass daily with specialist cleaning products. With a wood burning appliance, you can use the fine ash from the corners of the stove with a bit of damp kitchen towel to remove any particulate build up on the glass. Under no circumstances should you use any abrasive products to clean the glass! It will cause permanent damage.
If you are not intending to use the appliance during the Summer months, or it is going to be out of use for a considerate amount of time, leave the door slightly open. This allows a flow of air through the flue system which ensures there will be no corrosion.
Do not burn construction timber, painted, impregnated / treated wood, manufactured board products or pallet wood on wood burning stoves. Burn only anthracite or manufactured briquette smokeless fuels listed as suitable for use with closed heating appliances on multi-fuel stoves. Do not burn bituminous coal, ‘petro-coke’ or other petroleum based fuels as this will invalidate the product guarantee. Be aware that manufacturers list a maximum petroleum content allowed in their appliances, so check with your supplier that the fuel you are using complies.
Never mix fuels on a multi-fuel stove as this will lead to serious problems with both your stove and flue system. Many people who burn smokeless fuel miss the fame as it burns like coke so add wood to the fire. This creates 2 gases – Carbon Monoxide and Sulphate. The amount of Carbon Monoxide is limited as the burn time is usually short so users may just feel ill or suffer a headache occasionally. The Sulphate rots anything steel such as the stove, pipe and flue liner. This would invalidate your warranties.
All appliances should have an annual service including a sweep of the flue system; they should check baffles and firebricks; the rope seals on the door and glass; the door latch and hinges. Most chimney sweeps are now trained and qualified in appliances as well as flue maintenance and are able to cover all the activities above.