Habitation Investigation

Proper Use of a Woodstove

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Creosote in a flue pipe

Proper operation of a woodstove is important to help not only to help protect and maintain the woodstove itself. Proper operation is also a safety concern as neglect of proper care to a woodstove can result in fire hazards to the home and therefore the family. Below are steps to keep in mind.

1. Begin by having the chimney swept and inspected. This will make sure the woodstove is safe and that it has been installed properly. Have it cleaned/swept at least yearly. Some home inspectors are able to scope a flue for issues.

2. Choose the right wood for your woodstove. Hardwoods are the best choice as they burn hotter and longer with fewer sparks. Be certain that the wood is dry so the heat and energy is not used to dry the wood instead of heating your home.

3. Place the wood in the stove, and make sure it is at least 6-8 inches away from the walls and chimney.

4. Light the kindling, and wait for the fire to start before adding more wood.

5. Add small pieces of wood to the fire one at a time, and add larger pieces after the fire is established.

6. Watch for smoke billowing from the stovepipe. If lots of smoke is detected, adjust your air intake or the stove damper to help the fire burn cleanly and efficiently. A slow burning smoky fire greatly increases the buildup of creosote.

7. Make sure the stove damper is closed when the fire is completely finished burning to help prevent air loss.

How hot should you get the flue for safe operation on a wood stove? The flue needs to be at least 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit for safer operation of a wood stove. Creosote is a tar-like substance that combusts at high temperatures and can build up on the inside surface of the chimney and flue if the fire is burning at a temperature that is too low. This can be extremely dangerous, as creosote burning can result in a chimney or flue fire and can spread quickly through the house. Maintaining the temperature of the fire within the recommended range is the best way to avoid the buildup of creosote. Proper flue temperature starts with using dry wood.

If buying a home be certain to get the fireplace chimney and the woodstove flue scoped to identify concerns.

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