If you’re interested in owning a wood stove, you probably done some research. Maybe you’ve heard the buzz about the efficiency of modern stoves and their small environmental footprint. Or you may already be a stove owner, in which case you’ve started basking in that radiant heat. Either way, you’re wondering how to ensure that your stove turns out to be one of those peak performers–and a smart investment to boot. If so, you’re asking the right questions, because today’s stoves a designed to pay great dividends. Capitalizing on your stove’s potential begins with choosing the right type of fuel. But beyond that, here are three steps to help stoke your stove to its full heating potential.
First, take the temperature of your wood burning stove. A lot of today’s stoves come with thermometers preinstalled, which makes this step easy. If this isn’t the case, it’s not difficult to attach a stack thermometer to your stove’s flue–that pipe that carries the exhaust outside. Once you have a thermometer in place, you’ll be able to check the temperature of gases as they exit the stove. For the average wood stove, the ideal temperature range falls between 300 and 400 F. If the stove is burning within this range, it is producing heat efficiently while causing the least pollution possible. You can target this optimum spectrum by adjusting the stove’s burn rate or changing the quantity of fuel.
Second, do stove maintenance. This a simple step, but easy to overlook. Modern stoves don’t create a lot of waste, but from time to time you’ll want to clean out wood ash. When excess ashes start to build up, it’s time to service your stove with the equivalent to a quick oil change–only it’s much, much easier! Collected ash can obstruct the air vents of your stove, depriving the fire of oxygen. This makes it hard to control the burn rate of your fire, and compromises efficiency. Heating your home is hard work, so the last thing you want to do is making your stove short of breath.
Third, take an outsider’s perspective on your wood stove. By “outsider” I mean outside your house. When a wood stove is burning with maximum efficiency, it creates almost no visible smoke. So when you have a good blaze going, walk outside and inspect your stove flue or chimney. If you see dark fumes, you should vary the stove’s oxygen flow and wood supply, then check again. A well-tended fire with good fuel will eliminate that smokiness. When there’s no smoke, and just a shimmer in the air, you’ll know your stove is reaching its potential: burning clean and hot.
Feel like you’re getting the idea? Modern stoves are designed to take most of the guesswork out of all this. Feeding your stove the right woods and following the “common sense” tips above will turn your stove into a radiant heating machine.