After reading my recent post entitled, “Choosing Wood Carefully,” one reader wrote to ask me about wood stoves. Yes, you really must exercise care with your wood stove or end up paying the price. For that matter, any wood burning appliance requires care and if you don’t maintain it, you’ll likely end up with a chimney fire at some point. There is little doubt in my mind about it. Even if you don’t have a chimney fire, the wood will burn less efficiently and you’ll get less heat from it. In addition, there is always the problem of potential carbon monoxide poisoning. If you haven’t gotten the point yet, maintaining your wood burning appliance isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s a requirement.
Make sure you perform your required maintenance. When it comes to my wood stove, that means ensuring I clean the glass twice a week so that I can actually see what’s going on inside the wood stove as the wood is burning. Opening a door when there is a burning piece of wood leaning against it (due to shifting) is never an easy task, but clean windows make things easier. You’ll also want to clean out the ash content from time-to-time (I do it daily) to ensure there is no buildup that could reduce the efficiency of the stove. As part of my personal regular maintenance, I also spray some Anti-Creo-Soot into the stove daily to ensure that no creosote builds up in the chimney. This product will greatly reduce the likelihood of a chimney fire and ensure that your wood stove continue to work a full efficiency at all times.
There is also annual maintenance to perform. The most important thing you can do is to obtain the services of a certified chimney sweep. You want a certified professional because they have specialized equipment to clean and check your wood burning appliance. In addition, these professional can usually perform repairs. For example, my wood stove has a very odd shaped window in the front. It broke at one point, causing the stove to operate poorly. Our chimney sweep was able to make the required glass insert when it was discovered that the vendor no longer supplied it, saving me considerable expense and worry.
When the chimney sweep is done, it’s usually a good idea to repaint any rusty areas on your stove. Make sure you wear a mask during the entire process because wood stove paint contains some incredibly nasty chemicals. Use a high temperature paint to repaint the surface after you prepare it. It’s absolutely essential that you paint your stove with all of the windows open and with a fan blowing air into the room. Using a spark proof fan (one designed for use in painting) is a good idea. Always follow the vendor instructions (including using the stove with all of the windows in the room open the first two or three times). Maintaining the paint job will help you enjoy your wood stove for a lot longer and present a nicer appearance when people visit.
Although it isn’t strictly a maintenance task, I also verify that my wood stove is burning at the right temperature. You do this by placing a magnetic thermometer directly on the stove pipe. It’s a good idea to keep the stove in the orange zone of a colored thermometer. Burning wood at too low a temperature causes creosote buildup in the chimney. Of course, keeping the stove too hot could result in a fire.
When you choose the right wood and maintain your stove, you’ll find that your wood burning experiences are significantly better and considerably safer. It doesn’t take long to perform these tasks and the savings from heating your home with wood are incredible. I find that the radiant heat actually feels warmer than the heat produced by a furnace. Let me know your thoughts on wood stove maintenance at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.