Troubleshooting your Woodstove

fire-flames-yellow-orangeChimneys and Draft conditions:  The main function of a chimney is to create draft for combustion and to transport the flue gases out of the building. A good draft is vital for a good combustion. We consider a normally good draft to be between 10-20 Pa (1-2 mm VC). The chimney creates the draft, not the appliance. Essential for the draft is the construction of the chimney A tall chimney gives more draft. If the draft is insufficient it can be a solution to build a taller chimney. The chimney diameter should never be less than the diameter on the appliance flue outlet. A circular chimney liner normally gives a better draft than a square. Use of flue pipe elbows reduces the draft. If elbows are used it is better to install with 2 X 45 degrees. Combustion air is essential for the draft An open fireplace requires approx 300m3 air each hr, while a “closed” fireplace requires approx 30m3 per hr. A kitchen duct /ventilator sucks much more air than a chimney. This will create a negative draft. Negative chimney draft causes smoke in the room. Outside air leading directly to the appliance avoids insufficient combustion air. Influence of the wind Draft disturbance can be caused by tall trees, cliffs or tall buildings. The problem can normally be solved by making the chimney taller. In extreme situations an exhaust fan must be installed. A draft regulator stabilizes the chimney draft. Draft is simply hot air rising High temperature creates strong chimney draft. A good result is achieved when the height and diameter of the chimney fits the appliance. Too strong a draft can cause the heat to be sucked too fast into the chimney. Too strong a draft can be regulated with a damper, draft regulators (flue pipes or chimneys), or restrictors. Multiple uses of flue pipe elbows reduce the draft. Sizing is important An oversized stove can leave you with potential creosote and smoke problems while an undersized stove can lead to constant over firing – resulting in warped and cracked parts. What is the intended use of the stove? Heat source Aesthetics (a piece of furniture) Primary heat or back up Too large a stove is not going to do you any good You will constantly burn the stove in an air starved mode which generates a lot of smoke, soot, tar, and ash. The glass will be constantly dark when you burn the stove in an air-starved mode. Too small a stove is not going to do the you any good either You will always try to get more heat out of the stove than it can produce, leading to constant over firing. The consequences could be cracked and warped parts which is not covered under the Jotul warranty (burn plates, baffle plates etc). If it is difficult to start the fire the reasons could be: Not enough air: Open the air valves. Sometimes the door must be opened (approx. 1 cm gap). Make sure that the damper is in open position. You can also open the door to an external ash pan. Bad kindling: Use small pieces of split kindling together with crumbled newspaper, and add larger pieces. Remember: The smaller the better, the dryer the better. Down draft/cold chimney: Heat up the chimney by twisting some newspaper into a torch and hold it up into the stove until the draft is reversed. Smoke in the room can be caused by: Wood quality: Wood with a lot of moisture can cause more smoke than the chimney can dispose of. Air systems like air condition, bathroom or kitchen fans might take their need of air from the chimney (negative draft). In these cases you must bring outside air into the fireplace. Operating errors: Always open the damper and primary air control before you reload the stove – open the door slowly. Flue pipes: Remember that elbows and horizontal flue pipes make restrictions on the draft. A chimney that is too short could give insufficient draft for the fireplace. A chimney that is too cold can cause none – or negative draft. Flue liner must be correctly connected to the fireplace and the chimney – and have the right dimension. Blocked chimney could be caused by a birds nest, soot, or tar. Short burn time can be caused by: Wood load: Large pieces will burn longer than small pieces. Use hard wood that has been cut, split and stored at a dry place for approx. 12 months. Too strong draft in the chimney which gives insufficient combustion. Operating errors: Primary air control should be slowly adjusted toward the closed position, and then finally closed after the fire is established. Do not burn with the ash pan door open at a longer period of time – it will cause over firing of the fireplace. Back puffing (ignition of gases) can be caused by: Closing the air control when reloading the burn chamber. Sometimes you must wait approx. 15 min. before you re-close the air-control. Secondary air supply might be blocked by soot and tar. Moist wood requires enormous amount of energy to dry out before it will burn. These flue gases can ignite and cause an explosion in the burn chamber. Insufficient draft. Hard to control (overfiring) Poor gasket seals. The fuel: Never burn old pallets, chipped wood, trash or waxed products. Excessive draft in the chimney: Use a damper or a draft controller to reduce the draft. Low heat If you find that the heat output is too low the most common reasons are: Poor wood quality Chimney draft Operating errors House construction (insulation, height to ceiling and such) The stove is too small When the wood burns slowly and at a low temperature, it produces tar and other organic vapours which – combine with moisture – form creosote. This creosote will stick to the chimney walls. Creosote is the fuel for chimney fires Excessive creosote can be caused by: Poor wood quality and size Chimney draft Operating errors Stove size (too low operating temperature) Remember to have your chimney swept by a licensed chimney sweeper before the heating season.