How do I use my wood stove?

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I bought a wood stove for myself for Christmas (18Wx24Hx30D, with firebrick lining) and now it's all installed per local fire codes.
There are two screw-cap type vents on the front of it, and I burned a small fire in it on Tuesday as a kind of test drive. Armed with that knowledge, I decided to burn a "real" fire in it tonight. I understand the principles of operation of the wood burning stove. However, I'm not sure I understand the 'nuts and bolts' of wood stove use.
Do I light the fire and leave the door cracked until the wood (not kindling) is burning well? I had my vents open all the way and the door closed; the fire just smoldered. I opened the door, smoke got all over the garage, I closed it. I opened it a crack and noticed that the draft was drafting pretty hard, so I left the door open a crack. About 2 minutes later, with a mild, uh, whoosh, flames appeared. I let that burn for a while, then closed the door with the vents wide open. By the way, she was a little warm at this point.
After that, I closed one vent completely and the other about half. When things started to cool down, I started opening things up again, until even leaving the door cracked open wouldn't revive the flames. At this point, I choked it down all the way, and I've been checking on it periodically to see what's happening with the fire. I suspect that the fire will just go out completely (or very close to it) due to lack of oxygen.
Did I do this right? I'm a little worried about creosote, but I'm also worried that the stove is going to, I dunno, explode or something if I burn it *too* hot. If any of you have some insight, I'd appreciate it.
Thanks,
-Phil Crow
Am I doing this right?
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Close the door, slightly open the top vent, and open the bottom, forcing air through the fire.

For the most part you don't want a roaring flame as much as you want a smoldering cinder fire. Slowly burning hot embersοficient burn=heat. The screw caps on the front are to control the air flow to two separate areas, one above the fire, and one below, or at least they were on my stove. They are like a jet on a carburetor controlling the mix of air through the stove. The more air through the fire will cause a faster burn. I use to have a thermometer on the stack to keep an eye on the temperature of the exhaust. One other thing is if you're worried about creosote, don't burn pine, stick to harder wood, oak, maple whatever.
Dave
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A few tips:
* The fire must be hot enough to create a draft in the chimney. It's the hot fumes rising in the chimney that pull fresh air into the fire. After a while, the chimney itself is warm enough to keep the draft going.
* It takes a while to get the heat into the chimney at first. I usually let the fire run hot for the first 5-10 minutes.
* You don't want the chimney too hot or you risk chimney fires (although don't be too scared of this - if the fire is that hot, you probably won't be able to get near the stove comfortably anyway). The stove shop probably has chimney thermostats. But, if the fire isn't hot enough you risk creosote buildup. If your firebrick stays clean, the fire is hot enough. If it blackens, it's too cool. This, of course, is long term, ignore the black during startup.
* In my case, I have no chimney damper. If you have one, open it up and leave it open. Use the front vents to control the fire. Leave them wide open until the fire is well established.
When I start a fire, I do approximately this:
* one layer of crumpled newspaper. Don't skimp.
* about 4" of kindling, alternating front-back and side-side. You want lots of airflow space here! This is where you use up all the end cuts from those woodworking projects ;-) Rip them about 3/4 to 1" wide on the bandsaw.
* two or three small pieces of firewood.
* block intake on back of stove (else smoke escapes there; it's a two-stage stove).
* light paper on fire. (Door remains open)
* relax and watch fire grow.
* when fire is past the smoky stage and well into the inferno stage, I close the door and unblock the back vent. This gets the second stage running.
* I keep the front vent wide open for 5-10 minutes to let everything warm up, then I close it halfway and keep it there.
* When the initial firewood load has burned mostly down to coals, I add more. You want to keep a good bed of coals going at all times; this is actually the heart of the fire.
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On 26 Dec 2003 18:32:11 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Phil Crow) wrote:

Hi Phil,
I will add only one thing to the good suggestions you have already received:
You should never allow a hot fire to burn on an "empty" stove....
By that I mean that many stoves will warp (or worse) if the bottom is not insulated from the fire. Once you have things running, you will have a bed of ash that will provide the insulation. Before that time, you should have some (an inch or more) sand, or some such in the bottom before you do any serious burning...
When you clean out the stove, always leave some ash in the bottom.
(I will also add as an aside, that we heated exclusively with wood for about 20 years here in New Hampshire. Then we moved to a new home that is heated geothermally. It seems that we have gone from the 19th to the 21st centuries in a flash.)
Good luck with your stove,
--
Kenneth

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Our stove has a layer of firebrick in the bottom, so that problem is pretty much avoided completely for us :-)
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From the Great White North:
The wood stove at my cottage has two vents:
- The first, (usually at the base of the stove), controls the air supply into the stove. It should be fully open when the stove is lit, and you adjust this vent later to cool down the stove (by cutting off the air supply) if it gets too hot. The stove will also last much longer at night if you decrease the air entry to a trickle. - The second vent, (usually above the door of the stove), recirculates the hot air before it escapes up the stovepipe. This keeps the stove hotter than it would be otherwise. But this vent should be closed when the stove is first lit, because the recirculating hot smoke interferes with the starting of your fire and will pour out into the room if the door is open. Once the fire is established and the stove is getting hot, then you can open this vent.
I suspect the "recirculating" vent was bringing smoke back into your stove when you were trying to light it.
Never, never, keep the door open when the fire is on. You will be nice and pink when they find you, but it will be from carbon monoxide poisoning, not warmth!
Do you really have this stove in your garage? I don't think that is code in any country. Be very careful of other inflammable materials.
George (Canada)

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Depends on the stove. Mine is designed to be burned with the doors open, if desired, just like a fireplace. Read the manual. Ed
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My father has a pot belly stove in his garrage. He wouldn't have put it in if it wasn't up to code.

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Detached garage may be OK. National fire code forbids the use of solid fueled heaters in attached garages. Our local shoppers paper used to print the code in the ad section for wood/coal stoves. I've posted the particular section here in the past but do not recall the regulations. Ed snipped-for-privacy@snet.net http://pages.cthome.net/edhome
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

I don't know about national codes, but I do know that my father had the builder install a chimney on the outside wall of his attached garage of his new house (at least 10 years ago) and installed a stove according to county code. Don't really know why it would be more dangerous than having a gas furnace or water heater in the garage, which is standard here, or having the wood stove in the house.
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"George E. Cawthon"

Biggest problem with a solid fueled heater is that an ember can be hot and ignite fumes even a couple of days after the stove has cooled to the touch.
Could be the stove is installed according to NFPA 211, but in the wrong place. http://www.agnr.umd.edu/users/Bioreng/pdf/152.pdf
I don't have the cite for the actual NFPA code at present.
Ed snipped-for-privacy@snet.net http://pages.cthome.net/edhome
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

No, the *biggest* problem with a solid fueled heater is that you have to burn up so many turning blanks. :)
Not to mention all the sawing, splitting, stacking, sawing, splitting, stacking, sawing, splitting, stacking...
Boy, burning wood used to suck.
Good heat though.
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If you get "free" wood, not so bad, but if you must buy it, oil is not all that much more, Used to burn 3 to 5 cords a year. My wife is no longer able to help due to her health. I find it very easy to turn the knob on the thermostat. Ed
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Working on the basic Mother Earth News estimate that a cord of average hardwood is equal to 150 gallons of fuel oil, wood seems cheap at the $60/cord delivered price. Folks on propane backup _really_ prefer to tend their stove.
Wood really does warm you several times, but I'll forgo the first two - felling and limbing - in favor of delivery.
>

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Uh, CO is the product of _incomplete_ combustion. A good draft fosters complete combustion, creating Carbon _dioxide_ versus the combustible monoxide.
Keep the door closed, after the chimney begins to draw, because you don't want flying sparks to mess up your floor.

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Ever put up a carbon monoxide detector in the vicinity of a woodstove? It goes off all the time.
I don't think you get complete combustion when the fire is starting or when it is dying down.
George

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Ever put up a carbon monoxide detector in the vicinity of a woodstove? It goes off all the time.
I don't think you get complete combustion when the fire is starting or when it is dying down.
George

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Didn't say it wasn't there, just iterated the undeniable, that it was the product of incomplete combustion. To minimize, use procedures which favor complete combustion, like proper drafting. When lighting, that means maximum Oxygen.
As to detectors near an open door, I don't protect my stove from CO, I protect my family. In a community where the majority still heat with wood, I've been on two CO poisonings, both intentional, in the last twenty years. Wanna know how many chimney fires from poorly-managed damping?
Gotta be over a hundred.

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Hi Phil ..

Creosote buildup can be mitigated by using properly seasoned wood. Use whatever means of introducing air into the firebox it takes to get the fire burning, but consider using outside combustion air. Watch your smoke for hints on how to burn efficiently, you want good clean smoke. We heat exclusively with wood / solar (and have for 27 years); on most heating days or nights we burn a hot, fast fire then let it die down and the heated mass take over.
Oh yeah, and buy a hydralic log splitter, it doubles nicely as a clamp :)
Scott
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