5 wood burning tips

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Only burn fully seasoned ready to burn logs

After all, you can’t burn water! And if you try to burn wet logs your fire will spit and you’ll have a house full of smoke.

Keep your logs dry

To lower the moisture content even further and prevent them from getting wet protect your logs from the rain and keep them off the ground. If they’re a little bit wet on the surface when on delivery they will need drying out in the warmth of your own home before burning.

Burn wood on ash

Wood actually burns best on a bed of ash. So when you think your stove needs cleaning don’t empty it out completely. Leave up to 2 inches of ash from the base of your stove – but become familiar with your wood burning appliance to see what gives you the best results. Use a shovel and metal bucket to remove excess ash when it gets too high.

Do not keep adding more logs

If you keep adding logs to an already roaring fire you can reduce your stove’s burning efficiency by as much as 15%. This is because cool air gets in each time you open the stove door and new wood needs to heat up before it burns – which is where you lose the burning efficiency.

The best time to add more logs to a fire that’s already lit is allow it to burn down to a bed of embers before adding any more.

Burn safely and efficiently

Wood is the cleanest fuel around – but pollutants can be produced if it’s not burnt efficiently. To avoid problems you should:

  • always burn fully seasoned wood
  • have a stove professionally fitted by a HETAS registered stove fitter
  • sweep your chimney at least once a year
  • install a carbon monoxide detector
  • never burn rubbish, plastics, glossy paper, polystyrene or painted/treated wood or plywood.
  • store wood outside and off the ground

Wood burning stoves – what does airwash and clean burn mean?

And is this worth paying extra for these?

Two common stove features are ‘airwash’ and ‘clean burn’, also referred to as a secondary and tertiary air supply.

‘Airwash’ involves an additional flow of air entering the stove and coming down over the window at the front, reducing tar build up on the window which makes the glass black so you don’t have to clean it so often.

‘Clean burn’ is a feature whereby the air entering the firebox passes through hot channels so it is heated up before it gets to the wood. This raises the temperature of the fire, which improves the efficiency of the stove. You get a more complete burn with less ash and very little smoke.

Morso squirrel-stove
Morso squirrel-stove
There can be an additional cost associated with stoves that include these features. As an example, the Morso Squirrel 1410 and 1412 are very similar, one with cleanburn, the other without and a difference in price of roughly £100 at the time of writing.

However, any good quality stove will have these features. Cleanburn is achieved by other manufacturers simply with a baffle plate in the top of the stove which is shaped so that the gases are burnt off anyway without having a tertiary air supply.

Are open fires really that inefficient?

Short answer is yes, they are.

An open fire is of course the traditional way to burn logs and can be attractive and cosy. It is however, a very inefficient method of heating as the uncontrolled air flow takes not only the hot air from the fire up the chimney, but also draws centrally heated air in from the rest of the house as well. This is replaced with cold, outdoor air drawn in to the house through drafts and vents.

Open fire burning logs

Often an open fire will run at very low efficiencies (≈25%) resulting in large amounts of smoke and ash for very little useful heat output. It is also worth remembering that when an open fire is not in use then the chimney can allow large amounts of cold air into the room (products are available to close off a chimney when not in use). So an open fire may well be increasing other heating costs.

Open fires need a solid base to retain an ash bed in the smallest practical fire base. A coal grate is not suitable for wood, the best solution to this is to cover it with a metal base plate. All open fires need a fine mesh spark guard.

Did you know you can watch videos on YouTube of open fires? Here’s one for you to enjoy that lasts three hours – toasty!

photo credit: Images by John ‘K’ via photopin cc

What can I burn in a wood burning stove?

I’m always being asked what else, apart from logs, can I burn in my stove or fireplace? Can I put in dry garden waste, household newspapers and paper waste, and what about cardboard?

My advice is if you have a log burning stove you’re best to burn dry, untreated logs.

If you have a multi-fuel stove you can also burn coal – though best not to burn both wood and coal at the same time (wood burns best on a bed of ash and with air from above, coal best with air from below).

Leave the garden waste in the garden – strangely enough it is permissible to burn ‘green’ garden waste even on a bonfire in a smoke control area but wherever possible I’d look to compost your garden waste. The local council has great advice on composting and often offers discounted compost bins too.

Old wood burning stove
Old wood burning stove

Dry newspaper, waste paper, cardboard etc are ideal for starting the fire and will burn well (see the video page), but if burnt in any great quantity they produce a lot of ash.

Definitely ‘do not burn kitchen waste, plastic, flammable fluids such as petrol, naptha or engine oil’ due to build up of deposits in the flue and because the toxic fumes you produce will be very unpleasant.

photo credit: JKleeman via photopin cc

Some log burning folklore

To launch my new website and Log Blog here’s a classic piece of writing which you may have come across at some point:

Oaken logs if dry and old,
Keep away the winter’s cold;
Poplar gives a bitter smoke
Fills your eyes and makes you choke;
Elm wood burns like graveyard mould
Even the very flames are cold;
Apple wood will scent the room
Pear wood smells as flowers in bloom;
But ash wood wet and ash wood dry
A King to warm his slippers by.

Beech wood fires burn bright and clear
If the logs be kept for a year;
Chestnut’s only good they say,
If for years, ’tis stored away.
Birch and firwoods burn too fast
Blaze too bright and do not last;
But ash wood green and ash wood brown
Are fit for a Queen with a golden crown!

The author is unknown but clearly they knew their firewood.

Burning Logs

and other of similar ilk:

Logs to Burn,

Logs to burn, Logs to burn,
Logs to save the coal a turn,
Here’s a word to make you wise,
When you hear the woodman’s cries.
Never heed his usual tale,
That he has good logs for sale,
But read these lines and really learn,
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well,
If they’re old and dry.
Larch logs of pine will smell,
But the sparks will fly.

Beech logs for Christmas time,
Yew logs heat well.
“Scotch” logs it is a crime,
For anyone to sell.
Birch logs will burn too fast,
Chestnut scarce at all.
Hawthorn logs are good to last,
If you cut them in the fall.

Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green,
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.

Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room,
Cherry logs across the dogs,
Smell like flowers in bloom

But ash logs, all smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old;
Buy up all that come your way,
They’re worth their weight in gold.