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.

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