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Keeping a wood stove going all night  RSS feed

 
john Britely
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I've heard Paul and Erica both say turning a wood stove down and letting it go all night isn't efficient and I don't really understand. I get the advantages of a rocket mass heater overa wood stove, but for now I have a wood stove. On cold days a get a nice hot fire and before bed turn down the air inflow. In the morning I usually still have hot coals and some heat comming off of the stove. Is there some piece I'm missing?

thanks.
 
Miles Flansburg
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John, others will probably give you a better explaination but I think it has to do with the amount of unburned gasses that are given off when the fire dies down.
If there is smoke then there is fuel being wasted.
 
Jerry McIntire
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Trade-offs! The more efficient burn is a hotter fire. The more efficient burn may not leave you any coals in the morning, which, I agree, is convenient. Your call.
 
Erica Wisner
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The first two responses pretty much sum it up.

Trying to bank coals all night tends to put out a lot of smoke (unburned fuel). This is not only inefficient pound for pound (you lose almost half the heat value of the wood in some cases), but it's also a major factor in many jurisdictions banning wood-burning stoves (because even EPA-certified stoves still smoke when operated this way).

Some certified woodstoves are designed to run a clean 6- to 8-hour burn; if your stove is able to do this without emitting visible smoke, then it's probably fine to keep doing it that way.
If you can see smoke in the wee hours, there's a good chance you're putting out smoke most of the night.

Some options I've seen for boosting all-night warmth from a woodstove, while tolerating the fire going out sooner, include
- building a brick "fireplace" or hearth around the stove to soak up heat,
- put several large stockpots of water on the top / beside the woodstove.
- surround the hearth with stones, and put some big rocks right on top of the stove.
Even a little bit of thermal mass can hold heat for several hours after the fire goes out, allowing you to run a cleaner (and more efficient) fire yet avoid the morning frosties.

-Erica W
 
Jonathan Davis
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I used to load my wood stove up to the max and turn down the flue thinking that I would at least get a little heat and, more importantly have coals left over to restart it in the morning. Personally, I hate having to relight my stove from scratch. But this is definitely not efficient. The logs all get used up, way too much smoke is being produced, and by the time morning rolled around, I had about a 30% chance of having hot coals available to restart the stove anyway. What I realized was that what I truly wanted was to be able to have coals, and didn't really care about the minimal heat produced throughout the night. My solution was to let the fire burn down to just the hot coals before bed, and then to gather the coals in the center of the stove and place 1 or 2 small logs on top of the coals. Then cover the logs completely with ash from my ash bucket and turn the flue down. The result is that the 1-2 logs convert to coals that last until the morning. There is much less waste and smoke since I'm using much less wood. Of course in the morning you have to shovel all of the ash back out, but I would rather do that than restart the stove from scratch. The amount of coals you get doing it this way is amazing. I wrote an article on it on my blog in the firewood section.
 
Richard Wood
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Location: East coast USA
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not efficient

Means a old regular wood stove is what 50 or 60? percent efficient , based on how you run it.

a newer secondary burn, 70 percent range?
a down draft, gets into 80 percent range?

So, when you cut it back, and don't burn the smoke, you just droped your 70 percent to 50 percent.

Now, a old stove, running it more wide open , you bank it down, you drop from your 60 to 50, or a little less.

NUMBERS are just hear say, for sake of example. should be close.

So, you might burn a little more by loading it, and it being hot.

Try running it a little hotter, can you run it semi banked down? check your smoke output at chimney, to see where your spot is to not smoke neighbors out.

I run a downdraft , hot coals, I cut it back, and they wash smoke out, But I don't choke it off, It took me a few nights to figure my sweet spot,

I also have it in the basement, so even if that room gets hot, it takes a day to overheat the first floor.
 
                    
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I guess I could mention there is a safety factor. A RMH is safer when left unattended, because the fuel (wood) is not present, there is a bit of time even on an RMH that must allow all the live embers to become consumed or go out, before leaving unattended. Although RMH operators should be aware of carbon monoxide build up in their system when unattended & operate accordingly.

A regular wood burning heater has a safety concern that all wood heater owners should be well aware and that is of creosote build up in the fire box & flue which all too often become 'flu fires', we have many burned down houses every year in my county, as a result of wood heaters. These burnt houses are partly due to excessive creosote build up which is generally caused by choking down a huge amount of firewood. Operator error is also a huge factor to burned up houses.

Great care & attention to the operation of your wood heater is sometimes not easily learned. For me, I don't fill the firebox & choke everything off for the night...it just seems to be too dangerous. And think about the possibility of someone else opening the door of the wood heater, and if they did not know it was chocked full of smoldering firewood...what happens when a choked off smoldering load has a sudden burst of air allowed too it?...it wake up everyone in the house! hahaha

Albeit I don't have the serious overnight low temps. that people north of me have to deal with every year. If it is a cold night around 5 F ...then I will simply have to wake up every 2-4 hours to tend the fire, if the low temps are only in the 20's (and the wind isn't blowing too hard) then I can make it 6-8 hrs. expecting there will be some coals still active. And just by the way, if it isn't terribly cold in the house, only put enough wood in there, over stoking the wood heater is really not necessary, put you sweater on or whatever while your waiting on the thing to warm up, throwing more wood at the heater is just wasting wood. I would rather burn 4 sticks of wood cleanly, than 10 sticks that required being choked back somewhat...use your air inlet to burn the wood as clean as you can, for continued safe operation.

Just for fun, pretend you didn't have a mountain of firewood stored outside, pretend you have only 4 sticks of wood...how far can you make it last? hahahaa

james beam

p.s. if you don't have a big fire extinguisher, ready to go...GET ONE!
 
Troy Rhodes
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The newer catalytic wood stoves (like my Blaze King Sirocco) have a very good catalytic combustor that, in my humble opinion, gives you the best of both worlds. Efficient hot fires for heat right now.

But even at low settings, the catalyst burns the smoke for excellent efficiency, and we rarely get any visible smoke under any circumstance except start up.


Our previous stove was an airtight, epa rated "efficient" wood stove with secondary burn. This new stove from Blaze King puts that thing to shame. 8-10 hour burns are a snap, and we use about half of the wood we used with the previous stove. Heat output is, if anything, better. And certainly longer and more even.


Historically, the catalytic combustor was the weak link. Expensive and prone to failure every couple of years. Mine comes with a ten year, NON-PRO-RATED no baloney warranty.


So, not saying anything bad about a RMH, but I am totally satisfied with my wood stove performance.


finest regards,

troy
 
Michael Young
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lots of talk about efficiency. I have a woodstove installed and I have a force-air furnace. Burning the woodstove creates heat and causes the forced-air furnace to cycle less, which saves me money on my gas bill. As for efficient burning, I don't choke down my wood stove at all. Instead, I just put in an overnight load before I go to bed. In the morning, that sucker is still blowing hot air. Every BTU that wood stove puts out is a BTU I don't have to pay the gas company for. As for wood efficiency, It would take me three seasons to burn up all the wood I have here now. So I'm not too worried if I don't squeeze every ounce of heat out of those logs.

You mentioned having trouble starting your stove. I go to job sites and take UNTREATED lumber out of their dumpsters. Then I take it home and split it into kindling (but you dont have to split it). The cut/waste lumber from construction is GREAT starter wood. It lights easily and burns hot. That wood was headed towards the landfill anyways. Better to use it I say. Most of the contractors are happy to see you take it. They pay by the ton when they dump their job waste. So if you make several trips to one dumpster, you can easily squirrel away several tons of lumber. (my favorite pieces are the scrap ends from 2x12s

You can also use your woodstove to produce biochar at the same time you're enjoying the heat. But that's another subject I reckon
 
Dale Hodgins
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I have a simple rule for solid fuel heat. I will never have anything burning in my home when I'm absent or when I'm asleep. My niece isn't allowed to bring her candles and there is no smoking inside or out.

I can't remember ever opening the paper and seeing that a family were all asphyxiated because their stove failed during the day, while they were awake. These things happen at night, when no one is watching.

If I leave my masonry stove alone for 20 minutes, it runs out of fuel and stops.

When the burn is done, I put the cover over the hole and nothing happens until morning, other than heat radiating to the space.

A metal, wood burning appliances is probably the most dangerous thing you'll ever bring into your home.
 
Jeremiah wales
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WOW, Interesting comments from everyone. I have a wood stove. Actually a wood furnace. I will not stop it from burning for 6 months. It stays going all day all night. I always have coals in there in the morning. I always have some ash in there. If I want to save wood. I let the fire go down a bit . It is always easy to just throw wood in on the red coals every morning. If it is really cold outside, I wake up about five am and fill it again. But that is only when it is really cold outside.
If I shut down the air intake, No it does not burn as hot. But it still burns slowly.
My house has been burning wood for over 90 years now. Not with me, But other owners.
I use a wood stove, not any other type of contraption. we get the wood from the property or local area. real wood from the area. Not construction lumber or paper or pellets. Just wood. Usually Hardwood. but sometimes just whatever we have dead on the property. It all produces heat for the house in the winter.
Your answer is right there, Just experiment with your stove.
Good luck
 
Maurice Andre
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A lot of information.
Thank you.
My experience:
An old "Fisher type" type stove from the 1970's:  560 pound Timberline (basically a Fisher with a baffle plate).
It heats the house 24/7.
Will hold a fire all night with ease.
Unless it is extremely cold:  no need to add wood until morning.
Advice:
Hardwood only:  hickory, ash, hedge apple, red and white oak.
All my fire wood is at least a year old:  keep two year supply of wood.
Burn the stove open except overnight.
I have very little creosote.
Heat my chalet with about 4 cords.  (A cord is 128 cubic feet of wood).
We also have a heat pump for back-up, but the stove can heat the house at any temperature and wind combination.
I like the looks of the modern wood stoves, but they do not appear very heavy duty.
Open mind.
Comments welcome.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Nobody is saying that an older woodstove cannot heat a house effectively. The point is that even if you have free wood (no work OR money to get it), a slow overnight burn without high-tech catalytic combustors will generate a lot of pollution, and may make your neighbors irritated and cause municipalities to ban wood-burners.

The theoretical efficiency numbers posted above are far off the mark; a typical older woodstove used in a typical manner may have only 5% or 10% efficiency, meaning 90-95% of the fuel goes into the air as pollution (or onto the chimney surface as creosote).
 
Travis Johnson
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Buying a bag of anthracite nut or stove coal and adding them to your fire at nighttime will greatly increase your burn time, about 1/3 longer then burning wood and give you plenty of heat to boot. A 50 pound bag will only cost you $8 or so. Coal is safe too because it does not produce creosote. You don't need a coal burning stove either to do this if you are not burning coal full-time (then you will appreciate the coal shaker grates).

The key word here is ANTHRACITE, also known as hard coal. It burns hot and clean, unlike soft coal which most people think of when they think of burning coal. When my Grandmother was alive and lived across the road from me she would ask when I was going to start my coal stove up for the winter; the fact was I had been running it for weeks, but all you can see when burning anthracite is a heat haze coming out of the chimney.
 
Maurice Andre
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Glenn:
Thank you for the advice.
Catalytic stoves have a lot of problems.  The catalytic converters burn out, and are expensive to replace.
My choice would be the new down drafters.
But I need one that is big enough to heat our entire house, and vents from the rear.
My friends with more efficient stoves and furnaces do not use any less wood than I do.
You are probably correct on the subject of pollution.

Travis:
Anthracite coal is a good "way to go".
I prefer wood.
My problem:  not available in my area at a reasonable price.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Maurice Andre wrote:Glenn:
Thank you for the advice.
Catalytic stoves have a lot of problems.  The catalytic converters burn out, and are expensive to replace.
My choice would be the new down drafters.
But I need one that is big enough to heat our entire house, and vents from the rear.
My friends with more efficient stoves and furnaces do not use any less wood than I do.
You are probably correct on the subject of pollution.

That may have been true in the past (problems with the catalytic converters, fragile, expensive, etc) but that is not so now.

My Blaze king catalytic converter comes with a ten year no nonsense warranty. 

Not all super efficient wood stoves must have a catalytic converter, but many do.
 
Angelika Maier
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So you burn coal in woodstoves?
I turn the stove down at night, we never burn coal. Overnight a piece of hardwood is great and the house it not cholli in the morning.
I think it is important to clean the chimney out every year.
 
Maurice Andre
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Glenn;
Travis;
Troy;
Angelika:

Thank you to all for your advice and input.
I appreciate that you took the time.
I will continue looking at the more efficient stoves.

Merry Christmas.
 
Maurice Andre
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http://jotul.com/us/products/wood-stoves/jotul-f-50-tl-rangeley

Found a stove that can probably heat my house.
It has the specifications equal to the old Timberline.
Only one problem:
The stove costs $2,649.00
 
Troy Rhodes
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Yes, most really efficient wood stoves are expensive.

That's the attraction of the rocket mass heater.  Very high efficiency, and fairly inexpensive to build.

It has other potential drawbacks, like code approval and insurance coverage for fire, the need for more or less constant supervision and frequent feeding while you charge the mass.


The batch box versions may reduce the need for such frequent feeding.  There are people working on code approval, etc etc.


It's an exciting time and great to have options.
 
Maurice Andre
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Troy:
Thank you for the advice.
This looks like the same concept as the Austrian tile stove.

http://www.kachelofenverband.com/gallery/tiled-stove/

We have family in Germany that uses the Austrian tile stove.
Beautiful.
And their's even has the towel drying racks.
Great  "way to go", but like the efficient wood stoves, very expensive.

Thank you again.
 
Troy Rhodes
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rocket mass heaters can be built for a few hundred dollars.

Less if you're a good scrounger
 
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