Getting the most from your Wood Heater

In accordance with information from the Australian Home Heating Association Inc
(AHHA –Getting the most from your wood heater.)

Operation of your new fireplace

The key to clean and efficient wood heating is not just installing an efficient fireplace; it is also operating the fireplace correctly. This means getting a good, hot fire going as quickly as possible and maintaining this for the heating period. This is relatively simple to do as long as fuel is sufficiently dry and the fireplace is lit and loaded correctly and well maintained. Efficient burning only occurs when adequate air is supplied to the fuel. This means that during starting and reloading, all air inlets must be fully open. (AHHA –Getting the most from your wood heater.)

Setting up the Fire

  • Check firebox and remove any excess ash from a previous fire, leaving just a 10mm bed of ash and any coals or un-burnt timber. Also check ash pan and empty if necessary. When cleaning out the ash on top of the grate, always leave 10mm or so behind to give a better performance.
  • Using newspaper or torn up cardboard pieces (avoid coated cardboard) place on top of the ash base in the fireplace.
  • Then cover this with wood kindling such as small twigs and dry branches, bark or finely chopped wood.
  • Ignite the paper, close the door and open the air inlet completely. Once the fire is going larger branches or wood can be added. When everything is fully ignited and a hot bed of coals is established, large pieces of wood can be added.
  • Leave air controls open for at least 20-30 minutes to start the fire burning. You can expect some smoke from your flue when you first start, but it should not last longer than 10-15 minutes.

Fuelling the Fire

  • Most of our fireplaces burn better with 3 or 4 logs rather than just 1 or 2 logs. Logs should not be too big - 2 to 4kg for a 50cm log is typical.
  • Every time you add fuel to your fire, leave air controls open for 15-20 minutes to start wood burning properly, and then keep your fire burning at a steady rate.
  • To obtain complete burning, you need a high temperature and enough airflow so coals and flames glow brightly. Dark, smouldering wood and a lot of smoke are signs of poor and incomplete burning and insufficient air intake.
  • A fire with hot coals and a lazy flame will provide maximum heat out put

Overnight Burning

  • For overnight burning, load the heater at least half an hour before going to bed.
  • Only turn the air supply down to minimum once all the wood is charred (about 15-20 minutes) to avoid creosote problems.

Most fireplaces should still burn for seven hours without difficulty and you will have far less creosote problems than if you fill the heater and turn it to slow-burn straight away. However, long periods of slow burning will always produce more creosote than burning on medium or high.
It will probably take you some time to get the "feel" of operating your fireplace for long periods. You might even find that once you have a good lighting method worked out and your house is well insulated you don’t need to burn overnight except on the coldest nights.

Buying Wood

Place your orders early with a reputable fuel merchant. Be sure of what you are buying or collecting in firewood. Moisture content should be in the range of 12-20%. The best option is to buy in the summer months and stack in an air-dry mode, e.g. roof cover, open sides. See our Help section for more information.
In defined areas, firewood must be sold by weight, so don’t pay for excess weight in water. Elsewhere, firewood is often sold in volume, e.g. a cubic metre or in some cases, a cubic yard, i.e. cage, bin or loader bucket, etc.

The AHHA urges consumers to…

  • Buy from a reputable supplier – a member of the Association
  • Establish personal contact. Get to know the facts which affect the quality of the fuel wood.
  • Order your winter wood early
  • Store your firewood in a covered stack with plenty of air access.

Money Saving Tips

  • Getting the best performance from your fuel and fireplace will save you money each year.
  • Obtain expert advise on solid fuel appliances. Wignells of Melbourne, the National Distributors of Cheminees Philippe fireplaces are members of the AHHA and can provide helpful advise.
  • Make your home more energy efficient by insulating the ceilings and walls.
  • Prevent heat leaks through cracks in doors and windows.
  • Reduce heat loss through windows by drawing heavy curtains at night.
  • It is recommended to use the fireplace with the door closed for maximum efficiency and heat output.

To Reduce Smoke Emissions

  • Have air controls fully opened for 15-20 minutes after each refuelling.
  • Do not close down air supply totally overnight – a little air avoids a lot of smoke.

Service and maintenance tips

  • Service your fireplace during spring or early summer. This minimises the corrosive effects of creosote residue and condensation during the off-season.
  • Check the condition of the heater and flue, door seals, baffles, etc.
  • Check for bird nests in or near the flue system in the roof cavity.
  • If loose insulation has been added to the ceiling, i.e., blow-in cellulose, etc., check carefully that none has built up in the flue cavity clearance area.
  • Or alternatively, if you are unsure, get an early bird service call from an experienced installer/service person – preferably one who is a member of the AHHA.

Flue checks

  • Your fireplace should be serviced once a year and you should have your flue cleaned regularly by your local chimney sweep.
  • Creosote is a substance formed by solid fuel combustion. Creosote and resin build-up can cause flue fires. Check the flue prior to each winter.
  • Make it a habit to look outside and check your flue for smoke. If it is smoking excessively, you are wasting fuel and heat and may be causing unnecessary emissions. You need to increase the air supply to the fire. A little air avoids a lot of smoke.
  • If you would like more information or a quote, please contact us.

Safety Tips!

Smoke Detectors save lives. With or without a wood fire a smoke detector is a good investment in your family's safety.
If you have you children – a guard around any form of heating is a good precaution. Ask us for advice on the best type.