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The Stove Doctor Tips
We are all about keeping you and your home safe. Please ask the question. We would never want you to have an unsafe condition because you felt your question was foolish. The only foolish question is the one you don’t ask.
IT'S SPRINGTIME IN OREGON - Some tips from the Doctor
Wood stove owners can expect trouble with the stove drafting properly and draft works due to temperature difference between the inside of the home and the outside. This kind of condition can slow down the smoke in the chimney and let it turn back into a solid (the dreaded creosote). Try burning smaller hotter fires; this should minimize the back drafting.
Pellet stove owners will find they are getting down to the bottom of the pellet bag pile in the garage or storage shed. Watch for any bags that may have gotten wet over the year. If the bag looks swollen, or the pellets are not glossy and of uniform size and shape, better to use it in the garden as mulch than to put it in the stove, it WILL jamb the feed system. Also for pellet stove owners who have stopped burning. Wet seasons like this will cause the ash in your stove to become moist and it will compact. This needs to be removed before it dries and solidifies. We can remove it at that point, but it’s a lot more work. Call now for an end of season cleaning and ask about our summer discount for pellet stove cleanings.Gas stove owners will find their units cycling on an off more often. This can put strain on the control valve in the unit. You may want to turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees so the unit is not coming on and off so much. Watch for times when the unit should be burning but isn’t. If you find this, first confirm the pilot is on. If it is not, wait 5 minutes before you try to relight it. If the pilot is burning cycle the thermostat all the way down then all the way up, if the unit comes on, just set the thermostat where you want it, if not, give us a call.
It is not normal for pellet stoves to produce creosote. Creosote is a shiny black substance that can be produced if the air to fuel is out of balance in the stove. Respond to this soon. Left unchecked, creosote can build up in the stove and chimney, causing fires and requiring the replacement of chimney components.
Don’t leave pellets in your hopper over the summer. We live in a rain forest, and the humidity can cause the pellets to swell up in the feed system, causing it to jamb. If you turn your stove on and the pellets won’t feed, check the hopper. If the pellets are more sawdust and less glossy round uniform size pellets, clean out the hopper. If the pellets still won’t feed, time to call The Stove Doctor.
The glass in the door of your pellet stove is a good indicator as to how the stove is burning. If you notice a sudden change in the buildup on your glass, see first if any settings have been changed. Try a few bags of another brand of fuel. If that does not bring results, you may have a sick stove. Time to call The Stove Doctor.
Some pellet stoves have manual dampers (Breckwell, some Envirofires, Whitfields and others) to control the combustion air. These are not exactly the same as a wood stove damper as you usually set it and do not constantly adjust it the way you would with a wood stove. Ideally, you want just enough air for complete combustion, but not so much as to cool down the stove. Set the damper by letting the stove burn for 1 hour or so on low, then adjust the damper so that the fire is lively, and the pellets kind of hover. Do not give so much air that the pellets look like a popcorn popper. Some pellet stoves (Austroflamm, Altair, Quadra fire and others) do not have a damper control. They do this automatically. Some units (Avalon, Avanti, Heritage Bay, Lopi some Whitfield’s and more) have a somewhat hidden damper control. If your not sure, contact The Stove Doctor.
Keep your burn pot clean. The burn pot is where the pellets are fed into and are burning. This area will build up with stuff in the pellets that won’t burn. This buildup must be removed to keep the stove in good working order. Some stoves (Quadra fire, Harmon and others) do not have a removable burn pot and must be cleaned in the stove. Others (Austroflamm, Altair, Breckwell, Envirofire, Lopi and others) have a removable burn pot that can be taken out to clean. Try to get all the holes opened up and surface residue cleaned off. Be careful as some burn pots are made of cast iron and will stay hot a long time. NEVER vacuum out a burn pot. It can hold coals for a long time and you may catch your vacuum on fire.
It is normal to smell some smoke during start up. However, if you still smell smoke from your stove ½ hour after start up, you may have a venting problem. Better contact The Stove Doctor.
Keep your pellets dry. The number one cause of feed system jambs in pellet stoves is wet pellets. This does not mean swimming wet, but pellets that have been exposed to moisture somewhere after they were made. If you begin to pour pellets into your stove, and they begin to look full of sawdust, STOP. They will get into the feed system and swell from the heat, jamming the feed system. If this happens, you may need The Stove Doctor.
Over time, gas stoves can develop gas leaks. Gas is an odorless gas in its natural state, but the gas company applies an odor to it that smells kind of like rotten eggs. If you smell this odor, turn off the gas appliance by its manual shut off valve ASAP. Call your local gas company’s emergency response department and they can do a check for you, usually at no charge to you. If they find a leak, don’t use the unit and call The Stove Doctor.
The unit’s glass is a good indicator as to how the unit is burning. Gas stoves usually see only a white haze on the glass after several seasons of burn. If the glass is turning black, check to see that the door is securely closed. Check with the unit’s owner’s manual to see if any of the logs may have shifted. Flames hitting directly on the logs will cause the glass to turn black quickly. If these do not help, time to call The Stove Doctor.
We advise that you leave your pilot burning during the summer. Gas stoves have little openings (orifice) where the gas flows from the valve to either the pilot or the main burner heads. During the summer, spiders, wasps, bee, and beetles love to come into the gas unit and take up residence. They can plug these openings causing the unit to not fire up in the fall when you need it. The pilot will usually produce enough heat to keep the “bugs” out of your system. If they do move in, don’t call pest control, contact The Stove Doctor.
Log placement is critical for proper operation of your gas stove or gas fireplace. When you turn on the unit, you should see flames within 3 to 5 seconds. If your unit does not come on within that timeframe, check the log placement against the owner’s manual diagrams. Do not move the logs for better appearance and do not burn the unit without the logs in it. This can be dangerous. If the log placement is correct and the unit is still having delayed ignition, don’t wait. Call The Stove Doctor.
If your unit has a glass face on it, either glass panel or glass door, never burn the unit with this glass removed. If it does not have a glass front, (a gas log in a masonry or zero-clearance fireplace for example) it is designed to burn without a glass face and should be safe. A very harmful by-product of burning is carbon monoxide. This is a poisonous gas that has no odor and no color. We recommend a CO detector installed and since this gas is lighter than air, install the detector at the ceiling. In homes with lofts or second floors put one at the highest point you can reach without getting on a ladder. Need help with the placement? Contact The Stove Doctor.
Wood Stove and Wood Fireplace Inserts:
NEVER burn Trash. Chemical reaction from paper,labels and other inpurities WILL Destroy a Stove, Fireplace or Chimney.
NEVER burn treated wood or plywood. NEVER use any kind of liquid to start or freshen a fire. NEVER leave the door cracked open past startup and do not leave it unattended with the door cracked. If you forget to close it, one fire can damage both the stove and the chimney.
Burn only dry seasoned cordwood in your wood stove. Green wood will cool the chimney temperatures and will cause creosote to form. This in turn will cause a chimney fire. Wood varies by species and location as to how long it takes to become safe to burn but in our area, a good rule of thumb is 1 complete year for softwoods and 2 years for hardwoods. This is after the wood is split. Rounds will take longer to dry out. Although it is not definitive, check the bark. When it begins to separate from the wood on the ends, you’re getting close. If you find yourself having to burn green wood, contact The Stove Doctor for a chimney inspection.
Never trust a stove you are not familiar with. If you purchase or rent a home that has a wood-burning stove, or wood burning fireplace insert, even if you had a home inspection, please call The Stove Doctor for a safety inspection before burning.
Wood stoves are natural draft. This means that they rely on hot air rising to get the smoke up the chimney and out of your home. Always start your stove with plenty of dry kindling and un-glossy news paper (glossy can damage some wood stoves). This will ensure the chimney heats up and gets a good draft going. During some weather, wood stoves will smoke back into the room, but if this becomes a common problem, call The Stove Doctor.
If you notice something that looks like black icicles at the chimney cap, its time to call
Many chimney caps have spark arresters that can plug up during the heating season. If your stove begins to smoke into the room, or smoke is leaking from the pipe joints, check the cap. If it is out of your reach to do so, please contact The Stove Doctor.
You need to properly fire your wood stove. You unit will have a damper control to control the combustion air supplied to the fire. It is OK to open the damper wide open to get the wood burning well, and to produce more heat, but it is not good to burn the stove with the damper wide open all the time. You may warp parts of the stove and damage the chimney. It is critical that you do not under fire the stove. Burning the unit with the damper closed or mostly closed all the time does this. This will cause cool chimney temperatures and that will cause creosote to form. Continued use will result in a chimney fire. The best plan is burning smaller hot fires. If you burn the stove overnight, meaning you have closed the damper, allow the stove to burn hot for 1 hour or so in the morning. If you are unsure of the build up in the chimney, contact The Stove Doctor for a safety inspection before burning.
Masonry, Zero-clearance Fireplaces and Chimneys:
Always ensure that the damper in the fireplace is fully open prior to lighting the fire.
Always burn reasonable sized fires; the size of the fireplace opening does not mean that you should fill it with wood. Use the grate as a guide. If the wood is too big to fit the grate, it’s probably too big for the fireplace.
It is a good idea when starting a fire in the fireplace to preheat the chimney to help draft.
NEVER fill a fireplace with gift-wrap and cardboard, and light it off. The fireplace needs time to expand to the heat increase. This kind of a fire can cause temperatures to go from 45 degrees to over 700 degrees in about 1 minute. This will damage the clay flue tiles in the masonry unit, and will warp the sheet metal chimney in a zero-clearance unit. It can cause bricks and refractory to crack and break.
Always make sure that glass doors are fully open when burning a wood fireplace. The unit must have proper airflow. Also, the glass in fireplace doors is not the same as a wood stove and is susceptible to being broken due to getting to hot.
Always make sure the wood being added to the fire is dry. Any water or snow could heat up and pop. If it hits the glass doors, the glass will shatter.
Always check your chimney for moss buildup at the end of the burning season. Moss destroys the brick, and mortar joints of your chimney and needs to be removed. If this is out of your league, contact The Stove Doctor.
Water damage is just as destructive as fire damage to your fireplace. Watch for brick flaking off, cracks and white marks on the brick. If you see these, call The Stove Doctor for a safety inspection.Your fireplace should always have a chimney cap. It keeps out the rain and critters (raccoons, opossums and birds, Oh My!). If you do not have one installed, you can measure the chimney opening and we can supply you a lifetime warranty chimney cap. If are not comfortable getting on your roof, call The Stove Doctor. We can help!
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