So, you’ve just had your wood burning stove installed, and you’re excited to enjoy inexpensive, carbon-neutral home heating with the added benefit of a beautiful aroma… but you’re not sure where to start. Fear not! The Green Fire Group is here. Read on to find out how to light your wood burning stove!
Step 1. Preparation
The first thing to do is make sure that you’ve got a clean, professionally lined chimney! Without this, lighting your stove could be dangerous. If you’re not 100% sure about the state of your chimney and lining, at least get an appraisal; contact us to find out more.
The next thing is to ensure you’re using good, seasoned, fully dry wood logs. You can’t simply pick up a fallen branch and toss it in the stove! Make sure you dry your logs for at least six weeks if you’ve sourced them yourself, or find a decent wood log supplier (of which we are one!).
Step 2. Kindling
Open up the air vents at the top and bottom of your stove, as fire needs a supply of oxygen to burn. Start the fire by lighting a little newspaper, scrap paper or cardboard. Make sure this kindling is clean and plastic-free – coated cardboard such as electronics packaging won’t give a good result, and burns dirty. Newspaper or organic food packaging will work just fine. Don’t scrunch or pack too tight, as airflow is the key here.
Place a little dry softwood to the centre of the stove. This wood should be little more than sticks – around 1-2 centimetres in width is ideal. Dry pine cones also work well, as well as last winter’s twigs, dried over summer in a cool shed or garage. Arrange the kindling in an outreaching star shape to provide a base for the hardwood logs which will provide the long-burning heart of the fire. Don’t pack the kindling too tightly: allow the fire lots of breathing room.
Light the paper with a lighter or match, and allow the newspaper and kindling to catch for a little while before the next stage. Keep the door open during this stage – the chimney will take care of the smoke.
Step 3. Hardwood Logs
After around 5 minutes, or until the kindling has caught completely and the paper has been burned away, add your first hardwood log. Remember that oxygen is essential for a fire to burn, so don’t crowd the fire, and only add one log at a time! Be gentle when placing the logs, and take care not to burn your hands. Give the first log around three minutes, and add another, adding another in around ten minutes if necessary. Keep the air vents open until the fire starts to take in the logs; when this has happened after around ten to fifteen minutes, control the intensity of the fire with the airvents. Wood fires take air mostly from above, so close the lower air vent first, and use the upper vents to control the fire.
Keep an eye on the fire over the next few minutes – if it starts to choke and die, open the vents back up. Your chimney will draw more air as it warms up, so you’ll likely have to adjust the vents every now and again.
Step 4. Keeping the Fire Burning
Keep the fire going for as long as necessary by adding more logs when there are visible embers, but before all the visible flames have burned down. This means the fire will take some attention – but the beautiful sight of real, home-warming flames, coupled with the romantic, evocative smell of burning wood is often more interesting, and certainly more enchanting, than most of what’s on TV anyway! Why not switch the box off and spend the evening with your family toasting marshmallows, or home cooked bread?
Remember to open the air vents for as long as a fresh log needs to catch fire, closing them off when they’ve begun burning in earnest. Remember also to open the stove door slowly – open it too quickly and you may be surprised by a puff of soot or smoke.
The stove will produce heat long after the visible flames have died down, so don’t worry about feeding the fire after around an hour before the room won’t need heating.
Step 5. Finishing
You can simply let the fire die down when you don’t need heating for the rest of the evening; close the air vents almost completely to preserve as much heat as possible. Don’t worry too much about cleaning; wood stoves work most efficiently with a bed of ash, so leave the ashes there for next time, cleaning out a layer of ash if the build up is too much next time you need a fire.
What Not to Do
Never use petroleum, paraffin or alcohol to help you light a stove fire. It’s dangerous, bad for the environment, and bad for your stove. Paper and kindling twigs will be more than enough to start a warm fire.
Don’t leave a fire unattended. It is after all a natural element which can be dangerous if ignored or not respected. Don’t let your children light fires by themselves; take control yourself, allowing your children to help under your instruction to help them learn respect for fire.
Don’t use wood and coal at the same time. This can result in each fuel producing the elemental ingredients for sulphuric acid solution, which can ruin your stove, chimney lining, and brickwork. Choose one fuel type at a time, though many stoves can use each fuel individually.