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Posted By atlanta model 26,
Nov 11, 2013 at 11:40 AM
The fire pretty much turns to embers once I stop throwing logs on.
Here is the deal - you are splitting wood then basically feeding that directly into the stove. Not a good move. You essentially don't have any idea of the moisture content of the wood. It is generally accepted that wood doesn't really start to season till it has been split (there are exceptions).
Pile that wood into your stove with unknown operating temps and you have mixed up a recipe for creosote. This stuff is caking onto the side walls of the pipe until you finally get a fire going hot enough to torch it off.
I deserve that for missing this part:
If you don't have a moisture meter, try resplitting a thick split in half. Then take the freshly split face of the wood and press it up against your cheek. Does it feel dry or cold and damp? Bang the two halves together. Do they ring with a musical note or do they go thud? If it feels damp and goes thud, the wood is still wet inside.
The logs I just re-split feel pretty dry = cold, but dry. When I strike them together it's more of a ring than a thud, so I think the wood is fairly well seasoned. It is not, however, cracking on the ends which I know is a sign of very well aged wood...So, I guess I have to:
1) Have the chimney cleaned twice this year.
2) Find some even drier/older wood.
Question: is it possible to insulate the pipe in the cold attic? Does anyone think that could be contributing to the frequent chimney fires?
Thanks all for your great replies!
Yes it is possible to insulate the pipe in the cold attic. Just do a search on "Chimney liner insulation". The easiest type of insulation is a blanket that wraps around the pipe.
Yes It should help reduce creosote accumulations by improving draft and keeping the flue warmer so that the gases don't condense. A cold flue will require more cleaning to prevent chimney fires.
But the best thing you can do is burn dry wood!
My first guess was also moisture content. If we rule that out what. Else could it be? All fires need heat, fuel and oxygen. You are getting all 3 at the right amounts.
Does the chimney go straight up through the roof or does it have elbows?
Is the chimney only used by this stove?
How do you light the fire? Do you use cardboard or fire starters, pine cones?
Are you the only one loading and maintaining the stove? I ask this because my wife use to use our stove similar to an incinerator?
Do you burn a lot of smaller scrap wood?
Animal nest in the chimney? What time of season does the fire occur? Beginning , middle , end.
How well does you stove draft?
What kind of chimney do you have?
Seems moisture content in the wood is in question here. I plan to pick up a moisture meter soon given the nature of this thread and that I am new to an old 30's vintage wood stove! Others have posted that Lowe's sells a pretty tried and true meter for under 30 bucks. Seems like cheap insurance in light of regular flue fires.
Can someone reiterate the ideal moisture content/percentage as well as an acceptable range for burning?
For measuring the moisture content take a few splits from random places of your stack, split them in half and press the pins in the center of the freshly exposed surface; along the grain is best. Ideally, the wood should be below 20%. You should be careful with overfiring your stove if its gets below 10% but unless you live in a really hot and dry climate that is unlikely.
To be sure I would get a moisture meter. Look in your local hardware store or try this here for less than $20 with shipping: http://www.harborfreight.com/digital-mini-moisture-meter-67143.html
If your chimney is straight up I would give this here a try: http://gardusinc.com/sooteater.html It does a good job, takes about 30 min from start to finish (including clean-up) and does not cost $100 every time. I would run it once a month in your situation.
That, and get some more cords of green wood that you can stack outside to dry for next year. Only then can you be sure that your wood is seasoned. Here is an "ideal" setup:
But you can also just stack the wood on pallets if you don't want to spend any money. It looks surely like more work but you should notice that you will need less wood. Btw. Your stove is a pretty old and inefficient one. If you are committed to woodburning I would think of replacing it with an EPA-approved one. You will cut your wood consumption in half.
You can insulate it but maybe we should check what kind of pipe you have and if it would be advisable to replace it. Can you get up in the attic and get some pictures? Maybe also one of the setup on your roof?
I just picked up a burn indicator at lowes for 11 bucks. Mount on the flue 18" above the woodstove
Go to lowes, pick up a moisture meter, go home split your wood the way you usually do it, test the wood with your new meter and post your results here ASAP, also any pictures of your wood split and whole would help us out.
Keep in mind that those types of thermometers are only giving a very rough reading, outside the surface of the pipe. The internal pipe temperature will be at least 100°c more than what that burn indicator will read.
Still some unanswered questions re. the chimney setup of the OP - and we like pictures.
- I think it drafts pretty well, although I have to keep the flue wide open or it smokes out a bit.
I am attaching some pics to help describe the situation here:
And a few more pics of the wood, and the anti-creosote stuff I use on every fire:
Is there the opportunity for a moisture meter in your future? I am still highly suspect of the fuel. I would also recommend a thermo for the stove and one for the stack. Knowing those 3 pieces of info will give you a much better chance at success and for pretty low bucks.
I will purchase a burn indicator today. Thanks.
I will also buy one of these moisture meters today. Thanks!
FWIW, I had almost EXACTLY the same conditions burning my smoke dragon Sierra a few years ago. Never had a chimney fire,but that was more by luck than design.
1) Wet wood- I was buying freshly-split red oak (because "oak is good, right?") Moisture meter was like $12.99 on Amazon.
2) Poor chimney condition- I had 20' of cracked masonry. Upon relining it, (shout out to Hogwildz), the draft almost sucked my wife into the stove.
That photo sure looks like oak to me. If so, that sure ain't helping.
You probably have figured out by now that you'll get more help here than maybe you're able to handle...
I posted a pic of the pipe inside, attic and roof. It doesn't look/sound insulated to me, but I'm new to all this. I will buy wood earlier and stack it for the spring/summer, but for now, I've got the wood I've got! Will get more if it turns out to be more than 20% moisture.... Thanks for the stacking ideas!
I rent here so am not really interested in purchasing a new stove. And have you used the sooteater? Do you think it really works? Something tells me there is a bigger problem here than just the wood, but clearly having the chimney cleaned more regularly will help a lot. Thanks for your time and advice.
See pics I just posted. Thanks!
I will investigate chimney liner insulation. Thanks!
I sweep my flue myself, Just go buy the brush and rods (also at Lowes!!) Just hop up on the roof, take the cap off and run the brush up and down a few times. Then clean all the crap out of the stove that falls. If you're going to burn that wet wood then I would recommend getting in the habit of sweeping the flue regularly.
Mine rocks. I attach it to an 18V hammer drill and am done in 20 minutes.