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New to wood heat - a few questions (and a lot of background info)

Post in 'Classic Wood Stove Forums (prior to approx. 1993)' started by Dave K, Nov 14, 2013.

  1. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    Hi Guys! What a great forum. I've learned a lot over the past month, searching the site and reading many threads that have answered most of my questions already. I do have a few questions because I've read conflicting posts.

    A little background: I have a 1980 Fisher Grandma Bear II or III with no baffle plate or pipe damper. 1600 sq ft raised ranch in the mountains of Sussex County NJ. Wood stove is in the finished basement. 8" flue, exterior masonry chimney, 22' tall, 8" single wall stove pipe. There was a face cord of very very seasoned hardwoods that came with the house. Unfortunately the previous owner is deceased so I can't get any info from him about the wood stove or its tendencies. My neighbor told me that the house was heated primarily with wood during the winter months. I have been reading a lot in the FAQ's and learning about proper wood seasoning, proper burning techniques, burn cycles, etc.

    Since this is a pre-EPA stove I am going to check the chimney every few weeks to see about creosote formation. I've already had a chimney expert sweep the chimney and repair a cracked flue tile at the base of the chimney and he told me that this is a very nice stove and should heat the house quite nicely.
    Fisher.JPG

    I keep the stove pipe temp in the burn zone while I am home and watching the stove (from 6pm-bedtime) and I have a few coals left over in the morning from the overnight burn. I get a fire going and then stuff it for the day (to leave for work @7am). I am afraid that the stove pipe temps settle in about 240-ish for most of the day because I only have about 25 minutes of the stove burning well before I close the air intakes (to about 1/2 turn) and leave for work. I have a wifi thermostat so I follow the temps via internet throughout the day.

    Here are the readings from yesterday that I am getting from the wifi thermostat (on main floor outside bedroom #3) throughout the day (it was 25-32 degrees outside). I know the stove room is a lot warmer than the main floor and that concerns me that its getting too hot in the basement.

    7am- 70 degrees
    730am- 73
    8am- 76
    830am- 78
    9am - 79
    10am - 79
    11am- 77
    12pm- 76
    1pm -75
    2pm- 73
    3pm- 72
    4pm- 70
    5pm- 68
    6pm- 66

    I haven't been able to come home (around 6pm) to any coals left in the stove. It is always cold and nothing but ash. It hasn't been an issue because the house isn't too cold (its about 66) and I get a good fire going in about 15 minutes.

    My questions are...

    1. How worried should I be that the upstairs is at 79 degrees (2 hours after I leave) I feel like it must be really really hot downstairs and I'm not there to monitor the burn?
    Last night I burned a really hot fire and had the stove pipe thermo in the "overfire" range 700 degrees for about 15 minutes and then i turned off all lights to see if I could see a red glow but I didn't see anything.

    2. Are these older stoves made to burn really really hot without getting red?

    3. Is it okay to let the stove pipe temp get below the "burn zone" once the wood is burned down and it is just coals? I read that you are always supposed to have it in the burn zone, but I also read that it is okay for it to get lower temps if you are down to coals.

    4. The splits that I have are relatively small for this large stove and when I load E/W I have a 2.5" gap from the wood to the firebrick on both sides. Would I get a longer burn time if I play tetris with wood and fill in all gaps, or will it burn hotter because I stuff more wood in there?

    5. I also want to know how to get Bedroom #1 (see floorplan attached) warmer. When the stove room is about 85 degrees, the upstairs thermo (outside bedroom #3) is at 74, but bedroom #1 is at 65-66 and I can't seem to get it warmer. There is a grate in the hallway right outside bedroom #1 that is not shown in the floorplan. Should I put a fan on top of the grate and blow down into the stove room?

    FoxDen2.JPG FoxDen1.JPG

    Thanks in advance for the answers and I look forward to interacting and being a part of this awesome forum. Sorry for such a long post, but all the threads I've read people always ask for as much info as possible.. so there you have it!

    -Dave

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  2. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    Not one reply... :confused:
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    No - the older stoves aren't designed to be glow free. It is made from the same stuff they make stoves from today. What type of stove top temps are you running (in degrees)? That will be your best gauge on if the stove is running properly.
  4. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    I have a thermometer about 18 inches up the stove pipe and I am running between 300-500 degrees. Can I use that same magnetic thermometer on the stove top to see what temps I'm getting there?
  5. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes. Better yet, grab a spare and have one in both locations. Both readings are good info to have.
  6. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    Metal glows at about 925 degrees.
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    [​IMG]
  8. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    C F Color

    400 752 Red heat, visible in the dark
    474 885 Red heat, visible in the twilight
    525 975 Red heat, visible in the daylight
    581 1077 Red heat, visible in the sunlight
    700 1292 Dark red
    800 1472 Dull cherry-red
    900 1652 Cherry-red
    1000 1832 Bright cherry-red
    1100 2012 Orange-red
    Seems to vary some what from chart to chart I guess.
  9. Sinngetreu

    Sinngetreu Feeling the Heat

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    I'm a first year burner also, so my answers are few and far in between. What I do know is that the coals always burn cooler than your peak burn on splits. However, the vapors leading to creosote are burned off before the coal stage so the cooler burn temp only means that there is less heat. If you burn in cycles, you wont be keeping the fire in the optimum burn temp ALL of the time.
    In terms of the wood, I am told that you should fill the firebox and damper down once the wood is turning to coal to keep the burn slower to last overnight. However, I overheated my stove doing this and learned that you will need to follow the learning curve in order to figure out what works best for your situation.
    It seems that when you burn for your primary heat, you learn pretty quickly what to do and when.
    Good luck! :)
  10. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    Thanks for the reply, I was concerned about keeping the stove pipe thermo in the "burn zone" for the entire burn cycle, so I kept throwing in a split or two when I was in the coal stage and the thermo was reading about 250*. Now I know that its okay to get below the burn zone when you are at the coal stage. Thanks!
  11. dmmoss51

    dmmoss51 Feeling the Heat

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    I think the only thing I would suggest here is the coals are actually very hot and is where you get lots of stove heat to radiate to room. Flue heat is lower in this stage because as pointed out, less gases passing through.
  12. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    I am not sure if I am reading all this correctly - but to clarify...the coaling stage does not typically produce as much heat as the active burn/re-burn stage.

    We get several "how do I burn down the coals" posts each year. The problem being that the stove is filling up with coals yet it is not producing the required stove temps.
  13. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    Thanks guys fore the replies so far. Can anyone help me with my questions #4 and 5? I posted them again here below. Refer to floor plan from first post in the thread.

    4. The splits that I have are relatively small for this large stove and when I load E/W I have a 2.5" gap from the wood to the firebrick on both sides. Would I get a longer burn time if I play tetris with wood and fill in all gaps, or will it burn hotter because I stuff more wood in there? I have found that stuffing wood in the box after a kindling fire will starve the fire for air and it will not burn very well.

    5. I also want to know how to get Bedroom #1 (see floorplan attached) warmer. When the stove room is about 85 degrees, the upstairs thermo (outside bedroom #3) is at 74, but bedroom #1 is at 65-66 and I can't seem to get it warmer. There is a grate in the hallway right outside bedroom #1 that is not shown in the floorplan. Should I put a fan on top of the grate and blow down into the stove room?[/quote]
  14. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    No 4. has me a bit confused. Loading the box after a kindling fire starves the fire for air? This doesn't sound correct.
    And yes, the more fuel, the more fire. Its all about the btu's that you are stuffing down its throat.

    For even heat the key is moving the air. Have you tried blowing the cold air out of the room at floor level? It will allow the warmer air up high to replace what you have displaced.
  15. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    I guess I'm throwing large splits on top of the kindling fire once its going and it smothers the fire and puts it out. Maybe I need to let the kindling fire become coals before I load the larger stuff?

    Will blowing the cold air only work at floor level? I have a grate in the 2nd floor that I face a fan down into the stove room and it blows cold air from the top floor down. Would I be better off placing the fan on the floor of the stove room and blowing toward the stove?
  16. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    No reason to deal with kindling then splits. Load it ALL up and strike a match to it.

    Try the fan at floor level pointing to the stove. As a matter of fact - try all variations. Each home is a little different. If ya want to get strange looks from the rest of your family, start taping strips of toilet paper in door ways and room headers to follow the air flow. Even your dog will look at you like you have lost your mind.;lol
  17. Sinngetreu

    Sinngetreu Feeling the Heat

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    The way I get a cold stove going is to have two large splits put in the firebox apart so they form a "valley". Fill that "valley" with newspaper/cardboard then stack some pine kindling or so on top of the paper. One match and your in business.

    In terms of the fan, I'm not sure I understand what your trying to do, but to move heat throughout the house, I would reverse the fan and have it work with the natural thermal rising instead of trying to fight it.
    As Jags said, try everything until you find the best answer.
  18. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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    As long as your fuel is seasoned correctly < 25% MC you really don't need to worry about creosote as long as you bring the first fire up to cruising temp then shut down the air.
  19. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    So i bought an IR Thermometer and I must say... WOW! I've been using it non-stop and I love it. I've noticed that the magnetic thermometers give you such slow readings and are only accurate within 30 degrees half of the time.

    My stove top temps are usually between 400-675 degrees. Does that seem about right for an old Fisher?

    I've also taken Jags advice and loaded the box up with wood and kindling on the bottom at the same time and its been flawless. I get a great fire going in less than 10 minutes and can turn down the air right away! For some reason I was starting with kindling, waiting for it to light good and then putting large splits in. That way was frustrating because the splits would put the flame out and make it smolder, so I'm happy I took Jags advice.

    Thanks guys for all the great advice. My next step is to put a damper in the pipe and make a baffle plate. I'm sure both of those will help.
  20. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like you got a plan going forward. And the plan sounds good.:cool:
  21. McKeznak

    McKeznak Member

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    At the advice of many people on the forums here I have been doing top down fires this year when I need to re-light. Trust me after getting the hang of those you'll never go back.
  22. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    To each their own. I am not a fan boy of top down. I have actually timed (yes a bit geeky), top down vs bottom up with similar loads. My bottom up won with 15 minutes to spare getting the stove top to 500F. It may have something to do with the size of splits that I load and I don't use kindling (at least not in the classic sense). No harm in trying it. Several do like it. But for every one that converts - I would bet there is two that reverts back to the boy scout days.
  23. Dave K

    Dave K New Member

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    I tried a top down fire for the first time last week and it was not working for me. The kindling fire on top went out before anything below it caught fire. I'll have to search the forums to find out how to do the top down fire and give it another shot. What do you like best about the top-down method?
  24. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    The theory is that because the fire starts at the top, it will start to heat the tubes or cat faster.
    I also believe that I am not comparing apples to apples because the Isle Royale has a startup air feature and it is located towards the bottom of the firebox, not the top. Using this feature is a definite boost during the startup that a top down would not be able to take advantage of.
  25. Ram 1500 with an axe...

    Ram 1500 with an axe... Minister of Fire

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    Try the top down startup method.....put medium to big splits on bottom, then each layer on top gets smaller till you reach near the top with your fire starter and kindling, that way once the fire is going, your not going to reload as quick as how your doing it now, you will have established coals before you need to reload....

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