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Oxygen starved fire in VC Merrimack

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by amstonmerrimack, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. amstonmerrimack

    amstonmerrimack New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Loc:
    Ct
    Hi, I am new here so if I screw up, go easy on me. I recently purchased a Vermont Castings Merrimac. It seems to be difficult to get a fire started when it has died down to coals. I have used twigs and small kindling, mixed with newspaper. It initially lights ok with the door open but when shut it seems to be starved for air. I would leave it cracked but the smoke rolls out the door and into the house! Is this simply a charachteristic of a large stove, and it simply needs to establish a warming of the air in the liner to establish a draft? Could my draft control be broken or defective? The unit is brand new so nothing should be clogged. I am burning 1yr old red oak, 25ft brick chimney with 6inch steel liner. Once fire is established it seems to have no problems and works excellent heating my 1700sq ft colonial.

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  2. chimneylinerjames

    chimneylinerjames Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2012
    Messages:
    381
    Try preheating your flue. I roll up a piece up newspaper longways, light the end, and get the flame as close as I can up near the baffle. Up high so the heat rises and warms the air in the flue. This works great especially for old stoves that have a huge firebox and open fireplaces. But it will work for any stove also. Give it a try and see how it works.
  3. amstonmerrimack

    amstonmerrimack New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Loc:
    Ct
    Thanks Chimneylinerjam, it seems that I am not just new here, but a FNG when it comes to woodstove life. I have got it down to a system, a ball of small twigs, followed by a teepee cover of some small split kindling Ive taken to making as a hobby(its like my whittling, it relaxes me haha) and then some slightly larger sticks teepee'd over that, leave one of the doors on the Merrimack cracked open and let it go. Seems to work. Definetly cannot open the door while this is smoldering on the coals as it makes a ton of smoke that will billow into the house! Seems to be common from what Ive read here, but Im definetly open to correction.
  4. daryl

    daryl Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    Messages:
    344
    Loc:
    Western WI
    Check to see if your primary air is plugged with ash. It is front and center below the door.
  5. jdp1152

    jdp1152 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2012
    Messages:
    769
    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    Stack effect. You're losing air on your upper barrier faster and it's competing with your draft. I have the same problem right now in the two story portion of my home and am kinda stuck with it until I get some inspections done on recent utility company subsidized work. I have a plan in place to remedy the situation. For now I do top down fires and reload on hot coals. I've got 1 year seasoned red oak and wouldn't dream of putting on a fire though...it's measuring high 20s on the MC.
  6. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    1,459
    Loc:
    Southwest NH
    1 year old Red Oak...could be part of you problem getting things started. That wood is probably still quite wet. I agree with the suggestion of pre-heating your flue. You may also try splitting that oak into smaller splits if that is all you have.

    Got a very close friend living in Amston. Welcome to the forums!
  7. jdp1152

    jdp1152 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2012
    Messages:
    769
    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    FYI, I combat this by turning my upstairs heat up for about 20 minutes prior to loading or starting a fire. Lowers the positive pressure plane down to my main floor and forces the heat up the flue instead of out the upper barrier. I still get some minor spillage, but not like I was previously. I can tell an noticeable difference when I open my front door. Instead of blowing open, it's wants to blow shut indicated positive pressure. It also helps to seal your rim joist as this area is the primary source of air infiltration which essentially makes your home act like a flue. Instead of warm air sitting at the top of your envelope, it's leaking out and drawing air from your rim joist/crawlspace, basement. Temporary fixes are fine if you can stomach them, but longer term you need to address the problem so you don't have to deal with it. Insulation and air sealing are not the same thing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
  8. relicdigger

    relicdigger New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    10
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    Hi,
    Three weeks ago I had a new Merrimack installed and my draft was not strong; my automatic setback control was not working properly. My installer put a new one in very promptly. To check it, after you set the automatic setback control by pulling the handle fully to the left with a cool stove, open the doors and there should be a small round opening. You need to be looking up just above the doors. There are some great pictures here on the forum, use the search tool. My Merrimack is running great now.
    Mike
  9. eyefish2

    eyefish2 New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2011
    Messages:
    73
    Loc:
    UP Mi
    If you can hear and see water sizzle from the wood, it may be too wet. Maybe someone mentioned it already, you could maybe cut or purchase some "for sure" dry wood and see how it burns. Your symptoms sound very familiar to what I have experienced with less than dry wood.

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