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Smoke coming in house Napoleon 1402

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by suspensionofdisbelief1, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. suspensionofdisbelief1

    suspensionofdisbelief1 New Member

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    West Chester, PA
    We had our stove installed 12/2/13. I love this thing. I am definitely a nut about it, keeping it running all the time. The only down time it gets is overnight when the heat doesn't get to the 2nd floor so great, so we give it a rest overnight and let the gas kick in to keep it comfortable.

    For the past week or so I have had a hard time keeping the smoke from coming out of the box when starting or reloading. If I get it to a good temp I obviously don't have to worry about the smoke when reloading, but at start up smoke now pours out of the box (when the door is open), this still occurring despite opening the flue all the way. With the flue all the way open I keep the door cracked for a pull of oxygen and there is no issue with smoke then. It is only when the door is more than cracked or entirely open. Before there were practically no problems what-so-ever, smoke was drawn up VERY WELL.

    It seems the draw into the chimney has slowed. Does this sound like a problem with the install? I am not an expert by any means, but it seems like something is wrong. I shouldn't be worrying about smoke coming into the house at start up only 3 months after install. I could understand years later after possible build up maybe? Any suggestions. My wife is not going to take this very well as she is pregnant right now, and I want to keep the fire going.

    -Adam

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  2. Holiday

    Holiday Member

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    Sounds to me like the chimney is getting restricted. Check the cap to see if it's getting stuff built up?
    Swedishchef likes this.
  3. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like it's time to run a brush through the chimney and clean the cap.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  4. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Lots of cold starts will lead to more buildup, as opposed to keeping the fire going and the flue hot. Not so dry wood will also complicate the situation.

    Is the chimney class A pipe or masonry? Is there a screen on the cap? After three months, you most definitely need to check things out, especially with a new install. Given the signs, I wouldn't burn again until it is cleaned.

    Additionally, mild weather can cause a sluggish draft.

    What's your wood supply like?

    Welcome, by the way.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  5. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    It sounds like your draft has reduced somehow.

    As others have stated: it may be time to look in the chimney and see what is going on. If you had a good draft with no smoke rollout and now there is smoke rollout there's a chance there could be a partial blockages.

    However as Jeff_T mentioned, the mild weather reduces draft (draft is increased with a bigger temperature difference inside/outside).

    How "seasoned" is your wood? When was it cut/split/stacked?

    Andrew
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  6. suspensionofdisbelief1

    suspensionofdisbelief1 New Member

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    Thanks everyone for your responses! This forum is great and the main reason I went with this unit.

    Jeff-t, I did not know cold starts will lead to more build up, that is a very good point. As a side note I tried to keep the stove going over night for the first few weeks. It just never really lasted until morning, and I hit the sack around midnight or after and get up by 8 at the latest. Yeah, there are always hot ashes, but the stove never kept the blower going until the morning no matter how much wood I put in.

    A few other things that may be helpful or not....
    When burning I first create the extremely hot ash bed and throughout the day I or whomever is at the house will throw 2 to 3 logs on to keep it going. We seldom fill the stove to the brim unless we are going to watch a movie or be away for a while. I just found I was burning through wood so fast that I wanted to conserve. Is that a detriment and a cause of the problem?

    Also Jeff-t, I have a system in place to bring stacks in and lay next to the stove but also lay logs in front of the glass to dry out before going in the box. It gives off a nice wood odor in the house as well as they dry:) The chimney is masonry. I don't believe there is a screen on the cap, I don't see one from ground level. Could it be inside the capping at the base of the top of the chimney? Sluggish draft makes sense with the mild weather, just not this much of a slow down though.

    Andrew...the wood was partially seasoned in an interesting manner. We've got HUGE trees here, reminds me of when I lived in Northern California Redwoods. Anyway...I had a few trees on the ground for close to a year, one of them maybe 2 years. The 2 year old tree started to soften but there was a lot of good wood still in it. I cut them into 12-16 " huge logs and stacked them next to the wood shed waiting for the next process of splitting. The logs were probably sitting for 6-8 months and beginning to crack. So I split those and after being split they were stacked for another 9 months or so in the shed. After they sit in the shed my next process is moving them to our deck (outside of the room where the fireplace is) where I have a 3 foot overhang so the wood sits out and the wind can get to it, staying dry for the most part. Then it is brought in next to the stove, and like I said I move pieces in front of the glass for a few hrs. before burning to dry out before putting in.

    The whole process of the wood is very confusing to me. Everyone has a different take on it. Some people saying you only need one year after it is split, others saying 3.

    -Adam
  7. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Hey Adam

    Don't get discouraged about wood, it takes a bit to learn. Here's my take (for what it's worth...there are many more experienced people on this forum than me). What kind of wood are you burning?

    Readers digest version: wood from various tree is made up of the followoingcompounds; mostly cellulose , lignin and water. The difference from tree to tree is the density of the first 2 compounds compounds. Therefore the more dense the wood, the "harder" it is. The problem with "hard" wood or "dense" wood is that the water has a more difficult time getting out of the wood.

    In my case I burn hardwood and softwood. My hardwood = maple, yellow birch and white birch. My softwood = blue spruce and balsam fir. Normally my softwood has to be cut/split/stacked out in the open wind (most important) and sun for an entire summer/fall season in order to reduce the moisture content down to about 20-22% (I have a fairly accurate moisture meter). You can tell if your wood is dry by the touch, sound (hitting them together, a dry knocking is better than a heavy thudding) and burning characteristics (is it hissing? does it catch on fire fast?). My hardwood (maple) takes 2-3 years to be properly seasoned depending on the split size. However, weather helps dictate how fast wood will dry: has it been a hot,dry, windy summer or a wet, calm, overcast one? My understanding is that some trees that have been dead can still retain moisture for years. Get the wood cut, split it and dry it out ASAP. Round wood takes much longer to dry. The more inside surface exposed to air, the faster it will dry.

    I suggest you strongly start getting wood for next winter right now. Backwoods Savage taught me 4 years ago that trying to get 3 years ahead is the best idea. And he was right. I now have 3 years worth of wood and don't have any chimney blockages/fire risks and I burn 3-4 cords a winter and don't clean out my chimney except at the end of the season.

    HOWEVER, you also have a masonry chimney. These don't retain heat as well as a Class A or an insulated liner. Creosote forms when the smoke/gasses from the wood condense on the inside walls of a chimney. The colder the walls, cooler the fire, the more creosote you burn. Ideally your gasses should be between 350-500F on your stove pipe (I have double wall stove pipe with a prober thermometer) to prevent condensation.

    DOn't give up!!!!! It will get better. Do you have a stove top thermometer? Thermometer for your stove pipe? They are simply guides but I found they were helpful especially when I was new to this 3 years ago.

    Andrew

    PS. Throwing 2-3 logs onto a few coals will likely not get hot enough to engage the secondaries of your stove. This may be compounded by the fact your wood may not be properly seasoned... Can you look up/down your chimney?
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  8. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

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    Devil is in the details. But to be safe, and uncomplicate things, try to get 3 years ahead on your supply. Its all good by then. In the interim, I have a feeing you'll get lots of pointers here on species, mixing, technique, etc to get you through. Don't give up - at some point you will "rock that biotch" without even thinking about it....
  9. Pierre902

    Pierre902 Member

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    Loc:
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    Hey Adam, I am by no means an expert, but I own a 1402 which I also started burning this season. I am also having very similar experience to what you described. When I initially started burning the stove this past October, the draft seemed incredible and even at a slow burn I could open up the door fully and not have smoke poor into the house. For most of the season this has been the case for me. It is only over the past 3 or 4 weeks I've noticed I can't open the door fully without a puff of smoke coming. This happens most frequently when I have a lazy fire going and a smaller bed of coals.

    For the most part I attribute this to a few things.The first, I think some of the wood I started using may be a little higher in moisture content because I know it is oak that was only seasoned a year at the most. The second, I'm thinking that it may be that I am not loading up my stove as much and burning as hot. I am also thinking the draft is not as great as the weather has been turning warmer. It could be a combination of things.

    All of the comments on here have me wanting to check my liner very soon just to be sure it's not a restriction due to some build up.

    Thanks for asking the question on this forum. My wife has some allergies and I have to be very careful with the smoke getting in the house. You are not alone with this dilemma.

    Overall I do love the stove though. No complaints here. It has kept my 1500 square foot home toasty and also drastically reduced my oil bill.

    Pete
    Oldhippie likes this.
  10. Jacklake2003

    Jacklake2003 Member

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    My 1401 will behave like this if the top baffles get bumped forward reducing the gap between them and the fron of the stove. The baffles should be pushed all the way to the rear of the stove.
    ScotO likes this.
  11. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Hello Adam and welcome to the forum.

    Your posts make it very easy to pinpoint the real problems. You will be very happy to know that this is not a problem with your stove and it is very fixable!

    For sure the masonary chimney could be part of the problem but not the main one. The very first thing you need to do and do it right away is to get that chimney cleaned. Either do it yourself or hire it done. In your first post you stated:

    Indeed after 3 months it is very possible to plug up your chimney. I recall one poster, a new wood burner having a problem in less than a month (don't remember exactly the thread or I'd posted a link to it). This is why we usually recommend for new wood burners to check their chimneys monthly. This is very important!!!

    Your description of your fuel says a lot. First, you have not stated what type of tree this is. Guessing from your description and knowing a bit about your area my guess is this is oak. Fantastic firewood! However, the one little problem with oak is that it will give up its moisture very reluctantly and that is why I will not even attempt to burn oak until after it has been split and stacked in the wind for 3 years. Some say they can get by in 2 years but always remember that longer is better.

    Also know that different types of trees take different lengths of time to dry. For example, the oak mentioned, but then let's say you cut a soft maple. You could cut that in March, split it right away and stack it in a single row in the wind and it would be fine to burn the following winter! Not many types of wood will do that. Also, let's look at ash. Over and over we hear and read about how ash doesn't have much moisture and can be burned right away or some will say just a couple months of seasoning. Wrong! It is excellent firewood and it is a low moisture wood compared to most but it still takes time to get that moisture out.

    In addition, your description of drying the wood in the house and the "odor" in the house simply says that the wood is not dry. If so, you would not get hardly any odor. It is the sap that causes that odor. We do not bring wood into the house until it is ready for the stove and it goes right in then; no log rack in our house. Reason is possible bugs or flying critters. Some say this won't happen but we've seen it happen many times. So we get wood from the porch, go inside and put that wood right into the stove.

    Another point is how you took the cracks on the end to indicate dryness. Most wood will crack on the ends because it is drying. However, those cracks on the ends tell you that only the very end of the log is dry; not the center.

    Also, those trees were down for a period of time. Good. But do not think that the wood is dry! To give an example, this past December we picked up some logs from a neighbor. It is white oak and we know they have been laying on the ground (Bad! Elevated is good though.) for a minimum of 10 years and very possibly longer. One neighbor told me he thought it was 12 years. Either way we got a lot of white oak and put it in the splitting pile (we split only in the spring). Last week I finally got started on the splitting and started with some of that oak. The center of that wood is sopping wet! It is as wet as it would have been if I cut the tree last week! No, we will not be burning that for at least 3 1/2 years!


    I do hope this helps to clear up some confusion you had on seasoning the wood.

    So we suggest you get the chimney cleaned just as soon as possible. Also get next year's wood split and stacked in the wind right away. Also be aware that if the wood is stacked next to a solid fence or a building, the air circulation that is needed is somewhat blocked. Best to dry it in the sun and wind then move it after it has been dried.

    Good luck to you.
    Defiant and ScotO like this.
  12. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    I'll leave it to those who have Napoleons to go over the best burning technique for your unit. I am sure you could improve your technique, though.

    Definitely clean your chimney. If you find it to be reasonably clean, then I would say the problem is being caused by the warmer weather and resultant poorer draft. If the temperature inside and outside the house do not vary greatly, the air is not going to want to flow. If your flue set up is less than ideal, that problem is compounded.

    You indicate you are not having a problem with smoke exiting the door when you reload into a hot stove, that the problem is in starting a stove from a cold start, and that when you do so smoke billows out the door when you open it. ???If you are letting the fire go out overnight, and starting your cold start in the morning, where is the smoke coming from? You should not have a fire smouldering all night.

    When you start from a cold start, do you put some kindling in to burn, close the door, then open it to add larger wood? Is that when you get the smoke billowing out the door?

    If so, why not just build your fire in one step, so you do not have to open the door multiple times? It will start just fine. If you find it is hard to establish a draft from a cold start at this time of year, preheat the flue before laying your fire. Either make a twisted torch out of a piece of newsprint, put it in the entrance from the stove to the pipe and light it to establish a draft, or use a hair dryer to blow hot air up the chimney for a minute or two. Then build and light your fire.
  13. suspensionofdisbelief1

    suspensionofdisbelief1 New Member

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    Thanks everyone again. Sorry I had not gotten back to this thread sooner, looks like my notifications made it to my spam folder.

    I think I will upload some photos of the wood tomorrow, how I am drying it, and so forth to see what types if you guys can tell me it is. Looks like we have mainly 3 types of trees around here in West Chester.

    I had misstated earlier, the chimney is brick and masonry but the liner was installed.

    Also my wood is stacked in a shed, probably not good from what I am now reading, I presume. I was told by a local installer that this is OK as long as I change out the roof to clear plastic so it will bake in the summer heat and sun instead of the green plastic roofing it currently is (when I rebuilt my deck on the house, I reused the wood from the shed beneath it as well as the wood the deck was built with to build the wood shed). Anyway, I presume now that I should be splitting it and letting it sit out next to the shed perhaps so it will dry quicker, but what about the rain getting to it? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of drying the wood, the moisture will not break the wood down? Any suggestions here? I've almost filled my shed with split wood now (about 16x6), I don't want to have to move all of that wood out now that it is stacked. Maybe I should drill a crap load of holes in the sides of the shed to get air to penetrate through? The shed has a roof as indicated and three sides, the front is mostly open except for 3 feet on both sides. I'd really hate to pull the sides off, the shed is visible from the street and this would not look good, and I used non=pressure treated pine for the studs, so I do not want to expose them.

    Here's my point I guess.....
    We have so many trees here that whether or not the wood is completely dry (from the sound of it I guess next season it may not be even if I set stacks out in the open air), I'd still rather burn what I have around me rather than purchasing a bunch of split wood seasoned by someone else. The whole idea of this purchase was to save some money while using what we have in the woods to heat the house. It's either spend hundreds on purchased split wood vs. a $100 cleaning at the end of each season. Right? As long as the liner is cleaned what other problems could be created by taking this approach?

    Thank you Backwoods Savage for all that info. It clears up quite a bit for me. Makes me think I have a lot of work ahead of me. Maybe I should move that wood out of the shed I stacked it in and stack it outside? That is going to take an entire day I think....

    Jacklake2003, you indicate the baffles should be moved to the rear. Mine will not budge. Anything I should know to move them further back?

    rideau, you indicate "You should not have a fire smouldering all night." I am not sure how to get around this. If my fire does not burn for periods longer than say 4 hours, how do you suppose I reload in the wee hours of the morning when I'd rather be sleeping? My fires have never lasted longer than 4 hours even when completely loaded to the brim.

    Maybe I should cancel my gym membership. I've found myself substituting cutting, splitting, and stacking in place of going to the gym!
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Leave the roof on the shed alone. How open are the sides and back? You don't want to block airflow through the woodstacks. I have lattice walls surrounding mine. Seems to work pretty well though most of the wood I put in the shed has had some drying time split and in a pile beforehand.

    When you say your fires have died after 4 hrs., what do you mean. Is there still a glowing coal bed or just ash?
  15. Nick Mystic

    Nick Mystic Minister of Fire

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    Hi Adam,
    Your thinking about burning wood that hasn't been properly dried in order to save money is flawed. First, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation for you. Buying wood is no guarantee that you'll have properly dried wood to burn. It sounds like the wood you already have access to should be fine once it is dried long enough. From your description it sounds like you need to improve your wood storage/drying system. Using your closed up shed isn't going to work as a wood drying area. Here is a photo of a covered area where I store some of my wood:

    IMG_0155.JPG

    As you can see, I don't have the perfect setup, but it gets the job done for me. Those bays are 8 feet wide and I stack my wood two rows deep. By utilizing the retainer wall along the back I was able to build a cheap wood shed by using some landscape timbers, 2x4s, and some corrugated roof panels. What helps make this system work for me is the fact that if faces south, so I have direct sun on the face of the pile a good deal of the time. I also try to leave a couple of inches between my two rows of wood for at least some air circulation. The most important factor helping me out, however, is that I rotate through my wood so that I can wait three years before having to burn the wood I cut.

    The point I'm trying to make is that you don't have to create the perfect set up for drying/storing your firewood, but you have to adapt your burning to accommodate whatever setup you use. The key is to allow sufficient time for your wood to dry to 20% or less moisture before you burn it.

    Secondly, you can't think that you can get away with burning wet wood with the only trade off being that you'll have to sweep your chimney once a year. You need to sweep your chimney (or at least check to see if it needs cleaning) once a year with any wood you burn until you have enough experience to know what state your flue pipe is in at any given time. Burning wet or marginal wood not only means you will build up creosote in you flue, it also means you won't get all the heat possible from your burns. This means using more wood and getting less heat. Of course, it also means dealing with the sort of problem you described in your original post. All of these problems are minor compared to dealing with a chimney fire, if poor burning techniques produce one.

    If you can get up on your roof and inspect your cap you should be able to learn a lot. Is it all caked up with creosote? That is the easiest way to get some quick information on what is likely going on with your draft and smoke coming out of your stove when you open the door. It sounds like you should be able to fix whatever your problems are without any unreasonable effort and then you'll be able to really start enjoying heating with your new insert.
  16. suspensionofdisbelief1

    suspensionofdisbelief1 New Member

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    Here is the setup. I totally understand this setup is probably not ample, by any means. So how could it be redone with the least amount of energy to dry the wood the fastest? Should I pull the sides of the shed off?
    There are two pics of the type of wood if anyone could point out what type they are and how long it could be expected for them to dry out that would be a tremendous help as those are the two types most found on my lot, there is a third as well, just not nearby.

    Also, Nick Mystic...I'm not sure I understand your reasoning "Your thinking about burning wood that hasn't been properly dried in order to save money is flawed"
    How so? If the chimney/liner is cleaned every year because I am burning wood that is not dried enough, what harm am I doing? That is the question I originally asked and I did not really know the answer to.
    Like I said I'd rather have the chimney cleaned every year up until the wood is completely dried. Then at that time I am able to let the cleanings go for longer periods because the wood had dried long enough. I am a few years out from that period but if anyone can chime in on what problems may occur in the mean time that would be helpful so I could mitigate that risk.

    -Adam

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  17. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Hey Adam

    IN my view, the biggest disadvantage of not having properly seasoned wood is the fact that you won't be taking advantage of all the potential heat in the wood. You'll be wasting lots evaporating the water instead of transfering that heat to your home.

    Obviously there's the major issue of creosote buildup and the risks associated to this.

    I would certainly take the sides off of the shed and let the wind blow through it. Wind removes water/moisture from the splits. That moisture is then replenished from the inside. In short, that is how wood dries.

    If you replaced the roof with clear plastic and removed the sides I think it would be idea. You would be letting the sun work it's magic and the wind helps remove the moisture....

    I think you're on track to a much better season next winter! DOn't get discouraged....

    Unfortunately I am terrible at tree ID. However those splits seem like a serious hardwood...ash perhaps?

    ANdrew

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