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When to reload...OK, I'm still a newbie

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by richg, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. richg

    richg Minister of Fire

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    Gang,

    OK, despite having burned for years, I am still Grasshopper. When to reload? Quad 4300 step top with a blower....should I get a thermometer and go by that, look for when a coal bed has been reached, etc? It seems that I just can't get it right....either it's a reload on a big coal bed that then produces a thermonuclear explosion, or I reload when the stove is too cool and have to start from scratch again. As before, I am a newbie. Wood is three year old ash, oak and maple. Also, some two year old hickory.

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  2. corey21

    corey21 Minister of Fire

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    I would get a temp gauge and try reloading at 250 300.
  3. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    300 or lower depending on how many coals you have to load onto, how hard or not the stove drafts, and what wood you are loading.
  4. MarkinNC

    MarkinNC Minister of Fire

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    I am not being a smart alec when I say that I only reload when I need more heat. I used to be in the mindset that I had to reload. But I may only need one or two fires a day so I use fire starters for cold starts. It's super easy.

    For 24/7 burning I will reload at 350 or less. If I am going to need heat quicker I open the air control all the way in the coaling stage. If it will be a while before heat is needed on a warmer day, I keep the air control fairly closed down so I can load on the coals later (maybe 12 hours after the reload)
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I've been reloading at 250-300 recently. When I let it go below 250, I have to go back to kindling to get started again.

    However, you should be able to reload hotter, and not suffer meltdown. Try raking the coals forward and slipping a big split (bark side against coals) or a small round behind the coals, and building up from there. This keeps the highly flammable stuff off the coal bed.

    You can put one or two small splits on the hot coals to get things going again, but think about making the fire burn slow as you choose your loading method. Make that fire work hard to burn the big stuff.
  6. blacktail

    blacktail Minister of Fire

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    That.
  7. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    To add to what I said above, if the house is over 71'ish, I don't necessarily reload at all. I can let the stove go down to 150, and still get a relight without a match... but then I have to repeat the whole process of getting the stove heated back up in bypass mode.
  8. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    Yikes, "71'ish" my wife will start fussing as soon as the inside temp drops down below 76'ish! So I suppose my reload temps are then higher too!

    Anyway would you expand on "but then I have to repeat the whole process of getting the stove heated back up in bypass mode"? In other words how long do you do that if there are still some small coals which maybe wouldn't be enough all on their own to restart a roaring fire but would still be starting with much warmer stove than one that was truly "cold starting"? Is it just as long as cold starting, half that, quarter that, etc.? Also are you filling the firebox back up or are you starting off small and getting more glowing coals first and then filling the firebox?

    Basically I'm just asking everyone's advice for the finer techniques for reloading the right way. I know I'm not really good at it yet. Between having a smaller stove, still not feeling completely comfortable filling it full, and still not feeling completely comfortable running it hot, I find that I reload really frequently. I also find that each time is pretty clumsy.

    I think I have "mastered" starting a fire with half full stove, burning it in bypass mode for 30 minutes until i close to 1/4 air, and then simply repeating reloading it with a few small splits about every 1.5 hours or with a few large splits about every 2.5 hours. That's not much to master though so I'm trying to learn to load and reload a bit better.
    freddypd likes this.
  9. chvymn99

    chvymn99 Minister of Fire

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    Depends on the firepower that is needed. Usually around 300 degrees, but on those cold days and evenings I'll reload sooner. But when I do that that some times I'll have to throw in some quick burning fuel just to burn down the coal bed. Since I burn a lot of hedge on those days, it coals up quickly. Which isn't a bad thing, but cause those are still producing heat. Just have to burn them out.
  10. corey21

    corey21 Minister of Fire

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    About the same i do at my house we will see if that changes when December gets here.
  11. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Rich, there really is not a good way to answer your question. For sure at this time of the year it is difficult and we do a lot of starting from a cold stove. Just for an example, I don't think we've put wood in our stove since yesterday morning. In the fall, especially in October and November, we always expect to be starting a fire from scratch simply because that much heat is not necessary to keep the house warm. So if it is warm enough, why even put wood in the stove?

    Then comes late December (sometimes earlier) and January. Then we could tell you when to reload by the temperature of the stove or by the size of the coal bed.

    Long story short, start a fire when it gets cool in the house and pay attention to the weather forecast. They may make a lot of mistakes but most times they can predict the temperature with some degree of accuracy. The weather is one of the last things I check at night and one of the first I check in the morning. That forecast tells me a lot about what I need to put in the stove.
    freddypd likes this.
  12. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    There ya go.
    I've been surprised a few times when the forecast is off by quite a bit, but nothing to complain about too loudly.
    You'll need to learn what works in your house, and this time of year is tough.
    I've been having small fires in the morning to take the chill off (house still only at 67-68), then not loading until later at night.
    Are we having fun yet?
  13. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Sometimes we are Dave....
  14. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Funny... I've never set an electronic thermostat higher than 68F. With the wood stove going, we seem to keep it 70 - 73, but when heating with oil we're at 62F overnight or 68F during the day.

    If the stove has cooled to the point where the cat is well below 500F, meaning the stovetop is usually well below 250F, I put some kindling or small pieces in to get it going again. Then I have to graduate to a bunch of medium splits, and eventually the big stuff, before I can re-engage the cat and lower the air for a long cruise. It's basically a cold start without the match and newspaper.

    However, if the stove is still hot (>250F) and the cat is still in ignition, I can usually get away with adding some wood and then almost immediately going back into cat engagement as soon as it takes. In these cases, you want to balance between getting a portion of the load going quickly (so you can get the firebox heated up and the cat re-engaged), and having the load go nuclear. I do this by raking the hot coals forward, and dropping the big heavy splits in the back rear. Then I put one or two smaller medium splits on the coals in front. If I want the stove real full, I'll wait a few minutes for those small splits to catch, and then dump one more big split on top of them.

    I'm no expert yet, but this has been working pretty well for me, getting the stove back up to temp quickly, and the cat re-engaged in short order. The big stuff stacked up high in the back will eventually catch, but it will do so slowly, hopefully near the top of the stack, slowly burning down to the stuff on bottom.
  15. freddypd

    freddypd Burning Hunk

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    I am in the same boat, trying to keep the coals going all day even in the milder weather. I am not sure why I am concerned with starting a new fire....I have become pretty good at it!

    I also feel that I am loading too frequently. I guess I can't expect too much this soon, I have only been burning with wood for about 6 weeks now.
  16. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Freddy, it is good that you are getting some experience with the stove now. Things will change a lot in another 6 weeks and by then you should have a good handle on operating it. As for keeping the coals, that is something I've never worried about. If the heat is not needed the thing just goes out. I just got a fire going a bit ago as it has been 2 days since our last fire. Simply was not needed.
  17. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    So many factors and that's why there are as many answers as posts. This being my first season with the EPA stove, I've had the same question. You have a non-cat stove, so it's probably different than with a cat stove. Right now, for us, the weather is mild, usually above freezing and our house is pretty well insulated. What we've been doing lately is starting a new fire in the morning, let the fire go down quite a ways while the stove is still putting out heat and then maybe put two or three splits on at a time. In colder weather, I'm sure that will change. Generally, though, stoking with a few splits when the top gets to maybe 300° works for us so far. Very often we just let it go out and allow the stove to radiate for the rest of the day (like right now).

    Probably the important thing is to keep the fire and flue hot enough to keep the efficiency up and the creosote down unless allowing the fire to die out.

    I guess you've discovered what not to do by putting too much on at a time on a hot bed of coals. The tip about raking the coals forward is pretty universally accepted around here.

    Are you going for extended burn times for each load or do you mind feeding the fire every few hours?
  18. freddypd

    freddypd Burning Hunk

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    Thanks,
    I took the time today to clean out the firebox and the glass. Very mild here today. Cleaned out the garage and organized a bit.
  19. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Freddy, if your weather follows ours, you won't be mild too long! We had 70 Sunday. When I went to bed Monday night it was 32 and snowing.

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