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History of Fire


Throughout the centuries there has been such an intimate connection of fire with the cultural growth of humanity that whatever relates to the antiquity of fire is important in tracing- the history of early progress.’ And because all inventions make use of what has gone before, the steps, which lead up to the making of the first stoves, are necessary in writing of their history. Logically, of course, we may assume there was once a time when man had no fire, but very early he must have become acquainted with fire derived from natural sources, and made use of it; for no remains of man’s art show him without fire as his companion. Much later in the scheme of things he invented processes for making fire artificially.


Many of the legends or myths relating to the origin of fire are vivid and dramatic, and while they vary in detail there appears to be a similarity in many of the episodes that form the fire-origin story in all countries of the world.’ Stealing fire from the gods, one of the first incidents, was made more or less exciting by the strategy employed in acquiring, it. Prometheus, for example, stole fire from the heavens in a hollow tube, one of the feats which gave him the reputation of being a great benefactor of men.’ After the transportation of fire was solved, it was occasionally borrowed, and while the meaning is lost, the phrase is still used when one says: “May I borrow a light?”’


With the acquisition of fire came the problem of preserving, it and interesting examples of the ingenuity of man were presented. First, the fire was buried; preserved in the ashes of the fire itself. Next, a type of slow-match or fire-stick was developed, and later, when man worked with metals, the...
Burning shelled corn as a fuel can be a feasible way of dealing with the high prices of more conventional fuels such as fuel oil, propane, natural gas, coal, and firewood. Utilizing corn as a fuel does not compete with the food supply needed for nourishment throughout the world. While it is recognized that malnutrition is a serious global problem, the world is not experiencing a food production problem. Instead the world faces political challenges associated with providing infrastructure systems for food distribution and storage.

Countryside Magnum Corn Stove

Contemporary agricultural systems can produce sufficient quality and quantity of food for the world’s population, with additional resources available so that agricultural products can be used as fuel, pharmaceuticals, and chemical feedstocks. Shelled corn is a fuel that can be produced within 180 days, compared to the millennia needed to produce fossil fuels.

Corn fueled appliances include stoves, fireplace inserts, built-in fireplaces and central heaters. As with many Pellet Stoves, Corn units often do not need an entire chimney system since they can be vented directly out the side wall (Direct Vent). Ask your dealer or installer for more information once you select a model.
(written by Corie Podschelne)

Perhaps you’ve been a long time wood burner and are looking for a stove that requires less tending; or maybe you’re new to solid fuel room heating completely. Burning coal, especially for a new coal user, can be particularly daunting due to difficulties in igniting a coal fire. Also, coal burning has some unfortunate (and false) stigmas surrounding it that come from a different era of coal burning. Modern coal stoves are amazingly simple to operate, extremely efficient and clean burning and require significantly less tending than a similar wood burning unit. This article will focus primarily on burning hard coal, also referred to as anthracite coal, however of the concepts will be just as useful when considering soft or bituminous coal.

-Coal Sizes

Anthracite coal comes in a variety of sizes; certain stoves require a specific size of coal whereas other stoves may be able to burn a few different coal sizes. While there are more sizes of hard coal than those listed blow, these are the primary four sizes that will be used in most coal stoves.

Rice - 3/16” to 5/16”

Pea - 9/16” - 13/16”

Chestnut - 13/16” to 1 5/8”

Stove - 1 5/8” to 2 7/16”

-Stove Types

1) Stoker

A. Introduction

A stoker stove is an automatic coal burning unit, wherein some type of stoker mechanism feeds fresh coal to a burning fire at a feed rate set by the user. Air is generally forced through the fire from the bottom by a blower or by a flue mounted draft inducer. The coal stoker stove operates on much the same principle as the pellet stove. The user must simply keep the hopper filled with coal and the ash pan empty and the coal stoker stove will run continuously.

B. Venting

Stoker stoves, depending on manufacturer, can often be “power-vented” because of the forced draft within the unit, greatly simplifying the venting system and reducing cost. In other words, many coal stokers can be direct vented much like a pellet...
Written by Eric Johnson and Craig Issod

Outdoor Wood Boilers, also called OWBs or Outdoor Wood Burners, consist of a firebox surrounded by a water jacket and a control system all housed in an insulated, steel-sided enclosure with a roof. Hot water is circulated through insulated, underground piping between the boiler and the house. OWBs have become very popular in many rural areas of the United States, with substantial sales in the Northeast and Midwest, where hardwood is plentiful and winters are long and cold.

OWB Typical Setup

Source: HPBA

Although typically referred to as “boilers,” OWBs are not boilers in the traditional sense. In a conventional indoor boiler (oil, gas, wood or coal hydronic heater), water is heated in a pressurized vessel and then circulated through the heating system. In an OWB, the water is open to the atmosphere and thus, not pressurized. This allows the OWB to be built to different standards than a traditional indoor boiler, and makes it exempt from some of the regulations that apply to pressurized heating appliances.

There are pros and cons to consider when shopping for an OWB. One of the advantages of open systems is that they are safer than pressurized boilers. And because they’re usually sited away from the house and other buildings on the property, they dont affect your homeowners insurance rates. All the creosote, smoke, ash, wood storage, etc. are outside of the house as well, which is appealing to many people familiar with wood stoves. And they can burn much bigger pieces of wood than a stove.


improper burning in an OWB

On the down side, open systems are prone to corrosion and the accumulation of debris in the system, which can be a maintenance concern. Overall system efficiency is a problem with OWBs as well, since it is virtually impossible to efficiently burn wood in a firebox surrounded by water. The result is smoke, which is basically unused...
Original article by:
Dennis Buffington
Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Penn State University
Reprinted with permission


Do not purchase a corn-burning stove or boiler without first identifying a reliable supplier of shelled corn. To find suppliers of shelled corn, contact the feed and seed stores in your area as well as any feed mills and grain elevators. The Extension Office in your county or the land-grant university in your state may also be able to identify suppliers of shelled corn. If you know any farmers, contact them directly to inquire if they or other farmers they know will sell shelled corn to you on a direct basis. Be sure that the moisture content of the shelled corn that you buy is no higher than 15.5 % for good combustion characteristics and for safe storage of the corn. (See the link for “Quality of Shelled Corn” on the homepage of the web site.)

Generally, it will be cheaper to buy the corn directly from a farmer than from a feed mill or elevator. Probably the most expensive place to buy shelled corn is from a fireplace/hearth shop where the corn is sold in cute little decorated bags. In many cases, it will be necessary to purchase a large amount of corn at a time to get the cheapest price for the corn. You may find it is necessary to purchase 25 bushels (1,400 pounds) to 100 bushels (5,600 pounds) to negotiate the cheapest price. Whenever discussing price, be sure to consider the cost for the delivery of the corn to your home.

The price of corn fluctuates throughout regions of the U. S. and throughout each year. It is impossible for any supplier to provide a firm price for corn over an extended period of time, unless you buy the corn on a futures contract. You may be able to negotiate a price that is a fixed number of cents higher than the price of corn on the commodity market at the time of your purchase.


For best results,...
Pellets and corn stoves are experiencing a new wave of popularity. These homegrown fuels are renewable and can often cost less than other heating fuels. This article will deal with some of the basic dos and donts in relation to FREESTANDING Pellet Stoves.

Pellet stoves vary widely in terms of features, price and quality - don't just go out and buy the first one that meets your eye and budget. You will have to live with your choice for a long time, so make certain you do your homework BEFORE purchasing.

Pellet stoves are relatively complicated machines, with electronic control boards, multiple blowers, safety switches and sensors. As a result there is much more to go wrong than with a simple wood stove or fireplace. Pellet stoves require regular attention, service and maintenance. Your first order of business when shopping for a Pellet stove is to ask yourself who will be taking care of your stove. If you are very handy with tools, draft gauges and chimney brushes, then it may be possible for you to troubleshoot and repair your unit. If you are a bit less handy, you should strongly consider purchasing from a local and reputable dealer with a service department. Ask questions about their future service policies BEFORE you put your $$$ down.

What will they do during the warranty period? What, if any, costs will be billed to you? What will they do after the warranty period? What will the costs be?

As one Hearth.com reader stated "There are a number of people locally who can fix my oil burner, but only one who can fix my pellet stove'. Please keep that in mind, especially if your pellet stove is an important (or sole) source of heat for an area of your home.

It is important to plan your installation before buying a Pellet stove. Most companies have PDF copies of the owners manuals online, and a copy should be obtained and studied. Don't assume that your local dealer is always going to do the installation correctly - or, more accurately, they...
Pellet and Corn Furnaces and Boilers


Over the past decade, a quiet revolution has been taking place in Europe and in certain parts of North America, centering on the use of locally-produced wood pellets and corn or corn/pellet mixtures for residential central heat. The increasing popularity of these heaters is largely being driven by high fossil fuel costs, although the perception that these fuels are “green” and renewable is also a factor for some consumers. However the fact remains that until the very recent sharp increases in the price of oil and LP, alternative fuel central heating systems were not in high demand on this side of the Atlantic.

As with chunk firewood and coal, central heating with refined fuels such as wood pellets and shelled corn has a number of advantages over space or “spot” heat typically produced by stoves. It allows the entire house to be heated evenly and respond to the settings of a wall thermostat. The heat can be zoned, allowing for different areas of the house to be heated on demand. Domestic hot water (DHW) can be produced as well, providing additional savings. Central heat also keeps most of the mess and dust of solid fuel in the basement, utility room or outbuilding.

The new generation of pellet/corn appliances is available in both hot air configurations (furnaces) or hot water (boiler) models. All use automatic feeding systems, either from a built-in hopper or an external bin. Typical maximum outputs range from 50,000 to 100,000 BTU (14 to 28 KW) per hour, enough to satisfy most residential heating needs.

Is a pellet or corn furnace or boiler right for you?

An add-on central heating appliance represents a substantial investment, usually costing from $6,000 (hot air) to $12,000 (hot water) for an installed system. Although mostly automatic, you will have to deal with buying fuel, loading pellets into the hopper or bin, removing the ash and general service and maintenance. And you should...
Pellet-burning appliances are simpler to operate and more convenient than other wood-burning appliances. In fact, they are almost as easy to use as gas, oil, or electric heaters. These stoves and inserts burn wood pellets—compressed wood which resembles rabbit food.

Wood Pellets

Typical Pellet Stove Pellet-burning appliances rely on sophisticated computers and circuit boards to determine how much pellet fuel should be burned. Most models have at least two burn settings and some use thermostats to control the fire. They also use a forced-air system to distribute heat. Pellet-burning appliances are highly efficient and pollute very little. Depending on the model, they may furnish between 10,000 and 60,000 Btu per hour.

Because these appliances burn wood so efficiently, they do not typically need a standard chimney. Rather, they exhaust fumes through a small hole in the wall to the outdoors. This pipe is called Pellet Vent or Class L chimney, and consists of a stainless steel interior and an aluminum or galvanized exterior. Pellet stoves and inserts can also be vented up through existing masonry and prefab (class A) chimneys, but the chimney typically must be relined with a smaller size of stainless steel single wall pipe.

Pellet-burning appliances need to be refueled less frequently than most other wood-burning appliances. Refueling varies from once a day to twice a week, depending on the model and your heating needs. To refuel, you simply pour the pellets into a hopper, which holds between 35 and 130 pounds of pellets. A corkscrew-shaped device called an auger then transfer pellets to the fire chamber.

Promote your Product here - email webinfo@hearth.com

There are two types of auger feed systems, bottom-fed and top-fed loading systems. Some models are capable of burning corn in addition to pellets. Others can use lower grades of pellets, a good feature for the future when pellets may be...
Relining a Masonry Chimney

Introduction to the Basics

Chimney relining is often the best way to assure safety and proper performance with solid fuel (wood, coal, pellet) appliances. In fact, chimney lining has become almost mandatory in order to bring existing chimneys up to present codes.

Reasons for lining or relining your chimney include:

1. Properly sizing (by reducing) the chimney flue. Proper sizing assures better draft, less creosote and other advantages

2. Upgrading the safety quotient - having a liner inside your chimney assures that the fire will stay in a tightly sealed tube - and also transfer less heat through the wall of the chimney to nearby framing and combustible material.

3. Some older chimneys were built of brick with no liner - and some newer chimneys have cracked and deteriorated clay liners. Either of these pose safety hazards.

Rigid Stainless

There are three basic material types used in masonry chimney lining:

1. Stainless Steel rigid pipe - is often the best material to use when the chimney run is straight. Rigid pipe is quite a bit thicker than flex pipe and the smoother interior wall will help with draft and cut down on soot and creosote formation.

2. Stainless Steel Flexible pipe - is available in various grades and thicknesses and can make relining relatively easy since it is often pulled down in one piece. It is easy to snake around bends and can even be slightly flattened (ovalized) to fit through difficult spots like dampers, etc.

3. Cast in Place liners - are made of a cement slurry which is poured down the chimney around a round bladder - after the cement has hardened, the bladder is deflated and removed, leaving a round flue of your specified size. Another method uses a nose cone which is pulled up through the wet cement to form the flue passage. Cast in place liners can help strengthen older chimneys because the cement fills in gaps from the inside-out. One popular vendor of...
Water storage can be a great addition to a wood or pellet boiler system, however you must plan the system well in order to gain the maximum advantage. You can use the calculator below to get a rough idea of how much water storage you might need to achieve your goals.
*Maximum temperature of storage
170 180 190
*Lowest temp of storage
110 120 130 140 150 160
*Gallons of Storage
120 240 400 600 800
If you planned well, you now can build the perfect system to suit your needs and get even more comfort from your renewable biomass fuel.
DIscussion of Storage and Storage Tanks..... Note, you can find a vast array of information on our Boiler Room Forum - and even get your personal questions answered! Here are some specific Boiler Room links:
Pressurized Storage Control by Nofossil

Let's start with the basics of combustion and wood burnings. Wood burns cleanest and most efficient when burning very hot! For that reason, many of the new downdraft ceramic base (also called gasifiers) boilers are designed to only burn at very high rates - often higher than what is needed to heat the home. As a result, such a system will turn itself off when the house is up to temperature and the water in the boiler reaches it's set point (usually 180-190 degrees F). This so-called idle mode produces vapors and liquids which are corrosive to the boiler and may also result in more smoke and creosote in the chimney system.

Since the weather and heat load differ daily, it is virtually impossible to accurately size a wood boiler for all winter conditions. At many times the boiler will be too big - and at some times it may even struggle to keep up with a very heavy heating and DHW load. These are cases where large water storage systems can help.
A water storage system takes any excess output of the boiler and stores it in water tanks. Then, when this heat is needed, it can be drawn...