Bought a house with a stove/blower - First timer, what am I doing wrong??

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

Drex

New Member
Sep 28, 2021
3
NH
Greetings! I purchased a home here in NH and it has a large stove and blower in the basement. I've never used a stove before and I am trying to figure this thing out and all I am doing is getting my basement full of smoke. I tried consulting the pinned posts for new users but none of the links work.

Little back story first - I asked the previous owner during closing if the stove was working well and he said it was and that he put 2-3 cords of wood through it each winter. After moving in I had the stove and chimney inspected and cleaned.

Today I tried starting it up and got a decent fire going inside and everything seemed ok, but as soon as I turned the blower on, smoke just starting coming out all over the place. Smoke was blowing out through each point where the stove pipe connected to another piece of pipe going in to the wall/chimney, as well as poured out from the front of the stove where the sliding air adjuster thingy (damper?) is. See picture below

woodstove.jpg

I tried turning the blower on a few different times while the fire was burning most times smoke would blow out everywhere but once or twice when I turned it on everything seemed ok and no smoke was blowing out, and hot air was cranking up the pipe and heating upstairs nicely. Sometimes when I open the door, tons of smoke pours out, other times when I open the door, no smoke comes out. I used wood that the previous owner left stacked in the yard, looks well seasoned to me as it is from last year and it's very grey/old looking.

I am mostly concerned with the fact that smoke is coming out of the piping - the guy that cleaned the chimney was brand new and it was his first time doing all of this by himself and he did remove all of the piping and cleaned it out well, then put it all back together...did he do something wrong? Or am I just doing something wrong? Just to clarify - there doesnt seem to be any smoke coming out of the piping unless the blower is on. Any guidance is much appreciated, I would like to be able to run this thing all winter and not worry about smoking my house out or burning it down!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,612
South Puget Sound, WA
That does not sound good. There should be no connection or openings between the firebox and flue and the convection system. If there is, the stove is very unsafe to operate. Look for cracks, corrosion, etc. in the stove plenum in the firebox. Do not operate again until the cause is determined. Doing so could be fatal.

Is there a good smoke and a CO detector in the room?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,139
central pa
There is no cold air return duct on the stove so when you turn the blower on it is sucking air out of the room the stove is in causing negative pressure there. It may work better once outside temps drop and draft increases but it still isn't a good setup.
 

gthomas785

Minister of Fire
Feb 8, 2020
530
Central MA
Does it start smoking immediately when you turn the blower on or does it take a few seconds?
Also, does the air coming through the duct upstairs smell like smoke at all? Try running it with a basement door or window open and see if it still smokes.

I'm with bholler guessing you have weak draft and too much suction from the blower that is causing the room pressure to drop.
 

Drex

New Member
Sep 28, 2021
3
NH
That does not sound good. There should be no connection or openings between the firebox and flue and the convection system. If there is, the stove is very unsafe to operate. Look for cracks, corrosion, etc. in the stove plenum in the firebox. Do not operate again until the cause is determined. Doing so could be fatal.

Is there a good smoke and a CO detector in the room?
Ok so apparently all of the detectors in the house are just smoke, no CO! I will look at things more closely tomorrow after everything is cooled off, and snap some pictures of inside the fire box and post them. All of the fire bricks inside were cracked so I replaced them today before starting the first fire...

Does it start smoking immediately when you turn the blower on or does it take a few seconds?
Also, does the air coming through the duct upstairs smell like smoke at all? Try running it with a basement door or window open and see if it still smokes.

I'm with bholler guessing you have weak draft and too much suction from the blower that is causing the room pressure to drop.

Yes the smoke starts immediately after I turn the blower on. The whole house smells like smoke at this point...
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,612
South Puget Sound, WA
I'm with bholler guessing you have weak draft and too much suction from the blower that is causing the room pressure to drop.
It's possible that there was a puffback if the outdoor temps are mild and the wood is not fully seasoned. But without seeing what happend I have to go by the description which indicated there was smoke coming out in places it shouldn't have and this only started happening when the blower was turned on.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,139
central pa
It's possible that there was a puffback if the outdoor temps are mild and the wood is not fully seasoned. But without seeing what happend I have to go by the description which indicated there was smoke coming out in places it shouldn't have and this only started happening when the blower was turned on.
That would happen if the blower is pulling the smoke out of those places. I absolutely may be wrong but it isn't uncommon with installs like this.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,612
South Puget Sound, WA
A test then would be to open a nearby window an inch and see if that alleviates the problem.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bholler

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,350
NE PA
Are there doors or windows to open to the outdoors in the basement? Opening them as a test will prove you are creating a low pressure area in basement.

If the blower is taking air from basement and pressurizing the upstairs without a way to get fresh air into the basement, (preferably from upstairs) it will pull fresh air down the chimney allowing smoke to enter from joints and air intake. This is putting the basement in a negative pressure area, so the higher atmospheric air pressure outside pushes down chimney against the rising exhaust stopping draft. The mechanical fan will over power the draft easily. If opening a nearby window or door alleviates the issue, you need openings from upstairs to basement for cold air returns as bholler suggested.

Any air you move out of basement has to be replaced by return air from the heated area to keep the pressure equal, up and down to elevate the negative air pressure you’re creating in the basement, Try leaving a door open to the upstairs so cooler air at floor level can fall down the stairs starting the circulation needed. If the problem ceases with basement door to the upper level open, you know you need return air. (This May be what prior owners did for circulation)

You want the hot air you’re pushing upstairs to circulate through the home as much as possible. As the hot air cools, it drops, so the floor plan has to allow the heated air to move from one end of the home to the other before dropping back down through the floor to basement. This cool air returning should be the farthest away possible from the stove. If steps are near the stove, the open door will allow return air to prevent the negative pressure issue, but not force the hot air to move through the home before cooling and dropping back down. Plan the circulation strategically and you will have good air flow with more even heating.
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,350
NE PA
That’s the long version of what bholler and begreen said. Hope that explains it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bholler

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,139
central pa
That’s the long version of what bholler and begreen said. Hope that explains it.
I like your long versions of my basic posts.
 

Drex

New Member
Sep 28, 2021
3
NH
Are there doors or windows to open to the outdoors in the basement? Opening them as a test will prove you are creating a low pressure area in basement.

If the blower is taking air from basement and pressurizing the upstairs without a way to get fresh air into the basement, (preferably from upstairs) it will pull fresh air down the chimney allowing smoke to enter from joints and air intake. This is putting the basement in a negative pressure area, so the higher atmospheric air pressure outside pushes down chimney against the rising exhaust stopping draft. The mechanical fan will over power the draft easily. If opening a nearby window or door alleviates the issue, you need openings from upstairs to basement for cold air returns as bholler suggested.

Any air you move out of basement has to be replaced by return air from the heated area to keep the pressure equal, up and down to elevate the negative air pressure you’re creating in the basement, Try leaving a door open to the upstairs so cooler air at floor level can fall down the stairs starting the circulation needed. If the problem ceases with basement door to the upper level open, you know you need return air. (This May be what prior owners did for circulation)

You want the hot air you’re pushing upstairs to circulate through the home as much as possible. As the hot air cools, it drops, so the floor plan has to allow the heated air to move from one end of the home to the other before dropping back down through the floor to basement. This cool air returning should be the farthest away possible from the stove. If steps are near the stove, the open door will allow return air to prevent the negative pressure issue, but not force the hot air to move through the home before cooling and dropping back down. Plan the circulation strategically and you will have good air flow with more even heating.

Thank you for the explanation, it makes a lot of sense and I hope this is the case because I was indeed keeping the basement door closed. No window or door to the basement was open and the blower is really powerful. It was also ~70 degrees out if that matters.

I will try again tomorrow, but this time I will leave the basement door open and see what happens.

If negative pressure ends up being the problem, is this set up that I have otherwise safe? I feel a little uncomfortable about having a roaring fire going all winter in the basement where I am not around it.
 
Last edited:

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,139
central pa
Thank you for the explanation, it makes a lot of sense and I hope this is the case because I was indeed keeping the basement door closed. No window or door to the basement was open and the blower is really powerful. It was also ~70 degrees out if that matters.

I will try again tomorrow, but this time I will leave the basement door open and see what happens.

If negative pressure ends up being the problem, is this set up that I have otherwise safe? I feel a little uncomfortable about having a roaring fire going all winter in the basement where I am not around it.

From what I can see it looks of if you run a cold air intake from upstairs. But there is allot we can't see. If I were you I would want some more experienced eyes on the setup.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,612
South Puget Sound, WA
A lot of basement installed stoves are going to draft terribly with a 70º outdoor temperature, especially if there are windows open upstairs. Wait until it is colder and below 50º outside to try again, carefully and after a full systems inspection. If there is a door to the basement, leave it open. That will be the return path to the blower.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
1,955
Long Island NY
From what I can see it looks of if you run a cold air intake from upstairs. But there is allot we can't see. If I were you I would want some more experienced eyes on the setup.
a cold air intake from upstairs sounds dangerous (as in up pointing OAK). I know you are not suggesting that, but it might be useful to specify what you are talking about for future readers.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,139
central pa
a cold air intake from upstairs sounds dangerous (as in up pointing OAK). I know you are not suggesting that, but it might be useful to specify what you are talking about for future readers.
A cold air intake for the hot air plenum. It is completely separate from combustion air.
 
  • Like
Reactions: stoveliker