Just a Wife, Standing in Front of This Wood Stove ... With Questions

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WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
Hello everyone! What a great site - I've been enjoying and more importantly learning about our new wood burning insert. My husband has wished for a wood burning insert for a very long time and I'm happy to say it got installed last week. We went with the Napolean Oakdale Contemporary Insert, EPI3C. It's lovely and looks amazing! However, as many times as I read the manual, I still have questions. I would love any advice you all can give!

My major malfunction when it comes to this insert is starting a fire and keeping it going. And first let me say that the wood is properly dry and seasoned. Husband was so excited he drove an hour to a place for a giant truckload of wood. He's remarked many, many, many times about how nice this wood is. We've cured the insert in about eight small fires, and he's chomping at the bit for this weekend so he can properly have a fire.

I want to be better at this, and so here I am. While I don't think he gets annoyed at all of my questions, I just want to be less anxious about this so I thank you in advance for any responses. He's so happy, and I don't want my anxiety to get in the way of that.

So - the manual says I should never leave the damper open fully for more than 20 mins, but I also understand I need to get the insert hot to be efficient. My struggle is that sometimes my fire takes longer than 20 mins to get where it needs to be, but if I close the damper I am losing the flames. What to do? If I close the damper a 1/4 way, can I leave it there and not worry to much about it until it gets where it needs to be? Is there a happy medium somewhere?

I am burning smallish fires right now, so as to not overfire or cause some issue. Husband is very excited to do an overnight burn, and I am very anxious about it. Any advice about an overnight burn would be great. Is it okay to have the blower on for an overnight burn?? Should the damper be closed when doing this?

Right now it's 20 degrees here, is it okay to have this going 100% of the time? And if so, for how long is that okay for?

What is the right time to refuel the fire? I've kind of waited until it I just had a super hot coal bed and reloaded then. (By the way, he's at work so I'm doing this solo during the day.) Also, should I be opening the damper all the way when I want to open the door to refuel?

That's about it for now, and that's a lot. :) Thanks in advance, I've included a picture in case anyone wanted to see it.

fireplace.jpg
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
Congratulations on this new adventure!

My first question would be how you know the wood is seasoned. It is often sold as being seasoned, but is it really dry? Often not.
Losing the flames is a tell-tale sign the wood is still too wet.

Especially if you buy wood, I would buy a moisture meter. Get a few splits in the home for 24 hrs so they are up to room temperature, split them, and measure them with the two pins firmly in there along the grain.
 
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WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
Congratulations on this new adventure!

My first question would be how you know the wood is seasoned. It is often sold as being seasoned, but is it really dry? Often not.
Loosing the flames is a tell-tale sign the wood is still too wet.

Especially if you buy wood, I would buy a moisture meter. Get a few splits in the home for 24 hrs so they are up to room temperature, split them, and measure them with the two pins firmly in there along the grain.
Hi and thanks! I'm not losing flames until I move the damper - we've got a lot a wood inside and it's been inside for a week now. I will check on that moisture meter for sure. Thank you, I've been enjoying this process!
 
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tabner

Feeling the Heat
Jan 17, 2019
262
Eastern CT
I am burning smallish fires right now, so as to not overfire or cause some issue. Husband is very excited to do an overnight burn, and I am very anxious about it. Any advice about an overnight burn would be great. Is it okay to have the blower on for an overnight burn?? Should the damper be closed when doing this?

Right now it's 20 degrees here, is it okay to have this going 100% of the time? And if so, for how long is that okay for?
Assuming you are burning safely, yes, the stove can run 100% of the time. Many people on this forum (and across the world) heat their homes in large part with wood stoves, and they might run them close to 100% of the time for months on end. Blower should be OK for overnight burns. Best advice I would give for an overnight burn, is practice during the day. Whenever you're home and able to monitor the stove, practice. Once you're comfortable, do the same process at night. Also, I put extra fire alarms in the house, and made sure I had a couple fire extinguishers scattered around the house, for a little extra peace of mind.
I second @stoveliker comment about the moisture meter. Even after reading dozens of hours on here, and knowing the importance of dry wood, I still end up throwing an arm load of damp wood in the stove from time-to-time (have a pile where oak is mixed in with maple, despite 2+ years of drying, the maple burns great, the oak is not dry enough). Also, how tall is your chimney? is it a stainless 6" liner, or tile/masonry?
 

WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
Assuming you are burning safely, yes, the stove can run 100% of the time. Many people on this forum (and across the world) heat their homes in large part with wood stoves, and they might run them close to 100% of the time for months on end. Blower should be OK for overnight burns. Best advice I would give for an overnight burn, is practice during the day. Whenever you're home and able to monitor the stove, practice. Once you're comfortable, do the same process at night. Also, I put extra fire alarms in the house, and made sure I had a couple fire extinguishers scattered around the house, for a little extra peace of mind.
I second @stoveliker comment about the moisture meter. Even after reading dozens of hours on here, and knowing the importance of dry wood, I still end up throwing an arm load of damp wood in the stove from time-to-time (have a pile where oak is mixed in with maple, despite 2+ years of drying, the maple burns great, the oak is not dry enough). Also, how tall is your chimney? is it a stainless 6" liner, or tile/masonry?
This is very helpful, thank you! I'm glad to hear the blower should be okay for overnight burns. :) Our chimney is tall, 26 feet - and the company that installed it use the 6" forever liner. I did just order a moisture meter (Valentines Gift? LOL) and will be sure to use it!

I didn't know that people are using their stoves that much! I'm relieved to hear it. Any advice on my damper?? Does it have to be 100% closed all the time? Is it ok to leave it 1/4 open for hours?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,474
central pa
This is very helpful, thank you! I'm glad to hear the blower should be okay for overnight burns. :) Our chimney is tall, 26 feet - and the company that installed it use the 6" forever liner. I did just order a moisture meter (Valentines Gift? LOL) and will be sure to use it!

I didn't know that people are using their stoves that much! I'm relieved to hear it. Any advice on my damper?? Does it have to be 100% closed all the time? Is it ok to leave it 1/4 open for hours?
On some setups 1/4 open will be perfectly fine. Some half open will be and others will need to be closed all the way. You have a pretty tall chimney so I would bet yours will be closed all the way. That being said the 20 min rule makes no sense. Yes most of the time 20 mins should be plenty. But if your wood is not as dry as it should be it may take longer
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
6,541
07462
Any advice on my damper?? Does it have to be 100% closed all the time? Is it ok to leave it 1/4 open for hours?
These stoves run best when the air is closed down some, now everyone has a different draft due to stove type, chimney size / length, location, geographical conditions, elevation, climate and wood species. You need to play around with the stove to learn it, the best is to load it up, leave the air all the way open and get a good fire rolling (established fire) then turn the air down in quarter increments letting the stove reset itself for 20min between each quarter turn down, you want to see lazy flames coming off your wood and secondary reburn flames coming off the top of the firebox, thats when you know you have your setting, also after setting the air, go outside and check for smoke, you should see nothing but heat vapors, a little steam or just a slight faint whisp of smoke, thats when you know your burning clean, then after a few weeks of that check your chimney cap and make sure it isnt getting plugged up.
 
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WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
On some setups 1/4 open will be perfectly fine. Some half open will be and others will need to be closed all the way. You have a pretty tall chimney so I would bet yours will be closed all the way. That being said the 20 min rule makes no sense. Yes most of the time 20 mins should be plenty. But if your wood is not as dry as it should be it may take longer
Happy to hear the 1/4 open is good!! Thank you!
 

WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
These stoves run best when the air is closed down some, now everyone has a different draft due to stove type, chimney size / length, location, geographical conditions, elevation, climate and wood species. You need to play around with the stove to learn it, the best is to load it up, leave the air all the way open and get a good fire rolling (established fire) then turn the air down in quarter increments letting the stove reset itself for 20min between each quarter turn down, you want to see lazy flames coming off your wood and secondary reburn flames coming off the top of the firebox, thats when you know you have your setting, also after setting the air, go outside and check for smoke, you should see nothing but heat vapors, a little steam or just a slight faint whisp of smoke, thats when you know your burning clean, then after a few weeks of that check your chimney cap and make sure it isnt getting plugged up.
Thank you! This is so helpful! According to what you said and what I see outside, AND inside the stove, I am doing well and burning clean!! Woo hoo!!!
 
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bigealta

Minister of Fire
May 22, 2010
722
Utah, NJ
If you can get your fire to burn like this after it's been established, you will be doing very well.

 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
2,433
SE North Carolina
Two best things I have learned. Top down fires are the best way to start a stove. And I really like my Auber at200 thermometer alarm. With an insert it’s harder to place the temp probe. I like it because it provides an instant reference point to how hot the stove. Second you can set a high temp alarm. Get busy and leave the air full open to long it gives a nice loud reminder that the stove is getting too hot.
 

bigealta

Minister of Fire
May 22, 2010
722
Utah, NJ
Two best things I have learned. Top down fires are the best way to start a stove. And I really like my Auber at200 thermometer alarm. With an insert it’s harder to place the temp probe. I like it because it provides an instant reference point to how hot the stove. Second you can set a high temp alarm. Get busy and leave the air full open to long it gives a nice loud reminder that the stove is getting too hot.

+1 for the Top Down fire starting.
If you need to see how to do it, i have a youtube vid " How to Build an Easy Top Down Fire. No fire starters needed. Not even paper!" on the channel with the fire vid posted above.
 

RockyMtnGriz

Burning Hunk
Apr 19, 2019
166
SW Montana
He's so happy, and I don't want my anxiety to get in the way of that.
Lucky, lucky, husband!! I hope he appreciates you!

Reading that, I had to see if I could help. I looked at the manual https://www.napoleon.com/sites/default/files/fireplaces_products/EPI3-1-Manual.pdf
(I think - you need to check my work against YOUR manual because I could be looking at the wrong one), and it doesn't mention a damper. The damper would be on the outlet of the stove to the chimney. You may have one, but it would be something someone added, as it appears this stove is not intended to be used with a damper. More likely you mean the draft control, that appears to be a slider low on the front of the stove. According to the manual, the draft control can be fully closed after the fire is well established, for long duration burns. Depending on your wood and chimney, you may find that fully closed is too closed, but I would start there if you're trying to burn overnight. The stove operation section of the manual, starting on page 19, does a very good job of explaining what to do depending on the heat goal you're trying to achieve. Your draft control at 1/4 range for long periods would be fine as long as it's giving you the heat output you desire, and you're not overfiring the stove. You'll probably need to have it lower than that to run overnight, but you'll figure that out with experience.

As mentioned above, the best way to learn about a new stove is to try it while you watch it. I'd start a fire at say 8am on a day where I will be present the entire time, load my practice overnight burn at maybe 10am, and then see how things go until 6 or 8pm. You might have to try this a couple of times until you see what works best for you. When you're comfortable with how it operates, then do what works, overnight.

On page 20 of the manual I was looking at, it recommends that the blower should only be used for high heat settings. Thats unusual for an insert, but again, I'd start there as they probably know their stove best.

In the photo, I see your stove burning, and there's a nice looking wood storage rack right by the front of the stove, but it looks too close to the front of the stove. I'd move that at least a couple of feet away, and probably more, at least until you get some experience with how much heat is there. Beyond radiant heat, I don't want any chance of an ember getting into the wood when I'm reloading or poking about in the fire.

It's always good to be vigilant, especially with something new, and when it's something that's going to operate unsupervised. But you shouldn't be anxious in a bad way. The majority of woodstoves north of the Mason-Dixon Line operate continuously for at least days or weeks at a time. In my neighborhood, it tends to be 6 months or more of continuous operation.

I've been putting out "wood heater caused" fires for more than 25 years, both paid and volunteer. I can't think of a problem that "just happened". It's somebody that cheats or does something stupid on an install (sadly sometimes a pro who should know and do better), somebody doing something completely contrary to common sense - like having the floor under and around the stove covered with wood dust and bark chips, usually with wood stacked nearly against the stove, and lack of maintenance. I've seen people use a stove pipe so rusted that it collapses in the middle of the night and almost kills them. Pipe caps so clogged with creosote that the same thing happens, and of course the multitude of chimney related fires. They get chalked up to the wood heater, but the reality is, they're actually human negligence caused.

You're not in the above categories, so you should be careful, of course, while you learn, but I wouldn't be apprehensive. Run it and maintain it like the manual says, and you'll probably come to love it.

As far as your fire starting goes, I too, am suspicious that your wood is too wet. Nothing good comes from that.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
The one thing to add to the good posts above is that wet wood will be most problematic (in dirtying the chimney) in long (slower) burns. So trying to do both may result in a lot of gunk in your chimney.

I'd wait doing the long slow burns until you have verified moisture content.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
If you would scroll to the bottom of the first post, you'd see the insert in a white brick fireplace.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
To me your post is borderline inappropriate.

There are quite a few lady burners on this forum, who contribute very well.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
1,310
Texas
@WifeOfPK, welcome to the forum. It is an excellent place to help you learn to operate your insert safely and comfortably.

First of all, I’m really glad that you started with the manual. That’s really an excellent resource for your particular stove, of course, though you will find more information here that you can add to those instructions as appropriate.

Secondly, I‘m glad you ordered a moisture meter. It’s a good tool for learning what truly dry wood feels and sounds like. It’s especially important when you’re new to burning or buying wood. I’ve been burning for a number of years, though, and was just using mine this weekend to test some different types of wood that my husband and I were sawing and splitting. I wanted to see if my instincts about dryness were correct, and the moisture meter helps me verify. I think it’s a great Valentine’s Day present myself.

When I was learning my first insert, I found an infrared temperature gun a useful tool. I’m not sure that it would be as much help to you, though, as your insert doesn’t appear to have a top where you could measure temperatures. Mine did and specified an overfire as temperatures above 800 degrees, and I liked being able to check what temperatures were. I did look at your manual but didn’t see whether they specified a location for checking temperatures. Do they give any instructions about temperatures or measuring?

Others have given you great advice, but I also wanted to ask if you have seen the sticky thread at the top of the page by the Moderator Begreen?


It would be worth reading over a couple of times and even practicing on your own and with your husband. Note that the terms N/S or North/South and E/W or East/West don’t really have to do with actual directions of the wood. North/South loading refers to putting the wood in so that the ends face the front of the firebox. East/West refers to putting the long side of the wood parallel to the door. I believe that you will usually load your firebox E/W because of its dimensions. In my experience, E/W fires from a cold start are a bit harder than N/S. Using a couple of short “sleepers” (Begreen demonstrates those in his thread) can help.

Again, welcome. There is a learning curve to woodburning, but you’ve come to the right place to get help. Verifying the moisture content of the wood is a great start.
 

bigealta

Minister of Fire
May 22, 2010
722
Utah, NJ
I think your small wood rack is probably fine where it is. I would load that full to help dry out your possibly questionable wood. It won't dry unseasoned wood but will help some.
 
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WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
Two best things I have learned. Top down fires are the best way to start a stove. And I really like my Auber at200 thermometer alarm. With an insert it’s harder to place the temp probe. I like it because it provides an instant reference point to how hot the stove. Second you can set a high temp alarm. Get busy and leave the air full open to long it gives a nice loud reminder that the stove is getting too hot.
Thank you! I am googling this now!
 

WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
Lucky, lucky, husband!! I hope he appreciates you!

Reading that, I had to see if I could help. I looked at the manual https://www.napoleon.com/sites/default/files/fireplaces_products/EPI3-1-Manual.pdf
(I think - you need to check my work against YOUR manual because I could be looking at the wrong one), and it doesn't mention a damper. The damper would be on the outlet of the stove to the chimney. You may have one, but it would be something someone added, as it appears this stove is not intended to be used with a damper. More likely you mean the draft control, that appears to be a slider low on the front of the stove. According to the manual, the draft control can be fully closed after the fire is well established, for long duration burns. Depending on your wood and chimney, you may find that fully closed is too closed, but I would start there if you're trying to burn overnight. The stove operation section of the manual, starting on page 19, does a very good job of explaining what to do depending on the heat goal you're trying to achieve. Your draft control at 1/4 range for long periods would be fine as long as it's giving you the heat output you desire, and you're not overfiring the stove. You'll probably need to have it lower than that to run overnight, but you'll figure that out with experience.

As mentioned above, the best way to learn about a new stove is to try it while you watch it. I'd start a fire at say 8am on a day where I will be present the entire time, load my practice overnight burn at maybe 10am, and then see how things go until 6 or 8pm. You might have to try this a couple of times until you see what works best for you. When you're comfortable with how it operates, then do what works, overnight.

On page 20 of the manual I was looking at, it recommends that the blower should only be used for high heat settings. Thats unusual for an insert, but again, I'd start there as they probably know their stove best.

In the photo, I see your stove burning, and there's a nice looking wood storage rack right by the front of the stove, but it looks too close to the front of the stove. I'd move that at least a couple of feet away, and probably more, at least until you get some experience with how much heat is there. Beyond radiant heat, I don't want any chance of an ember getting into the wood when I'm reloading or poking about in the fire.

It's always good to be vigilant, especially with something new, and when it's something that's going to operate unsupervised. But you shouldn't be anxious in a bad way. The majority of woodstoves north of the Mason-Dixon Line operate continuously for at least days or weeks at a time. In my neighborhood, it tends to be 6 months or more of continuous operation.

I've been putting out "wood heater caused" fires for more than 25 years, both paid and volunteer. I can't think of a problem that "just happened". It's somebody that cheats or does something stupid on an install (sadly sometimes a pro who should know and do better), somebody doing something completely contrary to common sense - like having the floor under and around the stove covered with wood dust and bark chips, usually with wood stacked nearly against the stove, and lack of maintenance. I've seen people use a stove pipe so rusted that it collapses in the middle of the night and almost kills them. Pipe caps so clogged with creosote that the same thing happens, and of course the multitude of chimney related fires. They get chalked up to the wood heater, but the reality is, they're actually human negligence caused.

You're not in the above categories, so you should be careful, of course, while you learn, but I wouldn't be apprehensive. Run it and maintain it like the manual says, and you'll probably come to love it.

As far as your fire starting goes, I too, am suspicious that your wood is too wet. Nothing good comes from that.
I so appreciate this response and the encouragement, thank you so much! I am feeling much better about everything and all of this advice. I will be moving our wood away from the fire as you suggested, and thank you for looking up the manual! You are right about the air/draft control, I am calling it a damper and that is not it. I will refer to it correctly from now now.
I saw that in the blower as well about using only for high heat settings - it was somewhat confusing to me.
Again I really appreciate all of your advice!!
 

WifeOfPK

New Member
Feb 2, 2022
14
Michigan
The one thing to add to the good posts above is that wet wood will be most problematic (in dirtying the chimney) in long (slower) burns. So trying to do both may result in a lot of gunk in your chimney.

I'd wait doing the long slow burns until you have verified moisture content.
I did order the meter, and will be waiting! Thank you!
 
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