New to fire with a Newmac BCO-160!

  • Active since 1995, 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.


New Member
Jul 7, 2023
New Hampshire
Hi all! I'm really excited to have found this forum. My wife and I recently moved to the Upper Valley in New Hampshire and closed on a house with a Newmac BCO-160. The furnace heats the whole house via radiant floors and heats the hot water for the home. We have a full oil tank, but it seems wildly inefficient to run oil just to keep the water hot. Ideally, I'd like to get into a groove of lighting a fire 2-3x a week to keep our water up to temp and get familiar with the routine of heating via fire. We've had a total of three fires in the last week and a half, experimenting with setup and seeing what temps we can get. I've browsed the forum a bit and noticed there's some real advanced advice that I'm excited to learn more about--but right now I'm in need of some basics.

The previous owner built the home and told me they basically never used the oil to heat the home at all--let's set that as an aspirational goal. We got a chance to meet twice, and he walked me through how he used the Newmac, but I'm realizing now I have a chance to embrace best practices instead of inheriting someone else's habits. If there's a good beginners guide on the forum, feel free to point me in that direction. I've got some specific questions (and pictures) below. Hopefully you all can help me out. I apologize in advance for not knowing the names for certain parts/areas of the furnace--happy to get educated there as well.
  1. The previous owner cleaned the 'tubes' in the upper section by running a small shop vac down each one. I did this before starting the first fire and it seemed to work for the most part. Is this sufficient or should I get a wire brush of some kind?
  2. He told me to throw some Rutland Creosote Remover on the coals occasionally, but didn't speak much on what to do after. The Rutland directions are more specific (eg put them on coals then get good fire going). Should I be doing this once a week? Should I be scrubbing the creosote after?
  3. How big a fire do you all go for? I've been taking some split kindling and making a square base, then putting two logs parallel across the kindling and one perpendicular on top of those logs. I don't want to build too big, but if I can get a little more heat safely I'd be interested.
  4. Can I shopvac the ash out of the bottom once the fire's good and done? I've been using a small wood stove shovel and it's... tedious.
  5. Speaking of ash, what do you all do with it? I've got 3 acres of woods and a garden, but I don't think my soil needs that much pH balance!
  6. If I want to swap back to oil after heating via fire (let's say it's winter and we're out of town and want to keep the house at a base temp to avoid pipe freeze). What steps should I take before swapping over?
  7. I've noticed some creosote buildup after just the three fires (you'll see it in the pics below). Is that as simple as having a fire with the Rutland to fix? Should I give this thing a big cleaning before lighting up again?
That's a ton of questions. I'm about to run some errands, but thank you in advance. Excited to get back and hopefully start some best (if not better) practices.



Minister of Fire
Jul 20, 2007
South Central Minnesota
I have not seen anyone else here with that make/model boiler so I don't know if you'll get anyone with direct experience.
That said - my thoughts:
This being a non-gasifing boiler will be a cresote maker unless you can run it wide open charging 500-1000 gallons of storage, or if your heat load is such that it takes most of the boilers capacity for the duration of a burn.

Assuming no storage, any time this boiler is fired but not under load it will smoke and burn dirty. (idling - air inlet damper mostly closed)

I would not recommend running it over the summer just to make hot tap water again because it will idle and burn dirty.

It maybe possible to find a mix of idle/loaded burn that will minimize the creosote production and burning wood with a moisture content under 20% will be critical.

I've never use the rutland cresote remover so no advice there, I do use a wire brush spun by a cordless drill to clean my heat exchanger tubes once a week. Example here -