Stove Burning Hotter This Year... Why And What To Do?

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Feb 12, 2016
Jamestown, MO
I have been burning in our Jotul F 500 stove for about eight seasons now. Each season comes with a few incidents where the fire seems to rage out of control. But this season is different. It seems to occur much more frequently. Almost any time I load the stove full with wood (usually at night) after a short amount of time it starts to really flare up and stays there. I have an infrared camera attachment for my phone that pegs out at 630° and when I point it through the glass it maxes out. The metal on the firebox is in the 500° range, the stovepipe is in the 300° range low down and 200° range up high.

I harvest a variety of woods but it is predominantly white oak. It has been extra cold (down to 0°) the past couple of nights but before that it was 20-30 degrees warmer and it was still doing it. This is happening with the damper at the lowest setting. When it happens it can take an hour or more before it starts to stabilize and return to "normal".

So, here is my main question. Why might it be doing it so frequently this year over previous ones? Might there be a flawed seal around the ash door? Might the damper be malfunctioning in some way whereby it is not closing as much as it should?

We plan to be gone some for the Christmas holiday and will let it go dormant. I plan on cleaning the glass and checking all the gaskets as well as the damper operation before I fire it back up. But since I have never inspected these areas closely I may not notice if something is awry.

On a side note, I have also noticed that when I load wood and it is at an angle in any way, say higher on the right side and lower on the left, this significantly increases the chance of it flaring up. I'm guessing because it is providing a more ideal air flow situation and burning path up the side of the slanted log than when they are are perfectly horizontal. I'm not sure how much this might play into it also.

In any event, any thoughts on what to check, steps to take to reduce flare up or things to be concerned about, I'd appreciate hearing.

I'd start by checking the gaskets. Try closing a dollar bill all around the door and seeing if it easily pulls out. If so, they need changed. Or if they have hardened up.
Use a bright flashlight and poker to look behind the ashpan for compacted ash. That can move the ash pan forward and prevent the ash pan door from closing tightly. Check all gaskets all the way around each door with the dollar bill test. If you find nothing it could be the wood this year is drier or a more volatile species?
Checking the gaskets is a good first step . . . is it possible that your wood is just really, really well seasoned? I've noticed this year that I've had hotter fires . . . but I'm pretty sure it's the primo, extremely dry firewood I have been burning coupled with the smaller splits I made back in 2013.

Mental Note to Myself: Make larger splits for future burns.
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