Stove Not Getting Hot Enough/Burning Technique Questions

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jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
Hi everyone! Thanks for helping me out with my last question... this community is fantastic and I'm definitely looking to improve my burning skills. Sorry for the long post but I'm definitely interested in getting better. I've done my best to read FAQs and the forums but I still have a few questions...

For some background my wife and I bought our first home in May, it has a Lopi/Travis Industries Flush Wood Insert (manual: http://www.lopistoves.com/TravisDocs/100-01157.pdf) with air circulation to get the heat through the whole house, plus a natural gas heating system. The previous owners of the house graciously left us about a cord and a half of wood, but I do not know much about it (I don't know exactly how long it's been seasoned, or the type). I don't have a very large property (0.3 acres)... I know I should get more wood ASAP to season for a year but I may not have the space. Was thinking of ordering a cord when I finish the half I'm working on now. I am an occasional burner currently but may use wood more as my skills improve... currently my burning habits are to use the wood stove when it looks like we'll be home for an extended period of time (8+ hours not including sleeping) so mostly on weekends.

My first few burns went really well, with the fire getting up to about 450-500 quickly. I also had my flue inspected and swept before my first burn. However, my last three have struggled. I noticed one of those three burns, one of the logs made the glass and the wall behind it black, and so I assumed that was probably a pretty wet log. Other than that it burns clean with little smoke, but I've been having some trouble getting it hot and keeping it hot. I know log moisture is a problem and so I ordered a moisture meter and it will be arriving in a few days. Other than that, I wonder if it's the wood I'm selecting from the pile or my starting technique. Here's how I've been starting my fires:

The firebox is trapezoid shape. I take two pieces of wood and put them north-south(ish) along the edge. I put kindling and knotted newspaper in between the two logs, then put two longer logs east-west on top of the north-south ones. I leave the air control open and the door slightly cracked until it reaches 300 degrees, then usually close the door and start to gradually close the air control. My last few burns though, after reaching 300, it stalls or even starts to dip, though the fire still burns nicely (visibly). I *finally* just got the fire I'm currently burning up a bit higher (it's at 375 now) by raking the coals evenly and forward and adding a singular smaller log, but it still hasn't cracked 400 and it's been burning for two hours.

Other than the obvious (that my wood may be wet), am I doing anything wrong? Here are some questions I have:
  • Is my starting technique wrong? Is 4 logs too many to start?
  • Am I keeping the door cracked open too long? Is the bypass open too long?
  • Most of my wood still has bark on one side. Is that good or bad for the burn?
  • I have wood in lots of different shapes and sizes... any suggestions on ones to pick out early on?
  • Should my wood be ablaze at all times, or is it OK to keep it going when the wood inside is just glowing?
  • If my wood really is too wet, am I sunk? Should I just wait until next year to burn and go off natural gas this year?
Thanks in advance everyone -- sorry for the long post, but I am excited to get this fire roaring!
 
Last edited:

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,531
South Puget Sound, WA
Considering you had a few good fires it sounds like the wood. Wet wood is a bummer. Check to see if there is a reputable wood seller in the area that sells truly seasoned cord wood or kiln dried wood.
 

Rickb

Minister of Fire
Oct 24, 2012
1,165
St.Louis
My first year my wood was wet. What I did was use a lot of pine construction scraps, some store bought pressed wood logs and a lot of silver maple/ash. lol
 

jophysx

Burning Hunk
Apr 12, 2011
189
Portland, OR
Go buy some kiln dried wood at the store and use it for one or two fires. See if it makes a huge improvement. If so, you've found the problem for only a few dollars.

Jim
 

mol1jb

Feeling the Heat
Jan 8, 2014
379
Central IL
The first season burning a couple years ago was with wet wood. Will never forget it either. It fuels my desire to stay a season ahead in wood.

But for this current season, mixing dry wood, 2x4 scraps, pallet wood, or what ever dry wood source you can get with the sub par wood you have helps.
 

jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
Thanks for the responses so far! Excited for the meter to come so I can see if that's the culprit.

Go buy some kiln dried wood at the store and use it for one or two fires. See if it makes a huge improvement. If so, you've found the problem for only a few dollars.

Jim

This is an excellent idea! I will definitely do that.

But for this current season, mixing dry wood, 2x4 scraps, pallet wood, or what ever dry wood source you can get with the sub par wood you have helps.

So if I get my hands on some dryer wood, I can mix in with the subpar wood? That won't do any damage to the chimney?
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,277
Southern IN
Was the night that you got good temps colder than the nights when the stove didn't get as hot? Maybe poor draft was the problem...
 

jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
Was the night that you got good temps colder than the nights when the stove didn't get as hot? Maybe poor draft was the problem...

The night I got good temps, it was about 45 degrees. Tonight, it's 55, so it was a little bit colder. By poor draft do you mean not enough outside air to get the thing started hot enough?

The way I've usually been doing it is keeping the bypass open and the door opened a crack until the stove reaches the 300, then start scaling closing doors and bypasses.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,277
Southern IN
The colder it is outside, the stronger draft will be. Yes, warm outside temps mean weaker draft and possibly lower stove temps. I guess the stove is hooked to a liner? How tall?
 

jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
The colder it is outside, the stronger draft will be. Yes, warm outside temps mean weaker draft and possibly lower stove temps. I guess the stove is hooked to a liner? How tall?

Makes sense! It's also a bit humid here tonight. We had a whacky weather day... temps reached 75 outside mid-afternoon and then at around 3pm a big thunderstorm rolled in and temps dropped nearly 20 degrees in two hours. I know that's common in some parts of the country, but in Downstate New York that's unusual.

Definitely hooked to a liner, the design is the liner is covered by exposed brick with spots for it to breathe, and I can see the liner through it. Unfortunately I don't know the height as I'm new to the house, but when the chimney was inspected he said it's all in really good shape.
 

jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
The fire's been burning between 300 and 400 now, but still not up to that 450 number we like to see. As long as it's in the burn zone (over 300) is it dangerous to be on the lower end? It has still heated the house nicely, temps in the bedroom hallway (which receive ventilation from the living room where the stove is) has jumped from 65 to 75 over the course of the burn. I'm loving sitting around in a t-shirt and shorts right now in late October!
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,277
Southern IN
You might try cracking a window near the stove in marginal draft conditions...
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,277
Southern IN
See if it seems to make a difference, even though the stove is warm. If the house is very tight, the window may still help.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,277
Southern IN
At 56* outside, draft will be pretty weak.
 

jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
Hey folks! I think I found a possible reason for my issue! I have a blower on the wood stove, and the stove is designed to only activate the blower when it reaches a certain temperature (generally about 300-350F). My fire was just at about 320 with one log smoldering. I shut the blower off and the stove jumped up to about 375 in 5 minutes. Looks like I should maybe wait for the stove to get hotter before I turn on the blower because it may be adversely affecting the temperature inside the stove. I hope this is all I need to do, it'd be such a bummer if my wood were green!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,531
South Puget Sound, WA
The wood may be just on the cusp. It doesn't sound green. If it was it would be much harder to light and you would notice foam and sizzling sap on the ends of the splits. Draft may also be on the cusp with the mild temps. If so, things will improve as winter comes on. In the meantime waiting a bit longer to engage the blower won't hurt.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,277
Southern IN
So how much did the temp drop when you finally turned on the blower. Leaving the blower off on my cat insert seems to help get the temp up for cat light-off...
 

St. Coemgen

Feeling the Heat
Feb 4, 2016
324
Hungary
www.stcoemgen.com
just added a log, bed of glowing coals underneath

For what it is worth, just "a" log is sub optimal. From http://woodheat.org/concise-guide.html:

Avoid loading only one or two pieces at a time on a coal bed – most often they will not burn completely because heat is lost from the pieces faster than it is produced by burning. A minimum of three pieces is needed to form a sheltered pocket of glowing coals that sustains the fire.
 

jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
So how much did the temp drop when you finally turned on the blower. Leaving the blower off on my cat insert seems to help get the temp up for cat light-off...

I put on three logs at once and let them burn a bit with the blower off, and the stove heated adequately, up to over 500. When it got close to overburning, I turned the blower back on and the temp went down considerably but stayed nice and warm. Looks like I need to let the fire get super hot before even thinking of using the blower.

For what it is worth, just "a" log is sub optimal.

Thanks, St. Coemgen! I think you're right. Like I said above when I added 3 logs at once with the blower off it heated nicely. Thanks for the tip!
 
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Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,277
Southern IN
I put on three logs at once and let them burn a bit with the blower off, and the stove heated adequately, up to over 500. When it got close to overburning, I turned the blower back on and the temp went down considerably but stayed nice and warm. Looks like I need to let the fire get super hot before even thinking of using the blower.
That is a tube stove, right, no catalyst? Have you seen a robust secondary burn coming off the tubes at any time? At what temp do the secondaries kick in? Can you cut the air back at that point, and will secondaries continue? I would think that once the stove is hot enough for the secondaries to fire, the stove would begin to throw big heat.
The reason I run the temp up on my cat stove is so that I get a solid cat light-off, with the cat glowing. Then I know I can cut the air to my 'cruise' setting, and there is no chance of the cat stalling.
 

jonross14

Member
Oct 10, 2016
28
Rockland Co, NY
I've been kicking in the secondaries around 300F, cut back the air around 450. Secondaries definitely continue. It looks to me like it was the blower, I should turn it on when the stove is really going or in danger of overblowing. I'll let you know after my next burn. Thanks again!
 
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