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Wood Stove 101: How to Build a Fire in a Wood Stove

Starting a fire in a wood stove can sometimes be a struggle. The solution to this problem may be in better building your fire or using proper, seasoned firewood. We can help teach you how to build a fire in your wood stove. Typically, most people build a fire with a bottom-up method, placing smaller pieces of wood and kindling beneath larger logs with the goal of having the smaller pieces light the larger logs. However, building a fire top-down, the opposite way, is substantially better. While seeming counter intuitive, if you give the top-down method a chance to build a fire, you will find it much easier to start your wood stove fire.

The Best Way to Build a Fire in a Wood Stove

In building a wood stove fire with the top-down fire method, larger pieces of wood are first placed on the floor of the wood stove fire box, with smaller pieces of wood, kindling, and newspaper on top. Take a match or lighter to the newspaper, and the fire will burn slowly into the kindling and to the larger logs underneath. It may take a few tries to build a fire with the top-down fire in order to get it just right, but the result is a cleaner, easier, and by far the best way to build a fire in a wood stove.

Step-by-step instructions are below for help on how to build a fire in your wood burning stove with the top-down method.

How to build a fire: top-down

1. Set larger logs on the floor of your wood stove firebox.

In beginning to build a fire, it is necessary to begin with a solid foundation of wood. The pieces should be at least 3 – 5 inches in diameter.

to build a fire large logs

2. Set a 2nd layer of medium logs atop the larger logs in a crisscross fashion.

It is best that the medium logs are approximately 50%-75% of the size of the larger logs.

to build a fire medium logs

3. Place a third layer of small logs atop the medium logs in a crisscross fashion.

The small wood pieces should be approximately 1-2 inches in diameter.

to build a fire small logs

4. Set fine kindling on top of small logs.

Typically, we place wood splits, heavy duty cardboard, or both.

to build a fire kindling

5. Place newspaper knots above the kindling splits and cardboard.

Newspaper knots work great for this step. Tear a sheet of newspaper, twist it together to create a rope-like piece, and tie into a knot. Place three or four knots above the kindling evenly throughout the width of the fire box.

to build a fire newspaper knots

6. Ignite the newspaper

If your stove has a damper or combustion fan, be sure those are open or on high. Ignite the newspaper knots. This can be done quickly with a long match or stick lighter.

to build a fire light

7. Enjoy your fire

The newspaper knots will burn and spread to the kindling, climb to the small, medium and large logs below. Now it is time to enjoy beautiful flames. You now know how to build a fire in your wood stove like a pro.

A wood stove with beautiful flames greatly improves the experience in your home. To see our modern wood stoves with a massive glass viewing window and ever clean glass, head over to our Nova page. For additional tips on how to build a fire in a wood stove and other ideas for your wood stove, read the rest of our Wood Stove 101 series. Thank you to woodheat.org for great information and pictures.

 

Wood Stove 101: How To Keep a Wood Stove Burning All Night

Are your wood fires consistently burning out too quickly? Do you want to have an all night fire? When you heat with a wood burning stove, the wood stove’s controls are a big help to speed up and slow down the burn, but to get longer burns in your wood stove, you must control the shape and size of your wood loading. In this guide, we will learn how to keep a wood stove burning all night with extended fires: where large pieces of firewood are tightly packed to extend the burn and make a fire that lasts all night. This type of fire relies on a healthy coal bed, so it won’t work during a cold start. For help on how to build the perfect fire for a cold start, check out our how-to guide post Wood Stove 101: The perfect way to build a fire, top-down.

Why burn with an extended fire?

If you’re settling into bed or about to run off to work, you will want to burn an extended night fire. In an extended fire, you load large pieces of wood into your wood burning stove, tightly packed, so the fire slowly spreads from log to log, extending your burn for 6 to 8 hours or more. You won’t need to reload any time soon. This sort of burn maintains a low, steady heat that can stay burning all night.

Many wood stove users, when first learning how to keep a wood stove burning all night, will simply add large amounts of wood to their firebox, on top of a layer of coals, with the logs crossed over one another. This loading technique allows the fire to quickly spread and engulf all of your logs, leading to large hot fires. These large, hot fires produce a lot of heat right away, but when the stove is set on low they can’t get enough air and will smolder, producing lots of smoke. The secret to preventing this “worst of both worlds” type of fire is to build an extended fire, where the front layer of wood insulates the back layer, preventing the fire from spreading too quickly, and maintaining visible flames for hours.

How To Keep a Wood Stove Burning All Night

 

1. Rake the charcoal towards the front of the wood stove      

If you want to learn how to keep a wood stove burning all night, you’ll need to learn about coal placement. Keeping the coals together in the front of the stove provides a strong heat source to ignite the logs. If you leave coals across the entire bottom of the stove, all of the wood will ignite at once,  and this will shorten the burn. Don’t have a coal bed yet? Read our how-to guide post on building a fire, Wood Stove 101: The perfect way to build a fire, top-down.

Extended fire burn all night

Remove ash from front of firebox. Rake the coals forward. Place firewood on and behind the coals. Image Credit: woodheat.org

2. Place five to seven large logs in a tight formation behind the coals

The pieces should be 4-6” across. Place each piece, one at a time, in an “East-West”  (parallel to the front) orientation behind the coals, and pressed to the back of the wood stove firebox. As you add more pieces, try to nest them with the earlier pieces as tightly as possible. When the last pieces go in, the front edge of the forward most piece should be just touching the glowing coals. Do not lay pieces crosswise over one another or place any pieces in a “North-South” (perpendicular to the front) orientation. When stacked this way, the fire can quickly spread to engulf all of the wood, leading to faster burns. There is no need to add newspaper or kindling, with a glowing coal bed and well-seasoned wood, the fire should start in only a few moments.

3. Shut the door and enjoy

A few moments after you load the wood in your wood stove it will ignite. The fire will quickly spread over the front layer of wood, and slowly burn towards the back. This all night fire will burn in your wood stove for hours. Learning how to keep a wood stove burning all night is just that easy!

The extended burn is the most important configuration for people who rely on wood heat. The extended burn maximizes burn time and typically delivers the necessary heat most burners expect or need except in the most extreme weather. Learning to create an extended burn configuration will extend your enjoyment for long days and nights. Remember to use seasoned, non-resinous hardwood to get the maximum longevity and heat from your extended burn.

To learn more about how to keep a wood stove burning all night and other wood burning tips, sign up for our e-newsletter here, or visit our Wood Stove 101 blog today.

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Wood Stove 101: The perfect way to build a fire, top-down.

Have you ever struggled to start a fire in your wood stove? The problem might be how you are building your fire. The traditional method of fire building is bottom-up, where kindling and small logs go on the bottom to light the larger wood on top. But if you build a fire the opposite way, or top-down, is infinitely better. While it may seem counter intuitive, if you give the top-down a chance, you will find that your wood stove fires are much easier to start with fewer false starts and dramatically less smoke.

The Best Way to Start a Fire in a Wood Stove

In a top-down fire, the larger logs are placed on the bottom, with progressively smaller logs, kindling and then newspaper added on top. The newspaper is lit, and the fire slowly burns down to the large logs below. It can take a little practice to get a top-down fire right, and you do need to use seasoned firewood, but the end result is cleaner, easier to use, and by far the best way to start a fire in a wood stove.

What follows are simple, step-by-step instructions for your first top-down fire in your wood burning stove.

How to build a top-down fire

1. Place the largest pieces on the bottom of your wood stove firebox

When you start to build a fire, it is important to start with a good base. These should be the largest pieces in the load, 3” to 5” in diameter

build a fire, large pieces

 

2. Place a second layer of smaller pieces crossing on top of the main logs.

These pieces are smaller than the large logs, half to three-quarters of the size of the main pieces.

build a fire wood stove, medium pieces

3. Place a third layer of even smaller pieces crossing on top of the second layer.

These pieces should be small, no more than 1” to 2” in diameter.

build a fire wood stove, small pieces

4. Spread some fine kindling on top

We like to use thin split sticks or even cardboard.

build a fire wood stove, kindling

5. Push several newspaper knots on top of the kindling.

Rip off long sheets of news paper, roll loosely, into a rope, and tie into a quick knot. Stuff four or five knots on top of the kindling, spread out across the width of the fire box.

7. Light the newspaper

Make sure your stove damper is open or your combustion fan is on high. Then light the newspaper. We like to use a stick lighter to quickly light several pieces of the newspaper and then quickly shut the door.

top down build a fire

8. Enjoy your fire

As the newspaper burns, it will ignite the kindling, and begin the slow downward climb through the logs. Depending on how many logs you loaded and how thick the logs are, you can count on a one to three hours of beautiful flames. You’ll soon see why this is the best way to start a fire in a wood stove.

Catalyst efficient wood stove

A beautiful fire is easy to find. For information on the best way to start a fire in a wood stove and other tips and tricks for your wood stove, read the rest of our Wood Stove 101 series. We’d like to thank woodheat.org for their excellent advice and images.

 

Wood Stove 101: 8 Tips to Stop Smoke Coming Out of My Wood Stove Door

smoke wood stove door

Hate smoke out the door of your wood stove? We do too.

Having trouble with smoke when you open the door of your wood stove? Nothing is more frustrating than getting a blast of smoke in your face when you go to reload your wood stove. Unfortunately, smoke will always take the path of least resistance, and in wood burning stoves, an open door is like… well an open door. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to minimize how much smoke comes out of your wood stove door.

How to Stop Smoke Coming Out of a Stove When The Door is Open

  1. Make sure your bypass or combustion fan is engaged: If your wood stove is equipped with a catalytic combustor (and most clean wood stoves are) you should turn on your stove’s combustion fan or bypass the catalytic combustor before opening the door. This will help to direct the flow up and out your chimney instead of out the door.
  2. Clean your catalytic combustor: It’s easy to forget this little bit of maintenance for wood burning stoves with a catalytic combustor. It isn’t hard for the combustor to get clogged.  Your catalytic combustor can generally be found at the top and back of your stove. If you observe ash accumulated on the firebox side of your combustor, simply gently brush off the ash with a soft brush, or vacuum off the ash with a soft brush attachment. Generally, removing the catalytic combustor is not required to stop smoke coming out of the stove when the door is open.
  3. Don’t reload when there are flames: No smoke can come out of your wood stove if there is no smoke inside your wood stove! When the wood is first loaded and when there are open flames, there is a large amount of smoke inside your wood stove. But as the fire burns on and reduces down to coals, there is far less smoke produced. Try to limit opening the door to when the fire has stopped open flaming and is only coals to stop smoke coming out of the stove when the door is open.
  4. Only use seasoned, non-resinous hard woods: Wet or oily wood produces much more smoke in wood burning stoves than seasoned hardwoods. Sticking to seasoned hard woods helps minimize the smoke produced, and is good for efficient burning too.
  5. Load towards the back of the stove: When reloading wood burning stoves, you should rake the coals towards the front and load your wood towards the back. Wood loaded in the back of the stove is more likely to stop smoke coming out of the stove when the door is open.
  6. Crack the door before opening: When you first crack the door of your stove, the airflow inside your stove will begin to change. Before opening the door completely, slightly crack the door and wait 10 to 20 seconds for the new airflow pattern to establish. Then open the door slowly.
  7. Turn off all fans near the stove: Your stove’s blower fan, kitchen fans, and even bathroom fans can create partial vacuums that suck smoke out of your stove’s open door. By turning off these devices, it is easier for smoke to stay where it belongs – inside your stove.
  8. Check your flue pipe: If all else fails, the problem is usually a result of  a draft problem. Your wood stove relies on suction, called draft or draught, from the chimney to draw the smoke up out of your wood stove and out of your house. There are a few things that can cause bad draft in wood burning stoves: a cold chimney, wind induced down draft, or even a clogged or obstructed chimney. If you’re still unable to stop smoke coming out of the stove when the door is open, even after trying all of the above tips, call a certified chimney sweep to come and inspect your stove.

Smoky wood burning stoves can be frustrating, but by changing just a few details about how you operate your wood stove, you can stop smoke coming out of a stove when the door is open easily.

Wood Stove 101: How to Clean Wood Stove Glass

dirty wood stove glass

Tired of dirty, sooty wood stove glass?

You want to see your fire, but your wood stove glass keeps getting dirty. How do you keep the glass in wood stoves from getting dirty? You can learn how to clean wood stove glass here.

With regular use, all wood stoves will accumulate a brownish black soot film or white hazy deposits. While this haze probably isn’t harming your wood stove, it certainly hurts the appearance of your fire. Fortunately, we have a few tips and tricks on how to clean wood stove glass that will clear up your dirty wood stove glass in no time.

Dirty Wood Stove Glass – How to prevent it

Your clean wood stove glass will always eventually dirty, but there are a few things you can do to slow the process.

  • Always burn seasoned, non-resinous hardwoods: Resinous wood or wet wood produce oils and other compounds that are more likely to accumulate on your wood stove’s glass. Learn more about what wood to burn in your wood stoves here.
  • Avoid long smoldering fires: Modern EPA certified stoves are capable of burning for hours and hours on their lowest setting but these smoldering fires produce large amounts of smoke inside the firebox (before later burning that smoke away). This smoke will deposit and leave a sooty residue on your glass. To avoid this, if you only need a small amount of heat, build a simple flash fire, which quickly heats up and quickly dies out.

How to clean wood stove glass

If your wood stove glass does get dirty, don’t worry. Cleaning wood burner glass is actually very easy.

  • cleaning wood stove glass

    Sometimes a little water or ash is all it takes to get rid of that soot.

    Hot fire: Cleaning wood burner glass can be as easy as burning a few high temperature fires in your wood burning stove. Try using high-temperature fire before attempting to clean the glass with other methods. This will make cleaning the glass even easier after the stove has cooled. Be sure to burn seasoned, non-resinous hardwoods.

  • Wet rag: When the wood stove is cool, you can use a wet rag or paper towel to wipe off the lighter haze.
  • Newspaper and ash:
    wood stove glass cleaner

    Our personal favorite product is Rutland’s Conditioning Glass Cleaner. Just put a generous dollop on a rag and wipe the dirt away.

    For more stubborn stains, take a damp piece of crumpled newspaper and dip it in some of the ash from your stove. Simply scrubgently to remove the soot build up.

  • Wood stove glass cleaner: If the soot just won’t come off your glass, we recommend using a wood stove glass cleaner. Our personal favorite is Rutland’s Conditioning Glass Cleaner. Simply apply to a rag, and wipe the dirt away.

How NOT to clean wood stove glass

While dirty wood stove glass can be frustrating, there are a few things you should never do when cleaning wood burner glass.

  • DO NOT clean while it is hot: Warmer glass is easier to clean than colder glass, but you should always wait until your wood stove glass is cool enough to touch before cleaning wood burner glass. If not, you risk causing personal injury or shattering the glass.
  • DO NOT spray hot glass with water: Spraying your hot glass with water can cause thermal shock, which will crack or shatter the glass.
  • DO NOT use razor blades or steel wool: Abrasive cleaners like razor blades, steel wool, or even sand paper will take the soot off of your wood stove glass immediately, but it comes at a cost. These methods of cleaning wood burner glass will leave scratches that cause the glass to more rapidly accumulate soot the next time and can lead to glass failure in wood stoves.

Catalyst before and after just a few minutes of cleaning

With these tips and tricks on how to clean wood stove glass, along with building the perfect fire, you’ll be back to enjoying your beautiful fire in no time!

Like this? Be sure to share us on Facebook with the button below. If you have any questions about how to properly clean wood burning stoves, feel free to reach out us!

Wood Stove 101: The Best (and Worst) Firewood Types

When choosing firewood for your wood stove, you have a lot of options. There are two main factors you must consider when choosing the best logs for a wood burning stove: wood type and wood moisture content. In this post, we’ll explain which types of wood make the best logs for a wood burning stove. To learn about wood moisture content, check out our how-to guide post Wood Stove 101: Using Seasoned Firewood.

Why does what type of wood I burn matter?

Firewood wood stove

Seasoned oak burning beautifully in the Catalyst wood stove

Choosing firewood wood is more complex than you think. What you burn is critical to your wood burning stove’s performance and longevity. Whether you harvest your own firewood or use a delivery service, you need to know about wood species when choosing firewood. Wood species affects how well your stove performs in a several areas.

  1. Efficiency: The efficiency of your wood stove can depend significantly on the type of wood you are using. Softwoods and resinous (oily) woods can burn inefficiently. For this reason, pine, eucalyptus, birch, aspen, and a few other species do not make the best logs for a wood burning stove.
  2. Appearance: Choosing firewood wood from a typically resinous species can create thick black smoke, which clouds the front glass of your wood stove. Once clouded, cleaning the glass can be more difficult.
  3. Safety: Burning resinous woods also creates a potential safety hazard in your home. Resinous woods produce significant amounts of creosote, which builds up within the chimney and is the main cause of chimney fires in wood stoves.
  4. Reliability: Choosing firewood that is soft and resinous also negatively affects the reliability of your wood burning stove. Softwoods and resinous firewoods produce chemicals that are harsh on the internal components of a wood stove. Specifically, the catalytic combustor and the combustion fan of Catalyst can be negatively affected over time. For this reason, hardwoods provide much less wear and tear on wood stoves and make the best logs for a wood burning stove.

Best Firewood Types to Use

So, what are the best logs for a wood burning stove? Any non-resinous hard wood can give you a good burn, but our three favorites are:

Oak firewood wood stove

Seasoned oak

  1. Oak: Known for its long, slow burns, oak is likely the best firewood wood out there. Oak is a dense hardwood that is available throughout most regions of North America. While oak wood can take a little longer than other woods to become properly seasoned, the fire from well seasoned oak in your wood stove can’t be beat. This is the mainstream firewood favorite for wood stoves, and probably one of the all-around best logs for a wood burning stove.
  2. Ash: Burns steady and is easy to split — what more could you ask for? Ash provides some of the best wood for burning in a wood stove. It is largely found in eastern and central North America, but is available in other wood burning regions as well including the West Coast of the United States. The emerald ash borer, an invasive species native to northeast Asia, has killed many ash trees throughout the United States. These killed trees are perfect for responsible firewood harvesting.
  3. Maple: Maple firewood burns very similarly to Ash. When properly seasoned, it will produce long and steady burns in your wood burning stove. Maple can be found throughout the entire continental United States, making it a very popular firewood choice for wood stoves.

While oak, ash, and maple are our top three, there are many other types of firewood wood that are acceptable for wood stoves:

  • Apple
  • Beech
  • Cherry
  • Hawthorn
  • Mulberry

Worst Firewood Types to Use

Not all wood is created equal. Just as there are firewood types we recommend, there are also several we specifically do not recommend using. Most of these are not recommended because they are either softwoods, highly resinous, or both! Softwoods burn quickly and inefficiently, producing harmful chemicals. Resinous woods produce thick oils that blacken glass and foul the inside of your stove. We do not recommend using the following firewood types:

  • Alder
  • Cedar
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pine
  • Poplar

With this guide, choosing the best wood for burning in your wood stove is easy! Have any questions or comments on your experience using these or other firewood types? Need some more help with choosing firewood wood? Leave your comments below!

Ryan Fisher is the COO of MF Fire

How To: Getting started with your Catalyst App

Catalyst is a little different than most wood stoves. While your Catalyst will begin to run as soon as you load your first piece of wood, to get the most out of your Catalyst you will need to use our wood stove smartphone app.

This How To guide walks you step by step through how to use your Catalyst app to control your Catalyst wood burning stove.

1. Set up the stove

Before you start using our wood stove smartphone app, the first step is to make sure your Catalyst is installed properly. Please refer to the Catalyst Owner’s Manual for all information regarding installation.

Once Catalyst is set up, all you need to do is plug it in. Catalyst plugs into any standard North American wall outlet (120V AC). Catalyst’s combustion fan (the fan in your chimney pipe) plugs into the top power slot on the smart controller, directly beneath the power cord. Catalyst’s blower fan (located on the back of the stove near the base) plugs into the lower slot. There are also 3 sensor cables that should be plugged into the back of the stove. For more information see the Owner’s Manual.

After Catalyst has been plugged in it will go through it’s start-up routine. This routine lasts approximately 30 seconds during which both of Catalyst’s button lights will flash alternately. Following start-up, you are ready to connect to your stove. But first, let’s get our wood stove smartphone app.

2. Download the Catalyst app

Catalyst app can be downloaded from the Apple, Android and Amazon app stores by following the links below. Alternately, just search for “MF Fire Catalyst” in any of the app stores.

iOS App Store Download

3. Make an account

The first time you open our wood stove smartphone app, you will be asked to register by entering your name, email, and stove serial number (found on the sticker on the bottom, back right of the stove). Registering your stove helps MF Fire to work with you through troubleshooting, should the need ever arrive. You should only need to register your stove once, but you may be prompted to re-enter information after an app update or a prolonged period without using the app. The serial number is a 6 digit number located on the UL sticker on the back of your stove.

4. Connect to your stove

After registering your stove, the Catalyst app will take you to a screen that says “Scanning” or “Found Devices”. If this screen does not automatically pop up, click the bluetooth icon () in the upper right corner of the app or select connect from the options menu. If you do not yet have bluetooth enabled on your devices, you will be prompted to turn it on.

After scanning for local bluetooth devices, a device labeled “MF Fire” should pop up. First, be sure to select “Always connect to the selected device”. Next, click on the word “MF Fire” and you will be taken to the control screen.

Having trouble connecting? Try restarting your app by completely closing the app, and then re-opening it. If you are still having trouble connecting, you should power cycle Catalyst’s control board. Simply unplug the board, wait 60 seconds, and plug it back in. Then, repeat Step 4.

Note: Only one device can be connected to Catalyst at any time.

5. Control screen

The control screen offers three different buttons:

  • The room temperature wheel, which sets your desired room temperature.
  • The room blower slider, which adjusts blower speed.
  • And the power on / power off button, which turns the stove off or on.

Additionally, the control screen shows the current stove mode.

6. Setting your room temperature

To set your temperature, simply drag the temperature wheel to your desired room temperature. Catalyst will detect your current room temperature and adjust the burn rate to heat your home effectively. Alternately, by sliding the wheel all the way to the right or all the way to the left you can turn the stove to it’s “Lo” or “Hi”, respectively.

7. Adjusting your room blower

The room blower blows air over the top of your stove and into your room. Simply slide the bar to the left to turn the blower down or to the right to turn the blower up. The blower can also be adjusted with the blower button on the controller box itself, located behind the stove, which cycles High > Medium > Low > Off.

Note: To conserve power the blower does not run when the stove is in “Off mode”. If the blower is not running, press the restart button.

8. On/Off Button

The On/Off button will turn the stove off, if in normal operation, or send the stove back to the five minute start-up mode if the stove is off.

9. Status screen

Check in on the status of your burn on the status screen. From the main screen click the status tab. The status screen shows you the current room temperature, fire temperature, burn rate, burn status, and efficiency!

Note: No status screen numbers will display if there is no fire or the fire is too small in Catalyst.

10. Messages and Warnings

The Catalyst app will notify you of several events during your fire.

“Five Minute Start-up Mode” – the Catalyst app will let you know when your five minute start-up mode begins. You can enter this mode by pushing the power button on your smart controller or by pushing the power on button on your Catalyst app. While in start-up mode, your combustion fan will run on high to deliver essential air to the fire.

“Boost Mode Activated” – If Catalyst detects your fire is dying, it will speed up the combustion fan to rekindle the fire. Boost mode might occur when the fire is just getting started, or when the fire is about to die out. If you want to keep burning, this is typically an excellent time to reload.

“Over Fire Detected” – Over firing occurs when a fire in the wood stove grows too hot. This overheating can cause damage to your wood stove and even cause chimney fires. If your stove begins to over fire, Catalyst will automatically shut down airflow to prevent damage. Do not open the stove door during over fire. If an over fire event is detected, reduce the wood loaded in future burns.

11. Troubleshooting with the Catalyst App

Having trouble connecting or running your stove? Try the following:

  • Check your bluetooth settings. Make sure your device has bluetooth enabled. Catalyst relies on bluetooth to communicate with your device.
  • Restart the app. Occasionally, the Catalyst app may get hung up. Try closing the app entirely (not just going to the home screen) and restarting it.
  • Restarting your Catalyst. If you are still having trouble connecting, you should power cycle Catalyst’s control board. Simply unplug the board by pulling the wall plug out, wait 60 seconds, and plug it back in.

Wood Stove Buying Guide: How to Buy the Right Wood Burning Stove in 8 Essential Steps

There are so many types of wood stoves for sale everywhere. Knowing how to buy the right wood stove is the single biggest way to avoid buyer’s remorse. Many buyers, when looking for wood stoves for sale, miss important details and purchase an inefficient wood stove because they are anxious to finish shopping and get burning. A happy winter and a beautiful fire is the result of knowing how to buy the right wood stove. wood stoves for sale checklistThere are a lot of wood stoves for sale right now, but buying a wood stove is more complicated than just picking the first one available.

There are many things to remember when buying a wood stove. To make your life a little easier, we put together a checklist of the most important items you need to take into account so you know how to buy the right wood stove.

 

Wood Stove Buying Guide:

  1. Decide if you need a freestanding or fireplace insert stove

There are essentially two types of wood stoves for sale: free standing stoves and fireplace inserts. Freestanding wood burning stoves generally come with a lot more functionality. While freestanding wood burning stoves can sometimes fit in a masonry fireplace, fireplace inserts are perfect if the only good space for your wood stove is in a small, existing masonry fireplace.

  2. Pick the right size wood stove

How big of a wood stove do you need? A number of wood stoves for sale come with huge fireboxes, 3, 4, and sometimes even 5 cubic feet. But with modern insulation and the supplementary heat that most houses have now, these are usually overkill. A home between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet usually calls for a wood stove with a firebox between 2 and 2.5 cubic feet. If you’re heating a smaller space, like a garage or a cabin, you might want to try looking for even smaller wood burning stoves – 1 to 1.5 cubic feet.

  3. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency

Higher efficiency means less money spent on wood, less work chopping and hauling wood, and a product that is better for the environment. Older wood stoves tend to be inefficient and waste wood and many companies don’t publish their efficiencies as a result. Look for wood stoves for sale that have EPA listed efficiencies of 70% or above to get the most bang for your buck. Some new stoves, like MF Fire’s Catalyst, also come with smart thermostat technology that helps to cut down on overheating, giving a real world efficiency boost of 20 to 25%. Buying a wood stove from MF Fire means less chopping, less stacking, and fewer trips to the wood pile during winter storms.

  4. Future Proof: Clean air and the new EPA regulations

Gone are the days of smoke belching potbelly stoves. New clean air standards have set a high bar, restricting wood stove smoke emissions to only 2.0 grams/hour by January 2020, making nearly 85% of currently available wood stove illegal to sell. But some manufacturers are still trying to squeeze out their old units before the deadline. To get the cleanest and most efficient burn, look for wood burning stoves for sale with EPA listed emissions below 2.0 g/hr.

  5. Catalytic or non-catalytic

When they were first introduced in the 80’s catalytic stoves, or wood burning stoves that use a catalytic combustor to reduce emissions, got a bad reputation. These initial poorly designed wood burning stoves were impossible to get started and used catalytic combustors that fouled and went bad after only a few seasons. New catalytic stoves don’t have those problems. Most catalytic wood stoves for sale today are significantly cleaner and more efficient than their non-catalytic counterparts and those catalytic combustors can last for 10 years or more. When they do need to be replaced, the replacements generally cost less than $100. Some catalytic stoves can be harder to start, but buying a wood stove with new smart stove technology like automatic igniters or MF Fire’s TurboStart technology makes them easier to start than ever.

  6. Some like it smart

Technology is in everything nowadays: phones, cars, even refrigerators. Modern wood stoves are no exception. Some new wood stoves include features that make it easier to start, remotely control your burn, and even to protect your family from chimney fires. Buying a wood stove with these modern features help those of us who are getting up in years to do a little less work and have a lot more peace of mind. While smart wood stoves frequently cost a bit more, buying a wood stove with the added features are usually more than worth it.

  7. Find a qualified installer

Knowing how to buy the right wood stove isn’t enough. If it isn’t properly installed, even the best wood burning stoves will give you bad results. We like to get the best service and installation for your wood burning stoves, so we recommend chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). The CSIA has been the industry leader in chimney maintenance since 1983. There are more than 1,800 certified chimney sweeps across North America. To find one near you use the CSIA Certified Professional Locator on their site, here.

  8. Go ahead and schedule that first chimney cleaning

All wood burning stoves need proper maintenance. We recommend getting your chimney swept at the beginning of every burning season, and maybe more frequently if you notice any problems. With more and more people switching to wood stoves every year, chimney sweeps usually fill their schedules up fast. After buying a wood stove, set that cleaning appointment early to make sure you keep burning happy.

Wood Stove 101: Using Seasoned Firewood

There are two main factors you must consider when choosing the right wood for your wood stove: firewood type and firewood moisture content. In this post, we’ll talk about the importance of using seasoned firewood or wood with low moisture content. To learn about choosing the right type of firewood for your wood burning stove, check out our how-to guide post Wood Stove 101: The Best (and Worst) Firewood Types.

How big of a difference does using seasoned firewood make? It’s the difference between a smokey fire that won’t heat your home and a beautiful and clean fire. We define seasoned firewood as any hardwood having less than a 20% moisture content. Ensuring that you use wood with an ideal firewood moisture content will dramatically increase the performance of your wood burning stove.

Why use seasoned firewood?

  1. Increased efficiency: By decreasing the firewood moisture content, you increase the efficiency of your wood burning stove. Removing water from wood during the burning process takes energy, energy that could otherwise be used to warm your home. Using non-seasoned wood with a moisture of 40% can hurt your overall efficiency by up to 50%.
  1. Easier startup: Due to the additional energy needed to burn wet firewood, it also takes longer to get a fire started. One of biggest complaints we hear regarding wood stoves is the effort needed during start-up.
  1. Cleaner burning: Not only does wet wood make start-up a pain, but it increases smoke and soot output as the wood begins to heat up. This early stage of combustion, referred to as gasifying, typically emits harmful pollutants into your local community and home. The wetter the wood, the more harmful the pollutants created. Seasoning wood decreases these harmful pollutants.
  1. A clearer glass door: All that smoke doesn’t do your door any favors either. The byproducts of an inefficient burn with non-seasoned wood often cling to front door glass only to be removed by scrubbing. We all enjoy the look of fire, so let’s keep it visible.
  1. Decreased creosote buildup:  Creosote is a top concern for wood stove users because it has the potential to cause chimney fires. Some creosote formation is inevitable, and regular chimney inspections and cleanings are a must. But burning wet wood dramatically increases the rate of creosote formation, and in turn increases the chances of a chimney fire. Using seasoned wood with the correct firewood moisture content helps to keep your home safe.

How Do I Know if I’m Using Seasoned Wood?

Seasoned firewood wood burning stove

Seasoned firewood will fade and color and begin to show cracks.

We highly recommend all wood burning stove operators use a moisture meter with their firewood. There are low cost moisture meters available that quickly read your firewood moisture content. Just split a piece of wood and use the moisture meter to make sure the wood is under 20% moisture before burning.

If you do not have a moisture meter handy, there are a few other ways to gauge if your firewood is seasoned. Seasoned firewood typically develops a faded color, usually gray or yellow, after losing moisture. Additionally, seasoned firewood is noticeably lighter than wet firewood because of the lack of water weight within. These methods of checking for seasoned wood are not fool proof, but they are good checks in a pinch.

How do I get seasoned firewood?

Whether you get your wood seasoned or green, proper storage is essential when seasoning wood to maintaining the right moisture content.

  1. Stack the wood off the ground. Use concrete pad or some other elevated structure to keep the wood away from the wet ground.
  2. Cover the top of the wood stack ONLY. Covering the wood stack will keep rain from penetrating. This can be accomplished by a secured tarp or a fixed means of protection such as a wood or metal overhang. Do not cover the sides of the stack as air movement through the wood is critical for drying out the wood.
  3. Separate different stacks. When stacking several cords of wood, it is important to not stack all cords against one another. Separation between the stacks will allow for increased air movement and faster drying.

If you’re seasoning wood, a good rule of thumb is to stage your wood and store it for at least one season before use. If you are lucky enough to have a trusted supplier that delivers truly seasoned wood year after year, give them a nice holiday present –  they are hard to find!

If you are reading this, you are part of a special community – we all love wood heat! Get the most out of the time and effort you put into your stove. Get clean and efficient heat, while making start-up a breeze.  Use dry seasoned wood checked by a moisture meter – it is the single best thing you can do to enjoy this lifestyle.

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 Ryan Fisher is the COO of MF Fire

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