Wood burning stoves are commonly installed in homes to help increase the heat output when burning wood.
Wood stoves provide an environment where the fuel and air supply to the fire can be controlled to burn wood more efficiently, so how do you burn a wood stove efficiently?
To use a wood burning stove more efficiently:
- Build and light the fire properly.
- Burn dry hardwood logs that are at room temperature.
- Maintain a good supply of logs on the fire.
- Provide the right amount of air to the fire, without causing the fire to smolder or the stove to be running too hot.
- Ensure secondary burn Is working effectively.
- Leave a bed of ash between each fire.
- Regulate the damper.
To efficiently use a wood burning stove, the right type and amount of wood needs to be used on the fire, and the supply of air to the fire through the vents should also be correctly controlled.
I’ve explained in more detail below how we use our own wood burning stove to be more efficient, where the most amount of heat is produced for every piece of wood burnt.
How To Use A Wood Burning Stove More Efficiently
To allow a wood burning stove to operate most efficiently, the fire needs to be in state where the right amount of fuel and air is being supplied, so that the fire isn’t burning too hot or cold, and isn’t smoldering or burning through the wood too rapidly.
If there is too much wood on the fire or too much air being allowed into the stove, then the fire will be producing more heat but will also be burning through the wood at a much faster rate.
If there is too little wood in the stove or the fire isn’t being fed with enough air, then the stove will be operating at too low of a temperature to be efficient. The fire won’t be big enough for the size of the stove and will be smoldering and producing smoke because the wood will be burning inefficiently due to a lack of oxygen. Although the fire won’t be burning through the wood very quickly, the heat output will be much lower.
Therefore, to efficiently use a wood burning stove:
- Keep the fire topped up with the right amount of fuel for the size of the stove. One or two larger sized logs works best.
- Close down the air vent(s) on
the stove until the fire is burning through the wood at a steady pace.
- Don’t close the air vents too much or the fire will start to smolder and burn the wood inefficiently due to a lack of oxygen.
- Don’t leave the vents open too far or the far will be rapidly burning through the wood and you’ll need to top up the fire with logs more often.
Following this procedure will help you to use your wood burning stove more efficiently, and keep a fire burning for longer and produce the most amount of heat from every piece of wood consumed.
I’ve explained the above in more detail below, but there are also a few other things to take into account to help you use a wood burning stove more efficiently.
Start A Fire Properly
A fire burns most efficiently in a wood burning stove when there’s a bed of hot coals on which larger sized logs can be added to the fire, without smothering the fire and causing it to go out.
Building and lighting a fire in a stove the right way helps to get the fire up to operating temperature quickly, and to provide an effective platform on which larger pieces of wood can be successfully added to the fire.
To build and light a fire in a wood burning stove:
- Lay small bits of dry softwood kindling on top of a bed of crunched up pieces of newspaper.
- Light the newspaper at multiple locations within the stove to get the fire spreading to the wood as quickly and evenly as possible.
- Ensure that the air vents are fully open when starting a fire, and slowly close them down once the fire has caught hold of the wood.
Burn Low Moisture Content Wood
To help a fire in a wood burning stove burn more efficiently, you should be using hardwood logs that are dry enough to not cause the fire to burn inefficiently.
It’s recommended that firewood should be around 20% moisture content or lower before being used in a fire in your home. Firewood that is kiln dried or well seasoned denotes that it’s dry enough to be used on fire, but if you’re seasoning your own hardwood then it should be left for around 2 years outside to dry.
You can use a moisture meter to confirm the moisture content of wood before using it. You’ll find that if you’re adding wood to your stove that is too wet, the fire will start to burn less efficiently. This is because more energy is required to burn off the excess moisture in the wood.
It’s also a good idea to bring in any wood that’s stored outside into your home a day before being used. Cold wood is harder to catch alight and burn, and so bringing the wood up to room temperature before being used helps your wood burning stove to run more efficiently.
Maintain The Supply Of Wood
To run a wood burning stove more efficiently, keep the supply of wood on the fire maintained at the right level.
Each model of wood burning stove has a design capacity, and so this amount shouldn’t be exceeded or the stove can be running too hot to be efficient. (Check your manufacturer’s guidelines on how much wood you should be using in your stove).
If your wood burning stove has tertiary air vents located at the back of the stove (like ours does), be sure not to exceed the height of these vents when adding logs to the fire.
These vents help to provide air to above the fire to aid in secondary combustion of waste gases that helps to make burning wood more efficient.
Likewise, too little wood shouldn’t be on the fire at any one time or the stove can be inefficiently running at a temperature too low for what it was designed.
Use The Air Vents Correctly
To help make a wood burning stove more efficient, the air vents on the stove should be open just enough so that the fire is burning the wood effectively.
After the fire has got going after being lit, the air vent(s) should be closed down to a point where the fire is efficiently burning through the wood at a steady pace.
If the fire is burning through the wood too quickly, slowly close down the vents in stages until the fire is burning slowly, but isn’t struggling.
If the fire looks like it’s struggling and/or smoke is being produced, open up the vents until the flames are calmly burning on the wood.
Allow Secondary Burn To Work Effectively
A key part that helps wood burning stoves be much more efficient than open fires is secondary combustion of waste gases.
Wood stoves provide an enclosed environment that helps to keep waste gases from the fire inside the firebox for longer periods of time. Combined with higher temperatures and pressures, this helps the stove to burn gases that are released from the wood to produce even more heat.
Many efficient wood burning stoves now incorporate secondary burn, and in many cases it can produce more heat than simply burning the wood.
As such, secondary combustion is an important aspect of making a wood stove more efficient, and so the vents on a stove should be used correctly to allow secondary burn to occur.
Secondary burn happens just above the fire inside the stove. If your wood burning stove incorporates secondary combustion, the right air vents needs to be controlled to allow sufficient air to get to above the fire for waste gases to be burnt.
Our wood burning stove has secondary combustion designed into it, and as there’s only one controllable air vent on the stove, ensuring that this vent isn’t closed too much helps to provide enough air for secondary burn to work effectively.
Leave A Bed Of Ash
Wood burns best with a supply of air from below, and so it’s generally recommended to leave a bed of ash at the base your stove before each fire.
Ash helps to insulate the fire and can promote efficient burning of the wood inside your stove.
We like to leave an inch or two of ash in our wood burning stove, and clear out any excess ash as and when required to ensure that there isn’t too much ash.
Regulate The Damper
If your wood burning stove has a damper, ensure that it’s fully open when starting a fire, and closed down until it’s partially open once the fire has got going.
A damper is more likely to be found on older models of wood stove, and can typically be found within the stovepipe above the stove.
I’ve explained stove dampers in more detail here, include where to find them and how to operate them.