A wood burning stove helps to improve on the efficiency of burning wood in your home compared to open fireplaces. A wood stove aims to slow down how fast the wood burns to help generate the most amount of heat from every piece of wood used.
In certain situations a stove can burn through the wood too fast for it to be efficient, so why does a wood stove burn wood so fast?
The main reasons why a wood stove burns wood so fast can be that:
- The air vent(s) are too far open
- Softwood logs are being burnt instead of hardwood
- The stove door is open
- The seal on the door has failed
- The logs are too small
- There is a leak in the stove
- The damper is open by too much
- The stove is damaged
It’s always recommended to burn dry wood inside a wood burning stove, and dry wood will generally burn quicker than wet wood. If you’re using low moisture content wood but it’s burning faster than usual then there may be another issue with the fire or stove.
I’ve discussed the above reasons in more detail below, using both our wood burning stove and multi fuel stove to explain why a wood stove burns wood so fast.
Why Does My Wood Stove Burn Wood So Fast?
1. The Air Vents Are Open Too Far
One of the main reasons why a wood stove burns wood so fast can be a result of the air vents being too far open.
To help burn wood more efficiently, a wood burning stove creates an environment where both the airflow and the amount of wood can be controlled more effectively to produce more heat.
Open fires in traditional fireplaces are highly inefficient at heating your home, as the fireplace is open and the rate at which the fire is burning through the wood can’t be controlled. Much of the heat generated by an open fire is therefore lost up the chimney instead of being used to heat your room.
If the air vents on a wood stove are wide open, then the greatly increased airflow into the stove can cause the fire to burn through the wood more rapidly.
The stove may produce slightly more heat as a result, but the fire will burn through your supply of wood much faster and leave you with a stove that is operating very inefficiently.
To slow down the rate at which the fire is burning the wood, and to make the stove operate more efficiently, the air vents on the stove should be closed down in stages until the fire is calmly burning through the wood, without it struggling due to lack of oxygen.
It’s recommended to only leave the vents on your wood stove open when lighting the fire. Once the fire has got going, the air vents can be closed down to help control the fire and prevent it from burning through the wood too quickly and inefficiently.
There may be different vents performing different tasks on your wood stove, and so it’s important to understand how to use the different vents on your stove to have the most successful fire.
You can read how to use the air vents on your wood burning stove to control a fire in more detail here.
2. Softwood Logs Are Being Used
Another common reason why a wood stove is burning so fast is that softwood logs are being used throughout the fire rather than hardwood logs.
Hardwoods such as Oak or Ash are typically denser than softwoods such as Pine, and so can last a lot longer in a fire.
Hardwoods are typically denser than softwoods because the trees can take a lot longer to grow. Hardwood firewood logs can also therefore be more expensive to buy because they can take a longer time to grow, as well as longer to dry out (season).
If you’re looking to slow down the rate at which a fire in your stove is burning through the wood, then look to use hardwood logs rather than softwood logs. Hardwood logs will typically burn for longer and hotter, and produce more overall heat per log.
Whatever type of firewood is used in a wood stove, it should have a moisture content of around 20% or lower to be able to burn efficiently in a fire. Wood that is too wet will burn more slowly but can produce less heat. Wet wood will also be harder to catch alight and maintain alight, and produce more smoke as a result.
Because softwoods generally catch alight and burn through quicker than hardwoods, small pieces of softwood are generally used for kindling when lighting a fire.
As the aim at the start of a fire is to get it going as quickly as possible, softwood kindling is more favorable than hardwood kindling because it burns more quickly.
3. The Stove Door Is Open
As I mentioned earlier, a wood stove creates a controlled environment for a fire, where the airflow into the stove can be managed throughout the fire.
If the door to the stove is left open during a fire, then not all of the airflow is going through the air vents, and the fire can burn through the wood uncontrollably.
A fire needs both oxygen and fuel to survive. If there is a surplus of air getting to the fire then it will burn through the wood more quickly. Any air getting through the door can’t be managed effectively, and so the rate at which the fire is burning the wood can’t be slowed down.
On many wood burning stoves the door can be closed soon after the fire has been lit, as long as there is sufficient draft and airflow through the vents to help get the fire going. If this causes the fire to go out, then in many situations it’s ok to leave the stove door open for a short while after lighting the fire to help get it going.
The large majority of wood stoves are designed to operate with the door closed, and so leaving the door open during a fire can prevent the stove from working efficiently.
Be sure to close the stove door as soon as possible after lighting a fire to help prevent the fire from burning through the wood too quickly.
4. The Stove Door Seal Has Failed
The gasket on the door of a wood stove helps to create an airtight seal between the door and the body of the stove. If your stove is burning through wood too fast then a failed door gasket may be the reason, as it will be letting excess air into the stove at an uncontrolled rate.
The seals are typically woven fiberglass ropes that line the edge of the doors on a wood stove.
Here’s what the inside of the door looks like on our wood burning stove:
Multi fuel stoves can also have seals around the ash pan compartment. Here’s what our multi fuel stove looks like:
Constant use of a wood stove including having numerous and long-lasting fires, as well as closing and opening the stove door regularly, can cause the seal to wear out over time and become damaged.
A door gasket that has failed may be causing more air to enter the stove, and the fire may be burning through the wood faster as a result.
If you find that the door seal on your wood stove is damaged or frayed, then it can be replaced by a professional and can help your stove return to maximum efficiency.
5. The Logs Are Too Small
Using logs that are too small can be a reason why your wood stove burns through the wood so fast. Larger pieces of wood will last longer in a fire than smaller ones.
Smaller sized bits of wood have a greater surface area in relation to their volume compared to larger sized logs, and so can burn much more quickly. There is also a smaller amount of matter to burn in small logs.
You may find that switching from burning a number of smaller logs at a time to fewer, but larger sized logs, can increase the time between needing to add more wood to the fire.
We like to have 2 larger sized logs on the fire at any one time to help maximize both the amount of heat being generated by the stove and the longevity of the fire between loads.
Larger sized pieces of wood shouldn’t be used too early into a fire however. A large log placed into a fire too soon after being lit can smother the fire and cause it to go out.
To help get a fire going in a wood stove, the fire should be built up to operating temperature using progressively larger sized logs.
6. There Is A Leak In The Stove
Another reason why excess air could be getting to the fire, and therefore causing the wood to be burning too fast, can be due to a leak in the stove.
Leaks can be more common in the stovepipe area, where the body of the wood stove meets the flue.
There may also be a crack or hole on the body of the stove, which would prevent it from being airtight. Wood stoves can be very durable appliances, and so any cracks or holes would be more common on older model of stove that have seen their fair share of use.
Lighting an incense stick and moving it around the body of the stove can help you to identify if any air is getting into your stove that isn’t going through the vents.
7. The Damper Is Open Too Far
Many older models of wood stove have dampers located within the stovepipe to help prevent waste gases and warm air from leaving the stove too quickly. Dampers can also help to prevent warm air from leaving your home while the stove isn’t in use.
It’s recommended to fully open the damper when lighting the fire to help maximize the draft on the stove and to improve airflow to the fire.
If your stove has a damper and is left fully open throughout the rest of the fire, it can cause the wood stove to burn through the wood at a faster rate.
Wood stove dampers should be partially closed down and used in conjunction with your air vents to help slow down the fire and keep your wood burning for longer.
8. The Stove Is Damaged
A damaged stove can be another reason why your wood stove burns wood so fast.
In most situations the best way to increase the heat output of your wood stove is to add more wood to the fire. However, burning too much wood inside your stove can cause damage to the stove’s components over time.
The term ‘over firing’ is used when the maximum design temperatures of the stove are exceeded. (You can find out more information about over firing a wood stove and how to prevent it here.)
If the design temperatures of a wood stove are regularly exceeded over long periods of time, then components of the stove can become damaged, warped or cracked.
The component that can be at most risk as a result of over firing a stove can be the baffle, which is located at the top of the firebox and just in front of the flue outlet. The baffle helps to keep waste gases inside the stove for longer, aiding in secondary combustion to help produce even more heat when burning wood.
If the baffle plate becomes warped and sags, then the can be a larger gap for waste gases to escape through, and can potentially cause the stove to burn through the wood at a faster rate due to increase airflow in and out of the stove.
Here’s what the baffle plate looks like in our wood burning and multi fuel stoves:
To see an explanation into each part of a wood burning or multi fuel stove, click here.