One thing I don't get about wood stoves - can I let it cool down at night? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 11-08-2010, 03:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We are researching and planning to install a wood stove as a secondary heat source. DH and I have no experience with them.

I have been reading about creosote buildup, and one issue seems to be that people sometimes let their stoves kind of cool down to save on fuel, and that increases creosotes.

I really had no intention of having a full blaze all the time, even at night. It doesn't even make sense to me. Can I not let the fire die out when we go to bed?

Hmm, a totally unrelated question as well - the models we are looking at have a "griddle" surface, a metal area on top. Can I really cook with it? Can I boil water on it? If I put a pan on it, can I sautee onions, for example? Or is it just more like for warming water, but not really cooking? Also, do I need cast iron to do this or is my stainless steel pot with a copper bottom ok for it? Unfortunately the lady at the stove store was totally clueless. Hopefully the guy who would do the install has a clue, but I just wanted to ask before committing to an appointment, etc.

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#2 of 22 Old 11-08-2010, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, if it matters, we have 1150 well insulated square feet, and are looking at smaller size stoves rated for up to 1200. So we won't be buying this enormous stove. I'm happy stoking the fire up to the normal amounts for the stove, I'm just kind of allergic to the idea of keeping the house hot all night, I'd just really rather let it cool off until morning. Seems like it would take 50% more fuel to reduce creosotes - ugh!

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#3 of 22 Old 11-08-2010, 03:19 PM
 
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I haven't done a lot of research into wood stoves, but I grew up with one, and my parents are still using the same one. It's been in that house for over 40 years and is still in great condition. I know they don't keep stoking it all night, so it does cool down to embers by morning. Every once in a while my dad knocks off any buildup from inside the stove and shovels it out -- maybe a couple times a year? He cleans out the chimney every 3-5 years, I think. Their house is 1400 sq. ft. and heated primarily by wood stove, with an oil furnace as back-up. My mom cooks with cast iron on the stove sometimes, and they always have a cast iron or enamelware dish of water going on top of the stove to add humidity to the air. She often adds orange peels or cinnamon sticks to the water and it makes the house smell really nice. Mostly I've seen her slow-cook down veggies and do soup, things that have a lot of leeway and don't need constant attention. The mantel over the wood stove makes a nice place to let bread rise.
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#4 of 22 Old 11-08-2010, 06:28 PM
 
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We only do fires in the evening, and find the last burn is cleaner if we open the front dampers before we go to bed. So, maybe that is a good solution? I had the impression that the creosote build up was mostly a result of low-air supply, slow burning (but could totally be wrong on that!).

For woodstove safety, maintanence is key. You should clean out the chimney every year to prevent fire (actually, we run the stovepipe brush through it a few times each season just to be sure - our chimney goes out a wall, so has two elbows in it - once a year might well be enough for a chimney that goes straight up through the roof).

At any rate, that is what we do, and things seem to have been okay so far

As to cooking - yes, you can saute onions and do that kind of stuff, although it may take a little while to get a handle on controlling the heat/cooking with non-adustable heat. One thing we do is use a metal trivet or small, sturdy cooling rack to hold pots a little off the heat - once a pot of beans or soup comes up to a boil, sitting directly on the woodstove may be too hot. I use my stainless pans as well as cast iron on the woodstove - I have never had copper bottom ones, so no comment there.
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#5 of 22 Old 11-08-2010, 08:40 PM
 
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I grew up with woodstoves, I heat only with wood and I cook with wood 365 days a year. I also served on the local FD and have been to more chimney fires that I cab count.

However I'm not an expert lol I just have a lot of experience.

Depending on your stove and climate you can let it go out every night. We don't because that's a lot of work to start it up again every day. We stock it full right before bed and shut it down to last until morning. In the am we open it up and toss some smaller wood on to catch in the embers and put bigger stuff on once it catches.

It cools down a lot during the night no matter what.....in super cold negative degree weather we get up at night and add wood. It takes a while in the am to really feel the house warm up but it might be single digits outside here so it makes sense.

I would clean my chimney 1x per season minimum. If using wet or not fully seasoned wood I would do it more.

Creosote is the water and pitch from the wood turning into a gas and leaving the firebox, as it hits the cooler air of the chimney it cools enough to return to a solid and it sticks to sides of the chimney. At first it is very wet like tar, as future fires burn it dries out turning flaky. It can then catch fire. Creosote burns at a very high temperature, the fire in a chimney becomes hot enough to melt pipe and can expand chimney bricks with cracks enough to allow fire to escape into surrounding walls. You.do.not.want.a.chimney.fire. cleaning the chimney an extra time per year is far better than risking a fire. After a few years you can see how much creosote is coming out in the cleaning and decide if it's enough or not enough. Remember if you switch wood it will change.

It's common for people to run a very hot open fire to dry out the creosote and it can sort of clean it out if done regularly. A good method might be to run it like this each time you start it and then run it normally. If you haven't done it in a while I don't suggest it......if you did have enough creosote in the chimney for a fire it would start one, if you do it after a cleaning and do it regularly you will keep it cleaner but on a dirty chimney you'll be in trouble.

For cooking think about what pan(s) you would be using, handles get hotter than a regular stove and can melt so cast iron is perfect, but use a hand mitt(!), if your stove is enamel covered it can scratch so keep that in mind....enamel is easier to clean though. Different stoves heat the top to different temps so the specifics would depend on the stove you choose.
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#6 of 22 Old 11-08-2010, 08:46 PM
 
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We heated our main living area exclusively with a wood stove for 5 years. (Now, we have a heat pump). Anyway, we were totally clueless and didn't have the stove piping cleaned in 6 years...oops! Anyway, when the guy came out to clean there was very little build-up in our piping. Go figure. We used the wood stove every single day in the colder months and always let the fire die down by bedtime. We used seasoned hard wood, too.
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#7 of 22 Old 11-10-2010, 08:01 PM
 
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We heat our whole house with woodheat from a woodstove. I can cook on mine and do pretty frequently, I do use cast iron because that is what I have, however I am sure you can use the stainless steel. I use mine for boiling water and making soups mostly although during power outages I have used it to cook many other things.

 

The one thing I can say it Please Please Please clean your chimney frequently. We had a chimney fire 2 winters ago that the fire department had to come out for and they said that if DH had not been home and caught it when he did we would have lost the house. It was so scary.  

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#8 of 22 Old 11-11-2010, 08:39 AM
 
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As a person who grew up with wood heat  from on old school style stove in an old drafty house it was pretty difficult to not to have your fire either die or be nearly dead when you woke up in the morning.  When it was really cold my dad had been known to set an alarm clock to wake him up and refire the stove.  You might have better luck with keeping a fire going with a new stove, but if you just quit feeding it a hour or two before you go to bed your house should cool down to more sleep friendly temp on its own.

 

Anyway wood heat had lots of good things about it, but honestly I will take either hot water heat or a forced air system with a programable thermostat any day of the week to avoid that freezing cold morning house.  I never realized how freeking cold our house was until I went to college and lived in the dorm (and then came back at Thanksgiving)

 

Ideally your fire is neither too hot (uncomfortable) or too cold (the build up issue you addressed).  In reality you are going to have some each especially when you are learning how to fire it.

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#9 of 22 Old 11-14-2010, 08:41 PM
 
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I feel like most of the PP's have covered it. Make sure to get the chimney cleaned, we hardly ever let ours go out bc its a PIA to start another fire and I always wake up in the night anyway, and wet/non seasoned wood builds the cresote. There are special logs you can buy that claim to help dry up cresote, but Ive never tried them. I wanted to pop in and add that I have two stoves, one is cast iron and the other isnt. I can cook on the cast iron, just like a griddle, but I can barely boil water on the other one. Have fun! Heating with wood is awesome :)


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#10 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 08:47 AM
 
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We burn pine, which is a very dirty wood, so cresote is an issue for us. However, pine is free for the taking (labor aside), and a cord of hard wood is easily $300 here in Denver, so we burn pine..... We do let our fires die out at night with the damper closed, but our fire in the morning burns for an hoursor so with the damper full open, that will help burn off the cresote.

 

As for those cresote burning logs, they can help, but only part of the process. Those logs make the cresote "glazing" on the inside of of your chimney less "sticky" so that when you do the actual brushing with a cleaning, it will fall off. But the specail log does not physically remove the cresote, just makes it a different composition that is then able to be scrapped off when you clean the chimeny. ** I know my technical information is lacking, but goggle those cresote burning logs and website can explain it a lot better than I just did.

 

We do clean (brush) our chimney 2-3 times a year, but then again we burn pine, not a hard wood that is the biggest difference. Also, the hot burning fire in the morning will help cut down on the build up from burning fires at a low rate with the damper closed.

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#11 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 08:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies. I just wanted to mention that this stove would not be our sole heating option - so when I say we'd let the fire go out at night, I didn't mean we'd freeze at night, just set the thermostat to 57 degrees and let the boiler take over.

 

I do hear you on the effort it takes to restart the fire. I'm not sure how we'll work it out - my first reaction is just based on not wanting to burn 50% more wood just to keep it going all night when we do have another heat source.

 

Well, either way, we'll figure it out somehow.


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#12 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 09:02 AM
 
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I do hear you on the effort it takes to restart the fire. I'm not sure how we'll work it out - my first reaction is just based on not wanting to burn 50% more wood just to keep it going all night when we do have another heat source.

 

 

Effor to re-start fire? I have to build a new fire every day in our fire inserts & wood cookstove, just get some newspaper, maybe a small peice of cardboard and some kindling/ sticks and you should have a fire in less than 3 minutes.

 

We do also have a propane heater, it kicks on at 50 degrees, but we could set it higher. that being said, our heater kicks on around 2-3am each morning. It was 51 degrees this morning in the main room, but it's up to 65 now with having the fire been lit for the past 2.5 hours.

 

hope you get a system down that works for you and yours.

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#13 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 09:10 AM
 
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Well what are you getting it for? We used ours for heat, so we set the damper at night to maintain the heat not to let it die down. In the morning I'd stoke the fire again from the coals. I guess I don't understand the point of a wood stove for heat if you want to let the fire die overnight. The only time I ever had to restart a new fire was if I messed up when I went to bed and didn't lower the damper and reload it with wood. If you have a flat surface on top of the stove you can cook on it. It's awesome for reheating pizza LOL. I just put a piece of foil down with the pizza on it and then flip an upsidedown pan over it to retain the heat and let it go. I always set on my yeast doughs and yogurt nearby to do their thing just far enough away so they wouldn't get too hot. I kept a kettle of water on top. We burned hardwood because it gives off more BTUs and less creosote.

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#14 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I do hear you on the effort it takes to restart the fire. I'm not sure how we'll work it out - my first reaction is just based on not wanting to burn 50% more wood just to keep it going all night when we do have another heat source.

 

 

Effor to re-start fire? I have to build a new fire every day in our fire inserts & wood cookstove, just get some newspaper, maybe a small peice of cardboard and some kindling/ sticks and you should have a fire in less than 3 minutes.

 

We do also have a propane heater, it kicks on at 50 degrees, but we could set it higher. that being said, our heater kicks on around 2-3am each morning. It was 51 degrees this morning in the main room, but it's up to 65 now with having the fire been lit for the past 2.5 hours.

 

hope you get a system down that works for you and yours.



Oh.. I was just going by the folks on this thread who said they didn't like to let the fire go out so they didn't have to start it up again. I don't have a clue how easy or difficult it will be. If it's a 3 minute chore I think that will be no sweat :)

 



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Well what are you getting it for? We used ours for heat, so we set the damper at night to maintain the heat not to let it die down. In the morning I'd stoke the fire again from the coals. I guess I don't understand the point of a wood stove for heat if you want to let the fire die overnight. The only time I ever had to restart a new fire was if I messed up when I went to bed and didn't lower the damper and reload it with wood. If you have a flat surface on top of the stove you can cook on it. It's awesome for reheating pizza LOL. I just put a piece of foil down with the pizza on it and then flip an upsidedown pan over it to retain the heat and let it go. I always set on my yeast doughs and yogurt nearby to do their thing just far enough away so they wouldn't get too hot. I kept a kettle of water on top. We burned hardwood because it gives off more BTUs and less creosote.



I'm a little confused by your confusion. We are getting this as a secondary heat source, as I said in my first post. Yes, we're using it for heat, not sure what else we would use it for?

 

As for not being sure why we would use the stove for heat if we let the fire go out at night... I guess I just don't understand why we would keep the house at high daytime temperature and use 50% more wood when we're sleeping? I prefer to conserve, and while it will be nice having the house toasty during the day, it's just not necessary at night. I can't set the wood stove to 57F so why not save a bit of wood and let the boiler take over at night?

 

Either way, even if you would choose otherwise, I guess I don't get why this is really so confusing as to ask why I would want a stove at all?


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#15 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 10:52 AM
 
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When you look into having the stove installed, see about getting an insulated chimney with a stainless steel liner.

 

We heat a big drafty farmhouse exclusively with wood, and have the chimney cleaned once a year. Last year we has less than a cup of soot in the chimney. This year there was more, probably because we burned less seasoned wood, but it was still only a few inches in the bottom of the bucket when they finished cleaning it.


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#16 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 12:33 PM
 
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Well what are you getting it for? We used ours for heat, so we set the damper at night to maintain the heat not to let it die down. In the morning I'd stoke the fire again from the coals. I guess I don't understand the point of a wood stove for heat if you want to let the fire die overnight. The only time I ever had to restart a new fire was if I messed up when I went to bed and didn't lower the damper and reload it with wood. If you have a flat surface on top of the stove you can cook on it. It's awesome for reheating pizza LOL. I just put a piece of foil down with the pizza on it and then flip an upsidedown pan over it to retain the heat and let it go. I always set on my yeast doughs and yogurt nearby to do their thing just far enough away so they wouldn't get too hot. I kept a kettle of water on top. We burned hardwood because it gives off more BTUs and less creosote.



I'm a little confused by your confusion. We are getting this as a secondary heat source, as I said in my first post. Yes, we're using it for heat, not sure what else we would use it for?

 

As for not being sure why we would use the stove for heat if we let the fire go out at night... I guess I just don't understand why we would keep the house at high daytime temperature and use 50% more wood when we're sleeping? I prefer to conserve, and while it will be nice having the house toasty during the day, it's just not necessary at night. I can't set the wood stove to 57F so why not save a bit of wood and let the boiler take over at night?

 

Either way, even if you would choose otherwise, I guess I don't get why this is really so confusing as to ask why I would want a stove at all?


I wasn't implying you shouldn't want a stove, I was asking for clarification as to what the primary purpose of getting one was since you asked about cooking and heating, but then said you didn't want to run it at night. So I didn't know if you wanted one more conducive to cooking or heating or if you just wanted it for occasional use for enjoyment but not specifically for heating. You don't need to run one at high heat, or use 50% more wood. Wood stoves have a variety of ways to control how much heat they generate from the amount of fuel they hold ( IE the size of the stove) the amount of fuel you put in it, the type of fuel and controlling the air flow. If you want to be able to cook on it, then getting one that has enough flat top space for pots and pans is important, if you just want one for occasional enjoyment then getting a small one is probably better, if it needs to heat your house in winter then it needs to be sized to your square footage and hopefully the BTUs of the available wood taken into consideration.

 

 

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#17 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 01:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I wasn't implying you shouldn't want a stove, I was asking for clarification as to what the primary purpose of getting one was since you asked about cooking and heating, but then said you didn't want to run it at night. So I didn't know if you wanted one more conducive to cooking or heating or if you just wanted it for occasional use for enjoyment but not specifically for heating. You don't need to run one at high heat, or use 50% more wood. Wood stoves have a variety of ways to control how much heat they generate from the amount of fuel they hold ( IE the size of the stove) the amount of fuel you put in it, the type of fuel and controlling the air flow. If you want to be able to cook on it, then getting one that has enough flat top space for pots and pans is important, if you just want one for occasional enjoyment then getting a small one is probably better, if it needs to heat your house in winter then it needs to be sized to your square footage and hopefully the BTUs of the available wood taken into consideration.

 

 



Oh, ok, I see. We have oil heat, and if the electricity goes out then we're cold and hungry. In New England, the power going out is not uncommon in a big snowstorm. Also, the price of oil just keeps going up and up. So we just want more options. And the 30% tax credit is motivating us to do it now.

 

The primary use by far would be for heat. The cooking part would just be backup, though no doubt we'd boil water for tea on it or whatever, and take advantage of the heat while it's on rather than fire up the electric stove separately. The stoves we are looking at are small (our space is 1100 well insulated square feet, so small is enough even to heat the whole house). They are cast iron and have griddles that could fit a saucepan. Not enough for real, dedicated cooking, but definitely useful to heat up soup if a blizzard takes out the power. Plus, who knows, I might enjoy cooking on there anyway, but I know it's not a Princess stove or anything. I will let bread rise near the stove too, and maybe yoghurt, since my kitchen is so cold. (I let bread rise in my bedroom, the warmest place in the house right now, lol).

 

One thing I'm excited about is envisioning the stove changing the dynamic of how we use our space. Right now we spend the majority of our time upstairs in the bedrooms because it's just not comfortable downstairs. If we cranked up the heat it would be fine, but we try to conserve. I know a lot of people keep it colder, but honestly 62F doesn't feel that warm to me, and it's no lack of clothing (I wear long underwear every day, warm pants, warm shirt, sweater, fleece jacket, and often a hat too). If I were housecleaning it would be fine, but I work at the computer all day and it gets chilly just sitting. If we had a wood stove, I'm hoping we would gravitate downstairs more, and thus be less sedentary. I imagine us playing board games at the table, stuff like that. Instead of just jumping under the covers and watching TV at night, which I'm not happy about, but at night I'm either ready to get under the covers or take a hot bath! And the hot bath is a lot of energy too, so I usually just go under the covers. A wood stove would be wonderful if it got us downstairs in the winter.


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#18 of 22 Old 11-15-2010, 06:54 PM
 
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 We heat primarily with wood and just use our furnace for backup when it is not cold enough to get the woodstove going without baking us out of the house. We have an airtight high efficiency woodstove and love it. We turn it down as low as possible overnight so the house doesn't get too hot. In the morning we just add a couple of pieces of kindling and a new log and the fire starts again nicely. We burn it on high for 30-45 minutes to burn off any buildup in the chimney and then run it normally through the day. Two or three times a week, depending on how much we have burned, we let the fire go out and clean out all of the ashes. The stove burns hotter and more efficiently when there aren't too many ashes in there.

 

As for cooking on the stove, it depends on the model. In our last house we were able to cook on top of the stove. We bought a newer version of the same model stove when we bought this house but the top is more insulated so we can't even boil water on it, we just get a little steam. It does a better job of heating the house though.

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#19 of 22 Old 11-16-2010, 08:27 AM
 
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Thanks for the replies. I just wanted to mention that this stove would not be our sole heating option - so when I say we'd let the fire go out at night, I didn't mean we'd freeze at night, just set the thermostat to 57 degrees and let the boiler take over.

 

I do hear you on the effort it takes to restart the fire. I'm not sure how we'll work it out - my first reaction is just based on not wanting to burn 50% more wood just to keep it going all night when we do have another heat source.

 

Well, either way, we'll figure it out somehow.


You will get good at restarting a fire if you always let it go out at night. Just google and find the method you like best for starting the fire. It takes longer at the stove than just stoking it is not a big deal. We usually have to restart our fire a couple times a week and it is really not that big of a deal. Ours is in the basement so I feel like I am wasting precious time down there to not have to go up and down the stairs till I know I have a good fire going.

 

We clean our chimeny once a yr and it has never been that dirty but we do it anyways as it is good practice. I love heating with wood!


~Katie~ married to J, mom to DD- A 13 yrs ,DS- L 7yrs , and my little nursling DD2- R 5yrs.

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#20 of 22 Old 11-17-2010, 12:16 PM
 
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Even when you get good at starting fires, its still a PITA. We heated exclusively w/ wood up untill this year (dad just installed geothermal). But yes, you can let the fire go out... but you just have to restart the fire and deal with a cold house. If you don't want to do that, you just train yourself to get up at 3 or 4am and throw a couple more logs in... and you learn to cut your stove back so that it burns slowly. That way you usually at least have coals left in the morning to work with. 

 

Either way you will need to clean your chimney at least once or twice a year though. Doing so isn't hard, but you need to have the tools to do so, or else hire someone to do it for you. 

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#21 of 22 Old 11-28-2010, 10:05 AM
 
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 i think you're really going to enjoy the heat you get from your woodstove. its nice to have that constant warmth as opposed to a furnace that goes on and off.

 

We.ve heated our home with wood for 18 years now, and after awhile you get really good at controlling the heat by the amount of wood and the airflow. I am of the mindset that its a PITA to start a new fire, as opposed to stoking one thats already there,jmo, though.

 

I think you may find that a couple of "all nighters" (big pieces of wood) and then damper down, and you'll not be blown away by heat at night, yet still find coals in the a.m., thats what we do ( unless its a particularly cold nite.. then we get up and add wood and leave the front vents open a crack.

 

 

Experiment!

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#22 of 22 Old 12-05-2010, 10:20 PM
 
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No way! At least, not in my exp. You want to keep a nice little hot bed of coals in there. You can buy creosote logs to cut down on creosote buildup. We clean out our pipe every summer with a brush besides using the creosote logs. We use a woodstove as a primary source of heating because our Toyo (which is a kerosene burner) is completely wonky (plus,it's sooo much cheaper to have a woodstove up here esp if you are cutting your own wood). Also, make sure that you dry your wood out ahead of time before burning it. Green wood is *not* good for the air.


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