As we approach the time of year when we like to remind owners of wood burners and open fires to get their chimneys swept, it is worth taking a little time to talk about how to get the most out of your fire, especially with fuel prices on the rise.
Lighting a fire should be a fairly simple process but it is surprising how many people make simple mistakes that impact the efficiency of their fire and could add to a build up of toxic fumes, not to mention residue in the chimney. Here’s what you need to know.
Choose your fuel carefully
Not all wood is equal and getting a toasty warm fire isn’t as simple as just chucking anything on the fire and hoping it catches. Soft wood, such as pine, is cheaper because it grows so quickly, but it burns more quickly, too. So, it is great for getting a fire going but you will get through it quickly. Harder, slower growing woods such as ash burn slower and hotter, but can take a while to catch. It is good to get a balance of the two. The most important thing is to make sure that your wood is completely dry; wet or sappy wood will cause smoke, soot, and be less efficient.
Get the right start
Like anything, a good fire begins with getting the start right. Use kindling to get your fire started and wait until the embers are hot before you start loading on additional wood. Start with small logs and wait before they catch before adding more.
Use the right volume of fuel
Once your fire is going, you need to make sure that there is enough fuel for it to burn well – but not too much. If your fire isn’t burning well enough, adding more wood won’t do anything as there won’t be enough heat to catch fire to that wood. However, if you load a very hot fire with too much wood, you could risk the fire burning too hot, which could cause damage to your wood burner or even result in a chimney fire. A steady burn is the best way to get the most out of your fire. You are looking at between 250 & 460°C; if you have a heat gun for DIY, a quick point at the fire will let you know what you are burning at, or you can invest in a thermometer. If your fire is lower than 250°C, your precious wood will be wasted, creating more smoke than heat.
Know your air flows
Like us, fire needs fuel and air to survive. Making a successful fire very much depends on giving it the right amount of both. Most stoves will have two vents: the primary and secondary air vents. The primary one is kept open while you are lighting the fire then, once you have a good burn on, you can shut the vent and use the secondary vent to get more finesse. It can take a bit of trial and error to work out how your vents work. The more oxygen, the bigger the flame but, as previously mentioned, that doesn’t necessarily mean a more successful fire.