Here in Connecticut, there are basically five methods of burning wood for home heating.
For centuries wood stoves have been used to cook our meals and warm our homes. However, all wood stoves are not created equally. Most people have seen or used an old cast iron or steel plate stove. There are thousands of these old stoves still in use across Connecticut. You'll often see old wood stoves for sale in the classifieds. Don't be tempted by the low cost of a pre 1990 used wood stove. Older wood stoves burn so inefficiently when compared to todays engineered stoves, that any savings in the price of a used stove will go up the chimney in just months.
Besides the fact that you'll need to buy, stack, and carry more wood to heat your home with an old wood stove, you could also be sending 10x more particulate matter into the atmosphere. Increased quantities of particulate matter combine with an increase amount of unburned gases to dramatically increase the amount of creosote buildup in your chimney. Creosote buildup can and will cause chimney fires. Older wood burning stoves require more frequent chimney cleaning and maintenance. Pre-1990 stoves might not be covered under your homeowners insurance or cause you to pay higher insurance rates.
Older wood stoves require more fuel, loaded more often, they produce less heat, are not as safe, and bad for the environment. Pre-1990 stoves are not a good choice when selecting a wood burning stove.
To meet the 1990 EPA requirements stove manufacturers were forced to re engineer their stoves to burn off more of the excess gases and particulate matter.
Modern Stoves use either a catalytic conversion method or a non catalytic (precision air flow) method to meet EPA regulations.
Catalytic Wood Stoves force hot exhaust over a catalyst made of rare elements. The catalyst gets super heated and as the exhaust gases pass through it they are burned off. These stoves are more efficient than non catalytic stoves and far more efficient and safer than pre 1990 models. Catalytic stoves do require homeowners to pay a bit more attention and complete a few more steps at the start of a burn cycle. Even with the few extra steps we recommend the purchase of a catalytic wood stove to most of our customers.
Modern Non Catalytic Wood Stoves use precision air flow to produce a second burn chamber for burning off excess gases. These stoves are operated much like traditional wood stoves. Nearly as efficient as a catalytic stove, slightly easier to operate, and often less expensive, these stoves are a great option for Connecticut homeowners. Both catalytic and non catalytic wood stoves create almost no smoke when operated and installed correctly. Often a homeowner will choose between catalytic and non-catalytic based on the price and appearance of the models suitable for their heating needs.
You may have seen these beasts lately on the local news here in Connecticut. Large outdoor wood burners that transfer heat to a home with piping. State regulations, such as being 200ft from your nearest neighbor and needing to have a chimney higher than any home within 500 ft, prevent these units from being an option for most Connecticut Homeowners. Some CT towns ban wood furnaces entirely. Wood furnaces are really only a wise choice for homeowners in our States more rural areas, on farms, and for people who have alot of excess wood to burn.
There is nothing like sitting in front of roaring fire on a cold Connecticut night. Traditional masonry fireplaces can be beautiful and provide plenty of ambiance and radiant heat. Heating of the home with a fireplace(s) may have been fine 100 years ago. Today, however, heating of the home with a fireplace is not a viable option. At best, it is the least efficient use of wood fuel. At worst, you may be losing more heat out the chimney than is produced by the fire. Burning wood inefficiently is also dirty, less safe, and less environmentally friendly. Fireplaces are a good option for homeowners who want to burn wood a few times a year for ambiance, not for home heating.
Let us turn your existing brick masonry fireplace into a high efficiency home heating unit with one of our fireplace inserts or hearth stoves. (Natural Gas, Propane, and Pellet Fireplace Inserts and Hearth Stoves also available.)
Keep your wood dry and your chimney clean!
Wood stoves use chimney draft as an engine and firewood as fuel for that engine.
One very important step a Connecticut homeowner can take to ensure they enjoy many years of safe and efficient home heating from their wood stove is to burn only dry seasoned wood.
Seasoning wood allows the moisture found in standing tress to be released back into the atmosphere.
Most species can season down to about 15% moisture level, before the moisture level plateaus, eventually allowing wood to reabsorb moisture.
Be sure to ask about our handy moisture meters.
Firewood should be cut and split prior to seasoning, this allows moisture to escape more freely. Firewood should be seasoned for a year or two but not much more than three years as it can become soft (punky) and able to reabsorb moisture. Firewood should be stacked or piled off of the ground in a location that gets sun and wind. Stacks of firewood should be covered on top, with the sides left exposed so air can pass through.
Here in Connecticut it is common knowledge that you shouldn't really burn pine or other softwoods in your stove or fireplace. Buying softwood to burn in your wood stove or fireplace is certainly not a wise move.
Connecticut law states that all firewood must be sold by the cord or cubic meter, usually a cord or fraction of a cord. A cord is 128 cubic ft of tightly stacked wood. 4'x 4'x 8'.....usually three 16" rows.
A cord of seasoned white oak weighs about 3900 lbs and contains about 24,000,000 btus.
A cord of seasoned white pine weighs about 2100 lbs and contains about 13,000,000 btus.
So if a cord of oak costs $240, a cord of pine would only be worth $130 in equivalent heating potential.
It takes the same amount of work to produce and deliver a cord made from any wood species. People who make their living selling and delivering firewood choose to produce the more valuable product.
Know that softwoods burn faster and you will need more of it and will need to load your stove or fireplace more often. Burning of softwoods is not recommended, especially in catalytic wood stoves.
It's good to have a wood burning routine, including trying to burn the same density of wood. If you have pile of several different species it's best to try and consistently burn an even mix.
Example: If someone who burned only hardwood for years, and also allowed excess creosote to accumulate in their chimney(unwise), were to start burning a lighter, hotter burning wood, they could potentially trigger a chimney fire.
Both Catalytic Wood Stoves and Non Catalytic Wood Stoves are available in two common configurations:
Freestanding stoves can be placed where needed including inside of and in front of an existing masonry fireplace.
Fireplace Inserts must be placed inside of an existing fireplace.
A third, less common configuration is a built in stove. These beautiful high efficiency stoves are generally for new construction and home remodels as they require much more planning, carpentry, and masonry.
It's good to think of creosote as the combination of the unburned gases and particulates that are too light to fall into the ash pile, yet too heavy to make it all the way out the chimney. Creosote composition and appearance can vary.
More Moisture = More Creosote. Wet wood hampers a fires ability to burn efficiently, allowing more unburned particles/gases to escape. Unburned moisture cools the unburned gases and also gives them something to stick to, slowing or preventing their escape.... a vicious cycle.
Creosote is potentially flammable and is contained in all species of wood. The least troublesome creosote is hard and flaky and easily removed by a professional. Severe creosote buildup can be a sticky, tar like, substance which in extreme cases can ignite and even expel gooey fireballs into or onto your home. YIKES!
Severe creosote is very difficult to remove and in some cases it is more cost effective to replace or reline a chimney. It's best to not let things get that far.
Some level of creosote buildup is unavoidable.
Luckily, newer stoves are designed to burn so efficiently that creosote build up is just a fraction of the build up produced by older stoves.
Proper installation of a wood stove, particularly the flue & chimney can further reduce creosote build up. Cold spots, leaks, poor design, improper height, wrong diameter, etc. can greatly reduce a stoves efficiency and increase creosote build up.
Connecticut homeowners can avoid creosote problems and associated chimney fires with a few easy steps...
Keep your wood dry and your chimney clean!
Proper chimney sizing, installation, and maintenance are the keys to having a safe and efficient wood stove. Learn more....
Removal of ash is recommended before the start of each new fire and periodically during stove operation. Ash removal frequency depends on the design of the stove and the moisture content and species of wood being burned. Typically once or twice a week during the burning season, less often with some designs. Too deep of an ash bed can prevent a stove from operating correctly.
Ashes should be carefully removed from stove and placed in a metal bucket. Bucket should be stored outside, away from decks, buildings, and flammables. Pour some water in the bucket for added safety.
Hot embers can remain hidden in ashes for many days. NEVER DISPOSE OF ASHES WITH HOUSEHOLD TRASH. One of the most common causes of house fires is the improper disposal of seemingly cool ashes.
If you must dispose of ashes with your trash you should wait a week or two and be sure they're properly damp. Here are some other ways to safely empty your ash can: