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Don’t be left out in the cold

Thursday, October 26th 2006 8:47:15am

Don’t be left out in the cold
Make sure your woodstove is ready for the winter season

With Thanksgiving behind us, thoughts are slowly shifting to the upcoming holiday season. While most of us would rather be sharpening our skates or waxing our skis, in reality, we’re far more likely to be untangling lights, replacing old shovels or tuning the snow blower. As such, it can be easy to overlook the one thing that we’ll depend on the most this winter―the woodstove.

More than anything else, your wood burning stove needs the same care and preparations in order to maximize heating while ensuring safety for your family. With a little effort now, you can avoid problems when you’re hosting family and friends.

Getting started

The most important thing woodstove owners should consider as they prepare to operate their stoves is to make sure there aren’t any obstructions in the chimney. Regular servicing and cleaning is the best way to prevent build-up like creosote or animals from blocking the chimney. Similarly, a simple visual inspection can spot corrosion in metal chimneys, or in the case of a masonry chimney, cracked bricks or white stains indicating potential problems. These can lead to dangerous chimney fires and should be corrected immediately – for a list of qualified “WETT” certified technicians in your area check out www.wettinc.ca.

Some other steps woodstove owners should consider includes adjusting the loading door and checking all the gasket seals. A tightly sealed door will prevent smoke and gases from leaking into the room and ensure that there is the right amount of air being drawn into the burning chamber through combustion air inlets, key for efficient and safe burning. Seals around the glass panels and ash-pan openings should similarly be checked or replaced.

Fire brick and baffle plates should be checked to make sure they are keeping the fire contained and burning safely. Some modern appliances utilize a combustor to greatly reduce emissions―if you have one of those appliances make sure the combustor has been cleaned and is firing.

Replacing your woodstove

For those of you in the market for a new woodstove, consider a new, advanced combustion EPA woodstove, insert or fireplace.

These units have a clean glass and a beautiful fire. They also make life easier by getting the same amount of heat while using one third less wood as a conventional stove. Burning the smoke makes for a great fire and results in substantial reductions in smoke production and creosote deposits. Reductions are typically in the neighbourhood of 50% to 80%. This translates into almost negligible smoke emissions.

Older stoves can emit 40-80 grams of smoke per hour while newer advanced combustion stoves emit only 2-5 grams of smoke per hour. If you are not sure about how much smoke your stove is releasing, take the chimney test. The next time you use your woodstove, go outside and look at your chimney. If there is a thick, black smoke, return inside to adjust the air inlets till you have cleaned up your stove emissions. Of course, you can avoid constantly adjusting the inlets by using a new advanced combustion woodstove. Only then can you be confident that you are burning cleanly and safely.

These are just some of the many tips you should keep in mind as you gear up for another busy season of hosting family, friends, and neighbours. For more suggestions, please visit www.burnitsmart.org for details on how to be a responsible woodstove owner.

Tex McLeod is Manager of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association of Canada

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Tex McLeod, 416-921-5501

For an extensive list of advance combustion woodstove dealers or to speak with a HPBAC member, contact Jonathan Laderoute, 416-972-7401