Heating your home with a woodstove seems pretty simple, right? Put wood in the stove, light it and it will provide you with warmth. Surprise – There is a lot more going on in your chimney than you think. Creosote is a by-product of wood combustion, a highly combustible fuel that forms in your chimney – One of the leading causes of fires at Apex Resort.
When was the last time you had your chimney properly examined? Other than sweeping it once a year (maybe) many people don’t give much thought to their chimneys, especially to what is happening inside it. When your woodstove fire is burned hot, mainly water and carbon dioxide are emitted from your chimney. With an inefficient fire, you can actually see and smell the unsafe smoke outside. Where any smoke leaving the woodstove flows up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation will occur.
The resulting residue that sticks to the chimney’s inner walls is creosote, which is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty/flakey, tar-like, drippy and sticky, or shiny and hardened. 90% of the time, all forms occur in the same chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If sufficient quantities build up, a fire can start in your chimney flue. To ensure your chimney is clean, have it checked regularly by a Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) certified chimney sweep. These certified professionals have passed rigorous training programs recognized by industry and government.
Not only will this prevent creosote build up and chimney fires, but it will ensure the efficiency of your chimney providing a draft which is the main driving force of the system. Without a good, strong draft, stoves will not operate at peak efficiencies. Produced in the chimney by hot rising gases, draft causes a negative pressure or suction to develop in the firebox. This draws more air in allowing the fire to continue burning. Woodstoves depend on the draft generated by a hot chimney to safely exhaust gases resulting from the burning wood. Interior chimneys are highly recommended as they are always warm, so the draft is better and creosote problems are less likely to occur.
To ensure a clean, safe and efficient fire, you need to burn the right kind of fuel. Wood sizzling in the stove is the most obvious sign your wood is too wet and can be a major safety hazard. It creates excessive smoke leading to creosote problems.
It takes softwood at least 4-6 months to air-dry with less than a 20% moisture level. You’ll be disappointed if you collect or order your wood right before the cold hits as very little drying takes place after October. By properly seasoning your wood before you burn, you reduce wood smoke production and creosote buildup. As a bonus, your firewood consumption can be reduced up to 25 percent! Dry wood burns more efficiently so less wood is needed for the same heat output. If not well-seasoned, a big part of your wood’s heating value will be lost driving off excess water.
Remember, burn only well-seasoned wood. Never burn garbage treated or manufactured wood products – They will cause wood-smoke production and often the emission of toxic chemicals.