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Frequently Asked Questions

What do I use to clean my wood stove glass?

Most wood stoves have an “air wash” system to keep the glass relatively clean. However, deposits do build up over time and should be cleaned off at the first available time. Many specialized chemical products are available commercially to clean your glass. Note that there is no miracle product. If your glass has not been cleaned periodically, creosote build-ups and combustion residues will become hardened and difficult to remove and, in some cases, permanent. A damp cloth dabbed into clean cold ash makes a cleaning paste similar to some mild abrasive cleaners. When rubbed on a cold dirty glass surface and cleaned off with a dry cloth, the results are quite acceptable. However, over time, this method may scratch the glass.

Why does my glass get so dirty?

Glass should be clean enough to view the fire easily. This is accomplished by feeding primary combustion air into the fire from a slot running across the top of the glass just inside the door opening. The flow of air “washes” the glass unless one of the following occurs:

    • Air flows into the stove to feed the fire from another source other than the air wash. Most common is the door or glass seal but it could be any joint in the main panels low in the stove (including the air channels inside the combustion chamber).
    • Poor draft: the air flow is very poor and not providing enough air to "wash" the glass especially on a full load.
    • Burning unseasoned wood.
    • Wood is too dry which causes too many particulates to be emitted rapidly.

Why does the EPA tag on my stove say a different efficiency than the specs published for the stove by the manufacturer?

All jurisdictions in the U.S. and some in Canada require the stove be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA clean air test does not include actual efficiency testing. EPA grants all non-catalytic stoves a default efficiency of 63% and because most catalytic designs are around 10% more efficient, the catalytic stoves are granted 72%. The manufacturer’s published calculated efficiency will usually be much higher — some in the 89% range. Keep in mind there are several methods of calculating efficiency so comparing efficiencies may not provide an accurate picture of the stove’s performance. The U.S. government’s list of stoves approved for the recent tax credit is a good start because all stoves listed there must be proven by a specific real world method to be over 75% efficient to be considered for the program. 

What does the term EPA mean?

EPA stands for the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is a United States governmental organization whose mission is to protect human health and the environment. EPA certified wood stoves meet emissions guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA certified stoves will generally release fewer particulates into the atmosphere. Almost all stoves manufactured or sold in North America meet these guidelines as most jurisdictions in North America (including all in the U.S.) require an EPA certification.

What advantage is an ash drawer?

Stoves with an ash drawer or ash dump allow you to clean the excess ash from your unit without stopping to let the stove cool down. Ashes are raked or sliced through slits in a cast grate or a small opening in the stove bottom into an ash container below. Hot coals for the next fire are pushed to one side and colder ashes raked into the ash drawer. Alternatively a slicer is used to slice under the ashes and slide the ashes into the ash drawer. A small rake about 20" long is the most common tool to push the hot embers to the side and rake the ashes into the drawer. While more convenient than shoveling ashes directly from the combustion chamber, the ashes still need to be dumped as soon as they reach the top of the ash container.

Why does my stove smoke or puff smoke?

This is usually caused by poor draft or draw. The chimney system does not pull hard enough to move the exhaust fumes quickly through the secondary burn off system. Volatile flue gases then ignite inside the main combustion zone (the fire) and make small puffs of smoke. Poor draw could be caused by one or a combination of one of the following:

    • Chimney system (connector pipe and chimney) not to the minimum height - usually 16' from the stovetop.
    • Dilution of the draft (air pulled in from a source other than through the firebox) in the chimney caused by a loose or missing clean out; a loose flue collar; loose connector pipe joint or a crack in the masonry chimney if used.
    • Blockage or restriction of the exhaust path, caused by build up of ash in the secondary combustion zone; blockage in the catalyst if present; clogged rain cap or blockage in the chimney.
    • Burning unseasoned wood.

What is the best way to store firewood?

If purchasing or splitting your own wood, try to get a mix of split and non split wood. Wood seasons faster once split and the smaller the split, the faster the drying time. Seasoning means evaporating the sap from the wood. It’s best to stack the wood outside away from the house (to prevent insect infestation). Stack the wood in a stable method off the ground and cover the top to prevent water from saturating the wood but allow the front and back to remain open for air to flow through. The seasoning process takes from 12 to 18 months. Properly seasoned wood has cracks radiating at each end of the log and is much lighter than first stacked. If you have access to a moisture meter, burning when the wood is 16% - 29% moisture content, is ideal.

Will I need wall protection?

For accurate pre-planning, download a copy of the user manual for the stove you are considering buying. It will list minimum clearances from the stove to surrounding combustible walls and sometimes a separate listing for minimum clearances to a protected wall (usually less than clearances to combustible walls). These minimum clearances must be met. If you want to move your stove closer than allowed by the minimum clearances to combustible walls, then the walls need to be protected with non-combustible surfaces. Methods for doing this are usually listed in the manual for the stove or in your local fire code. Keep in mind, the further from interior and exterior walls the stove is placed the better the heat distribution.

What type of floor protection do I need under my stove?

All stoves list the proper stove protection in the installation manual for the appliance. One common requirement is for a continuous non-combustible hearth on which to place the stove (minimum dimensions are listed in the manual). These surfaces have a required “R” value which is established during the manufacturer’s testing of the stove. This minimum resistance to conduction of radiant heat (or “R” value) must be met and may be the total of all the “R” values in any layers of material under the stove. “R” values for different building materials are listed by the manufacturers of the materials. Downloading the manual to determine these values and the best hearth for your installation, is a prerequisite for proper pre-planning.

Do I need a permit to install my wood stove?

Almost all local jurisdictions require a permit to install your wood stove. Some will also inspect the installation. City building inspectors usually conduct inspections for the levels of construction outlined on the issued permit. This service is supplied to verify the appliance is properly certified for that jurisdiction and the proper clearances have been met. You may also contract with a certified stove inspector — usually WETT certified in Canada or NFI certified in the U.S.— to be sure your installation meets all regulations. Most insurance companies require at least an inspection by a qualified professional before insuring a home with a wood stove.