Many folks like me burn firewood for supplemental heat, but also for the pleasure of warming up your backend next to it on a cold day. Whether you cut your own or purchase firewood, you want all the heat you can get out of it. Diong an annual cleaning of your woodstove can increase its heating efficiency a bunch, so it’s well worth doing.
When ash and creosote buildup inside a stove, they act as insulation that keeps heat from being radiated into the room. Just a 1/8 inch layer of creosote on the inside surfaces of your stove can reduce heat output by 20 percent. Ash built up on internal baffles and air intakes can also choke off a stove’s draft. These problems can be solved with a simple tune-up. Here are some things to check out.
• Make sure your stove is stone cold with no live coals. Shovel out the ashes and brush off the stoves interior. Use a wire brush to scrape the interior thoroughly until it is clean down to bare metal. Check closely for any cracks that may show up. Minor defects can be welded or brazed, depending on the metal. When finished, put around 2 inches of ash back into the stove to help shield the bottom from the 1,000 degree heat of burning embers.
• Clean the exterior of the stove with a damp sponge and dry off with a clean rag. Rust spots should be lightly sanded and then repainted using high-temperature stove paint.
• It is recommended that you replace the door gasket (if it has one) every year or at least inspect it for potential leaks
• If your stove has a blower, remove it and clean its interior. Lubricate the fan motor if it is designed to do that according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Remove the flue pipe and examine it for wear. It it’s rusty, crumbly or clogged, replace it.
• This is the most important safety step you can do. Clean and inspect your chimney. Do this or have it done every year without fail to avoid creosote buildup that can lead to a house-threatening chimney fire.
Steve Roark is the area forester in Tazewell, Tennessee for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.