creosote Archives - The Cozy Flame

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Wood, Gas, or Pellet? Which is the Fuel for You?

When it comes to fireplace fuel, it’s not about which fuel is best, but which is best for you. Many homeowners prefer one fuel over others due to accessibility, cost, and convenience. We certainly have our favorites, but it’s our goal to match you with the best possible product for your home, your family, and your specific needs. The industry and market have reached a place where it truly comes down to the fuel. You can have a fireplace or stove of any style and efficiency—but will it be a wood, gas, or pellet unit?

Wood Fires

Wood-burning units are still a favorite among homeowners because of the beautiful flame and high heat output the fireplaces, stoves, and inserts offer. Homeowners with wooded property can cut and store their own firewood. Those with less accessibility may need to purchase their firewood from a local supplier. This can become a hassle and is the reason why many homeowners end up converting to pellet or gas fire units. Also, although wood-burning units are more efficient than ever, wood fires still burn less efficiently than gas or pellet fires. They add more pollution to the environment, require more chimney maintenance, and require more work in general lighting fires, disposing of ash, and finding properly seasoned firewood.

Pellet Fires

For the homeowners who love the look and feel of wood fires, the pellet fireplace may be right for you. Pellets are made of recycled wood products and burn efficiently and completely. Pellet units are high-efficiency units and more convenient than wood-burning units because you don’t have to mess with kindling and matches to light. Pellet stoves and fireplaces have an ignitor that immediately lights the pellets, then the fire is continuously fed by a hopper filled with pellets. This allows for all the heat of a wood fire, but with the convenient light and consistent temperature of a gas fire. Because pellets are made of organic materials, they still produce soot and creosote which will need to be cleaned from the chimney periodically. However, pellets burn more completely than wood, and you’ll never have to wonder if the pellets are properly seasoned.

Gas Fires

The most efficient fuel type for fireplaces, inserts, and stoves is natural gas. Gas offers freedom to the homeowner not possible with other fuel types. Your gas unit can be installed anywhere, depending on the type and ventilation requirements. It burns cleanly and requires the least maintenance of any fuel type or product. Gas units can be used in small spaces like hotels, condos, apartments, and bedrooms. They can be open flames or completely closed units that use blowers and radiant heat to heat the space in your home. Gas fireplaces and stoves are ideal for zone heating and may not be best as a primary heat source. There aren’t a lot of reasons to choose wood or pellets over gas, though they can result in some issues, especially when installed incorrectly.

If you’re ready to choose a new fire unit for you home, stop in so that a Comfort Consultant can help you decide which is best for you. Stop in at 116-Q Research Dr today.

By Steve Sobczak | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

Have A Wood Burning Insert? Only Burn Seasoned Firewood!

Only Burn Seasoned Firewood Image - Milford CT - The Cozy FlameWhen most of us think about fireplaces we imagine cozying up in front of a roaring wood fire. Unfortunately, open hearth masonry fireplaces are among the least efficient heating appliances, with as much as 90% of the heat produced by the fire going straight up the chimney. For homeowners who want the look and feel of a real wood fire – without the extreme inefficiency – a wood burning insert is often the perfect solution.

If you have a wood burning insert, it is important to use the right kind of firewood to keep it burning safely and efficiently. For inserts – and for all wood burning appliances – seasoned firewood is the best choice for firewood.

What is seasoned wood?

Seasoning wood isn’t about salt, pepper, or your favorite spices! Instead, it refers to the process by which wood is cut, stacked, and exposed to the elements to dry. While the seasoning process can anywhere from six months to a year – or longer – it is the only way to get the best wood for your fireplace.

The primary purpose of the seasoning process is the removal of moisture from the wood. When wood is cut it contains as much as 40-50% water. The water content in freshly cut or “green” firewood makes it difficult to ignite, burn sluggishly, produce greater amounts of smoke, and creates additional creosote. After seasoning, the moisture content in wood is as low as 10-20%. This lower moisture content helps the wood ignite and burn quickly and at higher temperatures, making a better fire and a more enjoyable experience for you and your family.

Tips for finding the best firewood

Unless you cut, chop, stack, and store your own firewood, finding properly seasoned wood can be a challenge. When shopping for firewood, the following tips can ensure you are getting the best seasoned firewood for your wood insert.

  • Find a reputable seller. Ads for firewood can be found online, in newspapers, and even posted in local hardware stores. Before purchasing, make sure to ask questions about the wood: What kind of wood is it? When was it cut? How long has it been seasoned for? Reputable sellers should be able to easily answer any questions about the firewood they are selling.
  • Decide how much to buy. Unless you are buying a few logs at a time, firewood is typically sold by the cord and can be broken into sections of half, quarter, or third cords. Because cords are not measurements typically used in everyday life, it can be difficult to visualize how much wood this is. A cord of wood will measure four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long. The amount of wood you use will depend on the size of your home and fireplace, how often it is used, and whether or not it is used as a primary heat source.
  • Only burn seasoned wood. Wood or wood products that are prefabricated, pre-treated, or painted are never suitable for use in an fireplace insert. This includes plywood and fencing and decking materials. The coatings on these kinds of wood can release toxic chemicals into the air when burned.

Choosing the right firewood can help you get the most out of your wood burning fireplace insert. For more information on the importance of seasoned firewood or to find a new wood burning insert for your home, contact The Cozy Flame today!

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Cleaning and Maintaining Your Wood Stove

Cleaning and Maintaining Your Wood Stove - The Cozy Flame - Milford CTWood stoves are no longer rustic heating alternatives meant just for log cabins and hunting lodges. Instead, modern wood stoves are energy efficient appliances that can produce enough heat to keep your home’s living areas warm and cozy.

While one of the draws of wood stoves is that they often require less upkeep than wood burning fireplaces, they still need to be regularly maintained. Below are some tips for cleaning and maintaining your wood stove.

Ash removal

One of the best things homeowners can do to maintain their wood stoves is to regularly remove ashes. Depending on frequency of use, ashes may need to be removed as often as every few days or as little as a few times per month. Ashes should always be removed before there is an excessive buildup, especially around the startup air housing or loading doors.

When removing ashes, wait until the fire has died down and the ashes are completely cooled. This allows any remaining ashes or coals to extinguish before the ashes are removed, minimizing the risk of burns from any remaining hot embers. Ashes should be stored in a metal container with a tight fitting lid and should never be dumped into cardboard or paper containers or mixed with regular trash.

To improve the startup for your next fire, leave ½ to 1 inch of ash on the bottom of the firebox. Doing this creates an insulating layer that allows for a more uniform burn than occurs in a completely clean firebox.

Glass cleaning

Never clean the glass while the stove in is use. Instead, wait for the stove to cool down to room temperature after use; depending on how long the stove was operating, it may take several hours for the stove to cool down.

The interior glass of your wood stove can be cleaned using a soft, clean cloth and fireplace glass cleaner. Allow the cleaner to dry completely and buff away any excess cleaner before closing the door. Regular household cleaners should never be used when cleaning the interior glass; because they are not designed to be heat safe, the chemicals in regular cleaners may ignite, damage the glass, or release toxic chemicals when the wood stove is in use.

Minimizing creosote buildup

Creosote buildup is the leading cause of chimney fire; because of this, it is important to minimize creosote buildup in your wood stove. The following burning and usage tips can help you minimize the amount of creosote produced by your wood stove.

  • Burn the stove with the draft control completely open for 10-15 minutes each morning during the burning season.
  • Whenever new wood is added to the fire, open the damper to the full open position for 10-15 minutes.
  • Never burn wet or green wood.
  • Instead of a large, low fire burn a smaller, hot fire.
  • Do not allow fires to smolder for long periods of time.
  • Have your chimney professionally swept and inspected.

For more information on wood stoves and wood stove maintenance, contact The Cozy Flame today!

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Preventing Creosote

Preventing Creosote - Milford CT - The Cozy FlameAlthough the temperatures have begun to warm up, many homeowners like to continue using their fireplaces into the spring and summer months. In order to prevent overheating, many will run their fireplaces or stoves at a low temperature. While this prevents your home from getting excessively warm, it can have unintended consequences – excessive creosote buildup.

While creosote is created by all fuel burning appliances, improperly using your fireplace or stove can cause excessive creosote buildup. This can not only impact the efficiency of your fireplace or stove, but can also affect you and your family’s safety.

What is creosote?

Creosote is a substance that is created as a byproduct of fuel burning fires. While more prevalent in heating appliances that use wood, creosote can also be created by natural gas and propane.

When your fireplace is in use, small amounts of creosote may build up in your chimney and flue. Creosote can take many forms; it may be brown or grey, fluffy or flaky, or even shiny, hard, and black if it has hardened into glazed creosote. In any of its forms, creosote is extremely flammable. Accidental ignition of creosote is the primary cause of chimney fire.

Because creosote is so flammable, creosote removal is the primary reason it is recommended that all fireplaces and stoves have their chimneys swept each year.

Causes of excessive creosote buildup

While all fuel burning fires create creosote, it is not created in equal amounts. A normal wood burning fire using seasoned firewood  produces very little creosote; however, there are a number of things that can cause excessive creosote buildup.

Running stoves at low temperatures: One of the primary causes of excessive creosote buildup is running stoves at low temperatures. When the weather is mild, homeowners may use flue pipe thermometers to keep the temperature of their fire low. Without the hot air to blow the byproducts of combustion up the flue, a smoldering fire will cause them to linger in the chimney, quickly lining your flue with creosote.

Burning green wood: Because freshly cut firewood can have moisture content of as high as 50%, the fire must evaporate the water before the wood itself can burn. This causes both excessive smoke and excessive buildup of creosote.

Improperly sized flue: A flue that is too large for the fireplace can draw in too much cold air, causing the byproducts of combustion to prematurely cool on the walls of the flue. Likewise, burning a fire with restricted air flow can lead to additional creosote deposits.

Preventing creosote

Although creosote is an inevitable part of using a fuel burning appliance, there are a number of things homeowners can do to minimize the amount of creosote created. First, only seasoned firewood should be burned. Fires should not be allowed to purposefully smolder or burn at a low temperature; likewise, over firing should also be avoided. In addition, any new heating appliances such as stoves or inserts should be professionally installed in order to ensure that the flue is properly sized.

If you have questions about how creosote may be affecting the safety or efficiency of your fireplace or stove, contact The Cozy Flame today!

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How to Properly Start a Fire in the Fireplace

Most homeowners have their own tips and tricks that they have developed over the years to start a fire in their fireplaces. However, when done correctly the process is more complicated than simply throwing wood and a match into the fire.

Start A Fire With Less Smoke - Milford, CT - The Cozy FlameThe following steps will help you properly start a fire using the top down method. While this may be different than the way you are used to building a fire, it is shown to create fires that last longer, burn better, require less stoking, and produce less smoke. While the setup of a top down fire may take a few more minutes, you should save time tending the fire and increase your overall enjoyment.

1. Gather the materials
As with any fire, you’ll need wood, kindling, and a way to start the fire such as matches or a lighter. When selecting firewood, it is extremely important to only use seasoned firewood that has been cured for a minimum of six months. Freshly cut wood has a moisture content of as high as 45%; if this “green” wood is burned, it will create a low-quality fire that has a low temperature and a large amount of smoke. Seasoned wood, on the other hand, burns hotter, ignites more quickly, and produces significantly less smoke.

2. Open the damper (and a window)

The damper should always be open when the fireplace is in use. This includes before attempting to start a fire and while waiting for the remaining coals and embers to extinguish. Leaving the damper closed at any time during fireplace use could allow smoke and gasses such as carbon monoxide to back up into your home.

Likewise, cracking a window near the fireplace may help your fire burn better. Fires need oxygen to burn, and if your home is sealed the fire may burn sluggishly. Opening a window even a few inches gives the fire fresh oxygen to burn without significantly affecting the air temperature in your home.

3. Stack the logs

The way the logs are stacked is the biggest difference between top down and traditionally built fires. To build a top down fire, largest logs should be placed in the bottom of the firebox with the ends to the front and back. Stacking the logs like this allows better air flow through the fire. Building off of the large logs, add logs that are gradually smaller until the firebox is about half full, topping the firewood with kindling.

4. Ignite the kindling

To get the fire started, light the kindling placed on top of the front to back stacked firewood. As the kindling burns down, it can easily ignite the smaller logs underneath it. Some homeowners using the top down method snake newspaper throughout the stack of logs as another way to help the firewood ignite.

5. Enjoy!

A top down fire requires less stoking as there are no large, unburnt logs falling down on smaller logs. This allows you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the roaring fire with your friends and family!

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