The Cozy Flame's Blog

Fire Building Tips for Your Wood Burning Insert

Your wood burning insert is the perfect addition to your home. It will make your holidays warmer, your favorite room cozier, and your heating bills less painful. Save money this winter by having the best fire possible in your wood-burning insert.

Burning the Right Wood

It doesn’t matter how well you build your fire, it won’t burn well if it isn’t appropriate for burning. You should only burn properly seasoned firewood in your wood burning insert. Wood that is too wet is called “green” and burns incompletely, producing more pollution, leaving more creosote in the flue, and bringing down the chimney’s efficiency in general.

Lighting the Fire

You should never use ignition fuels like gasoline in your wood-burning insert. It is not designed to withstand that kind of concentrated heat, nor has it been tested for safety for use in that way. The best way to light your fire every time is to keep kindling on hand as well as some small bits of paper or lint to light.

The Top-Down Method

The top-down method may be a new idea in America, but it has been used in Europe for hundreds of years in masonry heaters. It also works in stoves, fireplaces, and inserts and is a more efficient way to build and burn a fire. First, you place your largest pieces of wood on the bottom of the fireplace—ends at front and back. Next, place 4-5 smaller levels of wood on top until that stack fills about ½ the height of the fireplace. The kindling will be on top, and can begin as sticks, and end with wood shavings and crumbled bits of paper. The entire stack should stay below the fireplace opening so that air circulates properly. As the smaller fuel burns, it falls below, igniting the wood on the next level. Building your fire in this way allows for a cleaner, hotter burn that uses less fuel. In addition, the chimney that vents the smoke better than you’ve ever seen.

Keep it Clean

Your wood burning insert works as well as it’s cared for. Professionally instal and regularly service your insert to ensure the safety and efficiency of the system. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommend regular chimney maintenance in order to burn a safe and efficient fire this winter. Chimney sweeps keep the flue clear of debris, soot, and creosote. Chimney inspections assess the safety and function of the system so that your fire will be beautiful, warm, and easy on the environment.

The best way to build a fire in your wood burning insert is to consistently use the insert properly. Do not burn trash, clothes, or anything else that is not wood. Keep the doors closed when a fire is burning. Utilize the vents and flue damper to allow air to circulate your fire. While you’re at it, make sure you brush up on fireplace safety and discuss fireplace safety with your family. Find a trusted chimney sweep company for all of your comprehensive chimney needs, and call The Cozy Flame for all of your hearth needs.

Call The Cozy Flame at 203-283-4459 today!

What Firewood Should I Choose?

Before going out and buying the first cord of firewood for your fireplace this season, make sure you are buying good efficient hardwood that has been well seasoned for fireplace use.

What-Firewood-Should-I-Choose-Milford-CT-The-Cozy-Flame

For questions on the the right wood and fuel for your stove or fireplace, contact the fireplace experts at The Cozy Flame in Milford, CT.

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Proper Firewood Storage

Proper Firewood Storage - Milford, CT- The Cozy FlameAs fall and winter approach and the temperatures outside start getting cooler, many homeowners are preparing for the change in the seasons by buying their firewood for the season. After you purchase firewood, however, it is important to properly store it in order to get the most out of your purchase.

Wood that is stored incorrectly is more likely get wet, rot, have bugs, or have other signs of decay that make it unsuitable for burning in your fireplace. Properly storing your firewood ensures that you will have quality wood to last all winter long.

 

Buying the right firewood

If you’re going to put in the time and effort to correctly store your firewood, it is important that you buy the right wood to begin with. Because there are a number of different kinds of firewood, the specific kind of wood you purchase often comes down to personal preference. Hard woods such as ash, oak, and maple create a fire that burns hotter, maintains a more constant heat, and produces less smoke. However, hard woods are more difficult to ignite and may take longer to get a fire started.

Soft woods such as pines, firs, and spruces are easier to ignite and are often used as kindling for hard wood fires. Soft woods also tend to produce more smoke, making them ideal to use in grills or when smoking meat. However, the amount of smoke produced and the low temperature fires they create may not be ideal for use in an interior fireplace.

No matter what kind of firewood you choose, it is important that the wood is properly seasoned. Seasoned firewood is wood that has dried through exposure to the elements for at least six months. Seasoning firewood removes the high moisture content that fresh cut wood has, allowing it to burn at hotter temperatures with less smoke and less creosote creation.

How to store firewood

After you’ve taken the time to find the perfect firewood, it is important to store it correctly as well. First, firewood should be stored off the ground; large metal firewood racks can be used, but wood can even be stacked on top of treated boards. Keeping the bottom layer of wood off of the ground keeps the wood dry, preventing rotting and helping to minimize insects in the wood.

The top of the firewood stack should also be covered to protect it from snow buildup. If too much moisture is allowed to build up on top of the firewood, it can trickle down through the entire stack, causing rot throughout. Instead, the wood should be stored so that the top is covered but the sides are left open, allowing wood to flow through the wood and help dry out any moisture exposure.

While it may seem tempting to store large amounts of firewood inside, only the wood you immediately need should be kept inside. When allowed to warm to room temperature, insects that are dormant in the wood may become active, escaping into your home. Instead, keep wood outdoors until it is needed; small amounts of wood can also be kept in a garage or shed to minimize the amount of time you spend collecting wood in the cold.

If you have any questions about firewood or the right firewood for your fireplace, furnace, or stove, contact the experts at The Cozy Flame.

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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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Fireplace and Stove Heating Efficiency Tips

Fireplaces and stoves are a wonderful way for homeowners to heat their homes during the cold winter months. With so many choices in size, cost, and fuel source, homeowners are able to find a heating appliance to perfectly fit their needs. Modern stoves and fireplaces can be used to heat entire homes, or as a complement to other existing heat sources.

Choose Seasoned Firewood - Milford CT - The Cozy FlameAs the heat from a fire rises, cold outside air rushes down to replace it. If stoves and fireplaces have not been properly maintained or are used incorrectly, they can let cold air in. In some cases this rush of cold air can completely negate the heating effects of the fire in the first place. Luckily, there are several ways that homeowners can help improve the efficiency of their fireplaces and stoves, minimizing the loss of warm air and maximizing their heating ability.

Use the right firewood

The main way that homeowners can improve the efficiency of wood burning appliances is through burning the correct firewood. Only seasoned firewood should be used in fireplaces and stoves. Seasoned firewood has a lower moisture content than freshly cut wood, meaning the fire burns hotter and produces less smoke than fires using freshly cut wood.

In addition to burning more efficiently, fires built with seasoned firewood are also better for the overall health of your fireplace. Fresh cut wood produces larger amounts of creosote, a highly flammable, sticky byproduct of wood burning fires that is one of the primary causes of chimney fire. While all firewood will produce creosote, seasoned firewood creates much smaller amounts.

Close the damper

A damper is the metal plate that separates the firebox from the chimney structure. Dampers are meant to create an airtight seal, preventing warm air from inside the home from escaping and keeping cold air and moisture from outside from entering the home.

Over time, dampers may become warped and lose their air tight seal. Having a damper professional fitted, fixed, or replaced can ensure there is no loss of heat from the home. Although dampers should be left open while a fire is burning or extinguishing, a well-fitting damper can keep your fireplace from losing heat while not in use.

Have your chimney professionally cleaned

Fireplaces and stoves that are not regularly maintained or cleaned may lose efficiency due to a buildup of ash, creosote, and soot. According to the US Department of Energy, as little as one-tenth of an inch of soot buildup can reduce the heat transfer efficiency of a fireplace by as much as 50%. Likewise, a certified chimney sweep will be able to identify any damage to the stove, fireplace, or chimney – such as cracks in the flue – that may be causing a loss of efficiency.

Upgrade your existing appliance

In the last decade, fireplaces, stoves, and other fuel burning appliances have become increasingly efficient and environmentally sound. Upgrading your existing fireplace with a wood burning insert increases efficiency while keeping the look and feel of an actual wood burning fire. Likewise, most new wood burning stoves are EPA certified to produce low emissions and have built in fans to better circulate warm air through the home.

If you have questions about the efficiency of your fireplace or stove or would like more information on upgrading your existing appliances, contact the experts at The Cozy Flame today!

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