Fire newbie- what do I need to know?

cearbhaillNovember 1, 2007

This past year I relocated from a tropical climate to a temperate one- this will be my first "winter" in 30 years and I'm scared!

We have a fireplace in the basement of our home that we hope to use as supplemental heat. When we moved into the home we had a chimney guy come and install a fireplace insert (Pacific Energy), run a stainless steel liner and do some small repairs to the outside of the chimney and put on a new cap. He also added a cold air return to the area so our heat pump will utilize the warm air more efficiently, and hopefully we can run on 'fan only' sometimes, too. So I am inspected and clean and checked out all around in that regard.

We have plenty of fully seasoned wood, plus an unlimited supply of our own timber for the future. Lookin' good, right?

So it's cooler weather and getting nippy and the husband is afraid to light a fire because he doen't want to burn the house down- so why did we spend all that money on the new insert?? Don't laugh- you guys all had to learn sometime!

We open the flue all the way, right? We arrange our kindling, fatwood, or starter wafer but first light a piece of paper and hold it in the flue to get the draw going. Then we light the kindling, keeping the flue open (all the way?) and slowly adding wood until it gets going well. Then close up the flue some to control the burn.

Am I on the right track here?

Any recommended reading or hints before we begin?

I am really looking forward to firing this thing up but want to do so in as safe a manner as is possible.

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you are on track except DO NOT CLOSE THE FLUE! if your insert has dampers onteh front/sides for combustion air, then yes you can close them some to control teh fire. but the flue is for the smoke to escape. if you close it, the smoke goes all in the house.

i applaud you for going the distance of having it inspected/cleaned and getting the insert. you would be surprised how many people just throw a pile of wood in a fireplace they know nothing about, light it, then either start a chimney fire or smoke up the house!

also, do not burn a lot of pine/other sappy wood in the FP. it is ok for a starter log, but once the fire gets going use good hardwood. you get less creosote build up with hardwood than with sappier woods. plus the fire will burn longer.

when it comes time to clean out the ashes, use a METAL bucket. unless you literally have not had a fire in a week or more, there will likely still be hot coals in the ash. once you stir them up scooping into a bucket, they start to get hot quick. put the ashes inteh bucket, and take them outside away from the house. i have 3 buckets, 1 empty and 2 full. the oldest sits for a few days outside before i dump it in the compost pile. then the next oldest is moved into it's place when the 3rd bucket is full and the 1st is returned to by the FP.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 11:43AM
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The Pacific Energy website has downloadable manuals available for their products. The inserts are under steel stoves. Hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pacific Energy website

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 6:19AM
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The other responses are good.
You say you have timber. Good. Cut next year's firewood NOW.
Up here they cut the trees in winter and stack them. In spring the trees are cut to firewood length and in the fall they are split. The wood is ready to go. But do NOT cut a tree and toss it into the stove. It will do nothing more than sizzle.
Our stove has been going 24/7 for about 2 weeks. Right now it's 26 degrees outside.

Chris in VT

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 7:12AM
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I did not understand the distinction between the flue and any dampers built into my insert, thanks. I need to go over the instructions as I do not recall seeing a flue handle/control inside the insert- the top of the opening is solid on the inside. Does that sound right? I do have my owners manual so will be sure and reread it before we fire it up. I think all I have is a lo-med-hi damper and lo-med-hi/auto blower controls.

I know not to use pine or fresh wood but the reminder is welcome. And I have one metal bucket but it's a good idea to rotate them like that so thanks also.

I'm just an over-preparer, it's my curse.

I am reading the SafeSide information linked to below and it says to always build a fire on a bed of ashes. Obviously the first time we do it we will have no ashes- just spanking new firebricks lining the unit. Any caveats on
that front?

Here is a link that might be useful: SafeSide Chimney woodstove information

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 11:15AM
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