Why is my woodburner not burning well?

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There is no greater sight than that of your wood-burning stove roaring away, its flames licking against the glass and heating your room.

Equally, there are few sights more frustrating than a woodburner that’s not burning well, the flames struggling to get going and the room hardly heating at all.

So, why might a woodburner not be performing as you would expect?

Damp fuel

By far the most common cause of a stove that is not burning well is the use of damp fuel. When burning wood with a high moisture level, the energy created by the burning process is wasted on evaporating the water rather than heating the room.

As a result, the performance of the stove is affected and the fire never really gets going. You can check whether this might be the problem by using a moisture meter. Ideally, your logs should be seasoned until the moisture content is around 20-25%.

Wrong sort of fuel

Another possibility is that you are burning fuel that is not recommended for use with your wood-burning stove. Read the instruction manual for your appliance and make sure you only burn fuel types that are recommended by the manufacturer.

Blockage or draw issues

A wood-burning stove might also be unable to achieve a powerful burn if there is an issue with the draw of air through the stove and up the flue. The problem could be caused by a blockage in the flue (in which case a chimney sweep would be able to help you). It could also be caused by a lack of ventilation in the room, so that the stove is trying to draw back into the room rather than up the chimney. Another possibility is that it is due to a poor draw on the flue (perhaps because the property is particularly exposed), which might corrected with the installation of a suitable chimney cowl.

If you’re still unsure, you should consult with a competent heating professional.

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Water in woodburner: why is there water in my stove?

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While fire and water are both among the classical elements, they don’t traditionally go together well. In fact, water is one of the last things you would expect to find in your woodburner, so it can be a concern if that happens.

So, why is there water in your stove? Let’s look at some possible explanations.

Rainwater

The simplest explanation and the one that is easiest to solve is that some rainwater has got into your stove. Your flue provides a direct route to the outside world, so it is possible for rain to make its way down your chimney and settle in your stove.

For this reason, we recommend you occasionally light your woodburner during extended periods out of use – such as during the summer – to evaporate any water that has got into your stove system and reduce the risk of rust forming. You might also consider fitting a chimney cowl that would provide some protection from precipitation.

Condensation

Water can also appear in your stove in the form of condensation. This happens if your stove is not working hard enough. The flue gases cool more quickly than if the stove was operating at full power and condense against the inside wall of the flue. This condensation can then seep down into the stove.

If you find black water in a woodburner, this is likely to be tar condensation. This is caused in the same as detailed above. You can prevent condensation in your stove by:

  • only burning seasoned wood
  • ensuring there is a strong draw up your chimney
  • operating your stove at full capacity
  • ensuring there is plenty of ventilation in your room
  • allowing ventilation into your stove system when it is out of use

Lighting a boiler stove

If you spot moisture in a boiler stove soon after lighting an appliance, this can be called by warm, damp air in the stove hitting the cold surface of the boiler. It should disappear shortly after lighting.

Wrong size of boiler stove

Similar to the condensation problems mentioned above, moisture can also form in a boiler stove if the appliance doesn’t have a large enough heat output for what the heating system requires. For example, if you have a large number of radiators connected to a small boiler stove. This would cause the boiler stove would to operate at a slow burning rate and create condensation.

Thermostat problems with a boiler stove

Should the dampness problems with your boiler stove persist, it might be that a pipe thermostat is set to low or not working correctly. Check that it is set to allow the pump to operate at around 40°C and higher.

Also, if the heat leak radiator and gravity circulation to the hot water cylinder are not working properly, this can cause the stove to be shut down by the thermostat because it does not have neough work to do. This, too, can cause condensation in the stove.

Leaking boiler

If you find water inside a boiler stove when the fire is out and you have exhausted the options above, it could be that a leaking boiler is the problem. In this case, call a competent engineer to check the boiler for you.