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Lighting a nice fire in a wood-burning stove or insert: instructions for use

There’s no smoke without fire... but you can make a fire with hardly any smoke! With the right fuel, the right method, and the right wood-burning stove or insert, you will never have any more problems lighting a fire.

Carefully selected wood

Not all wood is welcome in your stove or insert. For an efficient, healthy fire, you need to follow 6 golden rules:

  • The wood should be hard and non-resinous: oak (1), beech, ash (2), hornbeam (3), cherry wood (4) and fruit trees produce lovely flames, not much smoke and lots of embers that burn for longer.
  • The wood should be untreated: treated, varnished and painted wood should not be used as it produces toxic fumes and clogs up wood-burners.
  • The wood should be dry: when the humidity level is above 20%, beware of smoke, deposits and wasting energy. If the wood whistles, it means it is damp! It should be kept in a dry, ventilated place and left to dry for one or two years before burning. A humidity meter is an inexpensive device that lets you test the wood when you buy it or while it is being stored.
  • If it is chopped, the wood dries more quickly and burning such wood improves the efficiency of the wood-burning stove or insert.
  • The size of the logs should not exceed a diameter of 10cm for efficient combustion (and so less smoke).
  • The wood should be temperate: if it is too cold, it will not burn as well. It is therefore important to leave it at room temperature, near the fire, before burning it.

An unbeatable way to light a fire

Do you usually light your wood-burning stove or insert with paper and kindling under the logs? Reverse the trend! If you light your fire like a candle, so from the top, the smoke and fine particle emissions are minimal, and the wood burns more completely. On top of that, this method guarantees success every time! Once the fire is lit, you can even let it start on its own, without having to stay and keep an eye on it.

An unbeatable way to light a fire

This top-down method for lighting a fire is very simple:

  1. Create a bed of ash, which will act as an insulator between the wood, which needs to be as hot as possible, and the colder base of the fire, while also allowing enough air through for combustion.
  2. Stack up some medium-sized logs, criss-cross or lengthways, leaving some space between each one. Big logs should be at the bottom and smaller ones on top.
  3. Open all the air inlets fully.
  4. Put an eco firelighter (for example some wool soaked in wax) on top of (not underneath!) the pile of wood.
  5. Just light a match and you have a great fire, which burns the wood gradually, from top to bottom. The residual gases will be in the glowing flame and are almost entirely burned.

It is a good idea to leave the door of your insert or stove open until the fire gets started, then shut it. If condensation, a white coating or smoke appears, open the door again and wait a bit longer. During this stage, it might be necessary to open an external airway to compensate (some Stûv products achieve this automatically).

Once the first logs have been burned and a bed of ashes has formed, larger logs can be positioned at the back of the fire, against the wall, and the air inlets should be adjusted depending on what kind of fire you would like. It is important to light the wood-burning stove or insert with a high flame to start with (use enough wood) to warm up the smoke outlet quickly. Once it has warmed up, the smoke will stay hot as it rises up the duct. The draw is working well, and the fire is lit properly. Once the fire has got going, the flames can gradually be reduced.

An efficient wood-burning stove

To make sure the fire takes, that it doesn’t blow out smoke, that the toxic emissions are reduced and the heat produced is efficient and sustainable, it is essential to make sure you have an efficient product. As well as this, regular maintenance of your wood-burning stove or insert (cleaning, sweeping etc.) is vital. This means that your fire will be clean, practical, ecological and economical !