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The key to clean and efficient wood heating is not just installing an efficient wood heater, it is also operating the heater correctly. This means getting a good, hot fire going as quickly as possible and maintaining this for the heating period. This is relatively simple to do with modern, efficient appliances, as long as fuel is sufficiently dry and the heater is lit and loaded correctly and well maintained. Efficient burning only occurs when adequate air is supplied to the fuel. This means that during starting and reloading, all air inlets must be fully open.

Every heater has slightly different characteristics, so read and follow any instruction from the manufacturer carefully. If you are not satisfied with the performance of your heater, check with the retailers - there is almost always a simple reason why you are not getting a good performance. It maybe something as simple as poor quality wood.

Getting Started

  • Use kindling wood, paper and firelighters to get the fire started. Large pieces of wood can then be added after a hot bed of coals has been established.
  • Leave air controls open for at least 20-30 minutes to start the fire burning. You can expect some smoke from your flue when you first start, but it should not last longer than 10-15 minutes.

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Fuelling your Fire

  • Most heaters burn better with 3 or 4 logs rather than 1 or 2. Logs should not be too big - 2 to 4kg for 40 cm logs is typical.
  • Heaters without grates will perform better with a layer of ash on the base of the firebox, and should only need cleaning periodically. When cleaning out the ash always leave 10mm or so behind.
  • Every time you add fuel to your fire, leave air controls open for 15-20 minutes to start wood burning properly, then keep your fire burning at a steady rate.
  • To obtain complete burning, you need a high temperature and enough air flow so coals and flames glow brightly. Dark, smoldering wood and a lot of smoke are signs of poor and incomplete burning as a result of insufficient air intake.
  • Never use petrol, oil or kerosene to help light the fire. They could cause an explosion.

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Overnight Burning

  • For overnight burning, load the heater at least half an hour before going to bed. Only turn the air supply down to minimum once all the wood is charred (about 15-20 minutes) to avoid creosote problems. Most heaters should still burn for eight hours without difficulty and you will have far less creosote problems than if you fill the heater and turn it to slow-burn straight away. However, long periods of slow burning will always produce more creosote than burning on medium or high. It will probably take you some time to get the "feel" of operating your heater for long periods. You might even find that once you have a good lighting method worked out and you house is well insulated you don't need to burn overnight except on the coldest nights.

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Buying Fuel

  • For the best results, always use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer. If your heater meets the national emission standard, it will have a compliance plate which specifies the correct fuel to use.
    If buying wood
  • Place your orders early with a reputable fuel merchant, preferably one who is a member of The Australian Home Heating Association
  • Be sure of what you are buying or collecting in firewood.
  • Moisture content should be in the range of 12-20%. Hence the need to buy in summer months and stack in an air-dry mode, e.g. Roof cover, open sides
  • In defined areas, firewood must be sold by weight, so don't pay for excess weight in water.
  • Elsewhere, firewood is often sold in volume e.g. A cubic meter or in some cases a cubic yard, i.e. cage, bin or loader bucket, etc
    The Association urges consumers to:
  • Buy from a reputable supplier - a member of Australian Home Heating Association.
  • Establish personal contact. Get to know the facts which effect the quality of the fuel wood.
  • Order your winter wood early.
  • Store your firewood in a covered stack with plenty of air access.

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Storage Tips

  • Buy your wood in spring or summer. Wood heaters operate best when wood is completely dry and well seasoned.
  • Store wood under cover in a dry ventilated area. Wood stored on pallets or in a crisscrossed fashion allows air to circulate freely.

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Money Saving Tips

Getting the best performance from your fuel and appliance will save you money each year.

  • Obtain expert advice on solid fuel appliances. Retailers who are members of The Australian Home Heating Association can provide helpful advice.
  • Make your home more energy efficient by insulation the ceilings and walls.
  • Prevent heat leaks through cracks in doors and windows.
  • Reduce heat loss through windows by drawing heavy curtains at night.
  • Leaving the firebox door open will affect the efficiency and reduce the heat output of your heater.

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Reducing Smoke Emissions

  • Allow full air for 15-20 minutes after each refueling.
  • Do not close down air supply totally overnight - a little air avoids a lot of smoke.

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Buying and Installing Solid Fuel Appliances

  • Whatever the age of your solid fuel appliance, use it correctly to reduce the need for repairs and servicing.
  • Always buy the right size heater. A heater that is too large for an area will have to be turned down too often and too small a heater can result in over-firing, shortening the life of the heater.
  • Install all appliances correctly - choose a qualified installer, a member of The Australian Home Heating Association.

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Service and Maintenance

  • Service your heater during Spring or early Summer. This minimises the corrosive effects of creosote residue and condensation during the off-season.
  • Check the condition of the heater and flue, door seals, baffles, etc
  • Check for bird nests in or near the flue system in the roof cavity.
  • If loose insulation has been added to the ceiling i.e. blow in cellulose, etc, check carefully that none has built up in the flue cavity clearance area.
  • or alternatively....
  • Get an early bird service call from an experienced installer/service person - preferably one who is a member of The Australian Home Heating Association.
  • Contact your retailer.
  • Maintenance Products.

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Flue Checks

  • Your wood heater should be serviced once a year and you should have your flue cleaned regularly by your local chimney sweep.
  • Creosote is a substance formed by solid fuel combustion. Creosote and resin build-up can cause flue fires.
  • Check the flue prior to each winter. Make it a habit to look outside and check your flue for smoke. If it is smoking excessively, you are wasting fuel and heat and may be causing unnecessary emissions. You need to increase the air supply to the fire. A little air avoids a lot of smoke.

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