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Installing Your Unit

What you need to know about installing a wood heater

Taking the time to ensure your wood heater is installed correctly will make sure you have a sustainable heat source for years to come.

Clearances to combustibles for units will be outlined in the literature provided by the manufacturer of your unit. These include side clearances, rear wall clearances and clearances required if installing the unit into a corner. It will also dictate the hearth requirements for the unit including thickness and projection in front of and beside the firebox door opening.

The flue used for the unit will also need to comply with the Australian Standard AS/NZS 2918.

Drop boxes and wall and floor penetration kits must be used when penetrating sections of your home.

A minimum flue height of 4.6 metres from the hearth to the fuel cap is required. At the flue cap you must have at least 3 metres clearance to your adjacent roof, and minimum 6 metres horizontally to any neighbouring structures or buildings.

Not meeting these requirements could cause the fire to burn incorrectly, cause a smoke nuisance, or could create a fire hazard.

State and local councils may have different requirements about who can install the unit or the certification required. Check the statutory requirements in your area before starting any work. To get the best advice ask your local AHHA member.

Can I install the heater myself?

Choose a qualified installer like a plumber or builder, or a member of the Australian Home Heating Association. You can find your local installer here.

Does the size of my heater matter?

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.

Starting Your Unit

Eight simple steps to show you how to run your wood heater efficiently and cleanly

  1. Ensure the Air Slide is in the open or high position.
  2. In firebox lay your fire lighters 10 to 15 centimetres apart, depending on the size of your firebox. Do not use newspaper as a fire lighter.
  3. Add soft wood kindling in a criss cross pattern above the firelighters. Softwood kindling allows for fire to light quicker and burn hotter.
  4. Light fire with match or gas lighter, when fire is ablaze close the door, but do not latch the door. Leave for 5-10 minutes maximum and do not leave unattended.
  5. Load pieces of hardwood that are no wider than a drink can in a criss cross pattern.
  6. Latch the door and leave latched for 30 minutes. If your heater has a fan, do not run the fan for at least 45 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes add the large pieces of hardwood. These pieces should be no bigger than a loaf of bread. Close and latch door after loading.
  8. After 45 minutes you can adjust the air slide to slow fire down and find your comfort level. If you have a fan fitted you can now turn it on.

How do I start my wood fire heater?

Use kindling wood and firelighters to get your fire started. Large pieces of wood can then be added after a hot bed of coals has been established.

How long should I keep my air controls open?

Leave air controls open for at least 30-45 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.

When refuelling your fire, leave the air controls open for at least 15-20 minutes before adjusting to desired comfort level.

Fueling Your Fire

Tips on choosing firewood

With new Australian standards introduced recently slow combustion fires burn more efficiently than ever before. This makes the quality of firewood more important.

How long a tree has been felled or dead for does not indicate how dry the wood is.

The best way to dry wood is to split it and expose the inner core allowing the sun to dry the wood naturally.

Good wood merchants will split the wood for you, but may not season it for you.

The amount you pay for your wood does not justify how dry the wood is. The only way to know how dry your wood is, is to use a moisture meter measuring from the inner core of the wood.

Only burn wood under 20% moisture. Anything over 20% and your wood heater will not work efficiently. The energy from the fire will be used to reduce moisture in your wood and not produce heat for your house.

Store your wood for at least 12 months after your have purchased it. Your wood should be at a perfect moisture level, of around 15 to 20%.

Never burn treated wood or painted wood.

How many logs of wood does my fire need?

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.

Does my wood fire heater need a layer of ash?

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.

How do I keep my wood fire heater burning?

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.

How can I achieve complete burning?

To obtain complete burning, you need a high temperature and enough air flow so coals and flames glow brightly.

Dark, smouldering wood and a lot of smoke are of signs of poor and incomplete burning as a result of insufficient air intake.

Overnight Burning

When should I refuel/load start the wood fire heater for 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.

How long can the wood fire heater burn overnight?

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.

Will I always need to burn overnight?

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 your house is well insulated, you don’t need to burn overnight except on particularly cold nights.

Buying & Storing Fuel

How do I know what fuel to use?

For the best results, always use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer. If your heater meets the Australian emission standard, it will have a compliance plate which specifies the correct fuel to use.

Who should I purchase fuel from?

Place your orders early with a reputable fuel merchant who is preferably a member of the Australian Home Heating Association and be sure of what you are buying or collecting in firewood.

What moisture content should my wood be?

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

How is fuel sold?

In defined areas, firewood will 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.

When should I purchased fuel for winter?

Order your winter wood early. Buy your wood in spring or summer. Wood heaters operate best when wood is completely dry and well-seasoned.

How should I store my fuel?

Store your firewood in a covered stack with plenty of air access.

Wood stored on pallets or in a crisscrossed fashion allows air to circulate freely.

Money Saving Tips

Who can give me the best buying advice?

Obtain expert advice on solid fuel appliances. Retailers who are members of the Australian Home Heating Association can provide helpful advice.

Is there a way to make wood heating even more efficient?

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.

What happens if I leave the firebox door open?

Leaving the firebox door open will reduce the efficiency and heat output of your heater.

Reducing Smoke Emissions

How much air should I give after refuelling?

Allow full air for 15-20 minutes after each refuelling.

Is there a way to make wood heating even more efficient?

If your fire is smoky and there are no flames then it is not burning efficiently. Open the air control so that the fire can burn hot, eliminating smoke and reducing emissions. Step outside and check your flue. There should be no visible smoke when your heater is burning efficiently.


Maintenance tips

Maintaining your wood heater will not only ensure your unit is safe, but efficient and clean burning.

AHHA recommends that the unit should be serviced at least every 12 months. A regular service will ensure the important aspects of your wood heater are functioning correctly.

The flue needs to be cleaned to make sure there is no creosote build up. Built up creosote can result in a flue fire which is extremely dangerous.

Inspecting the inside of the flue and external exit cowl for obstructions is also important. Wood fire flues operate at extremely high temperatures and making sure there are no blockages or obstructions is vital for safe operation of your unit.

It’s also important to check to make sure the installation has not been affected by wind damage or other natural events.

The flue exit cowl requires a minimum of 3 meters clearance to any obstruction. Make sure no over hanging trees or branches have grown into the clearance zone.

Visually check the inside of the unit, looking for any cracking or splitting of the firebox itself. Also ensure the cast iron or firebrick lining is intact.

Make sure the baffle plate is intact and located in its correct position.

Check the door seal, door glass seal and door latch. If the door is not sealing correctly, you may need to replace the latch or affected rope seal. Make sure the glass is intact and free of cracks.

If the unit is fitted with a fan, make sure the blades are free of debris. A vacuum cleaner can be used to remove any build up of ash and lint around the blades.

When is the best time to service the heater?

Service your heater during Spring or early Summer. This minimises the corrosive effects of creosote residue and condensation during the off-season.

What should I check if doing self-maintenance?

  • Check the flue prior to each winter.
  • Check the condition of the heater and flue, door seals, baffles, firebricks, 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.

Who can I contact to service my heater?

Get an early bird service call from an experienced installer/service person – preferably one who is a member of the Australian Home Heating Association.

How often should I get my heater and flue serviced

Your wood heater should be serviced once a year and you should have your flue cleaned regularly by your local chimney sweep.

What is creosote?

Creosote is a by product of excess smoke generated by solid fuel combustion when the heater is not operated properly or the moisture content in the wood is too high. It can build up in the flue, restricting the flue draft and ultimately the performance of your heater. If it becomes too blocked, it can lead to a flue fire.

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