Owning, or even sometimes renting, a home in North Idaho requires general seasonal maintenance to keep your stove or fireplace in working order. It’s really all about being prepared. Per Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Maintaining your home’s heating system(s) wards off emergency situations and costly repairs while extending the life of the product. Take the time and money to perform general maintenance on a regular basis. Many of the maintenance services require the knowledge, skills, and tools of a professional. During a maintenance or service call, our technicians will make any necessary repairs and/or alert you of a possible situation. Call the Stove Corral and let us assist you in maintaining any of the following hearth products or to answer any questions you may have:
WOOD STOVE MAINTENANCE
For wood burning stoves, an annual service tune-up and cleaning is recommended, usually performed in the fall. The purpose is to keep your system running at top efficiency throughout the season, i.e., to keep you having heat when you need it the most. Things to inspect include…
Loading Door Gasket
Inspect the door gasket for physical deterioration, missing sections or obvious leakage. The stove door should make a groove in the gasket material – one side of the groove (toward the inside) will often be dark or black, and the other side (toward the outside) should be light. Dark smudges on the outside of the groove may indicate an air leak. If the groove is very shallow or missing, or if there is a heavy ash or creosote deposit along the bottom edge of the gasket it may need to be replaced. Frayed or broken gasket material, or a gasket that is hard and unyielding, will also indicate replacement. Any time a piece of gasket is missing or is broken anywhere, the entire gasket must be replaced. To check the gasket further, when the stove is cooled, insert a piece of paper (a dollar bill will work) into the door opening and close and latch the door. Obvious resistance should be felt when pulling the paper out. Repeat this check several times around the perimeter of the door. For door gasket replacement, bring your door to the Stove Corral, we are happy to help you replace it.
Glass Door Gasket
When the stove is cold, hold the glass in place by placing the palm of each hand on either side of the glass. Press firmly and try to move the glass. If the glass moves the door glass retainers may need to be tightened or the door glass gasket may need to be replaced. If the gasket is frayed or missing sections replace the gasket. For glass gasket replacement, bring your door to the Stove Corral, we are happy to help you replace it.
Glass Door Cleaning
The best way to keep the glass clean is to leave the stove on high burn for a period of time after each reloading. The moisture which is driven from a new load of wood contributes much of the creosote on the inside of the glass. Removing that moisture at the beginning of the burn cycle helps to keep the glass clean. Heavier deposits may require hand cleaning. Never use abrasive cleaners to clean the glass. At the Stove Corral, we offer our recommended glass cleaning products.
Loading Door Tension Adjustment
Follow your owners operation manual for specific tools needed to tighten or loosen the latch and retainer nut. Repeat the paper test to make sure all is secure.
The amount of draft in your chimney depends on the length of the chimney, local geography, nearby obstructions, and other factors. Too much draft may cause excessive temperatures and conversely an inadequate draft may cause puffing of smoke into the room and “plugging” of the chimney or catalyst. If you suspect you have a draft problem, determine the draft by using a water manometer (or digital draft gauge), fill any holes after the measurement is complete, or call a certified Chimney Sweep.
Optional Fan Assembly
Routine maintenance of your optional fan assembly is not required, however, should it become necessary to replace an individual fan or rheostat, contact your authorized dealer, the Stove Corral at 208-263-2541.
Thermometer (Blaze King Models)
The combustor thermometer tells you what was happening 4-8 minutes ago, and remember, it is only and indication of the temperatures of the gasses after they pass through the combustor. (click here for catalytic combustor maintenance). The thermometer probe, the part that fits into the stove, must be cleaned at least once a year. If after several years you find, when at room temperature, the needle no longer points to the bottom of the “Inactive” zone, it may need adjustment or replacement.
Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Detectors
All homes with solid fuel burning appliances should have at least one fire extinguisher in a central location, known to all, and at least one smoke detector in each room with a heating appliance and each room used for sleeping. Don’t forget to make sure your family has an agreed upon meeting place outside should there be an emergency in your home and everyone needs to get out of the house. Be prepared, we care about your safety!
CATALYTIC COMBUSTOR MAINTENANCE
It is important to periodically monitor the operation of the catalytic combustor to ensure that it is functioning properly. A non-functioning combustor will result in a loss of heating efficiency, and an increase in creosote and emissions. Following is a list of items that should be checked on a regular basis:
Combustors should be visually inspected at least three times during the heating season to determine if physical degradation has occurred. Actual removal of the combustor is not recommended unless more detailed inspection is warranted because of decreased performance. Refer to Catalytic Combustor Troubleshooting.
A hot fire will usually prove to be the best method of cleaning the combustion of deposits. However, under certain conditions, ash particles may become attached to the face of the combustor. These may be seen while the combustor is in the glowing stage or when the fire is out. Any deposit on the visible face of the combustor should be removed when the stove is cold. Brushing the combustor with a soft bristle paint brush will remove some deposits. Passing a vacuum cleaner wand or brush near the face of the combustor will remove most deposits. Hot ash in a vacuum cleaner bag will burn, may melt the vacuum or cause a house fire. Exercise caution and never clean the stove when it or the ashes are hot. Never scrape the combustor with any hard tool or brush. Never run pipe cleaner through the individual cells of the combustor. This is not needed and may do more harm than good. Limit cleaning to the face of the combustor. NOTE: Never remove a combustor without approved gasket in hand as original gasket will fall apart when removed from the stove.
If your wood stove has a manual bypass, you can get an indication of whether the catalyst is working by comparing the amount of smoke leaving the chimney when the smoke is going through the combustor to the amount of smoke leaving the chimney when smoke is not routed through the combustor. Significantly more smoke will be seen when the exhaust in not routed through the combustor (bypass mode). Allow 20 to 30 minutes for the fire to stabilize before making your observations.
WOOD FIREPLACE MAINTENANCE
Hints for Burning
• Get the appliance hot before adjusting to low burn
• Use smaller pieces of wood during start-up and high burns to increase temperature
• Use larger pieces of wood for overnight or sustained burns
• Stack the wood tightly together to establish a longer burn
• Be considerate of neighbors & the environment: burn dry wood only
• Burn small, intense fires instead of large, slow burning fires when possible
• Learn your appliance’s operating characteristics to obtain optimum performance
Whenever ashes get 3 to 4 inches deep in your firebox or ash pan, and when the fire has burned down and cooled, remove excess ashes. Leave an ash bed approximately 1 inch deep on the firebox bottom to help maintain a hot charcoal bed. Let the stove cool completely before removing ashes (wait at least two hours after the last coal has extinguished). Ashes should be placed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. The closed container of ashes should be placed on a noncombustible floor or on the ground, away from all combustible materials, pending final disposal. The ashes should be retained in the closed container until all cinders have thoroughly cooled.
Improperly disposed ashes lead to fires. Hot ashes placed in cardboard boxes, dumped in back yards, or stored in garages, are recipes for disaster. Wood-burning stoves are inherently dirty. During cleaning have a vacuum ready to catch spilled ash (make sure ash is entirely extinguished). There are vacuum cleaners specifically made to remove ash (even if the ash is warm). Contact the Stove Corral for details – (208) 263-1541.
Dry Wood is Key! Dry wood burns hot, emits less smoke and creates less creosote.
Testing Wood Moisture
Wood cut, split and stored in a dry area will be fully dry within a year. This insures dry wood. If purchasing wood for immediate use, test the wood with a moisture meter. Some experienced wood burners can measure wood moisture by knocking pieces together and listening for a clear “knock” and not a “thud”. We have moisture meters available for sale at the Stove Corral.
Why Dry Wood is Important
Wet wood, when burned, must release water stored within the wood. This cools the fire, creates creosote, and hampers a complete burn. Ask any experienced wood burner and he or she will agree: dry wood is crucial to good performance.
Twice Yearly Fireplace Maintenance
- Check Firebrick And Baffle Make sure the firebricks are in tact. The baffle should be intact – some warping and flaking is not uncommon. It rests on three tabs at the rear of the firebox and should be pushed all the way back. NOTE: the bend should go upwards.
- Clean Combustor (if you have one): With the fireplace completely cool (at least two hours after the last coal has extinguished), use a vacuum cleaner to draw all ash from the catalytic combustor (see the illustration below). The catalytic combustor is located above the firebox. It can be seen by looking from below with the doors open. Brushing the combustor with a soft bristle paint brush will remove some deposits. Passing a vacuum cleaner wand or brush near the face of the combustor will remove most deposits. Never scrape the combustor with any hard tool or brush. Never run pipe cleaner through the individual cells of the combustor. This is not needed and may do more harm than good.
- Clean Blower Filter (if you have one): The remote blower has a removable cover to allow for cleaning of the filter. This filter can be removed and washed to clean dust and debris. See the directions in your owners operation manual on how to remove the filter.
- Check Door Seal The door latch and door gasket work in conjunction to seal the firebox. If the doors do not seal, air will leak into the firebox and cause the fire to burn too fast. This reduces the ability to burn the fireplace overnight or precisely adjust the burn rate. Follow the directions below to check the door gasket.
- Check the door gasket It should adhere to the door and be intact (if you have double doors, check both doors). The gasket follows the perimeter of the door along the outside edge (the inside edge does not have gasket).
- Use only wood stove gasket cement to re-adhere loose gasket. Please note, severely frayed or thread-bare gasket should be replaced. The Stove Corral has all the products you need to maintain your fireplace.
- Glass Inspection If the glass is cracked or broken, it must be replaced. The glass & gasket should seal against the door. See your owners operation manual for glass removal instructions. When re-installing the glass, gently press the rope gasket in place (use a putty knife). The best way to keep the glass clean is to leave the fireplace on a high burn for a period of time after each reloading. The moisture which is driven from a new load of wood contributes much of the creosote on the inside of the glass. Removing that moisture at the beginning of the burn cycle helps to keep the glass clean. Heavier deposits may require hand cleaning. Never use abrasive cleaners to clean the glass. At the Stove Corral, we offer our recommended glass cleaning products.
At the Stove Corral we’re here to to assist you in maintaining your home’s hearth products and to answer any of your questions about maintenance. Keeping your equipment in good working order provides you peace of mind, knowing they’ll be there when you need them the most. You wouldn’t go for years without changing the oil in your car would you? It also makes good financial sense to keep equipment maintained and serviced to help extend their life spans. Call us if you’d like to be added to our seasonal maintenance reminder list or to schedule a maintenance appointment today! 208.263.1541