Everybody loves sitting next to a wood-fired heater on cold winter nights, staring at the beautiful orange flames and listening to crackling wood. Only a few experiences can match this.
However, owning a wood heater doesn’t guarantee warmth and comfort. Like other heating solutions, you must service your equipment regularly to keep it in good condition.
Here are valuable tips for keeping your wood heater in pristine condition.
How Often Should You Service a Wood Heater?
Servicing keeps your heater looking new and optimises performance. Unfortunately, there’s no defined schedule for heater maintenance – it mostly depends on your usage patterns.
During winter, you’ll likely use it more often to keep warm. In that case, removing the ashes every two days is recommended. However, you can clean it weekly if you don’t use it most of the time.
Generally, heaters that use wood exclusively require cleaning less often than those that use other fuel sources. If dry, wood burns cleaner and produces little waste.
If you use your heater regularly, ensure you clean its interior every six weeks. The glass on the door should tell you when it’s suitable to clean. If you can’t see the flames clearly, it’s time to clean.
Cleaning a Wood Heater
Before starting, ensure that the heater is off and cool. Using cold cleaning products on warm glass could weaken or shatter it. Also, working on a lit heater increases the risk of burns.
It’s wise to wear a face mask, gloves, and goggles to protect yourself against dust, fumes, and other materials that may harm you. Lastly, ensure you consult the maintenance guide to know the instructions specific to your heater.
The following are the steps for servicing your wood-fired heater.
1. Remove the Ashes
Used wood turns into ash, which litters your heater’s firebox. So, removing the ashes is essential to keep your heater efficient.
When removing ashes, use a metallic brush and shovel. This is because the ash might have hot embers that burn plastic. After removing the ash, transfer it into a metallic bucket. Please avoid throwing it in a plastic trash bin.
Scattering the ashes over your garden is an intelligent way of regulating soil acidity.
2. Cleaning the Flue
Creosote build-up in your heater’s chimney or flue increases the risk of fires. For this reason, you must remove it at least once yearly.
But first, you must assess how much creosote is present in your flue. Then, when the fire is out, tap the vent and listen. If you hear debris falling into the firebox, the chimney is dirty and needs immediate cleaning.
The ideal way to get rid of creosote is by disconnecting the chimney from the heater. Then, run a metallic brush through the pipe several times until it’s clean. Finally, tap to confirm that the inside walls are free of creosote.
After cleaning the chimney, use a broom and shovel to remove any creosote that might have fallen into the firebox. Remember, creosote is highly flammable, and you shouldn’t light a fire until you’re sure there’s none left. Hiring a professional is wise if you do not trust your ability to clear creosote.
If you live remotely, to safely dispose of creosote, it is recommended to bury it in a deep hole away from your land. However, if you reside in a city, the most practical method involves wrapping it in paper, securing it in a polythene bag, and throwing it in the trash.
3. Cleaning the Glass Door
Wood-fired heaters are popular because of the beautiful, dancing orange flames produced by burning logs. Therefore, to maintain this magnificent view, it is essential that you clean the glass correctly.
The heater will generate enough heat to keep the glass clean if you use well-seasoned, dry wood. However, this doesn’t always happen. Most people use cheap, low-quality fuel that produces soot which makes the glass dirty. Never take too long to clean the glass. The messier it gets, the harder it is to clean.
Use the following methods to restore a perfect view of the fire and clean the glass:
- Ammonia solution – spray the ammonia solution on the glass and use a dry cloth to wipe off the dirt. For stubborn stains, let the spray soak for two hours before wiping.
- Ash – this is the least expensive way of cleaning your wood heater glass. It’s also wise to remove the excess ash from burning wood. Dip a damp cloth or newspaper into ash, then use it to wipe off the stains. Finish by running a dry cloth over the glass.
- Commercial detergents – several detergents can help you remove soot from your wood heater glass. Ensure that your product doesn’t void the manufacturer’s warranty.
- Scraping – if the stains prove too stubborn, use a glass scraper. Do it carefully to avoid scratching the glass. Besides destroying beauty, scratches increase the risk of shattering.
4. Cleaning the Outside
While cleaning the interior improves efficiency, cleaning the outside enhances aesthetics. The latter is simple and takes little time. All you need is a soft cloth and a soapy solution. After wiping away the dust, your heater will have a shiny appearance.
Servicing your wood heater is the best way to avoid winter blues. Getting rid of ashes and creosote improves fuel efficiency, meaning you spend less money on wood. It also lowers the risk of fires. But, more importantly, it prolongs the equipment’s lifespan.
Although you can handle some cleaning tasks, leaving some for the pros is best. For instance, cleaning the flue requires climbing, which can be difficult for novices. Hiring a professional saves you time and exempts you from risks.
However, if you choose to go the DIY path, ensure you have protective gear, gloves, goggles, and a face mask. These will mitigate the effects of dust and nasty fumes.