Using Fires and Stoves

Skip to section:

Open FiresHeaters and Multifuel StovesHow A Stove WorksPrimary AirAirwash SystemConvection AirCleanburn System FlamesExternal AirBoiler StovesSmoke Control AreasWoodburning vs Multifuel StovesHow To Choose The Right Stove

Open Fires

If the airflow on your open fire or stove is adjustable, make sure that you are allowing the maximum amount of air to enter the fire below the grate level. Empty one shovel of fuel directly onto the great, add a couple of firelighters and then light them.

Place a handful of kindling wood or chopped sticks on top of the firelighters and once it begins to light, add on another shovel of fuel. Wait till it ignites and then if you need a bigger fire, put some more fuel on. Fires are regulated by the level of air going through the fire bed.

The more air you let in, the hotter and faster the fire will burn through the fuel – if you want to slow it down and make the fuel last longer, just restrict the airflow underneath the grate. Before you refuel you ought to increase the airflow so that the fire has been re-established, and use the fire poker to de-ash the grate. Just make sure that when you do de-ash your fire, the ash in the pan doesn’t build up to the height where it touches the underside of the grate.

Heaters and Multifuel Stoves

Usually these use smokeless fuels which are dense and low in volatile matter, so a lot of heat is needed for them to ignite.

If you can, remove the ashpit cover so as to maximise the through draft. Place two firelighters on a shovel of fuel and light them, then add a handful of kindling wood or dry chopped sticks. Wait for it to start to light and then add another shovel of fuel to the burning wood. Close the door so that all the air is forced to go through the ashpit.

Once the fuel is alight make sure that you replace  the ashpit door, seating it correctly or else the fire might overburn.  Again, don’t allow the ash to build up so that it’s touching the underside of the fire bars.

It’s easy to remove ash by placing a full ashpan into an ashtidy, allowing you to carry it through the house without spilling any and potentially damaging the carpet or floors.

When refuelling, try not to let the fire bed get too low. Riddle the ash pan to remove the excess ash, and increase the air flow so that there is enough heat in the fire bed to quickly ignite the new fuel.

How A Stove Works

Nowadays you can get lots of different shapes and sizes of stove, and quite a few different styles.

Usually they will have an airwash system for the window, while many may have a cleanburn system with secondary air. Occasionally they may also have an external air facilities, and others have integral boilers so as to provide hot water and run radiators for the house.

If you need to find the right stove for your home, find out more about the various features below:

Primary Air

This is the term for the air which is drawn into the stove at a low level to maintain the combustion of the burning solid fuel. It tends to be that the primary air is drawn through a control on the front of the stove, which can be adjusted to control the amount of air coming through. You can use this to regulate the fire’s intensity and heat.

Primary air is the best way to control a stove which burns solid mineral fuels. It can also be used to start a wood fire, although it doesn’t tend to be used in a log fire once the logs are properly burning.

Airwash System

This is a specific design feature which uses specially placed vents to draw cool air in from the room, which is heated and ducted so that it “washes” over the inside of the glass. This can help the glass stay cleaner for longer, allowing for a better-loking fire.

Airwash air can be used to control a wood-burning stove, and can also be used in solid mineral fuel burning stoves.

Convection Air

When stoves have a convention system, they draw cool air from the room into the convection chamber. The air is heated as it rises through the stove, and then comes out into the room. The hot air rising up allows for more cool air to be brought in, setting up a continuous flow to maintain the heat efficiency.

Some models have electrically-operated fans to boost the convection process – these will make the warm-up time much quicker.

Cleanburn System Flames

If you can introduce some pre-heated secondary air into the firebox at the right point, it  will aid in the efficient combustion of any unburnt hydrocarbons still in the smoke. This not only increases the combustion efficiency considerably, but also prevents too many unburnt particles from getting into the chimney, reducing the costs of both servicing and fuel. You will also get a much better flame!

External Air

If your wood or fuel stove has a heat output above 5kw it will need additional air for combustion. An external air facility brings the air directly in from outside the building, rather than through a vent so as to minimise draughts and increase the overall heating efficiency.

Boiler Stoves

High ouput boiler stoves are designed to provide domestic hot water and/or run the radiators as part of a standalone system. The number and size of radiators you can operate is dependant on the “heat output to water” level of this particular model.

Another option is to link up boiler stoves with an existing heating system such as gas or oil sealed heating system, combi boilers, underfloor heating, solar panels and advanced electronic controls. This allows you to save money on fossil fuels and reduce your reliance on single source heating. Only have this sorted by an experienced stove retailer or heating engineer.

Smoke Control Areas

The vast majority of homes in towns and cities are in Smoke Control Areas, as designated by the Clean Air Act of 1993.  It is still possible to burn logs on a stove in these places, so long as the model has been granted exemption from the regulations by the government through DEFRA. Any approved models will have been independently tested to prove that they have particularly cleanburning combustion.

The other option is to burn smokeless fuels on a multi fuel stove. Stovax stoves have the best choice for use in Smoke Control Areas.

Wood Burning vs Multi Fuel Stoves 

There are some slight differences between these types of stove, so knowing the difference can be very helpful.

Wood burns best when it’s on a bed of ash and with combustion air coming from above. This means that stoves that only burn wood have a flat fuel bed, and no ash pan.

Multi fuel stoves tend to have a riddling grate for the effective combustion of solid mineral fuels, but also have airwash to allow for wood to be burned effectively. The riddling grate allows the ash and cinders from smokeless fuels, peat/turf briquettes or anthracite to be riddled into the ashpan below. This maintains the primary airflow through the fuel bed and creates optimum conditions for efficient combustion of these fuels.

Depending on the model, multi fuel stoves may have either internal or external controls for riddling.

How To Choose The Right Stove

Always talk to some local retailers before you decide on a stove. Just some of the things you will need to consider are:

  • The style/aesthetics you like
  • The heat output you’ll need for your room
  • What fuel type you want to use – wood burning or multi fuel
  • Do you want the stove to heat water as well as air?
  • Is it important to you to have cleanburn, airwash and high efficiency?
  • Are you in a Smoke Control Area, and do you want to burn wood?

These questions should help to at least narrow down your options!