Why Are There So Many Coals in My Wood Stove?

15Katey

Active Member
  • #1
We've been having some very cold weather in my area over the past few weeks, so I've been working my wood stove pretty hard. What I'm finding though is that the wood I'm burning is producing a huge quantity of coals and those coals are now taking up about half the space in the stove. I keep opening the door to stoke them and try to let them burn down, but then the house gets cold. I've tried to just let them burn down for a while with the door closed too, but still, the house gets cold when I'm not feeding the fire with new wood. As long as I see a flame in the stove, I feel good heat coming from it, but when the flame goes out and the wood turns to coals, no more good heat. I'm wondering what's going on. Why is my firewood producing so many coals and what can I do to reduce the amount? Has anyone else gone through this? It seems like it only happens when it's super cold outside. On warmer days, it's fine.
 

CampFireJack

Well-Known Member
  • #2
What type of stove do you have? From what I've read, it seems like the more modern EPA non-cat stoves produce big coal beds in very cold weather. It has something to do with the temps getting so hot inside the firebox that all of the gasses inside the wood get burned quickly, leaving behind coals that take much longer to burn. They say that the charcoal is fine in warmer weather because people don't fill their stoves nearly as much and that charcoal has time to burn. It's only when the stove gets pushed to the max. In warmer (or less cold) days, people seem to be fine with letting the coals heat their house.
 

15Katey

Active Member
  • #3
I have an Englander 30-NC wood stove. Take a look at this picture I took last night. The coal bed takes up more than half of the volume in the stove.

huge-coal-bed-wood-stove.jpg

Sometimes I put some smaller pieces of firewood in the stove to see if that'll help, but it really doesn't. It just creates more coals. This morning, I kept stoking and waiting and eventually the level dropped about half way. Since I needed heat in the house, I just cleaned out the stove completely and started a new fire. I wish I didn't have to do that.
 

CampFireJack

Well-Known Member
  • #4
Sometimes I put some smaller pieces of firewood in the stove to see if that'll help, but it really doesn't. It just creates more coals. This morning, I kept stoking and waiting and eventually the level dropped about half way. Since I needed heat in the house, I just cleaned out the stove completely and started a new fire. I wish I didn't have to do that.
What you're doing actually isn't a bad thing. Smaller and hotter wood can actually help. I've burned soft woods during the day when it's been very cold outside to keep the coal bed down and then I burn my hard woods through the night because they last longer. Softwood doesn't produce nearly as many coals as hardwood does. The real problem here is you're demanding a lot from your stove. You're trying to keep your stove temperature very high and in order to do that, you need to feed it a lot of wood. Wood takes time to burn down completely. On a normal winter day of about 25-30 degrees, most people allow their firewood to burn down for about four or five hours before reloading. On cold days though, people add wood every hour or so. That's simply not a long enough time for the entire log to burn. So you're essentially overloading the stove. The most honest solution to your problem that I can give you is to insulate your house better. There's no reason other than poor insulation or sheer size that an Englander NC-30 wouldn't heat a house thoroughly. That's a great stove that produces a lot of heat.
 

KodyWallice

Well-Known Member
  • #5
What seems to be going on is that your firewood isn't producing the heat you want, so you add more. I think your wood isn't seasoned enough, meaning, it's too wet. If you were to split your wood smaller and dry it out completely, I bet your wood stove wouldn't have this problem. Also, keep your air open more and you should get a hotter flame and a cleaner burn. Still though, with wood that's got a high moisture content, it's going to be tough to avoid the coal buildup. Before burning any firewood, make sure to keep it out of the rain and snow and make sure it's been seasoned well for at least two years. People like to say one year is good - it's not. You need two years in the sunshine for good drying. You can also try burning more softwoods. White pine and spruce are great to burn. Hemlock is great too. Again, make sure it's dry. It'll burn hotter and won't produce nearly as many coals, which is what you want.
 

Phoenix1

Active Member
  • #6
Yeah, you're not doing anything wrong, per se. You're pushing your stove a lot harder in the cold weather. In northern Vermont, I've gone through this a lot. I actually load my stove so much until the wood makes so many coals that I can't even load anymore. It's frustrating when it's bitter cold outside and I can't add anymore wood to my stove. The trick is to be patient and to let the coals die down. If necessary, find yourself another heat source as a backup. Also, if you use your stoker or find a rake, you can rake the larger coals towards the front of the stove. They burn faster up there. Keep your air supply opened all the way to get the oxygen the coals need to burn.

One great idea is to buy a coal sifter to keep your coals in the stove while removing only the ashes. That way, you won't be throwing good wood away if you decide to clean the stove. These sifters go by different names, such as ember recovery tool, ember extractor, ash sifter, and probably a few other things.

Causes of too many coals: frequent loading, high moisture content in wood, not enough air supply in stove, not being patient to let coals burn down, burning hardwood instead of softwood.

I've never tried this, but I've heard that if you get some bio bricks and throw them in the stove while you're waiting for the coals to burn down, that works. A less expensive alternative would be to burn nice dry pine for a while.
 
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