Why Does My Log Burner Keep Going Out?
If so, don’t worry - you’re not alone! Getting the knack of building a roaring fire that crackles all night can be a time earned process of trial and error. However, there are few factors that can affect the burning efficiency of any stove.
Reasons your log burner keeps going out include:
- Not building your stove fire properly
- Using the wrong fuel
- Having a dirty stove or chimney
- Suffering a poorly drafted chimney
- Not controlling the air supply properly
- Your stove being too cold
Take a look at our guide for some more advice on why your log burner keeps going out and how to put it right...
What Does Fire Need to Burn?
When faced with a stove that doesn’t seem to want to burn, it’s sometimes good to revisit your high school science lessons. The ‘Fire Triangle’ taught us that fire needs three things to burn: oxygen, heat and fuel. If one of these is missing, it’s likely that your log burner will keep going out. This, of course, could be down to a number of reasons we will go into below, whether you are using the wrong type of fuel, have a problem with air supply or aren’t generating enough heat…
While the most common causes of log burners going out are insufficient oxygen, fuel or heat, stoves also rely on a properly functioning chimney. The purpose of this is to draw out exhaust fumes that could suffocate your fire. So, you need to make sure your flue is doing its job, too, otherwise smoke could end up billowing back into your room.
With these basics in mind, here are some reasons why your log burner keeps going out...
1. You Didn’t Build Your Fire Properly
Starting off on the right foot is very important when it comes to burning wood in a stove. If you put in a large piece of wood or other fuel too soon, it will struggle to catch fire and burn at an inefficient rate. You need to start your fire off small and be patient until it grows hot enough to be able to burn a large log.
If your logs won't catch fire, it may be that you have started too big. Light some kindling wood or paper first, and wait for it to catch fire to some small logs or pieces of coal. Only when these have fully caught fire, and are nice and hot, should you start throwing some larger logs on. This allows the heat of the fire to build up to be able to burn larger logs in your fire.
Opening your stove door too many times can also affect the burn rate, so only refuel when fuel supply is looking low. If you overload your wood burner with logs, the lack of air circulation can also cause your fire to go out. One or two logs at a time is probably best for a standard size stove to burn cleanly.
Read our guide on lighting your stove for the first time for more advice.
2. You’re Using the Wrong Fuel
The fuel you use can be a very common cause of your log burner fire going out. If you are using wood, you need to make sure that it is properly seasoned and has a maximum moisture content of 20%. If you are burning any old piece of wood you stumble upon, it will probably be far too moist to burn properly in your fire.
Wood should be as dry as possible before you burn it in your stove. Wood with a high moisture content doesn’t burn as efficiently. This is because your fire has to produce a lot of heat just to boil off the moisture first. High moisture logs, or 'green wood', also produces much more smoke.
Not only does this make your fire less pleasant, but will cause you more problems for lighting your stove by dirtying your chimney with creosote. It is also bad for the environment and releases particles into the air which can be harmful to breath in.
Buying Woodsure Ready to Burn logs is a good way to make sure you are using the best fuel. You can find out more about it here.
3. Your Stove and Chimney Are Dirty
Did you sweep your chimney before installing your stove? If not, it may be causing your stove fire to keep going out.
Your stove relies on your chimney to remove the dirty exhaust fumes so it can keep drawing in fresh oxygen to burn. If your chimney is blocked or has a lot of soot built up inside, this can prevent the fumes from escaping. This might be a problem for you if you have recently started using a chimney that had been dormant for a while, or you have had an open fire and not had the flue swept in a while.
Find out more about why you need to sweep your chimney here.
In addition, you should also make sure the inside of your stove is kept clean. Wood burns best on a light bed of ash, so about an inch left in there is ok, but not so much that air circulation is restricted. If you are burning coal in a multi fuel stove, make sure you sweep out all the old ashes before starting a new fire.
Related: Multi Fuel Stove Buying Guide
4. Your Flue Has Draft Problems
As we have already mentioned, wood burning stoves rely on the draft of the chimney to draw exhaust air out of the top. If this draft isn’t operating properly, you might find your stove fire is going out or blowing smoke back into your room instead of up the chimney.
There are a few reasons why your chimney may not be drawing properly, such as:
- It could be too cold outside. During particularly cold or windy weather, you might find your chimney struggles more.
- Your fire isn’t hot enough. If your fire isn’t generating enough heat, the smoke won’t be able to rise.
- The room isn’t ventilated. You must have enough ventilation in your room for the stove to take in fresh air to burn.
- Your chimney is too short. It is recommended your chimney extends at least 4.5m from the top of your appliance.
- You don’t have a flue liner. Chimney liners can significantly help improve draw by making them hotter.
There is more information about flue and ventilation requirements on our blog about stove building regulations.
Otherwise, you could try opening your living room door or window to see if ventilation is the issue. If you think your flue might be too cold, try leaving the stove door open for a few hours before use or burning a piece of newspaper in it first to see warming it up a little helps.
5. You Need to Adjust the Air Supply
The air vents on your wood burner or multi fuel stove can be fiddly. They sometimes require a little patience for you to get used to exactly how much air your fire needs at different stages of the burn.
When you are starting your fire, you will need to have all the vents open as wide as possible. This feeds the kindling flames with plenty of oxygen to start generating enough heat to create a full fire. You might also want to check your chimney damper is open. Once your fire has caught on well with a couple of logs, you need to slowly close off the air supply.
This is often where problems are caused: if you close it off too much, you fire might become starved of oxygen and go out. If there is too much air, the flames might become too big and burn inefficiently. It may take some time for you to find the sweet spot.
If you are using a multi fuel stove, make sure you adapt the air supply to the type of fuel you are using. Remember, wood burns best with air circulating from above. Coal requires more air to circulate from below.
What Should My Stove Fire Look Like?
When trying to figure out how to get your stove fire burning without going out, it’s good to know what you are aiming for. Some people think a log burner is meant to have lots of flames, but this isn't necessarily the case. It's most important to have a steady burn that produces heat efficiently.
Your stove fire should have a good few flames dancing, but shouldn’t be too fierce. If your flames are too big, a lot of the heat will probably be going straight up the chimney instead of into your room. You’ll probably also find you are going through fuel very quickly.
If your fire is burning too slow, you will probably find it is producing heavy smoke and is often reduced to embers. In this case, your fire won’t be hot enough to burn efficiently. If this happens, you could try opening the vent a little further to give it more oxygen, until it gets going again.
Finding the Best Temperature For Your Log Burner
The best temperature for a log burner is said to be between 110 - 250 degrees.
If you aren't sure whether your stove is burning at the optimum temperature, though, you can buy a magnetic stove thermometer to attach to the outside of your stove pipe or flue. The gauge lets you see if your stove is too cool and producing unwanted creosote, or too hot, causing you to waste fuel. In the middle, is the 'optimum burn' range, allowing you to aim for the ideal burn rate.
As with most things wood burner related, you want to aim for steadiness and control. Again, finding this sweet spot may take a few failed attempts before you nail it!
One word of caution though - you should never see large plumes of smoke coming out of your chimney or back into your stove. This is a sign of incomplete burning that can cause harm to your stove, chimney and health. If this is consistently happening, it's important you address the reason why your stove isn't burning properly.
What Is the Best Way to Keep a Fire Going in a Stove?
Overall, there are a few things you can do to have the best chance to keep a fire going, including:
- Taking the time to build a fire up
- Using plenty of kindling
- Using dry seasoned wood
- Keeping your stove and chimney clean
- Checking for any draft issues with your chimney
- Making sure you have enough ventilation
- Adjusting the air supply for the most efficient burn
- Using a stove thermometer to find the right temperature
There are plenty of reasons your log burner keeps going out, but hopefully these tips will help you keep your fire going all night!
Take a look at all the resources on our blog for more wood burning stove tips and advice!