Is your wood burner having problems with smoke? If so, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
When in proper working order, stoves provide efficient heat that rarely lets you down. However, circumstances can sometimes create conditions that don’t allow a stove to perform at its best. This can result in the odd hiccup, which often manifests itself in the form of unwanted smoke.
If you’re finding that your wood burner is smoking too much when lit, or smoke is backing out into your room, you do need to find out why – and put a stop to it. Not only is smoke bad for the environment and your health, but it can also ruin your wood burning experience – nobody wants to sit in a smoky room!
Some reasons your wood burner might be smoking include:
- A blocked chimney
- A problem with the draw of your chimney
- The air pressure of your room is out of balance
- There is a particularly cold weather snap
- You’re using the wrong fuel
Read on to find out the reason why your chimney is smoking…
Why Does My Wood Burner Smoke?
Let’s quickly go over how a wood burner works and how this creates smoke.
Your chimney is the backbone of your stove – it’s responsible for creating the draft that pulls the smoke upwards and expels it out of your home.
This works on the basic principle of hot air rising. As the fire in your stove burns, the hot air can rise up your chimney, taking the smoke with it. If this can’t happen, for whatever reason, the smoke has nowhere else to go but back out into your room.
Remember, if your fire is burning correctly, you shouldn’t be seeing huge plumes of smoke anyway. Your fire should be small and hot to burn efficiently – the slower it burns, the more smoke is created.
What Causes a Wood Burner to Smoke?
There are two issues we can address here. The first is excessive smoke being created by your log burner. The second is smoke backing out into your room. The latter issue often means you can’t open your stove door, or is making it difficult for you to even light your fire.
First of all, let’s take a look at why your stove is creating too much smoke.
A common cause of this is that you are burning the wrong fuel. When it comes to firewood, you should only ever use fuel with a moisture content of 20% or less. This is because wood with a high moisture content creates more smoke as it burns away the water still inside. This releases more air pollution than necessary, which can be avoided with well seasoned logs.
Related: How to Season Firewood
As mentioned above, you also need to make sure your fire is burning correctly. You need a steady burn that is around 110 – 250 degrees in temperature. This generates enough heat to carry the smoke away, but no so much that your fuel burns too fast.
Wood Burner Smoke in Your Room
Smoke puffing into your room from your log burner is rarely the fault of your stove. It’s much more likely to be down to a problem with your chimney or the air pressure in your room. When these aren’t working properly, it will often result in the failure of smoke to rise upwards, as needed.
Here are some common causes of smoke backing up into your room…
A Blocked Chimney
In many cases, the cause of a smoking wood burner is as simple as a blockage in your chimney.
If you haven’t had your chimney swept in a while, let this be a warning! Regular chimney sweeping ensures blockages are kept at bay. While a smoking stove may be a nuisance, failing to get your chimney swept can also put you at risk of chimney fires – so make sure you get yours checked at least once a year.
Related: Why You Need to Sweep Your Chimney
If you do get your chimney regularly swept, it could be that some debris has fallen into your chimney. Get a torch and carefully look upwards at the inside of your flue from the firebox – you might spot an obstruction. If you can’t easily and safely remove it yourself, call in the help of a chimney sweep.
A Cold Chimney
As we explained earlier, your stove relies on the air inside being hot enough to create an upward draft to carry the smoke up the chimney. If the chimney is too cold, the air will reverse this draft downwards, which will push the smoke back out the door.
Ironically, this is most likely to happen on a particularly cold day – just the time when you want to get your log burner going!
Luckily, there are a few simple techniques for overcoming this issue. All you need to do is rebalance the pressure by heating up the inside of your stove – once the air is warm enough, you should be able to put the draft back in the correct motion.
To do this, make sure you heat your stove up with plenty of kindling before building your fire. Put some flat sheets of newspaper on top of your kindling and leave the door open while it burns. Alternatively, create a torch out of twisted up newspaper. Then, carefully hold it in the entrance of your flue to warm it up.
If this issue persists, you might want to look into getting your chimney insulated – or leave your stove door ajar to allow the warmer air inside.
Having the correct amount of ventilation in your home or other space is vital to your stove working properly. We have a great blog post on why your stove needs ventilation here, which should help if you want to know more.
Inadequate ventilation is another common cause of wood burners smoking in your room. Your stove needs plenty of air to draw in to feed the flames and keep the air flow pressure stable.
If you had a vent installed, make sure it isn’t blocked. Otherwise, try leaving a window open when lighting your stove and see if the smoke issue improves. If it does, it may be that your ventilation isn’t quite right, so get back in touch with the person who installed your stove for advice.
Along with particularly cold weather, strong winds can also be the cause of smoke inside your wood burner.
Very strong and chilly winds can make it difficult for your smoke to rise all the way out of your chimney, which can contribute to a downdraught.
If you live in a very exposed area where this is becoming a common concern, you might want to invest in a weathering or anti-downdraught chimney cowl. These add some protection against wind, rain and debris that can cause all kinds of issues, including chimney damp.
Your Flue Height Isn’t Right
Finally, if you have checked all of the above and can’t identify an issue, it may be that your chimney is too small.
Stove fitting regulations state that your flue must extend at least 4.5 metres from the top of the stove. While this should provide sufficient draw, if you are also battling other issues, such as extreme weather, it might not be enough.
Similarly, if you have very tall chimney, this can also be a problem. The longer your flue is, the further the air has to rise, meaning it can cool down too much before it exits at the top. This means that smoke can start to sink back down into your stove.
If you suspect your chimney height is the cause of your stove smoking, we suggest contacting the person who fit it. They may be able to advise you of what went wrong, and how to fix it.
How Do I Stop My Wood Burner From Smoking?
Overall, to stop your woodburner from smoking, you need to make sure you have the correct air pressure, no blockages in your chimney and the correct fuel to burn.
Smoke from a wood burner can be harmful to your health, though when burnt correctly, a log burner should produce minimal fumes that are deposited at a safe distance. Using an Ecodesign stove with well seasoned wood is the best way to start.
We hope this guide has helped you identify why your log burner is smoking too much – take a look at the Direct Stoves blog for more advice…