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Alternative method to starting a fire

Most commonly, a small fire of kindling wood is stacked and bigger logs are added to this. The trouble with this, is that as gases are released from the bigger logs, there are no flames at the top to ignite them. They will pollute rather than give heat. There is a solution….place your logs on the bottom of your stove, then place your kindling on top of these. Soon the fire will burn its way down; as the logs heat up and produce gas, there will always be fire on top to ignite them.

This method also works well, as you can start a fire and keep it burning in one step. This is particularly helpful in wood burning stoves when opening the door to add more logs. When the stove is not up to efficient burning temperature, smoke can easily escape back into the room through the open door, when using the usual method of adding kindling before logs.

How to burn wood with minimum pollution

Fires smoke and pollute it they do not burn intensely. A temperature of 300 – 350 degrees Celsius is required to burn all the gases emmited from wood. At a lower temperature, the gases (smoke) will go up the chimney unburned. For this reason, a hot fire will burn cleanest; all the pollution is simply turned into heat. You will get a good indication of how efficiently your fire is operating, by simply going outside to check the colour of the smoke. There should only be a thin, pale emission from the chimney. Once your house is warm, control the temperature by the amount of wood you add not by closing the airvent.

Signs of a bird’s nest

Now that the bird nesting season is well and truly over, it’s a good time of year to remove bird’s nests. If in the summer months you noticed sticks falling down your chimney, or heard birds cooing or making a noise for a consistent amount of time, it’s very possible you may have a bird’s nest in your chimney. Removing a bird’s nest from a chimney, is a reasonably straightforward task. However it can take considerably longer than a standard chimney sweep. Hence, if we are called out for a standard chimney sweep and encounter a bird’s nest, we generally need to make a new appointment to come back at a later date. If you are in Winchester, andover, romsey or Southampton and suspect a bird’s nest in your chimney, please call us today.

Local Hardwood Species

Here in Hampshire, the main hardwood species used for firewood are Ash, Beech, Silver Birch, Oak & Sycamore. Each species has its own individual merits. Ash is a good all round firewood and burns easily with little smoke. Contrary to popular belief, ‘green ash’ doesn’t burn at all well. It does have a naturally low moisture content, but needs further seasoning before burning. Beech is one of the finest woods to burn. It burns hot and for a long time. Beech has many uses, other than firewood; this means that it doesn’t appear on the firewood market as much as some would like.

Birch is a wonderful and often overlooked species. It’s a ‘pioneer’ species, seeding freely and improving soil quality for other trees and shrubs. It’s a good clean firewood and has a lovely scent when burned. Oak is a very dense wood and has a tendency to smoulder, rather than burn. Ideally, it’s best mixed with lighter woods, such as birch or sycamore. Allow plenty of airflow into your appliance, split the logs small and it will, once mastered, give a hot and long fire. Sycamore is another underrated firewood species. It grows quickly, splits easily and is relatively quick to season. It’s a good general all purpose firewood.

Hints and tips for getting the most out of your wood burner

The most fundamental thing to get right is to make sure that you burn dry wood. Buy your wood from a good and reputable supplier, or dry it yourself over the summer months. As far as your stove is concerned, the most important thing is to never completely close the air vent to “keep the fire in”.

This is the best way to prevent soot and tar build-up; also to prevent the glass on your stove blackening up. It is always better to have a hot, fast burn, as this is the most efficient way of using your woodburner. If in doubt, a small magnetic stove thermometer is a great idea. This will help to maintain the optimum temperature and can be bought for under a tenner.

When should I get my chimney swept?

We suggest you should have your chimney or flue swept once a year if using wood, or twice a year if using coal. Coal produces a lot more soot than wood, hence the need to sweep twice during the burning season. Try to have your chimney swept at the end of the summer and before you start to use your appliance again; just in case a blockage has occurred over the summer months……i.e.  a bird’s nest. Regular sweeping will help your appliance work as efficiently and safely as possible. Whether you are in Andover, Winchester or Southampton, phone us today to book your annual sweep.

Choosing the right fuel

While chimney sweeping in andover today i was asked “what is the best fuel for my fire” it’s a commonly asked question so here are our thoughts.

Wood is by far the most commonly used fuel in our experience, of which there are a few choices – softwood, hardwood, seasoned and kiln dried.

Softwood is relatively cheap as it’s faster growing then hardwood but, consequently burns a little faster.  it has a tendency to spit so best used in wood burning stoves, a good choice if on a budget. Hardwood kiln dried logs are by far the most expensive option due to the cost of producing them, wood or biomass are burnt to heat a kiln where the logs are forced dried, you generally get a consistent quality of fuel, make sure you find out the provenence of your kiln dried logs as they are often sourced outside of the uk. If you can find a reputable supplier of properly seasoned hardwoods logs we think this offers the best value for money. Ultimately the most important factor is making sure your logs are dry before burning , a moisture content of below 25% is perfectly acceptable.

The chimney sweeping season is underway

Although our thoughts at this time of year are a long way from cold winter nights and roaring fires, it’s not a bad time to book in your annual chimney sweep and avoid the winter rush. We have been sweeping open fires and wood burners in Southampton and Salisbury this week. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you suspect a bird’s nest in your chimney, it’s illegal under the wildlife and countryside act to interfere with an active nest. To protect nesting bird’s and chicks, we do not remove nests from March till August.

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