Seeking advice on EPA wood stove use

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Jun 15, 2011
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Thanks for all the support everyone. It really has been helpful.

I still think, for my case, the draft issue is the design of the weird diffuser/secondary burn plate in the stove because I burned a tiny fire in it without the plate and it drafted beautifully... but the flames went right up the stove pipe so not safe or efficient to run it that way. I've learned to just put up with the smoke spilling into the house when I open the door and have adapted my habits to minimize that (open the flue, wait a few moments, open the door slowly and as little as necessary to add fuel and/or stir up coals).

The best change to my heat quality has been using the aluminum foil to block off intake ports for longer burn times. There are 7 holes total and I made two foil covers; one that covers 3 holes and one that covers two holes. So for burning overnight or with particularly hot-burning wood, I can cover 5 of the 7 holes and still have some coals up to 10 hours later. Which is a huge improvement over 4-6 hours max. Once the house is up to temp and I have coals in the stove, I don't have to maintain a very hot fire to keep the house toasty. If it is a particularly cold day, I can just cover two or three holes to maintain a hotter stove.

It also means I use less wood. This brings up a gripe I have with the efficiency ratings of stoves like mine. Sure, maybe my stove running wide open with no intake restriction will burn the wood inside at the greatest efficiency (converting the max amount of the fuel into heat rather than smoke), but it overheats the space and burns through wood much faster and I bet a lot of that heat goes right up the chimney. But if instead, I block some of the intake, the conversion of fuel to heat might be less thermally efficient but the load of wood lasts much longer. So I use less wood overall and maintain a more comfortable environment.

As for an external intake, I do like that idea and don't think it would be too hard to implement if I were to take the intake air from the chimney (there is a 6" liner in a 24" chimney). I will definitely consider that when I build a stove, modify my existing stove, or get a new one. It really makes sense as it will probably greatly reduce the amount of cold air sucked into the house by the stove as it is.

No mater how air tight a house is, there are still leaks that come from all kinds of places where air leaks in. In my opinion small leaks are better then having a dedicated outside air intake going directly into the stove intake Yes it will reduce the air leaks from other air leaks. But this idea was invented when people used fireplaces with extremely leaky homes. So the cold air drafts would put a chill in the air if you happened to be in the air raft path. It was a way to keep the air drafts form drifting through the room to feed the fire with air.
But the old style fireplaces drafted most of the heat strait up the chimney. And the idea was that the heat going up the chimney was drawing the same amount of cold air into the room. But modern fireplaces are much more efficient with heat exchanges that put more of the heat that was going up the chimney is now staying in the house. In the old days in a drafty house, the only to stay worm is to sit close the the fireplace and catch the radiant heat from the stone and the fire.
With modern air tight homes with heat forced heat exchanges you actually need fresh air in order for it to draft properly. If you don't have some fresh air coming into the room, or the air gets dry and stuffy.
You need a little fresh damp air coming in to off set that dry stuffy air.
I keep a small window open that I can open and close to adjust the cool fresh air that comes in the house. See I use a stove instead of a fireplace so I get heat from all sides, witch is was more efficient. SO I prefer a little cool air coming in the house. I use my bedroom window so my bedroom stays a little cooler then the rest of the house. I sleep better if it;s cooler in the bedroom anyway. If I get hot, I open the window a little more cool air, If I get to cool I simply close it a little and let it worm up a bit. It's a great way to adjust and keep a better balance and regulate the temps in the house. If the air gets to dry, my sinuses get to dry and I can't breath.


ArboristSite Lurker
Feb 24, 2011
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I know this is a dead thread but just wanted to give a ~one year update.

I was much better at preparing for the winter this year and have a lot more seasoned and seasoning wood. I may sound like a bit of an idiot here but oh well... I now think my prior draft issues must have been mostly related to burning wet firewood (though, installing a chimney liner helped a lot and was a must anyway). In prior winters, I was constantly trying to keep up; mainly burning recently harvested/split/stacked standing dead. Now that I'm burning seasoned wood and using the previously mentioned "tin foil intake dampers," I actually like my cheapo stove a bit and am able to fully prevent the billowing smoke when I open it. I guess the not-fully-seasoned wood just created too much smoke to begin with, plus cooler exhaust temps, slowing the draft.

The tin foil intake covers allow me to effectively slow the burn so sometimes I do still have coals in the morning. They aren't a total solution to the problem (no intake damper) because if the suction is momentarily reduced inside the firebox, the covers can slip off the intake holes. So a strong wind or opening/closing an exterior door can sometimes cause them to slip and allow the fire/coals to burn at full throttle. Usually they have slipped by the morning. Plus I have to remove them before opening the stove's door or they will fall into the fire.

Eventually I'll make some modifications to the stove that will allow me to easily throttle the intake; maybe incorporating a fresh air intake from the brick chimney. I think that could really reduce the influx of cold air in this drafty old house.