All woods produce creosote. All woods will cause creosote accumulation if burned improperly. So-called dangerous woods such as pine are in fact safer than woods such as oak, as they will burn hotter and thus help keep flue temperatures up, and their fast seasoning will help ensure that novice wood burners are burning reasonably dry wood.

Dry wood produces more usable heat than wet wood, since the energy used to evaporate the water from the wood is lost up the chimney. Freshly cut wood known as green wood has a high moisture content. Different wood species have different moisture contents, which also vary tree to tree. Burning fuel that is mostly water uses much of the combustion energy to evaporate the water.

Wood-burning stove

This results in low firebox temperatures and low flue temperatures. Firewood with a moisture content below 20 per cent by weight can burn efficiently. This is the "free" moisture content absorbed in the wood fibers, and does not include the chemically bound hydrogen and oxygen content. Moisture content can be reduced by outdoor air-drying "seasoning" , for a period of several months in summer weather.

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Solar-powered or fuel-fired kilns can accelerate the drying process. The most common process of removing the excess moisture is called seasoning.

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  • Seasoning by air-drying the wood can take three years or more. Wood is dried in outdoor well-ventilated covered structures, or in a kiln. All wood will release creosote vapors when burned. Modern stoves will burn the vapors, either via direct secondary combustion or via a catalyst. Very little, if any, creosote will escape a properly operating modern stove's secondary combustion. Creosote that does escape may still not be harmful. It leaves the wood in gaseous form. It will not condense on surfaces above degrees Fahrenheit. Modern flues are insulated to help ensure that they do not fall below this temperature during normal stove operation.

    Creosote accumulation can be dangerous, as it is flammable and burns hot. If a flue is coated with creosote and ignited, perhaps by a spark going up the flue, it can cause a serious chimney fire that can lead to a structure fire. This can be avoided by using modern stoves and flue standards, burning dry wood, keeping your fires hot enough to maintain flue temperatures of at least degrees F at the top of the flue, and proper chimney cleaning as needed.

    Multi-fuel stove designs are common in the United Kingdom , Ireland and Europe. They burn solid fuels only, including wood , wood pellets , coal and peat. They are typically made of steel or cast iron. Some models are also boiler stoves, with an attached water tank to provide hot water, and they can also be connected to radiators to add heat to the house, though they are usually not as efficient as a dedicated wood boiler. There are also stove models that can switch from wood fuel to oil or gas sources that are installed in the house to supply heat to a separate water boiler.

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    • In some models, the oil or gas may fuel the stove through a pipe connection leading to a "pot burner" in the rear of the firewood compartment in the stove. Multi-fuel stoves are versatile, but usually perform poorly compared to a stove that is designed to burn one specific fuel as well as possible. Modern wood stoves universally have some method of secondary combustion to burn unburned gasses for greatly improved efficiency and emissions. One common method is via a catalyst. A catalytic wood stove will re-burn the gasses from the firebox in a catalyst- a matrix of steel or ceramic plated with a catalyst that allows combustion of these gasses at much lower temperatures than would ordinarily be possible.

      This is why among modern stoves, catalytic models tend to be much better at achieving low, even heat output, which is desirable in warmer weather. Modern non-catalytic wood stoves will also reburn the gasses from the firebox, but require a much higher temperature for the secondary combustion. No catalyst is required. These models lose a large amount of efficiency at low burn rates, as they cannot maintain secondary combustion, but can be very efficient at higher temperatures that allow secondary combustion.

      There also exist hybrid stoves that employ both catalytic and non-catalytic secondary combustion. Stoves that do not employ any secondary combustion still exist, but are markedly less efficient than a modern stove due to their lack of secondary combustion.


      In a conventional stove, when wood is added to a hot fire, a process of pyrolysis or destructive distillation begins. Gases or volatiles are evolved which are burned above the solid fuel. These are the two distinct processes going on in most solid fuel appliances. In obsolete stoves without secondary combustion, air had to be admitted both below and above the fuel to attempt to increase combustion and efficiency.

      The correct balance was difficult to achieve in practice, and many obsolete wood-burning stoves only admitted air above the fuel as a simplification.

      Where to Install | Heatmaster SS Outdoor Wood Furnaces

      Often the volatiles were not completely burned, resulting in energy loss, chimney tarring, and atmospheric pollution. To overcome this, the pyrolyzing stove was developed. The two processes go on in separate parts of the stove with separately controlled air supplies. Most stoves designed to burn wood pellets fall into this category. Most pyrolyzing stoves regulate both fuel and air supply as opposed to controlling combustion of a mass of fuel by simple air regulation as in traditional stoves.

      The pelleted fuel is typically introduced into the pyrolyzing chamber with a screw conveyor. This leads to better and more efficient combustion of the fuel. The technology is not actually new; it has been used for decades in industrial coal-fired boilers intended to burn coal with high volatile content.

      Kerr Indoor Wood Boiler Installation

      Correct air flow and ventilation are also critical to efficient and safe wood burning. Specific requirements will be laid down by the stove manufacturer. The safe operation of a wood-burning stove requires regular maintenance such as emptying ash pans containers beneath the wood grate. Routine cleaning of the stove pipes and chimney is also needed to prevent chimney fires.


      Creosote and soot gradually build up in stovepipes and chimneys. This could damage the chimney and spread fire to the surrounding structure, especially the roof. When soot blocks the airflow through the stove pipes or chimney, smoke can build up in the stove pipes and in the house. This means that carbon dioxide is often "reduced" to carbon monoxide , which is highly poisonous and must not be allowed to escape into the home.


      This can occur if the stove or chimney has not been cleaned or there is insufficient ventilation. Carbon monoxide detectors or alarms should always be installed according to manufacturers' recommendations where a wood stove is in use. Not all smoke detectors detect carbon monoxide. Fuel accelerants such as coal, grease, oil, gasoline , kerosene , plastics, and so on, also must never be added to firewood in a wood stove, since the flames produced may easily overwhelm the wood compartment and stove pipes and create a house fire.

      Under the United Kingdom's Clean Air Act , local authorities may declare the whole or part of the district of the authority to be a smoke control area. It is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, from a furnace or from any fixed boiler if located in a designated smoke control area. In order to comply with the Clean Air Act in "smoke control areas", an exempt appliance or fuel must be used.

      These devices meet a particular emissions standard of no more than 7. However, the EPA has had no mandatory emission limits for pellet stoves, indoor or outdoor wood boilers, masonry stoves and certain types of wood stoves that are exempt from EPA regulation.

      EPA is developing new regulations and in , these will begin to come into effect, establishing mandatory emission limits for almost all wood-burning appliances fireplaces, chimeneas , and some other special appliances will still be exempt. In some places, such as the Caribbean, Central America and South America, many houses have wood-burning stoves that are used indoors without any means of proper ventilation. Smoke stays in the house, where it is breathed in by the residents, harming their health.

      Nearly 2 million people are killed each year by indoor air pollution caused by open-fire cooking, mostly women and children, according to the World Health Organization WHO. The cutting of large amounts of firewood also endangers local forests and ecosystems. Non-governmental organizations NGOs such as Rotary International are actively assisting homeowners in constructing more fuel-efficient and safe wood-burning stoves. Justa stoves are made out of such materials as adobe , cement , and pumice , with chimneys. Other wood-burning stoves types are also being introduced to these communities, such as rocket stoves and haybox stoves.

      Bigger rocket stoves are connected to chimney or flue-exhaust pipe. The haybox stove is another outdoor wood-burning stove. This means about 5 million homes have a wood fueled stove or cooker. Rocket mass heater in a tipi at Paul Wheaton 's permaculture homestead in Montana. Daruma stove , a traditional Japanese wood-burning stove. Ceramic-tiled kachelofen wood-burning stove in an Alsatian house, Strasbourg, France. Wooden laundry-drying racks hang over the stove.