How to buy a wood stove

Using an airtight stove safely. Because wood bums slowly in a modern airtight stove, less heat goes up the chimney than from a blazing fireplace. As a result, chemicals from the wood arc deposited inside the flue and stovepipe in the form of creosote; the slower the wood burns, the more creosote is deposited. This flammable substance builds up quickly once it has begun, and when a thick accumulation ignites, it bums with intense heat. The resultant chimney fire, the cause of most wood-stove tragedies, can burn through a stovepipe, crack a flue, or ignite a wall.

To lessen creosote buildup, bum only well-seasoned hardwoods. Do riot bum trash or artificial logs; bum coal only if the manufacturer’s specifications allow it. Never use a flammable liquid to start a fire. Crumple a few sheets of newspaper into tight balls and bunch them in the center of the firebox; then build a “tepee” of dry kindling over them. Light the newspaper and, when the kindling is fully ablaze, add small pieces of firewood. Add larger pieces as the fire grows.

Bum the stove hot (with the door and damper open) for at least 15 or 20 minutes a day, preferably in the morning while the flue and stovepipe are cool. Whenever you add fuel, open the air supply for a few minutes to bum off moisture. Don’t overload the stove; put in 1 or 2 hours’ fuel supply at a time during the day. Before putting in an overnight load. build up a bed of very hot coals.

Clean the chimney at least twice a year, in spring and fall: clean the stovepipe more often, as needed. Have a professional inspect the chimney and stove annually. Repair or replace any component that shows wear.

Before you install a wood stove, check with local authorities. Have the work inspected and certified by your local fire department. Notify your insurance company also: failure to do so may invalidate your policy.