Wood stoves can be difficult to light when it is cold outside at the best of times. A wood stove in a basement can take this difficulty to a whole new level. If you are tired of opening windows to reverse air pressure. Tired of your basement filling with smoke when you light or reload your stove. We have some tips for you.
You may not have as much smoke pouring out of your basement as the picture above but at times it may feel like it. Lighting a basement installed wood stove can be problematic for main reasons. A cold chimney that does not allow warm air to rise so it pushes the smoke back into your room is one. The other is negative air pressure in your home which is usually the result of a lack of combustion air in the basement.
Negative Air Pressure
Homes constructed within the last few years have become so energy efficient that for them to breathe, mechanical intervention such as an HRV is often required. Even with a perfectly balanced HRV however, items such as hood fans, bathroom fans and so on can throw the air pressure into negative balance. When the interior of the home is under negative air pressure, air is sucked in from the outdoors. An open wood stove door is the perfect place for air to be drawn in from the outdoors. Even on a temperate day, if your home is under negative air pressure not only will your basement fill with smoke when you light your stove. It will also fill with smoke when you reload it.
Eliminating negative air pressure
There is no easy way to eliminate negative air pressure in your home. There are however ways to deal with it. The easiest way to temporarily deal with it is to open a window or door. This allows fresh air into your home when you are lighting or reloading your wood stove. When its minus 40 outside this does not have a lot of appeal however it only has to be for a couple of minutes. When you have to add wood, simply open a window or door. Leave it open for a minute or so, then open the door to your wood stove, reload it, close the door to the stove and then the window or door you opened for fresh air. When Lighting the stove, leave the window open until a strong up draft is created.
A more permanent and simpler solution is to install a combustion air pot in your basement. This can be done at minimal expense but should only be done by a licenced HVAC contractor who will be familiar with air balance.
The cold start
The less exterior chimney you have the less likely you will experience this problem. Main floor wood installations due to the reduced length of exterior chimney are not as susceptible as basement installations. Hot air rises and cold air falls. The colder it is outside the harder it is for the warm air to push up your chimney. So when you attempt to light your fire, the smoke that you want to go up your chimney is pushed back into your room.
Solving the cold start.
The key to eliminating this problem is to pre warm your chimney. This can be done by holding a blow torch inside your stove and preheating the air that is rising. While it does work, for obvious reasons we do not recommend this method. A better method is to purchase fire starting gel. It is non toxic and does not smoke when it burns. This is a very easy way to preheat your chimney. Simply add a few ounces to an empty tuna can. Place it in your stove with your door slightly ajar and light it. It will burn for approximately 15 minutes. Your chimney will now be warmed enough that you can light a fire without the smoke coming back into your room.
An alternative to the fire starter gel is to install an electric draw collar. Plug it in, the air in your chimney is preheated and within 10 minutes you can light a smoke free fire. A draw collar can be added to any interior wood stove chimney. It is a do it yourself fix for only the most accomplished handyman.
A wood stove can provide a lot of warmth and ambiance in your basement. For more ideas on how to avoid a smoke filled basement feel free to drop by our showroom anytime.