Smoking woodstoves are a problem because excess smoke means a problem somewhere with the stove. It can be as simple as a closed damper, or a more serious problem such as creosote build up or a bird nesting inside the chimney.
Most woodstoves have dampers in them. A damper is a mechanism that closes and opens to allow smoke to leave the stove. The damper can be found in the stove or on the pipe of the stove going toward the wall of the house. If the damper is broken, or simply not open, the smoke from the fire will back up into the house instead of flying up the flue like it's supposed to.
A cold flue can cause smoke due to the heaviness of cold air and the tendency for hot air to rise. Cold air pushes the hot smoky air down the flue and back into the house.
If the chimney specifications aren't exact and there are parts that need to be exactly sized and aren't it could cause problems with smoke backdrafts. If the chimney flue is too small all the smoke is unable to get out of the firebox and, ultimately, some of the smoke will get pushed back and into the house.
Flues can get blocked form animal infestations as well. bird nests, bats and small animals can get into a chimney that has no cap on it. Likewise, any flying debris carried by the wind can settle in a chimney and block the flue. Persons who haven't had their chimney regularly cleaned may eventually experience a creosote build up in their chimney. This build up not only prevents smoke leaving the chimney but it promotes fire hazards as well. Creosote is highly flammable when exposed to burning ashes and can cause deadly chimney fires.
Odors from a chimney happen for various reasons and happen frequently in summertime when the weather is hot.
Odors can occur when animals move into chimneys. Animals hide from the elements in chimneys and can cause foul odors along with a back draft of chimney smoke because the animals are blocking the smoke from getting out. Installing a cap for the crown of the chimney is advisable as it will not only keep out animals, but also debris that can mold and cause an unpleasant odor.
Build up of creosote can cause odors especially in the hot weather of summer, or any time of the year if the build up is severe enough. Creosote is the leftover chemicals from wood smoke that has condensed and then solidified on the inner parts of the chimney flue.
The main mechanism that may malfunction on a wood stove is the damper. Not all wood stoves have a damper. Most of the older model wood stoves do, but newer models are being made without them. If a woodstove has a damper, it is a metal piece that, when its handle is turned, opens or closes allowing smoke out of the firebox. Dampers are operated by a handle connected to a linkage. If the linkage breaks or if the damper becomes disconnected from the linkage then I fails to work and smoke will enter the house if it is shut, or heat will escape and fires will burn to quickly if it is stuck open.
Other components of wood stoves that can wear out are gaskets. When gaskets are worn out it creates a leaky stove and air gets into the stove and creates a problem with inefficient burning. There are gaskets around the doors, the sides and underneath the stove in its ash pan. Any gaskets that are worn out or warped from the stove overheating should be replaced.
Infestations occur when animals move into chimneys. Animals hide from the elements in dark places, and chimneys are prime nesting sites for birds, bats and squirrels. Animals in the chimney can cause significant damage, foul odors and a back draft of chimney smoke because the animals are blocking the smoke's passage out.
A professional should be called to get the animal out. It is dangerous for a non professional to exterminate an animal in a chimney due to rabies or other diseases transmitted by animals. If animals other than birds, bats or squirrels are in a chimney they are most likely stuck or dead. Either way, the danger of disease is great and the animal must be removed. Installing a cap for the crown of the chimney is advisable as it will not only keep out animals, but also debris blown in from wind.
Creosote is a chemical that is created by wood smoke. When wood is burned in a fireplace or wood stove, the smoke drifts up the chimney. This smoke leaves a residue that accumulates over time. Even persons who are experts at building fires and who know how to properly operate a stove have creosote in their chimneys. It is important for chimneys to be cleaned at least once a year.
Creosote can accumulate faster under abnormal conditions. If the flue is very cold or wet and the hot smoke drifts up from a fire, condensation occurs. Condensation is moisture that doesn't evaporate easily and occurs in cool places where hot air or vapor occur. The chemicals from the burning wood remain on the inner part of the chimney and accumulate. This accumulation is creosote.
If fires are burned very hot for long periods of time, or if fires are kept overly packed so they burn slowly, accumulation of creosote is likely to occur at a faster rate as these burning techniques create more smoke than normal techniques.
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