Modern solid fuel heaters are generally of excellent quality – problems are usually due to some difficulty with the installation, chimney or fuels.

  • FUEL – Is Wood dry? Have you got the right solid fuel
  • CHIMNEY – Is the chimney high, hot, smooth and sealed?
  • Is the fire INSTALLED correctly?

Smoke from the chimney: Some solid fuels, such as peat or wood that is any way damp, and bituminous coal in any form will emit significant smoke unless burned on specially designed appliances. Remember too that ‘smokeless’ fuels  are not smoke free, but only burn with less smoke . It is quite normal for a little smoke to be emitted from the chimney when the fire is cold, but good quality, well-made appliances should emit little or no smoke when burning clean very dry wood or smokeless mineral fuels such as natural anthracite

Lack of controllability: Wood and some other fuels may burn excessively until the gases in them have been used up. You can reduce this effect by making sure that the fire is set to ‘low’ for a while before refuelling and checking that the door seals fully. Some appliances are deliberately made incapable of being fully closed down, in order to prevent smouldering and smoke emissions. On such appliances, adjust the heat output by how much fuel you put on, as well as by using the controls.

Difficulty burning for extended periods: If the fire goes out with fuel still in the firebox, then this is probably because too little air has been reaching it, try leaving the air controls open a little more. Check that the door seals are sound and that there are no cracks or gaps anywhere in the flue. The fuel must be dry. Longest burning is likely to be achieved with harder fuels, such as anthracite, on appliances capable of burning this.

Over-firing: It is possible to leave the fire too long with the controls set too high leading to ‘over firing’, seen as glowing metal parts, excessive chimney temperature and risk of parts failing or chimney fires. Always set controls to the lowest practical setting. A chimney thermometer, from your local stove shop, can help.

Smoke coming into room: Fumes contain Carbon Monoxide – smoke emission must NEVER be tolerated, causes might be:

  • New stove: There is often a smell and sometimes visible fumes as the paint cures. This normally stops after an hour or so.
  • Inadequate seals: Are all flue pipes and connectors gas-tight? Is the inside of the chimney absolutely airtight from top to bottom? Even the tiniest crack or gap can spoil the draught. Does an inset appliance fully seal against the fireplace?
  • Blocked throat plate: Has soot and ash collected inside the flue ways, on the ‘throat plate’ or ‘baffle plate’ beyond the firebox?
  • Unsuitable, blocked, or un-swept chimney: The first requirement for correct operation is a sound clean chimney.
  • Downdraught: Wind can blow down a chimney if there is something higher nearby such as a tree, hill or high building. Fitting an anti-downdraught cowl to the chimney top can cure this. Types that cannot be swept through are not recommended. Downdraught is actually fairly rare, smoke emission problems commonly have other causes.

Chimney fire: In the event of deposits inside the chimney igniting (roaring sound + dense smoke and sparks from the chimney) immediately close the door, shut all air controls and call the fire brigade. Prevent fires by using very dry fuel and having your chimney swept regularly.

Odd noises: Stoves and chimneys sometimes make a slight whistling noise as air is pulled though them or a creaking noise as metal parts expand and contract. These noises usually reduce over time.

Excess ash production: Peat, lignite and certain manufactured Solid Fuels do produce high levels of ash, consider trying a different fuel. Wood Fuel, however, produces almost no ash – the white powder that falls from it is cellulose from the cell walls and will burn if kept hot enough, so do not de-ash a wood fire until necessary. Instead, allow a bed of cinders and ash to build up.

Dirty window: Wood logs can be very smoky, especially if not entirely dry, raw bituminous coal is very dirty indeed and many ‘smokeless’ fuels produce plenty enough smoke to severely stain stove windows. When using smoky fuels always have the stove’s ‘over-fire’ or ‘air wash’ control (usually a slider above the fire-door) at least slightly open to pull extra air in above the fire, pushing dirty gases away from the window and helping them to ignite. The ceramic ‘glass’ commonly used for stove windows will develop very tiny cracks on its surface after a period of use, this is normal.