In keeping with the theme of the last blog, we followed the scheduled maintenance required for our wood stove yesterday.  Kinda.  You see, we skipped last year so, in reality, we were a year late.  Or were we?

Common wisdom states that you clean your woodstove every year.  If you don’t, your house will catch on fire and you will die.  Horribly.  Painfully.  Worse, you will lose all your possessions and your premiums will go up.  Apparently, that is a fact.  And there will be no sympathy from the more regulated for such wanton irresponsibility.  So, we have complied like the good woodsfolk we aspire to be despite the fact of our not having house insurance or being that attached to possessions.  Life, on the other hand, is more precious so we did as we were told.  Until last year.

Did I mention the free radical gene in my DNA?

Here’s what came up: every time I cleaned out the chimney, it was virtually clean.  Over twelve feet of flue, admittedly with only one 45 degree bend, yielded but a cup, maybe two, of soot.  ‘Surely, I thought, this obsession with cleaning flues is some weird kind of safety propaganda along the lines of Reefer Madness, bicycle helmets, seat belts and the need for security cameras at all times and all places.  The benign looking woodstove can’t be the demon lurking as publicized’.  Or can it?

Last year I took a chance.  “Hey, Sal, let’s not clean the chimney this year.  Waddya say?  Let’s risk it.  Take a chance.  Roll the dice.  Let’s introduce a little danger into our lives, ya know?”

“We just came back from chicken busing through El Salvador and that scared the bejeesus out of us, isn’t that enough thrills for awhile?”

“Well, you make a good point.  But I think it is in my favour.  What the hell is a house fire after chicken busing through an armed camp of rebels in a poverty stricken, drug infested banana republic?  Now that you mention it, why not plan on vacationing in Afghanistan this next winter?”

“Nix on Afghanistan – this winter, anyway (Sal likes to keep her options open)-  but I will admit that we never seem to get any soot from the obligatory annual dismantling of everything woodstove.  I am OK with skipping a year.  Do you think it is safe?”

So, we skipped and all went well.  Mostly.  The stove wasn’t drawing as well near the end of last years burning season but close examination suggested that the baffle was the culprit.  It was disintegrating.  This year we would clean it all up, put in a new baffle and ‘do the right thing’.  And yesterday we did it.

Here’s the result of the experiment:  This time there was a five gallon bucket of black collected.  Not much in the way of creosote but a lot more loose ash, soot, cinder and black crud.  Not enough of anything to make for a chimney fire but enough to make an impression.  In one year we got two cups of crap, in two years we got almost five gallons.

That’s surprising.  Doesn’t fit with my sense of logic.  Why didn’t I just get 4 or five cups?  Never mind.  We can go two years without worry and so we will.  I think.  Somehow wood soot grows in some odd exponential way so we likely won’t push the two year envelope but it will still add an element of adventure.

Oooooh, this off the grid lifestyle is just one long thrill-ride, isn’t it?


2 thoughts on “Woodstoves

  1. Prophylactic measures prevent chimney fires. Do you have a flue gas temperature gauge? Your stove might have been burning cooler than usual hence the build-up of ash and such.


    • Could be. But our thermometer works and we usually burn hot. I think the baffle just rust/flaked up and started to interfere with the draft. But, it is done now and this morning everything was rosy and bright. We’re good.


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