How to use the Air Vents on a Stove

Understanding and Controlling Air Vents on Your Wood Burning Stove

When it comes to wood burning stoves, one significant advantage they have over open fires is the ability to control the amount of oxygen that fuels the fire, thanks to the presence of air vents. Oxygen plays a crucial role in combustion, but too much of it can cause the fire to burn through the fuel rapidly, leading to over-firing the stove. To effectively control the fire, it is essential to comprehend how the air vents work and familiarize yourself with the different parts of the stove.

The Air Vents

Before delving into air control, let’s explore the various air vents found on a typical wood burning stove. You may already be familiar with terms like “air wash,” “primary,” “secondary,” and “tertiary” air supply if you own a stove.
woodwarm phoenix eco 4
Woodwarm Stove with low level Independant Air Controls
  1. Air Wash – The air wash feature involves drawing air over the glass window inside the stove, which helps keep the glass relatively clean. By constantly circulating air over the window, the buildup of ash and tar is reduced, though some accumulation may still occur over time. This air supply is typically from the secondary air vents, situated above the ceramic glass window.
  2. Primary Air – This air supply comes from the bottom of the firebox and is particularly useful when burning coal.
  3. Pre-Heated Secondary Air – When burning wood, it is essential to maintain a high firebox temperature to release the flammable gases from the wood effectively. The secondary air supply preheats the air before it enters the firebox, preventing a sudden drop in temperature caused by cold air. This preheated air is directed through channels near the firebox, ensuring the fire stays well-fed with oxygen.
  4. Tertiary Air – Many stoves also feature a tertiary air supply, primarily located at the back of the firebox. This supply aids in burning off the gases released by the fuel, resulting in increased efficiency and a cleaner burn. It can often be observed as a swirling vortex of fire.
skantherm ator air control detail
Skantherm Ator Air Control Lever

Controlling Air Vents

When you begin lighting your stove, it’s crucial to have all air controls open. This provides the best chance for your fire to take hold, and some people even keep the door slightly ajar during the initial lighting process. Additionally, ensure that the ash pan isn’t too full, as excess ash can restrict the air supply.

Once the fire has established itself, you can adjust the air vents according to the type of fuel you are burning:

1. Wood Burning: When burning wood, you can close the bottom (primary) air supply entirely, as wood fires primarily require oxygen from above the fire.

2. Coal Burning: On the other hand, when burning coal, you should control the fire using the primary air vents, as coal fires predominantly draw oxygen from below the fire.

austroflamm air control dial
Austroflamm Wooden Dial Air Control
wanders black pearl air control dial
Wanders Metal Disc Air Control

Finding the Right Balance

The key is to find the right balance, ensuring that the fire burns hot enough for a clean burn, where all fuel is efficiently burnt off, without overheating and damaging the stove. This might require some experimentation to find what works best for your stove, considering factors like the airtightness of your room and prevailing wind directions.
In conclusion, mastering the art of controlling air vents is essential for efficient and safe operation of your wood burning stove. While this blog post provides a quick crash-course in understanding air supplies, we are also working on producing a series of videos that will delve deeper into the specifics of various stove’s air supplies and how each one operates. So, stay tuned for those! If you have any questions about your stove, please feel free to comment below, and we’ll be more than happy to assist you in resolving any issues you may encounter!

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