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Clogged Pipes


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Clogged Pipes

February 29th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Clogged Pipes] Lately, our wood-burning stove is difficult to light and won't allow a roaring fire. Yesterday, we discovered why.

Surgery Required

Hutton House - When arteries are clogged with build-up, surgery is required. Doctors go in and clean out the blockages, so that blood can flow unimpeded.

What works for the human circulatory system also works for the home heating system.

Filed under: "a somewhat embarrassing tale", Scott spent the better part of yesterday, disassembling our wood burning stove exhaust ducts. Apparently, they were clogged with creosote. Not just a little - a LOT of creosote (think "massive chimney fire").

OKAY ... you'd think as a volunteer firefighter, Scott would know different.

Well, he does. In fact, he cleaned the main vertical chimney this fall, sweeping the ceramic liner with a square, wire chimney brush. He wasn't too worried about the metal ducting, figuring (incorrectly) that it got hot enough that any creosote would be burned off.

We're still pretty new to the whole wood-burning stove thing. We've been in our house for two winter seasons now. We've noticed, this year, that it's gotten more difficult to start fires and get them roaring. (Which was precipitated by Rachel wanting to keep very slow burning fires going all day - not a good idea, apparently).

The other night, after a particularly smoky start to a rather cool fire, Scott thought, "I wonder if the exhaust pipe could be the problem?"

He slapped it with his hand and immediately, the fire went out and smoke began to pour out of the fire box. We opened all the windows and doors, turned on the fans and stared in amazement at the fire, which was now just a mass of white smoke.

We let the box cool and the next day, Scott pulled apart to the exhaust vents. What he saw was amazing ... the pipe was nearly clogged with creosote and ash build up. It was far from the "clean" pipe he'd imagined.

We have no idea how long it took to accumulate this amount of creosote, but we cleaned it all out, wire brushed the insides of the pipes, reconnected them and we're able to - once again - have roaring fires.

We've got a magnetic thermometer that's mounted to the exhaust stack. It shows where the range for "normal operation" is, too low and you're into the "creosote" range and too high, you're "too hot". We try to keep it in the normal range and it will be interesting to see how much build up we get next year.

I guess taking apart and cleaning the exhaust pipes will become part of the annual maintenance, just like sweeping the chimney. ;)

As an aside, we had a bit of creosote staining on the red brick. After trying all manner of cleaner and searching the Internet for a solution, Scott tried oven cleaner. It worked pretty well, though several applications with a stiff brush, were required.

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Updated: 6-Mar-2008
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1.flag Gary Comment
Glad you found the problem and got it sorted, you certainly seem to be a 'jack of all trades' Scott.

I hope you are well apreciated in the Kimler household and Rachel lets you put your feet up once in a little while to relax :)

I was just about to shut down the PC after putting some music on Jemmas phone for her to listen to and I noticed that you had a post. I couldn't help myself from having a read :)

Have a nice (warm) weekend, its blowing a gale here tonight, lets hope theres not another ferry just about to beach itself this end huh !

Gz ;)
2.flag Rachel Comment
Gary - There is no worry about Scott putting his feet up. Not infrequently they are up to the point that there is no room on the sofa for me :(

I was away last week for five days, and when I came home the four items that I had on my "Honey-Do..." list were all done. I guess I need to go away more often in order for things to get done.

You are right, though, Scott is a Jack-of-all-Trades. While I certainly do appreciate him, I could stand to tell him so more often. "Thanks Scotty" from your appreciative wife.
3.flag Gary Comment
Hi Rachel, Nice to hear from you.
He's a good egg isn't he !

LOL @ Honey-do list, that was funny.

I must admit I do a lot of around the house jobs and its so satisfying and you often do a better job than the tradesmen you would have paid.

You Alex is growing up know isn't she ? Did she eat her first 'home-grown egg' yet ?

Say hi to Scotty for me ;)

4.flag Mike Comment
We used one woodstove since 1983, switched to PE Summit classic in 2009.
Bends in a pipe really slow the gasses-really only 2 years usage for so much creosote? You should see no smoke out of your chimney once burning, and with a topdown fire, not even for initial burning. The gasses burn off and don't have to perculate through wood above. Maybe you throttle down the stove too much-Do you see blue flames by the baffle holes? The secondary burn should allow very little creosote buildup. 5 yrs after cleaning, our 25 ft chimney still looked clean enough at the top not to clean.
We had to engineer the ash pit door to stay open for enough draft to do a topdown fire for the first 1/2 hr. We use an infrared thermometer on the stove and pipe, and go for hottest burn, pipe temp. should be above 400 and can go to 800- the top is very thick and rarely goes above 700. The hot fire keeps the chimney clean; for a slower but clean fire, use topdown with the wood stacked side to side, for hotter, stack front to back. Search top down fire on YouTube, the PE Summit is shown by a Canadian stove use video.