How to Troubleshoot a Wood Burning Furnace


Wood heat has become more popular as more people turn to alternative methods of heating their homes. Wood is generally lower in cost than gas or electric heat. Heating your home with wood is safe if the furnace is cared for properly. Outdoor furnaces are even safer than traditional wood stoves since they are located completely outside of the home. These furnaces can give you years of dependable heating. Occasionally trouble arises, but with quick action, these issues can be taken care of by the owner.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood furnace
  • Good quality wood
  • Stove pipe
  • Shop vac
  • Choose the right size furnace for your home. An undersized furnace will need to be loaded far more often than a larger furnace. If your home has cold spots or is not reaching a comfortable temperature without loading the furnace frequently, the solution may be a larger furnace.

  • Choose high-quality hardwood. Well-dried logs of hardwood such as hickory will provide a longer burn than soft woods or split wood. Outdoor furnaces do not need to be loaded with split wood, and most can handle large (30-inch), un-split logs with no problem.

    High moisture content in wood and resinous woods will cause excess smoking, which creates creosote buildup on the smokestack interior.

  • Clean the stovepipe or smokestack with a special brush available in many hardware stores. The brush section is round and has a long, sectioned handle that will scrub the interior of the pipe. This will remove creosote buildup and push some blockages free that are causing smoke backup.

    The smokestack should be at least two feet above the rafters of the home to prevent blowing smoke flowing into the attic or second-story windows.

  • Vacuum the interior of the cooled furnace and ash box with a shop vac after emptying. This removes ash buildup and opens ventilation holes. Inferior burning, snuffed fires and over-smoking can be solved simply by vacuuming these areas.

    Caked-on ashes should be brushed vigorously with a hard, bristled brush, then vacuumed away.

  • Position the furnace no more than 200 feet away from your home for the best performance. Furnaces placed farther from the home do not heat as well and will need frequent loading to work well.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep a few split pine logs on hand to quickly start the furnace. Burn a creosote-removing log in the furnace once a month to remove buildup.
  • Never believe claims of a "smokeless" furnace. All fires smoke.

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