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Wood Stoves

Contrary to popular belief, the sun is not always shining in southern Spain, and the temperature is not always a comfortable 25 degrees.  We do have occasional cold spells, we do experience a mild ground frost every now and then, and the mountains do accommodate frost pockets and cold micro-climates. Besides, once you've got used to summer temperatures of 35 degrees or more, a winter low of 5 will feel much colder than it would back home. Especially if you live out in the campo, you'll need some form of heating for your house during the winter months.

Nothing beats a wood stove when it comes to comfortably heating your home. Some of the up-market air conditioning units will do the trick, but you'll always feel the draught of the forced air circulation. Most gas heaters are easy to operate and convenient, but they increase the air humidity considerably. And open fires are a very romantic but dangerous waste of money, since they are extremely inefficiency and prone to chimney fires and other accidents. Our personal favourite is the wood stove with glazed door. These are efficient, safe, comfortable, and romantic.

Lighting a Wood Stove

It seems like a simple thing. Just put some wood in the stove, light a match and there it goes. Not! Anyone who regularly fires up a stove or fireplace knows there is much more to it than meets the eye. Lets break this down to a simple series of steps. Each one must be done or the fire will be a bust.

  • Make certain the chimney is drafting upwards. Many chimneys will reverse (cold air falls) when not in use. Open the door of your stove. If you feel a cold draft coming down then your chimney has reversed itself. Keep this in mind and follow step 4 below in order to reverse your chimney.
     

  • Set the kindling. Place fire starters, fatwood or crumpled newspaper (3 or 4 sheets balled up fairly tightly) on the floor or grate of your stove. Place small kindling over the paper or starter. The more dry, small kindling you have, the easier and better your fire will start. Crisscross the kindling so there is plenty of air space in between each piece. Wood that is packed too tight will not burn properly.
     

  • Set more wood. Set larger wood on top of the kindling, and continue to set larger and larger pieces on top until the stove is over 2/3 full.
     

  • Countdown. If you determined in step 1 that your chimney was drafting upwards, go ahead and light the newspaper or starter. If you think your chimney has reversed, do the following: place the piece of balled newspaper as high up in the stove toward the chimney (usually above the baffle plate) as you can get it, then light it. It should get sucked upwards and reverse the chimney with its warmth.
     

  • Ignition. Assuming that you've lit the starter, stand back for a moment and watch the fire do its thing. Keep the draft control and damper fully open at first. In fact, it may help to keep the stove door slightly open for the first few moments until the fire is caught.
     

  • Blast-off. The fire should quickly catch and spread through your load of wood. Don't make the mistake of closing your air control or damper soon after you start the fire. It may look good, but until you've warmed the stove up, warmed the chimney and established a good bed of coals (red embers), your fire is not really at critical mass.
     

  • Mission accomplished. Keep the fire going. Keep these simple points in mind. Always keep a "flame" on your fire. A smoking or smouldering fire is a cold and inefficient one that produces pollutants and creosote (tar in the chimney). Add more wood before the fire gets too low. This will assure the continuation of your hard-earned fire. Use Dry, seasoned wood. If your wood sizzles and refuses to light or burn it's probably not ready for prime time. Store your wood in a dry place and cut and split it at least 8 months prior to burning.

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