Heating appliances we enjoy are stoves, boilers, and furnaces. Do you realize that your heating appliances require monthly and yearly attention? Here are some tips to help preserve your heating appliances or make them run better! These tips will definitely help prolong the lifespan of your heat appliances!

Keep Appliances Clean

When wood is burned slowly (during start-up) it produces creosote.  The creosote vapors condense in a cool chimney of a slow-burning fire.  As a result, creosote accumulates in the flue lining. When ignited,  this creosote makes an extremely hot fire. The chimney connector and chimney must be inspected at least once every two months during the heating season to determine if a creosote build-up has occurred.  If a significant layer of creosote has accumulated (3mm or more), it must be removed to reduce the risk of a chimney fire.

Keep the surface of a coal stove clean by periodically wiping the top with a dry rag. Also if you have a furnace or stove that has a filter for the circulating air, change it every 2-3 months.


Gaskets on the doors around the glass and even air dampers must be kept in good condition. A leaky gasket could allow the unit to over-heat. 


Draft is widely misunderstood. It is important that you, the stove operator, realize that draft is a variable effect, not a given quantity. Stoves and chimneys do not have draft, yet draft is the key to your stove’s performance.

Draft is a force, produced by an operating stove and the chimney to which it is attached. It is created by hot gases rising up the chimney, creating a pressure difference between the inside of your home and the outside air. It continually moves fresh combustion air into the stove, and hot exhaust gases out of the stove; without this constant flow, the fire will go out.

Other factors, such as barometric pressure, winds, the air-tightness of the home, the total inside chimney volume, chimney height, and the presence of venting devices such as exhaust fans also play a role in maintaining an adequate draft. In some cases, a window may need to be left open, or some other source of fresh air provided, to keep the appliance operating properly. Low barometric pressures, super-insulated homes, and exhaust fans can reduce draft; winds can play havoc with draft, and too large or too small a chimney volume can cause reduced draft due to the excessive cooling or not enough room to vent exhaust gases quickly. 

Some signs of inadequate draft are smoking, odor, difficulty in maintaining the fire, and low heat output. An overdraft can be caused by a very tall chimney even if it is the recommended size, and can cause over firing of your stove. Signs of an overdraft include rapid fuel consumption, inability to slow the fire, and parts of the stove or chimney connector glowing red. 

When Not in Use

Some tips for when you are not using your appliance during the summer or any period it does not have a fire for an extended time. Make sure the appliance does not sweat especially if the unit is in a damp basement. Remedy this by turning on a 100w incandescent bulb and placing it in the unit. Clean the unit inside and out before relighting. Spray WD40 on any levers, dampers, hinges, joints, and anything else that moves.

Do not Overfire Appliances

Avoid over-firing your appliance. This is a potentially hazardous situation that can lead to the overheating of combustible walls or poor materials, damage to the unit, and in extreme cases, cause a fire. Over firing is caused by: Too much air flowing through the stove too quickly. You may have inadvertently left the bottom door open. Or, Not keeping up with routine maintenance, such as checking door gaskets for wear. The chimney may have excessive draw or draft, which can be remedied by installing a barometric damper. Over firing results in excessive fuel consumption, and may cause parts of the unit or chimney connector to glow red. If you notice signs of over-firing, reduce the air supply to the fire. Do not burn your appliance continuously at the maximum setting. If maximum heat is required day after day, it is too small for the area you are trying to heat.

Starting a Coal Fire

For quick startup on coal, you will actually start a wood fire. It is best to limit the wood size to about 2″ in diameter. Add enough 2″ wood that the firebox floor is covered with burning wood.

 Once you have completed the steps for starting a fire. Make sure the primary air flows up through the grates as is required for coal burning. Next, add a layer of coal on top of the wood. Continue burning until the layer of coal is turning red and igniting. It is possible to speed this process by opening the ash door, but never for more than five minutes at a time. Operation with the ash door open for more than five minutes will overfire the stove and may cause damage to the stove. Never leave the stove unattended with the ash door open. After the layer of coal is burning, a second layer may be added. After the second layer is burning, more layers may be added. Each layer is about 2” deep.

Do not add coal above the firebricks or grate bars. The stove is hot while in operation. Keep children, clothing, and furniture away. Contact may cause skin burns. Never store fuel in front of the stove where it could interfere with door operation, safe loading, and ash removal.

Refueling a Coal Fire

Open the primary air control to the maximum position. Allow the fire to burn vigorously for several minutes. Shake the grates with short choppy strokes until the first red coals fall into the ash pan, then stop! Add coal to the top of the coal bed. It is good to allow some red hot coals exposed to help ignite the gases coming off of the newly added coal. These gases can be volatile if left to accumulate. The primary air control may be returned to the desired setting.


The ashes from a coal-burning unit need dumped several times a week. The ashes should never be allowed to pile up and touch the grates. This can seriously damage the grates. Use a leather glove to remove the pan from the unit and dump the ashes in a metal container with a lid. When the ashes cool they can be spread on your driveway, in your yard, or placed in a dumpster.

General Maintenance

Read the owner’s manual supplied with the unit front to back. So many times issues would have never happened if the user would have read the manual and then did as it prescribes. The owner’s manual will let you know what needs to be checked, how often to check, and even how to check. To name a few common maintenance items, replacing the air filter, cleaning the heat exchanger, checking the flue, and so on. 

This article is a quick reminder to take care of your appliance. It by no means covers all areas. Please call the manufacturer of your stove and read the owner’s manual for more information.