Thursday, January 22, 2009

Did the Fire Go Out?

Since installing my Hardy H2, I have noticed that I don't sleep as well at night in the winter as I do in the summer. While I enjoy my OWB in that I don't have a gas bill, my house is much warmer than when I heated with propane, and I can buy chainsaws to cut all the wood (I love chainsaws) there is one thing that gnaws at me during the burning season. I lay in bed at night and I wonder to myself..."is it still burning? Has the fire gone out?"
I guarantee that any OWB owner does the same thing. Maybe some worry more...some less...but I am certain that all worry about the fire going out. To be honest, the fire going out isn't that big of a deal. If it goes out...just go outside and light it again. But for me...I worry. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and notice the house feels a little cold..."did my fire go out?" I think to myself. I can go to the window in my upstairs bathroom and peek outside and I can usually tell by the smoke coming from the stack if the fire is either burning, smouldering...or out. Every OWB has a personality and the way it smokes tells you what it's doing...or not doing. If you have an OWB, you know what I mean. If you are planning to get an will know what I mean. The smoke is telling you something.
My Hardy H2 maintains its water temperature between 150-and 170 degrees. The aquastat works in conjunction with the blower motor which stokes the flame to keep the water temperature up. My Hardy has a temperature switch installed in the water tank and if my water temperature goes below 100 degrees because the fire isn't burning, my forced air furnace in the basement will cut off. This is my Hardy's way of telling me that the fire is out...since the furnace in the basement isn't blowing hot air into the house...and the children can see their breath when they wake up in the morning!
So what makes the fire go out? Sometimes, in warmer weather the fire can go out because of the length of time between burns. Sometimes it can go out because the ash had been emptied and the coals are too far away from the grates. I wrote about this in earlier posts. However, specific to the Hardy since it has grates, the fire can go out because of a condition I call "Arching."
If all logs were created equal, they would be the same size, length, type and burn at the same rate. Well, of course, that isn't the case. Logs are all different sizes, have big knots sticking out on one side, burn name it. The fire box on the Hardy isn't as big as say...a Central Boiler...where you can put a small Volkswagen inside it. The Hardy firebox is smaller. It measures 24x32x44 inches, which is big...but not as big as you think. Anyhow, when you put your logs in, filling up the firebox, the logs at the bottom burn, turn to ash, fall thru the grates which makes the logs on top to start their descent to the bottom of the fire box for their turn to burn. Well sometimes the upper logs, on their descent to the grates can become wedged between the two walls, creating an arch. This is bad because the logs forming the arch suspends all the wood off the grates...and once all the coals from the grates burn off...your wood can't burn...its 6 to 12 inches up above the grates. This is the most common reason my fire goes out and I fill my furnace with this in mind. I try to mix big and skinny logs to avoid the Arch and I only burn goofy shaped logs during the weekend so that I can keep an eye on my fire box.
The picture below shows the Arch although you have to really look close because there was too much heat for me to stick my camera in there any farther. The three logs at the bottom are wedged against the walls and can't fall onto the grates...hence the Arch. If you look at the bottom of the logs you can see they are about 7 inches away from the grates. If I had been at work there is a good chance my fire would have gone out. All the coals you see would have eventually burnt away leaving no more wood to fuel my Hardy.
When I am faced with this condition, all I have to do is grab my poker and punch the logs down. Each day my wife makes a trip to the Hardy to punch the logs. Every now and then I will get a text message from her telling me that "Archie had stopped by today." This is her special way of telling me she kept the fire from going out that afternoon.

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