Having a fire burning at home is the ultimate in Hygge comfort. But getting that fire lit can be a real pain. You may think that getting wood and coal to burn would be a simple process, but in actual fact, it’s never simple.

As it is not so much of a common task in modern life, not many people know the best way to light a fire. Taking some tips from fire lighting experts can make lighting a fire much easier:

  1. Clean Grate

First things first, you want a clean fireplace in which to start building your fire. Old ash and cinders will restrict air flow and make it difficult to get a fire going. Rake out the remains of your last fire, making sure to pick out cinder for re-use. The cinders are the lightweight dark lumps, not the powdery pieces of roasted shale.

  1. The Fires Base

Start your fire off with dry newspaper. Don’t use pages from a glossy magazine, as they will produce a lot of smoke. Screw the paper into rough balls (not too tight) so they still retain a good internal surface area to promote burning.

The paper balls should cover your grate, yet have plenty of space for air flow between them. You will only need one layer to ignite the wood on top; too much paper will clog up the fire-bars and cause stack-collapse problems.

  1. Wooden Layer

You can’t light coal with paper, so you will need to start with wood. Layer smaller pieces of kindling alternately in layers, so it looks like a game of Jenga. Leave plenty of spaces between the wood for air flow.

Choose a mixture of thick and thin wood so that you have a balance of heat-giving easy burners, and thicker pieces that will sustain the fire long enough to light the coal.

  1. Coal layer

Place a pile of coal on top of your wooden stack. Keep the pile central so pieces don’t fall away down the sides. Golf sized pieces of coal will start burning best, then once the fire is burning, you can include the bigger and smaller pieces.

  1. Light Your Fire

Ignite the paper from underneath, in multiple places, to get as much lit as possible. Getting the fire going as quickly as possible is important as the heat needs to reach a level where it will ignite the wood above.

The coal needs time to light, so leave the fire now for around thirty minutes.

Poke the fire at regular intervals to disperse any ash and to break-up the coals. This maintenance will keep the fire burning for as long as possible. If you are using a home fire,  smokeless coal is suggested to reduce the amount of smoke pollution in populated areas.

The existing Environmental Protection UK Guidance on Biomass and Air Quality from 2008 has recently been updated with new guidelines on Solid Fuel and Air Quality.

The guideline is aimed at local authorities and provides updates on current trends in solid fuel use and its impacts, the Renewable Heat Incentive, and details on how local authorities can address the issue.

Solid Fuel Heating

Biomass heating has seen a resurgence recently as an environmentally friendly way of heating homes. Some rural areas lack access to a mains gas supply and have to burn solid fuels in order to heat their homes and provide hot water.

85% of UK households use natural gas for home heating as it makes less of an impact on the environment than the burning of coal. Burning solid fuels results in higher emissions of local air pollutants and carbon dioxide than gas fired systems.

Wood fuel is often referred to as ‘carbon neutral fuel’, as the amount of carbon dioxide produced through burning wood matches the amount the wood absorbed during its lifetime. This doesn’t take into account the carbon dioxide produced in forestry practices and transporting the wood, so its environmental impact is probably worse than we think.

Wood burners still produce higher local emissions than equivalent gas fired appliances. The most environmentally friendly choice will depend on where you live. Rural areas generally benefit from a wood burning system where the air is clearer. Urban areas with poor air quality will need a gas-fired system.

Smoke Control Areas

Local authorities can declare entire areas to be Smoke Free Zones under the Clean Air Act 1993. If you choose to use a fuel which has not been approved for your area, you are in fact committing an offence.

Some appliances can be tested to see that they burn solid fuels without creating smoke, or you can use approved smokeless coal.

If you are unsure as to whether your property falls under a Smoke Controlled Area, you can contact the Environmental Health Department of your local authority to see the list of approved fuels and a list of exempt appliances.

Having a crackling wood burning fire is perfect this time of year. So if you’re looking to install one or have one installed, it’s good to know what goes on behind the scenes.

Understanding the workings of your wood burning stove isn’t just necessary for installation, knowing what to look out for may help you if something goes wrong in the future as well as helping you maintain it.

Starting at the top:

We’re going to start at the top and work our way down: save the best for last. With your chimney you have two options; one, is the top plate and clamp option whilst the other is the chimney cowl.

  1. Top Plate

Choosing a kit with a top and clamp means you need to remove the chimney pot. Once you’ve done that, feed the flue liner through the top plate and clamp it into place with the top clamp. When this is done you need to re-cement the chimney pot back into position.

  1. Chimney Cowl

Installation is much easier if you choose the chimney cowl. The flue liner is clamped directly to the bottom of the cowl which can sit directly on top of your chimney pot.

The Chimney:

To connect your fire to the top plate or cowl you need a flexible flue liner. This drops down from the chimney to meet the stove pipe. Use the nose cone to weigh down the liner and also help clear the chimney ahead. The liners are fitted with arrows to ensure you fit it the correct way; flues are designed to prevent back flow of smoke so make sure you fit yours the right way around.

For efficient use you should insulate the area between the flue and the chimney stack. The best material for this is Vermiculite.

Connection to stove:

Use an adaptor/increaser to join the flue liner and the stove pipe. Ensure the connection is sealed properly to prevent smoke seeping into your chimney space.

A register plate seals the bottom of the chimney to ensure efficient operation and heat retention. A vitreous enamel pipe flows through the register plate and connects your stove to the flue liner via the adaptor.

When your stove is all set and ready to go make sure you use responsibly sourced and sustainable kindling and logs to maintain your stove.