We like to put woodburning fireplaces into one of three categories: really good heaters, pretty good heaters and air conditioners.
The air conditioners are characterized by pulling more air out of the house than they give back in heat so their net effect on the house as a system is to cool it. Glass doors are usually an option rather than a standard feature and they are not gasketed or sealed, nor should they be closed when the unit is burning. The optional outside air will not provide more than a quarter of the combustion air needs.
The pretty good heaters are a big step up in terms of heating ability. They will generally have sealed, gasketed doors and outside air sufficient to provide all combustion air needs. They are not E.P.A. certified. As exempt units, you cannot control the heat output other than by the fuel load.
The primary difference between the pretty good and really good heaters is that the latter are E.P.A. certified. What that means to you is that you can control the combustion air intake, thereby controlling the heat output and, consequently, the burn time.
The Top Down Burn
1. Bottom layer – Lay several pieces of split hardwood (5”–7”). 2. Middle layer – Crisscross smaller pieces (3”–5”) over the bottom layer. 3. Top layer – Place a small pile of kindling (8–10 pieces) on top of the stack. 4. Place a firestarter under the kindling and light.
This method works whether you are starting a fire in a fireplace, woodstove, or firepit.
Building the Perfect Fire