SOS on soot buildup from mood stoves

We have four airtight, wood-burning stoves in our house.I have 30 acres of soft pine on the property and the buildup of soot and creosote during the winter is out of this world. I need a cheap way to get rid of it. Is there a chemical which I can burn in the fire? Johnstone Fitz-Gerald Dennis, Mass.

A cheap solution to the problem may be expecting too much.

"We are unaware of any fully tested and absolutely endorsed product, such as a chemical, which can be added to a combustible material to make it burn cleanly ," says John Webster of the Wood Energy Research Corporation in Maine.

"The only test we know about is being conducted by a fire marshal on Prince Edward Island in Canada," he adds.

There is no pro-and-con evidence by a respected authority which says that such-and-such a product works, according to Mr. Webster.

Your're probably using airtight stoves and shutting them down -- and this is what makes the creosote.

If you're burning soft pine, Mr. Webster recommends that you get rid of all the stoves and buy a wood-burning furnace, such as one that is made in Maine and Canada and burns anything you dump into it without any pollution of creosote. It is called the Richard Hill furnace, after an engineer at the University of Maine.

Check with Hampton Technologies Ltd., Prince Edward Island -- probably in Charlottletown. The Madawaska Furnace Company is in Bangor, Maine. Both use the same principles of the inventor.

If you have several stoves heating the house, you're going about it in the wrong way, because it's inefficient and time-consuming and, even worse, the airtight stoves make creosote. Your chimneys may be contributing to the problem as well.

"There is no easy, low-cost way out of this situation," Mr. Webster declares.

If you decide to keep on using the air-tight stoves, you should clean the chimneys often. "If you're burning green soft pine, and especially if you're shutting down the stoves and burning them without oxygen, then you're creating all kinds of pollution," he says.

You should check the stoves and chimneys weekly, he advises.

If you should decide to buy the wood-burning furnace, you should know that it consumes about half the wood that a wood stove burns.

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