Author Lars Mytting has written a very successful book called Hel ved (a book about fire wood) which offers advice on important aspects to consider when lighting a fire.
Eight tips for lighting the fire
The wood is utilised in the best way when the draught valve is quite open and the flames are quite intense. That will also reduce pollution, because particles og gases quite simply are burned up and produces heat instead. When your home is varm, the room temperature is regulated by the amount of wood, not the air valve.
Small amounts of smoke is a good sign
You want a minimal amount of smoke coming from your chimney. Smoke is not "exhaust" – it contains high energy gases that were not burned. That's why it is a good idea to go outside and take a look at the smoke from the chimney. Dense, black smoke is a sign that the combustion is not optimal, usually because the fire in the wood stove is not intense enough. When the wood stove burns optimally, only a bit of steam and some light, odour-free smoke escapes from the chimney.
A clean wood stove is a warm wood stove
Remove soot from your wood stove and the flue pipe once a year. That way, your wood stove will get warmer. A soot layer of even a few millimeters reduces the effect because the heat is not led through the iron, but will go up and out the chimney. Clean it more often if you burn a lot of pine wood which leaves more soot than other types of wood.
Different types of wood provide different levels of heat
Hard wood types provide more heat than lighter wood types with the same volume, but counting per kilogram, the different wood types will give off the same heat and the lighter wood types are often cheaper to buy. The lighter wood types are the perfect fire wood especially on those chilly nights at the start and end of the colder seasons. They provide cleaner burn without making the house into a sauna and the wood will burn quicker, but the coal can be extended by leaving it to burn together with a log from a harder wood type.
Very few wood stoves can burn longer than two to three hours on one wood load. The old way of closing the air supply so that the coal will smoulder over-night, is a source of pollution and creates a risk of chimney fire. In addition, the collective heating profit is poor as the energy is not being utilised. The last wood load in the evening should be some rough logs from a hard wood type that burns as normal. Even if the fire dies out, the isolation in the house will keep the heat in. The chimney will still be lukewarm in the morning and it is no problem to get the fire going again.
Turbulence is important when lighting the fire because when the temperature is low, the oxygen is not willing to mix with the molecules in the wood. Swirles of air bombard the smoke gases with oxygen and makes the lighting easier. This is the reason why the fire wood chatches fire more easily when the door to the wood stove is left ajar. Some houses are so sealed with isolation that you should open a window when lighting the fire. A blow pipe is also an excellent aid to get the fire going, much more so than a bellower.
Lighting from the top is better
Many of the modern wood stoves were designed to burn from the top down. Take a look at the user manual or get a new one from the Internet if you burned it. Lighting from the top down is done by stacking logs of wood quite tight and then lighting a small fire on top of the wood so that the fire burns downward. The wood stove will reach its operating temperature quicker, the gases will burn better and the wood load will last longer.
Always more than one log
You should always put two or three logs on the fire at a time – only one log will often die out by itself. The reason is that the burning of a log happens in three stages, and one single log is not able to keep its own process going. More logs have a bigger surface, creates more turbulence and keeps all the processes going at the same time.