Can You Leave a Wood Burning Stove on Overnight and Unattended? (Be Careful…)

There are many reasons why you would want to leave a lit wood stove on your way to bed.

  1. You probably want something to be boiled by morning, so you would be tempted to leave a full stockpot on it hoping that it would be ready by breakfast.
  2. The weather can also be unforgiving in the autumn or winter.

So, if you don’t have a heater, or you would want to take advantage of the surplus wood, leaving a lit stove behind on your bed would look like the best thing to do.

But, can you leave a wood-burning stove on overnight and unattended? The straight answer is “yes”, but there’s some risk involved, so you need to be a bit skillful. Here’s why you need to take a few precautions before leaving the stove burning the whole night:

  • Unattended stoves are a fire risk – the fire may get out of hand and end up spreading to any combustible materials nearby thereby risking to raze down your home while you’re in it, asleep!
  • Incomplete combustion of wood and charcoal often results in the production of carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless gas that can kill with prolonged exposure.
  • There’s also going to be plenty of trial and error. But with enough practice – and perhaps luck – it should be perfectly safe to leave your wood stove burning overnight without near-zero chances of a bad incidence.

So, Does That Mean You Need To Be Careful?

Definitely yes, because, as we mentioned earlier, there are some considerable risks attached to leaving any stove lit and unattended for an extended period, whether you are asleep or just away from the home.

Be careful go about it this way:

1. Stack all the wood inside

A badly arranged stove is a fire hazard. You don’t want to leave it burning with a few sticks of wood projecting outside.

If you do that, you’d be exposing anything around the stove to catch fire because the extended pieces will burn all the way to the outside.

So, the first thing to do is to build up your stove with a good stack of fuel an hour before you go to bed.

Put the fuel close to the front part of the stove – this is to allow more charcoal to accumulate towards the back. Now, before leaving for bed, you need to see glowing pieces of charcoal and embers without flames.

Secondly, and most importantly, remember to close all the stove’s airflow dials. It can go a long way to cut the amount of rich oxygen getting into your fuel. It can also prove useful for slowing down the combustion.

There are other things you can do if your goal to generate as much as possible without creating a fire hazard:

2. Go for an efficient woodstove

It is better for wood to burn completely and more efficiently than to do so erratically and create a fire hazard.

The new catalytic wood stove that is starting to become common nowadays (like the Blaze King Sirocco) comes with top-notch catalytic combustors that can deliver the best of the two worlds – highly efficient hot flames and great heat, all delivered while you are asleep.

But even at its lowest settings, the catalyst in the stove burns the smoke to achieve an excellent efficiency, and you’ll get any visible smoke no matter the circumstance. So, what does that mean? No choking and irritations and also very little chances of producing carbon monoxide.

I’d also recommend an airtight woodstove rated as “efficient” by EPA or one that permits secondary burning.

The aforementioned Blaze King Sirocco even puts that aspect to shame as burns smoothly without incidences even if left to run for 8-10 consecutive hours – basically, you’d use about half the wood you used in your old stove and still not fill your lungs with killer carbon monoxide.

Heat output is also better, meaning you are assured of all desirable warmth the whole night. And certainly, more even and longer.

3. Add Some Anthracite

Remember we began by saying it is perfectly OK to leave your woodstove burning overnight but you need to take a few measures just to make things turn out well.

Then we said allowing your stove to burn the wood completely and more efficiently is a way of averting danger. Here, we’re going to introduce you to the magic of anthracite.

Buying a bag or two of anthracite nuts or stove coal and adding them to your stove at nighttime will greatly boost the burn time, nearly 1/3 longer compared to burning plain wood.

This brings two benefits –

  • you will receive greater heat than if you had used plain wood
  • and, secondly, the burning process will be steady hence less likely to slow down or get out of hand when you are fast asleep.

A 50 lb. of bag costs about $8. Coal is safe remarkably safe because it doesn’t produce creosote. You may be wondering, “why coal and this’s all about woodstoves.

The beauty here is that your stove must not be coal-based to use Anthracite. Neither do you need to burn it full-time. If you have a woodstove and you want to use Anthracite, you need to buy coal shaker grates.

Besides being a good fuel to accompany wood so that your stove can burn more smoothly and burn the wood completely, it also comes free from most of the flaws we know about coal.

The stereotypical coal we know is dirty and bulky.

Anthracite, however, burns clean and turns to be a little hotter than other types of coal, plus the plausible fact that it can be used in non-coal stoves especially those made for charcoal or wood.

Unlike soft coal which most people think of when they think of burning coal.

4. Use Proper Wood And Clean Your Woodstove

Proper Wood

Did you know some woods tend to ooze amber and similar oily substances when burned?

Yes, cypress is one of them, especially if you burn it when it hasn’t dried properly.

There are two problems with such woods –

  • the oily substances tend to cause erratic flames sometimes, so smooth burning would be entirely impossible. In such a case, there are chances flames could get out of hand.
  • Then there is the problem of smoke which may keep interrupting your sleep or even make it impossible to sleep.

So, the most recommendable wood would be hardwood. Choose such woods as maple, ash, beech, oak, or hickory – those are the perfect fuels for woodstoves.

  • Wood should be chopped, split, and dried in air for not less than one year before inserting a woodstove.
  • Well-seasoned hardwoods show cracks in their ends (it’s ready for the job when you see those cracks).
  • The best thing about hardwoods is that, although some of them may dry a bit slowly compared to softwoods, they tend to remain dry for a long time compared to other types of wood.
  • Besides being naturally protected from some pests, they are less smoky and, more importantly, don’t ooze some unwanted oils if you choose to burn them slightly early.

Keep It Clean

Another important thing to ensure is your stove to remain clean all time.

This has nothing to do with safety but the proper day-to-day functioning of your stove and, to some extent, its efficiency.

The efficiency of the stove is still a big deal because it doesn’t burn the wood as expected, you may find yourselves waking up in the dead of the night because it burnt all the wood faster than you imagined, or it isn’t just delivering the heat in the quantities you wanted.

Also, it is never pretty to light up your wood stove with all of yesterday’s ash in it – much of the wood you’ll stuff inside won’t burn completely. For that reason, it is a good thing to empty the stove and ensure it is cleaned before lighting up for overnight heating.

Use a firm wire brush and a scrubbing tool to clean the inside. Don’t forget to scrub the chimney as well, but that sounds like something you can do once a year.

You can occasionally use controlled and high-temperature fires to eliminate some hardened dirt.

With woodstoves, you don’t want to bother with those harsh chemical cleaners – more so the salt-based ones – as the metallic parts of the unit might not respond too well to them.

And never use any heavy items like chains, big brushes, or bricks tied on tips of ropes. Such practices don’t even look professional, and easily ruin the chimney or the stove you invested a lot of money in.

Related: Is It Safe to Leave Your Oven On When You’re Not Home?

Conclusion

So, can you leave a wood-burning stove on overnight and unattended? Absolutely “yes”, you just need to be a little careful.

There are two things that can make it turn out not as expected –

  • a fire outbreak,
  • smoke & carbon monoxide (which kills, by the way) from incomplete combustion.

If you keep your stove clean and ensure the room is well ventilated, you’d have eliminated the risk of carbon monoxide and smoke. Also, remember to use the proper kind of wood.

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