Wednesday, December 8, 2010

efficacy of firing doors

Watch (and listen) how the firing door improves combustion. How it works: the chimney determines how much air can get into the fire. Without the firing door, the air all goes in at once, and the fire burns primarily at the edges, where air meets flame. The firing door, however, limits airflow, forcing the fire to suck in a smaller "jet" of air. Because it's smaller, the jet has to move faster in order to get the same amount of air into the chimney. Increased air speed and pressure create more turbulence and better mixing in the fire -- you can hear it quite clearly, even in a low-quality video. Better combustion makes more heat, more heat heats up your oven faster. (Note that the opening is at the bottom of the door. Letting the air in at the top would interfere with the hot gases trying to get out.) So, to optimize combustion in your wood-fired oven:
1. use bone dry fuel (boiling away any water in wood takes over 500 times as much energy as just heating up the wood itself),
2. burn only a small amount of small pieces (more surface area means better mixing of fuel and oxygen, and more complete combustion; there should always be enough space around the wood for combustible gases to expand and burn completely. I would say roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of the volume of the oven chamber should be free of fuel),
3. maximize turbulence (a firing door: the openings should have an area approximately equal to the cross-sectional area of the chimney -- for most home ovens, that will be somewhere in the range of 20-30 square inches -- or about 4x5 to 5x6 inches.


Josh said...

Great post. The door on our oven is quite similar, but probably have the whole a smaller than you suggest and does not seem to work as well for this purpose. Do you only use this door for firing, and have second door for cooking. You have some great stuff about cob on here, would love you to check out our plans for cob ovens. Thanks, Josh

Unknown said...

This looks great. I will be trying it. I have to say that the biggest reason I do not use my oven more than I do is the start up phase. Concern about smoke and length of start up (oven to temp) times. I am very interested in techniques that can address both of these areas.
If interested, I have shared my oven building and cooking experience at The site needs some updating but hopefully it helps "spread the knowledge".

Kevin N said...

Right, it does seem to change when you add a firing door. Is there a measurable difference? You don't have any corresponding temperature, O2 levels, or any measurements at all. Before you claim success, show quantitative evidence.

bonkerz said...

kiko i bought your book and built a 30" oven in early winter. my mix was equal parts of screened clay, topsoil, and sand and was pretty wet. it got very cold right after that and it froze, then thawed, then froze... i managed to thaw it out to dig out the sand but the top caved in. it still seemed pretty wet. should i wait till spring to try again or is it possible to build it in cold colorado winter? thanks