Smoke testing your stove

smoke pelletThere are three types of smoke test we are concerned with and these are detailed below:

1. Chimney integrity test for checking the integrity of a chimney (usually for when a stainless steel liner is not being fitted). Known in Building Regs as a Smoke Test 1.

2. Appliance air leakage test (tests to ensure smoke does not leave the stove via door seals etc.)

3. Appliance connected to chimney draw test that checks the draw of the chimney following installation of an appliance.

 

Chimney Integrity Test or “Smoke Test 1” (sometimes referred to as a smoke pressure test)

The test is used to check that a chimney is sound, has integrity. This test is a MUST if you are not fitting a stainless steel liner. Even if you are fitting a liner it is a test that you may wish to do. Why? Well if you are planning on pouring insulation around your liner and if the chimney has holes then the insulation may escape (into next doors chimney has been known – filling their lovely lounge with soot and Vermiculite granules). It is also good to know if your chimney is sound – with or without a liner.

Two people are required to properly perform an integrity check. The test involves sealing off the fireplace (I often used sheets of wood or Hardiebacker taped over the fireplace leaving a quickly-sealable gap for adding smoke pellets and blowtorch). The flue is warmed with a blow torch to start the draw. A large volume of smoke is added to the flue using one or more smoke pellets. When the smoke is seen exiting the pot (by the assistant who is up top) then the pot is sealed by the assistant (bin liner and tape works well). The smoke should be trapped within the chimney for at least five minutes.

Then the inside of the house, the chimney stack and eaves of the house AND THE SAME FOR NEXT DOOR IF IT IS A SEMI DETACHED OR TERRACE can be inspected to check smoke is not escaping from the flue. Everywhere needs to be checked for smoke – including the loft. Once the test is complete the seal at the pot is removed to see if the smoke has indeed been secured and trapped within the chimney – smoke billowing from the chimney is a good sign that it stayed within the chimney. Please read Building Regulations for the full detailed test: Building regs Doc J E13 and E14.

If smoke does escape during the test then repairs to the chimney must be made if the chimney is not being lined.

Note: It is unfortunately the case that many people’s method of smoke testing a chimney for integrity is more basic: light a smoke pellet in the fireplace and see if the smoke exits the pot and if it does all is well. This test is called Smoke test 2 and is mentioned in Building Regs Doc J E15 and E16; it is only used for testing when a gas appliance is to be fitted and NOT solid fuel. As outlined in our tragic story “The neighbours”, a Smoke Test 2 is not good enough for solid fuel.

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Both of the following tests should be applied to a new stove installation prior to use.

Appliance Air Leakage Test

Assumes that there is NO extraction fan in the room that can be switched on at any time as this can cause smoke to be pulled from the wood burner and into the room. If you have an extractor fan you need to seek advice from a Hetas engineer or Building Control (or make the fan inoperable for the period the appliance is installed).

Stove should not be alight.

Warm flue with blow torch or similar (for a few minutes).

Add smoke pellet to inside of stove and close stove doors. Stove air inlet controls should be closed.

For 30 seconds watch the smoke. It should all remain in the appliance with NONE entering the room.

If smoke enters the room check rope seals or seal leaking joints with fire cement.

 

Appliance Connected to Chimney Draw Test

Note that this is a test to check the draw of the chimney. It is NOT a test to check the integrity of an appliance or chimney.

Assumes that there is NO extraction fan in the room that can be switched on at any time as this can cause smoke to be pulled from the wood burner and into the room. If you have an extractor fan you need to seek advice from a Hetas engineer or Building Control (or make the fan inoperable for the period the appliance is installed).

Stove should not be alight.

Warm flue with blow torch or similar (for a few minutes).

Close all doors and windows in room.

Add smoke pellet to inside of stove and close stove doors (if stove is designed to be used with stove doors open then leave the doors open). Stove air inlet controls should be open.

For 30 seconds watch the smoke. It should all remain in the appliance with NONE entering the room.

Open a window and see if the smoke speeds up or is drawn faster into the chimney. If it does speed up then there is not enough ventilation within the room. Close the appliance down until further ventilation (air vent size increase) can be added.

Go outside and check smoke is coming out of the top of the chimney flue. If it is coming out of anywhere else then this is a fail. Close the appliance down and investigate.

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