Tips for Starting a Fire in a Cold Fireplace

January 28, 2019

When it’s cold outside it can be difficult to get the proper air flow necessary to sustain a fire. This is primarily caused by cold air descending through the chimney and smothering the fire. To start a fire with a cold chimney or flue try the following…

1-    Priming Your Chimney
Rolling a newspaper up into a cone, lighting, and placing close to the damper will provide enough warmth to prime the chimney and stop cold air from smothering your fire. This technique works regardless if you have an open hearth fireplace, wood insert, wood stove, or wood fireplace. All you have to do is locate the damper on the inside of the unit, open it, and place the burning newspaper as close to the hole as possible. Estimated burn time should be between 2-3 minutes to effectively prime the chimney.
Please Note: Be careful when placing or holding the burning newspaper. It is essential to be as close to the damper as possible, however, do not burn yourself.

2-    Top-Down Burns
A top-down fire refers to creating a fire with the largest logs on the bottom, small to mid-sized pieces placed on-top of that, and lastly kindling placed on the very top. Although somewhat counter-intuitive to how most people have built fires their entire lives, the result is a cleaner burn that allows for chimney priming in cold weather followed by a full burn – all in one step. The kindling is ignited burning quickly and warming the flue before the flame moves down the pyramid and the larger logs ignite. Learn more about the best practices for starting a wood fire.

3-    Choose the Right Firewood
Building a fire is substantially easier if you are using the right type of wood. What is the right type of wood? Well it depends. Here are some tips to help you choose your firewood:

  • Dry firewood is very important, more so than type of wood
  • Try using split logs over unsplit – Split logs dry better than unsplit
  • Do not burn treated or painted wood
  • Green or Wet wood can result in more creosote buildup than dry wood, if you burn this wood make sure to have your chimney or flue cleaned more frequently
  • Lighter wood (Ex: Pine & Cedar) makes for good kindling or spring/summer burns
  • Dense wood (Ex: Oak) produces more heat and longer burns and therefore is good for the colder months

4-    Leave a 2” Ash Bed
Leaving a thick bed of ashes (approx. 2” deep) on the bottom of the fireplace will help to insulate the fireplace keeping it from getting too cold before start up and allowing for warmer fires during use.

More Customer care wood videos
Blog - Best Practices for starting a wood fire (hybrid stoves)

Tips for Lighting your Gas Fireplace in Cold Weather

On cold days it may also be difficult to light your gas fireplace, gas stove, or gas fireplace insert because the cold air smothers and ultimately stops the pilot light from staying lit. Typically, the warmth generated from a pilot light is enough to prime the chimney. If you have a pilot light that is always on you should be fine, however, if you have an on-demand pilot light or a standing pilot that extinguishes after 7-days of inactivity, your pilot may not be burning. Relighting a pilot in a cold fireplace can take several tries, however, this is not a defect, modern gas fireplaces are designed to account for these cold starts.

How to Prevent Cold Starts
To prevent cold starts we suggest setting your pilot light to Continuous Pilot Mode (CPI). This will ensure your pilot light is always running while you need it. During the warmer months or when you are using your fireplace less you can set it back to Intermittent Pilot Ignition (IPI) where the pilot light will be ignited per use. If you have a fireplace with a 7-day non-standing pilot timer installed you simply need to use your fireplace once during every 7-day period to stop the pilot light from being extinguished, regardless of whether it is in Continuous Pilot Mode.

For Regency Models – learn how to set your fireplace to CPI Mode

More Customer Care Gas Pilot videos

What is Happening with the Pilot Light on a Cold Start?
Typically in cold climates, pilots can take a few attempts before lighting up. This is because there can be inconsistent air flow and the pilot can dis-engage from the Flame Failure Sensor for tenths of a second. If the flame is disengaged from the sensor, the system is shut down. The inconsistent air flow can cause this to happen a few times before getting a consistent ignition covering the Flame Sensor.

Many of Regency’s new gas fireplace inserts, gas stoves, and gas fireplaces feature an updated pilot light system that uses a more advanced flame failure sensor, creating less cold start issues and making it easier to light pilot lights in cold temperatures.
Learn how to light your pilot and manage cold starts in your Regency Fireplace.