Tool Reviews

Ash Vacuum Review, Chimney Sweeping & Cleaning our Wood Stove

By October 7, 2018 February 25th, 2019 No Comments

Review of the Shop-Vac Ash Vacuum

 

Watch the Video Review.

Ash Vacuum Review with Chimney Sweeping, Wood Stove Cleaning, and Fire Starter Making. Time to get the wood stove ready for winter. We have a high-efficiency wood stove and need to sweep the chimney of creosote and clean the ash buildup inside the stove. This year we tested a new chimney brush and flexible rod kit along with an ash vacuum by shop-vac. We also made fire starter bags from chainsaw wood curls. And we highlighted a wood stove fan by EcoFan.
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Our Wood Stove

Last fall we had our wood stove upgraded to I high efficiency, long burning model: the Blaze King Sirocco 30 catalytic stove.

0High Efficiency Catalytic Wood Stove

High Efficiency Catalytic Wood Stove

In a corner of our living room I removed a section of the hardwood floor and installed ceramic tiles.

Ceramic Tiles to support new wood stove

Ceramic Tiles to support new wood stove

The ceiling of our living room has some nice decorative trim that may have been original from when it was built in the 50’s.

Decorative Ceiling Trim

Decorative Ceiling Trim

In the attic I sistered a rafter then removed a section of the original to make adequate clearance for the chimney.

2x4 rafter "sistered" to a new one, then section removed for clearance

2×4 rafter “sistered” to a new one, then section removed for clearance

By removing a section of that rafter, the stove pipe could be lined up right at the centre of the curved trim. Which I thought would look pretty nice.

Our local wood stove dealer and his crew came on a very rainy afternoon last fall.

Hole in ceiling cut out, blocking between rafters added. The rafter section that was removed can be seen better in this picture

Hole in ceiling cut out, blocking between rafters added. The rafter section that was removed can be seen better in this picture

They cut a hole in the ceiling where I had laid it out. And added some blocking between the joists. They set part of the chimney section in through the ceiling

Section of chimney, the "top hat"

Section of chimney, the “top hat”

Then outside on the roof they cut a hole and installed the rest of the chimney. Not a fun day from them as it poured rain all day.

 

Add Chimney Flashing on roof

Add Chimney Flashing on roof

The three of them brought the wood stove in on a dolly, then set it in place. And connected the stove to the chimney.

Ash Vacuum Review - New wood stove on dolly

New wood stove on dolly

Lining the stove up with the chimney

Lining the stove up with the chimney

They did a great job and this stove kept our little house warm all winter last year.

Chimney Sweeping Brush & Rods

During that season I cleaned the chimney with a poly brush on a long and awkward metal pole. I used a shovel and steel pail to clean out ashes from the stove. This year I decided to make this task a bit easier.

The poly brush I was using was too tight in the stove pipe and made it difficult to sweep.

6" wire chimney sweeping brush

6″ wire chimney sweeping brush

I decided to go with a 6″ steel brush, and instead of the long metal pole I wanted to try a three piece flexible rod set.

Chimney Brush attached to flexible rod

Chimney Brush attached to flexible rod

They screw together easily and tighten with two wrenches. As you are sweeping you can add more lengths of rod as you go along.

Shop-Vac Ash Vacuum

I find the high efficiency stoves create more creosote buildup so I wanted to try out an ash vacuum to make stove cleaning a bit easier and less messy.

Shop-Vac Ash Vacuum Review

Shop-Vac Ash Vacuum Review

I decided on the Shop-Vac model as I have other Shop-Vac products and find they are reasonably priced, work well and it’s easy to find replacement filters.

Steel pre-filter and HEPA cartridge filer

Steel pre-filter and HEPA cartridge filer

This vacuum has a stainless steel tank, a HEPA cartridge filter, a metal pre-filter, and a 6 foot power cord. The 4 foot hose is vinyl covered flexible steel with a round metal nozzle and crevice tool.

Durable hose - Ash Vacuum test

Durable hose

And the hose locks into the motor housing. The motor is rated at 6.3 Amps.

Timber Frame Woodshed

As we are heating the house with wood and we need a wood drying and storage shed as close to the wood stove as possible. There’s a perfect spot right beside the house that has easy access through the front or back door of the house.

Woodshed as close to the wood stove as possible

Woodshed as close to the wood stove as possible

It’s also close to the driveway for easy loading. Last summer we built this timber frame style woodshed. See the complete build video and download the plans.

My wood stove has a bypass handle that you engage when the stove reaches a temperature that the catalytic converter runs at.

Bypass handle on right side of stove

Bypass handle on right side of stove

This handle closes a door for the stove draft and directs the smoke and hot gasses through the fine honeycomb-like metal mesh that is the catalytic converter.

Inside view of bypass door closed

Inside view of bypass door closed

Catalytic converter sits behind this protective metal screen

Catalytic converter sits behind this protective metal screen

Before sweeping the stove I turn this handle to make sure the door is open and the creosote flakes fall into the stove and not pile up against the door.

Sweep the Chimney

Up on the roof I remove the four screws that secure the rain cap.

Remove rain cap from chimney

Remove rain cap from chimney

Then I insert the round brush into the chimney and run it up and down and lower and lower toward the stove.

Brush going into chimney

Brush going into chimney

This flakes off the hardened creosote deposits so they can fall down into the stove.

I then add another rod and continue doing this until I reach the stove.

removing the sweeping brush from the chimney

removing the sweeping brush from the chimney

When done I pull the brush up and out then scrape the underside of the cap to remove any deposits on it.

Scrape inside of chimney cap

Scrape inside of chimney cap

The cap gets reattached and this part of the job is done.

Shovel Ashes then Vacuum

I remove most of the ashes with a flat shovel and steel pail, going slowly to not stir up a lot of dust.

Slowly shovel out ashes

Slowly shovel out ashes

Now to try out the vacuum. I get most of the leftover ashes.

Ash Vacuum gets what the shovel missed

Ash Vacuum gets what the shovel missed

And then take a brush to the inside to break off or loosen any creosote and soot. Then vacuum again. The flexible hose helps get the ashes right inside the door that’s hard to get with my shovel.

Crevice tool fits past the bypass door to pick up some creosote flakes

Crevice tool fits past the bypass door to pick up some creosote flakes

The crevice tool helps get some creosote that fell beside the bypass door.

Dispose of Ashes & Creosote

The ashes in the pail I sprinkle over one of our long-term compost piles.

Sprinkle ashes over compost pile

Sprinkle ashes over compost pile

It will all be worked in when the pile gets turned and aerated. The ash vacuum is disassembled and the mostly creosote and ash mix I add to a small burn pile in the back. The metal pre-filter comes clean by tapping it. I do the same with the HEPA filter to clean the ash dust off best I can.

Gently tapping the filters with a stick to clean off ash and creosote

Gently tapping the filters with a stick to clean off ash and creosote

I’m very happy with this ash vacuum. It does exactly what I need it to. It small and lightweight, well built, and has plenty of power. I didn’t notice any loss of suction as I vacuumed and it’s pretty easy to clean.

Make Fire Starter Bags

I have some cedar rounds left from milling lumber for the woodshed build. These have few knots and are straight grained so I put them aside to split into kindling. We also make fire starter bags from the chainsaw wood shavings.

Cutting red cedar rounds to wood stove length

Cutting red cedar rounds to wood stove length

I’ll start by cutting this round down to about wood stove length.

Rip cut with the grain

Rip cut with the grain

Then I’ll make a few rip cuts half way through the log. Cutting this direction, with the grain, produces long thin curls.

Ribbons of red cedar wood fly off the chainsaw

Ribbons of red cedar wood fly off the chainsaw

These shreds pile up quickly and it’s not long before I get several pails worth.

Cedar is ideal for this but spruce, pine, fir , or any softwood would work fine.

Drying cedar shavings in the sun on some scrap metal

Drying cedar shavings in the sun on some scrap metal

I spread these shavings on some scrap tin roofing and let dry in the sun for a few days. Then I store them in garbage bags for use later.

Stuff the Bags

Here’s some dry fir shavings from a tree that came down last summer. To make the fire starter I use paper lunch bags, a stapler, standard office staples, and scissors.

Dried fire shavings and paper lunch bags

Dried fire shavings and paper lunch bags

I loosely stuff the bag about three quarters full of shavings, fold the edge over, and staple shut.

Stuff the shavings loosely in the bag

Stuff the shavings loosely in the bag

two staples seal the bags

two staples seal the bags

I enlisted the help of my wife Marilyn and in only a few minutes we stuffed and sealed about 20 bags.

My lovely wife lends a hand filling fire starter bags

My lovely wife lends a hand filling fire starter bags

I store them in boxes in a dry place near my kindling.

Finally… Light the Wood Stove

I tear a bag open inside the wood stove and add kindling on top.

The bags keep everything tidy. Tear them open inside the stove.

The bags keep everything tidy. Tear them open inside the stove.

The shreds are easy to light and the bag keeps it tidy.

Ash Vacuum Review - lighting the stove

Ash Vacuum Review – lighting the stove

When the stove reaches the Active Range on the Catalyst Thermometer, I close the bypass door directing the smoke and hot combustion gases through the catalytic converter.

Temperature gage on top of stove

Temperature gage on top of stove

I set the air intake dial to about 3/4 open and the stove regulates the burn to maintain a consistent temperature.

When running like this there’s very little smoke generated and we get very long burn times.

EcoFan

We have a fan that circulates the warm air and pushes it into the room.

Electricity generating stove fan

Electricity generating stove fan

This fan needs no power source as it generates an electrical current on it’s own when the stove heats up.

Cooling fins on top of EcoFan

Cooling fins on top of EcoFan

The temperature difference between the base that contacts the stove and the cooling fins generates a current. It’s very cool.

Ash Vacuum Review

Ash Vacuum Review

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