A reader who uses an occasional chimney fire to clear creosote from his woodstove flue pipe asks how long he can expect the pipe to last.
With proper care, a flue pipe made of good single-wall steel should last many years.
Photo by Fotolia/vlorzor
I use a German Weso “tile oven” woodstove for night and sunless-day heating in my passive solar home. The design of the flue pipe causes it to be exposed to the house’s interior (it’s attached to the back side of a Trombe wall) for about 20 feet until it exists through the ceiling into, and out of, an exterior chase. When I built the home three years ago, I installed quality, 24-gauge flue pipe. I burn at least one very hot fire each day to get rid of any creosote deposits (and I’ve never had much of a problem with creosote accumulations). A thermometer is magnetically attached to the flue about three feet above the rear exit of the stove, and when I burn my first “hot” fire each morning, the thermometer always registers from 600 degrees Fahrenheit to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, while steady-state heating registers from 250 degrees Fahrenheit to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
No one answer is applicable to all situations. However, in most cases, good single-wall steel stove pipe such as yours will last for many years.
I am aware of three conditions that can cause premature failure of stove pipe. They are  corrosion from acidic condensed flue gases (your flue temperatures appear to be high enough to prevent water condensation);  the presence of corrosive gases resulting from burning household trash (some plastics, when burned, yield hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids); and  excessive temperature (a glowing pipe will have a much-reduced life expectancy). And, if you live near the coast, humid weather and saltwater spray can also accelerate corrosion of the stove pipe.
Jay Shelton is the director of Shelton Energy Research.
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