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Understanding Wood Stove Combustors:

Wood stove combustors are essential components that enhance the efficiency and environmental performance of wood-burning stoves. These devices help improve combustion by promoting more complete burning of wood and reducing harmful emissions. In this detailed article, we'll explore the reasons for using wood stove combustors, the purpose they serve, the differences between canned and uncanned combustors, as well as their respective pros and cons. We'll also address frequently asked questions to provide a comprehensive understanding.

Why Use Wood Stove Combustors?

Wood stove combustors play a crucial role in optimizing wood-burning stoves for efficiency and reducing environmental impact. By facilitating more complete combustion, combustors enhance heat output, minimize smoke production, and lower harmful emissions. The result is not only a more comfortable heating experience but also a cleaner and greener approach to wood heating.

The Purpose of Wood Stove Combustors

The primary purpose of a wood stove combustor is to facilitate secondary combustion. Wood burning involves two main stages: primary combustion, where wood is burned with oxygen to produce heat and carbon dioxide, and secondary combustion, where remaining gases and particles are further combusted at higher temperatures. Combustors help achieve secondary combustion by providing the necessary conditions for these gases and particles to ignite, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced emissions.

Canned vs. Uncanned Combustors: Differences and Pros/Cons

Canned Combustors:

Canned combustors are encased in a metal can that acts as a heat exchanger. This design allows the combustor to reach and maintain the high temperatures required for secondary combustion.


  • Efficient heat transfer due to the metal casing.
  • Provides consistent high temperatures for effective secondary combustion.
  • Durability due to protective casing.


  • More susceptible to ash and creosote buildup within the can.
  • Can require occasional maintenance to remove deposits.

Uncanned Combustors:

Uncanned combustors lack the metal casing of canned combustors but are designed to function in the same way by providing a high-temperature environment for secondary combustion.


  • Easier to clean as there is no metal can to collect ash and deposits.
  • Typically less expensive due to simpler construction.


  • May require external heat shielding for proper operation and safety.
  • Potentially lower heat transfer efficiency compared to canned combustors.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Do all wood stoves have combustors?
No, not all wood stoves are equipped with combustors. Some modern wood stoves come with built-in combustors, while others can be retrofitted with aftermarket combustors.

2. Can I install a combustor in my existing wood stove?
In many cases, yes. Consult your wood stove manufacturer or a professional to determine if your stove is suitable for retrofitting with a combustor.

3. How do I know if my combustor needs replacement?
Reduced efficiency, increased smoke production, and higher emissions are signs that a combustor might need replacement. Regular maintenance and inspection can help identify issues.

4. How often should I clean my combustor?
Cleaning frequency depends on usage and the type of combustor. Canned combustors may require periodic cleaning to remove ash and deposits, while uncanned combustors generally require less maintenance.

5. Can I use any type of wood with a combustor?
While combustors improve combustion efficiency, it's still important to use well-seasoned, dry wood for optimal performance and to prevent excessive creosote buildup.

Wood stove combustors are valuable tools for enhancing the efficiency and environmental performance of wood-burning stoves. By promoting secondary combustion, they ensure that wood is burned more completely, maximizing heat output while minimizing emissions. The choice between canned and uncanned combustors depends on factors like heat transfer efficiency, maintenance preferences, and budget. Incorporating a combustor into your wood-burning stove can lead to a cleaner, more efficient, and ultimately more enjoyable wood heating experience. If you're considering adding a combustor or have questions about maintenance, consulting your stove's manufacturer or a professional technician is recommended.