Baxi open fires are among my favourite solid fuel appliances to sweep. They are a simple design and generally last for a long time. Many which were installed in the 1960s and 1970s are still used today.
If you’ve bought a house which has a Baxi open fire in a room which also has floorboards, then chances are you may have noticed a little lever on the front bar.
I find very few people know what this is for, but once they do, it’s a revelation.
See, open fires need a large amount of air to burn well. Before the 1980s, this was never much of a problem as homes were still draughty places. But then came along double glazing. And loft insulation. More recently, it’s been cavity wall insulation. All of which means that the reduction of draughts of yesteryear (coupled with the prevelance of kitchen and bathroom extractor fans) may mean the fire does not work as well as it once did.
Luckily, those clever people at Baxi ‘future proofed’ it and installed a direct air supply which feeds the fire from underneath the floorboards. So the little lever you see on the fuel bar at the front is actually a damper, acting as an On/Off Air Flow Switch.
You can see from the photo below how the volume of air is controlled. On this fire, if you turn the lever to the right, the disc moves, allowing the air vent to be fully opened. It’s important to have it like this when you start the fire to allow as much oxygen as possible into the grate to get the fire ‘roaring’.
If you turn the lever to the left, it will open the air supply partially, thus restricting the flow but not completely shuttting it off.
If you put the lever in the middle, then the air vent is fully sealed and no air is introduced into the appliance.
I have found that some air vents work the opposite way while some don’t work at all, probably through wear and tear. The easiest way to check if yours is still working is to either ask your sweep to inspect it (I always do this and ensure it is not blocked with ash) or have a look yourself. To do this, make sure the fire hasn’t been used for a suitable amount of time beforehand and is cold. Simply remove the two-part grate, pull up the ash bucket and then have a feel for the vent, which will be directly beneath the lever in the ash pit.
It also goes without saying that if you do buy a home with a Baxi open fire (or any solid fuel appliance for that mattter), you should have it swept by a registered sweep before you use it.
They will be able to give you bespoke advice on your fireplace. And if it’s a Baxi open fire, they will be able to give you live demo on how your air supply works.
Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service in Wigan, Stockport, St Helens, Ormskirk, Chorley and surrounding areas. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.