reckebecca wrote:Yesterday afternoon it was getting pretty warm in here so I started cutting the air intake (I know, I know, I slipped back into thinking like a wood burner again. sigh.)
No, you were correct. Once you have the bed of coals burning well, you SHOULD cut the air intake to reduce heat, and increase the air intake to increase heat. In Fall and Spring, when outside temps are 40s nights and 50s days, I let in lots of air after shaking and reloading with coal, so as to get the coal bed burning vigorously and evenly. Then I cut the air way way down, and it just simmers along and I don't touch anything again for 24 hours. Just remember that coal responds slowly to small changes in the air intake -- it can easily be 10 to 30 minutes before you see the effect of small adjustments.
Now, why did your stove top temperature go way up with reduced air? I'm not sure. My first guess is, maybe more air is passing through the stove than can be used for combustion, so all that excess air is cooling things off? If there are any air inlets above the level of the grates, close them tightly! If your baro is at .03 or .04, I doubt you want to set it any lower. But if you can check the actual draft with a manometer that might be helpful. Also, lots of people put another surface thermometer on the stovepipe, about half way between the stove and the baro. If stovepipe temperature is anywhere near stove-side temperature, then too much heat is being lost up the chimney. It's not an exact science, but it gives you a valuable second way to judge how the whole system (stove and chimney together) is performing.
If you can set your air inlet to zero, and the stove still burns happily, then it must be a leaky inlet, or air is getting in somewhere else. Too much leakage could cause a runaway uncontrollable fire in some stoves, but it doesn't sound like your stove would have that problem or you would have seen it by now.