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Advice Needed: Starting a Cold Jotul 500

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by fugazi42, Aug 29, 2008.

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  1. fugazi42

    fugazi42 New Member

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    Morning everyone,

    The weather is getting downright cold up here in New England and we're getting ready to fire up the stoves soon. One problem: I dread starting up my Jotul 500 when it's cold. I'm looking for any sort of suggestions you can provide.

    Here's the deal: The stove is vented straight out the back- a horizontal run of about 3' through the wall and then straight up 26'. The chimney and wall kit are Metalbestos stainless. When the stove is hot, or even warm, it's easy to light and drafts beautifully while burning. When the stove is cold and there's cold air in the stack it's a nightmare. By the time enough hot air has built up to get a draft going up the chimney I've filled the house with smoke. I've tried all sorts of different ways of starting the fire- top down, newspaper, fat wood, etc. and I always get smoke in the house before the draft gets going in the right direction. I'm not talking about a few wisps of smoke- I mean set off all the smoke detectors, thank God my wife isn't home, call the fire department smoke. Someone recommended throwing a few Sterno canisters in the stove to pre-heat the air. I used three canisters at a time, burned them most of the way down, and it made little difference.

    Any suggestions? I'm willing to try anything.

    Thanks!

    Josh

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  2. WOODBUTCHER

    WOODBUTCHER Minister of Fire

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    Before I recommend anything......Do you have a "T" installed?


    WoodButcher
  3. fugazi42

    fugazi42 New Member

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    I think I know what you mean- yes, we have a T installed between the horizontal pipe coming out of the house, and the vertical stack outside. I can open the bottom to clean out the chimney. I think this is a T. I can snap a picture if it helps.

    Thanks!

    Josh
  4. coreystaf

    coreystaf New Member

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    Have you considered the more expensive but more reliable alternative of building an insulated chase around the pipe going up?
    When you say newspaper, do you mean that you use it as a firestarter? When I get a cold chimney, I use a PILE of newspaper withought any wood to
    evacuate the cold air in the chimney, then build a fire after that burns down.
  5. WOODBUTCHER

    WOODBUTCHER Minister of Fire

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    Try this

    Get your kindling/newspaper or what ever you use, get it set up in your stove, dont light it. Go out to your T ... ball up some newspaper in there light it, put the bottom back on (you might have to experiment with your T cap/bottom...either putting it all the way back in or just holding it there part way out till newspaper gets going) .....let in burn ....let the stack get a draft
    Go inside and light your fire...this should help. Just make sure you dont start building up lots of flyash in your T

    This helped me out every time with my old VC in my basement with a 25 foot external chimney. I would light the newspaper in the clean out outside.


    WoodButcher
  6. rich81

    rich81 Member

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    i can relate with you 100% on this problem. fortunatley it has nothing to do with the stove. its that darn stainless exterior chimney. my first year with the stove i filled my basement with smoke multiple times. what i usually do is stuff some newspaper in the Breech (i think) in between my baffle and front of stove and touch that off , what you are trying to do here is reverse the draft. i usually get a tad of smoke but you'll be amazed how quick that pipe will heat up. occasionaly this doesn't work either but the amount of smoke you'll get will be alot less. than the method you are using
  7. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Had the same setup with outside chimney. Colder it got the worst the cold start problem.

    I'd almost always get away with leaving the vents wide open for a couple minutes, then starting a very small fire with very dry pine branches.
    Rolled up newspapers always made too much smoke and not enough heat for me.
    No way could I just start a fire in January or February with a cold chimney without getting a draft going first.
    I don't think I'd have the patience for sterno.
  8. PitPat

    PitPat New Member

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    Not speaking from experience, but could you just place the sterno can in the base of your stack, inside the 'T'? Seems like that would help more than setting them inside the stove.
    I was also wondering if I could just take a propane torch and point it up the stack through the 'T' and run that for a minute or so to get the flue hot.

    I'm just brainstorming, my 500 will be on a stainless exterior chimney this year too. I am hoping on surrounding it eventually, but thats not going to fit in this years budget.
  9. polaris

    polaris Feeling the Heat

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    Would a cheap harbor freight electric heat gun work? Couldn't you just set it in the tee for a couple of minutes, come back, unplug and light the fire? I've never tried it but in theory it sounds plausible.
  10. fugazi42

    fugazi42 New Member

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    Great responses guys- thanks. I understand now that it's the exterior uninsulated chimney that's the culprit here. We plan to add an insulated chase at some point in the future. I need to pay off the stove and chimney first, though!

    I had thought about opening up the T and starting a small hot fire, but I didn't know if this was a good idea. I'll give it a shot. I also really like the idea of the heat gun. I'm sure it would put out a heck of a lot more heat than the Sterno I tried, and it's a lot cheaper. My installer recommended I heat up the top baffle with a MAPP torch to try to get the draft going, but the torch puts out such a small amount of intense heat it didn't do much to help. I think the heat gun is what I'll try first. It's cheap and it has the added advantage of not requiring me to trek outside to get the draft going.

    I'll be sure to report back with my experience.

    Thanks again,
    Josh
  11. rich81

    rich81 Member

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    my dad does that with his woodstove. he gets the bernzomatic going and heats up the pipe. i originally had forgot about that method
  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    What is the pitch of the connector pipe between the stove and thimble? Put a level on it and see how much it goes up in the 3 foot run. It should be a minimum of 3/4". Even more would be preferable.
  13. Patapsco Mike

    Patapsco Mike Feeling the Heat

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    Also, make sure a window is open as close as possible to the stove. Basements naturally have a bit of negative pressure. Go to any leaky basement window in the winter and you will feel cold air pouring in on all sides of the house (whereas leaky upstairs windows often leak heat out so you don't feel that strong inward draft). By opening a window you lower the negative pressure in your stack. I had it happen more than once in my last house where I'd have a smoke issue as my old VC would be dying down, but as soon as I opened a window the draft would instantly reverse and smoke would get sucked right back into my wood stove. You can watch it happen sometimes.

    Once your stack is warm, you can shut the window again.
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good suggestion PM, I had assumed this stove had an OAK. If the window trick works then a permanent outside air kit could be a good fix.
  15. Backdraft

    Backdraft New Member

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    Hi, I don't know if you will see this since its an old post but..... I have the same trouble but it is aneasy fix if you can get to the back of your stove. I use a hairdryer put into the air intake on the back bottom of the stove. Run it on high for a minute or two, (have your paper ready to light) check the draft, and if OK light it and your on. And yes, I do open a basement window for those first few minutes.
    Bill
  16. NWfuel

    NWfuel Minister of Fire

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    This is when 1 whole Super Cedar works wonders. Email me for a free sample forstarts@aol.com These will get the most stubborn drafts going.

    Thomas
  17. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    When I was a kid I had to jam a couple sheets of newspaper in the flue and light to induce draft for the old VC. Worked well. Get your kindling, firestarter set up first, then heat the pipe and light the fire right away.
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