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Any VC Large Winter Warm Users here?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by bobs, Feb 16, 2006.

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  1. bobs

    bobs New Member

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    Are there any Vermont Castings Large Winter Warm users on this forum? I have one and would like to compare notes with someone who also has one.

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  2. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

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    There's one user in particular whom you should speak with. He'll reply to your post as soon as his therapist releases him.

    Oh MO... paging Mr. MO HEAT... MO HEAT to the forum please... MO... Mo... mo...
    (sometimes he's a little quiet, the Prozac does that)
  3. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    I've got one up and running. Fire away.

    Steve
  4. bobs

    bobs New Member

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    Steve, thanks for answering.

    I have a dealer installed VC Large Winter Warm insert. It is vented into an outdoor chimney that has two inch flues; one 8 inch for an oil boiler and one 12 inch for the fireplace. There is a one piece cap covering both flues. I wanted a full liner installed, but the installer said that there was a restriction in the chimney that would not allow the 8 inch liner to fit in. It was installed with a flex connector. It was installed last April, so I have had some time to get used to it. I have used over two cords of good seasoned, dry hardwood so far.

    There has been a problem with it from the beginning. The fire is always very active and normal in all of the firebox, except the left front. Creosote forms on the inside left firewall and in the top left air manifold opening. The glass gets a heavy coat of creosote on the left side, starting at the top. This happens when the damper is open, full air, and a rip-roaring fire burning good dry wood. It gets progressivily worse when after an hour or so I close the damper and engage the cat.

    I had a problem with the installer, and have not had him back to look at it, but I did discuss it with him on the phone last April. He does not return my calls now. I have no confidence that he would be able to fix it anyway. It is still under warranty and if I can't fix it I will probably file a complaint with the State Department of Consumer Protection. No other VC dealer can fix it under warranty. I contacted the local VC distributer and manufacturing agent and got no support.

    I won't bore you with all of the details of my dissapointment with Vermont Castings, but at this point I would not recommend them to anyone. When I tried to get technical support from the manufacturer, I was told that I had to go to a dealer.

    I have replaced the door and glass gaskets three times. I am positive that there is no leakage; I experimented by cutting the gasket to cause it to leak so I could see what happened. The glass staining from a gasket leak looks different from what I am getting. The door seems to be OK, not warped. I replaced the upper fireback and air manifold gasket, the damper gasket, the air manifold gaskets. The air manifold is sequrely seated. The Front is seated securely against the fire chamber assembly. Everything looks OK to me from the view available without pulling the unit out and disassembling it, something I do not want to do yet.

    I found that if I block a 6 inch section of the air manifold opening on the right side with a piece of 1/2 gasket rope, the fire on the left improves, the glass on the left stays cleaner, not completly, but better, and the glas on the right gets a light coat of soot. I suspect the problem might be inadequate draft, although when burning, there seeems to be more than adequate draft.

    I am trying to find out if inadequate draft could cause this kind of problem. If I could just install a liner I would, but if the installer was right and it won't fit in, I can't do that. It seems like my options are to either to go to a major expense to modify the chimney to get a liner in, or get rid of this VC insert and install something with a 6 inch flue. Before I go to any further expense, I am already over $3000, I would like to se if this insert can be made to work properly. I would hate to get the chimney redone and find I still have the problem.

    So, with all that, Steve, have you had any problems with your insert?

    This looks like an interesting forum group, I hope some of you have some ideas to share.

    Bob
  5. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    In short, yes, I have had some problems, but nothing like a guy called MO Heat who's around the board.

    The dealer has been generally unresponsive from the time I placed a deposit. Not particularly interested in talking about that aspect.

    First, the door hinge mounts on the left face of the firebox were really poorley cast/machined, so that there was about a 3/16" gap between the door gasket and the firebox. Not only did it not grip a dollar bill, I could push a dollar bill through with no resistance.

    Eventually I convincd the dealer this was a real issue, and they came out with an angle grinder and whacked a bunch of material off the hinge mount. That resolved it till the gasket 'seated' after a couple firings, at which point I whacked a little more material off, and it's decent now. Still forms some creosote on the glass, but just a film. Also there were several unexplained holes in the bottom of the unit undr the ash pan that I plugged with stove cement, which seems to be OK.

    Second, the damper gasket fell out a couple weeks into it. A little cement from the hardware store dealt with that.

    Third, the linkage that controls the air intake (top left lever, runs to a little hinged door on the left side of the box) came loose at the intake. I actually was able to get whatever it is in there reseated by sticking a couple fingers in and fiddling with it a bit - dealer wasn't too eager to help with that one either.

    I do have the full liner (self installed), and have a really outstanding draft under all conditions (so far). The glass doesn't stay clean, but I don't know that any wood insert glass stays crystal clear. I clean it off every couple days and things are OK.

    I do notice more stuff, croesote I guess, on the left side of the box than the right, which I assume is because that side is where the cooler intake air is coming in, and there's just some condensation.

    I also get two distinct streaks of creosote down the sides of the glass downwind of the two retaining clips. The clips seem to mess up the airwash.

    In general, I think I (now) have a safe and efficient wood insert. It kicks out a hell of a lot of heat, and is controllable. But it would have been a mess if I'd just started running it as delivered.

    Based on what you've described, I'd really look at the intake air passages. It sounds like you maybe have an obstruction of something diverting air from the the left side of the intake. I've noticed my intake isn't manufactured to the highest standard, and kind of sits crooked, but it seems to work. Is it possible there's a piece of gasket from the side panel of the firebox of something like that obstructing flow?

    Steve
  6. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    As another thought - can you shut down the fire by closing the intake air? These aren;t a particularly good design, and I wonder if you might be running primarily off an airleak on the right side of the firebox?

    Steve
  7. bobs

    bobs New Member

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    Yes, I can control the air with the air controler.

    I just installed a 6 in. piece of gasket rope over the right side of the air intake, right over the glass. That forces more air to go to the left side and stopped the left from sooting up. Juat before putting the gasket in, I was down to a good bed of red hot coals. The embers on the right side of the box were glowing hot, while those on the left were ashen, no red. As soon as I put in the gasket, the embers on the left started to glow, while those on the right did not.

    It appears that I have enough draft to keep the fire going, but maybe not enough to supply all of the air needed. Or, the air inlet manifold is poorly designed. I completely removed the manifold and saw no obstructions from the air damper inlet to the manifold inlet.

    Bob
  8. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    My guess is that the biggest problem is the chimney not being lined. An exterior chimney combined with this tough drafting unit can spell trouble. Although the chimney may appear to work well, as the smoke cools (when the stove is in downdraft), the chimney draft may vary greatly therefore causing all kinds of problems.

    As someone else mentioned earlier today "draft does not come standard with a stove", or as we used to say in our store (a bit cruder", "Just because we sell you a stove does not mean we buy your existing chimney"......

    It is possible that VC cannot fix the stove...and that all this grinding and tightening would not be needed if the chimney was right.

    Chimney lining can be purchased in rectangles, squares, ovals and even odd sizes (7.5" round, etc.). I know it is a lot of money, but a full lining on this model could very well be a big part of the solution.
  9. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    I'm a bit short on time, but I'll try to get back after my shock treatment...

    My WWL had similar issues. Too numerous to quickly mention, but for the most part, I'm happy with my unit now.

    Let me hit a few issues you might have addressed already, and list a few suggestions:

    Draft may be an issue, but that may be hard to determine. I tried taming my draft once with an 8" to 6" reducer to combat over-firing. I discovered that the reduced draft immediately resulted in smoke exiting the door when burning it open. Especially when starting a fire, which was made difficult without smoke entering the room. Removing the reducer put things back to normal, allowing cleaner kindling, but still difficult to control higher burn rates. But I knew I didn't have excessive draft. At least initially. If you can build a fire and burn with the door open for the first thirty minutes, it probably means you have a decent draft and will experience less sooting. If I close the door too early, the left side really soots up quick, and bad.

    After 1/2 hour open door burn, I close door and let 'er rip for another 1/2 hour (at least) before thinking about engaging the cat. I also am careful how I load the stove. I leave 1 inch of ash to cover all ash grate 'air holes'. I stack all wood touching one side or the other, usually staggering pieces so some touch left, some right. This helps get flames side to side and reduce sooting on the glass.

    The glass is HUGE! I'd guess that most glasses this large have a hard time staying clean. Add bad primary air flow, one sided intake, holes in the stove bottom allowing air up that left side gap between fire grate and left firebox casting where little air wash is present, smoking wood close to that area, and you have a creosote mess on the left side, bottom glass.

    Just changing my burning habits helped tremendously with the sooting. I can actually burn it off sometimes, which should be impressive to any WWL owner. :)

    When I add wood (I'm getting off on a tangent, but these things have worked for me), I rake coals to the front, near the glass, and add wood no closer than two or three inches from the front grate. Hey, it works for me.

    Of course, the WWL has lots of 'issues'. My first firebox (stove without the surrounds) looked like it was assembled by children. I am on my second box now. It at least has a flat gasket sealing surface, or should I say surfaceS, since the design depends upon luck in assembly to make a good door seal.

    Have you plugged all the holes in the ash pan compartment floor? There are probably two missing leveler feet and two mysterious holes about 6 inches apart just an inch from the front. Plug them all. I used bolts for the levelers, and nuts and bolts for the mystery holes. Air comes up from below and makes its way either up through the grate, or if you leave ashes like I do to protect the grate and prevent some heat loss down below, then the air goes up through the two sides of the grate in the front that I still haven't plugged up. Keep meaning to do that. I can see condensed creosote on each side of the ash pan door where I suspect air is still leaking in there from either the almost plugged mystery bolts, the lower door gasket or somewhere I've missed.

    Do a 'half-dollar bill test' just above the lower hinge. This is a potential trouble spot where the firebox castings 'meet'. Use a dollar cut (or folded, but it's double thick) lengthwise so as to not span the upper and lower castings.

    I have a similar sooting pattern on the left as you do. I agree with Steve about the intake air side, coupled with your analysis of the manifold air flow pattern = left side sooting, potentially big time. I combat this fairly effectively after learning to burn with discipline. :( Sad, but required. I burn the first half hour of a new fire with the door open and a fireplace screen in place. This gets the fire going good before I close the door for the second half hour. I'll often go another 15 mins to 30 mins until the cat probe thermometer shows >=500*F. I can usually light it off after the first hour, but the extra half hour can sometimes make a difference in sooting if the wood splits are really big and not yet 'rolling'.

    It took me the whole first season to start getting familiar with this thing (3 cords) and another two cords to get to where I can pretty much keep the glass clean. Oh, I almost forgot, I operate based almost exclusively on cat temps. I feed no more than two large splits, three or four smaller ones (half full firebox load), when the cat temp is between 800 - 1000*F, and I let them get going good before I think about reengaging the cat, maybe 5 - 15 minutes, depending on the wood's temperament. It needs to be charred and/or burning on all sides before reengaging the cat. That is the secret. Keep everything hot. I don't put in TOO much wood, or things get a bit too hot, but essentially I burn smaller, hotter fires, and manage the wood and coal location in the firebox. It takes a bit more tending, but keeps the glass fairly clean.

    Got to go, doctor is here... I'll check back after I wake up...
  10. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    Draft can be an issue, but you didn't specify your chimney - I assume 8x12, and 2 stories tall? That should be comfortably within spec for the WWL, which takes an 8 inch round liner.

    What bothers me is the left/right bias in airflow, and I have nothing to explain it. And it may be a red herring.

    Steve
  11. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Mo heat and I exchanged many e-mails lamenting about the LWW. A 5 piece cast comprises the front door contact gasket fit.
    I have supported most of the Vermont Castings line, but have never recomended the LWW. To get that front door gasket fit, either the gasket has to be built up in lower contact areas or grinding takes place on higher contact areas or both. Mo an I both have arrived at this concolusion too many parts have to fit perfectly for it to work or fit right. Even the factory in Bethel VT, made the excuse that the LWW are placed on molds for alignment then shipped. During the shipment and before the adheisives set the parts shift.
    That is their official explanation. All stove manufactures rely on their retailers to service the products they sell. Part of buying a stove is to find a reliable retailer. On an average VC manufacture and sell 50,000 stoves only a few are not up to specs Even the best reputations are being questioned this year Harmon Jotul just look at the recent threads or post. I am happy with my two VC product but I am not relying on a dealer to fix them.
  12. Ashhole

    Ashhole Member

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    New to the site but I have to chime in about the VC WinterWarm. I am on my second unit and luckily this one has functioned great for the last 2 years. The first one overfired and cracked the firebox. The dealer replaced it no problem but swore he would never sell it again. It is really a shame Vermont Castings, AKA Majestic, is letting th product go down the tubes. My wife and I both love the look and it heats our entire 2200 sq ft colonial but the quality factor
    grts it two thumbs down.





    .
  13. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Yeah, I might add that my dealer said he'd never sell another VCWWL. Caveat emptor. Find another stove unless you just love the looks of this thing (like I do) and are willing to work out the bugs and baby it when firing. I'm happy enough, as long as nothing major goes wrong, which I will continue to cross my fingers. I've even got a 'parter' in the storage should little things start failing. I got to keep my old unit when the new one arrived. Thanks to my dealer who was pretty nice even though they had not a clue about VCWWL's.
  14. Ashhole

    Ashhole Member

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    I hear you about crossing fingers. Whenever I tell my better half the second WinterWorry has been decent I am scolded to hush, lest I jinx the cast iron. While I am typing this the unit is firing up and creaking and groaning. With other stoves it is a good sound of metal heating up to warm the house. With the VCWW I keep worrying a creak will end up being a crack. Nice of your dealer to leave the old unit. Mine lugged the 575lbs of cast iron back to his shop, hopefully to be recycled for frying pans.
  15. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    If the air comes in one side of the unit as opposed to two and then is distributed by manifolds, then the flow could be wrong when proper draft is not present......or, if there are two draft doors but they are not calibrated.....something like that.
  16. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    One day I'll remove that manifold and have a good look at the air flow pathway. Perhaps it would be possible to insert a little, partial baffle to redirect or shunt part of the primary air down to the left quickly. I suspect the left side intake simply allows air 'up' and then 'sideways' to the right where it eventually 'falls' out of the manifold and down the glass. Probably the inertia of the moving air simply prevents it from 'falling' fast enough to 'bathe' the left side of the glass.

    I've been burning everyday for about a week and I only have about one inch of sooting on the left, with about two inches in the lower left corner. It will wipe off easily with a damp paper towel whenever things get cool, but I generally don't bother but every two weeks or so since I manage to keep it so much cleaner lately with calculated burn efforts, and it will come back anyway the first time I let a bit too much smoke accumulate in the box with a cool split.
  17. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    You guys have alot more patients than me. If it was my stove it wouldn't be for long. Sounds like way too much trouble to maintain. And what about safety? What happens if your units overfire due to a defect and burn down the house, or even kill someone? I'd get rid of them just for piece of mind.
  18. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    I wouldn't go as far as to say these stoves are going to be burning houses down. They are UL listed.
  19. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Just because they are UL listed doesn't mean they can't start a chimney fire.
  20. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    Any solid fuel burning system can have a chimney fire. Your post made the thing sound like a 70's Scandia or something.
  21. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Sorry, it just makes me nervous when people start tinkering with air intakes, gaskets, and manifolds. Wouldn't that void the warranty? And if something bad happened, would insurance cover it?

    If it was me crossing my fingers when I hear creaking and growning hoping the iron doesn't crack, I would get rid of the stove!
  22. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    You take a lot of risks in life - I just replaced my own brakes a couple weekends back. Pretty confident I did it right, and I'll pay attention to any oddities just incase. Same thing with the WWL, and arguably any stove. None of these things is made to what you'd call exacting specifications - even the best manufacturers have problems. So you need to pay attention and familiarize yourself both with the theory and with your stove in particular. None of them are 'fire and forget.'

    (I also installed it with a full Ti alloy liner, inside a good tile liner, inside a massive fieldstone fireplace. So I'm fairly confident that even if something did go wrong, it wouldn't burn the house down. Might be a little tense, but probably not terminal.)

    Steve
  23. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    I'm not going to defend the quality of the VCWWL as every unit I've heard of comes from the factory in second class shape, requiring loving time and attention from its adoptive parent, but with this unit, there is more to the overall story IMO.

    The VCWWL reminds me of an older Harley Davidson or Triumph motorcycle. Even if you get/got a good one, there are specific and substantive design issues that must always be kept in the front of one's mind when operating. I'll spare you the motorcycle details except to say a friend of mine with a 'Jap bagger' (as he calls it) and a 'hog' sums up the difference between them by saying when his Jap Bagger breaks, he buys a new one. When his Harley breaks, he nurses it back to health like a beloved dog (or perhaps more appropriately, a beloved hog). Ever read Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? It sums it up.

    The VCWWL should (IMO) NOT be operated without a cat probe thermometer. You should watch it religiously for the first few weeks of firing to get a good feel for its behavior. You'll likely notice, if yours is anything like mine, that this thing can get hot, Hot, HOT in a hurry. I've had cat transient temps as high as 2150*F IIRC. That's pretty hot, and something not to be allowed often. If firing a VCWWL with NO cat probe temp feedback, the sky is the limit, and I suspect that is what damages a lot of these boxes that are over-fired.

    If you fill this thing to the gills, damp it down, and let it go hog wild, it will overheat, guaranteed. I typically only have a bed of coals and two or three medium splits in there at one time. The cat temps still reach 1800*F with no problem. This thing extracts heat from wood like a high efficiency gasification furnace. Those typically two, and sometimes three splits, depending, can burn for a couple hours, sometimes three, before the cat probe starts dropping below 800*F - 1000*F, when I start thinking about throwing on a couple more. I'm usually not even in a hurry until cat temps drop below 800*F because this is a cast iron monster that is still throwing heat out of the convection exit like a jet engine at that point. But if I wait much below 750, the coal bed can get pretty small. The flip side is, that at 750*F or below, I don't worry much about shocking my cat with a new load of wood. Since I sit right in front of the unit (see my sig link for a photo of stove room) I can fire this thing at an idle and still be toasty warm. On the other hand, I can load a couple extra splits, and load em earlier at around 1000*F, get a really good flame going in the box, and warm the entire 1000 sq ft room, and 1800 sq foot finished basement, should I choose to with company here. This unit offers a lot of flexibility in firing and can save a lot of wood in my situation. I've only used about half the wood I projected so far. So there are advantages for the conscientious VCWWL wood burner.

    With awareness, patience, and disciplined burning (like Eric's weekend wood type burning :), this thing seems to do a great job of heating, uses a lot less wood than I would have guessed, and is like the Venus de Milo of inserts (perhaps complete with ancient design and quality issues :). Of course, it doesn't help that this thing comes from the factory allowing infiltrated air to fan its flames like a Banshee.

    The other side of this coin is that some folks still love Harley, Triumph, and VCWWL. I'm not sure I'd trade my VCWWL if I had the opportunity, even if it cost me nothing. I selected it partly for its looks, and 7 or 8 months out of the year, when it's not burning, I can enjoy that aspect of the thing. Now that I've gotten most of the bugs worked out and to where I can, let's say, Baby Fire the VCWWL, I'm happy as a clam. And likely will be until a major failure. :( Who knows if or when this will occur. :) Maybe never... maybe tomorrow. This box is obviously not for everyone, but I believe it has a valid niche of owner/operators and can serve them well.

    We are the elite few, the proud, the brave. We are VCWWL owners! Semper Fire. :)
  24. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    The WWL probably appeals to the same self-destructive tendencies that keep me riding around in a 72 MGB and a 77 XJ6. No Triumph... yet.

    Steve
  25. april@offenbachers

    april@offenbachers New Member

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    I have been selling majestic products for years, including the winterwarm, but because I do not install them, I have to rely on our chimney sweeps that install them, online install manuals, and technical services to answer my questions.
    Heres a quick question that perhaps one of you will be familiar with, since you own the product.
    I have a customer that has had the left fan running non-stop since the time of install-before he ever fired it up. I realize its unusual to have the heat activated fan going when there is no heat being produced. Since this only affects the left fan, right fan comes on and off normally, could this be thermostat related, as tech suggests?
    Any insight would be helpful.
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