1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Burning with a bad catalytic?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by William Fissel, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    Where did you find a Catalyst for $190?

    With good wood, the Cat should last you 5+ years. The refractory assembly, based on what I can see, looked to be in decent shape. It could last 3 years. Maybe more.

    So, for $258, you've given yourself at least three years to save up for the stove you want. In the mean time, you will have a stove that will give you 8-10 hours of heat. Sometimes more.

    They are a pain in the ass to maintain. But, in good working order and installed correctly, they provide a lot of heat, steady temps throughout the burn, and good burn times.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Messages:
    6,448
    Loc:
    Philadelphia
    You may be a convert, after all. A catalytic combustor, unless seriously abused, should provide at least 5 years of service (which is why they're typically warrantied for 5 years). Your stove is one known to require some maintenance, but that has everything to do with being a Vermont Castings product, and nothing to do with it being a catalytic stove.

    Many folks here have sacrificed other characteristics (mostly looks and cost) to buy a catalytic stove, when there are countless non-cat options on the market. They are the higher performance option, for those able to follow some simple instructions. Those instructions are:

    1. Burn only well-seasoned wood. That generally means softwoods split and stacked in dry sun and wind for 9 months, and hardwoods in the same conditions for 18 months. Oak can take longer than 2 years to season. I can't imagine damaging a cat by using less seasoned wood, but it will frustrate the hell out of you, trying to get the cat to light off (it won't want to).
    2. Do not burn treated or painted wood, as it will kill your catalyst. No plywood, no pressure treated, etc.
    3. Watch your catalyst temperature. Constant catalyst temperatures over 1800F will severely shorten its life.

    The way most folks over-drive the cat is to get a roaring fire, and then shut down the air. The huge out-gassing created by this scenario drives your cat temps way up. When you have a roaring fire going, and you want to bring down the stove temperature, lower the air control in small increments about 5 minutes apart to avoid this scenario. A cat temp probe is a godsend for a beginner with a cat stove.

    It's really that simple. Not rocket surgery. Anyone with the wherewithall to post a question here has the attention to detail required to run a cat stove.
  3. Machria

    Machria Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,117
    Loc:
    Brookhaven, Long Island
    Well said. And why I just ordered a Cat stove. I'd fix the Vermont, get by while you save your $, then sell the Vermont (since it's now in good working order), and buy the stove your liking, WITH a cat! ;)
  4. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,468
    Loc:
    Greenwood county, SC
    and you should get WAY more than 2 years out of a cat, unlike what your friend said or you think. To show you I am burning less than optimal wood till I get caught up. I have burned 1.5 seasons this being my 2nd full season in my huge cat stove. My wood has varied from 15-30+% in this time. Everything from oak to pine. Once December hits I burn 24/7 and heat my house. My cat this year has just some hairline cracks in them, they look good for at least as long again as I already have on them. This is with less than optimal wood. When burning 25% or less MC wood I bet you easy get 5 years!
  5. William Fissel

    William Fissel New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    9
  6. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    Holy crap. That's a deal!
  7. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Messages:
    6,448
    Loc:
    Philadelphia
    My last cat was 19 years old, and still functional. The previous owner did not burn 24/7, only using it on weekends. I replaced it, just because. I think I paid $160.
  8. weatherguy

    weatherguy Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Messages:
    3,807
    Loc:
    Central Mass
    Oops, didnt see page 2, duh!
  9. jwoair23

    jwoair23 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2011
    Messages:
    234
    Loc:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Warning: I am about to post something that most people will shake their heads at, and likely not be happy about. :)

    For what its worth, I have been burned 3 years without a cat in my stove. The first year I didn't even know what a cat was. The first year I burned, I was cleaning my stove, and the cat was crumbling apart when I took it out, so I just threw it away, not knowing what it was. Crazy right?

    Well, I have burned three years now without it, because the housing that it goes into is warped, and will not hold the cat. I could buy a new housing, maybe, but its an old stove and would probably have to have Appalachian fabricate it. Then I would have to buy the catalyst.

    My reasons for not doing so? I get six hour burn times in my small stove, it heats my house fine, actually overheats the house until it gets to 20 F or below, then it just keeps it at 70. I go through about 4-5 cords a year, heating my house about 90-95% with wood only. I have a rod and brush and sweep my chimney once a month, because it does create some creosote, but its a 10 minute process for me to clean it, I have an easy roof to get up on.

    So what I am saying, is my stove does not burn out of control, burns reasonably long, and heats my house very well without the cat. Would I get longer burn times and burn more cleanly with one? Yes, of course. But the difference to me is not worth the money, to be quite honest. I would buy a new stove, but I probably won't be at this house for long.

    I am not arguing for everyone to go throw away their cats, obviously, but I don't think its quite the end of the world scenario some people think it is either. Keep in mind, my stove is old, circa 198X-ish, so the CAT design probably isn't as great as they are now. Basically I leave the housing in the back, and close the damper all the way to the housing. This leaves about a 1 1/2" by 6" gap for the smoke to go through in the back. I get a bit of smoke out of the chimney, but actually not very much once I have the stove up to temperature.

    So thats my experience. I am sure a lot of people won't like it, but I just thought I would throw it out there, for what its worth.
  10. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2010
    Messages:
    3,355
    Loc:
    Rochester,Ny.
    I'll take the beating right along with you...lol.
    The day that you do replace it with a epa cat or tube stove you will prolly say I should have done this a few years ago..I had to say that to keep what little creditability that i have! lol
    I know I wish I would have.
    House is way more even temp wise and I'm saving over a 1/3 of the wood I use to burn.
    So that means that ever 3 years of burning now gives me one season free right?
    That's like 700 bucks in my pocket ever 3 years..that makes me very happy.
    I'm now burning 9-10 fc's.
  11. Machria

    Machria Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,117
    Loc:
    Brookhaven, Long Island
    9-10 fc's , and 1/3 of that only saved you $700?? Man, on LI, 3 or 4 FC's would save you $12-1500 easily.
  12. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2010
    Messages:
    3,355
    Loc:
    Rochester,Ny.
    LOL!
    yeah about 70 bucks for a 4'x8'16"
    You must be talking full cord?
  13. Machria

    Machria Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,117
    Loc:
    Brookhaven, Long Island
    No, around here it's much more expensive generally. But Ibet the price goes down a bit for a few years due to Sandy. Lots of wood around, and lots of folks (like me) just loaded up with it.
  14. Monosperma

    Monosperma Member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2011
    Messages:
    109
    Loc:
    Colorado/NewMexico
    It is my understanding that cat stoves are designed to restrict the air so much that the fire is barely alive, but putting out a constant stream of smoke and gasses. It is when these smoke and gasses burn inside the catalytic element that this type of stove produces its real heat. The fan, if any, moves cooler air right beside the combustor, which heats it up quick, due to the cat's high temperature (1000-1800 degrees). Furthermore, the firebox and air controls may not be designed to handle a "traditional" burn. In the case of my cat stove, with the door closed, the air would be so restricted I would have a small smokey blaze with not much heat, but with the door open even a crack, my stack temp would exceed safe levels in short order. Thus, I would not operate a cat stove without a cat element. (Unless I was truly freezing to death.)
  15. jwoair23

    jwoair23 Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2011
    Messages:
    234
    Loc:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I believe you when you say all of this, but it does not seem to be the case with my stove. I have two sliding pieces that provide air to the fire, each is about 3 inches long and a little over a 1/4" high. If I open them up all the way, I have a blazing roaring fire that gets extremely hot. If I leave them both open about an inch, its a very hot fire but normal, for very cold winter days. I generally run with both open about 1/4" to a 1/2", which gives me my "normal burn".

    Certainly stoves are designed very differently, I am just giving another set of experiences! :)
  16. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2010
    Messages:
    3,355
    Loc:
    Rochester,Ny.
    Fair enough.
    Thing is though my old bk non cat looked just like this one for the most part.
    Same flopper for the air but the old one did not have a t-stat.
    No baffle in the old one..straight up through a big hole to the flue.
    I did use the damper then.

    Any stove you could over fire.
    Sure it's best to have the cat in there but that was not what he wanted to know.
  17. David Tackett

    David Tackett Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2012
    Messages:
    178
    Loc:
    Waynesburg, Kentucky
    Can't he just open the by-pass and run it like an old dragon stove for this winter?
  18. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,468
    Loc:
    Greenwood county, SC
    I can leave my bypass open and it will burn like crazy and if wide open is anything but lazy flames, if I shut the air down even with bypass open I can get secondary burns but it will still burn the wood up I bet 2x as fast as with the cat. If I am fully loaded I can get 20 hours of heat out of it. If I put in 3-5 pieces I can get 8 hours or so of heat easy, its way more efficient to run it as designed, and let the wood puff puff glow glow away and get steady hot heat for the rated time. FOr the $200 it costs to get new combustors when mine are toast I will buy more!!!!
    pen likes this.
  19. Gark

    Gark Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2007
    Messages:
    808
    Loc:
    SW Michigan
    Now that a replacement cat has been ordered, the thin metal plates on the sides of the refractory box should be vertical (they are supposed to act as heat deflectors of the hot cat-burned exhaust coming from both lower sides of the white box). Both of our deflectors let go like in your picture, a metal tab on top that should hold them away from the refractory box burned away and they leaned into the box. I used high-temp stove cement to glue 'em back up vertical & off of the fragile white box.
  20. weatherguy

    weatherguy Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Messages:
    3,807
    Loc:
    Central Mass
    have you priced out the componenets you need? It may turn out that the money you spend to have it burn with a cat will be saved in no time with wood saved, not to mention longer burn times and time saved on labor.
  21. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    No. Your chimney will be scorching hot, while your stove top can be at 400 degrees.

    Also, it's a good way to warp the fireback by burning it this way. I've seen a lot of screwed up Encores from people trying to get around the cost of maintenance.
  22. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,330
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    Its funny really... People put off the maintenance to save 200 bucks and 30 minutes work... But pay for it in hundreds, even thousands of bucks or equivalent processing labor on extra wood.

    To the op, you made the right call. You will be very pleased with the heat from this stove burning as designed.
  23. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    1,925
    Loc:
    southern ontario
    Again, as stated above, that new cat should last atleast five years, up to ten, if you don't overfire or use wet wood or non-wood products or glossy paper in the stove.

    Glad you've had a reasonab;e resolution.

    Good luck with the stove.
  24. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Messages:
    6,448
    Loc:
    Philadelphia
    A cat stove produces its heat in the same way as a non-cat, a mix of firebox burning and secondary burning, your primary air lever being your mixing valve. You can run them full throttle and watch your firebox temps climb, while your cat temps fall. The main difference between cat and non-cat is simply that the cat can keep the flue gasses burning at much lower firebox temps.

    The cat does produce some restriction, but its an undesirable and secondary effect, not the primary factor behind its operation. This is why you need a bypass damper on a cat stove, to get the fire started. The result of this restriction is a slightly more lazy appearance to the flame at medium air control. When I open my air control full, the stove burns just as furiously as any non-cat, and I can't tell the difference between cat engaged/bypassed by the appearance of the flame.
  25. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,468
    Loc:
    Greenwood county, SC
    he beat ya to it!

Share This Page