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Bypass Damper... worth the cash? Crack problem.

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Mr. Kelly, Nov 15, 2009.

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  1. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    Everyone on here has been great! I get a chuckle with every response!

    Next question...

    Preparing to buy the stove...

    My wife is afraid of fire. She has good reason, as her dad's place burned many years ago... no fault of a stove or fireplace, though.

    When I told her today that the easiest way to get a cold fire, or a restart, going was to crack the door open an inch or so for a bit, she said, "NO WAY IN HELL!". Then, I told her about the bypass damper in the model up from the one I was considering... (Lopi Republic 1750 vs. Endeavor). I told her that a bypass damper helps with airflow with cold starts and restarts.

    Does a bypass damper eliminate the need for cracking the door during starts? Or, do you still want to crack your door a bit? It would be great if you tell me that you have a bypass damper and you don't need to crack the door during starts. This would justify us spending another 500 bills to get a nicer stove!

    Whaddaya think?

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  2. Pagey

    Pagey Minister of Fire

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    I have the Endeavor, and I love the bypass damper. I still leave the door cracked when starting a cold stove, but the hearth pad under the stove eliminates my worries about anything falling onto a combustible surface. I also stay in the room if the door is cracked.
  3. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    We figure that we'll be "monitoring" our morning start up on the fly, as we're changing the baby, loading the car for work, brushing our remaining teeth, you get the idea. My wife is probably right in thinking that it's not prudent to be out of the room as we are fueling our fires with an open door. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Any more bypass damper people that use it in lieu of cracking the door?
  4. Pagey

    Pagey Minister of Fire

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    Again, it is a very handy feature, as it allows you to warm up the flue directly when starting from a cold stove. But even with this feature, I still crack the door 1/2" or so, as there's just no substitute of that rush of air when starting cold. The drier your kindling the better. I start my fires with pine that's reading 18-20% moisture content. I could start it with the door closed, but it would take a bit more time.
  5. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    My Lopi Liberty has a bypass damper. My wife and I both start fires in the stove from cold routinely (she, in fact, has become quite adept at burning). My wife and I both leave the bypass damper open and the primary air control open wide and the door cracked open (unlatched) while the fire catches and builds. We never ever walk away from the stove when it's like this (at least not very far away), and I'm not talking about a very long time (a few minutes). Door then gets latched shut. When things are really cookin' (10-15 minutes), bypass damper gets shut, and primary air starts getting throttled down. Works for us. Not scary. Nothing comes out of the stove...no smoke, no fire, no nothing...air goes into the stove. I s'pose we could build a fire without leaving the door ajar, but it would just take longer to get going good, so why would we? We build fires because we're cold and want to be warm as soon as possible. So long as we pay attention to what we're doing, we're not putting ourselves or our home at any significant risk. Rick
  6. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    You don't use the bypass damper in lieu of cracking the door, you always use the bypass damper on cold startup. You may or may not choose to crack the door ajar in addition to opening the bypass damper during a startup from cold. You might find it helpful to open the bypass damper at other times, as well, like reloading, to discourage smoke spillage when you open the door. Rick
  7. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    Good points. My wife, and it's likely true..., believes that I, or we, will get distracted some day and forget to close and latch the door. Her imagination takes her to a place where the house becomes a ball of flaming gasses, and be left as a smoking pile of rubble... with us homeless. The mind is a powerful tool. Sometimes it works for ye, sometimes against ye.
  8. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    Then don't get a wood stove. Why put yourself through all the expense and dedicated work and time and trouble year after year unless you're both going to appreciate it, understand it, and participate in it? I wouldn't bother if I didn't have a willing partner and I had another reliable source of heat available. It's just too much work if it's just for me. I s'pose I'd have my shop stove, but not the Liberty in the house. It's easier to pay an electric bill with online banking than to do everything it takes to keep that stove burning through the winter...and probably somewhere near a wash in $$$. If we didn't both really like it, it'd be a book rack or something. Rick
  9. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    The Avalon Arbor has an ashpan that you can crack open rather than opening the door. This is far more effective than opening the door since the air comes up from the grate and flushes through the fire. They strongly advise against doing this because it can create so much airflow that if you forget it and leave it open, it can lead to excessive temperatures, plus you can heat the stove up too fast and run the risk of cracking a casting. I find that for the purpose of starting the fire, just unlatching the ashpan creates enough draft that there's no need to ever open the doors, and there's no risk of any sparks getting out of there since it's designed to contain hot embers. I do this every time I start a fire in my Avalon Arbor.
  10. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Ah, now the truth comes out about your wife's reluctance to put in a woodstove. I find that there are three types of folks who truly respect fire (I would say fear, but too often people wrongly use the word "respect" and "fear" interchangably) . . . firefighters who have too often seen the effect of fire when it takes a life, a livelihood or someone's home, adults who have lost a loved one or their home and children of adults who have learned from their parents to be wary of fire and the danger it entails.

    Your wife is right to respect fire . . . but she needs to know that fire can happen in any home . . . regardless of whether there is a woodstove in that home. In fact, cooking fires and electrical fires are the leading cause of fire in the U.S. . . . and while heating equipment is the third leading cause, many of these fires are the result of portable space heaters.

    As I tell folks in my safety classes . . . today's woodstoves are much safer and easier to use than ever before. Of course, they too can cause fires. However, paying attention to the manufacturer specs (and perhaps exceeding those specs) when installing the stove and chimney, maintaining the stove and chimney (i.e. sweeping regularly) and properly disposing of the ashes will eliminate 98% or so of the most likely ways a fire would start.

    That said . . . if the only way for her to agree to go with a woodstove is one with a by-pass damper since that would make her feel safer at night . . . I would say go for it . . . and incidentally, you have a greater obligation now . . . it is up to you to be sure to meet and exceed manufacturer and local specs for the installation . . . it is up to you to make sure you do not over fire the stove . . . it is up to you to be sure you are always checking and cleaning the chimney so there are no chimney fires . . . it is up to you to be sure no errant coals ever roll off the heart and on to the flooring . . . it is up to you to make sure the trust your wife is putting in you and your decision to go with a woodstove is not misplaced . . . it is a great responsibility . . . but from what I've come to know about you I have no doubt you are up to the task and will be able to rise to the occasion and help reassure your wife's concerns.
  11. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    I crack the door for about 10 minutes tops. That's for a cold stove. After that I usually don't need to. The bypass is great. I can take my time reloading without smoking out the room. Occasionally I forget, and get a nostril full. The bypass is great.

    If you're worried about forgetting, get a little digital kitchen timer. They're cheap.
  12. EddyKilowatt

    EddyKilowatt Member

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    I appreciate your dilemma. Would like to suggest you consider spending $500 extra on your hearth and installation, instead... maybe spring for stone and run it 50% farther away than code requires, or some such. Think you will buy more fire safety this way than with an additional, marginally useful, control on the stove.

    p.s. my old Jotul stove is a bit primitive but as a result does have an external door latch. For awhile I considered adding a little bent strip of steel onto this to create a 'starting position' where the door is 1/2" open, but still latched against rolling logs. I finally decided I trusted the grate/fence thingy in the stove to keep logs in, but... does the stove you're considering have any possibility of something like a secondary latch position?
  13. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    You're talking apples and oranges here, Eddy. The bypass damper has nothing to do with safety, just operation during startup & during a flue sweep. Simply an operator convenience feature found on some stoves. Doesn't cost you any more to have one, the stove you choose either has one or it doesn't. The bypass damper was not a big determining factor in my decision to go with the Liberty (in fact, it had no effect whatever on my choice of stove)...but since I got it, I use it as designed and I appreciate it. Works like a charm. Safety comes from meeting or exceeding (as you alluded to...and I'm a believer in that philosophy) the manufacturer's documented minimum CTC's, following the operating instructions, and applying some common sense. In the absence of common sense, then the first two should keep most folks out of trouble. Speaking of apples and oranges...could you send me a dozen or so primo artichokes when the harvest comes next year? Maybe some french fried babies right away to get me through the long cold winter. I miss them. :down: Rick
  14. EddyKilowatt

    EddyKilowatt Member

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    Um, if I read it correctly, the original post was considering spending $500 extra for the next-bigger stove model, and was considering doing it for (perceived) safety reasons.

    'Chokes look to be mostly picked or plowed under for this year... fair amount of acreage going over to berries, even with the methyl bromide/iodide uncertainty.

    Eddy
  15. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, man, I'm not arguing with you...just sayin' (to the OP, as I tried to explain in a prior post) that the bypass damper isn't a "safety feature"...maybe we're both driving at the same point. With or without a bypass damper, there are perfectly safe ways to get a stove up and burning. Pick the stove you want to fit your needs, then learn how to operate it.

    ___________________________

    I'd expect to see the 'choke fields mostly plowed under now. As I recall, late summer/early fall was harvest time. Interesting about the shift to berries...wonder if there's more profit to be made there? I'm oblivious to the chemical (pollution?) issue you mentioned...need to do some searching & reading, I guess. One day I hope to retrace my steps down that way. Take care. Rick
  16. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    Ok, can I ask you guys to clarify... What exactly is the designed purpose for bypass dampers? I hear people say it's used for preventing smoke from exiting the box while reloading, and also to provide additional draft when restarting. Does this sound correct? Is part of the design of this feature also to deter operators from cracking the door in order to get proper reloading/restarting draft? Is it true that with or without a bypass damper, most fires will eventually get where they're going, but only faster with a bypass? If it's a matter of speed, I suspect we could get along without a damper, or cracking the door, as we're a patient bunch. Well... I oughta think again with that one...
  17. Pagey

    Pagey Minister of Fire

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    The bypass damper does two things: 1.) it allows the smoke to bypass the baffle during startups and reloads; 2.) it allows you to sweep the flue without having to remove a baffle (bricks, ceramic board, etc., whatever the baffle material of choice is).

    I think you're just overanalyzing here. In my opinion its design has nothing to do with deterring an operator from cracking the door. I crack the door on my stove even WITH the bypass damper open because it cuts my start time by 5 or 10 minutes. Again, I am with the stove, so this does not worry me. If you somehow "forgot," the "omg wtf is so hot" smell would quickly remind you to latch the door.
  18. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    That doesn't just sound correct, it is correct.

    No, that's not the purpose of the bypass. It's an operating control, not a safety feature.

    Yes.

    Not necessarily.

    Choose the stove you think is right for your specific heating requirements, then learn how to burn in the stove you choose. They're not all exactly the same in design and operating details, but they all provide the same fundamental service...heating our living spaces during the cold season. Re-read Pagey's post above. I agree that you may be over-thinking this thing. Rick
  19. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    Hey...

    Yes, I've been accused of "thinking too much" or over analyzing things. However, when it comes to fire, I feel I have to know what I'm doing, and what I'm getting into.

    Firefighter Jake, thanks for your comments and suggestions. I appreciate your input. You mention considering exceeding the manufacturers clearances to increase safety... Well, I'm building my hearth, but I designed it pretty much to their specifications, and not much more. The dealer said that they would rate the clearances conservatively, and wouldn't make suggestions that would likely have you along the "edge" of safety, and that they would likely buffer the distances somewhat to decrease likelihood of problems. Anyone believe that?

    How much would you suggest to exceed the recommended clearances to improve safety? For example, the side clearances on proposed stove is 6" to the back corners, as I'm installing it diagonally in the corner. My plan is 7", maybe a hair more. I can't imagine that the extra one inch would make a huge difference. What would you guys do? Do you feel comfortable installing to spec?
  20. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I think the dealer is right . . . I suspect the companies are conservative with their figures and have figured out what are safe clearance figures . . . but at the same time they also realize that when a consumer is looking to maximize their living space it may not pay to have too much of a buffer in figuring out clearance distances.

    I also think how you build your hearth and figure in the clearances is partly up to the manufacturer who will give you specs, partly up to the inspector who may have additional requirements and partly up to you and what you feel comfortable in doing . . . and since you have specifically mentioned your wife being leery, I would build in a few extra inches . . . yes, you could build to the manufacturer specs and be perfectly fine . . . but being able to add a few extra inches and telling your wife you have surpassed what the manufacturer even requires would do a lot to ease her discomfort. How much you exceed these clearances is up to you . . . me, I think I built in an extra 2-4 inches.
  21. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    Here's my observation, and you other bypassers can correct me if I'm imagining things, but it does seem to affect start up in at least one way. It seems to direct airflow more to the back of the stove when open. While starting up, this results in the load burning all the way front to back more evenly than when closed. If I start a load cold with the bypass closed, the load tends to burn from front to back. If I leave it open during warm up, there seems to be more secondary combustion at the back of the stove when I finally close the bypass.

    I'd add that it doesn't mean I don't crack the door. I do. I suspect the bypass does help speed up charring the load before adjusting the primary, but probably not much. The bypass keeps the smoke in the stove during loading. Period. It's a bonus feature on a stove you already like, not a safety device.
  22. Dirtgrain

    Dirtgrain New Member

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    I'm considering Osburn, Lopi, and Avalon inserts. If I went with the Osburn, would I regret not having a bypass damper?
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