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Calling In The Warranty On Woodstock Steel Cat

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Todd, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I've had this steel cat for a year now and the last month or so it just hasn't cut the mustard like it use to. Temps are down and don't hold nearly as long as they used to. Light offs also take longer and hotter temps.

    Since I have two of the same stoves but one with a steel cat and the other ceramic, I could switch them back and forth between stoves and compare. The ceramic cat is pumping out much more heat in either stove with higher temps and also seems to burn longer. The steel cat still seems to burn clean but the heat just isn't there. I can barely get the stove top up over 500 and it doesn't stay there very long. Turning the air down to a low cat burn usually with a good cat will turn the cat beet red but lately with the steel cat it barely glows at all and the temps drop.

    The warranty on these steel cats is 3 years free replacement and 3 more pro rated so I should get a free replacement. I've wondered why this steel cat hasn't lasted and talked with Woodstock about it but it's new to them and they don't have much feed back yet and are still learning.

    Sud Chemie, the manufacture of these new steel cats haven't replied to my calls or emails but I have talked with Applied Ceramics and they have told me these steel cats come out about every 10 years or so then go away because they don't last more than 3 years. Applied Ceramics also told me the steel cats may be resistant to thermo shock and not crumble over time but they don't burn as hot for as long.

    If I could get another ceramic instead of steel I would but Woodstock doesn't carry ceramic cats any longer and I don't want to dish out $200 for a new one. Looks like I'll give the steel another try.

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  2. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    You did the right thing Todd. Our cat has been acting really weird as of late and sometimes we have had some problems getting it to light off. Yet at other times it works great. Woodstock is replacing ours and we expect to have it within 2 days. They will do some testing there at the factory and then send it back to the manufacturer so hopefully we'll get some feedback on this.

    Yet, even with some problems getting it to light off, yesterday my wife was chilly (an uncommon thing for her) so she turned the draft to about 1.5. In short order it started getting a bit toasty in here and as we turned the draft down, the stove top was about a hair above 700 degrees. Fortunately it did not take much to get the temperature down but I wondered when I was ready to stock up for the night what might happen. There were not many coals left because we had just let the fire go out to cool the house.

    First I laid 3 pieces of kindling on the coals. They lit off pretty fast so I added 2 small splits of ash. Again, they lit off rather quickly. So then I added 3 oak splits and filled the rest with ash. Within 5 minutes I had the cat engaged and the draft set at 1. I waited about 5 minutes and then looked at the cat. It was really red all the way across. I turned the stove down to .5 then. After showering I went out to check the stove one more time. The stove top was at 620 degrees and there was some flame in the firebox. I slept well. I also got up late so the wife had already put in a couple of oddball splits but the house was really nice and warm even in the back bedroom. So this baffles me why sometimes the cat works so nicely and yet we've had a few problems.

    btw, we've not had any problems staying warm because even when the cat did not light off we still got the stove over 400.
  3. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I think mine was on and off like yours for awhile Dennis but now it's pretty consistently getting worse. There's no way I can get it up to 700. Last night I had a good fire going with a full load and it only reached 525 with the air set at #1- 1.5. After about 45 minutes the front logs were burnt down and the stove top temp was slowly dropping under 500 so I decided to add two more good sized pieces of Oak on top to see if I could get the stove cranking up over 600. Usually adding more wood to an already hot 500 degree stove would send it into nuclear mode and easily hit 700 but last night I couldn't get it over 550. Also turning it down to a low cat burn under #1 just dropped the temps and the cat stopped glowing.

    On the other hand the ceramic cat has no problem pushing 700 and glows much brighter for longer.
  4. timusp40

    timusp40 Feeling the Heat

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    Dennis, Todd,
    Not exactly the type of inconsistant cat operation that a prospective Fireview owner wants to read about. I don't quite understand why Woodstock would change from ceramic to steel, unless it was a availability issue. Am I correct in that the steel cat was fine at first, but degraded in performance faster than anticipated or do you feel the ceramic was more dependable and longer lasting?
    ???????
    Tim
  5. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Tim, not all SS cats have done this. However, this is good to send two of them back for testing to try to understand what is going on. Best to fix it before it does become a big problem. I'll be very interested in learning why and what is happening but would not let something like this interfere with any thinking about the Fireview. Shoot, I read about some ceramic cats crumbling quite fast too but there was a reason for that. This is one of those things like one might get when buying a new car. Some little thing pops up and the manufacturer fixes it and all future vehicle reap the benefit.
  6. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I think Woodstock changed because of the thermo shock crumbling issues of the ceramic cats. Most people don't burn exceptionally dry wood or monitor temps as close as us hearth.com geeks so WS probably expects less warranty issues with the steel cats verses ceramic.

    As far as performance goes I'm not going to simply give up on the steel cats yet. To early to tell from only a couple bad reports. Just wanted to bring this to light to other Woodstock owners so they can keep an eye on it.
  7. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    That sucks to hear, Todd. Now you've got me thinking about the SS cat in my Progress. Everything seems fine so far, so I'll keep my figures crossed.

    I wouldn't read too much into that comment from AC, Todd. Every 10 years or so? Wouldn't that mean they've been tried like twice before? It is very possible they are much inproved over the first couple go-rounds.

    Maybe there is an issue with the adaptability of the Fireview and Keystone to the steel cats, since they were never really tested or designed with them in mind?
  8. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    Maybe they were having to replace a lot of combustors under warranty due to flame impingement or thermal shock damage caused by operator error. I thought the combustor maker ate that loss but maybe Woodstock was just trying to get something more reliable in there to increase customer satisfaction...
  9. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, I took everything they said with a grain of salt, I know they are in competition and probably a little sore that Woodstock switched over to a different manufacture. The good thing is free replacement warranty up to 3 years and I'm sure if they don't work out Woodstock will make it right.

    I was also thinking with the new stove there isn't as much pressure or stress on the cat with the secondary burn system which in theory should help the cat last much longer. The original stoves are more designed where the cat takes on pretty much the full load. Maybe there will be some changes in the future to the other stoves to make them more of a hybrid? I know this new stove was originally a fireview upgrade that basically transformed into a new stove. I remember I was really bugging them about the Fireview upgrade for updates and when it was going to be available.
  10. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Quite interesing experience there. My SS has been on and off a bit lately. I get some great performance for a while then on an off day it will seem to stall for no good reason. I am not sure that I'm ready to throw in the towell yet though as I also had a change in my burning habits to iron out. I have been feeding the stove some rather larger splits than previously and the weather has been - well, weird for this time of year. The "Eternal shoulder season" has made things just hard to compare to previous years... I've been doing too many cold starts (never did on in January before this year).

    Anyway - when it is working it is wonderful. Once in a while it seems to stall which to me is either difficulty engaging (won't get the stovetop temp climbing after engaging even though temps are 'right'), or it will actually start smoking after being clean and I turn the air down. I used to run at .5-.75 as a normal standard. I don't do that anymore as I can expect it will end up with smoke up the stack - not a whole lot, but some near the end of the burn.

    Now, my wood may not be as good as last year.. it is only about 20 months split, but it is ash that was dead standing (sorry no moisture meter since mine broke). I had split this wood rather large though so I can only get 4-5 splits in the stove at a time and that may be adding to my difficulty. However, when I give the stove a bit more air - above 1 or up to 1.5 it burns clean and hot.
  11. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I'm beginning to see a trend here. I've noticed that this problem is mostly with the lower air settings. My steel cat is worse at lower air settings. Hotter fires in the 1-1.5 range do better but can stall out towards the end.
  12. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

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    I don't mean to sidetrack but how can I tell if I have a steel or ceramic cat?
  13. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    when did you buy your stove, I think the steel cats have only been in the keystone for a year? The ceramic cat has two sections with a dividing gasket in the middle. The cells are also a little larger and square. The steel cat is all one piece with irregular sized holes. You should be able to tell if you take off the scoop and look.
  14. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    I called WS about 3 weeks ago on a different subject, and mentioned my SS cat did not seem as responsive as when it was new. At first, I could engage at 200 F and the stovetop would rapidly (less than 40 minutes) hit 500-550. This does not happen any more, it's sluggish and sometimes does not climb much past 300 until the stovetemp itself climbs. the flue smoke is slightly dark until stovetemps start really climbing. WS told me the SS cats are "hypersensitive" when brand new, and then naturally and quickly become less sensitive (WS said they were told this by the Cat maker). I'm thinking more like this cat is "desensitized".

    I will certainly be monitoring this more closely, but so far I am not impressed with the SS cat.
  15. neumsky

    neumsky Minister of Fire

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    I think this will confirm as to why alot of us are a little reluctant to buy cats because of the unpredictable mood swings these things go thru. Somebody above mentioned that it's like a car....not. This is not complex like a car & run by many people which usually is the error. This should have been tested by this reputable company before sending out & let you guys holding the bag. Listen to me...sorry you guys are going thru this. Honestly...I'd be confused and a little upset. There's alot of guys out there who like cats.
  16. Stump_Branch

    Stump_Branch Minister of Fire

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    Todd were the hotter cat temps taken from your probe, before you switched the setup?

    Having never run a ceramic cat i cant compare. Have noticed some of these similar conditons and descriptions from above though.

    Color me suscribed to hear what you find out. Keep us updated.


    Cats my be finicky in nature, still love the control of them over noncats.
  17. Hardrockmaple

    Hardrockmaple Feeling the Heat

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    Not to be argumentative but I'm still a believer in the SS cat. This is the second season for mine and I'm more than happy with the way my older little stove runs with this style cat. No going back for me.
  18. sappy

    sappy Member

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    Interesting posts. Like the others said and I think Slow 1 said today was outside and noticed some light smoke coming out of stack when I still had 1 or more pieces that looked to have some life left in them still. I had the air at close to .75 or .85. Flame went out and pipe was going down some more in temp than normal. Just before was going good. Put the air at 1.75 and in time got flame back to burn down the rest of wood to coals. This has never happed before. Usually when flame goes out the cat will right off get red in this case to eventually relite flame.
    Also I too am finding that leaving at 1 or a little more will keep all systems going as one would expect.
    I often will put at .75 or so once established good so as not to go over 550 stovetop and longer wood but it will flame-wise usually go out in 2 hours or less.
    I too don't look at stovetop as much now at restart. I look to get my double wall up to 250 to 280-300 max which you can add around a hundred to that for all you single wall folks. Then stovetop usually at 200 to 220 back part of stone by pipe. Usually will glow orange rite off n but at times will need to leave at 1.5 a bit because my great flame will sometimes go to next nothing and cat will lag. I play with air and time and it gets going properly.
    Pipe with mirror shows grey with some lite ash on sides on the way up, so don't think blockage is an issue. Sounds a lot what I am hering on this thread. Add me to list, lol. Other time doing same routine will be great as Dennis states.
  19. buggyspapa

    buggyspapa Member

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    I've noticed the Steelcat I installed in November requires higher temps to light off than it did initially, also. But oddly, mine will go out if the draft is open too wide (on the Alpha) when I close the bypass damper. It prefers less draft. I don't know if that's because the draft comes into the stove just outboard of the cat inlet and may be getting sucked directly up by the cat and therefore cooling it or what.

    Whatever the reason, I am considering going back to the ceramic and asking for a warranty return.
  20. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    The pitch for the SS vs Ceramic was lower light off temps. That was true when it was brand new, but what good is lower light off if it only works the first month or so? It's definitely not my wood killing this cat, my wood was top covered for 3 years. I which we could chose between SS or Ceramic, So far the ceramic worked better.
  21. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    I have no idea how many years my ceramic cat will last but I'd be willing to buy one out of pocket every year if necessary. No going back for me until the "next" best thing comes along. I'm waiting for the new WS stove to be available without the stone shell, if that was to ever happen I might take a peek. :lol:
  22. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Wow, sorry to say this but it seems that is quite a leap. Even as one who seems to be experiencing some anomalies here I still feel this is a superior heating solution.

    Burning with the air set at close to 1 I was still able to go 10 hours (8p - 6a) last night and wake up to a comfortable house and more than enough coals to have the first splits burning before I had the last split loaded and door shut. Being "forced" to burn with more air has shown me that having some flames in the stove during the burn doesn't really seem to shorten the time between viable re-loads. I do hit higher peaks at the beginning - but they level off and I do still get a pretty even burn until near the end when the stone just radiates away for a while then the coals sit and wait for reload.

    Now with that said, and having read the other comments in this thread, I do wonder about that "new SS cat is hypersensitive" comment. That does seem to fit the description, but I wonder if that implies that a 'broken in' SS cat ends up requiring a higher temperature to function well. Given the nature of the metal base, I would think it is likely to cool off faster than the ceramic (just as it heats up faster) which may explain the apparent 'stalls' near the end of a burn when the stove cools down. I imagine with a stove that is mostly empty the gasses leaving the top of the stove must be quite a bit cooler and if the cat were to stop burning for a short period of time it wouldn't maintain it's own heat source, thus it may have a harder time re-igniting. On the flip side a ceramic cat may hold the heat better and thus be able to re-ignite if it were momentarily fuel starved at the end of a burn. Just speculating... no real basis for these thoughts.
  23. Stump_Branch

    Stump_Branch Minister of Fire

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    Well said
  24. jdonna

    jdonna Member

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    I'll add my two bits for what it is worth. I have observed my stainless cat degrading this season as well. Seems to die off sooner into the tail end of the burn and takes longer to light off, nothing has changed on the draft or wood supply. I will be following what you guys find out!
  25. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I've also been told about the hypersensitivity of cats at the beginning of their life. As it was explained to me a cat will really take off for the first 100 +/- hours of burn time and then settle in for the long haul for the rest of its service life. I was also told this is true for both types of cats but the steel cat has more surface area which is better for more catalytic activity.

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