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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. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    A few weeks ago my cat became less effective, I noticed smoke coming from my chimney one day (for a few minutes) - white smoke, but the firt time I have ever seen smoke once cat was engaged since getting my Fireview years ago- and I started smelling smoke. Found my screen was completely clogged. Cleaned it and decided to remove and clean the cat, even though it looked fine in situ to visual inspection. I was shocked to find it completely clogged with fine white powdery ash, which fell off/out when I lightly tapped the cat upside down on a piece of newspaper. Brushed it with a fine natural bristle brush and replaced it. That was after about four weeks of burning. Have not had any problem since. It has been colder out, though. Keep a close eye on the screen. If it gets at all obstructed I will immediately clean my cat, as I also will if I smell any smoke. I have not yet had a subsequent problem. , and I am wondering if the shoulder season burning may be a bit more conducive to fly ash accumulation in the cat/on the screen, and may account for the trouble everyone is having with the stainless cat this year. I do need slightly more air in my stove when temperature outside are moderate or when it is raining, and the increased draft does make the fly ash visably fly about a bit in the firebox. Maybe if this was a normal cold winter the stianless steel cat would perform better. Those of you who have found fluctuation in the performance of your cat: can you recall whether good performance has been on cold days? From my experience, for anyone who is having an issue with any smoke smell/poor cat performance, first thing I would do would be let my fire burn down, get the stove top temp to about 120 and then take the cat out and inspect the distal side...even if you have done so recently. I suspect that in some circumstances this cat can clog VERY quickly. But it is very easy to clean, and in my experience works fine when clean.

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  2. Jack22

    Jack22 New Member

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    Based on your description I have a ceramic one. I just cleaned it about a week ago. I bought mine a little less than a year ago. I put about 1 2/3 cord through it so far no damage and just a tiny bit of fly ash.
  3. Diabel

    Diabel Minister of Fire

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    I installed my new SS cat (Sud Chemie) In Oct 2011. It has been an easy winter but still I burn steady 24/7 (with off time a bit). Two weeks ago I started to see identical symptoms as Todd describes. I naturally put the blame on the wood, but it was getting progressively worse...
    At first the cat would nicely and fast come up to temp (1100* more less) glowing nice & red, I would start closing the air, to about 50% air closed, the cat would actually get hotter & then it would suddenly stall! Cat temp would quickly drop to 400-500*, smoke out of pipe. Then last week it would not light off, I would get the stove cranking to 650-700* and the probe would sit at 500*. It is very easy to swap the cat on my 0028 (rear access). Few days ago I replaced the SS with a used ceramic cat & it works as it should. The light off takes longer that than SS cat (until the two weeks), it holds temp & does not stall if I reduce air more than 50%.

    So, this is a very interesting turn of events on these SS cats, it seemed we all loved them at first...but what now? Will they honor the warranty? I bought mine second hand from craigslist, 1/2 price but it was brand new in unopened box. It will be interesting what WS says...I believe they're putting SS cats in all of their stoves.
  4. TX-L

    TX-L Burning Hunk

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    My mom has a BK Princess that came with a steel cat, which had problems last winter with ash clogging up the much smaller (than ceramic) pores. I took it out last fall prior to burn season and did a thorough cleaning, but it didn't seem to work right, not nearly as well as the ceramic cat in my King. She wanted a ceramic cat, so I ordered one at the dealership, insalled it, and it works flawlessly. She is much happier and stated that the stove never operated this well last year. I think ceramic is a better option, the steelcat "holes" are so much smaller they will clog much quicker.

    And yes, the wood was/is dry.
  5. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Weather conditions didn't make a difference in my tests. I swapped steel and ceramic cats back and forth between both of my Keystones and the 2 year old ceramic outperformed the 1 year old steel cat in all situations. To be fair the ceramic cat burned less wood over the years but I expect the steel cat to last longer than it did.

    I'm kind a surprised to find so many others having issues, Woodstock told me so far all the reviews have been positive but always welcome feed back so I encourage everyone to drop them a line.
  6. KevinG

    KevinG Member

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    I bought a new SS cat beginning of this season and I have to say... "me too" to what I'm reading in this thread. I have to admit that my wood isn't perfect - it's oak that's been CSS 2 years so it really should have another year to dry. But I have an 17NCH that throws lots of heat with the same wood. Hard to compare the 2 stoves though, I know.

    So, this weekend the forecast was calling for just the 2nd cold spell this year with overnight temps between 20 and 25 F. I had noticed the stove was having trouble maintaining consistent 550-600 F temps earlier in the week so I checked the chimney. It was clear. But the stove still struggled over the weekend to maintain those consistent high temps that it did back in Dec.

    Todd & Dennis - please keep updating this thread. I'm very curious about the next steps. I guess I could call Woodstock but I hate to sound like I'm "piling on."
  7. Buck1200

    Buck1200 Member

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    About 5 weeks into 24/7 burning of my Progress it was like a switch was thrown on the light-off performance of my cat. I was convinced I had a terrible air leak or something- suddenly I couldn't light off even at 400 stove top if the air was shut down! I've discovered that (at least at the moment), I have to leave the air open longer in order to get it more up in the 450 range, where it then burns nice and steady thereafter. This is pretty annoying though, because with the secondary system on this stove it amps up the heat output quite a bit on warmer days.

    If I could get a ceramic cat for the Progress I'd order it tomorrow just to try, and then create a technical report for WS, much as this thread is I'm sure, doing. It's just very strange to me that this was not discovered in all of the testing which MUST have preceded the wholesale switchover of the product to these steel cats. Seems like a huge 'fail'.
  8. mfglickman

    mfglickman Minister of Fire

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    I ordered a new cat/assembly for the Fireview 201 I just refurbished. It came with a note about SS cats and why Woodstock has switched to them. If anyone's interested I can scan/attach the doc. Nothing earth shattering in there but they did go through their reasoning on why they thought it was a beneficial switch.
  9. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    You could probably buy one from Applied Ceramics if you called them and gave the cats dimensions but it's going to be spendy.
  10. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    I loaded the Progress completely full last night, less than 9 hours later there were a TON of great coals, BUT the stovetop was already down to 225. The rest of the stove (sides and front) were above 300F so the stove was still throwing lots of heat from the heavy coals, but NOT from the stovetop. When the combustor was new, I had stovetop temps well over 300F in the morning after a 9 hour burn.

    There must have been over 6" of heavy unburnt chars and coals that the cat should have been feeding on, but its like this cat was down for the count. I have not seen the stovetop climb much above 400F for the past 3 weeks, even with bone dry 2 year old thin split Cottonwood. It's more like the stovetop temp is following the stove temperature, rather than making heat from the combustor.

    When I engage at 250F (I stopped engaging at 200 F a long time ago) the top lazily climbs to 300 F in about 40 minutes, then after the secondaries kick on I might get up to 400 Max.

    Another thing I noticed is this stove used to PULVERIZE the coals into almost non-existant ashes. Lately it's not burning down into incinerated light ash, but it's more of a heavy full ashbed.

    I am going to wait for temps to warm, and then check the cat for plugging and the condition of the mating gasket. But the Iconel screen was perfectly clean.

    The good news is the stove still warmed us the last couple very cold days, no noticable drop in room temperature, but something is definitely going on with this cat.
  11. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    Double Post >:-(
  12. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    My experience seems to be different. I have often noticed the opposite, but do feel like I am operating a different kind of Fireview this year (installed ss in March of last year). I burn 24/7.

    If I turn the stove down to .6 -.7 with medium sized white oak, 2 years dry, I get a stovetop peak between 600-730! I've had it hit over 700F three times, but twice it went back below 700 in less than 30 minutes. Once it did not, so I had to reverse the bypass and dump the heat. Unfortunately, I feel like I have to watch the stove until it peaks at night and am not getting the sleep I need. This is not sustainable.

    Opening the air to .8 seems to be a bout right for me. Even packing the stove with with medium and a few smalls of white oak only seems to get me 7.0-8.5 hours until I hit 250 F on the way down. I expect 9.0-10.5 hours. Maybe I need bigger splits. Can't remember if that is what I did since I got the Fireview.

    Very rarely does the cat not seem to light off, but I have noticed it 3-4 times in the last year.

    Maybe tomorrow during the day I will run the stove full with white oak with the draft to 1 and see what happens. I have been reluctant to do this since I don't seem to get the more efficient semi-lazy blue flames that I get with .8 ish.
  13. 4wheelcycle

    4wheelcycle New Member

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    Wow, this is a very active thread. Only begun on Feb. 12 by Todd and already two pages of comments. It appears most of the posters have WS stoves, so I hope WS has already picked-up on this thread and is watching it closely.

    I am in my first season with a new Fireview and SS cat, so I am very interested in what Todd and others have experienced. I have been casually watching how my cat ignites and operates, but now I plan to keep track of it more regularly so I will be able to quote objective data if I ever sense I'm having problems and I need to correspond with WS.

    I know everyone burns their stoves differently. My routine (with a cold start or added wood) is to burn with the air damper wide open until the flue surface temp 18" above my stove reaches 375 - 390 F by my IR gun. Then I shut the air damper partially to keep it in that range for another ten minutes, at which point I drop the bypass damper and engage to the cat. With this routine my cat immediately starts glowing red all over.

    I also have an 8" Condar cat probe that I bought from WS. With the above routine the probe usually reads at least 550 F or even 600 F when I drop the bypass damper. The probe rises to 900 F or so after twenty to thirty minutes and the stove top thermometer rises to about half that level with a 20 min. time lag. This is a very consistent time and temperature pattern which I plan to monitor for changes.

    As I noted in another thread, I do not see ANY smoke from my chimney when the cat is engaged, either at the beginning or at the end of a burn. All I see is water vapor that is white and dissipates quickly once it leaves my chimney. This is also a fairly objective observation which I can monitor for changes.

    I hope there is either no problem with the SS cats or that there is a specific problem that WS can identify and remedy, either by working with the SS supplier or by switching back to ceramic cats. The difficulty, of course, is that there may be a problem that affects some SS cats and not others, or that appears sooner vs. later with different stoves or burning techniques. It is the nature of the beast, but I feel sorry for us and for WS that we will all be dealing with a problem that is difficult to quantify and is therefor subject to varying assessments of occurrence and severity by different stove owners. Perhaps along the way WS and/or the cat manufacturers will develop objective means of testing and measuring cat performance.

    In any event, my wife and I love our new Fireview!
  14. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    4wheelcycle, my experience is a lot like yours. I have a PH, don't keep damper open nearly as long as you do. Have double wall excel pipe. Woodstock thermometers mounted on stovepipe at about 12 inches and over cat on stovetop. In my experience stovepipe temp is consistently 1/2 of stovetop temp, but reaches temp faster. So I use thermometer on stovepipe to judge when to engage cat. At 130 on pipe I engage cat and close damper down to about 1/8 inch. Cat engages quickly. Once temp is up to 380 or so, or if I start to get much flame, I close the damper completely...I have a high chimney and an excellent draft. My usual stovetop temp is 380-430 range unless I try to burn hotter. I get long burn times with steady stove top temps until I have little but ash left in the stove. On cold days when the firebox contains crumpled coals (no longer any log shape), at some point I rake these into a pile toward the front of the stove and open the damper slightly--maybe 1/4. Keep cat engaged. This encourages continued high heat output. By gradually opening the damper further as the burn progresses from this point I maintain a hotter fire for a shorter time and burn down to ash sooner. On cold days when I am home I prefer to do this as it results in consistent heat, about 12 hour burns without lots of coals at the end of the burn. So far, when I have had a problem with cat engaging, it has meant either (or Both) my cat or screen needed cleaning. MY PH puts out plenty of heat. I don't burn as hot as many people seem to...don't aim for a 600 degree or higher stovetop temp. Actually, I'd be just as happy to always keep temp under 600. Possibly the SS cat deteriorates or functions differently when subjected to consistent extremely high temperatures versus the ceramic cat. ( I think the ceramic cat is fine at extreme heat as long as not subjected to flame. ) Perhaps my cat will develop the issues others are experiencing at a later date because I burn it cooler...or it may not develop a problem. Will be interesting to see. I am curious: do those who burn with a stove top temp of over 600 do so because they can or because they need that much heat?
    VIC99: I always kept my Fireview under 550, once I had the cat engaged (ceramic cat) closed the damper down to about .25. Have a good draft. Never had the stove go to over 600 unless I forgot to close the damper down. Why not try setting the damper at .25 - .5 once the cat is going well and see if that doesn't let you forget about the stove and go to bed?
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Rideau, we have reached 700 or near that many times with the Fireview. It is very common to run the stove at 600+ degrees on cold days and nights. In fact, we've got the stove top over 600 degrees many times using only 3 splits.
  16. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    I think you'll find the Progress behaves a bit differently, Dennis. While you can get the stove over 600, I don't by choice. Once you get it that hot, the secondaries will be rolling like crazy and your wood will be gone (relatively) quick. Now, if it was -10 or so out, I'd be grateful for the crazy amounts of heat the Progress kicks out at 600+. In the teens and twenties, I like keeping the secondaries to a minimum with a stove top peaking right around 450 to 500 where it will stay for hours.
  17. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Sorry Waulie. I was not referring to the Progress at all in that post. A Fireview was mentioned so I posted about that.
  18. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    Oh yeah. Reading comprehesion failure on my part. :)
  19. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    Tony, I'm really interested in your experiences. My stove at a 400 stovetop temp is definitely not following the stove temp, as I often have little if any visable flame in the firebox..it is cat heat in my case that is driving the stovetop temperature. To get non-cat heat I need to open my damper a bit...as long as I close it down early enough initially. I'm finding it easy to get cat burns now, while I had a hard time keeping the stove at cat alone when I first got it. Honestly don't know whether this is because I have learned a bit about how to operate this stove versus the Fireview, or whether something a bit different is going on. Have you checked the Woodstock blog recently? They are testing this stove with different wood scenarios...wet, dry, different species...and posting as well as showing videos of results. They say they'll run any tests we suggest....They have found that the cat burns wet wood just fine (over 30 % moisture) although they don't recommend burning wet wood. However, the cat will take care of the moisture and one will not run risk re creosote....nor will one damage the cat.
    Part of the difference in what you and I are experiencing may be related to the wood we are burning. While we are both burning dry wood, I am burning only maple and ironwood. The ironwood definitely is ideal with this stove...even better than the maple. It is really dense, so burns easily for a very long time at a low cat burn. When I don't want too much heat 6 inch unsplit logs of ironwood burn nicely and slowly. For more heat, I split the wood.
    I haven't had any trouble engaging the cat, nor does my stove take 40 minutes to reach 380. I'll certainly report back any change I observe. I'm trying to figure out possible reasons we are having some similar and some very different experiences with the same set up. I don't remember whether your set up has a big draft? My (interior) chimney is about 34 feet, excel double wall pipe. I'm in very cold climate (not so cold this year), on top of a cliff facing N over a BIG lake, so get lots of wind. Maybe my draft helps get things going better.
  20. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    Dennis, I would never have had any problem getting the Fireview above 600, only would have had to give it a bit of oxygen. Never wanted to burn it that hot on a consistent basis. a few really cold days (as in 30 below and windy) I did burn around 600, keeping a good eye on the stove. Penny at Woodstock advised against burning in this range on a consistent basis. 400 to 600 good, over 600 on a consistent basis apparently not so good for the cast iron in the stove...? I was only suggesting to VC 99 that in my experience, albeit with a ceramic cat, it was very easy to control (or certainly limit) the stovetop temp in a cat burn with the Fireview by cutting the oxygen down even more...cat stays engaged and stove burns fine. He had a problem where he couldn't keep temp low enough to go to bed without worrying. Simply cutting air down should result in max temps under 550.
  21. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Hey, it sounds like I need to talk to Penny again. lol
  22. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Stove top temps don't tell the whole story. You could have a 600+ stove top right in the middle on top of the cat and off to one side or the other it could only be 400. You can also get high stove top temps with a low cat burn at .5 when the cat is gorging on smoke but the rest of the stove is much cooler. (good sign the cat is working) I think if you have a good box burn going at a higher air setting and approach that 700 you have more chance of damaging something inside because the whole stove is much hotter verses a low cat burn at 700 where it's only that hot right on top of the cat.

    My steel cat no longer reaches those higher stove top temps when I turn it down to a low cat burn and it really doesn't get up there in temps with a hotter box burn as well. For me that's a good enough sign the cat is degrading and not up to snuff.

    Not too sure on the new stove but I think the cat is right under the lid and should act similar to the other Woodstocks?
  23. Stump_Branch

    Stump_Branch Minister of Fire

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    Inquiring minds todd, i gather the tests were also done with the stainless scoop and cast scoop?

    Just wondering if the poor cat preformance can be any way attributed to either scoop design. Or combinations there of.
  24. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Good question. I was wondering if the new scoop could be part of the problem? Could that occasional trapped flame inside the scoop be causing damage from flame impingment? Wonder if this flame happens inside the new stove?

    I only switched back to the old scoops for a couple weeks then switched back thinking the new scoop keeps more fly ash out.
  25. scotsman

    scotsman Feeling the Heat

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    My experiences have been more than adequately described in this thread by several people who have PHs. I've had both the FV and now the PH and I can say that I got more heat and longer burns at higher heat from the FV, BUT the FV load did not last as long comparing equal situations such as cat engaged vs cat not engaged on both stoves. I have found the PH to accommodate more fuel and burn longer the the FV only because of the volume of the fuel, but the cat on my FV was far superior to this one. Against the FV, the PH has not measured up . . . so far, and not near what I expected. However, I DO expect the issues to be ironed out by WS.

    Did someone say a ceramic cat is available for the PH?

    Wonder how a 1:1 comparison of SS versus ceramic would turn out? Y'know, burn identical loads with one then the other and pay attention to the outputs--only variable: the cat. Is this what WS is doing? Anybody know?

    I sent Ron a message asking him for a cookbook procedure on how they do the burns on their showroom PH to get the high cat heats. My wood is not an issue, but even if it was, using same wood in both of 'em would eliminate that variable. So, I'm going to try his method and see what happens. I think I already know.

    Will follow this discussion closely. I find it interesting that so many cats seem to have "failed" all at once.

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