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cast iron vs. steel; sizing pellet stove

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by learninglife, May 30, 2006.

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  1. learninglife

    learninglife New Member

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    What are the advantages of cast iron over steel in a pellet stove? It seems most stoves we have seen are steel.

    Also, we are not sure about the size of stove we would need. The first floor is mostly open floor plan, 1500 sq. ft., but the stove will be located in the furthest corner of the house, in a room with a lot of windows. We'd like to heat the first floor and also get a little residual heat upstairs without blasting out the family room in which the stove would be located. The ceilings are low (7.5 feet) and the house is a typical New England colonial style. If a stove claims to heat up to 2000 sq. ft., what is the real amount that it will heat - I imagine less in reality?

    Thanks.

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Material wise, no difference at all between cast and steel for a pellet stove - even the cast ones are mostly steel inside.

    I'll let others answer the other questions better, but heating can vary greatly depending on insulation, climate and many other factors. Most Pellet stoves can be turned up or down, and therefore can cover a wide range of needs. Anything that can top at 30,000 or more output should do the job.
  3. learninglife

    learninglife New Member

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    I'm in MA also, so it's a fairly cold climate. The house is about 12 years old and moderately insulated (could be better). We were thinking a bigger stove would be better, but then again perhaps the family room with the stove will become unbearably hot and then we'll have to turn down the stove, thus depriving the rest of the house of any excess heat. We were originally looking at a Quadra-Fire Mount Vernon which goes up to 60,000 BTU and heats up to 3000 sq. ft. But now that seems like, although technically this should heat a lot of the house, it would also put too much heat into the family room. It is also questionable as to how much of that heat will actually get upstairs to the second floor bedrooms considering the house layout. Plus, such a big stove will chew through pellets pretty quickly. There are so many variables!
  4. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Pellet stoves are blower driven convection heaters. Material doesnt make any difference. Pick one that meets your eye, and they all work the same. (flame hits a heat exchanger, the fan blows through the exchanger into the room)
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You are correct if the stove is run on high. However, this is a multispeed stove and you can run it at medium without worry; actually, it will be a lot quieter. But the nice thing is that you have med-high and high speeds for those occasional zero degree nights. The other nice thing about the Mt. Vernon is pellet capacity. It has a generous sized hopper.
  6. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Good point be green, and one more thing to consider, it doenst matter how much pellets it eats, its on a thermostat, as long as the thermostat is satisfied the unit isnt running. With that said, running a large stove on low is better then maxing out a small stove. Low setting's that dont cycle use less electricity (ignitor cycle), Slower speeds which decreases wear and tear. In other words, it would be optimal to buy a mt vernon, and run it on its lowest setting all the time. If the lowest setting never satisfied the thermostat, then you bump it up one notch untill it does.... warning, they redisigned the mtvernon for '06. I usually woundt want to sell it for a few years after its been out. That also goes for buying a brand new model, you can become the R&D department. If i were in the market i would buy the original mt vernon, they have finally got that one right. (just in time to change it)
  7. learninglife

    learninglife New Member

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    Who knows what Mt. Vernon model we would get if we bought in the next few weeks - the old or new one? I thought that stoves were more efficient and created less ash on higher settings?
  8. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    the door stays cleaner on higer settings, more efficient? i doubt it. The reason the door gets dirty on a low setting is that the airwash that comes over the door is low too. I have 4 quadrafires burning in my show room. I usually run them on low, i havent noticed the ash being any different then on high, i would say the quality of pellets has alot more to do with that. And if you plan on running the mt vernon on high you better be prepared for some noise. 60k of out put is going to be noisy. Not the mount vernons fault, it takes a lot of blower speed to get the exchange off of heat exchangers to produce 60k btu. I would argue that any 60k pellet stove is going to be noisy on high. The new mt vernon has DC motors which are quiter, and a automatic burn pot cleaner, and the heat exchangers are a little different. There not out yet, so if you bought one in the next few weeks then you would get the current model.
  9. learninglife

    learninglife New Member

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    About the automatic burn pot...some manufacturers claim this but how well does it really work? The Country Stoves Winslow is supposed to have a large, cast iron, self-cleaning burn pot, and also a better-functioning air wash system. But companies can claim anything...
  10. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Liv, honestly, i havent realy seen it except at the hearth show. IMO, it something else to break. Its not hard to once a week (if your burning pine) scrape the burn pot (twice a week for hardwood). Also, having to do regular maintenance on your stove keeps you in tune with how your stove is operating. I think pellet stoves need to become less automatic and more reliable, the trend is the other way around.
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    FWIW, with the Quad 1200i, burning softwood pellets, I almost never scraped the burnpot. All I would do is shake out the clinkers a few times a week using the spring loaded handle on the bottom. We almost always ran it on high. The stove would get cleaned once every 2 weeks when burning an average 1 bag per day. Took 15 minutes to vacuum out the ash, burn pot and clean the glass. And the glass did smoke up a bit at the end of two weeks, but that was ok, the fire is not that romantic.

    MSG, do you know if the new DC motors on the Mt. Vernon are brushless? Do they still have ball-bearings in all motors?
  12. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Im assuming there high quality brushless motors, i wont know for shure untill i get my hands on one. The ball berings in motors are what fail usually, expecially if you have pets and hardwood floors.
  13. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    buy the biggest stove you can get your hands on.....if its thermostatically controlled, it will control itself, but will have enough "oomph" if it get cold to handle it, whereas a marginal stove will just run full-out, maybe never catching up, and certainly not burning at optimal efficiency. Im in Mass too, our biggest seller is the p68 Harman. Admittedly, we dont sell Quads, so I cant tell you how they compare. Ive never heard much bad about them though.....and have only replaced a few Quads with harmans, unlike a few other brands. Good luck!
  14. learninglife

    learninglife New Member

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    I was just about to write a post that said we are now leaning towards a Harman P68. We revisited the Quadra, St. Croix and Harman dealers today, armed with new knowledge and more questions. Now in comparison the Harman seems more sturdy than the others, and easier to clean. We now think the bigger P68 might better suit our situation considering the stove would be located at the far end of the house in a large, open family room. The Harman sq. footage estimates seem more realistic too. I think 40,000 BTU is more likely to heat 1500-1700 sq. ft. than 1800-2000, so 60,000+ is better for 1500-2000 sq. ft. of heating. The family room is 24x24 with lots of windows, so it probably won't be blasted out by too much heat from a bigger stove. I guess we could also go with the P61.

    What else can you burn in a P68 and not void the warranty? Corn? The dealer says you can burn a corn/pellet mix but I don’t see that on Harman’s website. Do you think this stove will be able to burn other biomass pellets in the future - like switchgrass? We want some flexibility in fuels in case wood pellets become in short supply.
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    As noted above, I would go with the larger stove and run it at a lower feed rate/speed. Harman prides itself on being able to burn any grade pellet in this stove, including corn. Should be a good investment for the future if you want to use a bio-fuel pellet. Download this brochure for more info: http://www.harmanstoves.com/maintenance/WhyPellets.pdf
  16. learninglife

    learninglife New Member

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    Thanks for a link to the brochure that mentions corn. I had read on some forums that Harman was telling people corn would void the warranty on anything but the PC45. My friend who has a Harman Accentra was told not to burn corn in it. You find so much confusing information out there, even at the dealers.
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    No problem. You came to the right place for stove info.
  18. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Liv, glad you got the info you were looking for. Alot of dealers will tell you not to burn corn reguardless of what the manufacture states. They assume you wont be a diligant stove owner and not do the extra required maintence that burning corn requires. They are avoiding a potential service call. Also make shure you get corn pipe if you plan on burning corn, the gasses will corrode the exterior of the pipe. Also get some rise in your venting either on the inside or outside, that way you dont have a house full of smoke if the power goes out and you also wind wont affect it as bad. Good luck.
  19. learninglife

    learninglife New Member

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    Thanks for the tips on the pipe. The local dealer said I could burn a 30% corn mix, although I've read about people burning a 50/50 mix successfully. Not that corn is all that available around here anyway. But I was intrigued by this article about the grass pellets. http://grassbioenergy.org/res/pellet_stove_demo.asp They tested the P61 and PC45. The PC 45 corn stove ran well but is too small for our needs, but the P61 did burn the grass pellets successfully, although it required more frequent cleaning. It's just nice to have some options just in case. ;-)
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I suspect you have corn in your local area, but you need to check local grange and feed stores and not heating or stove stores or ask local farmers. As for wood pellets, many of us buy them from the local lumber yard etc. Best to ask around a lot now and ask for referrals. If they're good pellets most owners will tell you so. If they're lousy, they'll tell you that too. I suspect the brands sold by the stove stores will be ok too. Like MSG said, they don't want callbacks.
  21. Phil

    Phil New Member

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    Hi

    I live in Quebec Canada. I am finally coming to term with the idea of letting go of the woods stove for the pellets one. I am burning about 16 cords of wood per year and I am tired of the manipulation, scrapping my yard year after year at the delevery and so on. I am realy a newby in this domain. So I would have a few questions that I would apreciate any comments on.

    I have a 2500/sft home. My basement is finish and this is where my wood stove is presently located. I dont have any type of circulation device, that help heat the first floor. I only have one air trap(12*14 inch) that is olmost derectly over the wood stove. I have one more further down in the same room(10*4 inch). So with the wood stove it get very hot for a few hours and then .... well you know. On the first floor, I still have to use electric plate to complete my heathing need on those cold winter days.

    The Harman P68 is my first choice

    1- Does anyone knows what is the heating efficiency of this model ?
    2- Is $3600(usd)($4000/Can) a fair price ?
    3- Is the fan loud compare to other models or compagny ? Does anyone know the DB noise output @ min and/or max setting ?
    4- Is there another recommended pellet stove from other compagnies that would match the quality and btu of the P68 ?
    5- What should I be looking for in therms of pellets ? recommended cie would be nice

    I think that's anough for now !

    Thanks for your time !

    Best regards,

    Philippe Waltz

    p.s Forgive my second language, I have yet to master it.
  22. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    you must have one of the least EFFECIENT older stoves ever made.16 cords the heat must all be going up the chimney.
    I burn 2 stoves 24/7 use 6 cords I can not fathom using 10 more

    Many here also recomend the Qudra-fire pellet stoves
  23. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    a few comments:

    1. Heating efficiency I beleive in the 80's
    2. I think $3600 US is a fairly high price, especially in MY market, we are well below $3k US
    3. Ive no idea what the Db rating is, but the combustion fan noise is certainly noticeable on high...certainly isnt silent.
    4. The p68 is the highest heat output freestanding model in the market currently. Isnt Quad in the 40's?
    5. Unanswerable question....you burned 16 cords, so its either a hugely inefficient stove, as Don states, or the house itself is hugely inefficient, or you like it hugely warm, or all of the above! I burn 5 tons, if I were you, Id look at 6-7 tons of a premium pellet....maybe Cubex...a good Canadian hardwood pellet.

    your English is easily understandeable as well....you should hear my French....c'est magnifique! Bon Chance, mon ami Phillipe!
  24. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Hey Hellboy, welcome to Hearth.com!

    Are you talking about face cords or full cords? Hardwood? If you're talking full cords, then you must have a boiler or a big furnace, or several wood stoves.

    It is going to take quite a few tons of pellets to match the heat output of 16 full cords of good hardwood.
  25. suematteva

    suematteva New Member

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    In Quebec they call a cord what we call a face cord...I am originally from VT and spend significant amount of time in Quebec where most of my cutting, scrounging and wood burning is done.
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