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Cat stoves are no good

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by jeff_t, Mar 22, 2010.

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  1. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    I talked to a dealer at a home improvement/builders show yesterday and he told me cat technology was way old and I would be foolish to buy a cat stove. He is also a sweep and said he sees a lot of problems with Blaze Kings he services.
    I'm not quite sure what to think. Do I believe everybody here, or a dealer who doesn't sell any of the stoves I'm interested in?

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  2. pinewoodburner

    pinewoodburner Feeling the Heat

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    He probably does not sell cat stoves so he is doing a sales job on you.
  3. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    This has come up many times. My feeling on it is most dealers don't educate their customers about using seasoned wood or feel their customers will not have a seasoned wood supply. If you're using a CAT stove without a seasoned wood supply I feel this will cause more issues with a CAT stove. Of course both stoves will have problems but one will have a nasty chimney, the other will waste a CAT prematurely along with having a nasty chimney.

    With a properly seasoned wood supply a CAT stove will serve you just fine.
  4. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    He asked me where I was getting my information and I told him from people I know and hearth.com. He must know about us cause he didn't have much more to say after that.
  5. Michael J

    Michael J New Member

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    My thoughts may not be worth very much as I personally am a new wood burner using a cat stove. I do have friend that has been heating with a cat stove for many years now it seems and he has nothing but great things to say about it.

    The 4 weeks I have under my belt have been wonderful. We haven't hit anything colder then -20 but it has worked like a champ thus far.

    Good luck in your findings.

    Mike
  6. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    My guess is that you are already better educated on the topic than the vast majority of those buying stoves and making the cat/non-cat decision today.

    Obviously I think that the dealer is biased. I'm with rdust though - if you have the proper wood supply - i.e. well dried wood - then you will do great (cat or non-cat). The difference really comes down to whether or not you want to extend the burn for longer, lower heat output with the cat or if you are happy enough with the higher peaks of the non-cat stove. Depending on your heating needs, stove size etc I expect that you can adjust things and be happy not matter what technology you go with really. However, to characterize cat tech as "way old" and imply that it is somehow flawed as a result sounds mostly like a bit of marketing FUD spreading.

    If I were a stove shop I expect I'd not want to sell cat stoves to the majority of the 'off the street' casual burners as they likely wouldn't bother to pay attention to getting dry wood (we all know it isn't easy to come by right?) and as such would likely have trouble and blame the stove. I suspect non-cats are more forgiving in the long run - once you get the wood dried up you probably can more easily salvage the stove, but perhaps once you foul up the cat it will only get worse pretty quick (haven't done it but I could see it happening). Perhaps his rhetoric is a way of avoiding having to support such things...
  7. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    I'm not really looking for any advice, I just thought it was a kinda funny conversation. I've got my choices narrowed down to BK, Woodstock, and PE Alderlea. Cat and non-cat, steel, cast and soapstone. I think I'm just gonna flip a coin when the time comes.
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The world is full of opinions, some good, some not so good. There are good stoves out there and some not so good ones. Same for cat stoves. FWIW, stoves are old technology too.

    Regardless, the number one problem we hear about here is not the stove or technology, it's the wood. Number 2 problem here isn't the stove either, it's the flue. Install a good stove correctly, cat or otherwise, to a proper flue and burn good, dry wood according to the manual and you are likely to be a happy camper. Burn unseasoned wood or painted scraps and you are likely to be griping about a bad cat in a year or two. But that is not the stove.

    What surprises me is that the sweep says he services lots of Blaze Kings. Sounds like there is an active dealer there. Maybe go get his (or her) opinion too.
  9. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    MI didn't get the feeling that he really did service any Blaze Kings, he just didn't want me to buy one. "Cat stoves suck and mine don't."
    He was selling Napolean, Regency, and Harmon.
  10. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    He was right, well, a little bit. Cat technology is way old. It was around before the modern non-cats and the stoves that use the cat system are all old. Look at the BK, buck, and the country flame. They are old 70s stoves and look like something from the 70s.

    He was wrong when he said you would be foolish to buy one. That was a sales pitch or if I want to be somewhat positive about it, he made the mistake of assuming that since a very small percentage of woodburners use cat stoves that they must not be as good. If it was good, everyone would be doing it right? Well it just ain't so. Non-cats DOMINATE the market, I don't know why.

    Here's the thing with cat stoves. The best ones are sold direct from the factory or from hardware stores leaving no reason for dealers to pick up their line and market them. BK and woodstock. The other brands like buck and country flame are small companies with relatively low national exposure. For cat stoves to ever become mainstream, like they deserve, a major company will have to start selling them. Until they become mainstream, there will always be people that think they are oddball relics from the past.
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Cat stoves are a bit more complex and need a bit more servicing, but not a lot. From reports here, they are great for shoulder season burning when you want a low steady fire. This is ideal for the 24/7 burner relying on wood as a sole source of heat. However, when it gets cold out and the stove is being asked to crank out the btus, their advantage is negligible.
  12. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    We started to consider upgrading our stove last spring because of the spring sale Woodstock was having. We had been burning our Franklin smoke dragon for 6 years didn't know anything about the new EPA stoves. I talked to the folks at Woodstock and started reading here on Hearth.com. We went to out local stove shop to see what else was out there. He told us pretty much the same thing about cat stoves. They were old technology, the cat had to be cleaned and even replaced. He didn't even think that soapstone was great stove material, but would sell us something from the Hearthstone line for about $600 more than a Fireview. I asked him if there were any other makers of soapstone stoves and he told me that there used to be a small company in Vermont that made them, but he wasn't sure if they were still in business or not. I told him that they were and that I had spoken with them. He was surprised. I guess you can't blame the guy for trying to sell his stuff, but you also can't expect a salesperson to be the best source of information either.
  13. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I think this response is pretty accurate . . . and perhaps a reason some dealers do not carry stoves with cats.

    At one time I was anti-cat . . . convinced I was that a cat was not the way to go . . . but then to the light side of the force I went . . . and now I would not hesitate to buy a cat or secondary burning stove.
  14. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    The thing that bugs me the most about everburn and cat technology is that the main firebox serves as a smoke generator to feed the combustor or the cat. This means that if you have glass in your door, it's going to be grimy looking along with all other interior surfaces in there. The appearance of the fire is miserable, and you can't tell what's going on in the combustor/cat by looking at the stove like you can with a more common EPA stove with secondaries. I classify everburn and cat in the same category, because they're basically doing the same thing, just that one uses a catalyst. The everburn claims to be non-cat, but uses the same basic technology without the benefit of the catalytic reaction, so getting it to light off is much more difficult, and it goes out easier.

    The nice thing about everburn/catalytic technology is that you can have a much more even heat output. A non-cat stove is going to have a 2-4 hour burst of heat output with a long tail of declining temperatures, while the cat can produce a constant heat for much more than 4 hours.
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Jeff, it is a very common thing for someone who does not sell cat stoves to attempt to put them down. They will usually say exactly what you heard about the old technology and other foolish things. Personally I despise people who sell in that manner. Would it not be better to praise them.....and then praise whatever you are selling. I think it gets better results and keeps one from looking like a fool.

    We too were undecided for some time and were actually afraid of cat stoves when we bought out last one simply because we heard bad things about those old fashioned cat stoves. Long story short, we bought a cat stove and have not been a bit sorry for it. We burn only half the amount of wood we used to burn and where we used to clean our chimney 3-4 times per year, we have now burned this new cat stove for 3 years and it has been cleaned one time....and got less than a cup of soot from the chimney. No creosote here.

    As for the maintenance of the cat, it is pretty simple. In fact, just a couple days ago I took the cat out to look at it. I didn't even brush any fly ash off but just put it back in because it was clean. It took about a minute or maybe 2 minutes to do that.

    Good luck on whatever stove you get.

    btw, take a look at Woodstock as they have a big sale going on right now; probably the best sale you'll see from them.
  16. Dakotas Dad

    Dakotas Dad Minister of Fire

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    WOW.. what stove was he trying to sell you? When we bought our Homestead it was $650 less then the Fireview that was our other option, and we didn't have to pay for shipping (my research seems to indicate they are pretty close in peak btu's, efficiency and firebox size).

    I think either technology will do what it is supposed to do, we just went with the stove that had a dealer close and a good price, knowing what I know now, I might have waited for the spring sale to bring the price of the Fireview down closer to the Homestead's price. I guess there are people who would not want a cat stove just because of the one or two extra steps, and the periodic maintainence needs of the cat itself.
  17. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    I may not remember correctly, but I think the they wanted around $2850 for the Hearthstone stove, and I do not recall which one it was. The Woodstock was around $2200 with the sale. I guess my numbers were off in my post. I will fix.
  18. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Heh - well now. As someone who has owned/burned both an Everburn and a Cat stove I can tell you first hand that although a couple of your comments appear to be based on fact, your overall conclusions do not match my experience.

    Where you are on target is that both technologies burn the smoke in a distinct part of the stove more separate from the firebox than is done with a stove injecting air to induce secondary combustion in the firebox. I also agree with the concluding remark that with cat can produce a constant heat for a much longer period of time.

    The middle of your post, however is where I disagree with your statements/observations/conclusions.

    The glass doesn't have to be "grimy looking" even in the Encore NC that I disliked so much, the glass was fairly clean - granted I did have to clean it on a daily basis, but what I cleaned off it was more to keep it completely clear - far from the description you give. My Fireview cat stove I go weeks without having to clean the glass (then it is more of a haze and/or ash layer to remove). If you have experienced otherwise then I submit you were burning wood that was not dry.

    Appearance of the fire miserable? Um... not in my experience. But then again, that is quite subjective. When burning very low, the FV does look like a pile of glowing coals or sometimes is dark. Ok, not exciting as bright secondaries in a good non-cat. However, if I burn it hotter I get what I find to be attractive flames that guests have described as looking like "those idealistic fake fire pictures but so much better since it is obviously real." Again if you have other experiences perhaps you have had wet wood in there.

    Everburn and Cat the same technology? I'm sorry - but there just is no reasonable way that one can classify them the same at all. The similarity between the two ends with the fact they burn the smoke somewhat removed from the firebox. The temperatures that the smoke is burned at is dramatically different, they way that the stove is operated is just not the same and the practical efficiencies are not comparable. Granted they are both "the other technology from secondary burn" but that is about the only way I can see to lump them together. One major difference that I can point out to you (given your username of "controlFreak" you should appreciate this one!) is that once you light off the downdraft stove you pretty much let it go - you can turn down the air as far as it goes but it's off to the races (unless you overdo it and the downdraft stalls, then you will be pumping out smoke like crazy). Now, with the cat once you light it off, you can adjust your air and modulate the heat output quite a bit without fear of stalling the cat - you will continue to burn clean. Rather nice in my book.
  19. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Slow, thanks for posting this. For some reason I had missed ControlFreak's post.

    Just to add. We did have dirty glass once. When the stove was new and we did the burn in fires the glass got black. That quickly changed when we started burning a regular fire. Like Slow, we have to clean the ash haze off occasionally but no dirty black glass on our stove. Also, the appearance of the fire is certainly not miserable; it is beautiful.
  20. REF1

    REF1 Feeling the Heat

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    Man, I hate to sound like a Rep or cheerleader for Vermont Elms, but with the use of cat and secondary combustion tubes you get the best of both worlds. Saying someone would be "foolish" to purchase a cat stove is foolish. How long have Blaze Kings been around, to the praise and satisfaction of their owners? Same with Woodstock's stoves. I believe it IS accurate to state that until catalytic stoves are produced by a major manufacturer they will always be looked down upon by alot of people, as old, or too difficult to deal with.
  21. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    The appearance is miserable? Not following.

    And I can tell if the cat is working properly by looking ant the flame.
  22. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    ControlFreak has a point. The stove is pretty dark right now except for the glow of the cat. No mood just getting the job done.
  23. weatherguy

    weatherguy Minister of Fire

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    My glass stayed clear as day all year on my stove, then again I burned seasoned wood. Someone else here put up a video of his cat stove, I think it was a buck, and it was a nice mesmerizing flame show, mine does the same thing when I turn it up. Tonight its just glowing red and throwing heat.
  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Cat stoves are produced by Vermont Castings, one of the major stove producers. Unfortunately, quality control slipped for a bit and left a bitter taste for some owners that have been replacing refractory assemblies too frequently.
  25. VCBurner

    VCBurner Minister of Fire

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    I was wondering when someone was going to mention VC. They seemed to dirty their name over the past few years with declining service and quality control. However, I don't know hard facts on this, but aren't they still a major manufacturer of catalytic stoves? Be Green seems to have backed my thought. I've been told that the refractory they had the most problems with was also one that they used frequently on different models. It was the same fragile refractory housing and catalyst combination that was used in the defiant encore and winterwarmer. I could be wrong, but, I don't believe they use this anymore. Does anyone know?
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