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cat vs. non-cat - pro's and con's

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Joful, Jun 6, 2012.

  1. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I've been searching on "cat vs. non-cat", and have found a few mentions of various pro's and con's of each, but by no means a comprehensive, "here's why you want a cat stove," or "here's why you want a non-cat stove." I assume both have their pro's and con's, otherwise one would have by now completely replaced the others. But for a relative newbie, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

    Thanks!

    edit: I should add that I currently own a cat stove in one end of the house, and am looking for a second stove for the other end of the house. So, I have some familiarity with cat stoves, but none with modern reburn flutes.

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  2. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Joful, there have been many debates on this forum about cat vs. non-cat. A lot of information is old stuff and years ago there were stoves with cats that were not that good. I think that information still gets mixed in with today's stoves and cats which is wrong. I recall before we bought out last stove, the Woodstock Fireview, that we did not want a cat stove. It was simply because we had heard some bad things about them. Long story short, we now own a cat stove.

    Here are the benefits we received with this stove compared to our last stove, which was a big old Ashley. First and foremost is that we now burn only half the amount of wood we used to and we stay a whole lot warmer! We used to be cold in mid winter and even closed off part of the house. It was so cold in here that in January we'd move the kitchen table right next to the wood stove so we'd be comfortable while eating.

    Another great benefit is how clean this stove burns. With our old Ashley we used to clean the chimney 3-4 times per winter. We've had the Fireview for 5 full winters now and have cleaned the chimney one time and there was absolutely no creosote.

    Cat stoves are made too so that you can let the stove sort of smolder, that is, a very low fire, but still burn clean. So this gives long burn times with no worries about creosote.

    Naturally someone will be commenting on the maintenance of the cat stoves. Yes, there is some maintenance involved. Once per winter we clean the cat. It takes 2-4 minutes maximum and is so easy a child could do it. The tool we use for cleaning the cat is an old paint brush.

    The cats do have to be replaced every so often. We read anywhere from 2-10 years or more. It seems one fellow has had his cat longer than 10 years but I don't recall just how long. He has not posted for a while now.


    Having written the above, I'll now add that more meaningful than cat vs non-cat is the issue of the fuel. If you have good fuel (many don't) then you can make most stoves burn really good. If you have poor or marginal fuel, you will have poor results no matter what stove you have. This fact comes up over and over and over every year. New people getting into burning wood. Get the stove and chimney and then go looking for the fuel. That won't work. Others listen to "age old wisdom" that has been passed down untold generations. We find most of that information to be very poor.


    And now we can also add that there are stoves out there with both technologies. The Woodstock Progress for example is a hybrid which has a catalyst and also secondary burn tubes.
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  4. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    Haven't seen one of these for a "little" while. :)

    I've had both and currently have a cat stove. In short the cat stove fits my lifestyle best currently. Long, low, slow and clean burns. If I was retired and home all day to feed a stove a non cat would still be on the hearth since the view of the fire is hard to beat. This cat stove when burning in the shoulder season is nothing short of amazing, fill it full every time, turn it down low, let it burn for 24 hours and never over heat the house.
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, begreen. I had seen some of those of those threads in my own search, but not all. They seem to confirm my suspicion that a cat stove is the way to go for someone who wants to load the stove up and run it on low all day while the house is empty, or overnight when you really don't need much more than 60*F in the house. Untrue?

    If true, I'm having trouble figuring out why the majority of manufacturers seem to be producing only non-cat's. I'm all but convinced I should be buying another cat stove, but there aren't a ton of options there.

    I thought hogwildz was going to blow a headgasket in that second thread you posted. !!
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Agreed, this is why I suggested a Woodstock Keystone for this room. Hog is passionate and tells it like he feels it. He's also an exceptionally helpful member, both on and off the forum. Wouldn't have him be any other way.
  7. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Go with begreen's suggestions. If you are running one stove, the difference between the two technologies is minimal in terms of what you will experience. When running multiple stoves, burn times are a huge priority. And a cat stove wins out when you don't need a lot of heat, but still need long burn cycles.
  8. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    I have had both new cat and non-cat inserts. A non-cat stove is easier to operate by people that want heat with little or no fuss. A cat stove does take some learning about how to operate it correctly.

    Example: You cant burn drift wood in a Cat stove, it will damage the cats making them less efficient and sending more pollutants into the air over time. A tube burner will burn it with no fuss.
  9. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I think the thing I like most about my cat stoves is how you can load them up full in the shoulder seasons and burn them low and slow for those long burns and it won't roast you out. With my previous non cats I always controlled heat output by the amount of splits I threw in the box. Just seems more control with a cat stove but when it gets cold you will burn either type of stove hotter and the burn times even out.
  10. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I had a fire today in my stove... yeah, weird I know, but the wife was cold and who was I to argue. I was very happy to be able to get it going, then engage the cat and turn it down for a nice low burn that I knew would keep it pumping out a bit of heat all morning (well, all day, but I don't expect she cared after noon... then again, maybe she did). I took kids to school and no smoke out the chimney despite the nice low 250* stove top temp and happy wife in the house. I don't imagine that would have been quite as easy with the non-cat, but I haven't tried with a burn tube type stove so I really can't say for sure.

    Bottom line from my understanding is that when you want to burn low/slow and clean, cat stoves can shine, in the peak heating season or whenever you really want to pump heat out of the stove as quickly as possible both styles (in well designed stoves) can do an excellent job and the differences pretty much fade away. Whatever stove you burn, you will get better results with better fuel - that shouldn't be a surprise.
  11. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Definitely. My spreadsheet basically started with the stoves begreen recommended.

    Interesting, because that hasn't been my experience with the Jotul F12. Now, I'm a newb with more questions than answers, but whenever I tried to burn that real low with warmer outside temps, I'd have problems with whuffing. I had lots of trouble keeping the stove temps down to something reasonable if I put more than 3 splits in on all but the coldest days.

    Disclaimer is I had just moved into the house in August, and was burning anything but ideally dry wood.
  12. scroungerjeff

    scroungerjeff Burning Hunk

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    My non-cat stove/ fireplace gives excellent heat and heats our home pretty easily so far. Truth is we've only had this past wimpy winter to test it. The only drawback is the burn times are not as long as advertised. I have talked with friends with cat stoves and they load it once or twice a day. I really don't mind too much, as I have a pretty effecient natural gas furnace to pick up the slack when we are away or working late. I enjoy the big glass doors and the traditional fireplace look and feel. I even enjoy getting up and feeding it and stoking it several times a day. Since I am rather new to burning with these modern appliances, I expect better results as my wood piles age and season better. However, if I were to totally rely on wood, I think I'd go cat.
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I think you are going to get the whuffing under control. It sounds like the last attempt with more air was more successful. Perhaps the next step can be to run 6" all the way up to the top and with a new cap.

    If the smaller room stove has a taller 2 story liner and the wood is nice and dry, I don't think you are going to experience whuffing in the new stove, cat or non-cat unless the fire is starved for air.
  14. Ziprich

    Ziprich Member

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    i have heard about a cat stove. my TL-300 is a cat stove right? i know they talk about the secondarys on the stove. is that the same thing? i feel like i should know the answer, but i dont. thanks.
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  16. dafattkidd

    dafattkidd Minister of Fire

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    For a guy like Dennis who has a ton of space to store wood, and is years ahead in his wood supply a cat is definitely a great option. I on the other hand have limited space on my property so I don't always have ideal wood to burn. Oak takes two years to dry out. I burn mostly 1 year seasoned wood so my oak is always a bit dicey. So for me a non cat makes a bit more sense.

    If I had acreage I'd probably be a cat owner. That being said, non cats are very impressive. I regularly get 12-15 hours from the start of a fire to a legitimate coal bed in my non cat insert. Granted after 8 hours or so I'm usually not getting any real usable heat.
  17. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I have a non-cat stove and I like it just fine, but I think I would next time buy a larger stove with a cat. In concept the non-cat stove seems simpler. There is only one air adjustment, no bypass (to let the exhaust gasses bypass the cat when you reload and get a bunch of water vapor in the exhaust), and no need to learn what a catalyst is or how it works. In practice, the non-cat requires more attention to keep it burning cleanly because you can't set it for a low, smouldery burn and go to bed. My stove is prone to either overfiring or smoking if I do not periodically adjust the air setting during the burn cycle. It isn't a lot of work and I can get by with only one or two adjustments of the air with the last one about 30 to 60 minutes after reloading, but I think with a cat stove i could avoid that last air adjustment and still get a clean, long burn. The adjustments are not a big concern while I am here and awake, but at night or when I want to reload then leave the house it is important.

    as for maintenance, I think any stove (or any appliance of any kind) may require some maintenance. i don't get the impression that cat stove owners are buying new cats all that often.. all stoves including non-cat stoves occasionally require new gaskets, replacement fire bricks, etc.
  18. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I have two spaces to heat. A house and a shop. Both the same SF but the shop has 14 foot ceilings and is allowed to cool. I want a cat stove for the house since I want it to be warm all the time and I want a non-cat for the shop since I want to quickly heat that thing up from ice cold. The cat stoves aren't ideal for making huge btus right away, and they aren't ideal at burning junk, burn times are (get this) too long if there is such a thing since I don't want an unattended fire in the shop any longer than required.

    Oh and the cat stoves cost a lot more. Measured against the golden standard NC30 for less than 750$, a comparable plate steel catalytic BK king will cost 3000$ or more. A smaller stove like the woodstock PH is a bit cheaper than 3000$ but not cheap.

    In the home, burn times are the prime factor and a cat stove earns that extra cost.
  19. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Cat stoves definitely cost more, they have more parts. Still, I wouldn't directly compare the 30NC to the BKK. It is a good value stove, but not a gold standard. There are cost cutting measures with the 30NC that are not in some higher end steel stoves. This isn't to fault the stove, it represents a great value at $1099 (normal selling price). But there are differences between it and say a Lopi Liberty or PE Summit. Also the BKK has unique features like thermostat control and a larger firebox (more steel) which add to the cost.

    A more realistic comparison might be a $1099 30NC to a Buck 80 or maybe an $2000 Appalachian 52 Bay? Comparing a cheap big stove (Englander, Drolet, etc.) to a deluxe and unique stove like the PH is not realistic. If all you want is heat, then go for the best value. But in the case of the OP, the stove will be in a classic and elegant setting. I don't see an Englander going in here.
  20. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Eh, I don't know about that...

    Says the man running a non-cat stove that costs $3,000 for the enameled version.
    jeff_t likes this.
  21. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    You may have a good plan there, with regard to a cat stove in the house and a non-cat in the shop, but I don't think you're reasoning is entirely sound. My Jotul Firelight 12 (cat stove) seems capable of delivering some pretty huge BTU's in short order. My problem has been more the opposite, getting the thing cranked down for a low burn on a full load before cooking myself out of the house. Haven't quite mastered that yet, and settling for just loading fewer sticks at a time for now.

    Here's what I have gathered from this thread and others:

    Cat stoves will not perform well with marginally seasoned wood, which non-cats may burn without fuss. Cat stoves can be loaded and cranked down (assuming good draft conditions), and left to burn on a very low setting for hours, without losing the secondary burn and fouling up your chimney. Cat stoves require you to occasionally remove, inspect, and even replace the cat converter. A catalytic converter will last 5 - 6 years for most people, but can be damaged in a day if the stove is overfired. Non-cat stoves have a shallower learning curve, and will generally cause less frustration for beginners. Both stoves will yield similar efficiency when burned medium to high, but the non-cat's may require more frequent fiddling to keep the secondaries going at very low burn rates.

    Do I finally get it, guys?
  22. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Actually, non-cat EPA stoves aren't too happy about semi-seasoned wood either. It will burn, but the heat output and creosote accumulation may disappoint. Secondary burning is just one phase of the burn cycle. It only lasts for about 1/3 of the total burn cycle.
  23. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I never said that I wouldn't pay good money for a stove where looks are important. In the shop, I won't be buying a fancy schmancy stove though and I find that a non-cat is actually superior out there since I can get a brand new one for well under 1000$ and I can throw anything in it meaning wood scraps, cardboard, beer cans, junk wood, whatever and it will burn with minimal fuss.

    I say the NC30 is the golden standard non-cat because it is the most stove you can get for the least amount of money. It is not a fancy stove. I guess it depends on what your priorities are but if money is no object, there are surely more aesthetically pleasing stoves than an NC30.

    The BK king is 1 CF larger, weighs about the same so not much extra steel, and is built to similar quality standards as an englander. It is not a fancy stove but it is superior to all available stoves in terms of function when used to heat a home. The BKking costs 3-5 times as much as the englander and for that extra money you get a cat and a stat. Very little else.
  24. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Except for those that want a large stove for really long burn times at a lower temp. Then the 30 is not Superior.


    That could be said about nearly every other stove on the market, cat or non-cat.

    Let's look at other large non-cat stoves:
    Jotul F600, about 3 grand.
    Hearthstone Equinox, about 4 grand.
    Lopi Liberty, $2,800-3,000.
    Regency F3100, $2,000-2,500.
  25. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    You'll note here, that I am saying that the BK is the superior heater. We agree on this. A large stove for long and low heat is awesome.

    We also agree that those other stoves are all overpriced compared to the NC30 when looking at function. What you get for spending the extra money on your listed stoves is fancy shmancy stuff like stone, more precision build quality, and cast iron.

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