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Electronic/Microprocessor Controlled Wood Stoves

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Gridlock, Oct 18, 2010.

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  1. Gridlock

    Gridlock Member

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    Why aren't any modern wood stoves electronic/microprocessor controlled? It would seem that controlling air intake, damper, CAT engagement, etc. via electronics can make for a very efficient and easy to use stove. The stove can be designed to operate manually without the electronics in case of a failure or power outage. A small battery backup can probably power the electronics for quite a while, since the microprocessors, flaps, etc. wouldn't need a large power draw (unlike pellet stoves which have an auger to feed the pellets). Monitoring and controlling the stove electronically can also prevent common operational problems including overfiring, etc., and can even compensate for wet and unseasoned wood.

    Has any manufacturer tried this?

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  2. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Maybe use the battery only on start up as there are ways to produce electricity from heat. Maybe even recharge the battery?
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Yes, there was a thread posted here a year or so ago on the topic. The product regulated the air supply according to the stage of burn. IIRC, it was expensive and didn't automatically re-stoke the fire.
  4. PAJerry

    PAJerry Member

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    Geez, can't we keep 'electronics' out of something at least? Wood burning is meant to be simple, and the manufacturers have done a good job with stove design to clean them up and make them simple to use. If you want electronics, visit the pellet stove people - and see the problems they sometimes have. KISS rule should apply to wood burning.
  5. PunKid8888

    PunKid8888 New Member

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    Exactly why I got rid of my pellet stove. Nothing more basic then fire, why complicate it.
  6. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Maybe it is better to use the electric from the brain to guide the rest of the body to control the stove to put wood in the stove, to take out ashes from the stove, to clean the stove etc., etc.

    Actually I highly doubt these beasts will be run by electric or automatic except for those stoves that have a thermostat to control the draft. Furthermore, I would not want that to happen. It is still best to keep a human eye on these burning beasts. Realize just what we have with these boxes full of fire and realize the possibilities of what can possibly go wrong. If something does go wrong then if a human is on hand, decisions can be made faster on the spot. As for me, I find it not a bad chore to tend the stove.
  7. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Even without electronics only one or two manufacturers have been smart enough to equip the stove with a thermostat to regulate heat output. That's a baby step but a baby step that I would love to see more often.

    Seems the buying public is not interested in automation. Hey, I like carburetors too but I appreciate the electric choke vs. the manual one.
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Had a thermostatic damper on our old Resolute. It worked very well. I agree it would be nice to see this on more stoves.
  9. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I'm sure it is one of those things that will happen eventually. Not sure if it will be anytime soon, but likely will happen. Think about car engines - electronic sensors monitor the exhaust for CO/O2 etc and adjust input air/fuel ratio so to optimize things on the fly. I imagine that if/when there is sufficient incentive for stove manufactures to optimize stoves to this degree electronics will become part of the solution. However, there will be resistance from stove owners (not all, but some) as the benefits are not likely to be appreciated by most. Regulations might be the path to get there - if EPA phase 200 kicks in and requires it then who knows.

    Now that is just addressing areas where electronics can do better than we 'mere humans' can do. As to the more coarse adjustments - air controls etc, it is possible to do these without electronics (think BK thermostat) so why complicate it with components that are notorious for failing - especially when exposed to heat over time? Added cost and complexity is likely to be a hard sell for a lot of wood burners who frankly are a pretty umm... economical group.

    Then there is the joyous question of liability. Any such system would have to be designed to fail in a safe manner. All failure cases would have to keep the fire under control and not result in a runaway situation or it could put a company out of business rather quickly. I could just see the class-action lawyers lining up to blame a fire control system for dirty chimneys and any resulting chimney fires (even if folks were burning green wood). Any new system is an easy target in our litigation crazed society it seems (ok, so I"m a bit cynical).
  10. northernontario

    northernontario Member

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    I say "no" to electronics... but would love if more stoves came with some sort of automatic thermostatic control for the damper. No electronics to fail, or require battery backup, or require perfect sine wave power... just a simple thermostatic control (even as an add-on). That way, you could load up the stove, open the damper, and when it gets up to temp, gradually close the damper, and modulate it to maintain ideal temp range.

    -Help prevent over-firing
    -Help prevent under-firing (running too cold)
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Essentially this has already been done. It's called a pellet stove. Some have fairly sophisticated microprocessor circuits in them.
  12. vvvv

    vvvv New Member

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    like a MAGIC HEAT? :)
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Not even remotely like MH. That is an entirely different principal.
  14. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    In 25+ years of service, the only thing that failed on our insert was the Broan rheostat, which controls the blower speed. Not as complex as the electronics being discussed, but it's the only 'electronic' thing on this stove, and it failed after ~10 years. +1 for KISS. . .a bimetallic coil to control draft would be nice though. :)
  15. Ivy Frank

    Ivy Frank New Member

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    I have one lever on my PE.
    One.
    If it broke off, the cover that it controls could be fabbed up out of thin metal in minutes.
    I heated over 3,000 feet with about 5 cords of wood last winter, no overnight loading.

    How much pray tell, could a few hundred bucks in electronics improve that?

    Simplify your life.

    And keep your stove simple.
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Hey, welcome back Frank. A better use is to have your coffee ready for you in the morning, but even then, only if you have a limited time to head out to work.
  17. yanksforever

    yanksforever Member

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    That's what makes wood burning fun. Everything is done yourself. If you don't enjoy doing all these things, maybe a woodstove is not for you. :)
  18. Treacherous

    Treacherous Minister of Fire

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    As much as I like my gadgets I do like the simplicity of my wood stove. I would have gone with a propane furnace or a pellet stove if I wanted more advanced options. I've worked in IT close to 20 years and more often than not find the simplest solution is often the best.
  19. spirilis

    spirilis Minister of Fire

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    agreed, I feel that wood burning is simple enough that we should strive for the most elegant non-electronic solution, which already exists IMO: The Masonry Heater.
  20. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    And when we're not being manly men, chopping wood and controlling our stoves, we can sit down and discuss it on our favorite internet social medium. :lol:
  21. Ivy Frank

    Ivy Frank New Member

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    BeGreen - I recently retired. Got lucky in various ways. Now I spend my time on pro bono cases and raising animals to kill and eat.

    Oh. And burning quercus in Alderlea.
  22. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good for you! Do you do pro bono work for PETA? (people eating tasty animals :coolgrin: )
  23. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I suspect the answer is rather simple . .. and can be seen right in this thread . . . manufacturers haven't put a lot of electronics on stoves simply because most folks (including the majority that have commented on this thtread) that tend to buy woodstoves want things to be less complex with fewer parts to potentially break.
  24. spirilis

    spirilis Minister of Fire

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    Another important reason is the fact that most woodstoves are intended to provide radiant heat or a good mix of radiant and convective vs. purely convective (like a forced-air furnace or boiler, or pellet stove or coal stoker) -- thus requiring the mfrs to deal with very high local temperatures to the electronics, something far too costly and complicated for what it's worth.
  25. Gridlock

    Gridlock Member

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    Well, I suppose the reluctance of electronic control is understandable, but still suprised by the overall intensity of this reluctance. I certainly understand the idea of keeping things simple and the joy of mastering something without electronic intervention. But just think about the possibilities!:

    - No more worry about over-firing or back-puffing
    - Automatic adjustment of air and damper
    - Very precise temperature control
    - More efficient use of the fuel
    - Reduced emissions
    - Ability to measure draft and either make adjustments or report back if insufficient
    - Instant reporting of wood moisture levels, BTU content, overall efficiency, etc.
    - Going to bed without wondering whether stove-top or CAT temperatures are rising beyond spec
    - Ability to start or change settings remotely

    Many people had similar feelings about car engines when electronic controls were introduced, but car engines today are leaps and bounds what they used to be before electronic intervention. No human or mechanical widget can provide anything near the kind control than electronics can.
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