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Electronic Wood Stove Control

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by ControlFreak, Jan 25, 2008.

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  1. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    To all,

    We are a small company in MA that has developed an intelligent electronic wood stove control system and would like to hear your feedback. Please, this is not spam, but intended to probe a subject that I rarely hear about -- combustion control in wood stoves.

    To kick off the discussion, I'll ask several questions:

    1. Why hasn't this existed until now? We have some ideas, but want to see what you guys think. We already know about the use of bimetalic springs to do this, and using a timer to close off a start-up draft control, but what about an electronic system that is intelligent and offers flexibility and adaptability?

    2. Have you ever asked a stove store about something like this?

    3. If you were purchasing a new stove, would you purchase this if it was an option?

    4. If you were to choose between two different, but comparable models, would this feature cause you to choose the one with the controls?

    5. Do you ever overheat your stove by forgetting to close the draft control? If so, how often.

    6. Do you know of anyone who has had a fire because of an unattended wood stove?

    What other questions are there??

    OH, our marketing people won't be happy with me if I don't mention the survey on our website. There will be a drawing for an Ipod for those to complete it. Relax, it's a very short and easy survey.

    Thanks a lot,

    Dan McFarland
    www.inveninc.com

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. karl

    karl Minister of Fire

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    That's a pretty insert you have on your home page :)

    How about a module that turns a fan on to blow air into the primary air intake on the stove to help us get rid of the coals?
  3. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    I want mine on a remote control. Sometimes I damper it down to quickly and would like to open the air inlet from the comfort of my couch.
  4. Mmaul

    Mmaul Minister of Fire

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    I like to adjust mine, but, atleast I know if the wife is at home by herself or if my father-inlaw comes over than its operating like its supposed too.
  5. ozarkjeep

    ozarkjeep New Member

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    Seems like a great idea Dan.

    Im curious , How would one install the actuator and thermo probes in an existing stove?

    Or are you primarily looking at integrating it in at the stove factory?

    and how much would this unit cost?
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    To kick off the discussion, I'll ask several questions:

    1. Why hasn't this existed until now? We have some ideas, but want to see what you guys think. We already know about the use of bimetalic springs to do this, and using a timer to close off a start-up draft control, but what about an electronic system that is intelligent and offers flexibility and adaptability?

    This is a big question. In general, with wood stoves, simplicity is a virtue. Given the wide range of variables in stoves and flues, I think this might have a significant number of stoves that it would work well on. But also, there would be a significant number is might work poorly on, due to drafting variables or problems inherent with the flue system that this device can't cure. There is also the expense and setup time. How many people would be qualified to install this? Would they need to come back and adjust regularly as seasonal changes occur that dramatically affect draft? And then there is the fact that many wood stoves are installed because they provide heat during power outages. Is the system very easy to manually overide? Then there is testing and lab certification. The safety risks if there was a malfunction could be large.

    2. Have you ever asked a stove store about something like this?

    No, but I have thought about it.

    3. If you were purchasing a new stove, would you purchase this if it was an option?

    Unlikely, it doesn't seem that adaptable to Jotuls with the front draft control without hanging a lot on the front ash lip. Aesthetics are important. Also seems a bit pointless on VC stoves with the bi-metallic. How would it function on stoves with a bypass damper?


    4. If you were to choose between two different, but comparable models, would this feature cause you to choose the one with the controls?
    Depends on the pricing. I probably wouldn't want to be first on the block unless I was home full time and able to develop a trust for the device.

    5. Do you ever overheat your stove by forgetting to close the draft control? If so, how often.

    We've never overfired this stove, but is has happened with our old F602. We very rarely, leave the damper open without listening for the stove. But it certainly can happen.

    6. Do you know of anyone who has had a fire because of an unattended wood stove?
    No.

    What other questions are there??
    Price? What stoves has it been tested on? Have you considered more display options and a bigger readout?



    That's my 2 pennies worth. Hope it helps.
  7. jbrown56

    jbrown56 Feeling the Heat

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    Hi, I am a guy with a pretty severe walkiing disability and spend most of my time on the kitchen level and the stove is on the lower level. When I first load the stove, it must be adjusted a few times before closing for the long burn. I always wondered if there was a device which I could control from the kitchen level as I can see the stove from there. It would save me many trips up and down the stairs. It would have to be something that could be controled myself because of the variables associated with wood burning. BeGreen brings up a ton of good points as usual.

    Jim
  8. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    wait, you have marketing people and are giving away an ipod? Heck we at Hearth.com don't even have marketing people and can't afford to give away an ipod! So if you are small...we must be tiny!
    :cheese:

    I'm sure you are familiar with Condars original retrofit bimetal unit, which was a circular device that fit over the draft control (most were spin type at the time)..... this system actually worked pretty well in some tests, and then worked even better than well when it was incorporated into an entire stove design (with a catalytic converter).

    It might be that the market for this ends up being more OEM than retrofit. If and when manufacturers actually start caring about real world efficiency, safety and control....it might provide a talking and selling point. If nothing else, you might want to get in touch with Corie here in the board (he's an R&D;guy)...and perhaps he can try it on some of his stoves at home (he's building an epa lab in his garage).

    For the average user, it is probably going to take some "proof" of vast advantages. If you listen to my newest podcast with John Gulland, you will see that he favors manual controls over bimetallics....and he is considered an expert. Heck, John might be willing to try one of your thingys on his stove - that would get your a REAL opinion.

    Good luck and welcome to hearth.com, home of the "no-ipod" giveaways.
  9. sixminus1

    sixminus1 Member

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    As was previously mentioned, a remote control would be nice. In addition I would also yearn for wired/wireless integration with a PC. It would be nice to be able to monitor or change the activity of the stove while I'm at work, via some sort of web interface. I would also be interested in keeping statistics about how the stove is operating, so I can compare numbers day-to-day, month-to-month, or year-to-year.

    There has been a lot of talk about integration between different appliances in a "modern" home -- why not include the woodstove?

    And again, cost is a big factor...
  10. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    I have to say this, they have great taste in inserts on the start page of that website ;) Nothing but the best! ;)
  11. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    will it work better than the cel phone that doesn't work quite right all the time ?
    will it work better than the iPod that every now and then loses its playlist ?
    will it work better than the computer in the car that flashes orange lightts on the dash everywhere but at the dealer's ?
    will it work better than the motion controller that has to get temperature adjusted 4 times a year in NE ?
    will it work as advertised ?


    A bit of cynicism, it's Friday.
    A week full of electronic 'conveniences' that don't quite work like they're supposed to all the time.
    Going home to find the wedge and maul. The splitter probably won't start, either. :)
  12. WarmGuy

    WarmGuy Feeling the Heat

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    Dan,

    Although your product is a good idea, and I've wondered whether something like that exists, Bill B3 has expressed the same thing I was about to post. When I'm tired of calling tech support lines, or dealing with electronic things which have some design flaw or glitch, it's nice to sit down in front of a good old wood stove and read a book.

    One day, when I found myself on hold waiting for tech support for my electric toothbrush I decided that I was going to try to decrease the number of things I owned that might involve tech support calls.

    Wood stove users are more likely to have this attitude than others, so you may have some resistance in this regard.

    Also, lots of stove owners like to futz with the controls.

    Finally, here's a suggestion: Your marketing seems to stress the ease of use:

    " the user is free to go about their life without having to be thinking about constantly making adjustments to keep a wood fire burning efficiently."

    That may not be the right tack, since a furnace is a lot easier to use (just set the thermostat). Perhaps you should stress the ability to get the most out of the firewood, and perhaps have the device pay for itself in wood savings.

    Hope that helps.
  13. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    adding to warm guy, one important point would also be safety. We can see users here constantly worried about their stove getting too hot.....that is a bigger motivation than not having to futz with the control.

    And here is where I have to be a tough guy - Dan, I am an inventor myself, and have 2 patents. I teach classes on invention and bringing products to market. Without being too negative, it is tough (near impossible) to bring a product like yours to the marketplace and make money. I am not saying that to discourage you, but just to make certain you understand the odds (which you probably already do). As inventors we tend to think everyone has the foresight to recognize the brilliance of our products. But the market often does not - in other words, a better mousetrap does not win the prize. A Pet Rock that sells big wins the prize.

    In the case of inventions, there are generally two ways one can find out the value. The first is to spend an almost unlimited amount of time and money and beat their head against the wall until they are either broke, or start selling a few. The other is to find out what the MARKET thinks the products is really worth by finding a manufacturer or other company to buy or license your product. If no one want to do this, it shows that the market may not be ready for your invention.

    Of course, there is the third options...which does happen. Some inventors actually succeed after beating their head against the wall. But one should go into a plan with that in mind and know the consequences.

    I speak as someone who has a rock solid patent on some very salable hearth products, but is likely to take a bath because I do not want to take five years and spend more good money to make the market understand why they need it.

    Well, heck, my marketing people would yell at me (that means me yelling at myself) if I did not promote the sale and licensing of my great inventions here also:
    http://www.extendaflue.com/sale/
  14. steam man

    steam man Minister of Fire

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    I hate to say I think a few posters here are missing the point by requesting a "remote means" of manual control rather than a fully automatic "set it and forget" type of device. I have (and still do) operated and installed combustion control dual fuel systems for large marine steam boilers. They always have fully automatic and manual control. The device mentioned seems like it should work fine at least as far as a safety device and making more efficient use of burning wood. I realize the cost will be a big factor. I just wonder if going a step further with possibly stack O2 measurement (for excess air) would be something to consider for really efficient operation. I understand some of the newer wood boilers will be having this feature. The O2 probes I am aware of are pricey and maintenance hogs though. My guess is that we would find that each stove would work with an precise load of wood for best operation. Disclaimer-wood burning is not my specialty. I do think most stove nuts here would like some kind of remote monitor option possibly to alert for problems and time to fill the stove.
  15. Buck1200

    Buck1200 Member

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    Dan, you and I emailed a few weeks back.

    As someone who piles 4-5 cord a year through a Heritage that's a little too small for this drafty old house (the stove needs to be hot all the time), I would certainly be in favor of automated control for the following reasons:

    Efficiency: I find that the fastest way to get a good secondary burn going is to rip it wide open (even with the door open) to 700 degrees on the flue gas thermometer and then damp down entirely. At issue is that I will typically see flue gas temps of 800+ for the first hour. Lot's of wasted heat going up my nice expensive insulated stainless chimney.

    If I damp down progressively and slowly (i.e. babysit the thing for half an hour) I can get good damped down operation which peaks at 500 degrees and rides the sweet spot of 4-500 for the bulk of the burn- nice and efficient. An electronic controller would free me of this babysitting which, quite frankly, is getting old, and is the primary reason I spend most of my hearth.com time sitting in the Boiler room reading about Tarm and EKO.

    Time: I pretty much covered that above... I don't have time to babysit. 5 firings a day x 1/2 per = more time than I have to spend tending the stove.

    Operator expertise: A-hem... my wife is not so diligent with the stove watching.

    Cost is certainly an issue however. I'm still on the fence.
  16. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    This could be fairly simple with a hi-torque motor and remote control. At least with my stove there is one control and it is on a pivot point, I have already dreamt it up just havent put it on paper.
  17. sixminus1

    sixminus1 Member

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    I can't say that I'm completely sold on this idea/product, and I'll admit that I'm a bit biased in favor of tech, but, there seems to be an aversion to technology floating around here. It's surprising to me that folks who are so willing to tinker around with their fireplaces and stoves seem to be so afraid and frustrated by new gadgets and devices. Yes, you'll have to tinker with it to make it work properly, and it may never deliver 100% of what it promises. Does anything?

    Remember -- at one time, the ability to start a fire was new technology.
  18. cmonSTART

    cmonSTART Minister of Fire

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    It sounds like a gadget I could have a use for as long as it had some sort of manual mode.

    Any device I attach to my wood stove had better deliver 100% of the time. It's the 1% it doesn't that could cause damage or even burn your house down.
  19. kolbyTheDog

    kolbyTheDog New Member

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    I would really like some type of temp sensor that I could put on the stove or in it that was connected to a big LCD display (4"+) so I could monitor the various temps of the stove. Maybe it could have 3 or 4 temp probes connected to it and it the display could cycle through the different readings. It would also be great to set min. temps so it would beep to alert me as to when the temp has gotten too low. That would end the fighting between my wife and I as to when is the right time to load the stove, close the damper, turn the blower on, go to bed! We argue about when to do these things more than anything. It would also need to be back lit and run on AC and DC. If it had USB or WIFI built it I could connect it to my computer to log the data just for fun.
  20. sixminus1

    sixminus1 Member

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    I completely agree. Seems like the type of thing that would have to be tested and certified as strictly as things like medical hardware. Come to think of it, as Craig mentioned, it sounds like a better fit for OEM, rather than some type of retro-fit that leaves the idiot factor wide open for disaster (never underestimate the ingenuity of complete idiots).

    The thought of "automating" a wood fire is a little scary, but as you said -- if it's well-tested, and can be completely shut down to allow full manual control when necessary, I think it would be a very cool thing to have.

    A stove with this feature would require the same diligence as bringing fire into your home in the first place -- try it out, keep an eye on it, and make absolutely sure that it does what you expect. Don't leave it alone until you trust it, and even then, don't completely trust it. It would also require the same type of learning curve that everyone on this forum had with computers (and stoves) -- how to use it properly. It's a tool, it's a human invention (thus, it's imperfect), it's potentially dangerous, and everyone's mileage will vary. Hey, that's life.

    So, to avoid rambling more, ControlFreak: good idea, now tell us more.
  21. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Is this just for steel/cast non cat stoves? Can it work with a cat stove that has a bypass?

    What about soapstone? Soapstone is slower to react in up and down heat cycles, how would that affect the performance?
  22. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    Dan,

    We spoke last year at the HPBA show, if you remember? Will you be attending this year?
  23. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I have an aftermarket switch on my insert that turns the fan off or on depending on temperature, but it would be nice if the blower speed was automatically changed as the air outlet temp got lower. So, the fan would go lower and kick out roughly the same temp air. You wouldn't need actuators to move rods, just control the blower speed.
  24. precaud

    precaud Minister of Fire

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    I own and use a stove that has remote control of the primary combustion air, the Nestor Martin X33. While I haven't written a thorough review of it yet, do a search on this site for X33 and you'll see my previous posts about it. The remote control setup is licensed from a US company - Ambient Technologies in Paris, KY. Their website is: http://www.ambienttechnologies.com/

    The system has basically four modes of functioning:
    1. Manual remote control - the user controls the primary air intake via the remote buttons. I use it and like it. I can tweak the burn rate without going to the stove.
    2. Programmed turnon time - the user programs a time at which the system opens the primary air fully. Without an ignition system, this mode is pretty useless. Even if it did, I wouldn't use it... sounds dangerous to me.
    3. Programmed burn duration - the system closes the primary air intake after a set period of time. I use it occasionally, when I load the stove and leave the house. Useful.
    4. Remote thermostatic control - the remote attempts to maintain a set room temperature by varying the air intake. I find this quite useless, given the relatively small batches of fuel the stove is capable of handling.

    Having used this system for a couple months, I can say, I do like it for modes 1 and 3 above. But, while I find the idea of using technology to optimize the combustion process intriguing, I wouldn't own anything that attempts to control the stove further than what this system does. Wood stoves are batched-fired devices, and my interaction with the stove plays a significant part in why I prefer this form of heating.
  25. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    Corie,

    We will be at HPBA in Atlanta. We're not doing a booth so we're more free to go and seek out the people we want to contact. There was too much idle time waiting around for people to wander by last year. We will be bringing portable demonstration hardware so people can get a sense for what's going on with this.

    Dan
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