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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. scotty

    scotty Member

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    [quote author="ControlFreak" date="1201303477"]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 bimetalilc 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?

    Most of the time the people who have wood stoves actually enjoy operating them manually. The same preference leads to horseback riding, bicycling or sailing rather than cars and power boats. But there are times when even the most traditional manual stove operator would enjoy an automatic system in the same way that we use our cars or sometimes put a motor in a sailboat. The bimetallic spring models which I've used (Ashley & VC) were a huge improvement over the purely manual stoves. But they were also very inexpensive and easily designed to be intrinsically safe - that is, any failure of the controller shut the stove down. I'm sure that Electronic Combustion with feedback would accomplish the same thing or better and I for one would probably try it. As to "why hasn't it existed until now?" well, electronic control is still a fairly new field and there are a lot of good ideas that simply haven't been built as yet.

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

    No, we are part of a rural population well versed in wood burning and tend to rely more on local knowledge than on retail stores.

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

    It would be one of the factors, but not the most important one. A retrofittable device with components in the combustion air intake duct as well as in the stove pipe itself would not be dependent on stove brand.

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

    No, there are bound to be more important differences between two stoves. I would rate this feature below several favored construction features, burn geometry, cat or not, and wood loading. For me it would be on the level of importance that I assign to porcelain trim, ash removal, or side warmers. A retrofittable option would be much more appealing, and in fact would be appealing even though fairly expensive.

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

    No, though I do worry about it happening when guests use our house

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

    No, not a structural fire; not of my own direct experience. ...which is sort of surprising given how common wood stoves are in this area. However, I am exempting chimney fires which are not uncommon.

    What other questions are there??

    Well, you haven't asked if such a device would appeal to a dedicated traditional wood stove user. I can only answer for myself in that I tend to buy and try the new techo-toys that come on the market just out of curiosity. Perhaps they will add something to our live - or not - but how do I know if I don't try them?

    BTW, nice web site.
    scotty, Boulder, Colorado.

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  2. RegencyNS

    RegencyNS New Member

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    ControlFreak, Any update on your device? Where can I order?
  3. scotty

    scotty Member

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    Yeah....I've got the same question as shawn. Hey. Control Freak.... are you there? Was it all just a pipedream?
    scotty
  4. rob bennett

    rob bennett New Member

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    The website is heavy on the concept but lacking detail. I've seen sites and threads like this when someone has an idea and they have yet to prototype it. Basically it looks to me like it was a "I have an idea, but have yet to pursue a prototype, should I go on?" If it is a legitimate product, I'd think that there would be SOME type of data to support the product.

    And if it were my website I'd drop the summit on the homepage. It more or less has a lot of automation going for it anyway.
  5. scotty

    scotty Member

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    It probalbly takes more than a year to prototype and make such a unit. Or maybe I scared him off when I filled out his questionaire 5 or 6 messages above this one. I just re-read it and it seems like a valid questionaire....good info. Can I get someone to comment on his questions and my answers?
    Thanks, scotty Boulder, Colorado @ 7000 ft.
  6. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I think his questions are reasonable ones, and your answers are not all that different than what I'd give, especially the idea of wanting a retrofittable device to go on a stove that already met your desires in other respects, as opposed to it being a primary purchasing choice driver. The trouble is that I would think doing a retrofit design for anything beyond temperature monitoring would be incredibly difficult - just think how many different designs there are for air controls as one potential challenge... (I'd still be interested in an electronic temperature monitoring setup, but don't have any real interest in the control side...)

    However, if I were trying to develop a marketting plan, or decide whether to go to the trouble of prototyping a unit, the answers are not ones that would encourage me, and some of the other answers that CF got even earlier in the thread were even more negative in the sense of not being interested in the potential product...

    I did just check CF's user info, he's still active on the board, and has posted within the last few days, but looking at the threads and his comments in them he didn't have anything to say on this thread's topic - don't know if he is no longer doing anything on it, or just not following this thread any longer. (BTW, you can do this, as well - it didn't take any "secreret mod powers" :coolsmile: )

    It might be worth sending him a PM to see what the status is...

    Gooserider
  7. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    I would LOVE to have something to at least help with the burning cycle on my Liberty. It is very easy to control but I need to be here to run the controls when I should be focused out on the farm.

    You gotta understand that I heat part of a 188 yr. old stone house that virtually sucks the heat right out of the stove. Once it's up to temp, I can sometimes cut down on the primary and it will sometimes hold that temp for an hour and a half before it starts dropping off and I gotta keep adding more and more air to get the most out of it. Yes I can get 20 hour "burn times" where there's enough coals for a relight but if it ain't at 650, the house ain't at 65.

    I actually spent a couple of hours the other night researching thermal controllers but I don't have the smarts to figure something out though I wouldn't hesitate to put it together if I knew how. I have more stamina with my hands than my head.

    As far as dangerous gadgets go, I got a $4000 oil guzzling blast furnace that'll run 24-7 without the woodstove and I only see that once a year. Usually in the late summer when it's not even running.

    I'm not scared of new technology but I am very wary as to its usefulness for me.

    To Dan if he's still watching: A retro for me please. I don't expect to buy another stove in this lifetime.
  8. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The problem is that the really hard part IS doing the control retrofit...

    Sensors are easy... There is a question of what to measure, where to put them, how to interface them to the data collection unit and so forth, but there are lots of options, all of which are pretty simple and off the shelf hardware.

    The controller "brain" itself is also pretty easy - if you can come up with a set of measurement based rules (If condition X then do action Y) then it is a fairly straightforward thing to program them into a PC. If you want to get fancy, you can then burn that program into an embedded system, or other specialized hardware, which again has complications, but nothing to difficult.

    The tough part is translating the desires of the "brain" into actual control operation - pretty much every stove is different, with a different set of controls that operate differently... How many different styles of control are there - do you push, pull, turn (which way, and how much), slide sideways or up and down, etc? each one would need a different sort of actuator - How hard is it to move the control? How will you mount it? Does the area around the control get hot? How much insulation will the actuator need to keep from overheating? Lots of questions, each one with different answers depending on the individual stove...

    Once you have the one off control designed and built (a challenge in and of itself, where will you get the stoves needed to develop on?) how much are you going to have to pay for testing it? How do you ensure that if it fails, it does so safely?

    I think this is perhaps the reason why CF doesn't appear to be persuing the problem any more - it doesn't appear to be something that has a profitable answer.

    Gooserider
  9. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Mr. Goose- Did you take the test in the Ash Can?
  10. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    What test in the AC? (I normally stay out of that area, keeps me out of trouble...)

    Gooserider
  11. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    I don't like it there either but if my posts don't get deleted, that's where they end up.
    In the Ash Can: "OK, folks, what do you know about the Real America" Craig wants to see who's the smartest and so far I'm winning.
  12. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    I'm definitely winning.
  13. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Well I got a job offer so that's a win in my book. It may not mean anything to you.
  14. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    Hello Shawnmd,

    Thanks for your interest. Responding to your question, and to others: This is well beyond the first prototype (we're at hardware revision 4.1), and is currently being evaluated by one of the larger stove companies. Various revisions of SmartStove have been running my Napoleon 1401 24/7 for several years and the latest revision is running an everburn product nicely. The current hardware is one generation beyond what's running on my stove -- the latest revision brings features that are suited for cat stoves -- something not needed with the 1401.

    This is no pipedream. Developing a product is one thing, but getting it into the marketplace is another, especially with a new technology. The latter is more difficult than the former, especially with a tight budget and time constraints. Feel free to send me a PM if you want to discuss this more.

    Dan
  15. jackiec

    jackiec Member

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  16. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    jackiec, I deleted one of your posts as it was a duplicate - just keeping things neat...

    One minor suggestion - when you are including a quoted bit, it helps if you pay attention to the "tags" around the part you are quoting - they will have two square brackets "[]" with something in them, like "quote" at the beginning, of the quoted bit and another pair at the end, with the same thing preceded by a forward slash at the end - like "/quote" (sorry for the cumbersome explanation, but it's hard to put this stuff in a post without having it be turned into a display...)

    Anything between the tags ends up as part of the quote, and anything outside doesn't... It is easiest to follow if your comments are outside the quoted bits (Same thing applies to any of the other text enhancements, it just has different stuff between the square brackets) You can also break up a quote by putting in more tags (always in pairs) and do other fun things like nesting and so on...

    If you aren't sure your message will look the way you want it to, you can hit the "Preview Post" button at the bottom of the entry screen instead of the "Submit Post" button, and you can see what it will look like, and have an editing box to fix any problems. Just be sure to hit the "Submit Post" button as your last step or your post won't ever appear.

    Not a big deal, but it makes your messages easier to read.

    Gooserider
  17. ICY99

    ICY99 New Member

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    Dan, here are my thoughts:

    1. I think there probably is a market for this, but it is increasing the complexity quite a bit.

    2. No. I would not be interested.

    3. No. I would definitely steer clear of any electronic control devices on a wood stove.

    4. I would choose a model with PASSIVE, MECHANICAL control rather than electronic control.

    5. Never. But I agree that overheat is a possibility.

    6. I do not know anyone personally.
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