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Help Selecting A Quality Stove

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by RossB, Oct 4, 2013.

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  1. RossB

    RossB Member

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    OK...I've been lurking, searching, Googling, Binging, visiting showrooms, talking to sales guys, and peering in neighbors' windows for 6 months. Still...I've got nothing. My house is an 1800 sq. ft Colonial...25 years old...well insulated and generally pretty tight. I have a room addition on the back of the house that's 20x16 with cathedral ceiling that peaks about 16'. Its wide open to the rest of the first floor.

    So here's the issue...I'd really like to add a hearth and a woodstove in that room. I'm not really looking to heat my house 24/7... maybe just the weekends or winter vacations when we're actually home...power failures...zombie apocalypse...the fall of civilization as we know it. It's going in our living room so it has to be aesthetically pleasing to make the wife happy and the engineer in me would really like it to be a high quality piece...American if possible. My local dealer, who is a heck of a nice guy and seems very helpful, sells Vermont Castings and has been steering me toward the Encore or maybe the Intrepid II. I've read a pile of threads about VCs here on the hearth.com and I'm not sensing an overwhelming wave of support. I'm also considering Jotul, Quadra-Fire, or maybe Pacific Energy...cat or non-cat...I am truly clueless.

    We plan on spending a significant amount of time in this room so we don't want to be roasted out of the place. We run a couple potbellies in the family cabin in Vermont and temps routinely hover in the high 90s or higher...it's like a sauna...and I think we burn up all of the available oxygen because I can't stay awake for more than 15 minutes at any time. I'd rather not keep my house that hot, but I'm concerned that catylitic operation may require me to run hot.

    I need an unbiased opinion or ten. Anyone?

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  2. aansorge

    aansorge Minister of Fire

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    Generally speaking, it is easier to keep a cat stove running slow and low than a non-cat. Sounds like a Keystone by Woodstock stoves would be a great choice.
    gyrfalcon likes this.
  3. Tenn Dave

    Tenn Dave Feeling the Heat

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    Hi Ross,

    Welcome aboard.

    I would suggest you take a look at the Woodstock Fireview or Progress Hybrid. Both stoves are beautiful to look at, have the benefit of soapstone's gentle heat, are easily controllable so you won't be roasted out, are stingy on wood consumption, low on pollution, and the company is known for its excellent customer service. And American made. http://www.woodstove.com/
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  4. Oregon aloha

    Oregon aloha Feeling the Heat

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    Personally I would stick with a steel stove in your case. If you are not going to be heating more than part time you may want the faster gratification of heat with a stove without as much mass. If you put less wood in the stove it won't heat you out of your house as it is large enough, and with the high ceilings, I don't think you will have the cabin issue. Find the stove with the right look for your home and that makes the wife happy. Those the most important parts of the right stove purchase in my opinion.
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    There are a lot of fine stoves that could do the job for you. Give us hint of which style you like. Take alook at a Jotul 500, a Pacific Energy Alderlea T5, an Enviro Kodiak and a Woodstock Progress Hybrid. Let us know which one you like the best.
  6. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    Not sure where your main home is but assuming NE.

    I strongly suggest a Woodstock Progress Hybrid. Woodstock customer service is legendary. Stoves are sold directly by the company from their store in New Lebanon, NH. You are always welcome at the company, and can choose your soapstone/your stove. If and when you wish to heat the entire home with a Progress Hybrid, you will easily be able to. When you want a small fire, no problem. You do not have to wait hours while the soapstone heats in order to get significant heat into the home. The stove gets up to temp very quickly, and will heat the room it is in as quickly as you would wish, for it has a large window that throws a lot of heat. However, it will not heat you out of the room. The stoves are lovely, beautifully built, and the heat off them (other than through the window) feels like the sun shining on you. Very comfortable heat. You won't want to sit three feet from the glass, but six or seven feet away and you are fine. If it isn't very cold out, just chilly, you can have one small fire to take the chill off the home, and the stove will gently radiate heat for hours. You get very even heat with this stove. Easy to get twelve hour/overnight burns. Quick and easy to get a fire going and the cat engaged, and then dialed down for a long burn; then no need to attend the stove until your next reload. It is easy to achieve a slower burn during cool weather, a faster burn during cold weather. The stove is miserly in the wood it uses.

    At 1800 square feet and a large room with a cathedral ceiling, I think you'd be pushing it to try to heat the home with a Fireview or a Keystone. And there is a good chance that once you start heating with a Woodstock stove (or any other good EPA stove) you are going to be amazed how easy it is to keep a fire going, and how much more comfortable the home is when you heat with wood. You may find you use it a lot more for 24/7 heat than you anticipate doing . So I would be certain to get a stove that will be able to heat the entire home. There isn't that much difference in cost in going to a larger stove.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  7. RossB

    RossB Member

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    From a looks and size perspective, I like the VC Encore, the Quadra-Fire Isle Royale, and the Jotul F3. I initially thought I'd like one of the enamel finish stoves but just about every used one I've seen for sale has damage to the coating such as chips or flaking. It leads me to believe that te coating may not be susceptable to damage and/or is not easy to rework back to original condition.
  8. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    As aVC owner I will reccomend against one.


    Catalytic stoves are great for long low burns and shoulder season use. More picky on fuel. A little more efficient. Not very exciting fire view.

    Non cats are much better for the fire show. Simpler. Slightly less maintenance.

    Either can be a great option. Between iron, steel and soapstone just choose what you like looks wise.
  9. RossB

    RossB Member

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    I live in western Massachusetts...just south of the Vermont border...rural area to be sure...a little over 2 hours from the Woodstock factory.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  10. RossB

    RossB Member

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    That's the impression I've been getting from my researching. I'm a technical guy by nature...I'm an engineer for a product that travels through space at 18,000mph...but the CAT stoves just look like an overly complicated solution for the simple act of burning wood...I assume the EPA may have something to do with this. I prefer taking the simplest path possible. We've got 75 acres of forest and I enjoy cutting firewood. I don't want to make the act of burning it more complex than the harvesting. As I mentioned before, we have 2 old pot bellies that must be 60+ years old and they work fantastic. We throw some wood in and the place gets warm (hot really). No muss, no fuss, and they require maintenance about ever 100 years or so. I'm shocked by how complex wood stoves have become and the routine maintenance requirements. THis is the reason I'm having so much trouble pulling the trigger on a purchase.
  11. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Don't misunderstand, I really like catalytic stoves.. What I'm not reccomending is VC specifically, their downdraft implementation is temperamental.

    I grew up with vc in the 80s. A great product back then. 3 ownership changes later its not the same company.
  12. RossB

    RossB Member

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    Just stopped down at the local Quadra-Fire dealer and checked out the Isle Royale. It seems like a nice stove. Anybody have any feedback to offer on these untis or the company?
  13. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    The Isle Royale is well liked. I do believe it is a pretty intense radiant stove, meaning you'll need to give it some space. Or maybe you will like the sunburn ;)

    You may be surprised at how easy 24/7 heating is with a good modern stove and dry wood.
  14. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    Cat stoves are incredibly easy to run, and Woodstock's tend to be quite easy to maintain for a lifetime.

    Just saying.
    Oldhippie likes this.
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The F3CB is too small. The Quad Isle Royale is twice the size of the Jotul F3. The Jotul F600 is its equivalent in size. If you get a Jotul I recommend getting it with the blue-black enamel. That is a tough, great looking finish. I wish I could recommend the VC Encore, but the track record has not been as good as with other stoves. Instead I'd recommend taking a look at the Lopi Cape Cod and the Hearthstone Manchester.

    See my comments in the other,used IR thread. It is a well established and made stove.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  16. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    It sounds like ambiance and quick heating capability are priorities. If so, I'd go with a non-cat, steel stove. Non-cat because you'll want as much flame activity as possible, and steel because it will heat up (but also cool down) quicker than the stone-lined stoves. The steel stoves still hold a lot of heat, though. My stove is still warm many hours after the fire dies out.

    If the rising heated air will flow out to the rest of house as you suggest, then I'd agree that a medium size (around 2 cf) would be a good choice. Stay away from any "downdraft" design stove and find the stove that you like the best.
  17. stovelark

    stovelark Minister of Fire

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    Hi Ross, welcome. I too second the Jotul Oslo or Isle Royale from Quadrafire, beautiful burning stoves. If you want a robust and still pretty enamel, I also suggest blue black enamel from Jotul. It holds up better than Jotul's other enamel colors. An Enviro 1700 cast Boston might be a good choice too, along with P/E Alderlea T5/T6. Jotul F3CB is a durable mid-size stove, but not near enough. Lots of good choices already mentioned as well, enjoy whatever you get and remember good dry seasoned wood.
  18. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    I envy your wood supply! Be aware that these modern stoves require that the fuel be dry. You'll want to get a moisture meter (about $20) and check the moisture content on the face of a fresh split. 20% is ideal. More than 25% will start to cause incomplete combustion, creosote buildup and compromise secondary combustion and efficiency. There can be workarounds if it's not too bad, but you need to know what you've got.
  19. RossB

    RossB Member

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    Hmmm. I've never imagined measuring the moisture content of fire wood. I usually cut and split 1-2 years ahead of my needs and then light it on fire...12 cord last year. The old farts up in the woods of Vermont are never going to believe how complex burning wood has become. ( ;
    gyrfalcon, tom dee and remkel like this.
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    If you are cutting 1-2 years ahead you will probably be fine. 2yrs seasoning is good for hickory and oak.
  21. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Check out the "Wood Shed" and "Gear" forums here. You'll fit in great :)
  22. RossB

    RossB Member

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    I should clarify that the 12 cord was between my father-in-law and I...he REALLY likes clearing land and cutting firewood...and then he ends up giving it away to friends for nearly nothing. I'm in it for the smell of 2 stroke, the massive brush fires in early winter, and the pursuit of precision felling.
    Sprinter likes this.
  23. RossB

    RossB Member

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    So I find myself digging the Isle Royale stove. It seemes to be well liked, I have a dealer less than a mile from my home, and it meets the wife's aesthetic requirements. I'm a little concrned about it being overkill for the space though. This picture makes it seem like you can chill out on the couch 4 feet away and everything will be great. Does this photo seem fishy to anyone?

    [​IMG]
  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    That is a little close, unless the flames come from Photoshop. ;) The IR is a seriously radiant stove, but it should work well in your space based on the description. It's clearance to combustibles on the sides are 22" with single wall pipe. If worried about it overwhelming you remember, you don't have to fill it to the gills with every reload. In milder weather just have an evening fire and let it go out.
  25. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    That's a really nice looking stove. I like the side trivets. It is on the large side for your space but you should be able to control it okay. Nice job.
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