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How Does a Top Loading Wood Stove Work?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Jeff Childers, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. Jeff Childers

    Jeff Childers Member

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    It seems that I would get a lot of smoke into the room if I opened the top of the stove to load wood. Is this not the case?
    I am interested in a new top loading stove but want some assurances that I can use it without smoking up my house. Is the top loading feature a good thing? I LOVE my current side loading capability but the stove I am considering buying ( Quadra-Fire Isle Royale) doesn't have it. So I'm trying to find out if I would like the top loading ability as much as I love the side loading in my old Dutchwest stove.
    Your thoughts or advice is appreciated.

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  2. dougand3

    dougand3 Minister of Fire

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    There's a bypass to open prior to opening of top. Smoke travels the path of least resistance up the flue. If top opened slowly - not a hint of smoke escapes. I thought it was magic at first.
    Swedishchef, Redlegs and Trilifter7 like this.
  3. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    I love mine. I wouldn't use the front door if I didn't have to empty ash out.
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  4. MishMouse

    MishMouse Minister of Fire

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    I own a Harman TL-300 also a top loader as long as a draft is established I get no smoke.
    Even when starting from scratch very little if any smoke escapes.
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Ditto. On the subject of smoke escaping, this only happens when you have exceedingly poor draft, or leave the front doors open. Simply put, the stove needs to draw air in from somewhere, to send up the flue. If you have the front doors closed when you open the top-load door, the bulk of your primary air will be drawn in thru the top-load door, preventing any smoke spillage. If you leave the front doors open wide, and open the top-load door, then they become the primary intake and you will likely get smoke spillage.
    Trilifter7 likes this.
  6. Havendalefarm

    Havendalefarm Member

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    Something I have often wondered is how hot is it if you stir the coals. We looked at a top loading stove once but the wife wouldn't hear of it as she grew up with a Monarch cook stove in her parents old farmhouse.Her mom used that thing right up until she lost her health in the 1990's.
  7. Trilifter7

    Trilifter7 Feeling the Heat

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    Joful described it well. I just bought the Isle Royale and love it! The top load feature in it works well and I get no smoke in the room even with low draft.
  8. Trilifter7

    Trilifter7 Feeling the Heat

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    I've never had a problem with heat while loading from the top with either stove. Wear a pair of leather gloves and you'll be fine.
  9. MishMouse

    MishMouse Minister of Fire

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    If you have a top loader a must get is wood stove gloves.
    As to how hot is it when you stir the coals, it would depend on how high of coal bed.
    After a 8 hour burn I mostly have just some coals left and I just stir the ash enough to get the fine ash to fall through the grate.
    Trilifter7 likes this.
  10. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

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    Jeff, I thought that I would use the top-loading feature of the Isle Royale. My previous stove was a Hearthstone that was side loading. As it turns out, I never use the top loading feature because I really like how the double front doors make it easy to gain access to the entire large firebox. Welding gloves are a cheap alternative to arm and wrist burns.
  11. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

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    +1 on welding gloves - front, top, or side load.
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  12. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I find loading thru the top door is much less "hot" than loading thru the front doors. If I have a large coal bed, it's much easier (and less searing on the face) to drop a few splits in from above, than to throw those large double front doors open wide.

    I do keep a pair of long stove gloves on the hearth next to each stove.
  13. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

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    Interesting thread - sounds like there are some advantages to the top loader for sure. With the front (bay) door, I'm messing around with a big box of fire, with a lot of glass, possibly a rake or poker or shovel in hand, and something burns me - arm jerks back - the rake / poker / shovel ends up doing some damage - or I drop a split too fast (kicks a nice little hot ember out onto the floor, or onto my lap, etc.). I don't mind a couple battle scars, but I know I lose a little bit of control over the situation - even for just a split second - from the automatic reaction to a burn. If I'm reaching into the stove the glove's on before the door opens. Now, I'm not sure if that would always be the case with a top loader, as it does seem to be a smoother deal, from the posts here.
    Trilifter7 likes this.
  14. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I'm not sure it's a real big deal, one way or the other... with one exception. When I've fit all I can fit in thru the front doors, I can open the top door and fit another three splits in from above! This is where the top-load stoves really shine. I can stuff that M.F'er to within a half inch of the lid, which will never be possible when front- or side-loading, where you're limited by the door lintel height.
  15. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

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    That's a good point. I've sometimes wished I had just a bit more clearance at the top to really load the thing up. The burn tubes aren't really happy with me when I'm trying to angle top splits in and I whack one of them. Good thing the stove is well built.
  16. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Jeff, top loaders have been around for many, many moons. I remember as a little boy we had 2 heating stoves and a cooking stove that I kept stocked up. Both heating stoves were top loaders and my only problem for the first year or so was that I was a little short. However, time took care of that one. As for how they worked, the only time smoke would come out is if someone forgot to open the damper. Today's stoves are much the same. Open the draft full and the bypass if they have one. The open the lid just a little slow at first; that is, crack it open slowly for the first couple inches. Then all is well.

    So I say if that is the stove you want, buy it! I doubt you'll have problems. As for the advice on the gloves, by all means, get some gloves that are long. Do not buy short gloves. Very quickly you'll have the habit just like we do. The first thing you do when you are at the stove is to put the gloves on. Yes, we need a prophylactic for a couple things in life.
  17. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

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    Another thought on the gloves - if you're slowly introducing your better half to the joys of wood heat, avoiding a potential burn in that process (i.e. no joy) will make you life much smoother going forward...;)
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