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Please help me size my stove

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Sprinter, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    So, we just moved to a 5-acre place in Western Washington (East of Chehalis for you other Washington guys). We're planning for a wood stove and frankly, I'm still confused about size and cat/non-cat, etc for our specific situation. I'm asking you folks to help me decide which way to go here. Here's what we have:

    Typical Washington climate (think Seattle but a bit colder). Winter temps in the 30's to low 40's but can go into the teens, but not for long. Very often we'll need some heating well into spring with temps in the 40's but little sun to help heat the house. This spring was virtually non existent.

    Our house is a well insulated recent model manufactured home about 1750 sf, quite open with three bedrooms off the the main space (no hallways). The stove will be centrally located.

    We are retired and home most of the time and will want to keep a pretty even temp all day, but down at night for around 6 hours. I don't mind tending the stove some.

    The primary heat source is a central forced air electric furnace and I would like the stove to become more primary and the furnace supplemental, but it is an effective furnace. The stove is also for the aesthetics.

    I do want to avoid having large swings in temperature and getting baked out of the house as some people sometimes do. That is not only a nuisance, but seems an inefficient use of an efficient stove. One thing I've been concerned about is getting a stove too large. My impression is that a stove too large will be more difficult to keep low during moderate outdoor temps. However, I've also seen it said here that you just need to keep less fuel in at those times, but then you need to stoke it more often (more fiddling)?

    The other issue is cat/non-cat and I have read the recent thread here on that subject. I suppose a cat may be a good choice in this situation, but I guess I don't mind tending a non-cat stove to regulate the temperature and really don't mind saving those cat bucks.

    Cost is a factor. Regarding models, I'm leaning toward either a Drolet or Englander. The question of size enters here. In the Englander, it would be between the 30 and 13. Would the 13 be too small and would the 30 be too large? I have space for the 30, but I just wonder if it would be too large for me. Mostly, can I regulate the temperature well with the Englander 30 when the need for heat is low without damping it down too much? I guess that's my big question. Or, what other models might be appropriate including from Drolet? I could pay more, but only if I could justify the extra cost somehow. I'm open to other ideas.

    I've already got 5 cords of wood drying out for this winter and next. Alder and some fir. All I can get around here. Alder burns up pretty quickly, but that's what's available around here delivered. Most of the fir here goes to the lumber mills, I guess.

    My last wood stove was an Earth Stove in the 80's which shows you how out of the loop I am at this time, so thanks for the help.

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  2. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forums, Sprinter. Good on ya for having your wood supply drying now.

    I'm not sure which of the Englanders would be better in your situation (Id lean towards the 30, myself), but I can tell you that the 13 is going to give you 4-5 hour burn times with well seasoned fire wood. The box just isn't big enough to handle a longer burn time. That burn time, how ever, will give you enough coals to fire up again with out having to restart another fire from scratch.It is an excellent heater.

    Hope this helps !
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like you want a convective stove, preferably one with a lot of mass. If you can find used, look for a Hearthstone Heritage. A used Lopi Endeavor would also be a good fit. For new, in the Drolet line, check out the Escape 1800 or perhaps a Woodstock Keystone. I would also look at the Pacific Energy Super 27. It costs a bit more, but has a solid design, made for the northwest and an exceptionally long burn time.

    watch craigslist if you are trying to save some bucks. Here is a nice one:

    http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/hsh/3113027306.html
  4. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Is it possible to oversize a stove, either cat or non-cat? Is is okay to just keep a smaller fire going in a large stove, or does that affect efficiency or emissions?
  5. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yes it is possible to over size a stove. Small hot fires in a big stove is a great thing but you still end up with a big hot stove. Just for shorter periods.
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Efficiency starts to go down with too large a stove in milder weather. Getting it right is a balance. It's often more efficient to aim for a stove the covers 90% of your needs and let the central heating help carry the rest. That goes for the 50F outside temps and supplementing the stove for those occasional 10F times. In WA state we can be in perpetual cool weather for months. With a smaller stove you will be able to burn efficiently most of the time, but with a large stove in mild weather you may be burning a lot of small hot fires, that really don't get the stove's firebox up to a high enough temp to burn cleanly. In our climate a good mini-split heat pump can cover that weather much better.
  7. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Okay, thanks. That's what I needed to know. The other thing for us is that the stove is going to be as much for ambiance and pleasure as much as utility, so I'm thinking it may be smarter to err on the small side if I'm not sure. I can supplement with PUD when necessary. What specs should I be looking at in terms of cu ft or whatever?

    Do you think that the problems that some people have with large temperature swings on the non-cat stoves is overstated or maybe just a matter of properly tending? I don't mind working with the stove throughout the day if I can keep it pretty even.
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The house temp is up to the person running the stove. It takes time to learn to run the stove correctly. With a 2 cu ft stove you should be off to a good start in our climate. Run the stove with small hot fires when the temps are in the 40's and let it burn out if the house is warm. Open a window if you overshoot and get it too hot.
  9. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Cat - stone - cast (or convective), in that order of effectiveness for evening out the temps. I will double everything stated above. If you are looking for budget stoves, consider the used market. It will allow a much wider range of stoves to be considered. Plan for the pipe. That stuff is fairly pricey all by itself.

    My first reaction would be a 2.0 cuft cat or stone stove, but the PE super 27 would also be on my short list.
  10. Armoured

    Armoured New Member

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    Haven't used a cat stove, but I've a larger insert and I don't find that it's really possible to control the temperature all that well - the insert just has it's 'sweet spot' where it works well, and that's pretty hot. Of course, it can be controlled some, but most effective is to let it die out by feeding it less - which does have temperature swings. So in moderate temperatures I'll fire it once or twice a day and let the mass of the fireplace do its thing - but there's still noticeable swings in temperature. That's okay, I let the electric heat (expensive in my case) pull some of the weight.

    It works for me because I'm in a much colder climate and use the fairly big insert to get the house up to temp from empty and cold on weekends. But there are times of year when it would be nice to have a 'low' setting or a smaller stove. Next time...

    (Of course, not saying this is true for all stoves/inserts - just one datapoint)
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    We got wider temp swings with the Castine than with the larger Alderlea. In part that's because the Castine is a radiant stove. As it gets hot it puts out a lot of direct heat, raising the temp of all that surrounds it. The Alderlea's cast iron jacket soaks up the heat so it's a bit slower to warm the room up. But it is exceptionally even heating and decidedly less radiant. You can sit a few feet away from the stove sides and just feel a gentle warmth. It also releases the heat slowly as the fire dies down. With the Castine I would come down in the morning and the living room temps were down about 8 degrees when it was say 30F outside. With the T5 it will only drop about 4 degrees. Part of that is the longer burn time, but it is also partly due to the mass of the stove. Mass is good.
  12. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Fireview black.jpg Fireview blue.jpg STOVEBURN 1600X12002.JPG

    Perhaps not in the price range you have quoted but the Woodstock Fireview or Keystone would really suit what you have quoted that you want. As for cat vs. non-cat, in the end they will both end up costing the same. As for upkeep, it is child's play as it takes me less than 5 minutes per winter to clean the catalyst. The benefits we received from this stove are that it uses only half the wood we used to burn and keeps us warmer. It burns cleaner. Whereas we used to clean our chimney 4-6 times per winter we have cleaned our chimney one time since getting the Fireview 5 years ago. As for looks, you can get the stove in many color combinations. It will cost more than the Englander but in our book, you can't get a more beautiful stove. During the non-heating season it just looks like a fine piece of furniture.
  13. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Okay, okay. I get the idea. You get what you pay for. What I tell everybody all the time, but do I listen to myself? Give me a little time and maybe I'll come around. It's just really hard to take such a leap for a smallish stove used largely for ambiance. But, I gotta say, those enameled stoves sure are purty. I haven't even shown any of those to the wife yet, that might take the choice away from me altogether...

    Another thing that the wife has been dieing to do is some light cooking, or at least water heating on the thing. Any of these stoves especially good at that? I imagine the heavier, convective stoves wouldn't really get hot enough for that, but I don't know. She's a romantic. Or, to go a step further, is there any such thing as a small EPA cooking stove?

    Thanks for all the comments. I love it.
  14. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Sprinter, those stoves pictured above are not enameled; they are soapstone. Look them up at www.woodstove.com


    btw, Woodstock is second to none in customer serviced. The sell direct but no worries. You can even use the stove for 6 months and if not happy, return for a full refund.
  15. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, I was thinking of another model. PE Anderlea, I think? that was enamel. I think my wife would especially like the enamel look. I know the Woodstock's are well regarded here, and I'll look at them more closely as well. Are you serious? They actually would take back a 6-month old stove just because? Is that in store credit, or full refund, or what?
  16. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Yes Sprinter, I was very serious. That is how confident they are about their stoves. This is how they got such a good reputation. I balked at first because we had heard some bad mouth talk about cat stoves. Then we visited a family who owned a Fireview and wow! The stories he told us really made us take notice. Long story short, we bought and have never been sorry except for the fact we were sorry we did not get the stove sooner. Oh, on the 6 hour burn, you could stretch it out to 10-12 hours with a Fireview. Also, if you've ever heard of "soft heat" this you will get. That means there will never be that harsh feeling of a heat you get from a steel stove or even a cast stove. I laughed at this concept but laugh no more. There really is a difference.

    You can even call them toll free at 800-866-4344. You'll most likely talk to Ron, Mike, Jamie or Lorin. There are all good people but there are so many there who are very knowledgeable. Fortunately we got to visit the shop and were amazed as were many others. They have an Open House every fall and a bunch of us are planning on attended again this coming fall. They treat you really well there too.
  17. pyronut

    pyronut Member

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    The following link details the Woodstock guarentee:
    http://www.woodstove.com/our-guarantee
  18. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Do you think that a smaller stove, like this PE Vista would work for me in this climate? http://www.pacificenergy.net/pacificenergy/vista_classic.php It doesn't show box size, just up to 1500 sf, and 56,000 btu. I really like the looks of this line, but it doesn't tell much about the construction, mass, etc., or cost either. Probably steel? Looks like a smaller version of the Super 27 that some of you mentioned. How much does this line cost, anyway? I don't know how much the dealer would tell me on the phone.
  19. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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  20. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Or this one: http://www.woodstove.com/keystone It says up to only 1300 sf, but looks like nearly 2 cf box. Looks nice, price in New England is decent right now, but shipping may be high. Some real Woodstock fans here.

    Am I aiming a bit too small with these selections? This is seems like a really efficient house so far.
  21. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Tom Oyen in Bellingham sells PE stoves online and is a first rate dealer. That is where my stove came from. I would not go smaller than the mid-sized PE. If you like the classic look, that would be the 2 cu ft PE Spectrum. www.chimneysweeponline.com

    In Woodstock stoves a Keystone or a Fireview should work for you.
  22. weatherguy

    weatherguy Minister of Fire

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    If you can afford it Id spend the money on one of the better stoves Dennis and BG are recommending, the stove will pay for itself and then some so you'll end up saving in the long run.
  23. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    I'm starting to like the looks of the PE Alderlea line. Is the T4 too small or would T5 be more appropriate, keeping in mind frequent small fires. The T4 says max 54,000 BTU/hr which is about the same as my electric furnace (is this a fair comparison?) I think my wife would really like that cook top feature.

    Just how should a buyer use those BTU figures, anyway?
  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I think the T4 would be a bit too small for when it gets in the low 20's or below, but it would work for a lot of our normal winter temps of 30-40::F. Remember that you will rarely be running the stove at maximum output. It's nice to have reserve capacity, especially if the power goes out for an extended period.

    The T5 would be perfect. I didn't suggest that at first because it costs more. But I think you'd love it. The larger firebox makes for easier loading. The soft heat from the cast iron jacket is really nice. And after the fire has died down it will continue to release a gentle warmth. It's a lot like a soapstone stove in that regard.
  25. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for your help. I think that a high mass stove would be very nice in this house. I could see the lighter stoves being somewhat harsh when they're running hot in comparison. If you had to choose again, and keeping my place in mind, would you go for a cat or high mass non-cat? I can deal with the cat issues fine. I think I know the answer to that, though.

    We need to get out to a dealer or two around here and see some in person now. How much do you think I need to budget for all the rest - installation, double pipe, pad, outside air, etc? How do I chose an installer?

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