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Question about stoves with cats and electrical controls, and power outages

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by OldLumberKid, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. OldLumberKid

    OldLumberKid Feeling the Heat

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    Here goes with what I'm sure it a dumb question about stoves with cats and electrical controls ... but I'm trying to think ahead about my eventual choices, in an area that has seen an increasingly large number and duration of power outages.

    I notice an abundance of stoves capable of catalytic burn, with electrical controls, some even with thermostats — Do all stoves with Cats or or other electrical features require electricity to operate, period? (I can't imagine this being the case, but you never know I guess unless you ask)

    And if so, what happens/what do you do for plan B, in power outage ?

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  2. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Other than fans to move air, I don't know of any that require electricity to operate. Unless you're talking about boilers, or pellet stoves.
  3. OldLumberKid

    OldLumberKid Feeling the Heat

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    I should have been more clear (blame it on the fever) but I'm thinking in terms of fireplace inserts with cats.
    That would include fans, cats, blowers, and any parts thermostatically controlled, I guess.

    Are owners of these stoves S.O.L without power, or can they just revert to operating like a regular insert?
  4. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Cat or not won't have anything to do with it. Stoves with thermostats, like Blaze King and some VCs, are simple bimetallic coils. Purely mechanical, no electricity required.

    Some inserts are better at convecting heat without a blower. Inserts that stick out farther are also better at radiating heat than a flush mounted insert. Not SOL without power, but maybe not the level of heat you would be used to.
    OldLumberKid likes this.
  5. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    I think most inserts really need fans to get the heat out into the room.
  6. OldLumberKid

    OldLumberKid Feeling the Heat

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    With rising heat able to cause a turbine to rotate, I wonder, if any of these self-power the fan, or is electrical dependence the reality here? Or, does it just become a less efficient insert? Or even worse useless? If so, how do you users with fans / blowers handle power outages?
  7. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    For sure I'm glad we don't need electric for our stove. I also would guess that running a turbine would not work as it would take too much heat to make it work enough to get any benefit. So, those who need the fans also might need a generator for those times with no power.
  8. OldLumberKid

    OldLumberKid Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm assuming a generator-less environment, after seeing gasoline become almost unavailable/barely replenishable at all, during the last big one.
  9. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    The turbine can produce no more power than it is taking from that airstream... Conservation of energy... So if you put a turbine in you rising air column powering a fan in the same flow the net defect is zero, actually worse - due to friction losses it would effectively be a restriction.

    The only generator alternative to run a blower is an inverter and deep cycle battery. But you are going to need big batteries to get any serious run time... We are talking golf cart battery size just for a day or so.

    If you are concerned about heating in a power outage consider a hearth mount freestanding stove.
    OldLumberKid likes this.
  10. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

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    My insert is flush mount. During the 11 day Sandy power outage I ran the insert without its fan. I did remove the surround. With a block-off plate just above the unit I got a reasonable amount of heat out of the insert. Some hot air moved through the insert's ducts by natural convection and a lot of heat spilled out of the fireplace. My worst problem was not being able to move the heat out of the room with the insert. I usually have a small table fan running to help with circulation around the house. The stove room was warmer than usual and the rest of the house cooler but all areas were reasonably comfortable.

    A free standing stove will let more heat into the room but you will still have the problem of circulating it around the house.

    KaptJaq
    OldLumberKid likes this.
  11. OldLumberKid

    OldLumberKid Feeling the Heat

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    Very interesting. That's exactly the kind of scenario I'm curious about. Didn't realize the surround/trim kit was purely cosmetic and could be removed if desired — I had assumed it was a safety/necessity, or some such thing, as well as providing cosmetic appeal.


    Thanks Jh. Neither are an option, but at least I have a better idea of the dealio.
  12. Lanningjw

    Lanningjw Feeling the Heat

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    I run my BK insert all the time w/o the fan. My insert extends 13 inches out onto the hearth. Seems to do quiet well creating heat with out the fan running. I do run the fan at reloads to keep the cat temp lower. If this really works is another story. I also have a group 27 in the basement that I can use to run the fan thru an inverter. Or hook up the gen and that runs thru a transfer switch at the box.
  13. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

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    Depends on the insert but most I have seen the surround is cosmetic. Mine slips on or off over four slide tabs on the top & side. Some require tools to remove and/or have wires for the fan switch that need to be disconnected.

    KaptJaq
  14. slindo

    slindo Member

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    There is a very cost effective but not often used alternative to a generator for running just a few items with modest electrical needs like circulators; use an inverter running off your car. These are available for <$100 up to 1000 watts. By using your car to provide the watts you put a few more hours on the engine, but avoid all sorts of other problems, like transporting and storing gas and maintaining a generator. A 1000 watt inverter would power a TV, lightbulb or two (expecially if they are CFs), insert circulator fan, TV and maybe even refrigerator.
    OldLumberKid likes this.
  15. brian89gp

    brian89gp Feeling the Heat

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    Those little/cheap 2-stroke generators from Harbor Freight would probably run a insert blower without too much problem.
  16. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Are you sure freestanding is not an option? You might be surprised what can be made to work... my Encore is hearth mounted in a 180 year old fireplace that only has a 25 in wide hearth extension and a 27in high firebox opening. The rear exhaust from the stove clears the low heart and the metal liner was just run straight up the existing 180 year old chimney without a problem. The short hearth extension was solved by using an insulated hearth pad to protect the floor in front of the stove that we store away for the summer. And a simple metal heat shield to protect the mantle shelf solved all the clearance issues.
  17. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    The problem with this is that a car starting battery is not meant to deep discharge and you can kill it quick used that way. (ever notice that once you have one or two dead batteries then suddenly it seems to happen very easy?). If you try to run like that you have to start and run the car often, which burns a LOT of gas to make a little electricity.

    I'll give you an example. Say your blower draws 50 watts. A typical DC to AC inverter is about 85% efficient so that means you will draw 60 watts from the battery. 60 watts at 12 volts is 5 amps. To run for 24 hours you would need a capacity of 5x24 = 120 amp hours. Deep discharge lead acid batteries are meant to run no more than 50% discharge in regular usage.... In a pinch you can go to 80% but that cuts there lifetime in half. So you need about 250 amp hours of battery capacity for just one day of runtime.

    This is what a 12v 250 amp hour battery looks like :eek:

    Better option to run things like that on the cheap cheap cheap is the harbor frieght 2 stroke genny mentioned above. Lots of happy owners of those on here.
  18. Lanningjw

    Lanningjw Feeling the Heat

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    It was 5 degrees last night in the Minneapolis area and 70 plus degree in my house with out using the fan on the insert.....
    OldLumberKid likes this.
  19. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    If you lose power, an insert without a blower will generate more than enough heat to keep everyone in your house alive and comfortable in one room at least. At worst you may have to sleep downstairs in the same room together. We're talking emergency situations, that's hardly a big deal.

    Cheap inverters can be damaging to AC motors, those insert blowers are expensive to replace, so my solution was to use a 12V DC "muffin" fan. If I expect the power to be out for more than a few hours, I unbolt the blower assembly and place the muffin fan in front of the air inlet. I now keep several 6V "Lantern" batteries around, and I haven't yet seen how long they will last. When I first did this, it was with no pre-planning, I used the fan from an old computer case, a baby food can, foil tape and a 9V PP3 battery. One tiny battery lasted all night.

    I keep planning to make something more robust, but the current setup is simple and cheap.

    TE
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  20. Machria

    Machria Minister of Fire

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    GREAT IDEA! A stack powered Turbo fan!

    Somebody should make one, very easy to do. Just put a 5 /12" diameter turbo blade in the stack with the shaft exiting out the back of the stack just above the stove with a fan blade just behind the stove blowing forward.

    BRILLIANT IDEA! I'm suprised nobody has done it already?
  21. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

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    I have a big Genny but if i really needed to my insert will heat the room its in to a bearable temp just not the home, like with the fan on it. It protrudes into the room a foot or so?? But yea if i really was worried about it i would buy the tiny $90 2-stroke HF generator. There 800Watts. Easily will run the blower and some lights and maybe small TV. I would then keep 10 gallons on hand and enough 2storke oil if you dont have it (i always do, in a pinch i could use boat 2stoke although i know you want air cooled oil) to mix that much fuel up. I think it only has a gallon or less capacity so you would get a good bit of time out of that much fuel, get 15 if you really want. Then once a year pour that fuel into your car and then go get new fresh fuel and add stabilizer to it and keep it for the next year.

    I personally dont keep as much fuel onhand in cans as i should but my reasoning for not doing it is that i have 4 vehicles at my house and 2 boats. There is usually close to 30+ gallons availible amoung all these things. So if i needed to i would just drain the tanks on these as needed to get me through. And i am my own mechanic so i can handle draining the tanks if need be. I think the K10 has 12 gallons now, the bass boat has maybe 10ish the small boat has 6+, my ranger has half a tank or more, 9+ gallons, and just filled the saturn up at 12, and what is in the wifes car as of today?? My point if "sandy" or the "next winter storm" hit tonight this would be the fuel on hand right now. Plus there is a bit of saw gas and the few gallons in the 4wheeler.
    OldLumberKid likes this.
  22. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    One of the best parts of burning wood for heat is independence from the utility grid. No electric needed for cats, stats, and blowers with a freestander. I always hated listening to the blower on my first stove which was an insert, good riddance. I heat the whole house with a freestanding stove and no blowers, seriously, no electricity is needed.
    OldLumberKid likes this.
  23. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    My computer has a louder fan than the Lopi blower on low speed. Even the fan on my old slammer was almost silent on low once I disassembled and cleaned the whole thing.
    I haven't yet seen how well the Lopi works without power in a real chilly situation, keeping warm during/after Sandy wasn't much of a challenge. I have no doubt that it'll keep my ground floor toasty even without any fan. My muffin fan setup was dirt cheap and even if not especially reliable, I have enough old DC motors and batteries around the house to keep going for several days and not depend on the reliability of anything from HF.

    TE
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  24. clemsonfor

    clemsonfor Minister of Fire

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    What is a "muffin fan"?
  25. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

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    Same question - I don't even have an insert but I love the whole home brewed gadgets and ingenuity thing going on here. In addition to the description already posted, a picture would be great...

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