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switching to an EPA stove

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by DaveGunter, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. DaveGunter

    DaveGunter Member

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    Hi
    What a great forum. I’m a first time poster long time lurker looking for some stove advice. I have done extensive reading here about stove choices and am looking for some advice before I make my choice.

    My house is a typical colonial, with 2200 sqft of living space. It is a high quality modular built is 2003 with typical construction and insulation set on full poured concrete foundation. I have spent a lot of time and $ the last year or two, sealing up seams from attic to basement, and a recent energy audit confirms the house is sufficiently “tight”. The basement is unfinished and not living space. I have added insulation to the basement walls down to the frost line and rim joist using 2” Dow Tuff-R, which if I remember is about R12. The basement walls below the frost line and the floor are un-insulated. The chimney a dual flue cement block clay lined interior chase up against the gable end of the house, running from the bottom of the basement to about 3’ above the peak of the roof about 35’ total. Unfortunately the layout of the house does not allow me to locate a stove in the living space. The stove location in the basement I realize is not optimal, but it is what I am stuck with. The flue thimble is 6”. There is a typical oil fired HWBB furnace on the other flue.

    I buy green hardwood logs, buck and spilt it by hand (with a maul) myself. I have about 5 cords seasoned ready to go for this year and am currently working on next years supply. I build a “tent” over the stacked wood using small diameter scrap spruce logs as a frame for some 6mil poly sheeting. The tent sides extend away from the sides of the stack about a foot out and down so the rainwater doesn’t run down the side of the stack but still allows plenty of air to circulate under the tent.

    My heating needs are mixed, my family is basically gone during the day M-F, out of the house first thing in the morning and home for a few hours in the evening before bed. I typically just maintain the house during the day in the high 50’s to low 60’s with a boost at the end of the day and then constant living temps in the upper 60’s low 70’s on the weekends. Last winter, which was very mild, I burned about 4.5 cords in an “All Nighter Moe”, and was able to basically maintain a fairly low house temp and then boost it with the oil furnace. I was really only ever able to heat the whole house with wood when the temps were milder, 30 or above.

    I did not clean the chimney at all during the winter last year, my mistake. When I cleaned the chimney this summer I did not like the amount of creosote I pulled out, probably 10-15 gallons. There was about a 75% blockage at about 5-10’ down from the top of the chimney. So I sold the old All Nighter and now I need a stove. This stove is going to be in the basement so I really don’t care what it looks like. I want a quality basic large clean burning stove that will get me my most bang for the buck. I’m not committed to either a non-cat or a cat and would consider either.

    The local stove shop points me to a Lopi Liberty, as a quality basic clean burning stove for the size of my house, for I think $2800. I can find at least two used Liberty’s that appear from pictures to be in decent shape within two hours of me, they are asking $1200. I see a lot of people here seem to be happy with Englander NC-30, which I can get at Home Depot for $900 with a blower, I have also looked into Drolet HT2000 at Lowes for about $1500 with no blower. And I can see a US Stove 2500 model at Tractor supply for $900, that one seems to be the lowest quality. I really don’t like the idea of using a reducer so I don’t look at 8” flue stoves. I realize that these are all non-cat stoves and very different burning than any stove I have used before, but I understand the basics of burning. It seems to me that these are all “about the same” so as long as the quality of the stove is good, price ends up being the determining factor. Even if the higher priced ones burn “better” and end up using less wood, it would have to be a lot less wood to make up the price difference. Cat stoves seem to be in an entirely different price range. Is there such a thing as a “basic” cat stove and do they burn that much less wood to warrant the price difference?

    Dave

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  2. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Finish insulating that basement. It is amazing how much heat those uninsulated walls will soak up.

    Of those stoves listed, I would give the nod to the Englander as the best bang for the buck. Well built, great customer service, throws a lot of heat.

    What size is the flue? I know you said it has a 6" thimble, but what size is the liner?

    The advantage of the cat stove isn't really saving wood. It's the ability to burn at lower output, while still burning cleanly.
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Good job on getting your wood processed and ready. There really is not much in the form of a "basic" cat. There is no NC-30 comparison in the cat world.

    Sounds like you are looking for a big ol utility heat machine. I am gonna steal a quote from BrotherBart...Big ol' honking steel boxes rule. You named some of the better known basic boxes and then you can step up from there. Quad 5700, Equinox (I think is 8" though), Summit.

    Bang for your buck - in a non living basement - that is NC30 territory. Maybe even consider a wood furnace??

    Oh - and welcome to the forum.
  4. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    HWBB=hot water baseboard? Thought about suggesting a furnace, but I believe that's boiler territory. $$$

    Also realize that it's a lot easier to maintain temps than it is to swing from 50s to 70s.
  5. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    The furnaces don't necessarily have to be hooked up to duct work for the home. Most can be piped right out of the top of the furnace with short runs. Maybe even consider a run or two to the next floor up. Wouldn't be too hard or expensive to add a couple of runs if it is an open ceiling basement.
  6. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    This is true.

    I still have my furnace in the basement, unhooked from the ductwork. I fire it up when I want to do something down there, and it gets toasty in a hurry.
  7. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Random thoughts . . .

    Best bang for the buck . . . Englander. Hands down a favorite here. It's what I would go with (or one of their other lines) . . . especially if you say you're not looking for that Better Homes and Garden look -- although I would say it's certainly not the ugliest woodstove by a long shot. Good pricing, they make a good sized woodstove that should suit your needs (even in the basement) and customer service is near legendary.

    If you're concerned about having dealership support . .. while Lopi is well liked here, I see a number of folks also liking the Regency and Napoleon line ups . . . although they will be more expensive than the Englander line up I am guessing.

    Chief advantage of a cat stove are the fantastic burn times . . . especially if you're going low and slow. They do tend to be more pricey . . . Blaze Kings and Woodstocks are well known and loved . . . Buck Stoves also have cats, but it seems as though we don't hear as much about them for some reason.

    Is it worth going with a more expensive stove or do they work the same as the ones you will find in the big box stores . . . I think it really depends on the make/model. If you go with the cheap, EPA-exempt stove you'll pay less oftentimes, but will see no real gain in the amount of wood used or emissions. However, if you compare a decent, but inexpensive EPA steel stove against an EPA ornate cast iron stove or soapstone or a fancier dealer steel stove with more bells and whistles I think you're buying only two things: the company's reputation for reliability/warranty after the sale and oftentimes a fancier looking stove . . . which is not necessarily a bad thing for many folks who have a stove right in middle of their living room.

    It's too bad you don't have any space for a stove on the main floor where you'll spend most of your time. I mean to say, even with the basement fully insulated, setting up a woodstove by itself deprives you of some nice side benefits . . . the view of the fire, smell of the simmering potpourri and the sound of a crackling fire . . . heck, for me the woodstove is often better entertainment than what is on TV . . . plus there is the ability to easier monitor the fire in case of a problem or in case I need to reload it when it is in the main area . . . and of course there is the direct, radiational heat. That said . . . I understand your dilemna -- not everyone has the space or wants the stove in their main living area.

    Creosote . . . holy cow . . . going with an EPA woodstove will not be an end-all, cure-all for creosote problems . . . although it can help since it is near impossible to suffocate the fire so that it smolders like a Moe, Papa Bear, Ashley, etc. That said if you burn unseasoned wood, turn down the air too much, too soon or don't burn at the proper temps (i.e. not too hot, not too cold) you can still produce a fair amount of creosote in your chimney. EPA stoves are not a replacement for regular inspections and cleanings when needed.

    Final thought . . . if going the budget route I would seriously take a look at the Englander . . . or keep perusing Uncle Henry and Craigslist to see if you cannot find a good deal on a used stove.
  8. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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  9. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I tend to think that long burn times are a key feature of any wood stove, and this is particularly true for you with your family being away most of the day. I think a big cat stove like a Blaze King would be ideal for you, although I understand your 6 inch flue and desire for a less expensive stove don't match well with a Blaze King. I think woodstock makes big cat stoves too. i have no experience with either.

    When you are deciding if the cost of a more expensive stove is worth the money, I wouldn't focus on reduced wood use as the main factor. I think the main factor is whether a more expensive stove would reduce your oil use by keeping the house warmer or by providing heat for a longer part of the day. I don't know whether a large cat stove would be worth the extra money, but in your situation a long burn would be very beneficial in helping you heat more with wood and less with oil.
    Huntindog1 likes this.
  10. Dairyman

    Dairyman Feeling the Heat

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  11. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    If everything checks out, that's a very good price.
  12. DaveGunter

    DaveGunter Member

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    Finishing the insulation in basement is definitely on the the to do list.

    The inside dimensions of the flue liner is 7"x7". Does that mean I can't change the thimble to an 8"?

    As to your other suggestion of a boiler...I'd love to but it is just not in the budget. I can't do it without taking on more debt. The first child starts in college next year...I will need every ounce of cash flow and every inch of credit line I can muster for the next 10 years of so. A boiler, whether it be wood or pellet is definitely on my radar.

    Also I'm hoping I'll be pleasantly surprised by a more efficient stoves output and so in the dead of the winter when I am burning 24/7 the temperature swings won't be as large.
    milleo likes this.
  13. DaveGunter

    DaveGunter Member

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    Good point, burning as little oil as possible is clearly the best way to save heating $. So the question is as you say above, where is the point of diminishing returns, does the added expense of a cat stove help me burn less oil? I did see the Blaze King stoves and there is a dealer fairly local to me who carries them. You never find those stoves used. I was worried that the Princess would not be big enough and the King uses an 8" flue. My clay liner is 7" square on the inside. Maybe I should not be so worried about using a reducer, or maybe I can put in a bigger thimble? I also saw the Woodstocks, they certainly sound like a great company, I'm hoping to make their pig roast later this fall and check out what their newest creation is. I'd have a hard time burying one of their $3K stoves in the basement.
  14. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    Basement install with a 6" flue limiting you I'd go with a non cat, the NC-30 would be at the top of my list. A cat stove is great for low burns but being in the basement and wanting to heat the upper level will limit how much burning you're doing on low.
  15. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I forgot to mention . . . welcome to Hearth.com DaveGunter. Also, where is "coastal Maine"?
  16. DaveGunter

    DaveGunter Member

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    HA-HA, yeah it's a big coast, Bass Harbor.

    Thanks for your random thoughts...that is what I wanted to know about more $ gets you more bells and whistles/warranty/reputation.

    I think my creosote issue with the All Nighter was due to overall emissions more so than not burning correctly. Most of the creosote that was up in the chimney was right where the chimney passes through the cold attic about 20' from the stove. I am hoping that a cleaner burning stove will get me more heat with a cleaner chimney, so I burn less oil, and at $900 for new NC30 and $4/G for oil it is almost a no-brainer, especially after I just SOLD the All Nighter that was GIVEN to me. I kind of don't mind burning more wood, I like cutting and splitting by hand, gives you a huge sense of accomplishment, and at $150 a cord it is cheaper than a gym membership. I've been watching Uncle Henry's and Craigslist for some time, I can't believe what people think they can get for a used stove, it's just time to make the decision and be ready for the winter, it could be here next week.
  17. DaveGunter

    DaveGunter Member

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    I forgot to ask. Since this stove will be in the concrete basement with just the walls insulated, do you think there would be any benefit to raising the stove off the floor maybe a foot or two, maybe with some concrete block, any reasons why that's a bad idea?
  18. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Not needed, but will gain you a little altitude. Maybe it will make it easier to load???
  19. theonlyzarathu

    theonlyzarathu Member

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    Dave, I sent you a private conversation message since I also live on MDI.
  20. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I think raising it up will not really buy you anything . . . other than you won't have to bend over as far to load the stove.

    Bass Harbor . . . that's where I got my Manx/Maine coon mix -- Harry S Truman.
  21. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    I have mine sitting on the concrete floor in my basement. I thought about raising it a bit so I would not have to bend as far to load, but then realized the bending down outweighed the effort to fight gravity getting the stove up onto blocks. Perhaps someday I will put together a nice hearth area, but then again, it's in the basement!

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