1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Vermont Castings Vigilant Smoke

Post in 'Vermont Castings & CDW Dutchwest older Models' started by aaron1, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. aaron1

    aaron1 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Messages:
    140
    Loc:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Hi,

    I started burning my early 80's VC Vigilant this year. I have been trying to get a surface temperature of 550-700F and then switch to horizontal mode. I find that it always has some smoke coming out of my chimney when I am in horizontal mode. Vertical mode is usually no smoke after a good fire gets going. I have around 30' exterior chimney with an uninsulated SS 6" liner. I have good draft right from get-go.

    It seems that if I am getting no smoke in vertical mode and smoke in horizontal mode, that something is happening in the stove to create the smoke when I switch over. Are the gases just cooling off too much when I switch over? Is it ok to have some smoke in horizontal mode? I plan to check the chimney for creosote after 1 month of burning to see how bad it is.

    Or, maybe it's just some steam coming out? It's not really heavy and dissipates within 5 feet of the chimney top.

    I'm wondering if it might be better to just buy a decent used EPA stove with the secondary burner holes in the top so I don't have to emit so much and burn so much wood.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2010
    Messages:
    405
    Loc:
    No. NH
    Don't worry man, you've got a great stove. Smoke comes out of chimneys. That's just what happens when you burn wood, even in newer stoves. Keep your temp.s where they should be and you needn't wait a month to check for creosote build up. Consider a stack thermometer in addition to the stovetop one. More information is better!

    Keep us posted.
  3. aaron1

    aaron1 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Messages:
    140
    Loc:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Thanks Defiant3. Last night, I finally understood what the secondary burn really sounds/looks/feels like. I kept trying to close the damper and kept getting a lot of smoke, then, I cranked the stove up to 700F griddle temp on the back right corner, loaded in some wood and let it get charred up a bit, then threw the damper. It was really sucking air and the back of the stove started hearing in a lot. Also, if I cracked the griddle, i could see flames licking around the bottom right hole, going into the secondary chamber. I think it has been a mistake building the fire on the back left of the stove. I need to build it in the back right, without blocking the hole of course. Then, it heats up more and provides a coal/flame source to get into the secondary chamber. Once I did that, I had very little smoke to none. I don't know yet whether I need to start the secondary burn with griddle temps at 700F or if it will work at lower temps. I think it is more a function of having a lot of hot coals and enough wood to get a good rush of flame around the hole in the back.

    Thanks
  4. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    I ran a Vigilant for four years. Nothing wrong with what you have going on. You're doing well.
    That depends. If it is just due to the smoke, well, as long as you stay on top of the chimney cleaning, you should be fine. But, if you decide to go with a modern EPA stove, keep in mind you should look at 3 cu ft firebox stoves in order to match the heating capacity of the Vigilant. The firebox of the Vigilant is about 2.8 cu ft. Just keep that in mind if you end up shopping for another stove.

    The big difference between the Vigilant and a modern EPA stove of equal output is that burn times will be nearly double what you have now. The Vigilant is good for about 5-6 hours of heat unless you smolder it and smoke the hell out of the chimney.

    With a modern stove of equal output you are looking at 9-12 hours of heat depending upon your needs. You will also go through less wood.
  5. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    I usually switched to horizontal burn when the griddle passed 600 degrees. If your wood is dry, it usually did well and would maintain or increase temps once the switch was made.
  6. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    I have a Vigilant and love it. I don't expect to ever want to replace it. I can have a 700 to 750 degree griddle in about 15 minutes, whereupon I switch to horizontal. When I throw the damper for a horizontal burn I get a roar through the back side exit and typically the griddle gets even hotter for a while.

    Aaron, when you switch to horizontal are you still giving it a lot of air? You are familiar with the thermostat and flap at the back of the stove, aren't you?
    Keep that flap open for a while to make sure the wood keeps burning well after the switch. In horizontal burn we're not really looking for a roaring flame anymore but with enough air, the stove will stay good and hot though should settle down to 450 to 500. At bed time, I totally fill the box through the griddle top. (be sure to switch back to vertical before opening either door!) Once I refill, I open the right front door about an inch to get a super draft. Soon I have a roaring fire again, just enough to char the new wood. Then I close the front door, switch back to horizontal burn, and adjust the thermostat flap to be just barely closed. I also usually close the little tear drop flap on the lower left wall of the stove.

    With a final reload at bedtime (around 10:30) I'll wake up about 7:30 or 8:00 to a 350-450 degree griddle top and some pretty good hot coals. Enough to get another fire going if I want it.

    Good dry wood and air. That's all you need. Don't worry about smoke. If you have a good fire, smoke will be minimal.
    Do you have a Vigilant owner's manual? If not, let me know and I'll email you one.

    Cheers!

    Ken
  7. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    Wow, my Vigilant was in very good shape when I ran it, but I never got those types of burn times with that stove.
  8. rawlins02

    rawlins02 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2012
    Messages:
    67
    Loc:
    Western Massachusetts
    I must reload my Vigilant about every 4 hours. In 6-7 hours max she'd be cold.
  9. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    Hmmm. What kind of wood are you burning?

    Do you totally pack the box at bedtime?
    Do you add a few REALLY BIG rounds or splits? (Often refered to as "all nighters?")
    Do you set the stove on horizontal burn?
    Do you close down the primary and secondary air intakes?
    Are all your seals and gaskets in good shape? ( no air leaks?)

    If the answer to all of these is Yes, then I don't know what to tell you.
    But you should get much better than four hours out of a fully loaded, air tight and properly set stove.
  10. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    For me, the stove gave me 5-6 hours of heat. If it gave me more, it meant I choked it down and had smoke pouring out the chimney. For overnight burns it was 50/50 whether or not I would have enough coals for a relight. When I ran the Vig I would regularly sleep within the burn cycle of the stove. Meaning I would sleep for about six to seven hours a night during the winter.
  11. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    7,607
    Loc:
    Doylestown, PA
    5-6 hours was all I would get. It heated well, but it was not efficient.
  12. rawlins02

    rawlins02 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2012
    Messages:
    67
    Loc:
    Western Massachusetts
    Burning maple and oak. Like others, I also get about 5-6 hours of heat in horizontal mode, on a mostly full box, if I limit air intake. I would not want to restrict any further, else I get a cool, smoky fire. Agree that the stove is not very efficient.
  13. eucbuster

    eucbuster New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2012
    Messages:
    2
    Eucalyptus (down under wood) has been our fuel of choice for years....it's dense like OAK....whenever a neighbor cuts one down we offer to haul it away "gratis"
    "EUC" sure beats that soft coniferous wood...burns hot...less "tar" buildup in the pipe.

    Keeping the (5) air holes cleared (rear bottom of firebox) from ashes is very important on our Vigilant.
  14. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    Roger that! Good dry wood and the proper air and it IS a very efficient stove, considering the technology of the day. It does a nice job of keeping our 4000 Sq foot house (cathedral ceiling) quite comfortable. About eight hours or so after the last fill up the night before I'll still have a stove top of 300-400 or so degrees and a room temp around 73 or so, with an outside temp in the low 30's.

    And I'm talking about nights that I don't throw a few more splits in during a 3:00AM bathroom run.
  15. aaron1

    aaron1 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Messages:
    140
    Loc:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Aaron, when you switch to horizontal are you still giving it a lot of air? You are familiar with the thermostat and flap at the back of the stove, aren't you?
    Keep that flap open for a while to make sure the wood keeps burning well after the switch. In horizontal burn we're not really looking for a roaring flame anymore but with enough air, the stove will stay good and hot though should settle down to 450 to 500.


    Hi Ken, thanks for the reply. I usually try to keep the primary cranked all the way open when i switch. I load it up with wood in vertical mode, crank open the primary to full and let it get up to 600-700F, depending on how long the stove has been in use and how evenly hot it is ( i let it get hotter if it's only been on for an hour or less and keep it cooler if it's been burning for 2-4 hours.) then, I throw the damper and just let it coast at 650 down to maybe 400 or so. I've learned a lot more about it in the last month. I can hear when the secondary really kicks off and when it stays going. When this happens, I notice there is no smoke coming from the chimney, or just a tiny amount. If I switch it too early or don't hear a good whooshing sound when I switch, I usually have more smoke coming out.

    the primary usually closes down so that it is barely open to maybe 1/2" open when it heats up. I keep the secondary air hole open fully. If it gets too hot, i turn down the primary a touch and it might just close on its own for awhile until the stove cools down. i then just let it go, as i said. i think if i had it good and hot and filled it all up the best i could, i might be able to get 5-6 hours of 400+ F temps on the griddle. i have a lot of short pieces of wood, as the manual said it only takes 18" logs, so i bought a bunch of short wood. he really gave me some short stuff, as a lot of it is 12" or some a little less! but, i also get some 16" or so pieces in there. i'm not too particular about filling it up all the way, as i don't burn it overnight. i just burn it in the evenings for a cozy living room while we read or whatever. it does seem like i am continuously dumping in a bunch of wood throughout the evening. A friend of mine just put in a Jotul F 3 CB into his place, and he just puts in a couple of medium size logs and can let it go for 2 hours easy. i have to put in 4-5 medium size logs to make it 2 hours. by then, it has gone down to coals and is cooling down to under 400F. By nature, I'm a very frugal person, so every time I burn it now I am wondering how much heat/wood I am wasting and how much more pollution I am creating compared with just getting a newer stove. I like using this stove for awhile though, to see what I like and don't, how much size I need, etc. before getting a newer one. I have been starting to think about what I would get, and I think a Jotul F500 Oslo would be a good replacement. I want to wait and see how many BTUs I need when it finally starts to get cold here in the hudson valley (NY) this year. We still haven't had any snow, and it rarely gets into the 20's in the dead of the night even. Global Climate Change is really putting a damper on my burning experiences!

    One thing I'm surprised at is how hot I can burn the Vigilant and not seem to overheat our house. I guess we both like it hot. I usually get the living room up to 85F or so, and the rest of the house slowly heats up to a comfortable temperature, that's if I keep the griddle on the stove around 600F or so. I have a fairly drafty old house, with no insulation and old windows, so I need to work on that too (put it onto the repair list!)
  16. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    The inside of the box measure right at 22 inches, I believe. I cut to 20 inches and it works very well. I had one tall, slim pin oak come down a couple of years ago. I cut the whole tree to about nine inch lengths and use that for north/south layer with my 20 inch splits being my east/west orientation.

    Sounds like you're doing everything right. If you have a draft house that could also make your stove more drafty if it's not air tight, which would make you fires burn quicker. But if you're getting 5-6 hours and you only need it for evening heat I'd say you're in good shape. I fill mine up over some very hot coals last night right at 2300, closed down both intakes and went to bed. At 0745 the griddle temp was right at 400 degrees and still had not just embers but big chunks hot, glowing coals. The thermostat on the other side of the room was reading 75, which is really too warm for us. It was 28 degrees outside. I couldn't stand your 85 degrees.

    You might check to see if all your seals, caulking and gaskets are good. Seems like you might be getting too much air.
    Also, once you get the time stabilized like you want it, close the primary all the way to where it just taps the stove. Try closing the secondary, too, or maybe halfway. If you have air leaks AND you're leaving the primary open as much as half an inch you're getting a lot of air which will certainly cut down your burn time. I don't worry too much about smoke output or smoked up glass. All I have to burn is oak and even oak that I know is below 20% MC will smoke some in these stoves. But once the stove gets going good, there isn't much smoke coming out of the chimney.

    Keep experimenting and tweaking til you find your sweet spot.
  17. aaron1

    aaron1 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Messages:
    140
    Loc:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Yeah, i was wondering why it says 18" too. It seems I can get longer pieces in, which is good. You close down both intakes completely? I guess there are enough tiny gaps and leaks that it gets enough oxygen to not smoke? Maybe i'll try that and see how long I can get it to burn. i may not get enough heat output for my needs though, but it will be a fun experiment. i assume you need a solid, super hot coal bed and hot stove to attempt that?

    Also, I did seal all of the seams with stove cement, but i noticed the seams in my T connected to my liner fell out. I don't know if if it's just the stuff that was extra, smeared on the outside, or the part that was in the groove too. It just got dry and crumbled out, after a couple months!

    One other thing, what size fiberglass gasket is it supposed to use in the door? I tried to put in 5/16" I think, and I found it was really hard to get the doors to shut right. I do have a tiny leak at the top of the doors b/c the gasketing and cement were so tight near the hinge side of the doors that it won't seal 100% shut at the middle. Maybe I should take the doors into the woodstove shop and have them re-sealed with smaller gasketing. I wonder if 3/16" would be better?
  18. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    I did my griddle top a couple of years ago but can't remember what size rope it was. 5/16 sounds right but can't swear to it. You want to make sure you don't get too much cement in the groove. A little dab'll do ya.

    Do you have the Vig Owner's Manual? If not, let me know and I'll shoot you an e-copy.

    Yes, once you have a really good coal bed after it's been burning for a while with a high griddle temp, I'll switch to horizontal. This usually heats up the griddle top even more for a while. It will make my cast iron kettle boil over about 30 seconds after I switch to horizontal. I let it have a little air until bedtime, then shut all air off, both primary and secondary. If I leave any air open the wood won't last the night. If you put the thermostat flap to just where it barely touches the stove back, it will pretty much regulate itself all night, opening most of the way up as the stove cools down toward morning time. Exactly what it's suppose to do.
  19. aaron1

    aaron1 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Messages:
    140
    Loc:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Send me the manual, thanks.
  20. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    Aaron, check your private mail
  21. aaron1

    aaron1 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Messages:
    140
    Loc:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    How long have you been burning the VC Vigilant, Ken? Haven't you ever had the temptation to look for a newer used stove that is more efficient, with secondary burn tubes? I have to say I'm tempted to upgrade. I like the old Vigilant, but after seeing my friends' modern Jotul's (a large fireplace insert and the F 3 CB) it is tempting to upgrade. They can put a couple splits in, get it charred a bit and then switch to secondary burn mode and it lasts a long time and puts out lots of heat.
  22. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    Aaron, we've been here almost seven years. This house belonged to and was built by in-laws in 1984. They chose the Vig for the new house. It was state of the art at that time, I understand. My dad-in-law used to take great pride in keeping the griddle temp at 750 to 800 degrees. I don't think he even KNEW about switching to horizontal burn. It was just a constant roaring fire with him throwing another log on at just about every time-out during his football games.
    When we came to visit, we were miserably hot in the house. He couldn't understand why my family wore cut-offs and t-shirts when it was in the 20s outside.

    When the in-laws passed on my Bride inherited the place and we moved out here. I was fascinated by the stove and found the manual and learned how to operate it. I eventually found this website and that's when my education really began. I also began to cut and process my own wood. At first I scrounged to supplement the harvesting of a standing dead on our property. Now I'm a good four years ahead with two or three years worth of standing dead oak in our woods. I like to process during our winter time. Texas summers are too brutal to be working on firewood though I have done it if a tree comes down in a storm.

    No, I'm not the least bit tempted to upgrade to a 'modern' stove. The Vigilant does a great job for our large, air tight house. And I have more wood available to me than I'll ever need so all it cost me is time, a little gas for the saw and splitter, and a few bucks for ibuprofen and beer when it's all over.
  23. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    1,459
    Loc:
    Southwest NH
    +1 here....never got close to that kind of burn time with mine.
  24. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2005
    Messages:
    1,665
    Loc:
    northern massachusetts
    ken just a question. why do you shut the secondary air down when the manual says to keep it open when in horizontal mode. if you shut of the air to the secondary camber that should put the secondary fire out. when i did that on my defiant when i first started running it we had a large chimney fire.
  25. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2010
    Messages:
    1,593
    Loc:
    Texas- West of Houston
    fbelec, I'm not quite sure I understand. You say if you close the secondary air (teardrop flap on side of stove) it puts the fire out but then you say you had a chimney fire? Closing the teardrop, should keep the fire down low. I don't see anyway possible it could cause a runaway fire.

    I don't always close mine but, at bedtime, if the fire is very hot, I just close both air intakes down. By the time I get up in the morning the stove is usually 300 to 350, sometimes 400.
    I would not close it (the teardrop secondary air) down unless I had a hot, well established fire with really good coals already.

Share This Page