Review of Vermont Castings --- Encore -- Freestanding Stove burning Wood only
Installation Type: Wood/Coal - into existing Fireplace
Satisfaction Ratings from 5 stars (best) to 1 star (worst)
Satisfaction with unit = ✰✰✰✰
Satisfaction with dealer = ✰✰✰✰
Satisfaction with manufacturer = ✰✰✰✰
Other Information about the Home and Stove
Room Size (Sq ft): 200 | House Size (Sq feet): 3100
Bought in 2019 , Price Paid: 3200
Location : Dayton, Ohio 45434, United States
Purchased from: Fireplace Retail Store -
ash removal system
overfires with catalyst installed
I had a hard time finding comprehensive reviews for this stove when I was considering purchasing it, so I thought I would write one after living with the stove for a couple months.
I was attracted to the VC woodstove name because I remembered as a boy, my parents debating between buying a VC or a Jotul. I was disappointed to learn, however, that the brand has changed hands several times over the past years and I questioned whether the stove would still be built to the high standards that the brand was known for in my youth. However, the stove fit nicely with the installation location I had to work with, which required a rear flue orientation that could fit beneath the 27” height I had to the top of my Majestic premanufactured fireplace opening.
After discussions with several dealers, I finally decided to proceed with the VC. I’ve been burning it more or less steadily since late December, with a few breaks for warm weather.
First off, as I read in some other reviews before I purchased this unit, the stove DOES have a tendency to overfire with the catalyst installed. I had a few successful burns while breaking it in that didn’t get too out of control, mostly because I was just using one large split and one small one with each fire. But once I started loading multiple logs into the firebox simultaneously, the stove just took off, even with the combustion air control lever in the “fully restricted” position. The stove just kept burning hotter and hotter, until the fuel was exhausted. This was clearly not acceptable and not safe, so I removed the catalyst before trying another fire. WITHOUT the catalyst, the stove behaves itself and operates predictably, but it does demand that you let it get to a good operating temperature before closing the rear diverter damper or the fire will just smolder along and the fire will be too cool. I installed the “Outside combustion air intake” and draw air through an outside air door that was built into my Majestic fireplace unit. I had to fabricate my own metal duct to insert into the outside air port in the fireplace and then connect that to the 3” flex duct feeding the Encore. I even went so far as to install a damper door INSIDE this air duct in an attempt to control the overfiring of the Encore before I removed the catalyst, but even this had limited success.
The ash removal system is great on this stove. I have a Quadrafire 5100 insert in the masonry fireplace at the other end of my house, and it is much more difficult to remove ashes from that unit while the stove is still burning. Over the years I have developed a technique which works well, and I keep that unit burning 24/7 for weeks at a time, but it is much less convenient to remove ashes than it is with the VC Encore. The other great thing about the Encore ash system is that if the fire has burned down to just a few remaining embers, you can rake the ashes through the stove floor, leave the embers, put a few logs on the embers, and crack open the ash pan door. The air entering from BELOW the embers does wonders to revitalize a fire, even when it has gone almost completely out. Just don’t forget to close it securely after the fire has re-started! The ash pan needs to be emptied every 12 hours or so of continuous burning. I ordered a second ash pan so I can swap an empty pan in as soon as I pull the full one out.
Overall, I am quite pleased with this stove after learning how to work with it. It has a very different personality than my Quadrafire insert, but once you learn to operate this stove, and forget the catalyst, it has been a nice addition to my home and provides a nice amount of heat. It does darken considerably as it warms up. Note the difference in the stove color vs. the much cooler “warming shelves” in the picture!
* Dates that reviews were submitted were not recorded prior to Nov. 2004