2021 Vermont Castings Aspen C3 Install

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I swept the chimney today. I checked the other day and there was enough shiny black stuff that I figured I'd better be safe. I'd been dreading trying to get the telescoping single wall section pulled up enough to get a bag under it, but it's now moving way easier than it did when I installed it. Definitely a relief. And, everything I knocked out was very dry and flaky, not tarlike.

Here is what I found when I pulled the pipe up from the top of the stove - before any brushing whatsoever. Yes there's a probe under there somewhere:

2021 Vermont Castings Aspen C3 Install

That's maybe a half cup at most of flaky stuff. I had been wondering if the temp probe could be covered, which would cause the stove to be slower to shut the air down as it heats up. It appears this was the case.

After cleaning carefully to not damage the insulation blanket:

2021 Vermont Castings Aspen C3 Install

I got about another cup from brushing the flue itself, so about 1.5 cups total. I attribute this to my early break-in burns and learning how to run the stove, as well as a couple of chunks of honey locust that were much higher moisture content than I thought. (I checked a few today and they varied from 18-40+%... I'll stick with burning the sub-17% mulberry for the rest of the year.) Obviously I hope to not have this much stuff be accumulating and drying in my pipe, falling down in this spot... But, how common is this amount of loose accumulation?

Seems like the temp probe is not in a great spot for this reason (creosote accumulation from falling off of inside of pipe) and potential for damage from running a brush down from the top. Another poster on here recently had that happen to them. Not a big deal to avoid if you know that you need to be aware of it. I ended up marking my chimney brush rod with a piece of duct tape that lines up with the top of the chimney, when the brush is just about to hit the stove.

I have only had one fire since cleaning but I can already tell the air intake is closing much faster now.

I also recently had a tennis ball sized lump of coals 36 hours after starting a fire that I was able to stick kindling on and get a full load going in about 15 minutes. No heat output when it was burned down to those coals, but it was fun restarting without matches.

We are about to get below zero so I will update with how that goes after a week or so.
We did not quite get below zero but we were in the single digits two nights in a row, with the high of the day between them being under 20. It was gray, snowy, and windy (20+ MPH N winds) so there was no sunlight to help heat things up during the day like we normally have. The stove did great. I loaded at 9pm, then 5am because I was randomly awake, then 11am, and then again at 9pm, and then 630am. Then we had some sun and the house stayed nice and warm until after dark that day, even though it was in the mid 20s for the high. The house temp never got lower than 62 which is my preference... Generally I am keeping it between 62 and 70 degrees and that drives my burn cycles. Sometimes it gets up to 73 or 74 and I just get to let the temp coast down to 62 that much longer. Anyways, the stove handled all that fine.

Cleaning the crud up from around the probe has made a big difference in the stove reacting faster to rising flue gas temps. Since cleaning, the stove briefly touched 900 at the cooktop on one fire, came down fairly quickly, and that's been it. Previously that had been the norm for every fire if I didn't close it down for a bit with the blast gate on the intake. Now most fires might peak in the low 800s which I don't think twice about. Some fires peak more around 650 and hover around there for a while. I don't think I've seen singlewall stovepipe temps above 400 (18" up) since cleaning around the probe either.

So, overall I'm very happy with the performance. It's sized well for my house in this climate. It's not going to even take a full cord per winter. If I do add on and the house grows to closer to 1200 sq. ft., I'm confident it will heat it well. I'll probably post some sort of cost analysis later, and then leave a proper review w/ a summary of pros/cons. I noticed the price has gone up from $1250 back in August when I bought it, to $1799 today on VC's website - and still "temporarily unavailable!"
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I posted some about the way I load this stove over in @bikeshopguy345's thread, but here is a good example of what I aim for. That's a 7" diameter round on the bottom and then I pack wood in around it to fit. I'd use splits if I had them to fill in - I just have a lot of branch wood from this tree which is perfect for this size of stove. All of this is mulberry with the exception of some maple kindling around the crumpled paper. It's been 2 days since I've needed a fire so this is a cold start, top down. If I were starting within 12-24 hours of the last fire, I'd rake the coals to the front left corner of the firebox, put kindling on it, and then otherwise generally fill the firebox as shown in the pictures. This guarantees me lots of coals for matchless relights 12 hours after starting, and usually enough 24 hours after.

2021 Vermont Castings Aspen C3 Install 2021 Vermont Castings Aspen C3 Install
Here's another good way to get a long burn. I may have a small fire when the sun starts going down if the house didn't heat up much during the day - basically just enough to burn down to a nice bed of coals by 10 or whenever I'm planning on going to bed, and will want to load the stove up for the night. I was able to split this chunk of mulberry down just enough to where it would fit. For reference the width of the door opening is 9 1/2". With the very low moisture content and the nice bed of coals it burned down well.

2021 Vermont Castings Aspen C3 Install
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I like to load up rough cut tamarack 4x4 cutoffs when I'm going to bed for the night. I still had coals this morning at 0700 after loading the stove at 1900 the previous night. Maple would be better, but got to work with what I've got!
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It sounds like these little N-S loading cast iron stoves just perform well, backed up by the efficiency numbers. It's also a lot easier to pack them full for the night. Trying to do that with an E-W loading stove like a Lopi Answer or Vogelzang 1120 may theoretically be possible, but you either have to cut a ton of short splits to load N-S, or try to keep stuff from falling back against the door with E-W loading. The Aspen C3, Morso 2B, etc. can pretty well be crammed full with no worries, maximizing the amount of firewood and burn time.
I agree. If you have to, you have to. But if you can avoid E/W loading, you'll be much happier.
I load my encore and defiant all the way up to the griddle top E/W.
Yep. Only time my doors open up is if it’s a cold start.
That makes sense for those size of stoves. I can see how it's easier to pack a top loading E-W stove vs. non-top loading ones. I guess the VC Intrepid is top loading, so it's probably the most comparable in this size class, with a firebox that's 0.05 cubic feet larger than the Aspen C3.
How do you split your wood? As in sizes and shapes.
I don't split any more than I have to. Most of the trees here on the prairie aren't huge and definitely not tall, so I end up with a lot of rounds from the limbs in the 3-5" diameter range. When I do get bigger stuff out of a trunk I may split the base pieces (usually 16" diameter max) into quarters. Stuff in the 8-10" diameter range gets split in half since I have no shortage of smaller stuff. This stove is very happy to burn thick pieces and you can always make them smaller later if you need to. Big pieces are more of a commodity for me for overnight burns.
I try and square off all my splits without creating an abundance of kindling. This helps eliminate air space between pieces of firewood.
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Or it's not square and one plays stove Tetris..
I'm finally getting around to reviewing this after a complete season of burning. I'll also leave a rating in the proper section on the forum.


Burning locust and mulberry, this thing holds coals like nobody's business. My record is restarting on coals (no match) 36 hours after starting a fire and letting it burn out.

Burn times are great for a stove this size. You really have to get used to the stove and get everything dialed in, cut your wood to the right size, and learn how to pack it. Then you can get 8-10 hour burns easily with good hardwoods. Granted, it's not putting out max BTUs as the fire winds down, but most stoves aren't towards the end of their burns. It's a small stove and if you have an appropriately sized house, it's a great performer. My house is around 750 square feet and still needs some work on some insulation and air sealing in the ceiling in a few spots. We had a week where we were down to 0-ish in the nights and cloudy and teens for highs with a nasty north wind. It did great, mostly reloading every 6 hours or so. My house should retain heat better when I seal up the ceiling issues.

North-South loading makes it really easy to pack the stove. The 1.25 cubic foot firebox is bigger than a Morso 2B or Jotul F602V2.

Cooktop surface works really, really well. You only have one spot, but it's large, so I think for a stove this size this was the right choice vs. VC trying to fit two very small cooktop circles. I made a lot of pasta, burritos, quesadillas, and biscuits in cast iron cookware. I do not have the fancy expensive VC trivet so I would cook directly on it as the fire was getting going, or sort of set the skillet halfway off onto the non-cooktop area (which has insulation underneath it, and is therefore cooler) if the cooktop was getting too hot. I have since salvaged an old gas stove burner that's the perfect size, and may try to find a circular trivet that fits.

Efficiency - 75% HHV, and qualifies for the tax credit. I think only the Morso 2B beats this in this size class.

Clearances can be really tight for installation.


I think the automatic air intake damper doesn't always react quickly enough. Either this is the issue or the air opening size at the fully closed setting is slightly too large for when it gets cold and you have a high draft. I have 14.5' from floor to chimney cap, and the manual recommends 16'. If I am starting a fire when it's 45 F or so you have to be careful to avoid smoke spilling out, as you would expect for about any newer stove with that short of a chimney. However when it's 20 F or less the thing sometimes roars away more than I would ever let it if it had manual air controls. This can be overcome by adding a blast gate connected to the air intake. The VC manual says dampers aren't allowed in the chimney. Eventually I would like to set up a draft gauge and actually get some measurements.

Along with this, sometimes the damper keeps the stove from burning as intensely as you want - say you're trying to heat the place up from 50 degrees after being gone for a day or so. It sometimes just wants to hum along at a lower output.

You have to be really careful with the baffle since it's not metal.

The temp probe location isn't ideal. It can be damaged by a chimney brush during cleaning (happened to another member on here) and it is also vulnerable to fine creosote from the chimney walls falling down and accumulating around it, since the probe is barely above the insulation piece.

9 fires out of 10 the door glass blacks over as the fire is burning down. Not a big deal for me, and I'm not sure if any other stoves in this size are any better, but I saw several other folks complaining about this too. After the initial break in fires, this stuff is pretty easy to clean off.

VC/HHT support - I do not at all believe they don't have max acceptable temperatures for different parts of the stove (primarily the stovetop). They did at least respond to my request but they were either unwilling to share or their customer support was unwilling to reach out to the appropriate department for this info, and claimed they didn't have anything "because there are too many variables." Baloney - it doesn't matter what your variables are; at the end of the day there is some temperature they don't want the stovetop cast iron surface exceeding and I'm sure they know what they designed for. Then they try to push you off onto dealers that don't know any more about these fairly new stoves than you as a customer.

Overall, I am happy I went with this stove compared to my only other choice at the time, the US Stove/Vogelzang VG1120L. If I'd had a Morso dealer close, I would've given a very hard look at the 2B Standard. The Aspen C3 was $1250 back when I bought it last summer and it is now $1800, which I would not have spent if that had been the price at the time. Hopefully I get decades of good service out of this stove but time will tell.
Thanks for the detailed and thorough report. This is really helpful. I'm glad the C3 is working out well for you. @Corie will be pleased.
Nice to see that the 1.25 cu ft box still goes 8-10 hrs and 6 when it's colder. Glad you're enjoying it.