Am I wrong to hate my Lopi Freedom insert for not being a Blaze King?

Nealm66

Minister of Fire
Sep 25, 2020
818
Western Washington
I’m not sure why I like the looks of it. I do feel everything about it’s design is for usability. I like the simple contrast of the wood handles against the black. I have the pedestal but I would have liked the legs as well. One thing about installing it yourself is making sure things at correct and thank goodness for the knowledgeable folks like bholler that are willing to help a guy get through the confusion
 

john26

Feeling the Heat
Oct 27, 2008
463
Wildwood MO
I like the look of them kind of a mid century modern look a blaze king would look good with the boxy architecture of my house.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
23,597
central pa
I like the look of them kind of a mid century modern look a blaze king would look good with the boxy architecture of my house.
That is 70s design not mid century
 

john26

Feeling the Heat
Oct 27, 2008
463
Wildwood MO
QUOTE="bholler, post: 2481337, member: 32126"]
That is 70s design not mid century
[/QUOTE]
I know its a late 70's design I just think it would go well with furniture from the 60's especially the square boxy stuff
 

pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
Well, it seems this thing could use some tuning up. I started poking around with the borescope and found lots of heavy rust scale on and around the bypass. Lots of other debris up on the baffle shelf too. It looks like a lot of this stuff was made to disassemble, so that's what I'm up to now.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
775
Texas
I'm glad that you're pursuing making your Lopi Freedom operate better. I don't know that particular stove, but we had a smaller Lopi Revere, and it had better burn times than you are describing. It did have a square firebox, however, and that could account for the difference. A large firebox isn't great if you can't use it.

I've never run a Blaze King, but several years ago we actually planned on replacing our Lopi with a Princess Insert. Our heating goals had changed, and the larger firebox would have been nice. We ended up moving, and so I can't give you any real world data on that because the change never happened. (We had bought a reduced price insert but ended up selling it without ever installing it.)

We moved to Texas and pretty quickly decided that we wanted wood heat down here, too, (we hadn't been sure at first that we'd need it given the climate). We thought a lot about Blaze King because we thought this was an ideal climate for "low and slow." If we had opted for a freestanding stove, we would probably have gone with a Sirocco, but an insert ended up being best for our needs, and no Blaze King inserts would fit. Not a lot of inserts would fit quite frankly, except some really small ones, and we decided we weren't going to spend the money on something that wouldn't meet our goals. Thankfully we found an Enviro insert for a great price, and it's 2.5 ft firebox gives us room to load our twisty live oak when we want to without undue Tetris playing.

Our biggest worry with having a tube stove was whether we would overheat the stove area, but we've discovered that it very rarely happens. (We did have a recent experience where we got the stove room to 80, but the funny thing was that no one minded.) We do load less wood or let it go out with a sunny, warm afternoon, but we think one of the biggest factors in our not overheating is the sheer volume of our home. It's large, though the heat from the insert doesn't reach all of it, and it has a lot of high ceilings. The square footage doesn't tell the whole story. The cubic footage really matters.

All of that is to say that I understand your concerns with the Lopi and your desire to repeat your experience with a Blaze King. I do wonder, however, how much that cathedral ceiling in your great room is affecting your experience of what the Lopi can do and whether it would eat up so much heat that you'd need to run a Princess a lot harder than the "low and slow" at which they excel. Do you have an infrared thermometer to measure temperatures up there when the stove is running? Do you have a ceiling fan or two to help push the heat back down?
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
23,597
central pa
Well, it seems this thing could use some tuning up. I started poking around with the borescope and found lots of heavy rust scale on and around the bypass. Lots of other debris up on the baffle shelf too. It looks like a lot of this stuff was made to disassemble, so that's what I'm up to now.
I think going over the whole system before making any decisions is wise. You may still end up wanting to replace it but honestly you should have gone over everything before striking the first match. I mean you have no idea how it is installed or how it was maintained. How can you feel comfortable burning in a system like that
 

john26

Feeling the Heat
Oct 27, 2008
463
Wildwood MO
You might look into the option of a key damper. From my experience with this insert I believe it was designed to run on a 15'-20' flue even though page 10 of the manual states 15' - 33'.
 

pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
Do you have an infrared thermometer to measure temperatures up there when the stove is running? Do you have a ceiling fan or two to help push the heat back down?
I do have a ceiling fan in the middle of the big cathedral portion. I've got a infrared thermometer as well as a camera. Right now I'm not as concerned with the heat output as I am with burn times. I'm not trying to optimize for a comfortable house right now, I'm just trying to get it to burn clean for as many hours as I can. If the heat is insufficient, the gas furnace can take over. My main goal is to just determine what kind of burn time I can get out of it. If I can't get it to go overnight, I'll never be happy with it, and I'll know it's time for a Blaze King.
but honestly you should have gone over everything before striking the first match. I mean you have no idea how it is installed or how it was maintained. How can you feel comfortable burning in a system like that
I confess I am usually a control freak like that, but as part of our purchasing process the wood stove was fully inspected and cleaned by a professional. In light of that, I don't think saying I have "no idea how it was installed or maintained" is completely accurate or relevant. I've also got a lot on my plate here. There's 5 buildings on 3.6 acres with 3 wood stoves. There are some other construction projects in the works that are taking most of my focus at the moment, not to mention the property damage from the wildfire and subsequent rains/erosion/flooding. The house was also vacant for 1.5 years, and I'm dealing with freeze damages to the plumbing systems outdoors and trying to get this place properly prepared for winter. The fire also damaged the water/well systems, and it's been a long road getting "passable" water here that met all the enforced standards.

I'm a little surprised the inspector/sweep didn't have much to say about the condition of the mechanicals inside the stove. I'm guessing their "inspection" was less thorough than mine already. Most likely, they did not bust out a borescope. I do trust that the flue was free and clear, at it appears to have been, so I was comfortable enough to strike a match. I simply do not have the resources to micromanage every little thing down to the smallest detail--at least not yet. I don't like to trust others to work on my house or cars, but sometimes circumstances force me into that situation. This is just a small reminder why I never pay anyone to do anything for me--I always do everything myself. That's not allowable until you own the place, of course, but from this point forward I won't be trusting anyone else to take care of this place.

If you think about it, I'm also trusting that all the electrical connections in the house are sound. Any one of those hundreds of electrical junctions could burn the house down. I can't pull every box out and check them all out before I flip on the first light switch. On some level, you have to put a little faith in other people. As you continue to discover things that aren't quite right, you are motivated to dig deeper, then you find more stuff, then you fix it. That's just how it works.

I just hope the professionals that inspected the septic and water-well leave me with fewer surprises.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
23,597
central pa
I do have a ceiling fan in the middle of the big cathedral portion. I've got a infrared thermometer as well as a camera. Right now I'm not as concerned with the heat output as I am with burn times. I'm not trying to optimize for a comfortable house right now, I'm just trying to get it to burn clean for as many hours as I can. If the heat is insufficient, the gas furnace can take over. My main goal is to just determine what kind of burn time I can get out of it. If I can't get it to go overnight, I'll never be happy with it, and I'll know it's time for a Blaze King.

I confess I am usually a control freak like that, but as part of our purchasing process the wood stove was fully inspected and cleaned by a professional. In light of that, I don't think saying I have "no idea how it was installed or maintained" is completely accurate or relevant. I've also got a lot on my plate here. There's 5 buildings on 3.6 acres with 3 wood stoves. There are some other construction projects in the works that are taking most of my focus at the moment, not to mention the property damage from the wildfire and subsequent rains/erosion/flooding. The house was also vacant for 1.5 years, and I'm dealing with freeze damages to the plumbing systems outdoors and trying to get this place properly prepared for winter. The fire also damaged the water/well systems, and it's been a long road getting "passable" water here that met all the enforced standards.

I'm a little surprised the inspector/sweep didn't have much to say about the condition of the mechanicals inside the stove. I'm guessing their "inspection" was less thorough than mine already. Most likely, they did not bust out a borescope. I do trust that the flue was free and clear, at it appears to have been, so I was comfortable enough to strike a match. I simply do not have the resources to micromanage every little thing down to the smallest detail--at least not yet. I don't like to trust others to work on my house or cars, but sometimes circumstances force me into that situation. This is just a small reminder why I never pay anyone to do anything for me--I always do everything myself. That's not allowable until you own the place, of course, but from this point forward I won't be trusting anyone else to take care of this place.

If you think about it, I'm also trusting that all the electrical connections in the house are sound. Any one of those hundreds of electrical junctions could burn the house down. I can't pull every box out and check them all out before I flip on the first light switch. On some level, you have to put a little faith in other people. As you continue to discover things that aren't quite right, you are motivated to dig deeper, then you find more stuff, then you fix it. That's just how it works.

I just hope the professionals that inspected the septic and water-well leave me with fewer surprises.
If you had it inspected you should have a report with answers to all of the questions I asked. But honestly if they didn't pull the baffle and bypass down to clean it I would have to question the quality of their work
 

pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
If you had it inspected you should have a report with answers to all of the questions I asked. But honestly if they didn't pull the baffle and bypass down to clean it I would have to question the quality of their work
Agreed, I won't be calling them again. It was one of those "the realtor has a guy for this" deals. I probably didn't get my money's worth here, but at least we got the house. It's a tough market on the west coast, so you gotta get everything done FAST around here. Our old house sold in 5 days with 6 offers over asking price.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
775
Texas
I do have a ceiling fan in the middle of the big cathedral portion. I've got a infrared thermometer as well as a camera. Right now I'm not as concerned with the heat output as I am with burn times. I'm not trying to optimize for a comfortable house right now, I'm just trying to get it to burn clean for as many hours as I can. If the heat is insufficient, the gas furnace can take over. My main goal is to just determine what kind of burn time I can get out of it. If I can't get it to go overnight, I'll never be happy with it, and I'll know it's time for a Blaze King.
How long did you say you were getting for burn times? We used to get enough coals in our 2.2 cubic foot Lopi Revere for a relight in the morning, but our basement temp (where the insert was located) had dropped. Now with our 2.5 cubic foot Enviro Kodiak, we get very easy overnight burns. It seems like we gained more than .3 cubic feet. Last night for instance (lows in mid thirties), I loaded two big cedar splits and three small (as in less than 3 inch diameter) oak branch wood pieces at about 9:30. There was a nice bed of coals at that time, too, so I was able to shut it down pretty soon with a nice secondary burn. At 6:30 this morning there were deep glowing coals, and the blower was still running.

I do wonder if the problem is due to what you mention about the strange trapezoidal shape of the Freedom. You mentioned not being able to load North/South and not being able to fit a second row of splits. It sounds like you've got more than enough on your plate right now with all the issues your house came with compounded by the fire damage, but I wonder if you could find the time to cut some of your firewood to fit the box more precisely and see what it can do under those conditions. Even if you can't get 2.9 cubic feet in there, I would think you could get an overnight burn.
 

pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
How long did you say you were getting for burn times? We used to get enough coals in our 2.2 cubic foot Lopi Revere for a relight in the morning, but our basement temp (where the insert was located) had dropped. Now with our 2.5 cubic foot Enviro Kodiak, we get very easy overnight burns. It seems like we gained more than .3 cubic feet. Last night for instance (lows in mid thirties), I loaded two big cedar splits and three small (as in less than 3 inch diameter) oak branch wood pieces at about 9:30. There was a nice bed of coals at that time, too, so I was able to shut it down pretty soon with a nice secondary burn. At 6:30 this morning there were deep glowing coals, and the blower was still running.

I do wonder if the problem is due to what you mention about the strange trapezoidal shape of the Freedom. You mentioned not being able to load North/South and not being able to fit a second row of splits. It sounds like you've got more than enough on your plate right now with all the issues your house came with compounded by the fire damage, but I wonder if you could find the time to cut some of your firewood to fit the box more precisely and see what it can do under those conditions. Even if you can't get 2.9 cubic feet in there, I would think you could get an overnight burn.
If I'm trying to keep a steady heating cycle going, I'm pretty much loading every four hours. I've gotten coals to stretch out to the 6 hour mark that I could've done a relight with. Even that would only get me 5 hours of unattended time though. I think you're right about all the geometric challenges between my wood and my firebox. They don't seem like they were a match made in heaven. I'm gonna bring the axe up onto the back porch so I can start customizing some splits and get better at playing Tetris here. I'll see if that makes it better. Still, I lack confidence that this Lopi will ever be hassle-free enough for me, compared to the BK I'm used to. It's funny, since so many people tend to think that catalytic stoves are a hassle. I'm squarely on the other side of that fence.

Have you ever see the Lopi videos on YouTube? They're pretty great, and they walk you through all the design features. They've got some clever design elements that give them an edge over the competition (even Blaze King admittedly). I'm pretty impressed with the performance of the airwash system (hint, hint, BKVP). It seems to clean the glass more evenly, whereas all the BKs I've seen have a clear airflow pattern in the soot on the glass. Seeing all the pros and cons of the different manufacturers almost makes me want to build my own and cherry pick my favorite design elements!

I have about 10" of clearance on top if my Lopi, and I think my biggest issue is how short the firebox is. If I could just add 6" of height to the whole thing, I think I'd really have something usable here.
 

pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
Here's some data from the gas furnace just for fun. One graph with hour totals, and another with hourly breakdowns. I've only burned twice in the last week. We had a fire on Christmas for ambiance while the family was over. You can also see that the furnace is a two-stage system, and rarely kicks into high gear. Stage 1 is light orange on the hourly breakdowns, and the darker orange of stage 2 rarely shows up, and only for sudden temp swings like early morning wakeup time.

You can see that when I burned on the 29th (three loads from 1100 to 2359) the furnace only kicked on once during that time. Total usage was greatly reduced. I'm happy running both systems in tandem like this (and would love to do it 24/7), and the result was a comfortable home. The only change I truly wish to make is loading frequency. It's just too often right now, and we're too lazy/busy to start new fires twice a day.

Screenshot_20201231-115048.png Screenshot_20201231-114902.png
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
775
Texas
You can see that when I burned on the 29th (three loads from 1100 to 2359) the furnace only kicked on once during that time. Total usage was greatly reduced. I'm happy running both systems in tandem like this (and would love to do it 24/7), and the result was a comfortable home. The only change I truly wish to make is loading frequency. It's just too often right now, and we're too lazy/busy to start new fires twice a day.
Your gas furnace data was very interesting. I think it's also telling that even though you've historically been happy with woodburning, you're not really doing it now because it's too much of a hassle. When you say that you don't want to/can't "start new fires twice a day," do you really mean doing cold starts because your previous load has burned out, or do you mean that you don't even want to reload on hot coals twice a day? If it's the latter, you'd better save up for a Princess Insert because you really won't be happy without that thermostatic control to extend the burn.

If what you meant by "start new fires" is that you really can't rekindle a fire from coals after only six hours in a 2.9 cubic foot firebox, something would seem to be wrong with the insert, the install, or your manner of running the stove. I haven't used the Freedom myself, of course, but our experience with the smaller Revere was much better, and Lopi does seem to make a quality product. I haven't spent much time watching promotional videos, but I did just recently watch one that Begreen posted on the making of the Endeavor, and that was really interesting.

I think it's good that you're giving it a try, and I'm sure it's frustrating that it hasn't been an easy transition when you have so much else going on with your house and property at the same time. I'm sure that adds to the sense that you don't want to tend the stove so much.

I need to go tend our stove now. It never got out of the thirties down here today, so it's going to get packed pretty full for the cold night ahead.
 

pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
Your gas furnace data was very interesting. I think it's also telling that even though you've historically been happy with woodburning, you're not really doing it now because it's too much of a hassle. When you say that you don't want to/can't "start new fires twice a day," do you really mean doing cold starts because your previous load has burned out, or do you mean that you don't even want to reload on hot coals twice a day? If it's the latter, you'd better save up for a Princess Insert because you really won't be happy without that thermostatic control to extend the burn.

If what you meant by "start new fires" is that you really can't rekindle a fire from coals after only six hours in a 2.9 cubic foot firebox, something would seem to be wrong with the insert, the install, or your manner of running the stove. I haven't used the Freedom myself, of course, but our experience with the smaller Revere was much better, and Lopi does seem to make a quality product. I haven't spent much time watching promotional videos, but I did just recently watch one that Begreen posted on the making of the Endeavor, and that was really interesting.

I think it's good that you're giving it a try, and I'm sure it's frustrating that it hasn't been an easy transition when you have so much else going on with your house and property at the same time. I'm sure that adds to the sense that you don't want to tend the stove so much.

I need to go tend our stove now. It never got out of the thirties down here today, so it's going to get packed pretty full for the cold night ahead.
Thanks for the insights. I don't mind simply loading a stove twice a day, but right now with the Lopi, if we wanted 24/7 operation we'd probably have to load it 4-6 times a day, or start new fires twice a day. If I'm really careful about the loading and getting the air set just right (big challenge with an open loop control system) I can rekindle after 6 hours. I think I'd be looking at a really cold firebox at the 8 hour mark.
 

pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
I did some disassembly and reassembly this afternoon inside the firebox. There was some very heavy rust scale on the bypass damper and the plate it slides on. I scraped and brushed back down to solid material, and the fit and feel are GREATLY improved. I got all the baffle bricks cleaned up as well. I'm skeptical it will provide much of a performance boost, but at least the usability is a little better.

I did notice some cracks in the secondary air manifold, right at the welds between the pieces of box tube. To me, it looks like the filler material was a poor match to the parent material, and had poor penetration. This is disappointing. The fit-up between the secondary riser tube and the box cross-tube/manifold at the back of the firebox is a little disappointing as well. Seems like they tried to just fill the big gaps with weld. I'm not sure it is providing a good seal all the way around the backside where you can't see. It's not like that's unmetered air leakage, so it probably doesn't matter a ton. It just means some small amount of the secondary air will come out in the wrong locations.

PXL_20201231_201455929.jpg PXL_20201231_202623300.MP.jpg PXL_20201231_203006194.jpg
 
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Easy Livin’ 3000

Minister of Fire
Dec 23, 2015
2,895
SEPA
Short story:
I'm used to a Blaze King Ashford 30.1. Will I never be happy with the Lopi Freedom? Should I just start looking for a Princess insert?

Long story:
We just bought a new house and moved unexpectedly. At my old house, I remodeled the whole place, moved walls around, did airflow analysis and whatnot, and located a freestanding Blaze King Ashford in the perfect place. It heated the 2196 sqft perfectly without a blower. We'd load it, and never think about it again all day.

Our new house has a beautiful stone fireplace with a Lopi Freedom insert trying to heat 2626 sqft. The blower works great and is nice and quiet. It does seem to heat the place ok if I keep it running hard (kinda have to keep it running hard as a secondary combustion stove anyway). Burn times are quite lackluster. The firebox must be an absolute kiln for the better part of an hour if you expect to get it turned down and running reliably off secondary combustion. It seems like it'll fizzle on you if you don't get enough momentum going though. By the time you get it well established, it seems to put a decent dent in the wood, and you're not left with much cruising time. It's bad enough that we just get sick of tending it, and end up letting the gas furnace take over constantly. I don't yet know what that will cost me. It's in great shape and seems to be in proper working order, I just kinda hate it.

The supposedly "large" 2.9 cubic foot firebox seems like a waste. It has no height, and I can't get two solid rows of splits in there. It's not quite deep enough for N/S loading. It's trapezoidal, so I can't make good use of all the space. Maybe if I had a lot of weird wood and put a ton of thought into playing Tetris with it, but it just seems like an inefficient use of space. I went to all the effort to move our firewood collection from the old house. It took seven trips with a heaping 6x12 dump trailer, and now I don't even feel like using it all!

I miss thermostatic control, and I miss long burn times. I really don't want to fork out for another retail price Blaze King...again! Ugh. The wife found a mint condition Blaze King Royal Heir 2250 for cheap, and I'm actually considering it! I just missed out on a Princess Insert with the pewter door for $500 locally. Needless to say, it didn't last long, and I'm mourning the loss of what I never had.
You will never be happy until you replace the setup with your beloved BK.

So, just get what you want, and be happy.

You may discover that with the larger house, cathedral ceilings, etc., that that low slow burn doesn't cut it. But you will be happy that you are reunited with your stove brand that you are so fond of.

It probably won't even matter that you need to ride it hard and reload as frequently as another stove, or if you need to use your other heat sources more to supplement the low slow burn. Because you'll be back together.
 
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Nealm66

Minister of Fire
Sep 25, 2020
818
Western Washington
I think the lower heat output is a good trade off for the longer reload cycle in his/mine climate/lifestyle. I was reading in another post where there’s a common fan noise problem with the princess insert but evidently it’s common enough a guy has a MacGyver fix for it. Not sure how the insert compares to the freestanding as far as actual heat output/burn times but maybe being able to run it a little hotter would help keep the glass cleaner and not burn your face with a 12 hour reload cycle.
 
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pvfjr

Burning Hunk
Nov 18, 2015
150
Lyons, OR
I think the lower heat output is a good trade off for the longer reload cycle in his/mine climate/lifestyle. I was reading in another post where there’s a common fan noise problem with the princess insert but evidently it’s common enough a guy has a MacGyver fix for it. Not sure how the insert compares to the freestanding as far as actual heat output/burn times but maybe being able to run it a little hotter would help keep the glass cleaner and not burn your face with a 12 hour reload cycle.
My buddy's princess insert needs loaded more often than my freestanding Ashford did, but it was still pretty decent. He also had an older, draftier home that he's heating from the basement, and he's not as concerned about moisture content as I am. Being dependent on a blower pretty much shortens the burn times by default. I used to hassle him about his burn times, but now the shoe is on the other foot and I'm sure he's living every minute of it.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
553
Eastern Long Island NY
You will never be happy until you replace the setup with your beloved BK.

So, just get what you want, and be happy.

You may discover that with the larger house, cathedral ceilings, etc., that that low slow burn doesn't cut it. But you will be happy that you are reunited with your stove brand that you are so fond of.

It probably won't even matter that you need to ride it hard and reload as frequently as another stove, or if you need to use your other heat sources more to supplement the low slow burn. Because you'll be back together.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a knowledgeable Lopi employee on this forum, as we have from BK...

The quality of the help from BK applied to the Lopi might make a sufficient difference to have you make the choice of keeping the Lopi.

I'm just saying...
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
23,597
central pa
Wouldn't it be nice to have a knowledgeable Lopi employee on this forum, as we have from BK...

The quality of the help from BK applied to the Lopi might make a sufficient difference to have you make the choice of keeping the Lopi.

I'm just saying...
The lopi is a very simple stove we are perfectly capable of helping but we need lots more info
 
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