Blaze King Ashford 25 Insert - Poor Burn Time - What am I doing wrong?

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esguardian

Member
May 31, 2018
26
outside Philadelphia
Hey all,

I've been a member here since 2018 and did a lot of my research on wood stove inserts using this site and forum. I finally pulled the trigger on a Blaze King Ashford Insert this past spring and I'm finally getting to use it after breaking it in with several small hot fires to cure and remove the new stove smell. I'm based in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, my home is a 2-story 2600 sq ft home. My primary heat is gas, and I purchased this stove to offset my heating costs. After installing the stove, I opened our living space and installed fans to distribute the heat throughout. I've been very happy with this purchase, with the exception of my short burn time. I've been using the stove in the mid-30s - low 50s (it's only November) and my longest burn was 3hrs, which is way short of the advertised 25 hour burn time on low. Now provided, I have not turned the thermostat down to the lowest setting, but I generally turn it down to 2 or 3 o'clock after the fire gets going.

In preparation for this purchase, I have accumulated a couple of cords of firewood, and here is where I think I went wrong. I started purchasing firewood 2 years in advance, some of the pieces range from 14" all the way up to 24" (can't fit them in) The wood is seasoned and maybe too seasoned, I've split wood and have taken several readings from 9% to 15%. The result is I can't keep the fire going longer than 3 hrs. I found this thread helpful, but I think my wood is definitely too dry instead of wet.

So here's what I'm doing, for a cold start - I generally load up the firebox with some kindling, that I burn down to coals, I distribute the coals evenly, and then prepare my main load. I have to pick through my supply to find 14-16" pieces which I load about 4 into the firebox North to South and then find 2 larger 18" long thick splits east to west. I leave the door open a crack to force some air in to get the load going. After about 10 min, I close the door. I wait for the thermostat to get just into the red to engage the combuster, I wait about another 10 min or so and then slowly lower the t-stat. Usually about 2-3 hrs I have a bed of coals.

I've searched this forum and found some threads that have helped me narrow down possible issues, but honestly, I think it could be my wood supply, but it also could be other factors that I'm not aware of. Draft too strong? Possibly not filling the firebox due to the size of my firewood?

Thank you so much!

IMG_1754 2.jpeg IMG_1755.jpeg IMG_1756.jpeg IMG_1757.jpeg IMG_5097_Original.jpg
 
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moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
2,010
Iowa
Appears that you are starting a partial load at best as shown in pic 4.

Are you re-splitting a selection of your splits that are up to room temp for M/C testing? Test the freshly exposed inner face of the re-split immediately after splitting for a accurate result. Any other test method yields nearly useless data.

Your near Philly. Highly unlikely/impossible to have naturally seasoned wood that is "to dry".

May be worth going back to basics and read the operators manual carefully. Start a full load and follow the manual to a T to get a baseline.



Stick with it. Lots of folks happy to advise here. Your success kind of becomes everyone's mission here!
 
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Rob711

Feeling the Heat
Oct 19, 2017
443
Long Island, ny
I have same stove. I’m calling BS on the 25 hr on low. Most I’ve seen is about 12 hrs. If I run it lower house will smell like creosote.
 

esguardian

Member
May 31, 2018
26
outside Philadelphia
@moresnow yes, so I bring in wood in the AM, sometimes 24 hours in advance, and then split and take a reading. My past two orders of firewood - they said they were seasoned, but I don't know how long as I took a reading right away and I was getting close to 30% MC, I let it sit for 6 months - that's where I'm getting 15-18% MC. Its not Oak, but a mix. I know I am not filling the firebox right, but according to the manual a load of 4 splits N-S and 2 larger ones E-W should be a normal size load, but due to the cut size of my supply Its often a tight fit to get that, so it quite possible the load size is the culprit.
 
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Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,852
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
You must load the stove fully in order to get the maximum burn time. Packed tightly with large splits. And then burn at the lowest possible burn rate without the cat stalling. I enjoy 24 load cycles with softwoods from the princess model but I load the thing tight!
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
2,010
Iowa
@moresnow yes, so I bring in wood in the AM, sometimes 24 hours in advance, and then split and take a reading. My past two orders of firewood - they said they were seasoned, but I don't know how long as I took a reading right away and I was getting close to 30% MC, I let it sit for 6 months - that's where I'm getting 15-18% MC. Its not Oak, but a mix. I know I am not filling the firebox right, but according to the manual a load of 4 splits N-S and 2 larger ones E-W should be a normal size load, but due to the cut size of my supply Its often a tight fit to get that, so it quite possible the load size is the culprit.
Completely understood. Sounds like your sneaking up on the whole scenario nicely. 15-18% sounds appropriate. Have you monkeyed with cutting some of your splits to fit better/more? It's a pia but payback is nice. I've had to do it after having a buddy who has a large add on wood furnace "help" me cut wood. Once!
 

esguardian

Member
May 31, 2018
26
outside Philadelphia
You must load the stove fully in order to get the maximum burn time. Packed tightly with large splits. And then burn at the lowest possible burn rate without the cat stalling. I enjoy 24 load cycles with softwoods from the princess model but I load the thing tight!
I need to see what a full load looks like when packed into the insert. Today I picked through my supply and found 14-16" pieces. I say they are kindling size at best. Not large splits. Can I just pack them in, all the way up to where the combuster sits? The overnight low is 29. Im hoping it is just me being timid about filling the stove and not something else. Will report back. Thanks!
 
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fire_man

Minister of Fire
Feb 6, 2009
2,675
North Eastern MA
I wonder if the thermostat is not closing as much as it should. I'm not familiar with the BK design but with my old VC Resolute you see a thermostatically controlled damper plate. How busy are the flames when the stove is cruising? Judging by the photo the flames look pretty intense and I thought BK's could be snuffed lower.

Also how tall is your chimney
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,852
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
I need to see what a full load looks like when packed into the insert. Today I picked through my supply and found 14-16" pieces. I say they are kindling size at best. Not large splits. Can I just pack them in, all the way up to where the combuster sits? The overnight low is 29. Im hoping it is just me being timid about filling the stove and not something else. Will report back. Thanks!

Yes, wedge the pieces in right up to the roof and with as few air gaps between the splits as possible. There is no max fill level on this cat stove. Take a photo for us of the load to help diagnose.

Obviously, you need some amount of coals and seasoned wood to do this so that the load can combust.

The non-princess insert models have not yet earned a reputation from forum contributors for the same long burn times but since BK rates them as having such a long burn time I believe your insert is capable of meeting the spec.

Another common issue is your chimney being sub par for some reason.

One last thought, "burn time" is active cat time. To get maximum active cat time you need to run the thermostat on low settings but high enough to keep the cat active. You shouldn't see flames after the initial warm up period.
 

esguardian

Member
May 31, 2018
26
outside Philadelphia
I wonder if the thermostat is not closing as much as it should. I'm not familiar with the BK design but with my old VC Resolute you see a thermostatically controlled damper plate. How busy are the flames when the stove is cruising? Judging by the photo the flames look pretty intense and I thought BK's could be snuffed lower.

Also how tall is your chimney
The chimney is 25ft... In the photos I posted earlier, the thermostat has been turned down to the 3 o'clock position, the flames tend to dance around when I adjust, so that is probably that "intense" look, when i turn it all the way to 12, its basically black inside, although i can see the glow of the catalyst, but with a large window of the insert, I kind of want to see something... :)
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
6,593
07462
I agree with others, pack that fire box full, then using pic 3 - when the fire is fully seated turn the T-stat down to 1 o' clock, find that sweet spot where you have whisper flames but very active glowing cat, turn your blower on and enjoy. In other words, your burning to high and wasting a lot of potential heat, you will be pretty amazed at how much heat comes off the unit while burning low and steady, candle like flames are your best friend with the glowing orange cat.
*this may take a 6 pack to find the correct burn rate, wait approx 25 - 30 min per adjustment so the fire can get acclimated, and its very important to make sure the fire has been seated like in your pic 3.
 
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moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
2,010
Iowa
Any active flame will not work for a long burn (in my setup). Figure out what your low set point is to keep the cat active.
I just reloaded. After letting the load start I let it bake on high for 20+ minutes wide open throttle. Then I spun the therm knob to my normal low set point. Adios. Time to walk away and forget about the heater.
My prior load went 17.75 hrs easy. I have a smaller firebox as well.
Keep working at it.
 

Poindexter

Minister of Fire
Jun 28, 2014
2,783
Fairbanks, Alaska
The 25 box is a tricky shape I haven't gotten to play with in person.

I _think_ (well, I would start by trying) to move all the coals to the left front corner, fill the middle part NS to the top, and then slip and 8-10" fattie in there, vertical, on the right.

If you go a bunch of coals, can they go to the front corners to maximize you NS loading in the middle full fepth part?

I called my local dealer to see if I could go play tetris, no dice, they don't have any of the size 25 fireboxes on the showroom floor today.
 

esguardian

Member
May 31, 2018
26
outside Philadelphia
Yes, wedge the pieces in right up to the roof and with as few air gaps between the splits as possible. There is no max fill level on this cat stove. Take a photo for us of the load to help diagnose.

Obviously, you need some amount of coals and seasoned wood to do this so that the load can combust.

The non-princess insert models have not yet earned a reputation from forum contributors for the same long burn times but since BK rates them as having such a long burn time I believe your insert is capable of meeting the spec.

Another common issue is your chimney being sub par for some reason.

One last thought, "burn time" is active cat time. To get maximum active cat time you need to run the thermostat on low settings but high enough to keep the cat active. You shouldn't see flames after the initial warm up period.
Time for a reload. First time packing it this full. Hope I'm not doing any damage... How is this looking? ;em

65775148656__27A9F963-D833-487B-A394-35EA93F7B897.jpeg
 

fire_man

Minister of Fire
Feb 6, 2009
2,675
North Eastern MA
I'm guessing the biggest problem is the thermosat is open too much. The amazing BK burntimes are based on a smolder rather than on a fireshow.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,852
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Time for a reload. First time packing it this full. Hope I'm not doing any damage... How is this looking? ;em

View attachment 284747
The stove is designed to be packed that full. So long as the thermostat is working and the door gasket tight, all is good. The problem I see is that you have a load of kindling there with a lot of surface area that will all be engulfed at once. The cat will try to keep up and thermostat will try to slow it down but you are going to be dealing with a candle burning at both ends.

Do you have any full sized wood? Like 6" or bigger?
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
5,164
Long Island NY
If I run my box over 24 hrs, I can only see glowing if I make the room real dark. With the lights on it just looks black and ashy.

I also think your splits could be an inch longer. More wood. (I understand you are working with what you have.)

Search for Tetris on this forum..many people okay that. Quite a few pics available.

25 ft is tall. Is there space for a key damper (tough in an insert). Has the draft been measured?

Too dry wood does not exist. I don't think that is a problem here.
 

esguardian

Member
May 31, 2018
26
outside Philadelphia
Thanks all for providing feedback. Despite my smallish pieces of wood, I was able to get a much longer burn time than my previous 3hr burn...lol..I was being too cautious...I'm learning the art of Tetris! House was pretty toasty last night....Started my load around 5ish yesterday and this AM, I was able to rake around the coals and start a new load.

@Highbeam I have plenty of thicker 6" pieces, but I'll have to take them to the chop saw...at 22-24" it is no good.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
2,010
Iowa
Thanks all for providing feedback. Despite my smallish pieces of wood, I was able to get a much longer burn time than my previous 3hr burn...lol..I was being too cautious...I'm learning the art of Tetris! House was pretty toasty last night....Started my load around 5ish yesterday and this AM, I was able to rake around the coals and start a new load.

@Highbeam I have plenty of thicker 6" pieces, but I'll have to take them to the chop saw...at 22-24" it is no good.
Be cautious with the chop saw. Un-uniform splits can be tricky. Be safe!
 

esguardian

Member
May 31, 2018
26
outside Philadelphia
I just thought I would comment on my own thread and see if I could get additional help rather than setting up a new thread on my poor burn time with my new Blaze King Ashford Insert.

I had this vision of loading my wood stove and, walking away and so far my experience has been the opposite. Im trying to rule out issues that may be the culprit, and this may still just be human error and burning subpar small firewood, but if I could just get a 10 hr burn, I would be ecstatic! My longest burn time was 6-7 hrs. (down to coals) I have tried stuffing it with a lot of wood, (Its a mix of Ash, Cherry, Cedar and Hickory I believe) I dropped $7k last spring on this unit with installation, and I want to better understand why its not performing to my expectations. I want to rule out the firewood variable first. How do you do this? Can i just load it up with kiln dried 2x4s? I don't want to overfire!

Previously stated that MC was anywhere between 9-15% but those pieces were on the small size. I have moved on to 18"-22" pieces, and found some MC around 20%-22%. (Don't know how big a deal that is, but I usually set them aside, only burn under 20%) Because you can really only fit 2-3 of these bigger splits E-W, I've taken some large pieces and cut them on the chop saw so I could insert them N-S. Even, when I think Im loading it up to the gills, it seems like in an hour everything has settled down and there's a lot of space left.

There are couple of things I am noticing, that I just want to list here. Maybe someone can help me dial it in.

  1. I notice that within a couple hours of starting the stove, the CAT thermometer drops significantly, and eventually almost out of the red and this has me increasing the airflow slightly to keep it in the red. Does this indicate too strong of a draft? or subpar Firewood? I was hoping it would stay in the active range for the whole burn time.

  2. I can't seem to close the air off completely - every time I do this, it seems the CAT stalls. My process so far has been - Once I have the fire going, latch the door and wait for CAT to be in active range. As soon as its in the RED, closing the bypass and I have been waiting about 10 min so that all the pieces catch (or most) and then I dial down to the half position and then another 10 min further to about 12/1 o'clock, On cold day, the house doesn't seem to get past 66 on a mild day the house is 70. Id like it to be 70 every day all day :)

  3. Should I be using the Blower? It seems every time I use it, while it helps to push out heat into the room, it seems like it has a direct effect on the CAT and causes it to drop in temp. During a mild temperature day, I left the blower off and the stove seemed to perform better, heating the downstairs to 72. I have since not been able to replicate this. Im guessing outside temp is the reason.
I know I am not going to see the same benchmarks as a freestanding stove, and a lot of other factors might play into this (home insulation being one) Im feeling frustrated and want to better understand if there is an installation issue or if this is just subpar wood that isn't allowing me to get the avg burn time. I've burned about a 1/2 cord since Nov and at this rate, I will probably run out of wood by February.

I appreciate any guidance or help, I have added some details to my signature if it helps. Cheers!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
94,485
South Puget Sound, WA
Too dry wood does not exist. I don't think that is a problem here.
Actually, it can be a problem for BK stoves and probably others. Read Pointdexter's experiment with ultra-dry wood that he posted a few years ago. 14-20% is a good range to be in.

 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
5,164
Long Island NY
Actually, it can be a problem for BK stoves and probably others. Read Pointdexter's experiment with ultra-dry wood that he posted a few years ago. 14-20% is a good range to be in.

I last week ran a cubic foot of 2x4s at 7% or so. It works well, and the burn time was similar to the same weight of other wood, there was no exceedingly hot fire. And this is with a likely high draft from my tall chimney.
My data beg to differ on your opinion here.

I see you say "can be a problem" - that may be correct. It is, however, not always a problem (see my data).