Chimney fire in 5 months of using our new VC Dauntless....

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a59cheffy

New Member
Jan 18, 2023
36
Coos Bay, OR
New to wood stove ownership. Installed in March of '22. Started using the stove in mid October. Followed manual to the letter. Read that manual 50 times! After reading through these forums realizing there is a whole bunch not in the manual!! Thanks for the info all!!

To the point, last night started small kindling fire as per usual. Temp was just hitting 300 degrees on top. Flames were just lapping the bypass flu, then woosh. Heard it almost immediately! Wife called 911 as I closed the bypass flu and shut the air control to off. Lucky for us it is a double wall insulated pipe and no attic. Also the fire department is 4 blocks away! They arrived just as the fire was getting scary. Flames and sparks were shooting out the top of the pipe. Got so hot that the paint starting smoking on the outside of the pipe a feet above the stove inside our house. After the fire burned itself out, they doused the kindling inside my stove and aired the house out for me. Only damage was some discolored black paint on the pipe and a warped top cap. Scared the wits out of me though!

So I know now after reading through these forums I should have cleaned the pipe much much sooner! I am guessing I burned through almost 2 cords of wood so far. Mostly doug fir, oak and ash. Wood was seasoned, stored for 2-3 years in a shed. The Fire Captain said the wood looked great. Just should have paid attention to the stove pipe.

The captain told me that right where the stove pipe makes a 45 degree bend, 4 feet above my stove, is where creosote likes to build up, the smoke cools just enough to liquify. As the pipe warms up the creosote runs down the pipe a little until it builds up on top of the stove collar.

Also I don't think I am running the stove hot enough to prevent creosote buildup. I have been running the stove around 350-450 degrees on average. I have done the overnight burn quite a bit with the temps hovering around 350-300 as per the top thermometer. With air regulator half way and bypass engaged. I do not have a catalytic combustor. Am I just not running this stove hot enough?
 
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The Dauntless should be recalled. I cleaned my chimney after a month of use. 30 years of burning wood I've never seen so much buildup. If it's not running full tilt & making you wonder if it's going to burn the house down, It's chugging along with unacceptable low flue temps.
 
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Even without the cat the the the flue gas exit out the combuster still needs to be in the "active cat" range. That being north of 600f. If your simmering below that out your combuster then you have no secondary burning of the exhaust gasses which exacerbates the creosote build up.
 
Even without the cat the the the flue gas exit out the combuster still needs to be in the "active cat" range. That being north of 600f. If your simmering below that out your combuster then you have no secondary burning of the exhaust gasses which exacerbates the creosote build up.
I have the cat on my Dauntless and the temp probe that comes with that kit. The temp probe has a range of "operate cat in this range" but is not calibrated in degrees F. Two questions: Even with midrange stove-top temps and flue temps, often the stock temp probe reads past the high end of the temp range. If I cut back on the intake air to lower the cat temps, the stove-top/flue temps drop into an unacceptable range and I get a smouldering fire. Suggestions?
Also, is there an aftermarket probe that would provide more accurate/useful information about the cat/secondary combustion chamber temps?
 
I have the cat on my Dauntless and the temp probe that comes with that kit. The temp probe has a range of "operate cat in this range" but is not calibrated in degrees F. Two questions: Even with midrange stove-top temps and flue temps, often the stock temp probe reads past the high end of the temp range. If I cut back on the intake air to lower the cat temps, the stove-top/flue temps drop into an unacceptable range and I get a smouldering fire. Suggestions?
Also, is there an aftermarket probe that would provide more accurate/useful information about the cat/secondary combustion chamber temps?
I have an older Encore and sad to say that is how these stoves operate. For a clean burn it goes to low and slow with less heat in the room. If you open the air for heat in the room you get a cat that takes off to 1600*+. Then if you smolder it to control the cat there's an increased chance of puffing smoke when the firebox flashes over and pushes smoke out of the stove. As I posted it's a fine line to walk and not overheat the cat.
 
What is the moisture content of your “seasoned” wood?
I will let you know, I don't have a moisture meter. But, not being new to woodburning I am pretty certain that the wood isn't the problem. It was stored in a shed for 3 years. That being said I do live on the coast of Oregon and moisture is most certainly in the air!
 
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I will let you know, I don't have a moisture meter. But, not being new to woodburning I am pretty certain that the wood isn't the problem. It was stored in a shed for 3 years. That being said I do live on the coast of Oregon and moisture is most certainly in the air!
If it were me, step one would be check the wood w/ a moisture meter. Pick several pieces throughout the stack, split them and check the fresh spilt surface. One can assume being stored in a shed for 3 years all should be good, but if put away wet and the shed has minimal air flow....then who knows. Also sounds like you're not burning hot enough either.
 
If it were me, step one would be check the wood w/ a moisture meter. Pick several pieces throughout the stack, split them and check the fresh spilt surface. One can assume being stored in a shed for 3 years all should be good, but if put away wet and the shed has minimal air flow....then who knows. Also sounds like you're not burning hot enough either.
Ordered a moisture meter from Amazon! If I am not burning hot enough, what is the optimal temperature range? If I leave the bypass open I can hit upwards of 600 degrees with air control fully open. If I close the bypass it will drop 100-200 degrees but stay around 300-400 degrees with air control fully open.
 
Ordered a moisture meter from Amazon! If I am not burning hot enough, what is the optimal temperature range? If I leave the bypass open I can hit upwards of 600 degrees with air control fully open. If I close the bypass it will drop 100-200 degrees but stay around 300-400 degrees with air control fully open.
Is that 600* stove top temp or pipe temp? I have a little Englander 13 in my garage, 1.3 or 1.5 cuft firebox. It routinely gets 600* or more on the stove top surface when at a full burn before I back the air off. Stack temp 4-450* sometimes 500. Then the stove cruises at 350-400 for a bit. I can't shut my damper all the way closed, the stove seems to tight and the fire goes out. Your temp numbers seem acceptable, but if you're getting a lot of creosote I suspect marginal wood. Sometimes shutting the air down to quickly will snuff the fire out enough before all the "creosotey gases" completes it burn off. Shutting the air down a little at a time may help. Example....stove hits 600 or more depending on manufactures rating. Shut air down 1/4.....5 -10 minutes later shut it down 1/4 more.....10 minutes later another 1/4. All stoves are different and you just gotta find out what they like. Also burn hot morning fires to get rid any build up that happens the day prior or during slow overnight burns. Old timer once told me, burn a good hot fire once a day to help keep the pipes clean.

As you learn, I would sweep the chimney monthly to get a gauge on what your wood and burn cycles are leaving behind. The goal is less creosote per cleaning. You've done 2 cords by now, I would have swept the chimney after the first cord or so.
 
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Is that 600* stove top temp or pipe temp? I have a little Englander 13 in my garage, 1.3 or 1.5 cuft firebox. It routinely gets 600* or more on the stove top surface when at a full burn before I back the air off. Stack temp 4-450* sometimes 500. Then the stove cruises at 350-400 for a bit. I can't shut my damper all the way closed, the stove seems to tight and the fire goes out. Your temp numbers seem acceptable, but if you're getting a lot of creosote I suspect marginal wood. Sometimes shutting the air down to quickly will snuff the fire out enough before all the "creosotey gases" completes it burn off. Shutting the air down a little at a time may help. Example....stove hits 600 or more depending on manufactures rating. Shut air down 1/4.....5 -10 minutes later shut it down 1/4 more.....10 minutes later another 1/4. All stoves are different and you just gotta find out what they like. Also burn hot morning fires to get rid any build up that happens the day prior or during slow overnight burns. Old timer once told me, burn a good hot fire once a day to help keep the pipes clean.

As you learn, I would sweep the chimney monthly to get a gauge on what your wood and burn cycles are leaving behind. The goal is less creosote per cleaning. You've done 2 cords by now, I would have swept the chimney after the first cord or so.
Thank you...meter arrived yesterday and checked 6 or 7 fresh splits today. Moisture content ranges from 10-18%. Surprised me because I did not think it would be that dry with ambient moisture here on the Oregon coast.

Ordered a sooteater, arriving soon and will make sure I keep the chimney as clean as possible on a regular basis!
 
Thank you...meter arrived yesterday and checked 6 or 7 fresh splits today. Moisture content ranges from 10-18%. Surprised me because I did not think it would be that dry with ambient moisture here on the Oregon coast.

Ordered a sooteater, arriving soon and will make sure I keep the chimney as clean as possible on a regular basis!
Those are good moisture readings. Maybe too much smoldering fires going on leading to a lot of creosote build up.
 
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Thank you...meter arrived yesterday and checked 6 or 7 fresh splits today. Moisture content ranges from 10-18%. Surprised me because I did not think it would be that dry with ambient moisture here on the Oregon coast.

Ordered a sooteater, arriving soon and will make sure I keep the chimney as clean as possible on a regular basis!

are you saying you resplit the wood and checked the moisture on the fresh split face.. with the pins going with the grain
 
Do you have your combuster in when running the stove..
I purchased the stove without the combuster...was advised against ordering the combuster package from the dealer. He said it would not change the efficiency of the stove and created more problems than they are worth. Thanks to you good folks I see that advice was incorrect and ill informed.

Have been searching online for a combustor but, seems no one is making the size required for the Dauntless yet. Vermont Castings has them on indefinite backorder....
 
I purchased the stove without the combuster...was advised against ordering the combuster package from the dealer. He said it would not change the efficiency of the stove and created more problems than they are worth. Thanks to you good folks I see that advice was incorrect and ill informed.

Have been searching online for a combustor but, seems no one is making the size required for the Dauntless yet. Vermont Castings has them on indefinite backorder....

you can go on amazon.. use the midway hearth.. if you cant fined the correct the original manufacturer for vermont castings is a company called Applied ceramics

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Just a heads up.. you can run the stove without the combuster, but if your running the stove a lot and turning the air back or closing the bypass you'll need to put it in.. Even if your wood is good any moisture in the wood will help the creosote process.. Smoke is unburnt fuel and will build up in the stovepipe..
 
Just a heads up.. you can run the stove without the combuster, but if your running the stove a lot and turning the air back or closing the bypass you'll need to put it in.. Even if your wood is good any moisture in the wood will help the creosote process.. Smoke is unburnt fuel and will build up in the stovepipe..
Thank you! If I use the stove with bypass open I still need to get the temperature up to 600 degrees? I have moved the stove top thermometer from the middle of the griddle to the back of the stove, centered in front of the pipe, correct?
 
If your not going to close the bypass you dont neet to run the stove at 600... and I wouldn't put a lot of wood in it neither.. some small splits and just let it burn, cut the air to no more than half way and it should burn clean.. Burning with the cat will allow you to get the most out of the stove by being able to turn it down when less heat is needed. You only need to heat the stove up to operating temperature if your going to try to engage the cat.. if your going to use the catalyst.. install the Auber AT100 and 6in thermo coupler.. its digital and gives you exact catalyst temperatures in real time.. the bimetal thermometer sucks and is a slow read below is magnetic thermometer placement.. 2nd pic is my cat temperature

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you can go on amazon.. use the midway hearth.. if you cant fined the correct the original manufacturer for vermont castings is a company called Applied ceramics

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FWIW: I emailed the company yesterday regarding purchasing a compuster for the Dauntless. This was their response: "Unfortunately no longer sell individual catalyst to homeowners. Hearth and home technologies would have a replacement part for the stove, but we recommend that you administer a cleaning protocol before throwing the original catalyst away. An overnight soak in a vinegar water solution will remove any fly ash, creosote, or other masking material from the functional surface. (4 parts distilled water: 1 part white vinegar)."
 
Thank you! If I use the stove with bypass open I still need to get the temperature up to 600 degrees? I have moved the stove top thermometer from the middle of the griddle to the back of the stove, centered in front of the pipe, correct?
Dauntless owner's manual says to place the thermometer in the middle of the griddle. FWIW.
 
If your not going to close the bypass you dont neet to run the stove at 600... and I wouldn't put a lot of wood in it neither.. some small splits and just let it burn, cut the air to no more than half way and it should burn clean.. Burning with the cat will allow you to get the most out of the stove by being able to turn it down when less heat is needed. You only need to heat the stove up to operating temperature if your going to try to engage the cat.. if your going to use the catalyst.. install the Auber AT100 and 6in thermo coupler.. its digital and gives you exact catalyst temperatures in real time.. the bimetal thermometer sucks and is a slow read below is magnetic thermometer placement.. 2nd pic is my cat temperature

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Thank you Woodsplitter! Plan on getting the Auber and thermo coupler as soon as possible! I have read so much good advice on this forum and am grateful. I only wish I found this forum before I bought my stove. Will call Applied Ceramics tomorrow to see if and when the combustor will be available. I am bound and determined to make this stove work for me. Luckily I live in a more temperate climate and shorter winter than most, just would be nice to save on electricity!
 
Dauntless owner's manual says to place the thermometer in the middle of the griddle. FWIW.

That is true, but have read through some good advice on these forums and someone suggested the best place to place the STT is centered on the stove just in front of the collar and flue pipe. (found the author)

Good evening Jason,

For what this is worth coming from a guy with a non-catalytic VC Dauntless, the white smoke is as you said a clear indicator of a lack of temperature within the stove. This is usually due to an insufficient coal bed. Starting from cold with an inch of ash throughout the entire bottom of my firebox, it takes at least 45 minutes to develop the uniform stove temperature and depth of coal bed to be able to close the bypass and not have white smoke form. In my previous VC Intrepid it took 30 minutes to effect the same. I would guess to say that it will probably take an hour for your Encore to reach the same conditions as it has an even larger firebox surface area and has yet more cast iron mass to bring up to temperature.

Furthermore, while the quality of the coal bed is essential for these stoves to operate properly, it is equally important that the coal bed and particularly the ashes not block the lower back firebox outlet and secondary air inlet ports as it can restrict or entirely block off the flow of exhaust gases and secondary air to the catalyst in your case (and the secondary burn system in my case) and cause white - low temperature - smoke to form.

You may find your local VC dealer immensely helpful in getting your stove to perform for you as he/she presumably knows the wood type and the stove very well and can look over your exact setup to see if anything is incompatible with the proper operation of a VC Encore. Early on in my experience with my Dauntless, my VC dealer said "In general wood burning is an art rather than a science and a Vermont Castings will especially bring meaning to that statement. Good thing you bought a Dauntless cause you'll need to be."

A very helpful tip my VC dealer gave me was to place the stovetop thermometer centered between the rear of the cast iron griddle/lid and the front of the flue which is in contradiction to the placement specified in the manual. The reason I was given for this change of placement is the temperature usually is higher there and also is usually more indicative of the general heat within the main body of the stove as the cast iron is considerably thicker there than compared to the griddle/lid.

I hope some of this helps and best of luck to you.

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Ha I don't know how I missed this thread.
2 cords in, they have a chimney fire, countless posts of other people having major operational issues with these stoves and everyones answer is to blame the wood or the operator.
 
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