Clydesdale - Babysitting and Smoke Smell - Help and Feedback please

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jmanieri

New Member
Dec 20, 2018
3
New Jersey
Hello fellow wood burners,

I am a new member and a new owner of a Hearthstone Clydesdale fireplace wood burning insert. Some of you may have heard of it, I am hoping.

I am having a problem getting the burn time up to its advertised 10 hours and I am getting a strong smell of smoke through out our home.

I live in Northern NJ in a 5000 sqft home with one fireplace in our 'great room' the room has 14ft ceiling and it about 650 sqft (25x26). We moved in last year and our first winter we just ran our natural gas boiler with baseboard heat, we kept the thermostats at 65 when away and 72 when home and we spent way too much money on our gas bills. So this year we decided to add a wood insert to our fireplace to try and reduce our gas bill as much as possible, understanding its only part of a big house but it where we spend most of our time.

So about 3 weeks ago we were very excited to have our new Clydesdale installed and I couldn't wait to start burning wood and enjoying the fire and hopefully in the process start saving a few bucks. I burned 4 break in fires being extra cautious, slowly bringing it up to temp and letting it totally cool down over night. I used a handheld infrared laser temperature gun to measure the temp of the front glass and to of the firebox.
1st Break in fire was about an hour, glass temp 100 and top of firebox was about 150.
2nd was an 2hrs, glass 150 / firebox 175
3rd was 3hrs, glass 200 / firebox 250
4th was 8hrs, glass 600 / firebox 400

I know the owners manual said I only need to do one break in round for about 45 minutes but I wanted to be extra careful. 1st round was pretty bad, I had so much smoke in the house my wife wasn't too happy. I kept having to open the door to blow on the wood to get it to keep burning. 2nd fire I learned to blow through a slightly opened door which lessened the smoke rushing in but still got the smoke smell through out the house. 3rd and 4th i had loaded it with a lot more wood and didn't have to use the blow technic, so less smoke, but still the smell of smoke was present and kinda still irritates our eyes and throat.

Before we got the insert installed I purchased a cord and a half of year old seasoned and split mixed hardwoods like white oak, red oak, ash and maple. I also had year old seasoned pine from trees we had cut when we bought the house. I bought a moisture gauge with the 2 metal needles to test the wood and make sure it was 20% moisture or less.

I start my fires by laying down 5-6 pieces of loosely crumpled newspaper, 2 tightly wound brown paper bags, a couple piece of cardboard and then dry wood scraps and chips then few piece of kindling and a 1 or 2 big cuts of wood.

Light the paper in the back, front, left, right and it starts very easy, I close the door not all the way, I leave it cracked until the fire is roaring for about 5 minutes or so, then i shut it completely and lock the handle, and sit back and marvel at the beautiful fire, looks amazing, flames hovering slowly, i love it.

After the kindling burns down and the logs settle in, I'll unlock and open the door slowly, not to let out any smoke, and add 1 or 2 big logs of hardwood and lock her back up. But after about an hour maybe 2 hours tops, I have to stoke the fire? (open the door slowly, try to avoid letting smoke in which is hard to avoid, then the house starts to smell and my eyes and throat burn) So now I'm babysitting this fire and its not what I expected. Its very disappointing and I feel like I made a big mistake by deciding to go with a wood insert and not a pellet insert. I assumed I was going to get 10 hrs of hands off fire and heat. Id be happy with 8 hour or even 6 for now.

I am going to call my dealer and see what they say, but before I do that, I am hoping to get some real world stories and feedback. Is this really how it works?!?! Was I wrong to assume 8-10 hours of hands free heat? A little less would be ok too, I mainly did this to save a few bucks on our gas bill, but this seems like a lot of work to keep up and I am getting some serious buyers remorse at this point. We spent a lot of money to have this installed and it feels like a giant waste at this point. I feel stupid and crushed right now.

But please be honest. Is this how it is? Should I have went with pellets? Am I doing something wrong?

thank you all in advance for reading my post and to anyone who for their input, thanks it would be very much appreciated.
Hopeful,
Joe

Before & After (actually during install)
IMG_8121.jpg
AFTER
IMG_8122.jpg
 
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SculptureOfSound

Feeling the Heat
Sep 9, 2017
372
Wisconsin, USA
I don't have a Clydesdale but I do have a Vermont Castings Montpelier insert and it has some of the same features which can lead to easy smoke rollout...big glass/big door, firebox that is wider than it is deep, etc.

First off, it is quite likely the smell burning your throat and eyes is not smoke leaking out of the unit, but instead is the paint curing and smoking. This happens to all new stoves and can take 4-5 hot burns to fully cure (and then if you hit a higher temp next time it will smell a bit again). Don't worry this will fade in time, but best to have the windows open for the first few burns.

After that problem is solved there's the.issue of tending the fire without getting smoke in the room. These inserts with the huge.doors and tons of glass look awesome but the drawback is easier smoke rollout with the door open. The key is to not have to open the door until you reload. So instead of starting with just kindling and then adding wood as you go, fill it with a full fire's worth of wood.

Our fireboxes are similar in shape. What I find works best for start UPS is two short logs running front to back, put them so there is about an eight inch gap between them and fill that space with criss crossed kindling. Then put two or three splits sideways on top of those two logs that are front to back. I like to have a medium large split towards the back and the smaller split(s) towards the front as they will take off quicker and easier and get the flue up to temp quickly. Light in multiple spots in the kindling and let it burn with full air (or even the door slightly ajar if necessary) until the wood chars, then turn down the air in increments. You want to get it where there is just a slow flame on the wood and most of the flame is up at the secondary tubes. Watch the stove for about 2-3 mins each time you turn the air down and make sure the fire doesn't start to Peter out.
 

SculptureOfSound

Feeling the Heat
Sep 9, 2017
372
Wisconsin, USA
Btw my firebox is slightly smaller and I can get 6 hours of heat (note that most of the heat is in the first half of the burn) with pine, and 8+ with oak, and that's not even loaded to the max. I've actually only ever had it about half full with oak mixed with a bit of pine and that's when I was getting 8 hohohr burns.

So 8-10 hours is possible. But do note that you'll only have a visible flame for 2-4 hours and after that it is just bright coals.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,842
Iowa
Is the chimney lined with a stainless liner?

Are you checking moisture content on a split that has been brought up to room temp indoors overnight or longer? You take that split and re-split it so you can test the middle of the freshly exposed inside face.

Fill these 2 details in first. Welcome to Hearth. You will get plenty of advice here!
 
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Woodsplitter67

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2017
2,038
Woolwich nj
I dont have your stove, but from what is sounds like its not running right. To me it sounds like wet wood, or a draft issue. Maybe a but of both. Your wood should be checked with a MM again. Split should be room temperature and you need to resplit the wood and check the MC on the room temperature fresh split side. When you get smoke spilling into the room that is a sign of weak draft. So eather your you have some kinad bolckage, or your chimney is still to cool to draft. What was installed in the existing fireplace.. ss liner??? What do you have, height with of pipe like 6in or 8in
 

ShawnLiNY

Burning Hunk
Dec 13, 2018
224
Ny
As above go purchase a moisture meter and 2 bundles of kiln dried wood from Lowe’s, Home Depot try a fire using only the new bundled stuff , I don’t know your firewood seller but here on Long Island wood sold as seasoned rarely is ( especially the 2 years some hardwoods require )
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,572
South Puget Sound, WA
The oak may not be fully seasoned. As noted above, retest several splits on the freshly exposed face of the wood.

What was in the big hole before the insert was installed? Do you have a picture of the fireplace prior to the beginning of this installation? Was an insulated stainless steel liner put in?
 

jmanieri

New Member
Dec 20, 2018
3
New Jersey
wow! this forum is great. I didn't expect 6 responses so quickly - thank you!

SculptureofSound - Nice insert we considered the VC Montpelier, it was our second choice. Yes very similar. I did get the chemical smell after the 4th break in fire on the 1st real fire and has dissipated since, but that was a strong smell too. I try to get in as much wood as I can on the first light but the firebox isnt that tall. I think the VCM you have has a much taller firebox. But I will definitely try to get as much in as possible and avoid having to open the door again. But when you say you get 6 hours, is the 6 hours of hands free, not stoking, or tending the fire heat?

MoreSnow - yes we had the dealer install a 6 inch stainless steel liner up the flue and cap and insulate the top. No i am not re-splitting the splits to check the fresh side, i will do that and take a another reading. But I am storing the wood i am burning inside over night.

WoodSplitter - yes 6 inch ss liner installed, capped and insulated at the top. Ceiling it about 14 feet, so liner is about the same height.

ShawnLINY - yes thats a great idea, I need to double check the moisture on a fresh split and great idea on buying a couple bundles from HD/Lowes and trying that.

BeGreen - yes i am going to double check on a fresh split and see how it tests. Before the install we just had glass doors and a cast iron grate. We never even lit a fire in it, but i did personally look up the flue and it was clear, and yes we had a 6" ss liner installed. 6" was code of NJ.

IMG_7920.jpg IMG_7972.jpg

thanks again everyone for your input.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,572
South Puget Sound, WA
The Clydesdale is a good heater but it takes a little longer to come up to temperature due to its cast iron mass and soapstone firebrick. You might try top down starting to reduce initial smoke. Did they insulate the liner?

This looks like a cold exterior fireplace. The mass of cold masonry can really suck the heat out of the insert. To counteract this effect it helps to have an insulated block-off plate installed and some insulation behind the insert.

Top down start video
 

SculptureOfSound

Feeling the Heat
Sep 9, 2017
372
Wisconsin, USA
Yup 6 hours of hands free heat. Well, you have to adjust the air a few times from a cold start, and maybe only once on a reload, so I'd say I have to keep an eye on a cold start for 30 mins or so and about 5-10 on a reload. But once you get comfortable with it you don't need to watch it every second of that time. Get it burning good, let it rip for however long to get it started, come back and turn down the air maybe halfway, then repeat again once or twice more. Then, once it is burning and "cruising" you shouldn't need to touch it until it's time to reload. Typically best to wait til it is down to coals to avoid any smoke issues, but as to how long to let the coals burn that will be based on when you want more heat and your desired reload schedule.
 
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jmanieri

New Member
Dec 20, 2018
3
New Jersey
WoodSplitter - cool link to Kiln Drying wood - nice set up to constructed. I have mine off the ground and tarped but not completely, so the air can still circulate around it.

BeGreen - thanks for the video - was very helpful and I was surprised at how she just stacked her wood in the firebox on top of each other with out space, i thought for sure that would just suffocate the fire.... guess not. They did insulate the top of the liner by the cap to prevent cold outside air from entering the room, but the didn't insulate the bottom half. I will have to ask the dealer about the insulated block off plate and additional insulation, possibly install it myself if they wont.

SculptureofSound - thanks again.... I think I may have just realized something I am overlooking, is the airflow, I pretty much keep it wide open, when i ever i tried closing it seems to kill the fire, but it seems like that is what its supposed to do to get into "cruising" mood....

I am gonna have to experiment much more with the airflow slider at the bottom. The Clydesdale only has one airflow adjuster at the bottom, it seems to be the intake... while we were shopping i noticed other inserts had 2, a top and bottom, I guess a intake and exhaust.

But this could be ground breaking, ill play with the air flow intake, be amazing if that make a big difference.
 

therealdbeau

Burning Hunk
Oct 16, 2018
160
VA
You'll figure it out. You just need to get familiar with your stove. To get anywhere near the advertised burn times you will need to pack that thing absolutely as full as possible on a bed of hot coals. Just keep playing around with it and you'll get there.

As long as your wood is dry and the stove is installed properly the rest is just a learning curve.
 

weatherguy

Minister of Fire
Feb 20, 2009
5,829
Central Mass
Some of your wood may be ok to burn this year. I'd put the oak stacked in an exposed area for another year. Test each species and burn the stuff that's dry if you have any. If not bio bricks might help this year. Get next years wood ASAP.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,572
South Puget Sound, WA
I think I may have just realized something I am overlooking, is the airflow, I pretty much keep it wide open, when i ever i tried closing it seems to kill the fire, but it seems like that is what its supposed to do to get into "cruising" mood....
If the wood is partially seasoned it will be hard to get burning strongly with the air closed down because excess moisture is being boiled off. Another possible but hopefully unlikely issue is a crimped liner. This can happen if the damper area needed opening up and instead they ovalized the liner to fit.
 

Woodsplitter67

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2017
2,038
Woolwich nj
WoodSplitter - cool link to Kiln Drying wood - nice set up to constructed. I have mine off the ground and tarped but not completely, so the air can still circulate around it.

Yo.. thanks for posting that. Someone a month back suggested i link that thread to my signature. I did and i cant see it and I didnt know that i was successful in doing it. I hope this works out for you.. dont give up and dont second guess your decision. Its a great looking set up and im sure we will all help you figure it out.
A number of years ago I spent well over 4k on a smoker, the one i had died and it was an inexpensive one. I had this smoker custom made and shipped to my home.. worst BBQ I ever made.. i couldn't figure out how to run this thing, over cooked the food, to much smoke flavor, i could go on and on.. long story short.. i figured it out.. took a bit but i got it. Brisket, ribs, smoked turkey wrapped in bacon.. its all good now... you will to.. you'll get it..
 

jkmola

Member
Oct 26, 2014
29
The Mitten
If you don't have a stove top thermometer, get one. It will greatly help understand how your stove is operating. I have a Clydesdale as well and depending on your wood, one of these two methods should give you the best results. Your thermometer will help you decide which is working best.

1. From a cold start, start a small fire and establish a hot bed of coals. Then STUFF the firebox with as much firewood as you possibly can. Leave the door slightly cracked until flames are sufficiently started. Close the door but leave the bottom lever pulled all the way OUT. Once you have vigorous flames around the entire stack of wood, push the lever in roughly one third. The flames should become slow rolling. In about 10 min or so, they will become vigorous again. Push the lever in another one third, slowing the flames to a roll. After they reach the vigorous stage again, push the lever all the way in. Depending on what kind of wood you are burning, the stove top temps will be in the upper portion of the medium burn section of your thermometer or the lower portion of the high temp section. The temp will continue to increase some after you push the lever in for the last time. You can walk away from it at this point for several hrs until the thermometer shows low burn temps.

2. Establish a bed of coals as above, and stuff the firebox FULL and leave the door ajar until flames are established. Close the door, leaving the lever pulled all the way out. Leave it that way until it's highest temp is reached on the thermometer - anywhere from 30 min to an hr, depending. Once there, push the lever in half way, which will slow the flame some. Another ten min or so, push it all the way in. Done until it's time to reload.

When reloading, as long as you have a hot bed of coals, just pile as much wood as you physically can fit in the stove and shut the door with the lever pulled all the way out. Then repeat the steps for whichever method above works best for you

I've been using ash, which burns nice and hot but doesn't last the longest. If I shut the air down before bedtime, I still have a nice bed of coals for restarting about 7 hrs later. Not much heat is being given off the stove at that time however. I've yet to burn GOOD seasoned oak, which I think should extend that.