I just wanted to give a little update on how we're enjoying the stove. It's been almost a month now and we absolutely love it. We kicked off the winter season with extremely cold weather, but were bummed when things warmed up into a more mild temperature range -- we weren't able to use the stove for a whole week! But things dipped again, and for now it's become necessary at night and early morning but we don't use it during the day.
We discovered a good spot for a temp gauge is on the pipe at the lowest point, right where it exits the fireplace. Outside of that, our stove itself is too insulated, as is the double wall pipe, to get a good reading.
The explorer II also has an ash pan with the trap door in the center of the unit. I've read reviews of people who do not like this feature, but we actually really like it and find it very useful. It makes a shovel completely unnecessary. We are able to sweep everything down into the ash pan, then simply empty it outside.
We've so far not been able to keep the glass clean during a burn. It stays relatively clear, but inevitably it does get the brown smudge on the door, especially on the left side. It take a little elbow grease to get it off after the stove has cooled, but the wet sponge dipped in ash trick works pretty well. I'd still like to figure out how to keep it less sooty but not sure if that's possible...
The cook top takes some real bumping up of the heat to get it hot enough to use, but we have warmed water on it and re-heated dishes (including a crock pot). We haven't gotten it hot enough to boil though. My husband was able to cook an egg in a mini cast skillet, so maybe the key is cast cookware? I don't know...but we'll keep playing with it.
As an aside I've been able to put a ceramic dish on top and melt my scented was tarts in it, which has been lovely, haha. There is nothing like walking into a room that smells of burning wood, but also pine needles, and citrus , then be hit with the warmth of the stove, too! It's made having a fire going a whole experience for the senses
This week my husband tried the "top down" method to get things started, and then I started using it, and wow, what an easy trick! It's really made starting the fires much easier in this unit. Whereas before it would take me a couple of tries to get it going, the top down method is mostly a one and done deal.
This stove is super ticky. It ticks heating up and cooling down. It really doesn't bother us at all but I'm curious -- is this unique to units like these with two types of metal? Or is ticking typical in other stoves?
We've been able to keep a hot coal bed for a few hours but we're still playing with packing the stove to keep it warmer longer for overnight burns. For now either my husband or I have been waking up during the night and feeding the fire -- not on a schedule, more so if we just happen to wake up we'll check on it. We've typically been able to keep it at 70 or above, with only one night waking up to it being 68 in the house. This has been with outside temps getting into the 30's.
I think that's it! Our current struggle hasn't been so much with the stove but with the wood. We had some seasoned wood but went through it quickly. We got some delivered but only about a fourth of it was actually seasoned, with the rest being "almost" seasoned or entirely too wet for this year's burn. My husband actually metered it when the guy came to drop it off, and so he knocked off a bunch on the price which was nice and will be good for next year, but we will need to find something soon for this year...
Thanks again for everyone's help and feedback! Happy burning!