Esse Ironheart's hidden secret

We installed an Esse Ironheart cook stove ten years ago. Over that time the Ironheart has given us no major problems and we are very happy with its performance.

Although the Ironheart is an expensive stove we bought it because it looked like it would last at least twenty years.

The main chassis of the stove is made from 5mm (0.2") thick mild steel with heavy cast cooktop, doors and other fixtures bolted onto the chassis.

The hidden secret is a duct on the side of the oven hidden behind a panel that takes the flue gases from the top to the bottom of the oven. This duct is much thinner than the steel used in the rest of the stove. In our case this thin duct has rusted out after only ten years of operation.

If I had known about the existence of this thin duct when we purchased the stove I might have reconsider the purchase.

To make matters worse this duct is welded onto the side of the oven so is going to be difficult to replace. If it had been bolted on, or even better been made from 5mm thick steel like the rest of the stove or thin stainless steel things would have been different.

Simon
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2006
7,326
Schenectady, NY
If the stove is made of panels bolted to a frame than it can come apart to gain access.

How are your fabrication skills?
 
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If the stove is made of panels bolted to a frame than it can come apart to gain access.

How are your fabrication skills?
The core of the stove is made from 5mm steel bent and welded to make the firebox and oven. Cast iron doors and cook top are bolted onto core of the stove.

I can gain access to the duct by removing the thin heat shield on the side of the oven.

It is my intention to cut away what is left of the existing duct and weld on a new duct made from 5mm (0.2") thick steel plate. Should be a good test of my limited welding skills!

All the remaining thick steel plate in the stove still has many years of service. The cynical engineer in me thinks the reason Esse used thin steel for this duct was to limit the life of the stove. There might be some thermal engineering reasons for using thinner steel like decreasing the time for the stove to heat up or making it draw better. If this is the case they could have made the duct a bolt on part that was easy to replace or make it from stainless steel.

Simon
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2006
7,326
Schenectady, NY
Do you think most people would junk the stove after finding out that this small piece rusted out?


It seems like a pretty robust stove as you mentioned earlier. Maybe they got a bad batch of metal to make this duct out of? Something like "I want xxx alloy." The new guy at the supplier gave them stuff slated for metal 5 gallon paint cans. Now theres a batch of paint cans out there that are bullet proof!
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,252
Northern NH
Sound to me like a design flaw. A long term manufacturer would come up with fix and communicate it but expect they do not want to admit it or assumed that folks just would not use them long enough to find a long term flaw.

Folks do pick on Vermont Castings legitimately but I do respect that when they had the flaw with the Defiant's they paid for dealers to make the fix and then sold a rebuild kit which is still available.

At a minimum they should come up with a fix and publish it, possible sell patch panels to make the fix easier.
 
Do you think most people would junk the stove after finding out that this small piece rusted out?
I think it is highly likely that most people would junk the stove when this duct rusted out. I can't think it would be a cheap or an easy repair job to weld on a new duct or replace the whole chassis. The tone of the response in this review I got from the dealer that sold the stove to us was, well it gave you ten years of good service so what are you complaining about.

Maybe I am old fashioned but I expect this sort of appliance to last. In our previous house we had a stove that was probably about 80 years old that you could still get all the spare parts for at a reasonable price and was relatively easy to fix.

Simon
 

Ludlow

Minister of Fire
Jun 4, 2018
1,415
PA
Try spending $30K on a vehicle that rusts in half in 10 years. The duct should have been replaceable. No doubt.
 
Sound to me like a design flaw. A long term manufacturer would come up with fix and communicate it but expect they do not want to admit it or assumed that folks just would not use them long enough to find a long term flaw.

At a minimum they should come up with a fix and publish it, possible sell patch panels to make the fix easier.
I did contact Esse by email hoping to get this sort of response but got no reply directly from them and a reply from the dealer that sold the stove to us that did not address the issues I raised in my email.

After submitting a review on a British website detailing the issue (which was not published) I got an email from the owners of the website asking if they could make representations to Esse on my behalf. I submitted a list of questions to the website owner to forward to Esse. Here are the questions and the replies from Esse which were forwarded back to me.

  1. Do Esse supply some sort of repair kit to replace the rusting out duct?
We are able to offer a replacement spare ‘right hand oven flue duct’ through the dealer that sold the Ironheart. As the product is out of warranty this will be a chargeable part. Labour will not be covered.

2. Have they changed the thickness of the steel in the duct in newer models and if so when and how thick is the new duct or have they fixed the problem with the duct rusting out via some other approach and if so what? The reason for the second question is that a friend of mine bought an Ironheart on my recommendation a few years ago and I want to know if they will face the same problem I am having at a later date.

The flue design has been used on ESSE solid fuel appliances since the 1960’s. The flue way design on the Ironheart has not been changed.

  1. What do they think is a reasonable lifespan for the Ironheart?
We launched Ironheart in 2004, we do not have exact figures but we know of 2004 models which are heavily used, regularly serviced and are still going strong.

I assume that the replacement duct will be the same thickness as the original, so what is the point of going to all the trouble of removing the old duct and welding on the replacement duct if it will be the first thing to rust out again.

As far as I can tell the other Esse stoves are mainly cast iron with the ovens and firebox inserted in the cast iron 'shell'. As the duct is part of the oven I would assume that if it has to be replaced it would be a case of 'bolting' in a new oven compartment which is different from the Ironheart where you either have to replace the chassis which is the the bulk of the stove or go to the trouble of grinding off and welding a replacement duct.

Simon
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,463
South Puget Sound, WA
That's a bummer It's good that you are not dumping the stove and will be restoring it. I lean toward the stainless steel solution.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
21,388
central pa
I think it is highly likely that most people would junk the stove when this duct rusted out. I can't think it would be a cheap or an easy repair job to weld on a new duct or replace the whole chassis. The tone of the response in this review I got from the dealer that sold the stove to us was, well it gave you ten years of good service so what are you complaining about.

Maybe I am old fashioned but I expect this sort of appliance to last. In our previous house we had a stove that was probably about 80 years old that you could still get all the spare parts for at a reasonable price and was relatively easy to fix.

Simon
We repair many stoves not many of our customers would junk a stove over a simple issue like this.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
21,388
central pa
Thanks for the suggestion. Can you tell me your reasons behind using stainless steel and what thickness would you use?

Thanks, Simon
Stainless won't rust again. As far as thickness most internal panels in cook stoves we replace we use 18 or 20 gauge depending on the size and how much reinforcing bends there are. What are you burning in the stove and are you cleaning that area properly? I only ask because we work on lots of cook stoves and most are much older than yours. Most also only use relatively thin steel in that area and it generally takes pretty long for it to rust out even with coal as long as it is maintained properly.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,463
South Puget Sound, WA
Thanks for the suggestion. Can you tell me your reasons behind using stainless steel and what thickness would you use?

Thanks, Simon
Stainless doesn't oxidize as quickly as regular steel. That's why PE uses it in their firebox. It should help make the fix more permanent. bholler's suggestion of 20 ga sounds good.