Hearthstone Soapstone vs Cast-Iron Stoves

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neverstop

New Member
Oct 11, 2020
29
new hampshire
I've narrowed down my choices to the hearthstone castleton or shelburne. I think it comes down to which will provide the heat I'm looking for. We're often in the room with the stove and the old cast iron VC vigilant often heated us out of the room. I'm hoping the soapstone cuts down on the extreme heat in the stove room.

Important house facts:
  • well insulated and tight, turning on my floor AC actually pulls air down my oil boiler chimney ( i need to crack a window basement to mitigate)
  • 2 story colonial with 2000 sq ft of living space, bottom floor is open
  • stove on one side of the house in room with cathedral ceilings
  • current VC vigilant stove easily gets the upper level above 80 during cold nights
So cast iron over soap stone, or soap stone stove? firebox is about the same size 1.9 cu. ft. vs. 2.0 cu ft.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,564
central pa
I've narrowed down my choices to the hearthstone castleton or shelburne. I think it comes down to which will provide the heat I'm looking for. We're often in the room with the stove and the old cast iron VC vigilant often heated us out of the room. I'm hoping the soapstone cuts down on the extreme heat in the stove room.

Important house facts:
  • well insulated and tight, turning on my floor AC actually pulls air down my oil boiler chimney ( i need to crack a window basement to mitigate)
  • 2 story colonial with 2000 sq ft of living space, bottom floor is open
  • stove on one side of the house in room with cathedral ceilings
  • current VC vigilant stove easily gets the upper level above 80 during cold nights
So cast iron over soap stone, or soap stone stove? firebox is about the same size 1.9 cu. ft. vs. 2.0 cu ft.
Soap stone really makes no difference other than making the stove take longer to put out heat. If you run it to hard it will still overheat the room easily.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,165
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
I owned a hearthstone heritage (fully stone) for several years and burned 30 cords through it. The stone looks nice but I got rid of it for a plate steel stove and it's just as comfortable with way less wood consumption and way longer burn times. I have a small home with low ceilings and the stove room is relatively small.

Stone is not a high performance stove construction material. It just looks nice. It really sucks to heat it up from cold, takes forever.

Based on your location, I would be looking at a larger stove. Hearthstone was never very honest about their cubic foot ratings. Way overstated.
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,730
Northern Maine
Why not just run your current stove a little lower?
That is unless you just want a different look.
 

gthomas785

Minister of Fire
Feb 8, 2020
501
Central MA
The temperature in the room depends on the BTU output of the stove and the convection patterns in the house, it has less to do with the material the stove is made of.

With that said, different stoves will radiate heat differently so if you were being driven out of the stove by the highly radiant cast iron while the temperature was just warm, you may do better with a jacketed stove that would turn the radiant heat output into more of a convective heat transfer mechanism. On the other hand if the temperature in the stove room was getting into the high 80s then maybe the stove was just oversized or you need try to move the air around with some fans. I don't think soapstone would be an ideal choice in either of these scenarios.
 

Rob_Red

Feeling the Heat
Feb 2, 2021
290
Southern New England
Keep in mind the Hearthstone “cast iron stoves” are still lined in soap stone. I like it because it’s pretty durable compared to firebrick.

also another point is there’s no soap stone in the door, the large viewing window or the top (of the cast iron series) So tons of quick heat kicked out regardless of the soap stone.

people have this image that it’s like a pizza oven with tons of thermal mass that takes a while to warm up. This isn’t my experience, the Green Mountain series of stoves perform very much like a regular stove but have a durable lining of soap stone which I believe is just there to attract customers to buy.

bottom line the hearthstones are dead simple with very few moving parts, are extremely attractive, have an awesome viewable fire, they are fairly efficient and they heat great, running wide open my GM 40 heats my entire 1600 sf house to 75 degrees in January in New England also I burn about 3-3.5 cords per winter.
 

Shrewboy

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
71
Eastern Pennsylvania
I just got a hearthstone castleton last year, it has worked great so far with no issues, I can stand right next to it without feeling overheated, but as others have said it takes awhile to heat up.

The soapstone does not require more wood, the final overall heat output is the same, its just the "curve" of how quickly it gets hot, and how hot it gets, is smoother than a cast iron or steel stove.

Soapstone also requires a few small fires when you first use it for the year, to push the moisture out of the stone. If you do a big fire right away after the stone has sat all summer, the moisture will turn to steam and cause too much pressure inside the stone, potentially causing it to crack.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,165
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Something to keep in mind is that almost all of us with lots of hearthstone experience were using the pre 2020 stoves that were noncat stoves. In 2020 they added catalysts to reduce emissions which certainly should have also increased efficiency and control.

The drawback of a large stone mass on the noncast iron models is still real. One way to minimize the associated problems with that slow warm up is to just never let it cool down.
 
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neverstop

New Member
Oct 11, 2020
29
new hampshire
I owned a hearthstone heritage (fully stone) for several years and burned 30 cords through it. The stone looks nice but I got rid of it for a plate steel stove and it's just as comfortable with way less wood consumption and way longer burn times. I have a small home with low ceilings and the stove room is relatively small.

Stone is not a high performance stove construction material. It just looks nice. It really sucks to heat it up from cold, takes forever.

Based on your location, I would be looking at a larger stove. Hearthstone was never very honest about their cubic foot ratings. Way overstated.
the stove room would be high 80s low 90s when the upper level was in the low 80s if the stove was running all day. the current stove may have been sufficient when the house was built but since then the insulation has been replaced in the attic/basement, triple pane windows were installed, etc.

Why not just run your current stove a little lower?
That is unless you just want a different look.
it's a 40 yr old stove that needs a major rebuild, and i'd really like to be able to achieve longer burns (overnight/at work).
The temperature in the room depends on the BTU output of the stove and the convection patterns in the house, it has less to do with the material the stove is made of.

With that said, different stoves will radiate heat differently so if you were being driven out of the stove by the highly radiant cast iron while the temperature was just warm, you may do better with a jacketed stove that would turn the radiant heat output into more of a convective heat transfer mechanism. On the other hand if the temperature in the stove room was getting into the high 80s then maybe the stove was just oversized or you need try to move the air around with some fans. I don't think soapstone would be an ideal choice in either of these scenarios.
the upper floor rooms that butt up with the top of the stove room (cathedral ceilings) have circulation fans in the wall. these actually work pretty well to move heat around the upstairs. however, the temperatures that I've been quoting occur even when I don't have these fans moving.

I think the stove is just oversized for the application. from what i've read and what i've experience it's close to impossible to get the current stove to run in secondary burn much below 525F, and it functions the best around 600 F. it just pumps out a ton of heat
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,787
Iowa
the stove room would be high 80s low 90s when the upper level was in the low 80s if the stove was running all day. the current stove may have been sufficient when the house was built but since then the insulation has been replaced in the attic/basement, triple pane windows were installed, etc.


it's a 40 yr old stove that needs a major rebuild, and i'd really like to be able to achieve longer burns (overnight/at work).

the upper floor rooms that butt up with the top of the stove room (cathedral ceilings) have circulation fans in the wall. these actually work pretty well to move heat around the upstairs. however, the temperatures that I've been quoting occur even when I don't have these fans moving.

I think the stove is just oversized for the application. from what i've read and what i've experience it's close to impossible to get the current stove to run in secondary burn much below 525F, and it functions the best around 600 F. it just pumps out a ton of heat
Sounds like you need to deeply research the nice low and long burns of a modern Cat equipped stove. With the needs you are calling for it seems worth looking into.
 
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neverstop

New Member
Oct 11, 2020
29
new hampshire
Sounds like you need to deeply research the nice low and long burns of a modern Cat equipped stove. With the needs you are calling for it seems worth looking into.
the stoves being discussed are cat stoves. is there a suggested sticky on this site?
 
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moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,787
Iowa
is there a suggested sticky on this site?

Not that I am aware of. Quality idea. Shoot me a PM for my personal experience if curious.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,165
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
the stoves being discussed are cat stoves. is there a suggested sticky on this site?

The stoves being discussed are newly modified to be cat stoves with very little data yet on whether they will perform like a noncat or like a top tier cat stove. Prior to 2020 the hearthstones were plain old noncats. The marketing would lead us to believe that the new cat equipped hearthstones might be excellent which would be good news. I'm rooting for that. The other possibility is that the catalysts were added as short term band aids that gave a brief period of low emissions to pass the test.

I really like the looks of the hearthstones. Increases in durability, efficiency, and burn rate control were needed and maybe delivered.

Do you want to be the guinea pig?
 

Rob_Red

Feeling the Heat
Feb 2, 2021
290
Southern New England
Being that I have a new Cat hearthstone I suppose I became a guinea pig without even realizing it. I would be happy to contribute data to this, if anyone has specific ideas on how to provide data let me know
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,638
South Puget Sound, WA
These stoves are hybrids that are more like Woodstock' and Regency stoves than BK cat stoves. The efficiency has been nicely improved, but as noted, there is little data on how they work over many years. Early reports have been positive. Hearthstone is not new to cat technology, they have dabbled with it in the past. The Shelburne pre-cat was a nice medium-sized stove so I hope that now it's even better.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,132
Downeast Maine
Sounds like a BK 20 series would work out well.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,165
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
earthstone is not new to cat technology, they have dabbled with it in the past.
Several decades ago. Even before the first EPA emissions regulations right?

The "hybrid" aspect of a stove with a catalyst isn't always that great. All that means is that there is some secondary in addition to the catalyst. Sometimes it's just a little bit of air to supplement the catalyst and sometimes it really increases top end output and efficiency. You can't automatically assume you get the best of both worlds with a hybrid but wouldn't that be great.

Another reason a stove might be a hybrid is because the stove designers tried to build or reuse a noncat stove design but it was so dirty that they had to scab on a catalyst to pass the emissions testing.
 
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Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,730
Northern Maine
Max BTU/hr on the Castleton is 45000
Max BTU/hr on the Shelburne is 60000
Pretty close when turned down to 1/2 max
I’d not be quick to agree with close. Looks like 25% to me.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,638
South Puget Sound, WA
Several decades ago. Even before the first EPA emissions regulations right?

The "hybrid" aspect of a stove with a catalyst isn't always that great. All that means is that there is some secondary in addition to the catalyst. Sometimes it's just a little bit of air to supplement the catalyst and sometimes it really increases top end output and efficiency. You can't automatically assume you get the best of both worlds with a hybrid but wouldn't that be great.

Another reason a stove might be a hybrid is because the stove designers tried to build or reuse a noncat stove design but it was so dirty that they had to scab on a catalyst to pass the emissions testing.
The Harvest was introduced right after the regs were introduced IIRC, around 1989 -1995.

Woodstock has used hybrid tech well. They designed their hybrids from scratch as a matter of choice. Regency was making and selling hybrids well in advance of 2020 too. In addition to keeping the stove clean-burning, I think it also helps keep the glass cleaner.