Help replacing an old stove

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eric_ak

New Member
Aug 3, 2021
8
southeast Alaska
I live in Sitka, on the outer coast in southeast Alaska, and we tend to use our stove for 8 or 9 months each year. Our fall is wet and windy so the dryness of a fire is nice as well as the heat. Our winters are long and mild - usually upper 30s and lower 40s for weeks at a time. We have occasional colder spells in the teens, but they don't usually last more than a week, once or twice a winter. The coolness and wetness of early spring can linger into May before we get warm enough to not want fires. During particularly cold and rainy summers, we've had fires into June and even July. We usually make a fire in the late afternoon and let it go out overnight; we rarely need a fire to be going for days at a time.

We just moved into a house that has a rusted out old stove that needs replacement. We spent the last 5 years in a house that had an older non-catalytic stove; I believe it was a medium size Ashley, something like an older version of this.

My biggest issue in choosing a new stove is the challenge of keeping a well-seasoned firewood supply here. We have a small yard, so we can't keep much more than one year's worth of firewood on hand. We can keep a little more than a year's worth, but definitely not two seasons worth of wood. I manage this as best I can by dividing my woodshed into many narrow sections, so as soon as a section is empty I can refill it with fresh wood and maximize seasoning time.

I've used a moisture meter for about three years now, so I have a pretty good sense of how our wood dries. I have a decent woodshed, open on all sides and covered on top, with good airflow. The main problem is sometimes we have "summers" with just a handful of dry days. Almost everything I cut is alder or hemlock, and it consistently reads about 38% MC when it's freshly cut and split. By the time I need to burn it, it's usually 25-28%. One year we had almost no rain all summer and I left my wood in uncovered stacks in bright sun with good airflow before putting it in the shed, and that wood dried to 20-24% over a 12-18 month span. I split my wood as small as it can reasonably be split to maximize drying.

I've had no problems with this level of moisture. Our stove was in a one-story section of the house, with a short straight chimney that was really easy to check and clean. I ended up cleaning it twice a year, and I never saw significant buildup of anything in the stack. Our new house (built in 1940, so new to us) has a similar setup, in fact the chimney is even easier to access here.

I can have a stove barged in if I need to, but that's probably significantly more expensive than having a store include it in their larger order. The local stores work with Blaze King and Ashley. I started getting interested in a couple Blaze King models, but then read up on how to use a catalytic stove. I'm really hesitant to buy a catalytic stove knowing the moisture content of the wood we burn. It's just not realistic to try to maintain a steady supply of <20% MC wood.

I'm leaning towards ordering a medium size Ashley just like we've been using. Is that a reasonable idea given the constraints of seasoning here?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,509
South Puget Sound, WA
Welcome Eric, burning partially seasoned wood can be a pain when it is still 25% water. It's possible, but the heat output is a lot less. Good draft will help somewhat. How tall is the flue from stovetop to chimney cap? Is it straight up? Can you get doug fir to burn? It has a higher oil content and dries pretty quickly. I am also wondering if setting up a solar kiln to expedite drying would be possible.
 
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eric_ak

New Member
Aug 3, 2021
8
southeast Alaska
Thanks for the welcome. :)

I've had no trouble burning the wood, in lean times we've used the driest wood to start fires and then put the less-seasoned wood on later. I was suprised when I finally got a meter to find that our wood was in the upper 20s for MC.

We can not get doug fir. The only species that grow here are Sitka spruce, hemlock, yellow cedar, and alder. Alder is often accessible because it grows fast and people clear it out from developed areas. But we don't have the long forest service roads that other southeast towns have, so many years the firewood supply comes from jumping out right after heavy fall rain and wind storms. And usually that's hemlock with an occasional spruce. Cedar is really nice because it dries standing after it dies, but it's really hard to come by without using a boat.

The flue is a straight vertical shot, about 10' from stovetop to chimney cap.
 

MongoMongoson

Member
Feb 6, 2021
211
Wisconsin
It sounds like you are trying to season wood in 12-18 months? Where I live we have a lot of oak, hickory, and other hardwoods. No way would I every again try to burn red oak cut green after only 12-18 months. It's just the reality of my situation that I need 2-3 years for my wood to season outdoors, under cover. Your hemlock and alder might need the same treatment. Not because those woods take particularly long to season but because your ambient conditions are so damp.

Seasoning under cover for 2-3 years doesn't work for everybody, so let me ask you this... How much room do you have inside, in the same room as the stove, to stage some wood? Can you get two-weeks worth stacked inside? That would help, a lot. You'd have two stack sections. Pull from section "A" while "B" does a week of final seasoning. Once "A" is empty you refill it immediately, so it has a week to season. With small splits, a week in a wood-stove-dry, hot room will make a heck of a difference. If you can't get two weeks indoors, make 8 sections with about one day's worth of wood in each section. Pull from one section at a time. As they empty, you refill them immediately. That will give you a week's worth of indoor seasoning without having to store two weeks worth of wood in your house.

I moved from an old All Nighter to my new Pacific Energy Summit. The Summit is not a cat stove, but it is much more sensitive to moisture in the wood than the All Nighter. The All Nighter would just boil the water out of the wood and keep on going if the wood wasn't seasoned properly. That's a terribly wasteful way to burn... and for the record I spent the first couple of seasons doing that more than a decade ago and after that I had properly seasoned wood to burn.

I have never run a Blaze King but everything I have read on here makes them sound like they are very sensitive to wood moisture content.

I use the two section two week stack inside that I describe above. A day after loading up one of the two sections, I can hear the wood cracking and popping. I can see it check, and the checking that was already there starts to widen. I should really take a time-lapse video of the process, or at the very least before and after pics. The interesting thing is, that wood is already "fully" seasoned. It burns just fine in the stove if I throw it right in fresh from the outdoors.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,509
South Puget Sound, WA
Thanks for the welcome. :)

I've had no trouble burning the wood, in lean times we've used the driest wood to start fires and then put the less-seasoned wood on later. I was suprised when I finally got a meter to find that our wood was in the upper 20s for MC.

We can not get doug fir. The only species that grow here are Sitka spruce, hemlock, yellow cedar, and alder. Alder is often accessible because it grows fast and people clear it out from developed areas. But we don't have the long forest service roads that other southeast towns have, so many years the firewood supply comes from jumping out right after heavy fall rain and wind storms. And usually that's hemlock with an occasional spruce. Cedar is really nice because it dries standing after it dies, but it's really hard to come by without using a boat.

The flue is a straight vertical shot, about 10' from stovetop to chimney cap.
A solar kiln will help. There's more discussion on this in the Wood Shed forum here. The short flue is also going to be an issue. It wasn't so much so with old, simple smoke dragon stoves, but modern clean burning stoves depend on stronger draft to pull air through the secondary burn ports. If the firebox does not get hot enough due to the wet wood, then secondary combustion will not take place. The stoves mentioned are designed for 15' flue systems. If you can get a Drolet, Regency or a Pacific Energy stove it will work better, but I would still add some chimney and a roof brace for the addtional length.
 

eric_ak

New Member
Aug 3, 2021
8
southeast Alaska
How much room do you have inside, in the same room as the stove, to stage some wood? Can you get two-weeks worth stacked inside?

In our old house we had room for 1-3 days worth of wood near the stove, and I heard the same crackling sounds you described. We have more room in the new house, so I was thinking of getting a couple medium size metal racks and starting the kind of rotation you described.

I just checked the driest wood I have outside, which is leftover from what we were burning this spring. It reads 20-21% on the ends, but when I split a piece just now it was 27% on the inside. That same wood was burning fine in our older stove this spring.
 

eric_ak

New Member
Aug 3, 2021
8
southeast Alaska
A solar kiln will help. There's more discussion on this in the Wood Shed forum here. The short flue is also going to be an issue. It wasn't so much so with old, simple smoke dragon stoves, but modern clean burning stoves depend on stronger draft to pull air through the secondary burn ports. If the firebox does not get hot enough due to the wet wood, then secondary combustion will not take place. The stoves mentioned are designed for 15' flue systems. If you can get a Drolet, Regency or a Pacific Energy stove it will work better, but I would still add some chimney and a roof brace for the addtional length.

I looked briefly into solar kilns, but didn't end up making time to set one up. I think I will try it, but probably won't get to it until next summer.

I had not read about chimney height, I always thought the height of the chimney was just about getting the smoke away from the roof and any nearby windows. Thank you for the pointer in that direction.

I will take a closer look at the three brands you mentioned. Is there anything specific about that group of brands that makes you recommend them?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,509
South Puget Sound, WA
I looked briefly into solar kilns, but didn't end up making time to set one up. I think I will try it, but probably won't get to it until next summer.

I had not read about chimney height, I always thought the height of the chimney was just about getting the smoke away from the roof and any nearby windows. Thank you for the pointer in that direction.

I will take a closer look at the three brands you mentioned. Is there anything specific about that group of brands that makes you recommend them?
A medium-sized PE stove like the Super LE is less draft fussy and will work ok on a 12 ft flue system. Some Drolets and Regencies will also work on a 13' flue system.

It reads 20-21% on the ends, but when I split a piece just now it was 27% on the inside. That same wood was burning fine in our older stove this spring.
It will burn in a modern EPA stove too, just poorly, meaning one will have to give the fire a lot more air to keep it burning until all the water has boiled out. This is not too apparent in old stoves with no glass but it's very apparent in a stove with a large glass door. While the water is boiling off the glass often will soot up due to the cool fire. This does not happen with wood that is <20% moisture.

How often is the flue getting cleaned burning the 27% wood?
 

eric_ak

New Member
Aug 3, 2021
8
southeast Alaska
How often is the flue getting cleaned burning the 27% wood?

I usually cleaned the chimney twice a year, never more than that over the last 5 years. I might have gone a whole year at one point, but I certainly checked it enough to know that it didn't need more frequent cleaning. I could pull the cap off, shine a bright flashlight down, and see the top of the baffle.

Our old stove had a glass door, and I'd see a small amount of moisture coming out of some pieces. But not so much that there was much smoldering. I've burned wet wood at remote cabins when it's all that's available, and the small hissing we saw at home was nothing like the seeping water I watched come out of wet wood at those cabins.

I've been reading about the newer stoves all day. I'm wondering now if a more efficient stove will allow us to burn less wood to the point that we'll be able to have two seasons worth of wood in the same amount of storage area, which will allow us to fully season our wood after this first year in the new house.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,730
Colorado
Don't know much here but do check out those solar kilns and that I believe was a good suggestion.. Also how about a pellet stove there in Alaska have you ever considerate those? mrs clancey
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
1,914
Long Island NY
I usually cleaned the chimney twice a year, never more than that over the last 5 years. I might have gone a whole year at one point, but I certainly checked it enough to know that it didn't need more frequent cleaning. I could pull the cap off, shine a bright flashlight down, and see the top of the baffle.

Our old stove had a glass door, and I'd see a small amount of moisture coming out of some pieces. But not so much that there was much smoldering. I've burned wet wood at remote cabins when it's all that's available, and the small hissing we saw at home was nothing like the seeping water I watched come out of wet wood at those cabins.

I've been reading about the newer stoves all day. I'm wondering now if a more efficient stove will allow us to burn less wood to the point that we'll be able to have two seasons worth of wood in the same amount of storage area, which will allow us to fully season our wood after this first year in the new house.

It'll help, but it's a chicken and egg problem; wet wood won't give you a much lower usage, so before you have dry wood you'd not be gaining much there.

The fact that your chimney stayed relatively clean previously despite the wet wood probably means that you sent a lot of heat up the flue when you burned.
 

jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
5,283
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
I have burned >25% wood (mostly wet oak) in my BK for most of two seasons and it's fine, but you can't expect the stove to perform like it says in the manual. You need to keep the fire hot, and sweep the flue often if you are screwing it up and letting the cat fall out. Don't expect 24 hour burns out of soaking wet wood. Cold starts are your enemy, but the power of the thermostat lets you safely stick in another split any time there's room in the firebox. Even if your schedule allows you to always add fresh wood to a raging fire, you will never see the performance you would see with dry wood.

You will have the same issues with a noncat stove, but you will need to burn even hotter to keep the secondaries going, and partial reloads may be off the table unless it's a highly controllable stove and/or it has someone to babysit it.

The better solution is to figure out how you can get dry wood. A new stove will cut down the wood you use by a lot... if it's dry wood. Maybe you can build racking to increase the height of your piles, and/or turn the whole thing into a kiln to decrease the amount of time wood has to spend there.

Stick to fast drying softwood (pine, fir, spruce, etc).
 

BKVP

Minister of Fire
Do you source any of your fuel from rivers or the beach? I've worked with dozens of folks from Coffman Cove up to Sitka. If any fuel is used from above sources, it cause severe damage to the steel and catalytic combustor, just an FYI.

A tremendous amount of energy is consumed in dealing with moisture in fuel. Burning wood over 24% is a contributor to PM and deposits in the stack. Yes Sitka benefits from beautiful ocean breezes, but getting wood to dry below 24% in SE AK is a challenge.

Most wood burners look for low cost stoves given the need to burn hotter (especially at beginning of a fresh load) and the associated shorter life span for stoves along the coast. How about the NC30? Not certain it's sold in your SBS or not.

Also you are to be commended for owning a MM and using it! Reach out to some folks in Sitka that burn wood....see what they use and their experiences.

Juneau, Petersburg and Wrangell have businesses that sell wood stoves...may have to barge it over.

Best of luck in your search.....
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,304
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
My climate is very similar here in western Washington. 9 month burn season, usually above freezing. Little bit drier being away from the ocean.

Let’s talk about your wood storage. It takes just a 10x10 section of my woodshed to hold 5.5 cords of split wood. I only burn 4 per year in my BK princess. Are you not stacking very high? Do you really not have 100 SF of space to even set aside. Yes, you can subdivide your woodshed to allow constant replenishment or annual replenishment.

What is your primary heat source? Is it reasonably efficient? Many folks that can’t or don’t want to burn for all of their heat will lean on their thermostatic central heat source to fill in.

Any neighbors or businesses around that would allow you to store fuel? Maybe even wood sellers that claim to have dry wood for at least a portion of your annual needs.
 
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eric_ak

New Member
Aug 3, 2021
8
southeast Alaska
Do you source any of your fuel from rivers or the beach? I've worked with dozens of folks from Coffman Cove up to Sitka. If any fuel is used from above sources, it cause severe damage to the steel and catalytic combustor, just an FYI.

A tremendous amount of energy is consumed in dealing with moisture in fuel. Burning wood over 24% is a contributor to PM and deposits in the stack. Yes Sitka benefits from beautiful ocean breezes, but getting wood to dry below 24% in SE AK is a challenge.

Most wood burners look for low cost stoves given the need to burn hotter (especially at beginning of a fresh load) and the associated shorter life span for stoves along the coast. How about the NC30? Not certain it's sold in your SBS or not.

Also you are to be commended for owning a MM and using it! Reach out to some folks in Sitka that burn wood....see what they use and their experiences.

Juneau, Petersburg and Wrangell have businesses that sell wood stoves...may have to barge it over.

Best of luck in your search.....

I don't burn driftwood, if that's what you're asking. I've cut alder that have fallen near streams, but I don't think those are much different from what falls away from rivers.

I will look at the NC30. I just talked to someone else here who got an Ashley for similar reasoning. He can only store enough wood that it seasons for 6-12 months. I know some people with larger yards who store 2-3 seasons worth of wood, but that's the exception here. Land is really hard to come by in Sitka, so most homes are on pretty small lots.

I called the Juneau business and they were helpful, but didn't have much different to add.

All of this conversation has been really helpful in thinking things through. I have read a good number of your posts in other threads, so thank you for sharing so much of what you know. :)
 

eric_ak

New Member
Aug 3, 2021
8
southeast Alaska
My climate is very similar here in western Washington. 9 month burn season, usually above freezing. Little bit drier being away from the ocean.

Let’s talk about your wood storage. It takes just a 10x10 section of my woodshed to hold 5.5 cords of split wood. I only burn 4 per year in my BK princess. Are you not stacking very high? Do you really not have 100 SF of space to even set aside. Yes, you can subdivide your woodshed to allow constant replenishment or annual replenishment.

What is your primary heat source? Is it reasonably efficient? Many folks that can’t or don’t want to burn for all of their heat will lean on their thermostatic central heat source to fill in.

Any neighbors or businesses around that would allow you to store fuel? Maybe even wood sellers that claim to have dry wood for at least a portion of your annual needs.

I just measured the woodshed that was here when we moved in this summer. It has a 4'x10' floor, and it stacks about 7-8' tall. That's about 2 cords, considering the space between rows. One of the few sad parts about moving out of our old house was leaving the good set of sheds I finally had set up there.

I might be able to build another rack that's a little smaller, but I can't do much more than that, and I probably won't be able to fill it until later in the fall or early winter when some storms hit. It's about 10' from the side of our house to the fence, and there are trees along there as well. Most yards are small here because buildable land is in short supply. There also are no established firewood businesses. People sell cords at a time when they come into a supply, but it's almost always just as green as if I go cut it myself. Occasionally you can find someone selling cedar that dried standing, but it's not a reliable way to build a firewood supply here. Even then the outside is usually saturated and it's just the inner wood that burns well.

Fortunately we have a decent propane heating system, so the stove is for supplementary heat and for having a dry part of the house during the wetter parts of the year.

I appreciate your questions, they are helping me think about our setup here in different ways.
 
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BKVP

Minister of Fire
I don't burn driftwood, if that's what you're asking. I've cut alder that have fallen near streams, but I don't think those are much different from what falls away from rivers.

I will look at the NC30. I just talked to someone else here who got an Ashley for similar reasoning. He can only store enough wood that it seasons for 6-12 months. I know some people with larger yards who store 2-3 seasons worth of wood, but that's the exception here. Land is really hard to come by in Sitka, so most homes are on pretty small lots.

I called the Juneau business and they were helpful, but didn't have much different to add.

All of this conversation has been really helpful in thinking things through. I have read a good number of your posts in other threads, so thank you for sharing so much of what you know. :)
You're most welcome.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,304
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Since you have a fenceline, how about a long single row of wood along the fenceline? Many folks on this site with small lots need to be creative with wood storage. If you just don't like looking at it then fine but you're not in new york city.
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Making the roof of any shed clear will help dry your wood with those long, sunny summer days. Bringing wood inside to dry by the stove a bit before you burn it will also help.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,509
South Puget Sound, WA
I don't burn driftwood, if that's what you're asking. I've cut alder that have fallen near streams, but I don't think those are much different from what falls away from rivers.

I will look at the NC30. I just talked to someone else here who got an Ashley for similar reasoning. He can only store enough wood that it seasons for 6-12 months. I know some people with larger yards who store 2-3 seasons worth of wood, but that's the exception here. Land is really hard to come by in Sitka, so most homes are on pretty small lots.

I called the Juneau business and they were helpful, but didn't have much different to add.

All of this conversation has been really helpful in thinking things through. I have read a good number of your posts in other threads, so thank you for sharing so much of what you know. :)
The Englander 30NC is now the 32NC. This is a large stove and it likes to have at least 15 ft of flue system. So does the
Ashley 2500. How large an area are you heating?

Given the short chimney and so-so wood, I recommend getting a stove with a deep firebox that can load N/S. E/W loaders can be more balky to start and may spill smoke when the door is opened if draft is marginal. N/S loaders start and run easier with wood that is not quite dry. This is because the boost air can travel down the lengths of wood as opposed to the frontal block of E/W placed splits.
 
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EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,462
SE North Carolina
Couple thoughts. What’s the propane cost versus say a mini split heat pump with a cop of say 3? Really you are space limited and that’s not gonna change. you could not burn a winter and get dry wood the next, but that’s gonna cost more in the end, I imagine than having dry wood would save you. So doing what ever you can to burn less wood (heat pump till it drops below say 35) based on my experience, could cut my wood consumption in half for me. Just thoughts not really a recommendation.

Any time I saw moisture coming out the end of a load I could not keep a steady fire let alone get the stove top over 400. Wet wood sucks and new EPA stoves we’re never designed with that in mind. So my thoughts would be stack as much as you could get the chimney to 15’ because that extra draft will help keep a fire going (it’s not going to give you more heat). Find ways to conserve wood (seems kinda counter intuitive in Alaska).

I keep coming back to how to stack wood vertically to say 15’ High safely. My stacking skills are better now and I can stack freestanding to 7’ if i choose my end pieces carefully. If I added a few pallets, rope and binder straps round the bottom. I could stack another two rows another 6’ safely I think.

Sounds like you are thinking all the right thoughts.

Bringing wood inside to dry by the stove a bit before you burn it will also help.
This has helped me a lot but, but the physics of it says you are using the same amount energy from the stove to evaporate the water weather it’s inside the stove or not.
 

MongoMongoson

Member
Feb 6, 2021
211
Wisconsin
This has helped me a lot but, but the physics of it says you are using the same amount energy from the stove to evaporate the water weather it’s inside the stove or not.

Yes, you are correct from an energy standpoint. The difference, for me at least, is that the energy is being spent putting some moisture where I need it rather than sending it up the flue. It gets pretty dry here in the winter. It sounds like Sitka has the opposite problem.
 
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