HELP with VC Montpelier secondary burn issues

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So I'm new to the forum and a couple years deep into wood stove burning. This may be long winded so I do apologize but the more info I give you, the better you may be able to help me. I have a exterior fireplace (16ft) that I installed a vogelzang colonial insert a couple years ago. The thing was great but just didn't have the burn time to keep the house warm through the night without reloading multiple times 10pm and after... I got a great deal on a slightly used VC Montpelier, just needed a new baffle and a couple cosmetic upgrades to please the wife. Got it all hooked up this past Friday after work and did the small fires for break in since it had been sitting in my cooks garage a few weeks. The weather was warmer than normal so during the break in fires and couple larger after that I was getting great heat in the living room where the stove is located and upstairs bedrooms! Even the playroom down 3 steps off the living room wss getting warm and it never did that with my old stove... by the way I have a split level house with a open floor plan between the living room and kitchen (no interior dividing walls just exterior walls) 3 steps down to a playroom, bath, basement and garage. Also 10 steps up off the living room that goes up to the 3 bedrooms and 1 bath.

My problem seems to be that no matter how long I keep the door cracked when starting a fire and having a good bed of hot coals, no matter how much or what size or direction of wood I can't get the secondaries going???? Maybe just a little on the back tube for a short period of time. I've only been able to get the stove up to 400 once other than that is been 300-350 by the thermometer I have in the arc of the door. I went and bought a box of kiln dried wood even though I've checked my regular burning wood with a moisture meter and it's all under 20%. The liner is insulated. I DON'T have a block off plate (that's next) but I did put a bunch of Roxul around the top of the liner on the roof at the cap when I cleaned the liner before install. I have Roxul around sides and back of stove to keep it warmer in the exterior fireplace. New glass and door gasket that kinda passes the dollar bill test, I think my hinges are done so I have new ones on the way and the spacers... checked with both a lighter and incense for air leaks around the door and connections for liner and collar, all are good..... WHERE AM I GOING WRONG or WHAT AM I MISSING??? And the glass is NOT getting really dirty or black so I'm lost

Oh yeah don't know if it's the stove or my draft but it doesn't seem like I have as much as a roaring flame in the beginning like my old smaller stove or like it sounds like some people are describing on posts rust I've seen. I mean it gets up there but not crazy.... thanks in advance for any helping hints or ideas
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This is the best I've got so far, the back 2 rows kinda going... at almost 400°


  • HELP with VC Montpelier secondary burn issues
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You're getting there. The door face temp will be below the stove top temp. If it is hard to achieve this level the most likely culprit is that the wood still needs a bit of seasoning. If that's the case, mix in some construction cutoffs to perk up the fire. Looks like more wood could be added too.

But it could also be weak draft, perhaps due to negative pressure in the area of the insert. How tall is the liner on the insert? Is the liner insulated?
Thanks for The reply, Almost 16 ft and yes it's insulated. I checked my wood again with the mm and getting 10-16% on different pieces that I was checking... didn't split them and check reading in the middle of a fresh slip, little late for swinging ax axe outside
Thanks for The reply, Almost 16 ft and yes it's insulated. I checked my wood again with the mm and getting 10-16% on different pieces that I was checking... didn't split them and check reading in the middle of a fresh slip, little late for swinging ax axe outside

Unless I am misunderstanding you? You are not checking your MC correctly. Sounds as if you know the correct method but have chosen not to use it?
Typically you would keep a few splits indoors until they are room temp. Then split them and check the freshly exposed face. It should be interesting to see what you find. Possibly far different than your exterior testing. Good luck as that is a nifty looking unit!
What I was trying to say was that the method you stated in splitting room temp logs and then checking MC is how I would normally do it and have checked my wood this way before. Last night when begreen asked about it, it was 1230 at nigh so it was a little late to be swinging the axe. I'll split some down and post pics with MM when I get home from work
Thanks for The reply, Almost 16 ft and yes it's insulated. I checked my wood again with the mm and getting 10-16% on different pieces that I was checking... didn't split them and check reading in the middle of a fresh slip, little late for swinging ax axe outside
What, never split wood in your pj's? ;) The wood dries from the outside in. That's why the need to resplit for a check. Let the split warm up to room temp first.

The chimney liner sounds good. You're getting there. It takes a little practice to learn a new stove.
Lol, wouldn't bother me one bit... the wife and 2 son's under 3 yrs old might have a problem with the noise at that hour !!! . Just trying to figure everything out before I sell my old stove. I would kick myself in the ass if I sold it then find out that something was messed up with this one. I'm sure I could and would fix it if that were the case but you get my point. The only things I changed when I installed the new stove is the Roxul up top around the liner under the cap and the half assed block off plate that I had made from the extra insulation for the liner is no longer in place. I took it out because I planned on making a proper block off but soon realized that wasn't happening with the stove in the fireplace and my helper was gone at the point. Think I'm going to pull it out this weekend and make the plate and also adding a piece of 1 3/4 sandstone under the stove in the fireplace because my surround falls a little short on top meeting the stone wall, hopefully that helps a little with the draft and ill split and check my wood when I get home. If needed ill go get a pallet of kiln dried.

Thanks again for your help


  • HELP with VC Montpelier secondary burn issues
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Hi DIYstoveGUY,

I have the VC Montpelier and also struggled a bit to get secondaries going. I have learned that I need to get the stove HOT, 400+ measured at the top of the door of the stove and then shut the primary air all the way closed to see get secondaries going. At this point the secondaries look like a blow torch shooting out of the top of tubes towards the wood. They will not last long, maybe 30min before I can no longer see them. Dried wood, smaller splits with a north/south arrangement usually aid in getting these temps along with keeping the primary air open or half way open until i reach the highest temps.

In my opinion (and opinion of many others on this site) secondaries are fun to see but not needed to get great performance out of your stove. If your stove is heating your home and wood is lasting, then I am happy. Once your stove is heated and burning strong you should see no smoke coming out of the chimney. Sometimes i get secondaries and it is fun to watch but most of the time the fire is burning slow and lazy and giving great heat with no secondaries (at least that I can see, maybe they are happening inside the tubes).

Another way to get really good secondaries is to burn compressed logs sometimes called bio bricks or bio blocks. An example are Envi blocks. These are basically saw dust that is compressed from dried lumber and thus have moisture <10%. Careful not to over load, just one or two with your normal wood load can give a big boost to your stove temp. Some stove manufactures warn against this because the excess temps could damage the stove, so be aware.

One last thing, you can remove the tubes and clean them. It is possible since the stove was used that it has buildup that is blocking the air from coming into the secondary tubes. I remove mine when I sweep and they never seem dirty but could be something to check.

One last thing, you can remove the tubes and clean them. It is possible since the stove was used that it has buildup that is blocking the air from coming into the secondary tubes. I remove mine when I sweep and they never seem dirty but could be something to check.
Very good suggestions Mike. Though this last one is usually unnecessary unless the stove's secondary air intake is pulling in a lot of pet hairs and dust. FWIW, I have never cleaned out a secondary tube or manifold. Some are downright hard to do that.
Thanks for the reply Mike, when I bought the stove the baffle needed to be replaced due to the previous owner broke it in the process of removal for cleaning the liner. I took all the tubes out so I could give them a clean with steel wool and a damp rag, not the inside of them.

As far as outside i never see smoke so that's a good sign. Unfortunately I've only been able to get the stove past 375 a couple times. I've been measuring this by a thermometer on the top of the door and i also have a IR reader.

With this stove I've been getting 2-3 of coals then 3 smaller pieces north/ South and then east/ west after that. Before I joined the forum I went through a bunch of posts and learned about the envi- blocks but haven't tried them yet.

I split a coupe of my logs down that I had brought inside last night and got 16-20% moisture but noticed when I was outside at my wood shed that it looked like part of a stack of newer wood I just got that's not fully seasoned rolled down on my god seasoned wood... maybe I grabbed a few of those mixed in with my good stuff... I moved it all out of the shed and into the center of my holz hausen, so no more mix up! First time doing one of those, hopefully it works out. Looks cool so far.


  • HELP with VC Montpelier secondary burn issues
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Does anyone know where the 3 air inlet holes inside under the front refractory stone vent from? Begreen brought up a good point and the previous owner of my stove had a cat that slept in front of the stove. Pulled some hair off the sides of the fan on the screens. I would like to check and make sure theses nothing obstructing air coming into the stove that feeds the 3 air holes... thanks again!
Short Answer: I do not know, but would love to find out! and good luck using the exploded view to figure it out.

My understanding is that pet hair can get sucked into the blower and can cause some issues with fan life, but I have not heard of them obstructing primary or secondary air access. I have heard of ash building up and blocking primary air access, consequently I often lift the refractory front panel and sweep out the ash out of the primary air holes.

I will say that I feel like the Montpelier is more oxygen starved than other stoves. I often have to keep the door cracked on start up and reload for 15. Closing the door often smothers the fire and I have to wait for 15-20min with the air fully open for it to recover. Also i notice that coals do not always burn all the way down over night (another sign of too low air). The drier the wood, the less of a problem.

A final tip for HOT burns that has helped me is to keep the fan off until the stove gets HOT. I find the fan comes on around 200 over the door and the blower pulls a lot of heat off the stove. This can mean a much longer ramp up period. By keeping the fan off until the stove gets over 300, i find that the stove has more momentum as it fires up and will reach 400+ more consistently. At this point I can choke the air off completely and get good secondaries.
I cleaned the fan really good, took as much of it apart that I could. After all that my buddy's dad owns a stove shop and while I was there picking up gasket, we went upstairs in there storage to see if they had any extra parts for my stove. HUGE SCORE!!! Got a brand new fan, a entire set of new refractory bricks, snap stat and another surround unopened in the box ( mead I think) but minus the flowers in the upper corners... got everything for $150!!!:eek: I think a little might have leaked down my leg lol. Anyway installed the new fan and keeping the original for back up.

I have a nice ash vac so I vacuum those primary holes as often as I can. I follow the same start up as you. Get the Coles nice and hot by turning the air up with door cracked, add small pieces north/ South and get them really going with the door cracked and the fan off. Once it's going nice and strong I close the door and leave fan off until 300 on the thermometer on the door
Even after all that when I close the door it seems to die down some... More than my smaller stove would. The old stove you could hear the fire roaring with the door closed and fan off but I guess every stove is different. I've looked at that exploded diagram and I can't tell where the air comes from either. Maybe once it warms up around here ill pull the stove out and take the sides off and see if I can figure it out
Well I figured out where the primary air comes into the stove and how to clean it... you'd be surprised how simple it was, I was figuring something a little more complex.

Start with removing the andirons and the top refractory stone that it sits in. Also remove the lower front piece with the 3 notches where the air enters the Firebox. Once the top stone is removed you'll see 3 Phillips head screws. That plate that they are in is called the primary air cover plate. Remove that after the 3 screws and you'll see a narrow right roughly 1/8" channel and 2 bigger holes to the left and right. The bigger holes are where the air enters the Firebox. If you open the 2 doors and stick your hands inside and feel around you'll see them from inside the stove. Clean the ash from the channel and remove anything that could be blocking the bigger holes. Replace everything and BAM! You just cleaned your primary air :)
This is awesome! Thanks for investigating. I am glad that it is easily accessible and that there is no need to remove the unit from the fireplace. I have been really happy with my Montpelier and its performance, but i may clean out the primary air channel once a year just for good measure.
...back to the problem of getting secondaries going. The fact that all your brick is staying white and the glass is staying clean, would suggest that your wood is sufficiently dry and that your fire is not starved for air. If the fire is burning that clean, then the probability of seeing secondary flames igniting unburned gases is reduced. Next time that you have a fire as strong as the one in the picture, try shutting the air wash supply down completely. You should start to see secondaries at that point. You won't see secondaries unless the fire and the tubes at the top of the stove are good and hot. Slow down the fan a bit to make sure the firebox stays hot. Also, if some of your wood is not so dry, the probability of incomplete combustion rises and then the likelihood of seeing secondaries increases. Well, at least, that's my experience.
We'll see tonight or tomorrow once the temp drops back down around here, rite now it's in the low 60s so no fire. It also seamed like my hinges were starting to get a little warn so I got new ones. Well at leas the door side hinges came in. I think this stove had a door sealing issue because the spacers on the door side were moved and the bolts were replaced with shorter ones. I ordered new spacers along with the hinges so I put them on with the hinges on the door side. Now the door doesn't have to be lifted at all when closing but now where the door was a little loose is tight and on the hinge side that was tight before is now very loose. I ended up taking the spacers back off the door and the spacers on the stove hinges and replaced that side with a couple washers that made the gap less than what the spacer did. Seems to be all around the door much tighter. I lit a small fire and checked around the door and glass with incense and a lighter to make sure there were no leaks. Good so far, I guess if it still leaks after this ill remover the larger 1/2" gasket and replace with some 5/8 gasket I have from my old stove