How do I like my Vermont Castings Dauntless? An early on review.

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GrumpyDad

Minister of Fire
Feb 23, 2022
1,230
Champion, PA
So this is a bit of me trying to take notes on my experience, and possibly to help others with their purchasing decision making.
I'm still at the infancy stage with this first post but here are my thoughts so far after having owned this for a couple of months and just now getting to the point of using it to heat an area for the last month or so. *This is only used on weekends at a cabin*. No catalyst installed..yet. 20% or less mix hardwoods w/ a piece or two of white pine showing its way in there.

TLDR: I wish I could easily swap out for a Jotul F45 to see if that stove operates any easier, and keeps the glass cleaner and shows more flame, which it reportedly does. Dont plan on using a cast iron stove to heat a winter cabin, unless you like being cold for 1/4 the time you are there.

In the beginning....
When I was shopping for a stove, I didnt want to break the bank. I started looking at Drolet because it seemed to be a fairly well known brand that was several steps above that of which is sold by the big box stores. After talking with a local dealer though, they didnt talk me out of a Drolet but did suggest that I call around to some of the stove repair guys in the area to ask for their opinions and, if they would work on it in my area if I needed maintenance as well as installation. All of the installers/repair techs said the same thing - they only service what they or the dealers they work for sell. One person said he would work on any stove from any manufacturer from any age, but recommended to me to get a cast iron stove. My mind started researching the differences of cast iron vs a welded or stamped steel stove - and while I wasn't pushed towards or away from anything initially, I eventually landed on the fact that I wanted a cast iron if only for the silly reason (aside from other benefits) because of the way they looked. :).

Which cast iron!?
Online ordering went out of my head at this point. I started visiting dealers and checking out stoves. The Jotul f45 was a nice sized unit for my space but would stick out a bit further than I wanted however it would afford me better side to side clearance. Vermont castings, looked interesting to me and came up during a search, or was recommended by an installer - I cant remember why I looked at VC. I started to research what model would be best for us and the Dauntless came up. The Dauntless was 1k more than the Jotul. The Dauntless was immediately available, the Jotul was 6-8 months out. I really liked the top loading of the VC, the way the VC looked, and for some reason had it in my head that a E/W view would be much better than a N/S view. So I tossed all the info over to the wife and showed her the pictures and features and availability, and we landed on the VC Dauntless.

First buyer remorse...
I stumbled onto these forums, and started to see questions / comments posted about the new dauntless that had me a bit worried such as overheating, but overall there wasnt a ton of info about the stove here at the time. I also watched a video of a guy who did this very in depth analysis and showed/proved that the secondary air chamber system on the newer VC stoves was defective, poorly engineered and he was pretty much set on just selling his newer stove to anyone that would offer a decent amount and would replace it with something else. I also noticed that certain accessories when I would search for them were hard to find (like the grill insert which we thought was cool but I realize now stupid and impossible)

Ok ok, so you bought a VC Dauntless, now what....
Installation. Stove pipe/chimney - etc. Well that took me a month to research, call out for quotes etc. Eventually I decided to do it myself, save $1k in installation costs and then learn as much as I could via here and youtube. Youtube was very helpful for watching someone actually go through the process, however I wouldnt have any idea what they were doing without being on here. Even the stove pipe/chimney pipe was a big mystery to me. So I'm very thankful for hearth.com existing.
I was rather surprised though that for my stove, the way the flue collar is manufactured they basically limit you to using a single wall pipe. If you want double walled, which is what I purchased, you have to start with a single wall stove adapter, add a double wall on top of that, then finish your pipe install. Seems rather crazy to me, and is a source of concern that my entire double wall, much heavier than single wall pipe, rests and relies on a tiny thin single wall adapter. This alone would have been a deal breaker , to me, on getting the VC, had I know this. The idea is that double wall lasts much longer, and reduces clearances/risk to combustibles. While the single wall is almost entirely hidden by the stove/double wall adapter, it still wont last nearly as long. And I would suggest that the way the single/double wall adapters fit together reduce the overall size of the opening. That took me a week to figure out, as there was nothing posted about this online, the seller couldnt tell me what to do other than their installers are basically making something, and then eventually VC gave the layup instructions which worked.

SO how is it so far? Early to tell, by spring Ill know more and update...
My oil furnace gets to keep it's day job. Clearly a wood stove takes a very long time to output any heat worth mentioning, then even longer to heat an area. It's meant for a marathon, not a weekend camp sprint. I had a 'race' with my fireplace vs stove and while they both burned the same amount of wood and brought up about the same sq ft'g, in 3 hours the fireplace won. 5 hours in I had about the same amount of wood loaded through the stove to heat it up as I did the fireplace to heat the room up and keep a nice steady warm coal bed and flame going. The furnace wins overall because it will heat up much quicker, but with oil prices where they are at..geesh wood looks better but I burn ALOT more wood than I thought I would in the stove.

The expected heat flowing from warm to colder areas is somewhat of a myth. I dont know what people mean by "heats my whole house" other than 73 in stove room, intolerable but technically heated above outside temps... 50' across two rooms over.

On one weekend, I blew through much more wood than I expected, with actual cold nights in the high 30s and mid day temps in low 60s. Packed tightly 3 times, one overheat that I cant explain, the rest were smaller loads to try and get the stove to burn hotter. All told I dumped 36 splits into this thing. Again, daytime temps in low 60's.

This weekend I had an interesting thing happen to me. I opened the damper to check the wood status (because you cant see through the glass well enough), and while I had my hand on the top loading door about 3/4 open, which I opened slowly, the sizable almost fully loaded stove suddenly ignited into a giant ball of flames and shot outside of my stove over my hand and arm. It was sudden, quick, and redirected just as fast through the outside open damper. I think it was just that wood igniting suddenly because it was so hot in the stove, and there were no flames in there when I opened it. Lesson learned, and absolutely something to consider for this top loading stove. Im now hairless from my hand up a bit on my right arm.

I have a few areas where creosote has penetrated into the door gaskets making them rock hard. Im hoping that some cleaning off then refiring the stove helped - I will check next weekend.

Id never trust a STT until about hour 1.5. If you put a STT on the top door/griddle and then on the back of the stove, you will get two different readings. You will also notice that you can put your hand 2" from the sides and not feel much heat. Later on, say after a few hours that's when you can rely on the STT. I've had the stove blazing early on, STT shows 570 yet almost no warmth is radiating. That's because flames are blasting the plate under the STT but the stove itself has quite aways to go to warm up.

The glass on this is the bane of my existence. The first 'test burn' I had, it turned completely black. A few burns after clears the glass up, some. Most will say a nice hot burn will clear it all up. It doesnt. Ive had this stove up there for quite some hours, close to a dozen times and pretty much the only thing that clears up is the center area and sometimes the bottom left/right doors as well, never top left/right of the doors, they are completely glazed over in a thick black soot.

This is not a stove for dancing flames. Especially if you pack it tight, unless you crank it up but then it will overheat quickly and run away on you. So what I've learned is to load it about half way, crank up the air and let it sit like that for awhile then bring it back to about 1/3 open with damper closed and sometimes you will see just a few wicks of flame here and there sometimes you will see one side (mostly the right side) wick with some flame, and if you are really lucky you will see flames dancing all through without them flying fully ablaze. This is where the art comes in, and I suspect the canvas will change a bit based on temps/wind speeds outside. If you plan on running this stove at low long temps for long overnight burns, there will be no flames present.

Overnight burns, are too darn cold. I basically load it up to the top and tight after brushing some coals toward the back (covering the secondary combustion holes because they are way too low to the floor). It let it run on high for about 10 minutes then I close the damper and turn the stove down to about 3 for a full overnight burn. I then go to bed, watch some tv or browse, get up again and check the stove, then fall asleep and have trained myself to wake up in the middle of the night to check the stove, grab some water, hit the bathroom then back to bed. When I do my last check before morning, the stove is riding under 400, and even after closing the damper and opening the top door I do not see flames or very little. If I leave it like this I will wakeup to a couple pieces of wood still needing to be burned, or more but the room will be cold. If I flip it to 4 notches, it burns faster but unless we wake up early and load it up, it will be cold. 5 notches will really help things keep up to temps but then I wont have anything to relight in the morning. This is absolutely, not an overnight stove that can put out enough heat and last overnight. Technically, yes you can burn through the night and it will help keep things heated through most of the night, but there is a point and it's probably 3/4 of the night when the stove is no longer keeping up. And this is in a very well sealed 620 sq ft expansion, that is however connected to the main cabin with a 5'x8' wide opening which is poorly sealer. And this is testing with outside temps from the high 40's to maybe mid 30's so far. Wonder what it's going to do when it's actually cold outside.
Im considering adding the catalyst, but at this point I dont know that I want to put any more money into what is proving to be more novelty than necessity.

Air control on this seems hit or miss. I'm playing with it constantly in hour or longer intervals to see what my outcomes will be with the type of wood im using and the current outside temps. This past weekend it was windy out, it was warm outside and inside. I reloaded a few splits in the morning to help take the edge off of the morning chill as we have no furnace oil this weekend. Eventually it started to get so warm, so I turn air control all the way down. I left and came back an hour later to a stove fully ablaze, riding near the 700 degree mark. Eventually it calmed down, and upon inspection had only the chunks of charcoal left from the few pieces I added earlier.

All in all though I have gotten adjusted to air control on this somewhat. I kinda know what to expect based on what I set it at and how much wood I put in. I can usually keep it riding just above the creosote level based on how much I have loaded. Fully loaded though, you will need to turn up the air control to get marginal heat out of it, then once that wood starts to fire out a bit, then you will need to back off. However this is not a very long steady state. This stove requires constant constant attention. Sure you could just leave it alone once you get the hang of some things, but for the most part you will find yourself either too hot or too cold FAR more often than that sweetspot somewhere in the middle.

Final thoughts so far:
All in all, to be completely honest if Im tired from skiing or whatever, I'll likely just continue to use the oil furnace to get us up to temp and the fireplace to keep our living area warm during the day, then at night just let the furnace kick on. I can see myself continuing to use the stove for awhile, but eventually what appears to me as a novelty...will wear off. Relegated for when we have guests over and show it working or not.

Im mostly negative about this stove for now. I wish I would have spent the 5.7k+ that Ive spend on this stove, stove pipe etc toward a mini split system. I hope that changes as I was once so excited to operate this.
 
Or sell it and get a Drolet?
 
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After talking with a local dealer though, they didnt talk me out of a Drolet but did suggest that I call around to some of the stove repair guys in the area to ask for their opinions and, if they would work on it in my area if I needed maintenance as well as installation. All of the installers/repair techs said the same thing - they only service what they or the dealers they work for sell.
 
Pretty much the same experience I’ve had with my Defiant. I’ve found if I keep the damper open, don’t engage the cat, then the air wash keeps the glass much cleaner. If I close the damper to engage the cat though, forget about it. Stove also came very leaky so 6hr burn is my absolute max. After that we’re talking 300F residual heat and barely lit coals if I’m lucky. The thermostat thing does squat, but that might have to do with the leaky ness. Dealer is coming out to check gaskets and everything. He said if he can’t fix with adjustments he’ll warranty the gaskets. I love the design of the stove, look wise, but functionality is trash.
 
Agreed, we had our VC Dauntless installed Sept 2022, and It's doing OK, but man you have to fiddle with the air control open the ash drawer and engage the cat to keep the fire going and heat up, then disengage the the Cat, shut the ash door and pray the fire keeps going. All the while wiping the glass clean so you can see if there is even a spark of flame. Don't even think about opening the top to reload unless you want a massive puff of smoke. I honestly hate the stove. Just be warned anybody, DON'T BUY VC ANYTHING! I wish I bough a Blaze King or anything else at this point. I may run down the local big box store and see if that is any better.
 
Agreed, we had our VC Dauntless installed Sept 2022, and It's doing OK, but man you have to fiddle with the air control open the ash drawer and engage the cat to keep the fire going and heat up, then disengage the the Cat, shut the ash door and pray the fire keeps going. All the while wiping the glass clean so you can see if there is even a spark of flame. Don't even think about opening the top to reload unless you want a massive puff of smoke. I honestly hate the stove. Just be warned anybody, DON'T BUY VC ANYTHING! I wish I bough a Blaze King or anything else at this point. I may run down the local big box store and see if that is any better.
I will say i've figured some things out. Keeping it hotter keeps glass cleaner. Also using Rutland glass cleaner helps vs just ash. The leaky problems were made a bit better by tightening the latches on the doors and most importantly the ash drawer. Basically lots you have to do, and still only lasts 6hrs from flame to last coals, or 8 on the extremely rare occasion. Everything works now, it just hogs wood like an SUV hogs gas.
 
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Could be partially your set up or wood, but I’ve had not problem getting 10hr burns overnight, with embers to relight with some small splits in the morning. That has been the norm and not the exception. I’ve also not had any problems heating the lower level of my house, which consists of about 1000 sq ft of semi open floor plan. Based on my observed reviews of this stove, it seems to get a bad rap from people with. it used to running a VC, or possibly not having a set i’m that the stove likes (I’m running a straight vertical flue 15” from the stove top”).
 
Agreed, we had our VC Dauntless installed Sept 2022, and It's doing OK, but man you have to fiddle with the air control open the ash drawer and engage the cat to keep the fire going and heat up, then disengage the the Cat, shut the ash door and pray the fire keeps going. All the while wiping the glass clean so you can see if there is even a spark of flame. Don't even think about opening the top to reload unless you want a massive puff of smoke. I honestly hate the stove. Just be warned anybody, DON'T BUY VC ANYTHING! I wish I bough a Blaze King or anything else at this point. I may run down the local big box store and see if that is any better.
Hey there Cyber, while I can fully appreciate the almost seething hate one gets from dropping 3k on a turd with the name Vermont Castings stamped into it, heck I've even envisioned how I could destroy it in a glorious manner, there is some stuff that you can and will need to do in order to operate this stove and not wish ill on the company that sold it to you.

First off, you shouldnt need to open that ash drawer. If this is at startup, you can leave the front doors cracked, that's fine and common but be sure to close them once your first fire catches. I do not need to do this what so ever and I have the absolute minimum draft that is recommended for this stove. Consider heating the flue first with a flaming cheeto piece of paper or better, just start a top down fire with a good bit of kindling crissed crossed below and a couple of pieces kissing the sides of your starter block of choice sitting on the top of your kindling.

Coals are your best friend with this stove. After your kindling fire, let that burn down to the point that it has all naturally just fallen then push that toward the back, and plop about 3-4 pieces of smaller splits (say 2"), and let that burn down. That will take maybe a couple of hours tops but it should burn fairly easily and if you left your air control on high, just watch you dont overheat the stove top which you dont want, you want to control the air with the damper OPEN at all times as well in this stage.

Once that second fire burns down nicely to mostly coals, I usually load the stove on top of those coals with about 1/2 - 3/4 of the way with medium splits. 3-4" Keep that damper open, and then make sure that load catches nicely. You should see flames all around your wood. Not a full on blaze but you should see a good bit of flames for about 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on that stove top temp so it doesnt get above 650 for too long. Once that wood has caught it's likely you can close the damper. Then watch the flame activity and adjust as needed, but never get to the point that you dont see flames.

Then once that third fire has burned down, you are ready to operate it 24/7 with however you see best to pack YOUR stove. I say YOUR stove as everyone's acts different. For the forth load you can load it up with tons of wood, but just make sure you leave that primary open after the reload for awhile to let that load catch for awhile. Again your experience may vary but it usually takes me 20-30 minutes for a new load to catch nicely on a large bed of coals (3" bed or more of active embers). Then I switch back over to secondary and let it burn for about 6-7 hours with adjustments during that time to ensure Im getting the heat I want out of it but am also seeing flames at all times or, or, or, you might also see toward the end of a load burn cycle just a good amount of orange glow from the stuff inside your stove that is NOT the coal bed. This is usually when the secondary is really shining and burning off all those gases. If you went outside at this point you likely would see ZERO smoke or water vapor.

You must consider draft if you cant keep a flame going and all that magic happens within your stove pipe and chimney pipe. 15' minimum from the stove top to the chimney cap in VERTICAL measurements. So if you have an angle in your setup, you wont count any horizontal distance. Also consider that 45's and 90's really restrict air flow. There is a chart posted on here by how much. Also altitude will affect this. 15' is I believe the minimum for anything up to 3k elevation then it goes up from there. Every elbow adds something like 1' or more.

And MOST important, is the moisture content of your wood. If you dont own a moisture meter, you will. :). Some people just know and trust their wood is seasoned if it's covered on the top and there's no water leaking in, for 2 full years. That gets you oak below 20% MC and all other species mostly below 18%. For some, this could even be problematic to go that long as some pieces being in the 14-16% range may be harder to control on some stoves with too much draft. But you get the point, you are targeting the usage of say 17-20% MC wood. Anything over 20% will be hard for some to burn, and for most it will create tons of creosote.

I would bet if you pointed your camera up your stove pipe with a flashlight, your pipe looks like it's coated in black flakes. This is not good. And when that gets thicker and thicker over weeks/months, if that burns it will potentially cause a house fire. Right now if it burns it will likely just make a bunch of pops and maybe even some puffs of smoke, along with that 'hot' smell, and scare you to reconsider your burning habits.

I cant stress it enough, if you arent burning hot enough in this stove, it's dangerous. VC makes a dangerous product.

I should have taken it back when I HAD to use a single wall stove pipe adapter THEN a double wall to connect my double wall pipe. That level of engineering I want nothing to do with. But what makes it worse, is that NOBODY knew! The dealers, no one. So people were working up their own methods until VC came out and said, oh use this first then that, and put a bulletin and sent it out to all the dealers. Huh? Ok ok maybe it's not common for engineers to design these with every config in mind, but standard double wall pipe - seems to be the new standard..maybe not. But people spending 3k on a stove sure would be more likely to go with double wall as well.

Take care of that MC, draft, and burn like I said and you'll be fine. Otherwise, I would suggest you stop burning until these issues are addressed because as I said it can be a dangerous situation.

Edit: It's NOT you. Im not saying YOU are the problem. From reading, these are the most difficult stoves to operate and for MANY people there are issues with overfiring the secondary or poor performance overall. It's more common for people to have issues that prevail than not from what I can see. Many are in denial then I see their burn times, glass, etc and that's all I need to know that they are also fiddling/struggling way more than they should for a stove. That should tell you something. But if you do what I said, and make sure at all times you see flames - you will be SO much better off. Also if you intend on running it on the lower end of Stove top temps (below 450) you WILL need to get the catalyst, or get used to sweeping your stove pipe every week.

Do I still hate my stove. No
Do I like my stove. No
Do I trust my stove to be operated by anyone else. Oh hell no.
 
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Could be partially your set up or wood, but I’ve had not problem getting 10hr burns overnight, with embers to relight with some small splits in the morning. That has been the norm and not the exception. I’ve also not had any problems heating the lower level of my house, which consists of about 1000 sq ft of semi open floor plan. Based on my observed reviews of this stove, it seems to get a bad rap from people with. it used to running a VC, or possibly not having a set i’m that the stove likes (I’m running a straight vertical flue 15” from the stove top”).
Yup,from what i've seen others with long burns state, i have a feeling most have straight pipes running up inside the house. We have two sorta 90s, one inside and one at the tee technically outside then it goes straight up. We have gone from downdraft problems to strong updraft now after getting the dealer to correct install. I can be in perfect temp range, cat on and actively working , full load, temp level as low as it goes and still get times i mentioned. My wood has also been tested and is at 20% or so on everything. No i'm not burning all oak, but regardless or what wood I use, i get the same results. I still think VC is just a leaky mess or/and they are vastly overestimating burn times in most installs.
 
Yup,from what i've seen others with long burns state, i have a feeling most have straight pipes running up inside the house. We have two sorta 90s, one inside and one at the tee technically outside then it goes straight up. We have gone from downdraft problems to strong updraft now after getting the dealer to correct install. I can be in perfect temp range, cat on and actively working , full load, temp level as low as it goes and still get times i mentioned. My wood has also been tested and is at 20% or so on everything. No i'm not burning all oak, but regardless or what wood I use, i get the same results. I still think VC is just a leaky mess or/and they are vastly overestimating burn times in most installs.

For what’s it’s worth, the straight pipie idea came from a Jotul dealer when I was shopping around. The VC dealer said the 90 bends would not be a problem if I decided to go through the wall (this was a new install). The Jotul dealer said that the newer stoves like straight flues better, so I went with her suggestion and aired in the side of caution, and luckily my addition room was able to accept a vertical flue without any issues.
 
Yup,from what i've seen others with long burns state, i have a feeling most have straight pipes running up inside the house. We have two sorta 90s, one inside and one at the tee technically outside then it goes straight up. We have gone from downdraft problems to strong updraft now after getting the dealer to correct install. I can be in perfect temp range, cat on and actively working , full load, temp level as low as it goes and still get times i mentioned. My wood has also been tested and is at 20% or so on everything. No i'm not burning all oak, but regardless or what wood I use, i get the same results. I still think VC is just a leaky mess or/and they are vastly overestimating burn times in most installs.
You may want to add a key damper into the mix. Id almost like to have too much draft than to worry about it during shoulder seasons.
 
For what’s it’s worth, the straight pipie idea came from a Jotul dealer when I was shopping around. The VC dealer said the 90 bends would not be a problem if I decided to go through the wall (this was a new install). The Jotul dealer said that the newer stoves like straight flues better, so I went with her suggestion and aired in the side of caution, and luckily my addition room was able to accept a vertical flue without any issues.
your dealer is a moron, it doesnt matter if you go in a spiral, draft is draft. Elbows slow/restrict flow so more draft is needed to compensate. More draft can be achieved most easily using more verticality.
 
You may want to add a key damper into the mix. Id almost like to have too much draft than to worry about it during shoulder seasons.
I use a key damper when starting a fire from cold. Otherwise I'd have to close the damper way too soon.
 
Hey there Cyber, while I can fully appreciate the almost seething hate one gets from dropping 3k on a turd with the name Vermont Castings stamped into it, heck I've even envisioned how I could destroy it in a glorious manner, there is some stuff that you can and will need to do in order to operate this stove and not wish ill on the company that sold it to you.

First off, you shouldnt need to open that ash drawer. If this is at startup, you can leave the front doors cracked, that's fine and common but be sure to close them once your first fire catches. I do not need to do this what so ever and I have the absolute minimum draft that is recommended for this stove. Consider heating the flue first with a flaming cheeto piece of paper or better, just start a top down fire with a good bit of kindling crissed crossed below and a couple of pieces kissing the sides of your starter block of choice sitting on the top of your kindling.

Coals are your best friend with this stove. After your kindling fire, let that burn down to the point that it has all naturally just fallen then push that toward the back, and plop about 3-4 pieces of smaller splits (say 2"), and let that burn down. That will take maybe a couple of hours tops but it should burn fairly easily and if you left your air control on high, just watch you dont overheat the stove top which you dont want, you want to control the air with the damper OPEN at all times as well in this stage.

Once that second fire burns down nicely to mostly coals, I usually load the stove on top of those coals with about 1/2 - 3/4 of the way with medium splits. 3-4" Keep that damper open, and then make sure that load catches nicely. You should see flames all around your wood. Not a full on blaze but you should see a good bit of flames for about 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on that stove top temp so it doesnt get above 650 for too long. Once that wood has caught it's likely you can close the damper. Then watch the flame activity and adjust as needed, but never get to the point that you dont see flames.

Then once that third fire has burned down, you are ready to operate it 24/7 with however you see best to pack YOUR stove. I say YOUR stove as everyone's acts different. For the forth load you can load it up with tons of wood, but just make sure you leave that primary open after the reload for awhile to let that load catch for awhile. Again your experience may vary but it usually takes me 20-30 minutes for a new load to catch nicely on a large bed of coals (3" bed or more of active embers). Then I switch back over to secondary and let it burn for about 6-7 hours with adjustments during that time to ensure Im getting the heat I want out of it but am also seeing flames at all times or, or, or, you might also see toward the end of a load burn cycle just a good amount of orange glow from the stuff inside your stove that is NOT the coal bed. This is usually when the secondary is really shining and burning off all those gases. If you went outside at this point you likely would see ZERO smoke or water vapor.

You must consider draft if you cant keep a flame going and all that magic happens within your stove pipe and chimney pipe. 15' minimum from the stove top to the chimney cap in VERTICAL measurements. So if you have an angle in your setup, you wont count any horizontal distance. Also consider that 45's and 90's really restrict air flow. There is a chart posted on here by how much. Also altitude will affect this. 15' is I believe the minimum for anything up to 3k elevation then it goes up from there. Every elbow adds something like 1' or more.

And MOST important, is the moisture content of your wood. If you dont own a moisture meter, you will. :). Some people just know and trust their wood is seasoned if it's covered on the top and there's no water leaking in, for 2 full years. That gets you oak below 20% MC and all other species mostly below 18%. For some, this could even be problematic to go that long as some pieces being in the 14-16% range may be harder to control on some stoves with too much draft. But you get the point, you are targeting the usage of say 17-20% MC wood. Anything over 20% will be hard for some to burn, and for most it will create tons of creosote.

I would bet if you pointed your camera up your stove pipe with a flashlight, your pipe looks like it's coated in black flakes. This is not good. And when that gets thicker and thicker over weeks/months, if that burns it will potentially cause a house fire. Right now if it burns it will likely just make a bunch of pops and maybe even some puffs of smoke, along with that 'hot' smell, and scare you to reconsider your burning habits.

I cant stress it enough, if you arent burning hot enough in this stove, it's dangerous. VC makes a dangerous product.

I should have taken it back when I HAD to use a single wall stove pipe adapter THEN a double wall to connect my double wall pipe. That level of engineering I want nothing to do with. But what makes it worse, is that NOBODY knew! The dealers, no one. So people were working up their own methods until VC came out and said, oh use this first then that, and put a bulletin and sent it out to all the dealers. Huh? Ok ok maybe it's not common for engineers to design these with every config in mind, but standard double wall pipe - seems to be the new standard..maybe not. But people spending 3k on a stove sure would be more likely to go with double wall as well.

Take care of that MC, draft, and burn like I said and you'll be fine. Otherwise, I would suggest you stop burning until these issues are addressed because as I said it can be a dangerous situation.

Edit: It's NOT you. Im not saying YOU are the problem. From reading, these are the most difficult stoves to operate and for MANY people there are issues with overfiring the secondary or poor performance overall. It's more common for people to have issues that prevail than not from what I can see. Many are in denial then I see their burn times, glass, etc and that's all I need to know that they are also fiddling/struggling way more than they should for a stove. That should tell you something. But if you do what I said, and make sure at all times you see flames - you will be SO much better off. Also if you intend on running it on the lower end of Stove top temps (below 450) you WILL need to get the catalyst, or get used to sweeping your stove pipe every week.

Do I still hate my stove. No
Do I like my stove. No
Do I trust my stove to be operated by anyone else. Oh hell no.
can you explain this a little more
Consider heating the flue first with a flaming piece of paper or better, just start a top down fire with a good bit of kindling crissed crossed below and a couple of pieces kissing the sides of your starter block of choice sitting on the top of your kindling. how do I heat the Flue?

Thanks for the advice I will try this, but man those are a lot of steps to get it going! lol. I do have a Meter, and most of the wood is under 20% the ones that are not get set aside for another time. The good part is when I get a good burn the stove on the inside is almost all white, the creosote has burned away and im getting a clean burn. I will look at the chimney this season to get an idea of the issue further. This stove has a steep learning curve, my poor Mrs. wants to help use the stove, but she gave up as its just too hard for her to use. She does help split wood! I did buy the Kindling Cracker and I make tons of kindling, then I bake this in the oven at 225 for 2 hours and its dry and perfect for the the start as I pile it on like crazy! I guess I will have to make some fatter pieces as suggested.

I do have a double wall pipe on the stove, as I did not install this, because of insurance reasons. So my pipe is straight out the roof, no bends anywhere, so I didn't want that to be an issue right off the bat. I am attempting to keep the stove hot above 450 as much as possible. It seems easier on the days when it warmer above 10 to 20 F seems to work better which is odd.

Thanks for advice and any extra input would be great!

kindle.jpg
 
can you explain this a little more
Consider heating the flue first with a flaming piece of paper or better, just start a top down fire with a good bit of kindling crissed crossed below and a couple of pieces kissing the sides of your starter block of choice sitting on the top of your kindling. how do I heat the Flue?

Thanks for the advice I will try this, but man those are a lot of steps to get it going! lol. I do have a Meter, and most of the wood is under 20% the ones that are not get set aside for another time. The good part is when I get a good burn the stove on the inside is almost all white, the creosote has burned away and im getting a clean burn. I will look at the chimney this season to get an idea of the issue further. This stove has a steep learning curve, my poor Mrs. wants to help use the stove, but she gave up as its just too hard for her to use. She does help split wood! I did buy the Kindling Cracker and I make tons of kindling, then I bake this in the oven at 225 for 2 hours and its dry and perfect for the the start as I pile it on like crazy! I guess I will have to make some fatter pieces as suggested.

I do have a double wall pipe on the stove, as I did not install this, because of insurance reasons. So my pipe is straight out the roof, no bends anywhere, so I didn't want that to be an issue right off the bat. I am attempting to keep the stove hot above 450 as much as possible. It seems easier on the days when it warmer above 10 to 20 F seems to work better which is odd.

Thanks for advice and any extra input would be great!

View attachment 309316
Update, I was wondering so I split some pieces of wood that I've been burning, and BAM my meter is showing 23% some pieces were 25% thats prolly some issue for sure. Now I'm stuck not sure what to do except stop burning completely, or drying in the oven lol.
 
@cyberglyph You make it sound as if your not drafting good. Have you looked in the chimney? Can you see the cap and see how it looks or look up the chimney with a mirror? I've had a VC Encore for 35 years, I've never owned a moisture meter and never had a cat probe until this year. I know I've burned some wet wood through the years and never had a problem getting and keeping a fire going. I use kiln dried kindling scraps from a cabinet shop on a cold start but I reload on coals all of the time with no problems with my non moisture metered wood.
 
@cyberglyph You make it sound as if your not drafting good. Have you looked in the chimney? Can you see the cap and see how it looks or look up the chimney with a mirror? I've had a VC Encore for 35 years, I've never owned a moisture meter and never had a cat probe until this year. I know I've burned some wet wood through the years and never had a problem getting and keeping a fire going. I use kiln dried kindling scraps from a cabinet shop on a cold start but I reload on coals all of the time with no problems with my non moisture metered wood.
I can't really see up the chimney like that, but it does seem like it's not drafting correctly or something. I did have the company come and look at it and they said it is fine. I did have the outside air kit installed to aid in additional air flow in case there was a problem. I can see the cap and I do see smoke coming out all the time.
 
I can't really see up the chimney like that, but it does seem like it's not drafting correctly or something. I did have the company come and look at it and they said it is fine. I did have the outside air kit installed to aid in additional air flow in case there was a problem. I can see the cap and I do see smoke coming out all the time.
Look at the cap with binoculars if possible. The deflector or mesh on the cap can get clogged up and really slow draft. I burned my stove for years without closing the damper and it would build creosote at the cap when the smoke cooled. I could tell the difference in the draft.
 
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Update, I was wondering so I split some pieces of wood that I've been burning, and BAM my meter is showing 23% some pieces were 25% thats prolly some issue for sure. Now I'm stuck not sure what to do except stop burning completely, or drying in the oven lol.
Just discovered something by accident as well. The damper is on incorrectly. According to the manual you move the damper forward for more air flow and less heat, move it back to decrease air flow and slow the fire. Mine is on backwards. no wonder I have struggling thinking the fire is always going out. It was assembled incorrectly that I can tell. Now that I know that it seems to be working better but I will know more in the coming days. Holy Cow!
 
Just discovered something by accident as well. The damper is on incorrectly. According to the manual you move the damper forward for more air flow and less heat, move it back to decrease air flow and slow the fire. Mine is on backwards. no wonder I have struggling thinking the fire is always going out. It was assembled incorrectly that I can tell. Now that I know that it seems to be working better but I will know more in the coming days. Holy Cow!
Do you mean the air control?
 
Just discovered something by accident as well. The damper is on incorrectly. According to the manual you move the damper forward for more air flow and less heat, move it back to decrease air flow and slow the fire. Mine is on backwards. no wonder I have struggling thinking the fire is always going out. It was assembled incorrectly that I can tell. Now that I know that it seems to be working better but I will know more in the coming days. Holy Cow!
I dont think it physically can be on backwards.
You move it forward for more air. More air = more heat and faster consumption of wood. Move it toward the back to lower the flames, and produce less heat. Although it's arguable that you have less control than you think on these stoves.
 
can you explain this a little more
Consider heating the flue first with a flaming piece of paper or better, just start a top down fire with a good bit of kindling crissed crossed below and a couple of pieces kissing the sides of your starter block of choice sitting on the top of your kindling. how do I heat the Flue?

Thanks for the advice I will try this, but man those are a lot of steps to get it going! lol. I do have a Meter, and most of the wood is under 20% the ones that are not get set aside for another time. The good part is when I get a good burn the stove on the inside is almost all white, the creosote has burned away and im getting a clean burn. I will look at the chimney this season to get an idea of the issue further. This stove has a steep learning curve, my poor Mrs. wants to help use the stove, but she gave up as its just too hard for her to use. She does help split wood! I did buy the Kindling Cracker and I make tons of kindling, then I bake this in the oven at 225 for 2 hours and its dry and perfect for the the start as I pile it on like crazy! I guess I will have to make some fatter pieces as suggested.

I do have a double wall pipe on the stove, as I did not install this, because of insurance reasons. So my pipe is straight out the roof, no bends anywhere, so I didn't want that to be an issue right off the bat. I am attempting to keep the stove hot above 450 as much as possible. It seems easier on the days when it warmer above 10 to 20 F seems to work better which is odd.

Thanks for advice and any extra input would be great!

View attachment 309316

Heating the flue is simple, just start a top down fire. Look at youtube for examples. It gets the heat/smoke further up the stove pipe so the smoke doesnt come back down on you and inside the building when you start your fire.

That's some nice kindling!

Yes this stove takes alot to get going. For me, last weekend, it was about 8 hours. You have to burn the first three loads on the hot side to produce enough coals, otherwise you'll end up with a modest to low coal base and a full load just wont go that great unless you have overly seasoned wood. And by the first three loads I mean, that first kindling load - then the few small splits - then the next batch being about 1/2 full of smalls and maybe a medium. Once that last load looks like mostly charcoal and you can split logs up easily into bits with a poker..the stove is finally ready for a full load...or 1/2 or 3/4 - whatever, but it's ready to be loaded, let it catch for 20-30 mins then flip over to secondary.

I really dont trust the secondary on these units. It seems so counter intuitive that I can actually SEE whats happening with my secondary burn. I hear that blow torch sound much more than just a few minutes like others, but for me it is very faint. Sometimes I have to just barely crack the top hatch to hear it , or put my ear toward the back near the stove.
 
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