New BK Princess 29 asking for tips from a newbie

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cr0

New Member
Mar 6, 2023
12
SE PA
Just got a BK Princess 29 insert for our first wood heating, to offset/replace electric heat-pump and baseboards. I'm hoping you all can answer some questions and point me to good starter guides for newbies, to help us get good habits for refilling and whatnot. I'd like to learn as much as I can about the stove and wood heating, as I hope to use wood heating as a primary heat source going forward. This forum has been a big help so far - thanks!

Experience so far:
We've been running the stove for a few days now, letting it cool down twice to see how it looks. It's been warm out so we've only burned 4 to 6 splits at a time. These are ~12" long hardwood splits we bought locally, claimed to be seasoned for two years. So far the stove seems to run great. We started with smaller fires, then built up to a bigger one, trying to get through the offgassing stage. Even after the offgas smells stopped inside, the chimney wreaked outside for a day or two, but now it smells like normal wood burning. The cat thermometer would get very hot for our earlier burns, going clockwise to 5 or 6 on the dial. It settled down over time and now doesn't quite reach 5 o'clock on the dial even with the couple of hotter fires we've had. Early on we made the mistake of reloading the stove while the cat was in the active zone but without opening the bypass first, and we also realized we were not fully closing the bypass even when we thought we did. Now we've gotten in the swing of things, and smoke out the flue pipe decreases to faint wisps when the cat is engaged, which seems like a good sign it's working.

Here's our masonry hearth and stone mantle. It has an old metal firebox in it and had a propane freestanding stove when we first moved in. The wood stove installers removed the propane stove and cut out part of the firebox to get the double-walled flue pipe in.
PXL_20230303_141916792.jpg


Install almost done:
PXL_20230303_151939460.jpg


Fired it up!
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Some questions I have so far:

1. How would you suggest I measure stove temperature if at all? Seems like it's useful for learning refill routines and to avoid overfiring. Since the double-walled flue is within the masonry chimney, it seems like a magnetic stove-top thermometer or IR thermometer is the best way to do that? The dealer said these things are hard to overfire and I can safely pack the thing full of wood, just make sure bypass is closed when the cat is active.

2. Where are the air intakes for this stove? I understand the thermostat controls air intake when the bypass is closed. If I needed to manually block the air intake, or manually confirm it was open, where would I do that?

3. What do you keep around or on your stove? We have a used set of dust broom and pan, poker. Thinking to get a thermoelectric fan to help push air off to the side, supplementing the built-in fan that blows heat straight ahead. We also heard a ceramic or steel pan of water on the stove helps with humidity in the room - we have some instruments nearby.

4. Any safety tips you'd suggest? We have a CO+smoke detector between the stove and bedrooms, and a few ABC fire extinguishers around the house. Clearances look good, we just need a fireproof plate to cover a few inches of wood floor in front of the masonry hearth.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
7,261
Long Island NY
Read the manual, read the manual, read the manual. Almost all of what you ask, and all that you did wrong is in the manual...

Seriously, it's an expensive piece. Don't ruin it. Read the manual. It has all that you need.
 
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kborndale

Minister of Fire
Oct 9, 2008
848
LI
If your buying your wood then buy next year's wood yesterday. If you did indeed buy dry wood don't expect to be able to do that again as it is truly rare. Get a moisture meter ($25 on Amazon or home Depot) to be able to check your wood on a freshly split piece at room temperature. Just to say it again, it's extremely rare to buy wood that is ready to burn. It normally needs to sit for a year.
 

cr0

New Member
Mar 6, 2023
12
SE PA
Read the manual, read the manual, read the manual. Almost all of what you ask, and all that you did wrong is in the manual...

Seriously, it's an expensive piece. Don't ruin it. Read the manual. It has all that you need.
No doubt good advise. I've read the manual front to back a bunch of times now. It did set us straight on when the bypass door should be open or not. The manual doesn't address my other questions though, and it was only from reading these forums that I realized the bypass lever really needs to snap down hard to be fully closed. That's what encouraged me to go ahead and ask these other questions here - I want to learn as much as I can and make the most of this precious piece!

If your buying your wood then buy next year's wood yesterday. If you did indeed buy dry wood don't expect to be able to do that again as it is truly rare. Get a moisture meter ($25 on Amazon or home Depot) to be able to check your wood on a freshly split piece at room temperature. Just to say it again, it's extremely rare to buy wood that is ready to burn. It normally needs to sit for a year.
That is good to know. I'll get a meter and test the wood I have. There are a lot of supply yards claiming to sell 2 year seasoned wood in southeast PA. I've already started gathering freshly felled wood from before I got this stove but will need to buy wood for the next winter or two while that seasons. From estimates so far, it seems safe that even buying wood will save money compared with electric-powered heating.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
7,261
Long Island NY
Regarding #1, stove top temp is not really relevant for reloading. Or for anything else. Dial up the thermostat when you want more heat. Reload if there is not much fuel left other than some (for me a hand full) of coals left that can ignite the new load. Or when the cat just falls out of the active zone. Stove top temps have not much to do with that.


A metal ash bucket with a lid, a scoop, and a rake without teeth. The latter for raking coals to the front before reloading. The former for scooping out ashes and bringing them outside *far away from the home or any combustible, on a stone pavement* for a week or so before disposing them. They emit CO, so never store them inside. And they can be capable of relighting for many days, so storing away from your home.

Have CO/smoke detectors on every floor.

A humidifier works better than a pot on top (it has a convection deck so the very top doesn't get that warm anyway). And pots may scratch the paint.

I don't think the thermoelectric fan will make a big difference.

Don't manually block the air intake. In case of emergency, throw sand in the firebox to extinguish things.

A hand held vacuum.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
7,261
Long Island NY
Page 21 of the manual does mention the click you need to hear when closing the bypass.

I see that the manual says "you may want to open the bypass" for reloading to avoid smoke spillage. I'm surprised by that; it is better for the cat to always open the bypass before opening the door; cold air on a hot cat is not good. So my advice is to never open the door unless the bypass is open (and has been for a few minutes).
 
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bikedennis

Burning Hunk
Jun 21, 2021
153
Nor Cal
Yes, I read and believed "you may want to open the bypass"when reloading in my manual when I first got my stove. Don't do it.
 
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cr0

New Member
Mar 6, 2023
12
SE PA
Thanks for that input. We're making sure to open it for reload, and shut it promptly if the cat is in the active temp range.

my advice is to never open the door unless the bypass is open (and has been for a few minutes).

Based on the manual and other things I read, I thought that when the cat is in the active range, the bypass should be closed except for some minimal time when opening the door to reload.

Trying to understand the concept behind it: Why does the bypass being open or closed matter for the cat? Is the only reason to avoid sending cold/ambient/unheated air through the cat (the reason we need to open the bypass before opening the door)? And is having the bypass open while the cat is at active temperature only bad because it wastes heat/exhaust fumes that could be further combusted?
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
7,261
Long Island NY
Yes, your "except" is what I said: when active, the bypass is closed, unless you open the door. The point is that opening the door lets in cold air that will impinge on the cat. If the bypass is closed, the draft of the chimney sucks that cold air right into the cat.

Your understanding is this correct (and is what I tried to say earlier; my "door" is the stove door).

Don't run with the bypass open for efficiency, but also the parts there can't stand a hot fire for a long time.
And don't open the door unless you open the bypass first .
 
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cr0

New Member
Mar 6, 2023
12
SE PA
Got it, thanks. On the note of "parts there can't stand a hot fire for a long time", it seems like common sense goes a long way there, e.g. there is no risk of overheating if using appropriate fuel and not leaving the door open or bypass on for many minutes at a time. As part of that, I'm aware the door closing properly with a good gasket seal is important, and the manual talks about the dollar bill test.

Is there anything else you think I should know about overfiring or overheating stove components? You said thermometers on the stove top are not meaningful. The dealer said these BlazeKing stoves are very resilient to hot fires, and as long as I'm not regularly burning loads of kiln-dried wood or leaving the door open with fully ablaze fires, there's no problem. Reading around this site, it sounds like overfiring is obvious to someone paying attention, as parts of the stove (other than the cat) would start glowing and the door may make sucking sounds even when it's closed.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
7,261
Long Island NY
The stoves are resilient. I have burned a (tightly packed) stack of 2*4s - no problem. The thermostat closes the air when it gets hot, and there is no secondary air that (still) gets pulled in when the primary air is closed.

In my view you have to do things wrong (i.e. burn with leaky gaskets, open door or open bypass) to break things.

Other than that, make sure you have dry wood. As in <20 pct in the center of the split.
 
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cr0

New Member
Mar 6, 2023
12
SE PA
What's wrong with burning kiln dried wood outside of the price?

The dealer told me if I was burning kiln dried wood only, it could get too hot and could warp components of the stove. He seemed unsure though, noting that Blaze Kings were much less susceptible than other stoves to overfiring. He just suggested I mix kiln-dried with seasoned firewood to be safe. Good to hear @stoveliker you had no problem with a full load of 2x4s.

I have lots of kiln-dried, non-pressure treated pallet wood and offcuts of HT lumber I can burn. Is it true that with a cat stove like this one, no nails or metal should go in the stove? I saw somewhere that galvanized nails can emit zinc oxide when heated and that can damage the catalytic converter, but I have not been able to confirm that important detail. Pallets would be even more burnable if I could put pieces in there that still have nails and staples!
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
7,261
Long Island NY
Indeed, no nails. Zinc damages the cat. Steel won't buy how sure are you that the nails (staples) are clean steel? Just dont take the risk. Cats are not expensive but not cheap enough to play with either.

No chemicals (treated pallets). Just wood and only wood.

Pallets can be pieces that are thin. I'd stack them in the stove as tight as possible. Or mix with thicker splits.
 
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cr0

New Member
Mar 6, 2023
12
SE PA
Another cat question: If I started a fire and need to walk away from it for a while but it's still a few minutes from safely being in the 'active' temperature zone for the cat, is it better to close the bypass too early or to leave it open too long? Not sure how bad it is to have the bypass closed before the cat is fully warmed up.
 

broadhead

New Member
Feb 1, 2023
30
PA
Another cat question: If I started a fire and need to walk away from it for a while but it's still a few minutes from safely being in the 'active' temperature zone for the cat, is it better to close the bypass too early or to leave it open too long? Not sure how bad it is to have the bypass closed before the cat is fully warmed up.
Not sure if it is the right answer, but I look to see if the temperature is steadily rising towards that active zone. I make sure I have good flames and good char and I close it if it is close but on its way to being active. If the fire looks like it is not quite developed, still catching, or needing that extra venting to suck in the fresh air, don't close it. I have heard of others who don't close the bypass til it is well in the active zone so I think either way is good. Just don't smolder tons of smoke in the inactive cat, and don't run a full load with the bypass open. I'm sure others will chime in too.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
7,261
Long Island NY
I concur with the above.
Note that the cat probe (unless a digital one) is slow. So if the probe is rising, and near the active zone, the cat is likely already there. When I run with the air fully open, I can close the bypass early indeed - and then I immediately (within 10 secs) see the cat glowing.

Closing it too early resulting in the cat not lighting off can deposit creosote on the surface of the cat, blocking access of the gases to the active sites where they get combusted. That may be hard to burn off. So it's a bit of a risk, that gets less when you know your stove and chimney behavior better.

Finally, IF you walk away without closing the bypass, DO set an alarm (timer) on your phone or watch or whatever.
Failing to do so makes it more likely than I wish that I'd damage the stove by burning too long and too hot thru the bypass opening.

Generally it's best not to walk away from a stove that's not yet in a stable and safe operational mode.