New Furnace Day: Drolet Heat Commander

usernametaken

Burning Hunk
Nov 25, 2017
102
Western, MA
Their site still doesn't show the Caddy Advanced. It's been approved so it shouldn't be long.
 

FixedGearFlyer

Burning Hunk
Oct 8, 2010
165
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
More updates. If I'm being too "update-y," say so and I'll keep to myself. :)

TLDR summary: 13 hour burns with even heat leave us impressed. I watched a pretty good back puff through the baro damper when the furnace reestablished secondaries yesterday.

Long burn times and even heat:

We've finally got proper cold weather and have found a rhythm with the Heat Commander. With our Tundra, we used to burn three to four medium loads through the day - morning, lunch, evening, and -if it was really cold - bedtime. That helped us spread the heat through the day rather than blasting for 3 hours, tapering off, and ending with us desperately trying to get rid of a thick coal bed so we could reload.

The Heat Commander is vastly improved. We've been lighting one full load around 8am . . . And that's it. The heat output is amazingly even and our house is sitting at 70* (with the tstat set to 68*) for 12 to 13 hours every day. At 8 pm, the blower is still cycling and holding the temp, though if we were in the single digits, it would be losing ground. So far, we haven't done any reloads because we like a cooler house for sleeping and let it drop to about 60* overnight.

We now spend about 10 minutes per day with the furnace. We clean out the previous fire's ash, load the box, light it off, wait about 60 seconds, close the door . . . And enjoy even heat for 12 hours.

Back puffing through the baro:

I came into the house and sat by the furnace while eating lunch yesterday. It was about 4 hours in and there were nice, lazy secondaries over very chared splits. While I was watching, the furnace lost the secondaries and I could hear the shutters adjusting to get them back.

Over a 3 or 4 minute period, the shutters incrementally opened, the charred splits began to glow bright red, and, finally, flame returned.

When it did, all of the gasses in the firebox ignited with an impressive "whump!" and a sizable puff of smoke blew out of the baro damper. I can't blame the furnace for that - it did a great job of managing the burn. I also can't blame my baro - without it, my 30-some foot masonry chimney would be an overdrafting monster.

We haven't noticed any smoke smell in the house since installing the HC, but we'll be sure to keep sniffing and report back if we discover the baro-puffs to be common.

Overall, this thing is wonderful. We're warmer, more comfortable, spend a fraction of the time having to monitor or stoke the furnace, and have burned about 30% less wood than usual (though it's also been a mild winter). I feel like the furnace is burning more efficiently and also getting a lot more of the heat into the house than the Tundra 1 did.
 

trx250r87

Burning Hunk
Nov 30, 2012
118
NE Wisconsin
More updates. If I'm being too "update-y," say so and I'll keep to myself. :)

TLDR summary: 13 hour burns with even heat leave us impressed. I watched a pretty good back puff through the baro damper when the furnace reestablished secondaries yesterday.

Long burn times and even heat:

We've finally got proper cold weather and have found a rhythm with the Heat Commander. With our Tundra, we used to burn three to four medium loads through the day - morning, lunch, evening, and -if it was really cold - bedtime. That helped us spread the heat through the day rather than blasting for 3 hours, tapering off, and ending with us desperately trying to get rid of a thick coal bed so we could reload.

The Heat Commander is vastly improved. We've been lighting one full load around 8am . . . And that's it. The heat output is amazingly even and our house is sitting at 70* (with the tstat set to 68*) for 12 to 13 hours every day. At 8 pm, the blower is still cycling and holding the temp, though if we were in the single digits, it would be losing ground. So far, we haven't done any reloads because we like a cooler house for sleeping and let it drop to about 60* overnight.

We now spend about 10 minutes per day with the furnace. We clean out the previous fire's ash, load the box, light it off, wait about 60 seconds, close the door . . . And enjoy even heat for 12 hours.

Back puffing through the baro:

I came into the house and sat by the furnace while eating lunch yesterday. It was about 4 hours in and there were nice, lazy secondaries over very chared splits. While I was watching, the furnace lost the secondaries and I could hear the shutters adjusting to get them back.

Over a 3 or 4 minute period, the shutters incrementally opened, the charred splits began to glow bright red, and, finally, flame returned.

When it did, all of the gasses in the firebox ignited with an impressive "whump!" and a sizable puff of smoke blew out of the baro damper. I can't blame the furnace for that - it did a great job of managing the burn. I also can't blame my baro - without it, my 30-some foot masonry chimney would be an overdrafting monster.

We haven't noticed any smoke smell in the house since installing the HC, but we'll be sure to keep sniffing and report back if we discover the baro-puffs to be common.

Overall, this thing is wonderful. We're warmer, more comfortable, spend a fraction of the time having to monitor or stoke the furnace, and have burned about 30% less wood than usual (though it's also been a mild winter). I feel like the furnace is burning more efficiently and also getting a lot more of the heat into the house than the Tundra 1 did.
Nicely said. Are you running the pellet stove at all? We prefer 66-67 at night so I think I'm asking for a bit more heat overall.

No back-puffs here yet and I'm burning 3-4 fires a day for the past 5-6 weeks. I did have an occasional back-puff with my Tundra but that was usually due to shutting the front damper flap too early in the burn. It would back-puff out the front flap and send smoke stink though the house, sometimes even setting off smoke alarms. This was always fun during the middle of the night when waking up from a dead sleep!

Eric
 

SBI_Nick

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
6
Quebec city, Canada
Hi everyone,

few more answers here

Caddy Advanced and Caddy Advanced CR

Many of you are speculating about the Caddy Advanced and Advanced CR. I cannot tell much for now, but both will share the same firebox and the same controller with the Heat Commander. As it is currently, our PSG line is for HVAC instead of hardware store. We planned to offer in the PSG line an entry level furnace (Advanced) and the CR which will come with all the bells and whistles and more. For sure, the Advanced won’t be exactly the same as the Heat Commander it will be better suited for HVAC instead of DIY as most of you are. We don’t have the release date for now, the Advanced will come first and the CR will be available later. We hope both will be out on the market for next heating season.



Smaller or bigger

Ultimately, we plan to expand our wood furnace line up. As you know we used to offer 3 sizes (small, medium, large), from my point of view I'm not convinced we need a bigger unit. With the Heat Commander already being a bit bigger than the Tundra and more efficient, I think we will be able to stretch the heating area compared to its predecessor. If you really want to fill it up, you can put up to 50 pounds of wood in it, which i'm pretty sure most of the time users don't fill the furnace to the maximum. Probably a few times a year it will happen, when it gets really cold you may need to fill it up to the baffle and recharge it more than usual, but overall it will produce enough heat to keep it comfortable for most of the house.

Most of us tend to buy bigger is better. From your perspective, do you think we should provide a unit larger or smaller than the Heat Commander?


Thanks,

Nicolas
 

FixedGearFlyer

Burning Hunk
Oct 8, 2010
165
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Nicely said. Are you running the pellet stove at all? We prefer 66-67 at night so I think I'm asking for a bit more heat.
We would all melt if we slept at 66 or 67*. :-D

Right now, we are only running the pellet stove first thing in the morning to get the temps moving up until I have a chance to get in the basement and light a fire in the Heat Commander. I'm usually up around 530, but try to workout, have breakfast, get breakfast ready for my still-sleeping family, answer customer emails, etc., while I'm fresh out of bed.

In the past, I would have lit a fire in the Tundra first thing, but with the pellet stove I can comfortably wait until everyone else is up and fed.

Once we're into the deep belly of winter, I'm sure well also run the pellet stove some at night to keep the house from going below 60.

We used to have the Tundra in the house and a woodstove in the shop, which meant a solid 90 minutes per day tending fires, cleaning stoves, etc., often at inconvenient times and with pretty uneven temp swings. This year, with a pellet stove and HC in the house and a pellet stove in the shop, I think we'll be much more comfortable and put in much less time.

(Note, we don't have propane, NG, or oil. Wood is our primary heat with selective electric baseboards for emergency backup.)
 

FixedGearFlyer

Burning Hunk
Oct 8, 2010
165
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Hi everyone,

few more answers here

Caddy Advanced and Caddy Advanced CR

Many of you are speculating about the Caddy Advanced and Advanced CR. I cannot tell much for now, but both will share the same firebox and the same controller with the Heat Commander. As it is currently, our PSG line is for HVAC instead of hardware store. We planned to offer in the PSG line an entry level furnace (Advanced) and the CR which will come with all the bells and whistles and more. For sure, the Advanced won’t be exactly the same as the Heat Commander it will be better suited for HVAC instead of DIY as most of you are. We don’t have the release date for now, the Advanced will come first and the CR will be available later. We hope both will be out on the market for next heating season.



Smaller or bigger

Ultimately, we plan to expand our wood furnace line up. As you know we used to offer 3 sizes (small, medium, large), from my point of view I'm not convinced we need a bigger unit. With the Heat Commander already being a bit bigger than the Tundra and more efficient, I think we will be able to stretch the heating area compared to its predecessor. If you really want to fill it up, you can put up to 50 pounds of wood in it, which i'm pretty sure most of the time users don't fill the furnace to the maximum. Probably a few times a year it will happen, when it gets really cold you may need to fill it up to the baffle and recharge it more than usual, but overall it will produce enough heat to keep it comfortable for most of the house.

Most of us tend to buy bigger is better. From your perspective, do you think we should provide a unit larger or smaller than the Heat Commander?


Thanks,

Nicolas
Your comment on the HC capacity is a good point. Everyone, please note that when I say we put in a "full load", we loading to about 3 inches below the burn tubes, but *we have 16 inch splits*. We could easily get 25% more wood in if we used our "deep winter" 20 inch splits, so I guess it's not really a "full load" at the moment.

As for the size of the furnace, the HC is putting out a lot more heat than the Tundra - I definitely wouldn't want a bigger furnace. It's doing a great job heating our 1600 sq ft, two-story 1910 former one-room schoolhouse, including a 900 sq ft basement that we keep around 55* or 60*. The second floor is buttoned up tight and well insulated with foam and off-set, double 2x4 walls, but the first floor walls are a mix of drafty FG batts and poured styrene beads.

I'd love to see a woodstove with this kind of control system and a variable speed, automatic blower. I think I know at least 6 people who would by something like that tomorrow.
 

Matt78

Burning Hunk
Jan 28, 2015
149
New Washington , Ohio
More updates. If I'm being too "update-y," say so and I'll keep to myself. :)

TLDR summary: 13 hour burns with even heat leave us impressed. I watched a pretty good back puff through the baro damper when the furnace reestablished secondaries yesterday.

Long burn times and even heat:

We've finally got proper cold weather and have found a rhythm with the Heat Commander. With our Tundra, we used to burn three to four medium loads through the day - morning, lunch, evening, and -if it was really cold - bedtime. That helped us spread the heat through the day rather than blasting for 3 hours, tapering off, and ending with us desperately trying to get rid of a thick coal bed so we could reload.

The Heat Commander is vastly improved. We've been lighting one full load around 8am . . . And that's it. The heat output is amazingly even and our house is sitting at 70* (with the tstat set to 68*) for 12 to 13 hours every day. At 8 pm, the blower is still cycling and holding the temp, though if we were in the single digits, it would be losing ground. So far, we haven't done any reloads because we like a cooler house for sleeping and let it drop to about 60* overnight.

We now spend about 10 minutes per day with the furnace. We clean out the previous fire's ash, load the box, light it off, wait about 60 seconds, close the door . . . And enjoy even heat for 12 hours.

Back puffing through the baro:

I came into the house and sat by the furnace while eating lunch yesterday. It was about 4 hours in and there were nice, lazy secondaries over very chared splits. While I was watching, the furnace lost the secondaries and I could hear the shutters adjusting to get them back.

Over a 3 or 4 minute period, the shutters incrementally opened, the charred splits began to glow bright red, and, finally, flame returned.

When it did, all of the gasses in the firebox ignited with an impressive "whump!" and a sizable puff of smoke blew out of the baro damper. I can't blame the furnace for that - it did a great job of managing the burn. I also can't blame my baro - without it, my 30-some foot masonry chimney would be an overdrafting monster.

We haven't noticed any smoke smell in the house since installing the HC, but we'll be sure to keep sniffing and report back if we discover the baro-puffs to be common.

Overall, this thing is wonderful. We're warmer, more comfortable, spend a fraction of the time having to monitor or stoke the furnace, and have burned about 30% less wood than usual (though it's also been a mild winter). I feel like the furnace is burning more efficiently and also getting a lot more of the heat into the house than the Tundra 1 did.
We've had long burns also! Very impressed with this thing! Pic is from today. loaded full at 5am and and coal bed at 4pm. House set at 70 and outside temp is in mid 20's. Slight breeze. House is still at 70 now! Furnace is still putting out heat! We keep the house set at 70 around the clock. I load it full when I leave for work and at bed time. Maybe 3 to 4 splits in between. The only thing I have to complain about is sometimes I can't remember if I pushed the button! Lol I believe it flashing 3 times at you if you already did. Very happy!
 

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Matt78

Burning Hunk
Jan 28, 2015
149
New Washington , Ohio
Hi everyone,

few more answers here

Caddy Advanced and Caddy Advanced CR

Many of you are speculating about the Caddy Advanced and Advanced CR. I cannot tell much for now, but both will share the same firebox and the same controller with the Heat Commander. As it is currently, our PSG line is for HVAC instead of hardware store. We planned to offer in the PSG line an entry level furnace (Advanced) and the CR which will come with all the bells and whistles and more. For sure, the Advanced won’t be exactly the same as the Heat Commander it will be better suited for HVAC instead of DIY as most of you are. We don’t have the release date for now, the Advanced will come first and the CR will be available later. We hope both will be out on the market for next heating season.



Smaller or bigger

Ultimately, we plan to expand our wood furnace line up. As you know we used to offer 3 sizes (small, medium, large), from my point of view I'm not convinced we need a bigger unit. With the Heat Commander already being a bit bigger than the Tundra and more efficient, I think we will be able to stretch the heating area compared to its predecessor. If you really want to fill it up, you can put up to 50 pounds of wood in it, which i'm pretty sure most of the time users don't fill the furnace to the maximum. Probably a few times a year it will happen, when it gets really cold you may need to fill it up to the baffle and recharge it more than usual, but overall it will produce enough heat to keep it comfortable for most of the house.

Most of us tend to buy bigger is better. From your perspective, do you think we should provide a unit larger or smaller than the Heat Commander?


Thanks,

Nicolas
I'd think the size of the HC would heat a larger house for sure. Ours is 1850 sqft ranch style with leaky windows. So I say the HC would be big enough! But you know us Americans!!
 
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usernametaken

Burning Hunk
Nov 25, 2017
102
Western, MA
Nicolas, I didn't go the bigger is better route with out Max Caddy. My HVAC installer actually thought that the standard Caddy would be sufficient but the fact that only the Max could add the hot water accessory loop was why I went that route. It also happened to match the square footage of my home better based on the info on your site. That said, I'm so glad I have the Max even though I ended up with it for a different reason. 75% of the time the standard size would have been enough. However, when you have a cold week like the one we're having now with low 20's during the day and single digits at night, I need all the capacity the Max has to offer. I keep a full season of wood in the basement so I can choose my loads very specifically and on very cold nights I fill the firebox like a puzzle and I don't think you could fit an additional twig in there when I'm done. Doing that I can keep my 3500 square foot home right were I want it overnight for 8-9 hours at 70-72. Granted, my home has a very large duct system that contributes to loss. My furnace is at one end of the house and the furthest duct runs go to a 950 sq/ft family room over the garage at the opposite end of the house. On the main house, it's quite the long run to the ducts over the second floor as well. If I had built this house planning to burn fossil fuels, I would have done separate furnaces but since I wanted to do wood, this was my only option that worked with my floorplan. Anyways, long story long, I am very grateful that a "Max" size was offered since the standard size would not have worked for me...
 
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laynes69

Minister of Fire
Oct 2, 2006
2,542
Ashland OH
We have a rebadged Caddy, and when we first got it we couldn't keep the house over 68 when it was 30 degrees out. Fast forward with seasoned wood and a much tighter home we could keep the house 75 at 0 degrees. For me personally if you can produce a clean burning furnace with the ability to burn low and slow, why not go a little bigger. There's a number of people with large older farm houses that require a heavy heat load when needed. However for us, we push our furnace only a few times a year and it always pulls through. We also don't cut our wood at maximum length and now rarely do a heavy full load. I think of blaze king, and the large units hold alot of wood and burn for hours. What type of wood was used in the testing of the heat commander?
 

trx250r87

Burning Hunk
Nov 30, 2012
118
NE Wisconsin
We have a rebadged Caddy, and when we first got it we couldn't keep the house over 68 when it was 30 degrees out. Fast forward with seasoned wood and a much tighter home we could keep the house 75 at 0 degrees. For me personally if you can produce a clean burning furnace with the ability to burn low and slow, why not go a little bigger. There's a number of people with large older farm houses that require a heavy heat load when needed. However for us, we push our furnace only a few times a year and it always pulls through. We also don't cut our wood at maximum length and now rarely do a heavy full load. I think of blaze king, and the large units hold alot of wood and burn for hours. What type of wood was used in the testing of the heat commander?
I recall the testing/certification documents said the beech was used to test the Heat Commander.

Eric
 

Matt78

Burning Hunk
Jan 28, 2015
149
New Washington , Ohio
Heat Commander vs Tundra thermo images. The front of the Tundra got much hotter but the HC has an extra layer of sheet metal on the front.

Eric
Man looking at this some more and it's no wonder why the HC puts out more heat. It's contained in the unit better. Then transferred to the plenum. Looks like the HC pic the fire is 200 degrees hotter also? No wonder the T1 were prone to cracks. There's a lot of distortion around the air intake. Great comparison
 

Gearhead660

Minister of Fire
Dec 20, 2018
548
Southern WI
Curious of the flue temp with the Heat Commander. Has anyone checked theirs? It's surprising how much heat my T2 strips compared to my wood stove.
 
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Matt78

Burning Hunk
Jan 28, 2015
149
New Washington , Ohio
Curious of the flue temp with the Heat Commander. Has anyone checked theirs? It's surprising how much heat my T2 strips compared to my wood stove.
Mine runs about 200 to 300 degrees. My T1 if I remember right. Was anywhere from 300 to 550 degrees. I'm going to shut it down Wednesday and add the baro. Curious to see what the pipe looks like after a month of burning!
 

andym

Feeling the Heat
Feb 6, 2020
325
Hicksville, Ohio
This is an awesome comparison! I was always amazed at how much heat comes off the front of my heatmax 2. You can barley sit in front of it most of the time.
Mine also throws a fair amount of heat, but not like I expected. An amazing amount of the heat is carried away by the ductwork. My basement is finished so I need the heat. Some don't, so I understand that part.

As I recall the advertised 'delivered efficiency' was not much higher than the H2\T2. Maybe 2%?
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,184
Downeast Maine
Mine runs about 200 to 300 degrees. My T1 if I remember right. Was anywhere from 300 to 550 degrees. I'm going to shut it down Wednesday and add the baro. Curious to see what the pipe looks like after a month of burning!
Is that surface or internal?
 

Case1030

Feeling the Heat
Dec 12, 2017
322
Manitoba
Mine also throws a fair amount of heat, but not like I expected. An amazing amount of the heat is carried away by the ductwork. My basement is finished so I need the heat. Some don't, so I understand that part.

As I recall the advertised 'delivered efficiency' was not much higher than the H2\T2. Maybe 2%?
Alot of people will get the most benefit from increase delivered BTU and more even heat output. I wouldn't trust those numbers "2%" increase seems low compared to the results people have being getting. Look at the Heat commander optimal efficiency 83.2%, tundra/ heatmax 2 84.9%. (Drolet website) I believe the HC is more effective at delivering the heat than producing more heat. That is my opinion... wood only holds so many btu before it starts pulling heat from thin air ;). My Tundra flue temp sits around 350f internal it can float either way 50+-. But only stays at that temperature for 4-5 hours before dropping.

Now where I see the largest benefit is the grate that can open and close directly giving air to the coals instead of wasting heat up the chimney and also ability to prevent smoldering wasted BTU.
 

trx250r87

Burning Hunk
Nov 30, 2012
118
NE Wisconsin
Man looking at this some more and it's no wonder why the HC puts out more heat. It's contained in the unit better. Then transferred to the plenum. Looks like the HC pic the fire is 200 degrees hotter also? No wonder the T1 were prone to cracks. There's a lot of distortion around the air intake. Great comparison
I'm not sure the temp readings on or through the glass is accurate, but if you look closely at the magnetic thermometer on both cleanout doors you can see they are very similar in temp.

I agree, the Heat Commander puts more heat into the ductwork and not as much as raidant heat outthefront. The HC is also more effecient and getting heat for longer into the burn as it keeps the fan on more during coaling stage.

Eric
 
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SBI_Nick

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
6
Quebec city, Canada
2020-12-22


Hi,

First, thank you for your comments regarding the next size of furnace, we might ask you more details about your home and set-up to confirm the right heating area.

Second, one of you was wondering the kind of wood we are using for testing, has it been mention I confirmed it is beech.

Third, regarding efficiency it is measure under lab condition with dry wood and specific loading pattern. As EPA request it is shown in the owner’s manual how to load to achieve optimum efficiency. The big difference with the Heat Commander is no matter the wood quality and how you will load, the furnace will make sure it delivers the maximum efficiency you can get.

Finally, good news there will be a new tax credit for the US from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2023. The Heat Commander and the Caddy Advanced will be eligible to the credit having an overall efficiency over 75%, the current efficiency is 77%. Further information can be found here: https://www.hpba.org/Advocacy/Biomass-Stove-Tax-Credit



Thanks,

Nicolas
 

usernametaken

Burning Hunk
Nov 25, 2017
102
Western, MA
Nick, while my home is new and well insulated, my duct runs are longer than average. I'm thinking if my home was of a more traditional design (two floor with a centrally located furnace), a smaller furnace might have sufficed. I'd be happy to share any details of my install if it helps you all in any way.