New-to-me Firelight issues

rayfield

Member
Nov 15, 2018
47
Westerly
I've lived in this house a year and a half now, and last winter enjoyed this Firelight, though I scarcely knew what I was doing (& still pretty clueless).

The previous owner was happy with the stove, and last winter I was for the most part as well. However, over time, I've lost efficiency -- & to judge from others using this stove here, it wasn't really performing that well to begin with. Had the chimney swept in early February -- while I have no reason to think he didn't do a good job, he was lacking in expertise (had no better idea than I do of what a catalyst is or does, couldn't make head or tail of the pedal) so I was unable to get an assessment of the stove's condition. There is a crack down the left side which has been patched, so I gather at one point it got a lot hotter than it does now; there is also the inevitable cracked back plate.

1) It's never been easy to light -- cleaning the chimney helped, but two months later, it's as hard as it ever was (but it's also not nearly so cold).

2) At this point the only way to get it going and keep it going is by cracking open the ash tray door. My first winter, on occasion I could shut the flue, but this winter I've had to keep it open to keep the fire lit.

My thought is, replace the back plate and catalytic element, and see how much that improves things. At this point I've spent an hour or two browsing threads here, but unless I missed something, haven't come across a description of how to do those two things, unless it's really a lot simpler than I realize.

And if someone has a much better idea how to approach this, please don't hesitate to suggest.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
87,060
South Puget Sound, WA
That doesn't sound like a great start. FWIW, using the ashpan door to start the fire is a good way to crack the $$ base.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,667
Iowa
Maybe it's time to go shopping?
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,223
Southern IN
It's a down-draft stove. They are tricky to operate, easy to overfire, and parts are expensive. If you like those kinds of projects, you might be able to repair it..otherwise I might just get a new stove. User Ashful had some threads on the Firelight 12..I assume that's the model in question? Use the forum search above (magnifying glass) to find more info on the stove.
Someone recently posted these Lehmans.com deals on some of the left-over 2019 models. About 4/5 of the way down the page, with some orange on the post. I'd probably be looking at the Regency or Osburn non-cats; YMMV. https://www.facebook.com/lehmanshardware
 

webby3650

Master of Fire
Sep 2, 2008
11,019
Indiana
Have you ever taken the cover off of the back and cleaned the cat? It’s sounds like the cat is clogged with ashes. Or possibly fell apart even.
 

rayfield

Member
Nov 15, 2018
47
Westerly
Could deal with replacing it, for sure, but if I can fix it for 5-600 to get a few more years out of it that would save me the headache and a little money for the time being.

I did a fair amount of searching here -- and I can see how knowledgeable Ashful is -- somehow I couldn't find a post that laid out how to poke around and diagnose this stove's issues -- in fact, until webby's message, I thought the way to the cat was through the inside. Guess I'll keep looking.
 

webby3650

Master of Fire
Sep 2, 2008
11,019
Indiana
The cat is accessed from the inside.
The fireback has a single bolt that holds it in place. Use Your door wrench to loosen it. If it won’t budge you will need to get a socket Allen wrench and a propane torch to heat it up.The bolt doesn’t need to be entirely removed, just loosened a few turns. Carefully remove the cat over, then slide the cat out. Carefully vacuum all the ashes out of the combustion chamber. It’s fragile, be careful.
 
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rayfield

Member
Nov 15, 2018
47
Westerly
Can't get the wrench into the bolt, I guess there's so much ash/corrosion in there -- tried using alcohol, then stove glass cleaner (lye I guess), then scraping with a small blade screwdriver, no joy. Ideas?
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
Dental pick. That’s what I use to clean out clogged socket heads.

These can be expensive stoves to operate, as the cost of replacement parts from Jotul has gone stratospheric, and no one makes a cat that fits this model well anymore. I sold all three of mine, after several years of constantly working on them and repairing them, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

If you intend to run this thing 24/7, I would really start looking for another stove today, while spring sales and Corona virus likely have prices reduced. I say that because it’s an old stove, and not a great design when it was new, and you will never be finished with repairing it if used continually. However, if you only plan to use it for occasional weekend fires, then it’s more reasonable to repair and keep it.

The foot pedal opens the bypass door, and then if you continue pushing it to the floor it also opens the top loading door. That is a very cool feature.
 
Last edited:

rayfield

Member
Nov 15, 2018
47
Westerly
Well, I've lurked around this forum long enough to recognize an authoritative voice, so that pretty much puts the nail in this Firelight's coffin, I guess. I was already calculating the cost of replacing that back plate and the catalytic element & wondering if I was apt to be sending $300+ down the drain.

So I guess now is the time for me to ask for recommendations for replacements. I could see getting one of those Regencys, so I will try to find a shop that's open; and I like the look of the Osburns as well (except for that giant silly badge on the front). Other ideas? Size? It's a quirky little house, 1000 sq ft -- chimney goes through an atrium which brings heat up the second floor bedrooms -- one is small, the other even smaller. Have only lived in semi-coastal RI for a year and a half -- it seldom gets below 10 degrees at coldest, generally in the dead of winter nighttime temps are in the teens.

There is a ding on the front of the chimney, but other than that, the sweep reported no issues. What is a reasonable guesstimate for installation? Of course I'd need the Jotul hauled.
 

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webby3650

Master of Fire
Sep 2, 2008
11,019
Indiana
You’ve got a ton of options! Don’t run out and settle for an Osborn...
Jotul makes a great stove, if you like the look and feel of the iron I’d look at A new Jotul. Hearthstone makes some nice iron stoves as well.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
23,789
central pa
You’ve got a ton of options! Don’t run out and settle for an Osborn...
Jotul makes a great stove, if you like the look and feel of the iron I’d look at A new Jotul. Hearthstone makes some nice iron stoves as well.
What does jotul currently have for sale. I would stay away from their new cat till it is proven
 

webby3650

Master of Fire
Sep 2, 2008
11,019
Indiana
What does jotul currently have for sale. I would stay away from their new cat till it is proven
True, I was thinking he might find a “new” old stock. Jotul uses distributors that buy a lot of inventory. Last I heard they still had several models left.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
23,789
central pa
True, I was thinking he might find a “new” old stock. Jotul uses distributors that buy a lot of inventory. Last I heard they still had several models left.
Yes absolutely if they could find a pre 2020 jotul they are great stoves
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
...so that pretty much puts the nail in this Firelight's coffin, I guess... So I guess now is the time for me to ask for recommendations for replacements.
I'd post a new thread in the Hearth Room with that in the subject line for the best response, but be sure to post a link to that new thread back here, so we can all hop over and fall along. Be sure to post the details on the space you're heating, your climate, and your heating goals. There are many dozens of stoves on the market, and likely at least a dozen of those brands are carried by dealers local to you, so there are plenty of choices out there. I'm unfortunately one of the few authorities left on those old Jotul Firelight 12 catalytic stoves, as is bholler, but I know much less about the landscape of new stoves than begreen, bholler, webby3650, and many others here.
 

rayfield

Member
Nov 15, 2018
47
Westerly
Done.

 

webby3650

Master of Fire
Sep 2, 2008
11,019
Indiana
I'd post a new thread in the Hearth Room with that in the subject line for the best response, but be sure to post a link to that new thread back here, so we can all hop over and fall along. Be sure to post the details on the space you're heating, your climate, and your heating goals. There are many dozens of stoves on the market, and likely at least a dozen of those brands are carried by dealers local to you, so there are plenty of choices out there. I'm unfortunately one of the few authorities left on those old Jotul Firelight 12 catalytic stoves, as is bholler, but I know much less about the landscape of new stoves than begreen, bholler, webby3650, and many others here.
Unfortunately I know my way around a firelight #12 too... I get to work on them..
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
23,789
central pa
I havnt worked on one in a few years. Most people have abandoned them by now
 

rayfield

Member
Nov 15, 2018
47
Westerly
Not much luck with that bolt, but I'll pick up a smaller locking pliers today, the others I've got are a little large to confidently grab hold. At least I haven't destroyed the bolt yet!

I'm assuming penetrating oil isn't likely to help if there's ash and soot in there?

Jury is still out about completely replacing the stove & hearth, but regardless how I decide, should get this one going since there's still a few more cold weeks left, and would rather try to sell a working stove.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
87,060
South Puget Sound, WA
If you have it, spray some good penetrating oil like Kroil in there. It won't hurt.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
Penetrating oil can definitely help, just plan to use more than usual, as ash may soak a lot of it up. I like PB Blaster. I also prefer a small impact driver to hand wrenching for stubborn rusty stuff, like this. So much more likely to get it loose than breaking it.
 

rayfield

Member
Nov 15, 2018
47
Westerly
Penetrating oil can definitely help, just plan to use more than usual, as ash may soak a lot of it up. I like PB Blaster. I also prefer a small impact driver to hand wrenching for stubborn rusty stuff, like this. So much more likely to get it loose than breaking it.
So, propane, PB Blaster, hammer taps... none of them worked -- even tried heating up the bolt to see if I could expand the hex opening enough to get a key in, no such luck. Guess the next step is getting a set of these


any tips? I'm assuming you mean a power impact driver, Ash?
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
So, propane, PB Blaster, hammer taps... none of them worked -- even tried heating up the bolt to see if I could expand the hex opening enough to get a key in, no such luck. Guess the next step is getting a set of these


any tips? I'm assuming you mean a power impact driver, Ash?
Yeah, I meant pneumatic impact. The only electric o e I’ve ever used is my 18V Bosch, and it doesn’t gmhave enough torque for a bolt like this. Also, I think those extractors you posted are only for hex bits and hex head bolts and screws, not socket head.

I’m really surprised you can’t get a hex key into your bolt, it really doesn’t look that bad in the photo. What’s the issue, there? You know it’s metric, right?