Newbie running a old Defiant and Intrepid II

BittersweetHomestead Posted By BittersweetHomestead, Nov 16, 2012 at 7:17 PM

  1. BittersweetHomestead

    New Member 2.

    Nov 15, 2012
    Upstate NY
    So... I have essentially found my dream home. Well, in about 10 years it will be anyway... That being said, it's got some serious promise of being the last home I will ever purchase if I have MY way, and I typically get my way ;) I've been leasing it for a few months now and we are working through the "offer" currently. Even if he doesn't except the offer, I am willing to pay his asking price IF NEEDED. So, safe to say we're not going anywhere.

    Anyhoo, this 1200 sq ft post and beam 1850's farmhouse (which is in near outstanding condition especially given it's age) is pretty close to being all original, with a more recent (made to look original) addition off of the back that ties the main house to the garage (which is an original structure that was converted back in 2000 after the addition was built). The addition is considered a "Great Room", stands one story and a half (cathedral ceiling) but is currently being used as an unofficial master bedroom for myself. This room is NOT heated by my furnace, only the "Main House" has duct work. This "Great Room" is where my VC Defiant sits, and I assume has been sitting since the addition was built, 30 years ago. I will attach a picture of the general first floor layout - the large black boxes being the woodstoves (Below). The second woodstove, The VC Intrepid II, sits in the living room.

    These stoves were set up properly and still run given that they are in varying stages of needing repair. The Defiant, as far as I can tell, has really no immediate issues other than needing new gaskets around. Even with little to NO gaskets left, it runs pretty efficiently for the way I run it. The Intrepid runs, just not efficiently. It needs work and it just burns through wood like nobody's business as-is. So, until I have someone look at it I have chosen NOT to use it simply because it seems to need work in order to be "safe". It back puff's terribly more often then not and the draft is poor. I love the smell of wood, but not THAT much, lol.

    I guess since I'm not using the smaller stove I will keep my questions to the Defiant for now, until I get an experienced set of eyes on it anyway...

    Even though I have dowloaded the manual, read a few VERY informational posts on this site, have been running the stove virtually every evening in updraft mode (usually with the screen in and doors open) I have MANY questions... My main objective (once I lose the romantic effect of wanting to see a fire every night) is to learn how to run this in order to eventually virtually replace using my very efficient newer furnace. I am told that this stove is a BEAST and certainly capable of heating the whole house. However, ho-hum, that might not be the case this year as I AM using this room as my master bedroom and don't want to be blasted out... It almost seems as if I should switch stoves, especially since I might like to keep this as my bedroom but switching these stoves is NOT going to happen this year (for many reasons) so I might find myself out on the couch in the living room for most of this season when I decide to run it in a more efficient way.

    First question:

    How, can I run this somewhat efficient without creating creosote, in updraft mode, with the screen in? I seem to have gotten the hang of keeping it in the "burn zone" (using a Rutland burn indicator on the griddle) at about 3-400::F(which is on the low side of the burn zone) consistently, but I seem to go through A LOT of wood using it this way. I do need to crack a window in order to even hang out in this room while it's running (which is fine) and it doesn't really effect the rest of the house much, if at all, when using it this way. Is that just the way it is when using like that?

    For my overnight burn or when no one is in this room, I tend to close the doors and still run it in updraft mode (mainly because I'm scared to close the damper, damper closed = FEAR.) and by morning (usually 4-5 hours from last fuel) I am down to barely a few embers, if that, so I can't just re-vive it. I clean it out after every overnight burn (It does NOT have a removable ash tray that I can just empty, I have to actually shovel it out every morning before using it again) so continuous use is apparently NOT an option due to build up. Updraft mode just doesn't seem to be efficient with regards to using wood fuel and I know you're all probably smacking your foreheads thinking "well, NO DUH stupid"! Now, when I burn with the doors closed it tends to burn hotter (near 500-600 until the fuel starts to burn down) so I REALLY need the window open... But, again, I'm using a lot of wood and when I wake up at say around 3-4 AM I have no "wood" left. And I really don't want to fool with it at this point because it's chilly and I like being under my fluffy blanket! :rolleyes:

    I guess my second question is: In order to run more efficiently (using less wood) should I learn to deal with my FEAR and close the damper?

    Yesterday I did run it with the damper closed for a couple of hours and we didn't all die, so that's a start I reckon... But, I have NO clue what Model Defiant this is (other than it was safety tested in 1980), if it has a catalytic combustion mode or not, how to check if I have one (much less if it's in good condition) and how/when to get it going in this mode OR does it just o it on it's own... When I closed the damper I had a well established fire going in the range of 450::Fshowing on the griddle (which is why I decided to try the damper) but when I closed the damper it dropped by about 50 degrees. Why did it do that? Is that normal? It did recover and went up to about 600::F about 20-30 min later and stayed there for the duration of the 2 hours. When I went outside to look at the chimney it was clear gas, the whole time. That's good so I did something right!!! However, I'm not sure WHAT I did.

    I just need a starting point I suppose. I am NOT comfortable with this stove yet and tend to want to just look at some open flame for now. I assume I will have to deal with it not being an efficient heater when using it this way, but maybe there is a way to make it a little better? My MAIN concern is creosote build up or just plain ruining this stove by running it improperly. Maybe I really should consider switching stoves when I plan their restorations? It really doesn't make much sense to me WHY they are in the positions they are in but I didn't place them here afterall.

    Thanks in advance for ANY assistance :)

    P.S. In adition to the layout of my first floor, I have also included a picture of the inside of the Defiant. If anyone can tell me ANYTHING about what you might think I have here that would be GREAT! Chimney Sweep isn't coming out until the very end of the month (I inspected both chimney's and both are fine to use as-is, not very dirty at all and the owner said they were cleaned at the end of the last burning season.

    New house layout.png The Defiant2.jpg
  2. rawlins02

    Member 2.

    Feb 19, 2012
    Western Massachusetts

    Hi and welcome. Disclaimer: I'm no expert, having run a Vigilant, in the house I bought last January, about 12-15 times last spring and a half dozen time this autumn. But here goes.

    Creosote formation tends to come about when one creates cool smoky fires. You need to burn dry wood, and keep your stove running at least, say 400F. Hot clean fires. As soon as the season ends have a professional clean your chimney and evaluate how much creosote you have given the number of cords you burn. To my knowledge it matters less whether in updraft or horizontal mode. Dry wood and a hot fire are your friends.

    You will go through more wood and have a hotter stove in updraft mode. You need to get comfortable running with damper closed (horizontal mode). Folks run in updraft mode when wanting/needing more heat output (650-700F). Yes the temperature will be lower after closing the damper. There is less draft. By engaging secondary gases in horizontal mode, you'll be more efficient with the wood. Then control the stoves temperature using air intake.

    Yes, see above. Stove performance is largely a function of wood density, wood moisture content, draft. To my knowledge anyway. You likely have more draft if gaskets are worn, vs. a tight stove. You'll want to run the stove a lot during waking hours to see how it performs given variations in the above primary factors. Personally I would never run overnight in updraft mode. A runaway stove is much more likely in updraft mode (see above).

    Also, DO NOT run the stove with no sand and/or ash in the bottom. Is that what you are doing? You'll warp the bottom and ruin the stove! Do not clean out entirely each time. You shouldn't have to clean out but once a week, unless you are running 24/7. Many folks have 2-3 inches of sand in the bottom, or some other heat sink.

    Lots of good info out there. You need to read, read, read, then come back with specific questions. Long posts tend to be ignored. :)
  3. remkel

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Jan 21, 2010
    Southwest NH
    Grew up with a Defiant in my bedroom (I inherited the old basement family room after the addition was placed on my parents home) and yes, it is one powerful heater!

    With the screen in, you are basically running a fireplace, so your heat output will be reduced and your wood consumption will be increased. My father had a screen for his, it got used once, and then was placed in the garage for the next 30 years where it still remains.

    Do not be afraid to shut the damper....the stove was designed to be run this way. Just watch that your fire is not snuffed. Get the stove good and hot before closing the damper.

    The temperature drop is due to where the flames are passing out of the stove. When the damper is open, the flame is exiting at the top of the stove by the griddle making it hotter. Once you close the damper, the flame is forced to the bottom of the stove through the secondary burn chamber and the baffles on the rear of the stove. It is normal to see the temperature drop and then a slow rise. Sometimes it will just drop and settle in at a certain temperature.

    It is good that you are watching the creosote buildup. Hot fires with dry wood will help reduce the amount of creosote. If you are seeing steam instead of smoke you are most likely doing all right.

    Good luck with the Defiant. The one I mentioned earlier is still running strong in my father's reclaimed basement room! A little TLC goes a long way with those stoves.
  4. rawlins02

    Member 2.

    Feb 19, 2012
    Western Massachusetts
    Interesting. I did not know this. Would normally assume seeing steam means too much water.

    OP: Back to topic at hand. Here is some excellent background. It is for a Vigilant but nonetheless I think the information is relevant. Someone correct me if I'm mistaken.
  5. fbelec

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Nov 23, 2005
    northern massachusetts
    hi bittersweethomestead
    just wondering how your making out getting use to your stoves? the picture that you posted looks like you have a warped baffle far right metal with cut out at bottom. and maybe the upper fire back may have a problem. looks warped. that is the back piece about the one that says 1975. with the stove this way it might not run right in horizontal mode. if you plan on keeping the great room your bedroom you might want to swap the stoves that you have. you need to run the defiant up to at least 550 before switching to horizontal. i would say more like 650 so that your secondary flame does not stall out. with a house that size when you run the defiant at the right temps and use the damper you should bake yourself right out of that room with a full load, and you should get way more time out of the stove than 4 hours. if the stove is not running hot and you run it in horizontal mode you will make a creosoted chimney at 450 to 500 temps you should be ok in updraft mode but not hot enough for horizontal. and yes it does drop a little when switch from updraft. as far as burn times i get 5 hours give or take 1 hour on pine in updraft and 7 to 8 hours in horizontal. that is the stove running untill in drops to 300 when going out. if burning hardwood i get 7 to 8 hours in updraft and 8 to 9 to 10 hours in horizontal mode depending on running maple or oak or black locust. and that is running the stove at 550 to 600. btw it only took me running my stove not hot enough for a month from clean chimney to roaring 5 foot flame chimney fire. so be careful:)
    let us know how your doing

  6. defiant3

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Dec 23, 2010
    No. NH
    That's a Defiant 2 that desperately needs a fireback kit, and is WAY too bis for 1200 sq. feet of living space.
    You won't build up much creosote running it like a fireplace, but you likely will once it's repaired, tight, and running closed up. Consider replacing it. It's a great old stove, but you'll find that a modern unit properly sized will be much easier to get to know and run safely and effectively.

    That may soun d odd comimg from a guy who heats with that very stove and restores them for a living, but there you are...

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