Old vs New Stoves

Gable

New Member
Feb 10, 2020
4
midwest
Didn't know whether to post here or on the Classic forum. :)

I have been using a 1975 VC Defiant for over 30 years. I thought it was time to consider an upgrade - some would say past time, but the stove is still in good shape and works fine. The stove is in a house of only 1600 sq ft so as you can imagine, it keeps the place warm easily.

In researching the new stoves, I find myself wondering if I am not better off keeping the ole VC going for as long as I can:

1. Almost all the stoves I researched only have a burn time of 6-8 hours. 95% of the time I set the old VC to minimum at night and it will burn for around 13 hours and still have a few bits of log left.

2. The newer stoves seem to be limited to log lengths of 16-18 inches while the old VC accepts 24 inch logs.

3. If one wants cast iron, like the old VC, it is expensive!

It leaves me wondering how much progress there has been in 45 years. ;) Anyway, know there is a lot of expertise on this site, so any comments on my thinking are appreciated.
 

ManitobaSky

Member
Nov 20, 2013
28
Manitoba, Canada
1. a new stove with a similar sized fire box will burn for 10 - 12 hrs. Some stoves will burn for considerably longer ei Blaze King 30 Box, princess or king.

2. A number of stoves have a “recommended” log length of 20-22 inches, they can fit longer logs if you jam them in but a little air room is recommended for a better burn.

3. Inflation sucks.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
21,910
central pa
Didn't know whether to post here or on the Classic forum. :)

I have been using a 1975 VC Defiant for over 30 years. I thought it was time to consider an upgrade - some would say past time, but the stove is still in good shape and works fine. The stove is in a house of only 1600 sq ft so as you can imagine, it keeps the place warm easily.

In researching the new stoves, I find myself wondering if I am not better off keeping the ole VC going for as long as I can:

1. Almost all the stoves I researched only have a burn time of 6-8 hours. 95% of the time I set the old VC to minimum at night and it will burn for around 13 hours and still have a few bits of log left.

2. The newer stoves seem to be limited to log lengths of 16-18 inches while the old VC accepts 24 inch logs.

3. If one wants cast iron, like the old VC, it is expensive!

It leaves me wondering how much progress there has been in 45 years. ;) Anyway, know there is a lot of expertise on this site, so any comments on my thinking are appreciated.
Your old vc was an absolutely fantastic stove for it's day. And in good working order they are still without question good stoves. But new stoves burn cleaner and give you more heat out of each price of wood. Yes old stoves could give you pretty long burn times but in doing so you usually were burning far from clean.

As far as price yes they cost more now but if you factor in inflation you vc cost more than most stoves on the market today
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,117
Lackawaxen PA
Bholler,
Question, weren't models of VC problematic and costly to repair?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
21,910
central pa
Bholler,
Question, weren't models of VC problematic and costly to repair?
Not those early ones no. Later versions absolutely
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,441
Northern NH
I remember when the VC Defiants came out just about the time we were coming off an oil embargo. Dealers had waiting lists over a year. Some of them made sure to hang all the optional goodies on the stove to bump the profit up. They were not cheap, I think someone could get Fisher clone for 1/3 to 1/2 the price. Jotul's were the same, folks waited a year plus to get them. Scandia was cranking out clones and selling everyone they brought in until folks saw the big cracks from lousy castings.

No matter how good an old Defiant was, if you have dry wood, the newer EPA stoves are more efficient if run properly within a smaller turn down range. On the other hand hard to justify buying a new stove for hundreds or thousands more just to get more efficiency. Plus the old Defiant's were way to big for most homes unless they were poorly insulated old Vermont farmhouses.
 

sweedish

Member
Feb 6, 2019
146
Michigan
Depending on how often you burn, it can be worthwhile to upgrade to more efficient, I ran the old smoke dragon that was in my house for about a month. big difference in wood consumption going from a stove that was 50% efficient to 84% efficient.
Hell, I wish I was 84% percent efficient.
 

Jason721

Member
Nov 4, 2017
71
southern indiana
I do like my newer stove. It does in fact burn less wood. My only complaint is I do not like the lack of control... It seems it's either blazing or it's blazing. I would like to be able to crank it down like the old stoves. I do however keep an old stove around. It heats my work shop. I like the idea of keeping an old stove on hand. If need be I can put it back in the house. Besides I just like that ol thing!
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,160
Southern IN
Almost all the stoves I researched only have a burn time of 6-8 hours. 95% of the time I set the old VC to minimum at night and it will burn for around 13 hours and still have a few bits of log left.
My BIL has a '79 VC Resolute in the basement. You can burn it somewhat clean...with flame in the box and a stove top temp pushing 700. Loads are gone in a couple hours.
I do like my newer stove. It does in fact burn less wood. My only complaint is I do not like the lack of control... It seems it's either blazing or it's blazing
I'd suggest installing a flue damper..or two.
 

Gable

New Member
Feb 10, 2020
4
midwest
Thanks for all the interesting "food for thought." This, in a nutshell, from Jotul explains the difference quite well, methinks. It also explains Jason's comment about control:
======================================

PRE EPA "AIRTIGHT" STOVE VS NON CATALYTIC CLEAN BURNING
Non-catalytic woodstoves use secondary combustion air in order to burn off wood gases before they can leave the firebox. Because of this, they are not as controllable as a pre-E.P.A. “airtight” woodstoves. It was possible to “turn down” a pre-E.P.A. woodstove and achieve a long low smoldering fire. This was often perceived as being highly efficient. From an emissions viewpoint nothing could be further from the truth. From a user-friendly viewpoint, I fully understand why this was perceived as being efficient. For example, let’s load a non-catalytic woodstove with six sticks of wood. Over a period of 4 hours let’s say it produces 30,000 btu’s of heat per hour with less than 7.5 grams of particulate emissions per hour. Now let’s load the same six sticks into a pre-E.P.A., “airtight” woodstove. This stove may burn for 8 hours producing 10,000 btu’s per hour with around 80 grams of particulate emissions per hour. 4 X 30,000 = 120,000 btu’s; 8 X 10,000 = 80,000 btu’s. You see a difference here of nearly 40,000 btu’s. The E.P.A. stove has produced more heat from the same amount of fuel. The “airtight’ burned longer (more controlled) than did the E.P.A. certified stove but wasted 40,000 btu’s of energy up the chimney in the form of wood smoke (unburned wood gas). Some of it went into the environment and some of it condensed in the form of creosote in the chimney."
=======================================

Not being familiar with the newer stoves my question is: Say you need 10000 btu/hr to keep the temperature you want as specified in the old stove example. Can you adjust the non catalytic to produce that 10000 btu/hr and still achieve the same (33%?) - or reasonably close to the same greater efficiency and also the same reduction in particulates?

I must say I don't like the "not as controllable" comment - I'm so used to the old VC I know where to put the lever to get very close to the temperature I want.
 
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Geoff C

Member
Oct 29, 2011
104
PA
If you got a catalytic stove you have more control.

non catalytic stoves are best burned in cycles. Generally If you load the stove at 200 degrees, you slowly close the air as the fire builds. By about 500 degrees the air is shut down as much as possible. The secondary air starts burning the gasses and the temp will climb anywhere from 500-700. Stay there for a few hours then slowly cool back down to 200-300 for a reload. Depending on about 50 different factors that cycle can last anywhere from 4-10 hours
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,441
Northern NH
There is no yes of no answer. Some general observations to do what you will with them

There still can be cheap emission compliant stove sold and built. They will have crappy turndown unless modified to make them into an older non EPA configuration. Its not difficult to make cheap stove compliant by setting it up so that it will only run right at full load. Turndown requires a lot of engineering and internal parts to get some level of turndown but it was a heck of lot cheaper and easier to just control the stoves output by just throttling the air so the stove diverted a bunch of the potential heat up the chimney.

There are discussions on occasion with specific stove models on how to modify a newer stove to make it "run better" and inevitably it seems to be plugging secondary air ports. In some cases the manufacturers hide the ports but some folks like to discuss how the stove runs so much better by defeating the design feature intended to burn clean. Why install a new EPA stove and defeat its design, plenty of older very nice stoves out there that can be bought for far less.

Catalytic stoves probably have the edge on turndown as the cat drops the combustion temp of the nasties in the exhaust gas. Note if the cat is doing its thing that heat is going somewhere.

Modern stoves are far less tolerant to a bad chimney set up. They need stack draft to work right, ideally a insulated lined interior flue that discharges out the high point of the roof. What worked with an old VC may not work with modern EPA stove.

Modern stoves don't deal well with poorly seasoned wood. The moisture in the wood turns into vapor and that's deadload on the stack and it cools the combustion temperature. Older "smoke dragons" usually can deal with poorly seasoned wood but the air quality coming off of them is poor and creosote is problem. Unless you cut and split the wood yourself, properly season it for generally two full years and test the moisture content its likely your wood will be marginal for a new stove. I predict that as the new EPA stove get installed someone will be able to pick up bargain the next summer as folks learn the hard way that the wood they bought for their new woodstove is way to damp to burn. Some will just write the stove off and put it on craigslist the next summer.

Its been discussed before but a very good option is to have two stoves, a small one for shoulder season and large one for winter. Easy to do when stoves are cheap but not so easy with far more expensive stoves. A small stove like a Jotul 602 is great shoulder season stove, that are readily available for reasonable prices and lightweight enough for on person to carry. Make up the fittings in advance and dependent on the winter stove setup, it doesnt have to be difficult swap.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
17,490
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Why install a new EPA stove and defeat its design, plenty of older very nice stoves out there that can be bought for far less.
In my state, and probably others, it is illegal to install, buy, sell, or give away a pre-EPA stove. In fact, there are areas where the pre EPA stove must be removed before the house can be sold.
 
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jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
4,720
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
For me, the best part of going from a smoke dragon to a Blaze King was the lack of babysitting.

Instead of lighting a fire every time I get up and get home from work.... it's still burning. No more lighting fires and getting the stove up to temp and reloading in the middle of the night or banking coals, and no fussing with the stove on the stove's schedule. It gets loaded on my schedule, no babysitting regardless of where it is in the burn cycle when I want to load it. If I want to go to bed for 12 hours, I can set the stove to burn for 12 or 18. The house stays warmer without the daily cycle of catch-up burns, and I'm not stuck babysitting the stove for a start in the morning followed by more of the same after work. It's just more practical.

I don't quite get the insistence that these stoves need dry wood- I doubt anything I burned the first year in this house was below 30% water- but you do need to adjust your operation and expectations if you want to burn wet stuff. (I'm still adjusting to the dry-wood thing, I grew up burning stuff that we'd dropped that summer... sometimes in a pinch, stuff we'd dropped that morning! ;) ) One thing to be aware of is that a stove with excellent turn-down already has low flue temperatures. If you want to burn wet wood and turn it down low.... well, keep your flue brush handy because you'll be needing it.

The only two things I miss are the blast furnace feeling of those old boys going at cruising speed, and using it as a garbage disposal. Not even supposed to burn junk mail in cat stoves because of the ink. Ah well. ==c
 
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mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
274
California redwood coast
Having recently switched from an old pre-EPA VC Vigilant to a Pacific Energy T5, I'll describe my own experience. Caveats are, however, that my climate is relatively moderate, my house has a very high ceiling & not super tight, tall straight chimney, and I burn only well season wood. The VC was cast iron and my new stove is steel with cast iron clad, so I don't know how an EPA pure cast iron would feel. I honestly didn't have much know-how on burning my VC, any experienced person to coach me, or any wood stove experience to begin with, so I was self-taught for the most part. I didn't know how to resource hearth.com and only had the VC's manual. I feel much more educated using my new stove.

The good: The cast iron stove, without any insulation (firebrick, etc), threw out a lot of heat and quickly. it could heat up the cold house quickly if needed. By modern code, I doubt my clearances were sufficient. The hearth's bricks would get nice and hot after a day of burning. With enough wood and time, it'd get the house very warm, if not too warm.

The bad: My burning was guided by the philosophy that smoldering was bad and I was to avoid a smoking chimney at at all costs. That meant I was mostly burning small (not short) hot fires with the baffle open. I was constantly babysitting the VC to keep it supplied with wood for the small hot fires. The way I burned it consumed a lot of wood. I could get a clean secondary burn going using the downdraft exit & baffle for short periods, but then the bimetalic primary air cover would shut and make the fire smolder. (I eventually shortened the chain so it wouldn't close except when very hot and the bimetalic thermostat broke off.) It wasn't until after I started reading Hearth.com in my search for a new stove that I learned that smoldering was the way the stove was supposed to be used! Because of how I burned the stove, the length of each load's usable heat was relatively short, so I'd reload while flames were still going.

A stove-swap program nudged me into making the upgrade to an EPA stove. Here's my experience for this season:

The good: A lot less babysitting. My wood consumption is way down. A lot easier to keep a smokeless chimney for the entire time of the fire apart from start-up. From my few full loads experience, I probably get 8 hours of usable heat per a load and up to 12 hours to usable coals for a reload, which is way better than with the VC. I do find it controllable. I don't have the all-or-nothing experience that some people are talking about with regards to heat. I find the stove fairly controllable, perhaps not as much as the BK and cat-stove folks like to brag about, but compared to my experience with the VC, where I controlled the heat by how much wood I fed it, the T5 is controllable via the primary air adjuster. The steady heat leads to a more comfortable house over the course of the day. I'd never have a fire going through the night before and couldn't if I wanted too because of my avoidance of smoldering, but now on the coldest days, I wouldn't hesitate at all with the T5. Oh, and then there are the secondary flames and clean glass. I love watching the fires burn in this stove and I haven't had to clean the glass yet.


The bad: When the house is cold, I can't turn it into the blast furnace like the VC could. I miss the warm hearth's bricks, but that's probably a result of the T5 having such good clearances - which is why I got the stove to meet my hearth's clearance limitations per modern code.
 
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XmasTreefarmer

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2017
274
Wisconsin
I got my VC Defiant new in 1979. Heated this house with it for almost 30 years. Fun to read your experience! I replaced mine 2 years ago when I noticed that the fireback had developed a crack. I a-l-m-o-s-t was going to tear it down and fix it, but decided to get a new stove and I chose the Jotul Oslo.

Wood Size - I had 8 cords of wood cut for the Defiant and I just like cutting a 22" - 24" piece and the Oslo will take those. As I am sure you know, you can fit a 26" piece in the Defiant if you try! :eek:

View the Fire - This one is huge. I never realized how much I was missing without being able to see the fire. I was always fine with the Defiant - it was that awesome warm spot you can go to that is heating the whole house. I have that same thing with the Oslo, plus the view.

Comfort - Way better with the Olso. The Defiant was pretty much always too hot or too cold. I can run the Oslo way more evenly. The house is so much more comfortable! That said, if I let the house get a bit too cold overnight, I can't just bring 'er right backup like I could with the Defiant.

Clean - The Defiant was a "smolderer". I will not even tell you how much creosote I got out of the chimney after a burning season. It was really just terrible. And when I was working around the house and barn, I could always smell that stinky creosote/smoke smell. The new stove only smokes on start up and after that it's clean. Sometimes a wiff of "smoke", but it's wood smoke, not creosote smoke.

Learning Curve - LOL! I'm half way through my second full season of burning and I think I can finally say that i know how to run the Oslo! About all it has in common with running the Defiant is that you do have to light a match to start the fire - after that it's ALL different, but you'll get the hang of it and will have some fun stories about blackening the glass to tell your friends! :)

Dry Wood - You WILL need dry wood for a new EPA stove. I never owned a moisture meter until I got the new stove, but +20% moisture wood seemed to burn fine (albeit probably part of the dirty burning problem), but you'll need to be under 20% moisture to be happy with a new stove. I've got a different stacking system now and all my stacks are covered - pretty easy to have nice dry wood.

That's about all I can think of to share. I have the Oslo, but the above applies to really any "new" EPA stove. And you can also consider a hybrid or straight cat stove as you start shopping.
 

NickW

Member
Oct 16, 2019
214
SE WI
I am pretty new to the site and have gotten a huge amount of support and info here. I am 2 1/2 weeks into my new Englander Summers Heat 50-SNC30 after 16 years with the Triumph by Torrid that came with the house when I bought it. New double wall pipe and an insulated liner too. I regret not doing it 15 years ago! I can raise the temperature in the house faster and more controlled. It takes more time to get to temperature and cutting back the air incrementally than the old smoke dragon, but it lasts way longer. My electric baseboard heaters haven't kicked in since the install. This electric bill was about $70 less than average for the billing period with only 2 weeks of the new stove burning. I am using less wood and creating more usable heat. I burn smaller stuff (basically big kindling) during the day with shovelfuls of wood chips on the sides and get good heat and it lasts 4 hours. Overnight I load it up with mostly bigger stuff and 8-10 hours later I'd still need to burn the coals down before a full size reload and the house is still pretty warm.
 

Ashy

New Member
Aug 25, 2020
3
Michigan
Found this post while searching for the most appropriate place to ask my question. Like the OP here, I'm switching to a modern stove (PE Summit-picking up this weekend!) from an old smoke dragon Fisher. Over 20 years of heating my house, I know that ole steel box like the back of my hand. I look forward to learning the new EPA stove, and especially, burning less wood.
My question, is- The PE Summit claims an HHV efficiency of 74%. what is an estimate that my Fisher Grandpa Bear was getting? are they even as good as 50% efficient? Related to this question-
How much less wood will I burn? I know there's many different factors, but could I expect to curtail my usage by 33%? 50% even?
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
5,049
07462
Found this post while searching for the most appropriate place to ask my question. Like the OP here, I'm switching to a modern stove (PE Summit-picking up this weekend!) from an old smoke dragon Fisher. Over 20 years of heating my house, I know that ole steel box like the back of my hand. I look forward to learning the new EPA stove, and especially, burning less wood.
My question, is- The PE Summit claims an HHV efficiency of 74%. what is an estimate that my Fisher Grandpa Bear was getting? are they even as good as 50% efficient? Related to this question-
How much less wood will I burn? I know there's many different factors, but could I expect to curtail my usage by 33%? 50% even?
Just remembering off the top of my head others that have went from a smoke dragon to new epa stove burning consistently from Nov thru April have reported a minimum of 30% less usage. It all depends on what your trying to heat, weather conditions, and how dry your wood supply is.
If your burning wood that has a moisture content above 22% you may not see the actual wood savings in a epa approved stove since you'll have to pretty much burn on high all the time or keep chasing the air control rod to control the fire, if you have wood thats 22% and less, the new stove will act more favorably and will be easier to set to desired heat output.
 
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NickW

Member
Oct 16, 2019
214
SE WI
As you state, there are many factors...

In my case (but I don't have a full season with the new stove yet), I can see that I use less wood. Instead of refilling the rack every 5-7 days it was more like 7-9 days. The biggest thing is that I can now heat effectively. The baseboards generally don't ever kick on unless we're gone for a day or longer. The overnight burn time compared to the old smoke dragon is night and day.

As for efficiency; even with the heat reclaimer, I doubt that I was getting 50% efficiency. They just didn't work that way...

Being a recent convert to an EPA stove, let me give you some direction which I am sure the more experienced guys will expand upon (or correct)...

#1. Use dry wood, under 20% on a fresh split.

#2. Use dry wood!!! Get 2-3 years ahead on your supply. I ran out towards the end of the season last year and was burning 25% maple and it was tough. You can do it, but you have to burn hot to get the moisture out and keep the flue temp up to prevent creosote buildup. You will burn the wood up faster and it doesn't like to burn well...

#3. The EPA stoves operate at a much higher temperature than you could ever consider with a smoke dragon. Freak out temp on the smoke dragon for me was anything over about 500. That is cruising temp on my EPA stove. Get at the very least a good stovetop thermometer. Not a big box store one. Most of the experienced guys here use a probe thermometer 18" above the collar. Much faster accurate reading.

#4. Be patient! The reviews on my stove were 4 to 1 good verses bad. The bad ones were all complaining about smoky P.O.S. They did not research how to properly use the stove. Building and maintaining a fire in an EPA stove is very different from a smoke dragon. Top down fire building method on cold starts is popular.

#5. Get some softwood seasoning. Sounded crazy to me, but on those cool but not cold days a hardwood fire has to be made small to keep yourself from heating yourself out of the house, so not using the wood efficiently. A bigger softwood fire burns hot and fast but doesn't last long and leave a bunch of coals. I am so excited to be able to use softwood spring and fall to just take the chill off.

Good luck! Post more questions when you have them.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
83,687
South Puget Sound, WA
Get some softwood seasoning. Sounded crazy to me, but on those cool but not cold days a hardwood fire has to be made small to keep yourself from heating yourself out of the house, so not using the wood efficiently. A bigger softwood fire burns hot and fast but doesn't last long and leave a bunch of coals. I am so excited to be able to use softwood spring and fall to just take the chill off.
Like hardwood, this depends on the wood species. We burn doug fir almost exclusively. Thick splits burn long and produce little coaling and very little ash.