Perennial Question about Madison High Temps

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NHCabin

Member
Dec 7, 2019
6
Jackson, NH
A year ago I posted about my thoughts on upgrading my Shenandoah 1970s stove and got good feedback. I added 4 feet of insulated chimney above my masonry chimney and then last week of February 2021 picked up a Summers Heat 2,000 sq ft stove from Lowes for $375. Figured for that price I'd try it out and if I don't like it, will go for something higher end.

So far, I mostly like the new stove, but I'm experiencing what many others have found with the Madison stoves -- with more than just a few pieces of wood it runs away in temperature. I've scoured hearth.com for all of the threads spanning the last decade about the Madison and high temps. I've done the dollar bill test on the stove, checked the glass placement, and everything seems good. I've used bigger splits of wood.

Following advice in earlier threads, I thought I was improving by pulling out (closing) the stove air intake earlier to control the burn. But 2 nights ago, once again, I had a medium load going, air was shut down to the point that there wasn't a ton of flame activity in the box. I kept an eye on it, because I feared I might have closed down too early and it would start smoking. Instead, 15 or 20 minutes passed and I guess as the wood off-gassed the box was full of flames, secondaries roaring as well. Stovetop thermometer placed in center in front of flue rose to 700+ and the thermometer on the single wall flue was in the high 500s. With my IR gun, if I scanned the stovetop above where the secondaries were brightest, I was in the mid to even upper 700s range.

I flipped on the blower on the back of the stove and placed a small tabletop fan on a nearby counter blowing across the top of the stove. After 30 minutes or so everything calmed down.

I know this Madison topic has been seemingly beaten to death on the forums over the years, so I'm not looking for people to repeat the advice given before. Rather, in previous threads some contributors have suggested that temps in the 700s or even 800 for a bit shouldn't be worried about. Others have suggested that blocking air into the air intake at the bottom of the pedestal could help (while being mindful not to suffocate it and build up volatile gases). So I'm wondering what the outcome has been for any other users of the Madison experiencing high temps? Have any of you run it at these higher temps often for multiple seasons? Anyone experienced damage to their Madison stove caused by prolonged high temps? Any additional input would be appreciated!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,176
South Puget Sound, WA
Hah, I just responded to a lady with a Madison that had the opposite issue, weak draft and smoke rollout. That was a steal of a deal on the stove. Is there a key damper on the flue? If not, that is the first thing I would try, though with the shorter chimney on the cabin this shouldn't be necessary for this stove. It normally wants a 15-16' chimney to work well. That makes me concerned about an air leak. How does the fire look? Is it burning evenly?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,176
South Puget Sound, WA
Another thought. Some of the early Madisons had their AAS assembly connected backwards so instead of closing down the air it opened it up. That's worth a check. I will see if I can dig up the thread on that topic. Also, make sure the ash dump is sealing.

Found a very good first report by @spirilis on the stove. Looks like the boost air port is accessible. Try blocking that off with a magnet and see if that helps.

 
Last edited:

NHCabin

Member
Dec 7, 2019
6
Jackson, NH
Hah, I just responded to a lady with a Madison that had the opposite issue, weak draft and smoke rollout. That was a steal of a deal on the stove. Is there a key damper on the flue? If not, that is the first thing I would try, though with the shorter chimney on the cabin this shouldn't be necessary for this stove. It normally wants a 15-16' chimney to work well. That makes me concerned about an air leak. How does the fire look? Is it burning evenly?
It appears to burn evenly -- no part of the firebox seems to be burning more or brighter secondaries in one area or another to suggest a leak. I guess this evening I could go with a lighter around some of the seems and corners to see if the flame sucks inward. Door and glass appear tight to me, but I'll double check again as well.

I don't have a key damper installed on the stovepipe -- I don't think too much draft is the problem, as you point out my flue system is just above recommended height. I definitely have to crack the door to get the stove going and heat the flue, otherwise smoke will come out into the room.

When I picked out the stove at Lowes, they had about 5 of them on discount/sale and I picked the cleanest looking one -- no apparent dings or scuffs that might suggest rough handling. (BTW, there were two larger Summers Heat 2400 size units there, that I performed the dollar bill test on both just for fun, and both had huge gaps in the closed doors. I was shocked that in March 2021 Englander still hasn't gotten the defective units out of circulation--either that or Lowes just has very old units still in inventory.)
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,176
South Puget Sound, WA
See my last post. Added info and a link. Try putting a magnet over the boost air hole. Sorry to hear that the bad SSW02 stoves are still out there. It's a black eye for Englander. There should have been a recall IMO.
 

NHCabin

Member
Dec 7, 2019
6
Jackson, NH
I put a magnet over the doghouse inlet in the pedestal. What a difference that made! I was able to control the fire with more wood in the firebox. Was only down to 25 last evening so had the stove cruising at 500 stovetop temp. As temps outside drop, I might try to nudge the magnet over slowly to allow just a bit of air into the doghouse. I definitely noticed the bottom of the firebox was darker without that inlet burning, which I'm sure affects the efficiency/cleanliness of the burn.

Something interesting I noticed was that my stovepipe connector was running noticeably hotter with the magnet than in previous burns. My best guess is that the gases aren't as thoroughly burned in the firebox so they're hotter exiting the stove?

I searched through as many threads as I could regarding magnets to see if anyone has had issues with them losing their magnetism. I'd hate to be relying on the magnet to keep things regulated and then have it fall off in the middle of the night. I didn't find anyone writing about such issues, so I'm guessing the underside metal below the doghouse doesn't get that terribly hot. I shot my IR gun up inside the pedestal last night and it was reading maybe 150 at its hottest point.

Thanks @begreen for magnet suggestion. I slept better last night for sure!
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
7,085
Downeast Maine
I would still try the key damper, it can't hurt and you can always take it out if it doesn't help.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,176
South Puget Sound, WA
I searched through as many threads as I could regarding magnets to see if anyone has had issues with them losing their magnetism. I'd hate to be relying on the magnet to keep things regulated and then have it fall off in the middle of the night. I didn't find anyone writing about such issues, so I'm guessing the underside metal below the doghouse doesn't get that terribly hot. I shot my IR gun up inside the pedestal last night and it was reading maybe 150 at its hottest point.
I'm glad it made a difference. It won't get hot enough there. Magnets will hold up to around 900º.
 

GKFarmer

New Member
Nov 30, 2021
5
Rutland County Vermont
Interesting. I just signed up on here yesterday after many years of lurking with this exact issue in mind, and so I was glad to find this thread to be recent and active.
My experience is similar to yours, NHCabin. There is a lot to say of course regarding setup, fuel etc.... I am curious if you also find the stove to be hard to start/ slow to establish draft at times as some others have described? Also what your flue temps are (relative to STT) soon after lighting and then later during the burn. I have gotten a good startup routine down after some practice but a few experiences like yours have me on my toes and wanting more education.
I too like the stove even with its quirks (it's really kind if amazing when it's working correctly) but it does seem the learning curve is a little steeper than with some other units. Safety being my primary concern and this being my first secondary burn stove after a fair amount of experience with various other wood burners, I'd personally like to keep the conversation alive for those of us who are new to secondary burning and looking to up our game through shared experience.
 
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NHCabin

Member
Dec 7, 2019
6
Jackson, NH
Interesting. I just signed up on here yesterday after many years of lurking with this exact issue in mind, and so I was glad to find this thread to be recent and active.
My experience is similar to yours, NHCabin. There is a lot to say of course regarding setup, fuel etc.... I am curious if you also find the stove to be hard to start/ slow to establish draft at times as some others have described? Also what your flue temps are (relative to STT) soon after lighting and then later during the burn. I have gotten a good startup routine down after some practice but a few experiences like yours have me on my toes and wanting more education.
I too like the stove even with its quirks (it's really kind if amazing when it's working correctly) but it does seem the learning curve is a little steeper than with some other units. Safety being my primary concern and this being my first secondary burn stove after a fair amount of experience with various other wood burners, I'd personally like to keep the conversation alive for those of us who are new to secondary burning and looking to up our game through shared experience.
Sorry I'm seeing this a month later.

But getting right into it -- I definitely did find the stove to be slow at first to establish draft and get up to temp. It sounds like I, like you, came to this EPA secondary burn stove as a first-timer. My 1970s stove, I could just make a 3 log pile with newspaper, light it, and off to the races. However, I've refined my approach and am now able to get one going much quicker, though still slower than the old stove. Because I have an exterior masonry chimney and not the tallest of stacks, I definitely have to do the light-up stage with the door open an inch or two (the knob/latch holding it in place).

I currently have a magnet on the bottom air inlet to the dogbox -- the magnet is probably covering about 60% of the hole. I find that once I get the stove going nicely, I can load it full, pull the air intake knob out the entire way (I either pull out the entire way or sometimes out the entire way, then barely nudge it in a tiny bit), and I get a good burn through the night. With that setting, I get stove top temp between 550 - 625 and the flue thermometer shows between 325 and 425.

Hope you've been having a good experience with your Madison as well.
 
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GKFarmer

New Member
Nov 30, 2021
5
Rutland County Vermont
Sorry I'm seeing this a month later.

But getting right into it -- I definitely did find the stove to be slow at first to establish draft and get up to temp. It sounds like I, like you, came to this EPA secondary burn stove as a first-timer. My 1970s stove, I could just make a 3 log pile with newspaper, light it, and off to the races. However, I've refined my approach and am now able to get one going much quicker, though still slower than the old stove. Because I have an exterior masonry chimney and not the tallest of stacks, I definitely have to do the light-up stage with the door open an inch or two (the knob/latch holding it in place).

I currently have a magnet on the bottom air inlet to the dogbox -- the magnet is probably covering about 60% of the hole. I find that once I get the stove going nicely, I can load it full, pull the air intake knob out the entire way (I either pull out the entire way or sometimes out the entire way, then barely nudge it in a tiny bit), and I get a good burn through the night. With that setting, I get stove top temp between 550 - 625 and the flue thermometer shows between 325 and 425.

Hope you've been having a good experience with your Madison as well.
Thanks for the response, no worries on the timing.
Sounds like your startup routine is almost identical to mine, down to the barely nudged in control. My chimney is interior masonry and a bit short also. We have a date set for this summer to have a liner installed and I'm dying to see how she acts next winter.
Besides monitoring and adjusting for the potential runaway, my biggest worry day to day is the flue temp. Like you, Ive got the door resting on the latch to get things going and the flue temp rises quickly, but when I shut the door it starts to drop, eventually settling around 220. The thermometer is magnetic but i can confirm with an IR gun. This happens as the stt rises, it likes to run around 450 most of the time. Which is good for our heating needs but it simply doesn't maintain the desired flue temp no matter how hot the stove gets. Flue gas is generally clear with the usual steam on startup. I'm getting what I think is good secondary burn with seasoned hardwood. I'm at a bit of a loss for this year anyway, the house is warm, the exhaust is clear or wispy white but it's hard to walk away from.
Anyhow thanks again, if anyone has any thoughts I'd love to hear them
 

Ksracer

Member
Nov 25, 2019
21
Wichita KS
I'm not sure if my issue was the same, but for the first year I had my Madison I was afraid to put more than a few small splits in it because my SST would climb to 7-800+, even with the draft knob all the way closed.
What I found was that the draft rod that runs to the back damper assembly was bent. It's basically just a plate that is pulled up to the end of the preheat tube that carries primary air to the door.
I straightened that rod out so it made a better seal and now I can take the temp down from 800 to 400 if I desire. I suspect it was bent during assembly when the back was screwed on, or maybe I did it when I was trying to figure out why the automatic air control wasn't working. It's still very touchy though. Basically I pull it all the way shut and then just barely tap it open.
I struggled getting a fire going in mine also the first several months.
Now I put 2 logs front to back 4" apart to form an air path and then stack 3 more on top side to side. With dry wood, a little kindling and a small chunk of fire starter in the bottom, I can have the door closed in 5 minutes and and the stove hot, throwing good heat in 15.
 

GKFarmer

New Member
Nov 30, 2021
5
Rutland County Vermont
Ok well we got the liner installed and also had the masonry rebuilt, it was in need...
Totally different animal. Start up is still a little annoying but I think that's just on me. Its much easier to get one going now though, and so far she's not gone nuclear on me this year. The flue temp is still dropping differently than my old stoves but I can keep it higher now easier. I just popped the pipe off the check it out and although it's probably time to sweep it, all buildup is fluffy and thin. No smoke almost ever....
So yeah improving the chimney set up was a big step toward getting the consistency the stove can provide. I'll take it....
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,176
South Puget Sound, WA
Thanks for the update. Adding a bit more chimney can make a big difference.
 
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GKFarmer

New Member
Nov 30, 2021
5
Rutland County Vermont
Yes it's been interesting. To be clear the chimney is still the same height. 14 ft? We had the liner (insulated of course) installed last Feb and used it for a few months. It was improved then. The new masonry has sort of completed the picture. I'm thinking it is better insulated now. Anyhow thanks guys. I'm still very interested in this conversation if anyone wants to continue in the future.