Quadrafire Explorer III - First Impressions

harvester45

New Member
Dec 9, 2018
4
NW Ohio
I had a lot of trouble finding information on this stove when I was looking at stoves to replace our aging but good-looking Vermont Castings Encore - Catalytic Stove. I'm writing this as my first post in the hopes of providing my impressions of this stove after a month or so of running it and also see if I'm doing everything correctly.

We have a 2400 sq ft home built in 1994 located in Northwest Ohio. We rely on our stove for 100% of our heat. With our VC, we always felt that it was a bit undersized for our home, despite being in a more temperate climate than others on this forum. While we never had to start a new fire in the mornings with our old stove, it would not always light off right away, meaning that I had to load it up and open up the air, damper and/or ash pan door when I woke up, then shut it down before I left for work. We have about 18 ft. of 8" double wall stove pipe and chimney.

First the things I like:
  1. The stove really looks good. We got our Explorer III in Black Porcelain Enamel finish. Our VC was black paint, and I repainted it two years prior to replacing it, it was already getting surface rusting on the stove-top again.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can keep it as hot as we want.
  3. The stove is big. I can load our logs either side to side (East-West), or front to back (North-South). Because of the design, I load it NS overnight. This makes the glass a bit dirtier with my somewhat wet wood, but it keeps the logs from rolling into the glass.
  4. The stovetop is a nice cooking surface, very large.
  5. The automatic combustion control (ACC) works well. No need to open the door or ash tray (if it were possible on this design) to get the fire going.
  6. No Catalyst to replace, maintain or damage.
Now for the disappointments:
  1. The stove ticks like crazy much of the time. Any heat up or cool starts the ticking, I assume it is the interior welded firebox expanding or contracting at a different rate than that of the cast iron jacket. I do not remember the VC doing that, and it certainly didn't do it this much.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can't keep it as cool as we want. I'm used to the VC with its thermostatic controls and, I hate to say it, better air control. I get that these new stoves need more air to be EPA compliant, but I really wish there were a way to slow the burn rate down. Maybe it is the tall chimney, but I assume the 8" diameter would cut down on the draft.
  3. The stove is big, much deeper than our VC. I saw that this had much tighter clearances than our VC and hoped that it would disappear into the corner better, but it has such a deep firebox that we're about the same front door location.
  4. The ACC does not close down completely once done. There is a little lever around the right-hand side that you can pull forward to abort the ACC. I have let the stove burn for a few hours after the ACC is over, only to find that the last little bit remained open and closes down with a pull. That, coupled with what I feel is a high air intake rate even shut all the way down, makes this stove burn even hotter.
  5. The heat output is very uneven. To get the advertised burn times, you have to pack the stove full (complicated only a bit by the presence of the burn tubes/baffle), then turn it down after the fire takes. It has gotten so hot that we've had to open windows on a 35 degree day. We're still learning this stove, but it is a big move from a catalyst to the non-cat and we weren't prepared for the variability in temperature control.
  6. The ash removal system euphemism (ARSe - my designation) performs like ARSe. I loved how we could just scrape the ash into the grate at the bottom of the VC, leaving the coals and charcoal to burn or re-burn. No need to have the coals go out, and this could all be accomplished without making a mess by accessing through the top load door. This one requires the coals to be out (so you don't get cooked by the heat), then digging through the layer of ash and coals at the bottom of the stove to pry up the metal hatch (using the too-short supplied tool), then rotate the concealed latch on the lower left-hand side of the stove, then shovel the ash into the trap door (where it lands in a too-tall pile right in the middle of the ash pan). Then you can remove it (no top cover is provided like it was for the VC), and carefully take it outside.
  7. You cannot top-load this stove, which was one of the main selling points for us. Smoke pours out into the room unless the fire is completely down to coals. Adjusting the baffle position and air intake controls can help, but it doesn't eliminate the smoke intrusion. I feel that the designers didn't really test this, or they would have abandoned it. The VC was nearly perfect in this respect. We got spoiled. This means that whenever we load, we have ash and sometimes coals dropping down onto the ash lip or even tumbling onto our tiled hearth. I would love to hear that I am doing this wrong, but I'm afraid that this is a useless "feature." The only advantage of the top-load design at this point is the cook-top, which we use fairly infrequently.
Other observations:
The stove keeps our home very warm. We have a 20+ ft. cathedral ceiling in our living room and bedrooms on the far ends of the house. We only run the circulator function on our HVAC, but probably do not need it to keep the rooms warm in the low-teen weather we've been seeing overnight lately. The stove is definitely big enough, which was our main concern.

I don't have a real preference for the type of fire in either stove. The VC would produce some really amazing, lovely rolling flames. This will do that at different points in the burn, too. The fire is definitely much more active in the Explorer. It seems to supply a lot more air to the fire, even when closed all the way down.

Poor documentation with this stove. There were some things that I didn't find in the manual, and others that were poorly explained. The VC manual was probably overkill, but it did provide detailed explanations of every function and procedure before you built a fire in your living room.

I'm wondering if we wouldn't have been better off with a Vermont Castings Defiant or a Blaze King Ashford 30 (I, and especially the wife, cannot abide the looks of the Princess or the King). I know there are a lot of gaskets on the VCs, and people claim that they're temperamental and high-maintenance, but I really appreciated how it would automatically regulate the intake air and would not run away on us. What do you do with the Explorer 3 if there's a chimney fire? With the VC, we could practically shut that thing completely down. This one, we're at a high rate of air no matter how low the air is set. It worries me about how to control the fire.

Also, the stove advertises a long burn time, but that doesn't mean it is consistent heat over that burn time. This is a big concern for us in the fall/spring, as I like to use the stove to heat right into the 50s+.

Thanks for reading. When I was shopping for a new stove, I really liked the looks and features of this stove, but it was like crickets on the internet regarding the stove and it's use. Most results of an internet search return dealer pages, not reviews. I hope this will help someone else who is looking for a new stove and considering one. It is an improvement over our aging stove that was in need of significant maintenance, but there are some significant steps backwards for us.

Please feel free to offer criticisms, tips, insights, or your own experiences with any of the stoves I mentioned. I'm not sure I want to take the hit on re-selling this stove to switch to another, but it really does have some major drawbacks that were not clear from my reading prior to purchase and I'd be curious to see what other's think of their stoves especially the VC Defiant.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
945
Iowa
Great read. I'd have a real tussle going back to a non cat again for my main heat needs. Hopefully you can get a routine going that is satisfactory. Please post some progress reports as you get it sorted. Guessing you may be a bit of a minority in this group by upgrading from a cat stove to a tube unit.
Zero offense to tube stove guys! Not going there....At all.
 

Pertzbro

Feeling the Heat
Aug 2, 2016
297
NW Iowa
Can you post some pictures of the firebox when not in operation? Maybe a video of it burning. This one is at the top of my list for stoves that meet EPA 2020 regs.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
10,883
Southern IN
Great review, more feedback like this from users of a variety of stoves is always welcome, but often lacking. You could also post a review at the "Stove Reviews" link at the top of the page.
There are techniques you can use to slow down the burn rate that you might look into such as not spreading the coals underneath the entire new load, loading E-W, packing the splits tightly so they are slower to burn, using bigger splits, cutting the air sooner so that not as much wood gasses early in the burn, or installing a pipe damper if your chimney is tall and your draft is strong.
 
Last edited:

Big Fire

New Member
Nov 19, 2018
20
Mn
I had a lot of trouble finding information on this stove when I was looking at stoves to replace our aging but good-looking Vermont Castings Encore - Catalytic Stove. I'm writing this as my first post in the hopes of providing my impressions of this stove after a month or so of running it and also see if I'm doing everything correctly.

We have a 2400 sq ft home built in 1994 located in Northwest Ohio. We rely on our stove for 100% of our heat. With our VC, we always felt that it was a bit undersized for our home, despite being in a more temperate climate than others on this forum. While we never had to start a new fire in the mornings with our old stove, it would not always light off right away, meaning that I had to load it up and open up the air, damper and/or ash pan door when I woke up, then shut it down before I left for work. We have about 18 ft. of 8" double wall stove pipe and chimney.

First the things I like:
  1. The stove really looks good. We got our Explorer III in Black Porcelain Enamel finish. Our VC was black paint, and I repainted it two years prior to replacing it, it was already getting surface rusting on the stove-top again.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can keep it as hot as we want.
  3. The stove is big. I can load our logs either side to side (East-West), or front to back (North-South). Because of the design, I load it NS overnight. This makes the glass a bit dirtier with my somewhat wet wood, but it keeps the logs from rolling into the glass.
  4. The stovetop is a nice cooking surface, very large.
  5. The automatic combustion control (ACC) works well. No need to open the door or ash tray (if it were possible on this design) to get the fire going.
  6. No Catalyst to replace, maintain or damage.
Now for the disappointments:
  1. The stove ticks like crazy much of the time. Any heat up or cool starts the ticking, I assume it is the interior welded firebox expanding or contracting at a different rate than that of the cast iron jacket. I do not remember the VC doing that, and it certainly didn't do it this much.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can't keep it as cool as we want. I'm used to the VC with its thermostatic controls and, I hate to say it, better air control. I get that these new stoves need more air to be EPA compliant, but I really wish there were a way to slow the burn rate down. Maybe it is the tall chimney, but I assume the 8" diameter would cut down on the draft.
  3. The stove is big, much deeper than our VC. I saw that this had much tighter clearances than our VC and hoped that it would disappear into the corner better, but it has such a deep firebox that we're about the same front door location.
  4. The ACC does not close down completely once done. There is a little lever around the right-hand side that you can pull forward to abort the ACC. I have let the stove burn for a few hours after the ACC is over, only to find that the last little bit remained open and closes down with a pull. That, coupled with what I feel is a high air intake rate even shut all the way down, makes this stove burn even hotter.
  5. The heat output is very uneven. To get the advertised burn times, you have to pack the stove full (complicated only a bit by the presence of the burn tubes/baffle), then turn it down after the fire takes. It has gotten so hot that we've had to open windows on a 35 degree day. We're still learning this stove, but it is a big move from a catalyst to the non-cat and we weren't prepared for the variability in temperature control.
  6. The ash removal system euphemism (ARSe - my designation) performs like ARSe. I loved how we could just scrape the ash into the grate at the bottom of the VC, leaving the coals and charcoal to burn or re-burn. No need to have the coals go out, and this could all be accomplished without making a mess by accessing through the top load door. This one requires the coals to be out (so you don't get cooked by the heat), then digging through the layer of ash and coals at the bottom of the stove to pry up the metal hatch (using the too-short supplied tool), then rotate the concealed latch on the lower left-hand side of the stove, then shovel the ash into the trap door (where it lands in a too-tall pile right in the middle of the ash pan). Then you can remove it (no top cover is provided like it was for the VC), and carefully take it outside.
  7. You cannot top-load this stove, which was one of the main selling points for us. Smoke pours out into the room unless the fire is completely down to coals. Adjusting the baffle position and air intake controls can help, but it doesn't eliminate the smoke intrusion. I feel that the designers didn't really test this, or they would have abandoned it. The VC was nearly perfect in this respect. We got spoiled. This means that whenever we load, we have ash and sometimes coals dropping down onto the ash lip or even tumbling onto our tiled hearth. I would love to hear that I am doing this wrong, but I'm afraid that this is a useless "feature." The only advantage of the top-load design at this point is the cook-top, which we use fairly infrequently.
Other observations:
The stove keeps our home very warm. We have a 20+ ft. cathedral ceiling in our living room and bedrooms on the far ends of the house. We only run the circulator function on our HVAC, but probably do not need it to keep the rooms warm in the low-teen weather we've been seeing overnight lately. The stove is definitely big enough, which was our main concern.

I don't have a real preference for the type of fire in either stove. The VC would produce some really amazing, lovely rolling flames. This will do that at different points in the burn, too. The fire is definitely much more active in the Explorer. It seems to supply a lot more air to the fire, even when closed all the way down.

Poor documentation with this stove. There were some things that I didn't find in the manual, and others that were poorly explained. The VC manual was probably overkill, but it did provide detailed explanations of every function and procedure before you built a fire in your living room.

I'm wondering if we wouldn't have been better off with a Vermont Castings Defiant or a Blaze King Ashford 30 (I, and especially the wife, cannot abide the looks of the Princess or the King). I know there are a lot of gaskets on the VCs, and people claim that they're temperamental and high-maintenance, but I really appreciated how it would automatically regulate the intake air and would not run away on us. What do you do with the Explorer 3 if there's a chimney fire? With the VC, we could practically shut that thing completely down. This one, we're at a high rate of air no matter how low the air is set. It worries me about how to control the fire.

Also, the stove advertises a long burn time, but that doesn't mean it is consistent heat over that burn time. This is a big concern for us in the fall/spring, as I like to use the stove to heat right into the 50s+.

Thanks for reading. When I was shopping for a new stove, I really liked the looks and features of this stove, but it was like crickets on the internet regarding the stove and it's use. Most results of an internet search return dealer pages, not reviews. I hope this will help someone else who is looking for a new stove and considering one. It is an improvement over our aging stove that was in need of significant maintenance, but there are some significant steps backwards for us.

Please feel free to offer criticisms, tips, insights, or your own experiences with any of the stoves I mentioned. I'm not sure I want to take the hit on re-selling this stove to switch to another, but it really does have some major drawbacks that were not clear from my reading prior to purchase and I'd be curious to see what other's think of their stoves especially the VC Defiant.
I have the same stove for a two months now I could not agree more with you. The good part it does burn clean. Not sure if my wood is much different but it seems to be a lot better now then at the beginning far as the fire not getting out of control It seams to like big pieces of wood but still learning myself. Hated it at frist but it's growing on me


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Big Fire

New Member
Nov 19, 2018
20
Mn
I had a lot of trouble finding information on this stove when I was looking at stoves to replace our aging but good-looking Vermont Castings Encore - Catalytic Stove. I'm writing this as my first post in the hopes of providing my impressions of this stove after a month or so of running it and also see if I'm doing everything correctly.

We have a 2400 sq ft home built in 1994 located in Northwest Ohio. We rely on our stove for 100% of our heat. With our VC, we always felt that it was a bit undersized for our home, despite being in a more temperate climate than others on this forum. While we never had to start a new fire in the mornings with our old stove, it would not always light off right away, meaning that I had to load it up and open up the air, damper and/or ash pan door when I woke up, then shut it down before I left for work. We have about 18 ft. of 8" double wall stove pipe and chimney.

First the things I like:
  1. The stove really looks good. We got our Explorer III in Black Porcelain Enamel finish. Our VC was black paint, and I repainted it two years prior to replacing it, it was already getting surface rusting on the stove-top again.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can keep it as hot as we want.
  3. The stove is big. I can load our logs either side to side (East-West), or front to back (North-South). Because of the design, I load it NS overnight. This makes the glass a bit dirtier with my somewhat wet wood, but it keeps the logs from rolling into the glass.
  4. The stovetop is a nice cooking surface, very large.
  5. The automatic combustion control (ACC) works well. No need to open the door or ash tray (if it were possible on this design) to get the fire going.
  6. No Catalyst to replace, maintain or damage.
Now for the disappointments:
  1. The stove ticks like crazy much of the time. Any heat up or cool starts the ticking, I assume it is the interior welded firebox expanding or contracting at a different rate than that of the cast iron jacket. I do not remember the VC doing that, and it certainly didn't do it this much.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can't keep it as cool as we want. I'm used to the VC with its thermostatic controls and, I hate to say it, better air control. I get that these new stoves need more air to be EPA compliant, but I really wish there were a way to slow the burn rate down. Maybe it is the tall chimney, but I assume the 8" diameter would cut down on the draft.
  3. The stove is big, much deeper than our VC. I saw that this had much tighter clearances than our VC and hoped that it would disappear into the corner better, but it has such a deep firebox that we're about the same front door location.
  4. The ACC does not close down completely once done. There is a little lever around the right-hand side that you can pull forward to abort the ACC. I have let the stove burn for a few hours after the ACC is over, only to find that the last little bit remained open and closes down with a pull. That, coupled with what I feel is a high air intake rate even shut all the way down, makes this stove burn even hotter.
  5. The heat output is very uneven. To get the advertised burn times, you have to pack the stove full (complicated only a bit by the presence of the burn tubes/baffle), then turn it down after the fire takes. It has gotten so hot that we've had to open windows on a 35 degree day. We're still learning this stove, but it is a big move from a catalyst to the non-cat and we weren't prepared for the variability in temperature control.
  6. The ash removal system euphemism (ARSe - my designation) performs like ARSe. I loved how we could just scrape the ash into the grate at the bottom of the VC, leaving the coals and charcoal to burn or re-burn. No need to have the coals go out, and this could all be accomplished without making a mess by accessing through the top load door. This one requires the coals to be out (so you don't get cooked by the heat), then digging through the layer of ash and coals at the bottom of the stove to pry up the metal hatch (using the too-short supplied tool), then rotate the concealed latch on the lower left-hand side of the stove, then shovel the ash into the trap door (where it lands in a too-tall pile right in the middle of the ash pan). Then you can remove it (no top cover is provided like it was for the VC), and carefully take it outside.
  7. You cannot top-load this stove, which was one of the main selling points for us. Smoke pours out into the room unless the fire is completely down to coals. Adjusting the baffle position and air intake controls can help, but it doesn't eliminate the smoke intrusion. I feel that the designers didn't really test this, or they would have abandoned it. The VC was nearly perfect in this respect. We got spoiled. This means that whenever we load, we have ash and sometimes coals dropping down onto the ash lip or even tumbling onto our tiled hearth. I would love to hear that I am doing this wrong, but I'm afraid that this is a useless "feature." The only advantage of the top-load design at this point is the cook-top, which we use fairly infrequently.
Other observations:
The stove keeps our home very warm. We have a 20+ ft. cathedral ceiling in our living room and bedrooms on the far ends of the house. We only run the circulator function on our HVAC, but probably do not need it to keep the rooms warm in the low-teen weather we've been seeing overnight lately. The stove is definitely big enough, which was our main concern.

I don't have a real preference for the type of fire in either stove. The VC would produce some really amazing, lovely rolling flames. This will do that at different points in the burn, too. The fire is definitely much more active in the Explorer. It seems to supply a lot more air to the fire, even when closed all the way down.

Poor documentation with this stove. There were some things that I didn't find in the manual, and others that were poorly explained. The VC manual was probably overkill, but it did provide detailed explanations of every function and procedure before you built a fire in your living room.

I'm wondering if we wouldn't have been better off with a Vermont Castings Defiant or a Blaze King Ashford 30 (I, and especially the wife, cannot abide the looks of the Princess or the King). I know there are a lot of gaskets on the VCs, and people claim that they're temperamental and high-maintenance, but I really appreciated how it would automatically regulate the intake air and would not run away on us. What do you do with the Explorer 3 if there's a chimney fire? With the VC, we could practically shut that thing completely down. This one, we're at a high rate of air no matter how low the air is set. It worries me about how to control the fire.

Also, the stove advertises a long burn time, but that doesn't mean it is consistent heat over that burn time. This is a big concern for us in the fall/spring, as I like to use the stove to heat right into the 50s+.

Thanks for reading. When I was shopping for a new stove, I really liked the looks and features of this stove, but it was like crickets on the internet regarding the stove and it's use. Most results of an internet search return dealer pages, not reviews. I hope this will help someone else who is looking for a new stove and considering one. It is an improvement over our aging stove that was in need of significant maintenance, but there are some significant steps backwards for us.

Please feel free to offer criticisms, tips, insights, or your own experiences with any of the stoves I mentioned. I'm not sure I want to take the hit on re-selling this stove to switch to another, but it really does have some major drawbacks that were not clear from my reading prior to purchase and I'd be curious to see what other's think of their stoves especially the VC Defiant.
It seams to me if you run wet wood, it smokes more witch the secondary burns it cause it to get to hot

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Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
10,883
Southern IN
Hated it at first but it's growing on me
There's a learning curve with any stove, you have to try different stuff, watch and learn. That's part of the fun. >>
seams to me if you run wet wood, it smokes more witch the secondary burns it cause it to get to hot
I think the theory is that it takes heat out of the box to evaporate the moisture from wet wood, so the secondary doesn't burn as well until the wood finally dries out. But I've not run a secondary stove yet, so haven't observed firsthand..
 

Big Fire

New Member
Nov 19, 2018
20
Mn
I had a lot of trouble finding information on this stove when I was looking at stoves to replace our aging but good-looking Vermont Castings Encore - Catalytic Stove. I'm writing this as my first post in the hopes of providing my impressions of this stove after a month or so of running it and also see if I'm doing everything correctly.

We have a 2400 sq ft home built in 1994 located in Northwest Ohio. We rely on our stove for 100% of our heat. With our VC, we always felt that it was a bit undersized for our home, despite being in a more temperate climate than others on this forum. While we never had to start a new fire in the mornings with our old stove, it would not always light off right away, meaning that I had to load it up and open up the air, damper and/or ash pan door when I woke up, then shut it down before I left for work. We have about 18 ft. of 8" double wall stove pipe and chimney.

First the things I like:
  1. The stove really looks good. We got our Explorer III in Black Porcelain Enamel finish. Our VC was black paint, and I repainted it two years prior to replacing it, it was already getting surface rusting on the stove-top again.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can keep it as hot as we want.
  3. The stove is big. I can load our logs either side to side (East-West), or front to back (North-South). Because of the design, I load it NS overnight. This makes the glass a bit dirtier with my somewhat wet wood, but it keeps the logs from rolling into the glass.
  4. The stovetop is a nice cooking surface, very large.
  5. The automatic combustion control (ACC) works well. No need to open the door or ash tray (if it were possible on this design) to get the fire going.
  6. No Catalyst to replace, maintain or damage.
Now for the disappointments:
  1. The stove ticks like crazy much of the time. Any heat up or cool starts the ticking, I assume it is the interior welded firebox expanding or contracting at a different rate than that of the cast iron jacket. I do not remember the VC doing that, and it certainly didn't do it this much.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can't keep it as cool as we want. I'm used to the VC with its thermostatic controls and, I hate to say it, better air control. I get that these new stoves need more air to be EPA compliant, but I really wish there were a way to slow the burn rate down. Maybe it is the tall chimney, but I assume the 8" diameter would cut down on the draft.
  3. The stove is big, much deeper than our VC. I saw that this had much tighter clearances than our VC and hoped that it would disappear into the corner better, but it has such a deep firebox that we're about the same front door location.
  4. The ACC does not close down completely once done. There is a little lever around the right-hand side that you can pull forward to abort the ACC. I have let the stove burn for a few hours after the ACC is over, only to find that the last little bit remained open and closes down with a pull. That, coupled with what I feel is a high air intake rate even shut all the way down, makes this stove burn even hotter.
  5. The heat output is very uneven. To get the advertised burn times, you have to pack the stove full (complicated only a bit by the presence of the burn tubes/baffle), then turn it down after the fire takes. It has gotten so hot that we've had to open windows on a 35 degree day. We're still learning this stove, but it is a big move from a catalyst to the non-cat and we weren't prepared for the variability in temperature control.
  6. The ash removal system euphemism (ARSe - my designation) performs like ARSe. I loved how we could just scrape the ash into the grate at the bottom of the VC, leaving the coals and charcoal to burn or re-burn. No need to have the coals go out, and this could all be accomplished without making a mess by accessing through the top load door. This one requires the coals to be out (so you don't get cooked by the heat), then digging through the layer of ash and coals at the bottom of the stove to pry up the metal hatch (using the too-short supplied tool), then rotate the concealed latch on the lower left-hand side of the stove, then shovel the ash into the trap door (where it lands in a too-tall pile right in the middle of the ash pan). Then you can remove it (no top cover is provided like it was for the VC), and carefully take it outside.
  7. You cannot top-load this stove, which was one of the main selling points for us. Smoke pours out into the room unless the fire is completely down to coals. Adjusting the baffle position and air intake controls can help, but it doesn't eliminate the smoke intrusion. I feel that the designers didn't really test this, or they would have abandoned it. The VC was nearly perfect in this respect. We got spoiled. This means that whenever we load, we have ash and sometimes coals dropping down onto the ash lip or even tumbling onto our tiled hearth. I would love to hear that I am doing this wrong, but I'm afraid that this is a useless "feature." The only advantage of the top-load design at this point is the cook-top, which we use fairly infrequently.
Other observations:
The stove keeps our home very warm. We have a 20+ ft. cathedral ceiling in our living room and bedrooms on the far ends of the house. We only run the circulator function on our HVAC, but probably do not need it to keep the rooms warm in the low-teen weather we've been seeing overnight lately. The stove is definitely big enough, which was our main concern.

I don't have a real preference for the type of fire in either stove. The VC would produce some really amazing, lovely rolling flames. This will do that at different points in the burn, too. The fire is definitely much more active in the Explorer. It seems to supply a lot more air to the fire, even when closed all the way down.

Poor documentation with this stove. There were some things that I didn't find in the manual, and others that were poorly explained. The VC manual was probably overkill, but it did provide detailed explanations of every function and procedure before you built a fire in your living room.

I'm wondering if we wouldn't have been better off with a Vermont Castings Defiant or a Blaze King Ashford 30 (I, and especially the wife, cannot abide the looks of the Princess or the King). I know there are a lot of gaskets on the VCs, and people claim that they're temperamental and high-maintenance, but I really appreciated how it would automatically regulate the intake air and would not run away on us. What do you do with the Explorer 3 if there's a chimney fire? With the VC, we could practically shut that thing completely down. This one, we're at a high rate of air no matter how low the air is set. It worries me about how to control the fire.

Also, the stove advertises a long burn time, but that doesn't mean it is consistent heat over that burn time. This is a big concern for us in the fall/spring, as I like to use the stove to heat right into the 50s+.

Thanks for reading. When I was shopping for a new stove, I really liked the looks and features of this stove, but it was like crickets on the internet regarding the stove and it's use. Most results of an internet search return dealer pages, not reviews. I hope this will help someone else who is looking for a new stove and considering one. It is an improvement over our aging stove that was in need of significant maintenance, but there are some significant steps backwards for us.

Please feel free to offer criticisms, tips, insights, or your own experiences with any of the stoves I mentioned. I'm not sure I want to take the hit on re-selling this stove to switch to another, but it really does have some major drawbacks that were not clear from my reading prior to purchase and I'd be curious to see what other's think of their stoves especially the VC Defiant.
Any better with the new stove


Sent from my XT1080 using Tapatalk
 

Pertzbro

Feeling the Heat
Aug 2, 2016
297
NW Iowa
any pictures or videos after the holidays?
 

harvester45

New Member
Dec 9, 2018
4
NW Ohio
Thanks for the patience as I got a chance to add an update. A few months later, I've warmed up to the stove a bit (pun intended).

I still wish I had gone with a new VC or other cat stove, but this stove is really simple to operate, and our chimney is much cleaner than it has been with the old Encore. The biggest adjustment we had to make is how we load the wood. I'm used to packing the stove up to the gills, letting it catch and then turning the air back. This stove does best for us if we ration the wood out over the day. It's the only way we can get consistent temperatures out of it, and not get roasted out of the room. I'm still not sure if the height of our chimney (18+ ft.) or the diameter of it (8") is playing a role, but I'm not going to spend another $1,000.00+ on new chimney to find out. It did keep us warm through that cold snap of -15 degree weather and windchill of 40 below.

The Explorer blows through wood a lot faster than our old stove. I bring prodigious amounts of wood in, and it seems like a couple of days later, I'm repeating the ordeal. I really thought that efficiency would be comparable to our Encore (which had a cat in need of replacing and some issues with the refractory - it turned out to have a hole in the top of the cat chamber which partially bypassed the cat!) but I think that it is about as efficient at a given temperature, but not as adjustable or as flexible. I'm still really disappointed with the top-load feature, if you wait till you're down to coals, you're ok, but you still get a blast of heat off of them that was not as noticeable with the Encore. The implementation just isn't as polished, and probably can never be with a tube stove.

Thanks for the support and similar sentiments. I think the stove looks nice, it's huge, throws a lot of heat, and is difficult to regulate. The major plus is that after checking periodically, we are getting way less creosote in the chimney (probably partially attributable to how hot it runs!), so it now feels as safe as the last one did.

A couple of pics of the setup:

Installation:
20181117_184833_resized.jpg


Today:
20190218_201621_resized.jpg

Some slo-mo video of it burning:
20190106_012955_001_001.mp4
 

Attachments

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
79,351
South Puget Sound, WA
The Encore was thermostatically controlled, this is a completely different setup. Have you tried thicker splits to slow down the burn a bit? With a full load of wood, when are you deciding to turn down the air and how far?
 

harvester45

New Member
Dec 9, 2018
4
NW Ohio
The Encore was thermostatically controlled, this is a completely different setup. Have you tried thicker splits to slow down the burn a bit? With a full load of wood, when are you deciding to turn down the air and how far?
I do realize that the Encore had the thermostatic control, and I knew that this one wouldn't have it going in. I just wrongly assumed that the air controls on the front of this stove would be able to cut the air down much more than they really do. That's completely my fault for not getting some sort of a demo, but in NW Ohio, I was lucky to see one on the floor, much less hooked up and running.

On the Encore, I'd let it catch and then turn it back most of the way, and that would "cruise" at the given temp for most of the night. On this one, it will run away from me if I use the ACC, regardless of where the primary air control is set. For an overnight burn on the Explorer III, I really only let it go from 5-10 minutes (a guess) after loading before I shut the air all the way down if I want to maintain some semblance of an overnight, even burn. I try to load up the biggest splits I can find for the overnight burn, then fill in the cracks with smaller pieces for more total mass and less initial airspace.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
79,351
South Puget Sound, WA
Sounds like you're approaching it correctly. You may need to add a draft damper and that may take adding a 12 or 18" piece of 6" stove pipe before the increaser in which to put the damper in. A stove pipe thermometer will also be helpful for timing the air turn down. Usually this will happen in at least a couple increments.
 
Last edited:

EbS-P

Member
Jan 19, 2019
172
SE North Carolina
Thanks for your post. I really think the new non-cat EPA stoves are going to be more difficult to burn at low heat output by design. I did a few searches on the forum looking for tips but didn’t find what I was looking for.

My thoughts tips. I put two sawdust bricks E/W end to end in the middle. Then load splits both front an behind. The one in front blocks the doghouse air. I then light top down. As the bottom fill up with coals and the slow burning bricks I have a shorter firebox to load with lower heat content wood. The secondaries light off quickly and I get a clean burn. The burn cycles are short and you add less wood like you are doing. But the bricks keep burning for 8-10 hours as long as the doghouse air doesn’t torch through them. I want to try with some really big poplar splits but that will have to wait till next year as they are sopping wet.

Evan
 

JoeyBurn

New Member
Jan 31, 2019
13
Northwest Ohio
Thanks for the review. The wife and I checked out the explorer line a couple months ago at probably the same store, we're in nw Ohio too. Would have been nice to see one hooked up. They appear to be really well built good looking stoves. We both had a good chuckle though when the salesman showed us how "easy" the ash removal system was.
 

Jer8543

New Member
Nov 9, 2019
1
Maryland
I have an explorer 3 as well. A little over a week and I’m kinda missing my VC. My pros and cons are basically the exact same as you to the T. I’m even using good seasoned firewood ~10-15% moisture. Is there anyway you would be willing to chat about it a little, possibly over the phone ? Really struggling not selling and buying a defiant.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
79,351
South Puget Sound, WA
@webfish has the explorer iii and should be able to help. It will burn differently from the VC, but should heat nicely with dry wood.
 

webfish

Hearth.com LLC
Staff member
Oct 18, 2013
1,434
Minnesota
I had a lot of trouble finding information on this stove when I was looking at stoves to replace our aging but good-looking Vermont Castings Encore - Catalytic Stove. I'm writing this as my first post in the hopes of providing my impressions of this stove after a month or so of running it and also see if I'm doing everything correctly.

We have a 2400 sq ft home built in 1994 located in Northwest Ohio. We rely on our stove for 100% of our heat. With our VC, we always felt that it was a bit undersized for our home, despite being in a more temperate climate than others on this forum. While we never had to start a new fire in the mornings with our old stove, it would not always light off right away, meaning that I had to load it up and open up the air, damper and/or ash pan door when I woke up, then shut it down before I left for work. We have about 18 ft. of 8" double wall stove pipe and chimney.

First the things I like:
  1. The stove really looks good. We got our Explorer III in Black Porcelain Enamel finish. Our VC was black paint, and I repainted it two years prior to replacing it, it was already getting surface rusting on the stove-top again.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can keep it as hot as we want.
  3. The stove is big. I can load our logs either side to side (East-West), or front to back (North-South). Because of the design, I load it NS overnight. This makes the glass a bit dirtier with my somewhat wet wood, but it keeps the logs from rolling into the glass.
  4. The stovetop is a nice cooking surface, very large.
  5. The automatic combustion control (ACC) works well. No need to open the door or ash tray (if it were possible on this design) to get the fire going.
  6. No Catalyst to replace, maintain or damage.
Now for the disappointments:
  1. The stove ticks like crazy much of the time. Any heat up or cool starts the ticking, I assume it is the interior welded firebox expanding or contracting at a different rate than that of the cast iron jacket. I do not remember the VC doing that, and it certainly didn't do it this much.
  2. The stove heats like crazy. We can't keep it as cool as we want. I'm used to the VC with its thermostatic controls and, I hate to say it, better air control. I get that these new stoves need more air to be EPA compliant, but I really wish there were a way to slow the burn rate down. Maybe it is the tall chimney, but I assume the 8" diameter would cut down on the draft.
  3. The stove is big, much deeper than our VC. I saw that this had much tighter clearances than our VC and hoped that it would disappear into the corner better, but it has such a deep firebox that we're about the same front door location.
  4. The ACC does not close down completely once done. There is a little lever around the right-hand side that you can pull forward to abort the ACC. I have let the stove burn for a few hours after the ACC is over, only to find that the last little bit remained open and closes down with a pull. That, coupled with what I feel is a high air intake rate even shut all the way down, makes this stove burn even hotter.
  5. The heat output is very uneven. To get the advertised burn times, you have to pack the stove full (complicated only a bit by the presence of the burn tubes/baffle), then turn it down after the fire takes. It has gotten so hot that we've had to open windows on a 35 degree day. We're still learning this stove, but it is a big move from a catalyst to the non-cat and we weren't prepared for the variability in temperature control.
  6. The ash removal system euphemism (ARSe - my designation) performs like ARSe. I loved how we could just scrape the ash into the grate at the bottom of the VC, leaving the coals and charcoal to burn or re-burn. No need to have the coals go out, and this could all be accomplished without making a mess by accessing through the top load door. This one requires the coals to be out (so you don't get cooked by the heat), then digging through the layer of ash and coals at the bottom of the stove to pry up the metal hatch (using the too-short supplied tool), then rotate the concealed latch on the lower left-hand side of the stove, then shovel the ash into the trap door (where it lands in a too-tall pile right in the middle of the ash pan). Then you can remove it (no top cover is provided like it was for the VC), and carefully take it outside.
  7. You cannot top-load this stove, which was one of the main selling points for us. Smoke pours out into the room unless the fire is completely down to coals. Adjusting the baffle position and air intake controls can help, but it doesn't eliminate the smoke intrusion. I feel that the designers didn't really test this, or they would have abandoned it. The VC was nearly perfect in this respect. We got spoiled. This means that whenever we load, we have ash and sometimes coals dropping down onto the ash lip or even tumbling onto our tiled hearth. I would love to hear that I am doing this wrong, but I'm afraid that this is a useless "feature." The only advantage of the top-load design at this point is the cook-top, which we use fairly infrequently.
Other observations:
The stove keeps our home very warm. We have a 20+ ft. cathedral ceiling in our living room and bedrooms on the far ends of the house. We only run the circulator function on our HVAC, but probably do not need it to keep the rooms warm in the low-teen weather we've been seeing overnight lately. The stove is definitely big enough, which was our main concern.

I don't have a real preference for the type of fire in either stove. The VC would produce some really amazing, lovely rolling flames. This will do that at different points in the burn, too. The fire is definitely much more active in the Explorer. It seems to supply a lot more air to the fire, even when closed all the way down.

Poor documentation with this stove. There were some things that I didn't find in the manual, and others that were poorly explained. The VC manual was probably overkill, but it did provide detailed explanations of every function and procedure before you built a fire in your living room.

I'm wondering if we wouldn't have been better off with a Vermont Castings Defiant or a Blaze King Ashford 30 (I, and especially the wife, cannot abide the looks of the Princess or the King). I know there are a lot of gaskets on the VCs, and people claim that they're temperamental and high-maintenance, but I really appreciated how it would automatically regulate the intake air and would not run away on us. What do you do with the Explorer 3 if there's a chimney fire? With the VC, we could practically shut that thing completely down. This one, we're at a high rate of air no matter how low the air is set. It worries me about how to control the fire.

Also, the stove advertises a long burn time, but that doesn't mean it is consistent heat over that burn time. This is a big concern for us in the fall/spring, as I like to use the stove to heat right into the 50s+.

Thanks for reading. When I was shopping for a new stove, I really liked the looks and features of this stove, but it was like crickets on the internet regarding the stove and it's use. Most results of an internet search return dealer pages, not reviews. I hope this will help someone else who is looking for a new stove and considering one. It is an improvement over our aging stove that was in need of significant maintenance, but there are some significant steps backwards for us.

Please feel free to offer criticisms, tips, insights, or your own experiences with any of the stoves I mentioned. I'm not sure I want to take the hit on re-selling this stove to switch to another, but it really does have some major drawbacks that were not clear from my reading prior to purchase and I'd be curious to see what other's think of their stoves especially the VC Defiant.

I'm on year 4 of the Explorer 3. I agree with many of these and disagree or different point of view on others. I think comparing to a VC thermo control cat you are going to get a big difference in day to day operation

I was looking for a good looking stove and the wife approved of this one.( so that is number 1!!!. ) (4 years later she still loves it.)I wanted efficient but wasn't completely sold on a catalytic. So the Explorer met the 2020 new epa standard. I wanted a large firebox. I just think loading bigger splits was going to speed the whole process .

Your pros ,I agree with. Won't go into those.
Cons.
#1 Yes mine ticks too. Never even gave it a thought, though it does seem to have quieted down in year 4. I actually got used to the audible sound as telling me how fast the stove was heating up. My geothermal forced air is loud so this is nothing in comparison.

#2 Mine heats like crazy too. I have never had a thermostatic control so I don't know any different. I got it to 75 today and have had it running closed air all day just adding a split now and then and the room has stayed between 72 and 74 with out me touching the air. Just adding a split or two. When it looks like its down to just coals.

#3 I replaced a Zero Clearance so I gained room. So I knew the size and I actually gained space.

#4 I agree on the ACC, it does feel like it never quite closes all the way but nothing I really noticed. The stove does burn hot. I hardly ever pack it full. When -5 outside I might at night since the bedrooms down the hall stay cooler. I have learned what I need in the morning and just add as need the res of the day. The ACC is great on cold startups. Pull it out and get started, it closes and then I close the other air once cruising.

#5. Output uneven. Well just like most non-cats it takes some adjustments. A full loaded box, I agree, its a big firebox and its going to heat you out of there. On January night , this is a positive. It is different than a cat with the thermostat and it won't run like one. But I can pretty much get t to run the temps I want just by what wood I choose and how quick I turn down the air. The wife likes it 75-78 in the winter and this stove does not have to work hard to get there. I can control my heat just by size of fire and wood. Not sure how the baffle and tubes get in the way but I load through the front door.

#6 Ash pan. Thought I would use it. Never do. Use a scoop and ash bucket. Just easier.Not sure why you would go thru the top load door though to access?

#7 Top loader .I thought would use it too. Placed my stove on my old hearth which is 2 feet high so my front door is perfect height and I don't have to bend too far.

So it probably does burn a little too hot and go through more wood but I wanted that big firebox. It probably is a miss on the top loader but since I don't use I can't say.

Double wall chimney about 14 feet.