Questions after Opel 3 first fire

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New Member
Dec 8, 2015
Issaquah, WA
Had our first fire in our new Opel 3 fireplace. Couple observations. I don't like the amount of smoke in the house from the fire. Also, I couldn't get the combustor going (glowing red) with my firewood without cutting them into small pieces.

Any ideas?

Not familiar with your unit but let's get the first question always asked out of the way. How long has your wood been split and seasoned and what species?
Thanks for the quick reply. It's 8-month seasoned cedar. Stored outside and covered, but it is a wet climate (Seattle).

Not familiar with cedar living on the east coast so not sure if 8 months will get it seasoned well enough. None of the epaulets stoves will burn properly unless you feed them seasoned wood.
Did you do a search for your unit on this site? I thought I remember reading a couple threads from posters that had the opals figured out pretty well.
Are you sure the smoke wasn't from the paint curing? The first time I put a fire in my insert I thought I had a chimney leak, but really was only the paint. I was surprised.
That could be. I guess I'll find out with my next fire today. In general, let me know if anyone has advice for a progression of firewood when starting a fire in an Opel or similar high efficiency/catalyst fireplace. I'm wondering if I have to use a lot more kindling or third-sized pieces of firewood. Thanks, Tom
A few things may be causing smoke spillage: too short chimney, cat not firing (bypass closed too soon), fireplace location (basement negative pressure) and mild outdoor temps. And then there is the weather. Our stove spilled a little smoke a couple days ago for the only time this season. We were under very low pressure and the outdoor temp had gone above 50F. Today, no problem.
Iron has it. If this is just the first fire it's a good idea to open up the windows and maybe put a fan in one to exhaust the fumes as the paint bakes in. This will go away with hotter fires.
Dry cedar should take fire very easily. I would not think that having the doors open would be necessary. If smoke spillage is happening because of smoke coming out of the firebox when the door is cracked to start the fire then in addition to my comments above, the wood could be wet or not seasoned at the core.
Okay, second fire went much smoother with little to no smoke entering the house. I have a different question now though, which is how big of a fire to build to get the catalyst working. I was told by a representative at RSF (manufacturer of Opel 3) to get the fire hot enough so the combustor turns red... then close the bypass (to send smoke into catalyst?). But the only way I've been able to get it that hot is to put quite a bit of wood in the firebox, often smaller pieces and flames start encountering the combustor directly. But I read that this can be bad for the catalyst, something called "flame impingement"? Read below...

"Flame Impingement happens when flames directly enter the combustor for long periods of time. The most common reason for flame impingement is overfiring the stove; burning the stove for long periods with a wide open damper setting and allowing too much air into the firebox, and too hot a fire after the combustor has been engaged. The other way to overfire the stove is to burn large quantities of very small pieces of wood - dowels, for example."

Thx, Tom
Is there a flame guard in front of the cat?
I don't think there's a flame guard. I guess I just need to keep figuring this thing out. Tonight I was having a fire and the catalyst initially glowed red (indicating it's working) but after half hour or so it stopped glowing red. Now I'm wondering if the fire is cooling off or if the catalyst is malfunctioning? Thanks, Tom
Is there an option to install a probe thermometer to know the temperature of the cat? It doesn't have to be red to be active. Temperature is a better guide.
Thanks begreen. Yes, there is a wire probe sitting in the bottom louver (connected to the fireplace). I've ordered a Type K thermometer that should arrive next week and will start using it. I was told by a representative at RSF that you know the catalyst is working when it glows red. Sounds like there's more to it.
Good to hear, that will help you a lot. I'm not a cat stove owner, but there are several here that should be able to provide guidance. They report that the cat is not always glowing yet still above the inactive stage temperature.
So I kind of stumbled onto this fireplace after a local reputable chimney/fireplace contractor recommended and installed it. What's the pro-con of cat vs non-cat fireplaces? I've read a lot of positive things about them online but my local fireplace dealer (Thompsons Home & Hearth) doesn't recommend them (feeling the fail too much).
Good to hear, that will help you a lot. I'm not a cat stove owner, but there are several here that should be able to provide guidance. They report that the cat is not always glowing yet still above the inactive stage temperature. This may depend on the stage of the burn and stove.

There are tons of threads here on cat vs non-cat. Each has its advantages. The cat theoretically should allow you to burn cleaner at a lower steady burn rate which is a good fit for our mild climate.
I do like the lower burn rate advantage (I'm in Issaquah, WA). One question I have about the catalyst is how reliable and how much of a lifespan it has on the Opel 3C fireplace. The manual states 6-10 years, but our local stove shop predicts just 2 years! I do plan to maintain it and burn dry wood at all times.
There is a lot of misinformation and old school thoughts on cats. It depends on where and how the cat is made. The cat warranty should be 6 yrs. Drop into the enormously long Blaze King thread for a lot of talk about cats, their operation and their care.
Thanks. What's the Blaze King thread? I'm also curious if there are different types of catalysts that will fit my Opel and if there are higher quality or lower quality ones.
Thanks. What's the Blaze King thread? I'm also curious if there are different types of catalysts that will fit my Opel and if there are higher quality or lower quality ones.
I'm no expert on the Opel, but I do know the owner of the company. At one time the fireplace companies used a reticulated foam combustor. Can you see yours? Does it look like a sponge or are all the cells nice and uniform?

In our units, glowing of the cat is an indication of a very rich air/fuel ratio. We know in our stoves and inserts, a combustor (also called a catalytic converter or cat for short) does not need to be glowing in order to be working and providing reduced emissions.

As the unit is new to you, I am certain you will figure it out soon enough. The folks at RSF are top notch!
The cells look more uniform (maybe a little like this I'm burning seasoned (8-month) cedar and a little maple. It's been a challenge knowing what is not enough wood (reading warnings of under-burning and polluting the cat) versus too much wood (warnings of over-firing and damaging the cat). I really like what the contractor did with the chimney and fireplace stone (see photo). I just wish he told me more about the fireplace. I chose high-efficiency wood fireplace (over gas), not really knowing about cats, combustors, etc.

Questions after Opel 3 first fire
I'm no cat expert either, but I do know that dry cedar can burn very hot (and quickly). That may or may not be a factor for you,but it may be worth considering..

Cats seem to take a little more attention than non-cat stoves, but once you get the hang of it, most users love them. As begreen said, there are many (many) threads here on cat use.

Don't worry about the smell. It takes a few burns to get most of the paint smell out, but I still get it sometimes from the double wall stove pipe that never quite seems to cure completely.
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If that is the basic shape/design, then it's not reticulated foam. The threads on cat stoves may have a small I recall the cat in your Opel is some distance from the actual compared to most cat stoves.
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