Replacing a Wood Chief with an EPA-certified woodstove & have questions

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Miss Leona Combsley

New Member
Feb 8, 2011
7
New Brunswick
Hello! I apologize in advance for the long post but here goes. In 2009 we bought a small fixer-upper house with about 1100 sq. ft. of living space on one floor, no basement, 4-ft crawlspace, vinyl siding, electric baseboard heaters and a place for a woodstove but no actual stove. We bought an old Wood Chief that has kept us warm here in southeastern New Brunswick, but is not EPA-certified. We had an energy audit in the fall of 2009 and were encouraged to first insulate the attic and crawlspace, then replace the Wood Chief with an EPA-certified woodstove, and then look at replacing windows and external doors if time & money permit. We started right away with the insulation, wrapping the walls & skylight area and blowing in enough insulation to blanket the attic floor with 15" for an R50 rating. We had a vapor barrier laid in the crawlspace and the perimeter walls & rim joists sprayed with foam, so we have good insulation above and below our living space. This helped our old Wood Chief keep us warm for the last two winters, but it is now time to replace it with a more attractive and efficient EPA-certified wood stove. It has taken me a year of blood, sweat & tears in the workforce to save up for a new woodstove and now time is running out if we are to take advantage of significant rebates from our federal and provincial governments. We must have an EPA-certified woodstove installed before the end of this month when our energy audit follow-up evaluation takes place.

We have gleaned a lot of advice from reading posts on this forum and hope to get some input that pertains to our particular living space, climate, and wants vs. needs. To that end I am providing as much information as I can, including a few photos taken before we moved in & our Wood Chief set-up. Our woodstove is located in the corner of the 21' by 12' living room nearest the back door. A small bedroom is directly across from the wood stove. Our living room has a large opening to the kitchen. Our kitchen has a vaulted ceiling and a skylight and opens onto a short hallway that leads to two small bedrooms and a bathroom. Ceiling fans in the living room and kitchen circulate the air quite well throughout much of the house & we use a box fan in the back hallway to move air toward the bedrooms and bathroom.

The stovepipe is located in an addition to the original house and goes straight up through the attic with no elbows in it. Our Wood Chief needed a 6" diameter pipe and the existing pipe extending from the thimble is 7" diameter, so we bought an adapter. The Wood Chief has worked well and kept us warm without requiring us to use the electric baseboard heaters even on the coldest days and in the rooms farthest from the wood stove; no complaints there. It does seem to use a lot of wood, although that may be unfair to the stove because we have had a really cold time of it here this winter. The main drawbacks are its lack of EPA certification, its looks in our living room, and possibly its condition due to its age. Perhaps it could soldier on for many more winters, who knows? We don't want to get rid of it; it would be great in the unattached garage someday. We just want to have a more attractive, EPA-certified woodstove to meet insurance requirements and to take advantage of rebates currently available. Word has it that our province will soon make it mandatory that all woodstoves be EPA certified.

With the woodstove in our living room I want it to look nice as well as keep us warm as efficiently and with as few emissions as possible. To that end have been looking into Pacific Energy and Jotul models. At this point we are leaning toward buying the Alderlea T5, although the Jotul Oslo with its side-loading door and blue/black porcelain enamel finish is hard to resist. A local dealer has an Alderlea T5 on hand as well as a couple of PE Spectrums but no Jotul Oslos; we still have time for him to order whatever we want, though. We would be able to get a 10% discount on the T5 or one of the Spectrums since he has them in stock already. The T5 looks nice enough with its cast iron finish but I am worried about how well it will withstand moisture from wet mitts and a humidifying kettle. How much fuss will it take to keep it looking nice? Would it be better to go with the porcelain enameled T5 or is keeping the enamel in good shape as challenging as caring for the non-enameled cast iron? The dealer told me that he just uses a duster on the Alderlea T5 he has in the showroom to keep it looking nice and it sits right across from display stoves that burn wood all winter and produce a lot of dust. His T5 is not used, though, and has no moisture around it. Is rust a problem with the cast iron finish? The dealer says that we can paint it if it rusts but that just leads me to think that it WILL rust and require a lot of care to stay looking nice. My husband does 99% of the fire-stoking in our woodstove now but I want to feel comfortable tending our new woodstove. And I will be the one who does any clean-up of it. I'm the one who wants an attractive stove. He is perfectly content with the Wood Chief.

How do you think the Alderlea T5 or comparable EPA-certified woodstove will compare with our current Wood Chief in heating our home? I don't want to buy the wrong stove for our house. I already feel guilty for plotting to boot the Wood Chief out to the garage as it is. I will admit that the Wood Chief intimidates me. I want a woodstove that I feel comfortable building a fire in. I am a caregiver for an elderly man who has a fairly inexpensive Drolet Savannah that I have no problem using, although it seems to require a lot of attention to get a good fire going and then burns the wood up quickly. I don't want the woodstove we buy to do that.

Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated. We must decide within the next few days in order to meet our deadline & build a hearth for the chosen woodstove. Thanks.
 

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Since this is a corner install, I would go with either of the PE's. They only need to be 4" from the corners. A Summit Classic might fit the bill, too.The Jotul is probably a fine stove, but you'll want to double check the install clearances.
The P.E. stoves are very easy to light, the air inlet lets lots of air into there when you open it up. You can close the door almost immediately after getting it lit.
My dad used to have a Newmac like that one. It worked well, but burned kind of dirty. Newmac now makes an EPA version of that stove, but I think a Summit, Spectrum, Alderlea, or Oslo would look better in your place.
 
If you're looking for more good stove possibilities, Avalon & Lopi make some awesome stoves. If you're looking for something a bit different, HearthStone makes some beautiful soapstone stoves.
 
Hello, fellow Wood Chief owner here. You did very well with descriptions and pictures. I take from your post that you have improved your insulation and plugged some cracks. You also tell us the Wood Chief has heated your home comfortably to date. My Wood Chief resides in my 950 sq.ft. well insulated basement and does the job handily, it is 20+ years old and hopefully has a few more years left in it.

My concern with the T5 as compared to the Wood Chief is that the T5 may be to much stove. I'm assuming that, like me, you burn the WC at a low setting once the area you want to heat is up to the desired temp?

Wood Chief specs:
Maximum 55,000-60,000 btuh output - heats 1200 square ft.

T5 spec;
Heat Output Cord Wood 72,000 BTU
EPA Test Fuel 34,600 BTU
Efficiency (LHV) 80.7%
Emissions 2.9 gm/hr.
Log Size 18 inches max.
For Spaces up to 2000 square feet.

Even though it is a little more difficult, logistically, to put together, I'd seriously consider a Woodstock Fireview or Keystone. Seems they may be a closer fit to your WC and your needs.

Woodstock stoves
 
Hardrockmaple said:
Even though it is a little more difficult, logistically, to put together, I'd seriously consider a Woodstock Fireview or Keystone. Seems they may be a closer fit to your WC and your needs.

Woodstock stoves

The Woodstock Keystone and Palladian have a 7" flue outlet. They are approved for 6" or 7", but you could be one of the few to actually use a 7" pipe.
But you really need to look at clearances. I'm not sure how much the pad and heat shield in your pics really count.

Just be safe.

And welcome.
 
I think that I read somewhere that the EPA-certified stoves don't produce as much heat/warmth as the non-EPA models and that it is wise to get a bigger stove than what you would expect to get based on the EPA test claims. Based upon that I thought that we would need a stove that claims to heat spaces up to 1800 sq. ft. to be comparable to our Wood Chief. Am I off base with this thinking?
 
Like the Wood Chief, the Alderlea T5 is largely a convective stove. I think it would be the perfect size for this house. Good choice. It's a pussycat to run and it has a very flexible burn range. Our neighbors heat their 1400 sq ft place with it's cousin, the Spectrum. It can run fine with a smaller load of wood, has great long burns and when asked, it can really put out the heat. We have a few folks with this stove in your size place and they are very happy with it.

The Oslo is more radiant, but would also do the job well. In blue-black enamel it's a great good looker.
 
As to your maintenance questions.

My cast iron stove is 15 years old and has had a humidifying pot on it for all those years. Build or buy a mitten/boot dryer and stand it near the stove. Each spring (after what I know/hope will be the last burn) I put a stove black on it. To date I have no rust showing on the exterior. I've never had a pretty stove so I cannot comment on their maintenance, someone who has one will chime in soon I'm sure.

Stove black
 
Thank you for all the helpful comments and the welcome. The fact that I humbled myself before you with the photos of our modest little house and ugly but functional Wood Chief on its RockBoard hearth shows how comfortable I am with you folks on this forum. It is no doubt painfully clear to you why I want to have a more attractive woodstove and hearth in my living room. All in good time, I have told myself for the last eighteen months. Well, the good time has come, I hope.

Jimbob, your comment reminded me that we looked (me briefly, my husband longingly) at the EPA-certified Newmacs last year. They may be good stoves but they are not very attractive IMO. And you cannot see the wood burning. I want that soothing ambiance! I agree that one of the others would look better in my living room.

Ski Bum, soapstone stoves are lovely, quite the eye candy, but may not be very practical for our situation. We looked at & read about them but reluctantly ruled them out. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

Hardrockmaple, we do burn the WC at low setting once the living room is nice and warm. The Woodstock stoves you mentioned are beautiful but I'm not sure they would work for us as a primary heat source, being soapstone and slow to warm up. Not to mention the fragility of the stone. We are a bit klutsy here, sad to say. It would be a constant worry. Thanks for the positive feedback about maintenance of your cast iron stove.

jeff_t, thanks for addressing the 7" flue aspect of our situation. It doesn't seem to be a problem with the Wood Chief but I'm not sure how it would affect the EPA-certified stoves. ???

BeGreen, I appreciate your vote of confidence in the T5 as a good choice for our home. I was so afraid that you would concur with Hardrockmaple that it might be too much stove for us. What about the maintenance of the cast iron shell? How do you keep your T6 looking good?
 
BeGreen, I appreciate your vote of confidence in the T5 as a good choice for our home. I was so afraid that you would concur with Hardrockmaple that it might be too much stove for us. What about the maintenance of the cast iron shell? How do you keep your T6 looking good?

If this is a great concern, the T5 "Classic" is available in black or brown enamel. I was also concerned about the upkeep of the T6 cast iron, but surprisingly it still looks like new after 3 seasons. My theory is this is because the cast iron jacket never gets as hot as it would if it were in direct contact with the fire. All we do is vacuum the dust off it or wipe it down with a damp dust cloth.
 
Thanks, BeGreen. I sent Sue a pm after reading the interesting thread describing her adventures heating with driftwood in Alaska and her decision to buy the Alderlea T5. I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say.
 
Hi Ginger! I SO understand you're desire to purchase the 'right' stove. It's a huge financial investment. I spent months researching, which is how I stumbled on this fabulous forum. My husband wasn't nearly as engaged in the process as I was, and was pretty much willing to go along with what I finally decided, which as BeGreen has told you was the Alderlea T5.

I'll get into some details but let me tell you right off that WE LOVE THIS STOVE!

It is super easy to light, and puts out a dazzling show of flames thanks to the circular airflow created by the baffling and the nice big window. My curmudgeonly husband is captivated! This is a case where tighter environmental regulations led to some exciting innovations! Te glass window can get get smoked-up around the edges, especially when burning a lower fire, but this is to be expected with any wood stove windows. I've found a highly caustic glass cleaner made especially for this purpose. It works amazingly well but I use it sparingly and wipe it down good. I need to look on the forum to see what others recommend, but I'm happy to keep up with window cleaning as I love the 'light show.'

As for being 'too much stove,' this has not been a problem for us. Our house is one story, narrow and long, with a small alcove off the center where the stove is, and 1200 SF total. However, we do NOT have an open floor plan, and there is little air movement to almost half the house. We do not heat exclusively with wood, and have two direct vent oil stoves, one at each end of the house. In many ways we're only using the Alderlea to heat the central part of our home, and typically only throw in a few logs in at a time and burn it with the draft full open. But it's a great comfort to know that we could crank it up and keep the plants and pipes from freezing, and us cozy and warm, should we ever lose power for an extended period of time. So what this means is that we're generally way under-using the Alderlea's capacity, and just burning small, hot fires. It handles this just fine without cooking us out at all, so I don't think you need to worry that it will be too much stove.

Given that it's in a fairly tight space I LOVE how it doesn't throw heat off the back or sides - just forward. Some stoves are designed to throw more heat off the sides but that wouldn't have worked in our situation. I also find the front loading really easy.

As for the cast iron, we're nearing the end of our second full winter using the stove and the cast iron looks like new - except for the occasional need to dust or run a damp cloth over it to collect dust. BUT ours is a very dry climate and we haven't used the stove for drying items and we don't keep a humidifying kettle on it, so I can't speak to the rust issues.

As far as appearance, I LOVE its handsome, classic looks, but also appreciate that on the inside it's a thick steel box with stainless steel baffling that is replaceable if our driftwood causes excessive corrosion.

Again, I appreciate your apprehension, especially as we had to spend an extra $1,000 to barge it Nome sight unseen, but we've never regretted our choice! I wish you years of warm and cozy nights with whatever stove you finally choose!
 
Thanks, Sue, for your enthusiastic response and helpful info. We feel much better about choosing the Alderlea T5 now and plan to make the purchase tomorrow. I don't see how we can go wrong with this stove. Once we commit to it we can turn our attention to making a proper hearth for our new stove before it is installed. The dealer said that he is willing to do the first burn for us in his stockroom so that we won't have to suffer through the fumes; it is too cold to open the doors and windows and do the first burn ourselves and we have pets to consider. So our stove will come ready to get to work and we'll be able to see lovely flames as the wood burns. Sigh. I can hardly wait.
 
I think you'll love your Alderlea T5 as much as we do! I thought I'd finally post a photo of ours in action! As you can see, it's in an alcove off of an already narrow room. We opted to tile the entire addition floor rather than building up a hearth. Space was already tight and I figured a hearth was just one more thing for me to trip over. The entryway is out of sight to the right, and includes a wood rack. You can also see how close to a non-combustible surface the stove can go, although I may yet design and build a tiled backing behind it. Relax and ENJOY! And again, thanks to all who helped us with our choice, and to Tom the Chimney Sweep (Bellingham, WA) for being such a terrific dealer to work with!
 

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Thanks for the picture Sue. That's a very cozy scene; the stove looks great. I like the tiled area a lot.
 
Sue, your stove does look very classy in your lovely, cozy room. Thanks for posting the photo. I like the black of the stove with the terra cotta look of the walls and tiles. The space looks very warm and inviting. Like you, we are planning to tile the whole area rather than build up a hearth, even though I think that raising the stove a few inches may help reduce the strain on the back when loading as well as help put the view of the fire a bit closer to eye level when you are seated. I understand why a lot of people do build up their hearth, for these reasons and probably other ones as well, but with our small entryway with the back door so close to our stove I think it will be more practical to keep the floor on one level. No need to make it easier to take an unplanned trip!

I don't know yet what to do with the walls. I love looking at other people's hearths and have seen some gorgeous ones in the gallery here but find it challenging to plan one for my own house. You know how hard it is when space is at a premium to dedicate a big chunk of space to one item. If I can't put anything combustible behind my stove I would at least like the area to be interesting visually. The walls may have to wait until warm weather, though. That will give me more time to plan and dream.
 
As long as the clearances are honored, you can leave the walls just plain for now. Later on, when you feel the inspiration you can paint a mural back there or do a nice tile or stonework surround. But if you intend to use stone, be sure to take their depth in account when locating the stove.
 
I forget the details but I know we did some research on how to prep the floor properly for the weight of the stove. We also had to have extra support because of the seasonal shifting of a house built on permafrost. Take your time, keep your heart and mind open, and enjoy the process of creating your special new home!
 
Here's a pic of my Super 27 in a corner install. The 4" clearance to combustibles on the corners is increadible and one of the deciding factors for me.

Picture724.jpg
 
If you ever take that pipe apart you can trim down that appliance adapter so the double wall pipe sits right on the flue collar. That PE is a hard stove not to love.
 
DuckDog, that is a very classy corner install! It looks similar to what I had in mind for our stove, with the tile floor and white beadboard on the walls. Very nice. I hope that ours looks this good when we finally get it done. Thanks for the pic.
 
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