smoke and smell from Jotul Kennebec c450

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coreyb

New Member
Jan 14, 2019
3
Newburyport, MA
Hey folks. We moved into a house with a Jotul Kennebec c450 insert. It looks great and I feel like we should love it but I just haven't been able to figure out how to use it without smoking out the house and my wife is ready to rip it out and replace it with gas logs. My 2 year old woke up with a dry cough this morning I feel like it might be harmful to our health. I feel like I've gotten a bit better at it with every time I've used it but my entire 2200 sq ft house strongly smells like a camp fire and I am not sure we'll be about to get the smell out of our couches, rugs, bedding, etc. HELP.

Here's my setup as best I can describe it: I have an external chimney with a liner and cap and the chimney is roughly 20' tall?

Here's my current process:
1. clean out the ashes
2. lay 2 logs flat on the bottom
3. place some kindling on top of the logs
4. place 3 firestarter squares on top and light them
5. use a bellows tube (basically a long metal straw) to keep the fire going

questions/concerns:
1. I always leave the lever to the right. When a fire is out should I move the lever to the left (closed) so as to avoid the insert getting too cold?
2. Am I smoking out because I'm not properly warming the flue so as to reverse the air flow? If so, what's the best way to do that? I tried this most recent time to light some crumpled newspaper on fire to warm up the flue but I don't think it worked - perhaps it wasn't enough heat for a long enough time or perhaps I wasn't holding the newspaper ball in the right location inside the insert?
3. When I turn the fan on high lots of ash debris blows out above the insert so I can only set the fan to low so I feel like I'm losing out on a lot of potential heat movement. If I look in the space above the insert where I think I see the flue pipe I do see a pile of ash. What does that mean - why would there be ash there?
4. Once I get a fire going for an hour or two should I move the air lever or should I leave it all the way to the right?
5. I've seen videos on Youtube where they simply load up the insert/stove with wood, kindling, and some sort of starter square or newspaper, light it, close it, and poof they have a fire. If I do the same the fire dies instantly and smoke comes pouring out of the cracks around the doors so I have to keep the doors open and constantly tend it for a the first 20-30mins to make sure the fire has established itself.
6. I cleaned off the glass when we moved in in hopes that we'd be able to see the beautiful flames of our fire but after a half dozen uses the glass it black again and you can barely see the fire unless it's raging. Is that normal? If not, what does that indicate?

Sorry for all the info, but hopefully it helps me diagnose what the heck I'm doing wrong or if there's perhaps something wrong with my insert setup. I'd love to love this thing but after only a half dozen fires I'm pretty over it. THANKS!!!
 
Last edited:

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,563
Southeast CT
Have you had the stove and liner/ chimney inspected to determine if in good working order?
Your # 3 above seems odd. Maybe some ash gets sucked into the blowers but should not be a “pile”.
 
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jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,335
Long Island NY
There are a number of things that would be needed to establish what the issue is. First did you read the manual? It's available on the Jotul website. This will give the basics on air control.

Is this stove in a basement or lower level of a multi-story home? Is it an exterior chimney? Smoke should not come out. Is there a proper liner and cap?

questions/concerns:
1. I always leave the lever to the right. When a fire is out should I move the lever to the left (closed) so as to avoid the insert getting too cold?

Primary air should be wide open at start and closed slowly as the fire builds.

2. Am I smoking out because I'm not properly warming the flue so as to reverse the air flow? If so, what's the best way to do that? I tried this most recent time to light some crumpled newspaper on fire to warm up the flue but I don't think it worked - perhaps it wasn't enough heat for a long enough time or perhaps I wasn't holding the newspaper ball in the right location inside the insert?

See above ques.

3. When I turn the fan on high lots of ash debris blows out above the insert so I can only set the fan to low so I feel like I'm losing out on a lot of potential heat movement. If I look in the space above the insert where I think I see the flue pipe I do see a pile of ash. What does that mean - why would there be ash there?

No debris from the fire should come out the vent. It may just be accumulated dust from not being used but if its something else then something is seriously wrong.


4. Once I get a fire going for an hour or two should I move the air lever or should I leave it all the way to the right?

Get the manual and give it a quick read.

5. I've seen videos on Youtube where they simply load up the insert/stove with wood, kindling, and some sort of starter square or newspaper, light it, close it, and poof they have a fire. If I do the same the fire dies instantly and smoke comes pouring out of the cracks around the doors so I have to keep the doors open and constantly tend it for a the first 20-30mins to make sure the fire has established itself.

Ques 5&6 are the same answer, sounds like wet wood. Firewood for this stove needs to be cut, split and stacked (CSS) in a dry location for at least a year if not more to be usable (<20% moisture). A number of your issues point to wet firewood.

6. I cleaned off the glass when we moved in in hopes that we'd be able to see the beautiful flames of our fire but after a half dozen uses the glass it black again and you can barely see the fire unless it's raging. Is that normal? If not, what does that indicate?


If this home/insert are new to you I would have it cleaned and inspected to be sure you don't have a blockage due to excessive creosote from previous use by uninformed owner and that it was installed with a full 6" liner. If it doesn't have a liner or a proper connection to the flue you cannot use it.
 

mellow

Resident Stove Connoisseur
Jan 19, 2008
5,258
Salisbury, MD
Sounds like you have draft issues. As mentioned have you had a pro come out and look at your setup, that should have been done before a match was ever lit on an unknown/new to you install.

It sounds like ash is falling through the ash lip and going under, you might want to clean the fan area underneath.

My old thread has pictures of the inside so you can see what your working with: https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/got-the-itch-again-jotul-c450-kennebec.120801/
 

weatherguy

Minister of Fire
Feb 20, 2009
5,805
Central Mass
Check the cap, might have build up and is restricting sir flow.
 

coreyb

New Member
Jan 14, 2019
3
Newburyport, MA
THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR REPLIES!!! I really appreciate you taking the time to chime in. Here are my replies...

Have you had the stove and liner/ chimney inspected to determine if in good working order?
My home inspection was very thorough and he inspected the chimney, liner, and cap and gave it a clean bill of health. But it does sound like I should have someone come out and give it a through inspection. Thanks!

There are a number of things that would be needed to establish what the issue is. First did you read the manual? It's available on the Jotul website. This will give the basics on air control.

Is this stove in a basement or lower level of a multi-story home? Is it an exterior chimney? Smoke should not come out. Is there a proper liner and cap?

If this home/insert are new to you I would have it cleaned and inspected to be sure you don't have a blockage due to excessive creosote from previous use by uninformed owner and that it was installed with a full 6" liner. If it doesn't have a liner or a proper connection to the flue you cannot use it.
I read the manual and see the info about the lever. I have the lever set about 40% open right now and that seems to be working nicely. Should I close it completely (all the way to the left) when the fire is dying/out to prevent the insert from getting cold or will that not really have any effect? I'm thinking about the next time I go to fire it up and want to have it as warm as possible in the box to be able to warm up the flue more quickly.

It's in a family room extension / bump-out on the first floor. As I mentioned in my OP, it's an exterior chimney with a liner and cap. I'm not sure of the dimension of the liner. I should get up on a ladder and measure it to make sure it's 6", yes?

My home inspector did give the chimney and thorough inspection and gave it his stamp of approval but it does sound like having a specialist come and check out the entire system would be a good idea. Thanks! And thanks for your answers to my questions as well... the wood I'm using was dried/seasoned according to the guy who sold it to me. It seems good to me - rock solid, lightweight, etc but it is producing a lot of smoke out the chimney and I'm thinking fire wood should burn a little cleaner than this.

Sounds like you have draft issues. As mentioned have you had a pro come out and look at your setup, that should have been done before a match was ever lit on an unknown/new to you install.

It sounds like ash is falling through the ash lip and going under, you might want to clean the fan area underneath.

My old thread has pictures of the inside so you can see what your working with: https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/got-the-itch-again-jotul-c450-kennebec.120801/
Yup it sounds like having someone come inspect the entire thing would be a good idea. Thanks!

Check the cap, might have build up and is restricting sir flow.
The home inspector checked it thoroughly and said it was in good shape. Thanks!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,791
South Puget Sound, WA
How tall is the liner on this insert?

When was the fire wood purchased or cut? Have you tried running the insert with a different source of firewood that is known to be dry?

Follow mellow's post to remove the blower assembly and vacuum out that area as well as cleaning the blower.
 

coreyb

New Member
Jan 14, 2019
3
Newburyport, MA
How tall is the liner on this insert?

When was the fire wood purchased or cut? Have you tried running the insert with a different source of firewood that is known to be dry?

Follow mellow's post to remove the blower assembly and vacuum out that area as well as cleaning the blower.
I'd guess the liner is about 15-20'.

I haven't tried with another source of firewood but I really want to locate some so test out. I'm guessing the grocery store stuff isn't the best, but maybe I'm wrong on that?
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,563
Southeast CT
I don’t think that grocery store stuff is all that dry.
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,563
Southeast CT
I see you’re in MA. Should you find yourself traveling along 95 in CT, I could give you a bit of dry wood to try out.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,791
South Puget Sound, WA
I'd guess the liner is about 15-20'.

I haven't tried with another source of firewood but I really want to locate some so test out. I'm guessing the grocery store stuff isn't the best, but maybe I'm wrong on that?
It wouldn't hurt to try. You could also try mixing in some 2x4 cut-offs with the current load in the insert.
 
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jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,335
Long Island NY
If you're sure you have a liner then as I said a number of your problems sound like wet wood. One other question though is when starting the stove from a cold start do you ever feel cold air rushing down? Trying to understand why your house smells of smoke.
 

ShawnLiNY

Member
Dec 13, 2018
223
Ny
Be sure to turn off any kitchen or bathroom exhaust , clothes dryer . And any forced air system to see if this effects smoke situation , as above part of your issue sounds wood related as suggested construction scraps , pallet wood are all available almost everywhere lastly you can purchase compressed wood logs at any hardware or home store ( I’d stay away from gas station or supermarket wood ) even stuff labeled kiln dried may only be to kill insects and not for reducing moisture content
 

SculptureOfSound

Feeling the Heat
Sep 9, 2017
372
Wisconsin, USA
The cap can plug up quick with bad wood, especially if it's a thin mesh cap. By quick I mean in like a week or two. So it may have been good when the inspector checked but could be bad now.

If ash blows out of the blower continuously, or other than a moment or two after the fan kicks on, I'd be worried that there's a hole between the firebox and convective jacket. That would explain smoke smell too, and would be a very dangerous situation
 
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Newwave

Member
Apr 18, 2012
42
coreyb,
My 2 cents worth:
There is a learning curve for operating your stove no matter which brand. Become familiar with the owners manual asap. Find a reputable fireplace/stove seller who services stoves and chimneys. Yelp is good for this. Have the guy (gal) check out the stove thoroughly, clean the chimney liner and look over with a critical eye your entire system. Pick his brain about stove operation, where to buy quality firewood and any question you have. Ask the expert in front of you.

I have the Jotul Rockland CB550 insert and I love it. Took a while to learn how to operate it properly but now it works like a champ. I light my stove this way: Close the damper all the way to the left, for a cold stove start that hasn't been used for a few days I need to first create a strong draft--put two, 3 to 4 inch, 15%-20% moisture split pieces in the stove horizontally one in front and one in back, crumple several pieces of newspaper and stuff between the logs, next in a cris-cross pattern place some medium pieces of kindling then the same cris-cross pattern on top of that with some fine kindling (split kiln dried 2 by 4's work great for this. Then fill the remaining volume of the stove interior with crumpled newspaper. You want to use more than you think, fill the stove with crumpled newspaper, you want to get the newspaper, kindling, etc going quickly thereby generating lots of heat quickly to push up the cold air that's inside the chimney. With the door open quickly light the newspaper on the bottom of both sides and in the middle beneath the kindling. When you see the newspaper start to catch (about 20-30 seconds) quickly open the damper all the way to the right while closing the door until it's only open about one inch. This creates a wind tunnel effect and usually does not let any smoke into the room. When properly done, the newspaper should start up rather dramatically and create the draft you want, lighting the fine and medium kindling and eventually the two logs you put in to start. You need to stay and monitor this process until the fire starts to really catch. Once it does, try and close the door fully and latch it. If the fire dies down too much, open it up again and wait a few more minutes. Usually within 5-10 minutes you can close the door. Once the door is closed, find some smaller splits to add to the fire a couple pieces at a time. Add these pieces once the kindling gets going good, about 15-30 minutes. After that just bear in mind that the damper is still wide open; you will want to start closing down the damper once the fire gets going hot usually in about 45 min to an hour. I close mine halfway at first and watch the fire and the temp. You do have a stove thermometer don't you? Your goal is to close the damper almost completely to the left over the course of an hour or so. By doing this the stove operates most efficiently by re-burning the gases coming off the firewood in the stove. You can see this by viewing the burner tubes at the top inside the stove while its operating. Really cool to turn out the lights in the room and watch the fire with your honey.

Buy a moisture meter to confirm the moisture content of your wood. I recommend you buy/acquire some kiln dried wood; 2 by 4's or other kiln dried firewood to ensure the stove is working properly. About wood--rarely can you buy wood that is dry enough to perform well in a stove. I know this from sad experience. I solved this by buying 8 cord and storing it top covered on pallets. After two years it burns well, after three years it is fantastic. If this is too much quantity for you then buy what you think you will burn in a year, 2 years ahead. Stack it covered on pallets and let it season for the two years-it's like money in the bank. Many folks cut and split their own wood but I buy mine from a trusted source and have it delivered and dumped. I stack and cover myself. This way I know exactly when the wood was split and stacked, a key to good firewood.

Good luck!