VC Defiant Flexburn compared to other stoves

John Kuhn Posted By John Kuhn, Dec 29, 2017 at 10:53 PM

  1. John Kuhn

    John Kuhn
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    Hi all,
    First time poster, short time lurker here. What brings me is that my 20 year old Defiant (model #1910) is finally needing some major work, after being our main source of heat (2400 sq ft two story house) for those 20 years here in Wisconsin. I noticed that the top casting is developing a hairline crack radiating inward away from the griddle. Beyond that the biscuit enamal is getting rough from various careless knocks and little water splashes from refilling the humidty pot on the griddle. I'm on my second catalyst, still working well, and when I replaced the first one I also replaced the refractory box, which had gotten fragile. Not sure what the material is, but it's kind of a soft synthetic insulating material. I think I replaced the gaskets on the griddle and on the ash drawer once. So all in all, not bad service. I did check availability of parts, and amazingly I could get a new top for $200 if I though I'd be able to get it apart and back together again. Looks like other parts available as well, but still planning to replace it.

    I created a spreadsheet to compare the new Defiant Flexburn with a number of other stoves that have a roughly 3 cu.ft. firebox. There are a lot of nice stoves out there to choose from. From the short time I've been reading these forums, it seems people are pretty down on VC, or at least the most vocal people are. I talked to a multibrand (VC and BK) dealer to ask their opinion about VC quality, and she claimed they'd made significant improvements after the latest buyout. I'd like to have the Defiant as one of the replacement candidates because it has a nice combination of features. One being the top loading (not sure why all stoves don't offer that, gravity is your friend on a top loader, and smoke never enters the house). Another being the swing out ash drawer which can be filled by scraping ashes through the grate, no complicated trapdoor, slides, latch, etc. Another is the optional warming shelves which can be equipped with the "mitten rack" rods, which are pretty handy. Ability to either run with catalyst or not seems like a plus, although I prefer having the cat.
    On the negative side, I understand a cast iron stove that is cemented together is likely neither as durable nor as serviceable as one with a welded firebox with add on decorative castings. So my first question is what am I missing on the negative side?

    One of my top considerations for replacement is the Woodstock Progress Hybrid. I spoke to the company, and they said the firebox is a welded assembly, with the soapstone on both inside and outside, and decoratives castings outside, so seemingly a more serviceable alternative to the cemented VC. Questions for you Progress owners:
    Does it take a long time to get heat out of it from cold start, due to all the mass? Our retired routine unless it's really cold is to let the fire die out in the afternoon when the house gets into the 70's, and then by morning it's down to 60 and I restart the fire. If it's cold like now, I keep the fire going during the night, and just reload in the morning.
    How about the lack of thermostat to vary the draft airflow. Most manufacturers have them and tout the benefits. Do you have to manually fiddle with the airflow a lot to get it dialed in during the daily burn? If it works well without the thermostat, then great, one less thing to go wrong. Temperatures easy to control?
    Blaze King Ashford 30.1 is another candidate. Seems like super long burn time is the big selling point, but not sure if that's their hype or not compared to other stoves of equal firebox size. Not a fan of front loader but would consider it if everything else pointed that way. Dealer said it would be most effective with the fan kit, to force air through the gap between the firebox and top casting. That would mean either a cord or drilling through my limestone hearth to route power. Dealer said she sells more BK than VC. One downside for me is only 18" log length max, a lot shorter than my current 25".

    Lopi Cape Cod is another possibility, but appears to have the same construction as VC (cemented castings). The Green Start option looks pretty slick, but I'd have to run power. Read about some early quality problems, not sure if that's been resolved.

    Pacific Energy Alderlea T6, and Quadrafire Explorer III seem decent, but no catalyst for efficiency.

    I would think all the stoves are pretty similar in terms of max heat output, given similar efficiency and firebox size. Any comments on that, or other things that I'm missing in this comparison? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
     
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  2. defiant3

    defiant3
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    Changes to the V.C. line have benn small but significant, and I would argue that if you've done well with the ole 1910 then the newer Defiant will be even better. The internals are more durable for one thing, but again if you didn't have to replace a bunch of cast parts or the refractory in the old stove, I'd say you'll have no trouble with the new one. I fix these for a living and can say that the Flexburn system SO FAR has proven itself far more reliable than any of the Catalytic OR non-catalytic stoves from V.C.. Wouldn't be afraid to give it a try. Also, the new owners looklike they'll stay in the game, and so their warranty is credible. That has been a big problem previously with past ownership changes!

    BTW, the stove is actually gasketed, not cemented together. Seems to be working quite well! Welded steel is forever though, let's face it.
     
  3. John Kuhn

    John Kuhn
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    Thanks for the feedback, defiant3! I actually did replace the refractory once on my current stove.
    Have you ever seen a stovetop crack before? Noticed this morning that the hairline crack on the top seems to be growing, mainly visible when the stove is cooler, almost disappears when stovetop is 500+. As you're facing the stove and looking down, if it was a map you'd say the crack is starting at the griddle edge at 10 o'clock and heading northwest.
     
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  4. RandyBoBandy

    RandyBoBandy
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    This is great news. I am currently running an encore 2250 (yes 2250 not 2550). I plan on rebuilding over the summer and once it's wore out again I am looking to buy new. I was thinking I would was going to switch over to the dark side and get an ashford 30 but really don't want to. VC detail in their castings are far more appealing than any other stove I have seen in person.
     
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  5. bholler

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    For me vc has a long way to go before i would ever concider recomending one to a customer of mine. And there absolutly will never be one in my house. Yes they have gotten better. But the durability of the combustion system and the ease of use is still a complete joke when compared to most others on the market.
     
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  6. defiant3

    defiant3
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    bholler I can't disagree, but I don't share your passionate distaste. For many years, the Encores, Acclaims, and some Defiants both catalytic and non-ct. were overly complicated, prone to failure, and expensive to maintain. As other companies have simplified and refined their design and ease of operation, V.C. has lagged way behind. I feel they're on the right track with the 2 in 1 flexburn system,and I'm interested to see their newest addition to the line, the Dauntless, which is replacing the Resolute Acclaim. Thank goodness!,

    One cannot overlook the fact (though it is definitely subjective) that V.C. has always offered features and architechture that are unsurpassed. So we'll see, I feel there may be hope yet! I too have been reluctant to have a newer V.C. stove knowing what I know. I'm still burning an old Defiant 3, but I'm starting to like what I see now and who knows, a NEW Defiant may grace my hearth one day.
     
  7. John Kuhn

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    bholler, I get the durability question aspect which needs to be proven, and in fact my refractory box did have to be replaced once. But regarding ease of use, can you be more specific? It would appear the Defiant Flexburn is similar to my old one, with air control for temp, bypass lever for cat, just like other stoves. I'd give it high marks for top loading and ash removal, but maybe you're referring to unpredictability of temperature control or something else like that? That hasn't been a problem on the old one.
     
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  8. bholler

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    I am talking about the fact that all down draft designs are very tempermental to operate. What other stoves have you run? The majority of vc owners that we work for that switch to any non downdraft stove are impressed by how much less tempermental the new stove is. And honestly most of them loved their vc and thought it worked fine.
     
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  9. bholler

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    I realky hope they do turn things around. But i have seen way to many customers dump way to much money into their vc and wait way to long for parts. Only to have to do it again in a few years. Yes they have improved recently but like i said it will take allot to regain my trust.

    As far as the architecture goes jotul and hamptons are every bit as good if not better. And really the only really different feature they have is top load. But to do it they cant get away from the down draft design. Which has inherent problems.
     
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  10. John Kuhn

    John Kuhn
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    I have not run any other stoves, hence my questions. Still not exactly sure what you mean by temperamental, just trying to learn about the alternatives. If in fact downdraft stoves have inherent problems, I guess that would explain why there are few top loaders. I never felt my stove was temperamental, but I always use dry wood, sized reasonably, and know what draft settings work best to maintain my stove temps, so it doesn't sit there smoldering too cold.

    bholler, do you have experience with or opinion about the Progress Hybrid? What would be your "go to" 3 cu. ft. stove?
     
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  11. bholler

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    You may be one that has it down. We have some customers who do a very good job of burning their vcs. But the vast majority of the chimneys we work on that have vcs run into them are much dirtier than any other clean burn stoves. Other than harmans who are the other ones who are stuck on a damn down draft design. They simply are hard to run well. I will also say that you experince of only replacing you cat and combustion package once in 20 years is very non typical. Most full time burners replace the cat every 2 to 5 years and the cimbustion package every 5 or so.
     
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  12. John Kuhn

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    Thanks for the extra detail. Sounds like temperamental means too easy to run the stove wrong, causing the cat to fail early. My second refractory box is getting fragile again, and probably the cat is getting old now, as I don't see it glow as often. I clean my chimney once a year (probably not often enough), but only get maybe a pint or a little more soot out of the chimney, which is 8" double wall stainless roughly 20' high.
     
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  13. bholler

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    A pint or so a year is very good. The majority of them i clean we get a minimum of a gallon usually 2 or 3. How much wood do you burn? Because 10 years on a cat is really long.
     
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  14. John Kuhn

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    I only need to burn about three full cords a year, and it's mostly dry quality hardwood, hickory, red oak, sugar maple, ironwood, and a bit of ash or elm. The only time I need to run the stove 24/7 is when we have weather like this, below zero or single digits, or with extended cloudy weather. Otherwise, I start a fire in the morning with the house maybe 60-65, and by the time it reaches around 75, it will be sometime in the afternoon, and I just let the fire go out. Often there are no coals in the morning, but I just start all over.
    What model stove that's my size do you think works the best?
     
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  15. bholler

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    Works best is a very open question. What works best depends on your needs. But from the description of your heating needs it sounds to me like the low burn of a bk would serve your needs well.
     
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  16. John Kuhn

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    Great, thanks for sharing your opinion on that.
    You got me wondering about my catalyst, so I pulled the file, and both it and the refractory were replaced fall of '08, so if it makes it the rest of this season, which looks to be the case, that would be 10 years. So, 30 cords of wood through it. Maybe some people just burn so much more wood, they don't last as long.
     
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  17. Joyboy

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    It doesn’t take long to start getting heat. Not as fast as a steel stove. The soapstone is slower to heat up but slower to cool down than steel stoves. Once you figure out how to start and reload the stove there isn’t much fiddling with the air control needed. You can look up the steps to that on the Woodstock website. Temperature is easy to control.

    In my stove search I was down to the progress hybrid and ashford 30. I chose the progress because I think it has a higher top end for heat output but was attracted to the long burn times and low heat output ability of the ashford.
     
  18. John Kuhn

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    Thanks for the feedback, Joyboy! Looks like our searches were pretty much headed in the same direction. I'd sure like to find somebody in our area who has a Progress, so I can see it in person. Dealer near Madison has both VC and BK, so will be taking a trip there.
     
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  19. John Kuhn

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    I also noted the high maximum heat output of the Progress. I found the heat output EPA specs for the three stoves on my list:

    Defiant: 11.4K - 34.1K BTU/hr
    Progress: 12.5K - 73.2K BTU/hr
    Ashford: 6.1K -28.6K BTU/hr

    The Progress is rated significantly higher, and that's also the case for the Woodstock Ideal Steel max of 57K, using a similar firebox and process to Progress. Other 3 cu ft stoves all tend to be in the high 30's to low 40's. How is it that the Woodstock hybrids are statistical standouts--do they really have the potential of higher max heat output?
     
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  20. edyit

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    i don't know where or how they come up with those numbers but maybe it's because of the "hybrid" technology, the combination of catalyst and secondary air, or i could be completely dead wrong but thats my guess
     
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  21. SuperJ

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    If you were happy with the VC I don't think you'd regret either the Ashford or the Progress. I wish there were more Woodstock owners around here.
    If I bought a second stove for my basement it would be Woodstock, just cause I like things that are a bit different.

    Since you're okay with letting your VC go out in the afternoons, the Progress's shorter burn times might not be much of a minus. I bet the Progress will stretch a load of wood longer than the VC ever did on low. The Progress seems to run cleaner than a BK at high burn rates, but the BK spanks everything down low. Another thing to consider is whether or not fans will help you out. Most BKs have fan kits available, but I don't think the Progress has fans, making it more of a radiant heater.

    To me the Progress is prettier (both in looks and with the secondary flame show at higher burn rates), but the BK has the added utility of the long burn coupled with their proven thermostat implementation and is still a good looker.

    Buying a stove is like buying a car though, some people wood by Honda's and Toyota's only for their reliability and long lifespan, but others (like me) tend to make some riskier purchases like VW's (and currently a Chevy Volt) because I enjoy the was a VW drives (decent handling and strong little turbo motors are fun), or the plug in hybrid tech in my Volt.

    A VC stove seems kind've like a Jaguar, incredibly good looking if you can deal with the service. Educated owners who know what they are getting into are happy though.

    BK burn times are definitely not hype, there are many people around here who have surpassed the marketed burn time on occasion.
     
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  22. Rearscreen

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    Although not a perfect stove, and I've owned many brands, there are other attributes to the Progress that in my opinion makes it unique, versatile, beautiful, and easy to operate.
     
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  23. John Kuhn

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    I like the car analogy, having owned VW's, Honda's and Toyota's!
    No doubt in my mind the benefit of the burn time on the BK, even shows up with the EPA spec for lower BTU/hr at the low end. My own personal discomfort with having a smoldering fire would mean I'd have to make a mental adjustment to running it that way. Regarding the fan, my preference would be to run the stove without the fan, like my VC, as otherwise would have to run power to that location, and I like the silence of no fan if possible, since it's already working well that way for me right now. If the Progress stretched wood farther than my Defiant on low, that would be a plus, even if not as good as BK.
     
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  24. John Kuhn

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    Rearscreen, assuming you are a Progress owner now, and you have owned many stoves, do you have any comment about the rated max heat output of Progress, as shown by the EPA data being significantly higher than others? Seems counter intuitive with the soapstone, but maybe it just takes time for it to react, or they are measuring more heat out with a longer cool down period. Not really understanding how they would achieve such a high max heat output rating, wondering if it shows in real life.
     
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  25. Joyboy

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    There have been several threads on the validity of epa numbers. I can’t make heads or tails of them myself.
    I can tell you the progress puts out massive amounts of heat. A lot more than the Lopi Leyden stove that I had before this. Which the manufacturer claimed put out 73k and epa claimed 34k. On a full load of pine the hybrid can burn 12 hours or 3, maybe less,if you want to push it. That’s about the extent of my scientific data. :)

    I would love to try the ashford to compare but doubt I will unless I win the lottery. Lol
     

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