VC Montpelier vs. Drolet 1800 - draft and heat output

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john is burning

New Member
Oct 14, 2020
12
NJ
Hello all,

My home had a Vermont Castings Montpelier insert (the original, not the newer "2" model) installed by the previous owner. These are highly regarded and pretty expensive, so I was disappointed when my first winter in the home last year was riddled with draft issues and poor heat output. My previous home had a Drolet 1800 insert which appeared to have better drafting and better heat output. But they are two different houses, so I didn't think much of it.

My wood stove guy (after inspecting and testing the unit to confirm that it was working properly, not obstructed etc) insisted that a new stove wouldn't resolve the poor draft. He said it was my house/chimney. We even installed a 4 ft extension on the chimney, which barely helped. I did everything else - turned off the radon fans, cracked a window, turned off the bathroom fans etc. No matter what, the Montpelier wouldn't draft right. It pulled in smoke every time I opened the door, no matter what I did, no matter how slowly I opened it. I literally couldn't rake the coals without my house smelling like BBQ. I also came onto these forums and found that all of his points about drafting and the unit were seemingly valid. I can't imagine anyone on here telling me to sell the Montpelier if I brought up draft problems.

However, I felt strongly that it was the Montpelier, so I sold it online (got $2k for it!) and bought a Drolet 1800 insert. PROBLEM SOLVED. Draft is very strong, it burns super clean, and it gets HOT. The VC would barely support my baseboard heat. The Drolet forces me to completely turn off my baseboard heat. Plus I actually profited off the transaction. The Drolet, shipped and installed, was $1650. My buyer obviously paid to have the VC moved to their house.

I attribute the poor draft to two things VC did poorly with this model: 1. the top of the unit is angled in such a way that promotes smoke/heat to rise out of the unit. With many fireplaces this is also the case, but they have giant open flues that draft well. 2. VC just didn't set the baffle/flue up for a good draft. It's too tight. I'm assuming they built it tight to keep emissions down, but they didn't do a good job of it since the Montpelier has over double the amount of particulate emissions as the Drolet.

So my feedback is this: If your Montpelier pulls smoke into your house and you are sure that you are doing everything right, you are not crazy. It's the unit. There are other better inserts, often cheaper, that look good and do a MUCH better job of heating your house and getting the smoke where it should go - UP the chimney.

ps - The larger firebox in the Drolet makes a huge difference too. The Montpelier had me struggling to fit normal pieces of firewood in it. The Drolet lets you load north south or east west, with pieces larger than their spec sheet states.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,301
South Puget Sound, WA
That's good news. It's great that this has worked out for you. Drolet and PE stoves tend to be easy breathers. They often work with weaker draft where other stoves do not. This is usually due to the path air has to take to get to the airwash and to the secondary tubes. Some stoves are pretty direct with a short path and others run the air through a longer path, presumably with the intent to preheat it. It's not a flaw per se, the Montpelier will install in shallower fireplaces and may work better than the Drolet with say a 30' flue liner.

The other difference is that a shallow firebox is going to be more likely to spill smoke in a weak draft situation than a deeper firebox. We have an almost ideal flue setup, but when it was over 50º outside the Castine, with its large door and E/W firebox would spill smoke, no matter how careful I was. The T6 with its deep belly does fine in the same circumstance.
 
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john is burning

New Member
Oct 14, 2020
12
NJ
Thanks, begreen. I hadn't considered the depth, only the angled ceiling. Your point about a 30' flue is a good one. I made sure to share my reason for selling with the buyer, and both he and the wood stove installer agreed that their very tall chimney on their tall colonial home (probably upwards of 30'...) would draft the Montpelier properly. What disapoints me is that VC has this reputation and price point that makes you think their products should "just work", and work well. I am surprised that the unit is this finicky. My flue is not short - with the extension we're at about 20ft and the math regarding roof height/angle is very strong. But at the end of the day, its a ranch home with a shorter flue, so maybe that's it.
 
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mgssrs

New Member
Oct 25, 2020
11
Webb lake Wisconsin
Thanks, begreen. I hadn't considered the depth, only the angled ceiling. Your point about a 30' flue is a good one. I made sure to share my reason for selling with the buyer, and both he and the wood stove installer agreed that their very tall chimney on their tall colonial home (probably upwards of 30'...) would draft the Montpelier properly. What disapoints me is that VC has this reputation and price point that makes you think their products should "just work", and work well. I am surprised that the unit is this finicky. My flue is not short - with the extension we're at about 20ft and the math regarding roof height/angle is very strong. But at the end of the day, its a ranch home with a shorter flue, so maybe that's it.
I have the same problem with my Montpelier. On cold starts I can not get the draft going up for nothing and smoke always comes in. And I'm not thrilled with the heat it puts out.
 

john is burning

New Member
Oct 14, 2020
12
NJ
I have the same problem with my Montpelier. On cold starts I can not get the draft going up for nothing and smoke always comes in. And I'm not thrilled with the heat it puts out.

Does this also occur when you load the stove? Or does the draft get stronger once the stove gets going?
 

mgssrs

New Member
Oct 25, 2020
11
Webb lake Wisconsin
Does this also occur when you load the stove? Or does the draft get stronger once the stove gets going?
It does get stronger but a little smoke will come in when I reload.
The main problem is getting the draft to go up when cold. I've tried all the usual things. News paper, top down fire, opening a window, hair dryer. I have been using a propane torch and putting it above the fiber board and right into the flu opening for 10 minutes and still have a down draft. I even tried putting an electric heater inside for 20 minutes.
Once it's been burning it relights fine. The problem is it's at my cabin so I have a cold start every week. Also we turn the heat down to 55 when we are gone so it's pretty cold. If I wait 24 hours to light it after warming up the cabin with the furnace it is better but then it's a short time before we leave again. Also its nice to have it the first night we are there to help warm the place up.
 

seabert

Member
Oct 25, 2013
103
Long Island
Interesting string here. My 8 year old Montpelier(original) works great despite only a 22' chimney. I have a bad down draft issue because of the chimney actually be on on a lower section of my home with the main roofline being 35' The problem with starting was resolved with dry wood and I use a "Yellow" grade torch to warm the flue then light the wood. This high temp torch was the ticket and now in only a few minutes I get a strong draft and an efficient burn. I have to cut back on the damper or it gets too hot. So for my application it works great.