Vermont Castings Winter Warm, try it or replace?

faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
Hi all,


After getting some awesome info from my first thread I'm hoping to take things in a bit different of a direction.

The wood stove in the house we are buying has been identified as a Vermont Castings Winter Warm Insert. Now based on what others have said and some research it seems these are a pretty lousy wood stove. Inefficient and a lot that needs maintenance. The seller disclosure did say the chimney was lined and had been cleaned in 2019 so I'd like to THINK it was decently maintained but I don't know for sure.

The current owners of the house definitely didn't use the stove as their main source of heat but my wife and I would like to use SOME insert as a replacement for the propane baseboard in the house; we are looking to save money and be more efficient. Note that the house is 2500sqft but we plan on mainly living on the first floor for the first 5 years of ownership.

The main question we have is, do we keep the VC Winter Warm in there and try to use it this season, or do we replace it? We don't want to have it crap out on us mid-season after we've bought a few cords of wood and then be pigeon holed into buying another wood stove because we already have some wood.

Currently there's no seasoned wood on the property so we will definitely have to try and buy some, or use ecobricks if that's a feasible option.

If we need to replace it, the wife and I are looking at this as an investment. We have no plans to move from the house for the next 20 years, though things obviously could change. The difficulty in replacement is deciding Wood or Pellet stove.

Some info:

The house is on .46 acres so there shouldn't be any expectation for free wood. Additionally I have no tools for chopping wood at this time. I do have time during the summer to prepare and chop wood but I'll need to buy some tools. We also will have to find a source for green wood though that shouldn't be too difficult as I have coworkers who can make recommendations.

I have read mixed info on whether a pellet stove or wood stove is better for heating a whole house. I know the wood takes much more work but I'm a glutton for new hobbies so that isn't a terrible thought. Not a fan of cleaning house but it can be done if the trade-off is worth it.

I suppose the answer to this question is a mix of knowledge and opinion but I would love to hear what you all have to say. For reference I'm 28 years old so I have the energy to do the chopping; my wife and I just want to make an educated decision, whether that means sticking with the Winter Warm as long as we can, replacing with a wood stove, or switching to a pellet stove for ease of use.

Also something else we were wondering, is there any increased danger to pets with a wood stove vs pellets? We have a dog and cat that love to play and sprint around the house. We would hate for one of them to get burnt badly.

Thank you all for your help!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,058
South Puget Sound, WA
The seller disclosure did say the chimney was lined and had been cleaned in 2019 so I'd like to THINK it was decently maintained but I don't know for sure.
Verify. Have this included in the cost of inspection. We can't tell much about the condition of the VC from a distant picture of the insert. If it's well maintained then it should get through the winter. Buying wood or a new insert at this time will be expensive. It is peak season now. It might be better to limp through this winter with kiln-dried wood if you can find it, or some compressed wood bricks and the propane heat. This will give you more time to research a replacement and get a better price in spring or summer. To start with you will need to know the full dimensions of the fireplace cavity.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,396
Iowa
If you plan on burning wood either way you may as well stock up on your wood supply so it has at least a year to season before next year. Research 3 year plan for seasoning firewood. Plenty to learn. Food for thought.
 
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faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
Verify. Have this included in the cost of inspection. We can't tell much about the condition of the VC from a distant picture of the insert. If it's well maintained then it should get through the winter. Buying wood or a new insert at this time will be expensive. It is peak season now. It might be better to limp through this winter with kiln-dried wood if you can find it, or some compressed wood bricks and the propane heat. This will give you more time to research a replacement and get a better price in spring or summer. To start with you will need to know the full dimensions of the fireplace cavity.
We will try to get a chimney sweep out there to inspect it.

IF it’s in functional condition, is this model efficient enough to be worth the expense of using (buying kiln dried wood or eco bricks as you mentioned)? We don’t want to be wasting our money if it would be out to use better by just getting a new insert....though it sounds like there are better discounts in the off-season?

Thanks for the info!


If you plan on burning wood either way you may as well stock up on your wood supply so it has at least a year to season before next year. Research 3 year plan for seasoning firewood. Plenty to learn. Food for thought.
part of the debate is definitely if we go wood stove or pellet upon replacement.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,058
South Puget Sound, WA
It's an old, complicated design, but If the catalyst is still in good shape, then it will put out decent heat. Again, we can't tell from a distant picture. If you want to replace now, then prepare to be on a waiting list for a good installer.

We had a pellet insert for 5 yrs. and finally sold it. It was convenient having it on a thermostat that turned it on in the morning before we got up. It used a bag of pellets a day in mild weather and two in colder weather. This was a Quadrafire 1200i. I liked that it was low maintenance, many are not, but eventually the noise of a small wood furnace in the living room overwhelmed the benefits. And we often have winter power outages that last more than 12 hrs. 15 yrs ago we switched back in wood with no regrets. The maintenance has been much lower. The stove is quiet, even if the blower is turned on, and the heat is better.

Previous thread link for reference:
 

john26

Feeling the Heat
Oct 27, 2008
276
Wildwood MO
If it is safe to use I would try using it, If you decide you don't like it start saving for a new efficient insert or start looking for a used if you are on a tight budget. This summer was a great time to pick up a used one with the new 2020's coming out and the housing market up. I noticed lots of nice used units for sale cheap last few years as people buy homes with wood burning appliances and are converting to gas.
 

faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
It's an old, complicated design, but If the catalyst is still in good shape, then it will put out decent heat. Again, we can't tell from a distant picture. If you want to replace now, then prepare to be on a waiting list for a good installer.

We had a pellet insert for 5 yrs. and finally sold it. It was convenient having it on a thermostat that turned it on in the morning before we got up. It used a bag of pellets a day in mild weather and two in colder weather. This was a Quadrafire 1200i. I liked that it was low maintenance, many are not, but eventually the noise of a small wood furnace in the living room overwhelmed the benefits. And we often have winter power outages that last more than 12 hrs. 15 yrs ago we switched back in wood with no regrets. The maintenance has been much lower. The stove is quiet, even if the blower is turned on, and the heat is better.

Previous thread link for reference:
I really appreciate the info and insight. We had been looking at the Harmon 52i but 5k with install is hard to stomach as new homeowners. Hopefully I can get an inspection appointment to really help give insight. I do have a home inspection on Wednesday so I may try to get more close up photos but to be honest I have no idea what I'm looking for....which is why a professional is definitely ideal.


If it is safe to use I would try using it, If you decide you don't like it start saving for a new efficient insert or start looking for a used if you are on a tight budget. This summer was a great time to pick up a used one with the new 2020's coming out and the housing market up. I noticed lots of nice used units for sale cheap last few years as people buy homes with wood burning appliances and are converting to gas.
I'm all about buying what I can used; unfortunately I don't know too much about wood or pellet stoves and additionally I'm not sure a professional installer would install a used unit...but maybe?
 

faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
Based on what I’m reading from old threads am I correct that I will have to use a ZC insert to replace the VC WW?

Ive been reading something about the VC Winter Warm being something kind of insert kit? Different from other inserts?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,058
South Puget Sound, WA
This will depend on what the sweep reports. The VC WinterWarm large was made as an insert to go into a masonry fireplace. They also made the Winterwarm 2100 which was a full ZC fireplace based on the Winterwarm design.
Things for the sweep to determine. Is the fireplace full masonry all the way up the chimney through the roof? Or is there a metal chimney on top? From the picture posted it looks like your system is a masonry fireplace with the WinterWarm insert.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
I might add that no pellet stove (other than a central pellet burning furnace) will heat an entire home comfortably, they just don't make enough BTU's

On the flip side. the cats sleep on top of ours when it's running, all the time. Make nice ornaments. We use ours to supplement the high efficiency propane central furnace and propane is pretty cheap here, in fact per realized BTU, quite a bit cheaper than pellets.
 

faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
I might add that no pellet stove (other than a central pellet burning furnace) will heat an entire home comfortably, they just don't make enough BTU's
Is this accurate when only considering inserts and not freestanding stoves?

I know wood stoves normally put off a lot more heat as freestanding so I imagine their ability to heat a full home as an insert is diminished...maybe putting them on par with a pellet insert?

All that being said I’ve also seen talk of masonry fireplaces being much better for wood stove inserts as the brick will absorb some of the heat and let it off into the room.

I know noise is definitely something we are thinking about but both wood and pellet inserts use fans.
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,170
Lackawaxen PA
From your initial post, heating with a stove is new to you. It's not very hard, but has a learning curve. I would put off making any changes until you see if it's for you. A new / different stove may run a bit different, but you have one that should work. Just make sure the cat is good.

I would look at the condition of the stove and chimney to insure they are safe. Then run it this winter. You'll need some seasoned wood.
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
5,252
07462
First, close on the house, whether the stove is good or not, if you like the house, property & location pull the trigger. Get moved in and settled, the first year in the new place will fly by, many adjustments need to happen and a woodstove might be last on the priorities, one thing you can do is buy a moisture meter on one of your many trips to the local home center.
The biggest step you can take on your first winter is to have the existing stove & chimney inspected by a true certified reputable sweep. Dont put a lot of faith into home inspectors, coming from experience here, a home inspector seems important on paper, but anyone with half a brain can look things over an just know whether something needs to be repaired or replaced.
If you do have the spare time and after the stove has been inspected, then experiment with it, theres no issue with going to the gas station and buying a few bundles of wood and maybe you local hardware store and getting some compressed wood bricks and making a small fire to see what your working with.
VC stoves made from the 2000's till about now are not my cup of tea, many people have more complaints then compliments, but thats not to say that your stove is no good, who knows, maybe the previous owners of your house used the insert for special occasions like holidays or long weekends only and just liked knowing they had a back up source of heat incase there was an emergency, don't discount anything until your in the place and settled.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,058
South Puget Sound, WA
I might add that no pellet stove (other than a central pellet burning furnace) will heat an entire home comfortably, they just don't make enough BTU's
There is a whole forum of people heating with pellet stoves here. We heated our house with a pellet insert for 5 yrs. Pellet stoves are just small furnaces. If the heat loss of the house is less than the output of the pellet stove (~40kBTUs) then the pellet stove will have no issue heating the house. It's a matter of stove output vs house heat loss and of stove location and the house floorplan. Our first floor is an open plan which makes heating easier. In a colonial with several closed-off rooms this would not be so.

I know noise is definitely something we are thinking about but both wood and pellet inserts use fans.
The difference is that a pellet stove has two blowers, one for combustion and one for convection. The combustion blower usually runs at a constant speed and the convection blower speed is usually variable. The combustion blower forces air under the pellets which creates a low roar or rumble, like a furnace. Some pellet stoves are quieter than others. They do this by using DC variable speed motors and better noise isolation. Stop in the pellet forum on this site and ask what is the quietest pellet stove insert. Search on "quietest" there. It's a common question.

Likewise, wood-burning inserts vary in blower noise. Some are fairly quiet, particularly when the blower is running at low or medium speed. Flush inserts are more dependent on the blower to convect heat than inserts that project out onto the hearth. Some inserts will heat the house with the blower off during milder shoulder season weather. Again, this varies with the insert location, design and house floorplan.
 
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SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
The difference is that a pellet stove has two blowers, one for combustion and one for convection. The combustion blower usually runs at a constant speed and the convection blower speed is usually variable. The combustion blower forces air under the pellets which creates a low roar or rumble, like a furnace. Some pellet stoves are quieter than others. They do this by using DC variable speed motors and better noise isolation. Stop in the pellet forum on this site and ask what is the quietest pellet stove insert. Search on "quietest" there. It's a common question.

Likewise, wood-burning inserts vary in blower noise. Some are fairly quiet, particularly when the blower is running at low or medium speed. Flush inserts are more dependent on the blower to convect heat than inserts that project out onto the hearth. Some inserts will heat the house with the blower off during milder shoulder season weather. Again, this varies with the insert location, design and house floorplan.
That depends entirely on square footage and design. We have a 2 story redone farmhouse and no way would any freestanding or insert pellet stove heat our home comfortably and I burn corn which yields a higher BTU content per volume than pellets do anyway.

You can only get so much milk out of a teat and that is it.

For us, there is no shoulder season unless you are referring to 100% central furnace which is what we do until the ambient outside temps get to the point where the furnace is running a lot and then I'll give it a hand with the biomass stove.

Way back when, we heated 100% with biomass and basically froze our butts off unless we were in the greatroom. Before having the Plus 90 condensing furnace and central ac installed.

Even when running the biomass stove I keep the central furnace blower on manual so the furnace filter, filters the air 100% of the time to keep the dust from the stove under control (and the cat hair too...)
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,058
South Puget Sound, WA
That depends entirely on square footage and design. We have a 2 story redone farmhouse and no way would any freestanding or insert pellet stove heat our home comfortably and I burn corn which yields a higher BTU content per volume than pellets do anyway.

You can only get so much milk out of a teat and that is it.

For us, there is no shoulder season unless you are referring to 100% central furnace which is what we do until the ambient outside temps get to the point where the furnace is running a lot and then I'll give it a hand with the biomass stove.

Way back when, we heated 100% with biomass and basically froze our butts off unless we were in the greatroom. Before having the Plus 90 condensing furnace and central ac installed.

Even when running the biomass stove I keep the central furnace blower on manual so the furnace filter, filters the air 100% of the time to keep the dust from the stove under control (and the cat hair too...)
Again, the house's heat loss and floorplan will determine this. Our 2000 sq ft old farmhouse was heated by pellet for 5 yrs. in our climate zone. Just like wood stoves, the sq ftg heated is going to vary greatly depending on these factors.
 

SidecarFlip

Minister of Fire
I suspect your geographical location is much more temperate than ours is. It can get downright cold and windy here, especially in January and February.

When we redid the house, we eliminated all the windows on the west side just for that reason. Prevailing winds here are from the west blowing east most of the time. Did away with the west side porch and entrance door as well. It can blow fierce here. It's all cropland and pretty flat so when the wind blows, you know it. Ok in the summer, in the winter, not so good. We have mature pines on the west side of the house that help a bit, wish I had more actually.
 

faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
Spoke to the highly rated hearth/chimney sweep expert in our area. He said he knows the VC WW well and generally they don’t even touch them because of the complexity(he named some stuff as to why it’s such a pain, I can’t recall).

He’s going to video call with me Wednesday to squeeze in a consultation during our home inspection time. Super cool to be able to do that on such short notice.

This will help at least verify what we have and if we can safely use it, otherwise we may need to look into a new insert and new liner setup( which I imagine is going to double my original budget for a new insert).

He did say depending on the liner if they can clean it really well and it’s the right size they can run a smaller line up inside of it. Basically if he can avoid breaking tile/brick it will save some cost and still be up to code

He said he’s been running this company for 17 years and is also a technician for a insulated liner company.

I’m hoping we get lucky and there’s already an insulated liner but based on what he’s familiar with in the area, the chances are extremely slim.

The wife and I just want to plan out what we’re working with; also this may help in negotiations after we finish inspections.
 

gthomas785

New Member
Feb 8, 2020
58
Central MA
Sorry I posted on your other thread before I saw this one. Sounds like you are on the right track. Once you get settled in to your house you'll be in a better position to figure out what kind of stove you want for the long term. But a thorough inspection by a competent professional is a good first step!

But in the mean time, if you think there's any chance you'll be burning wood next year or even the year after, get a decent amount of wood stacked up and covered asap!
 

faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
Sorry I posted on your other thread before I saw this one. Sounds like you are on the right track. Once you get settled in to your house you'll be in a better position to figure out what kind of stove you want for the long term. But a thorough inspection by a competent professional is a good first step!

But in the mean time, if you think there's any chance you'll be burning wood next year or even the year after, get a decent amount of wood stacked up and covered asap!
I'm just hoping we can get some use out of the current wood stove before I need to make that decision.

I'm all about new hobbies and am certainly not opposed to chopping wood and building fires but it would be nice to have some prior reference.

My wife's house growing up had a pellet stove so I'm familiar with those.
 

gthomas785

New Member
Feb 8, 2020
58
Central MA
I'm just hoping we can get some use out of the current wood stove before I need to make that decision.
We'll that's for the sweep to say, but the fact that there is a liner and they got it inspected is a good sign even though you shouldn't trust their inspection. (google "slammer insert" if you want to see how it should not be installed).

Unless the sweep finds something intrinsically unsafe about the installation, go at it and see how you like the experience. Somewhere down the road your stove will break down or need service, and that's when you'll have to weigh your options. Did I mention that you need dry wood? 90% of the frustration felt by new wood burners is from trying to burn wood that is not dry enough. Many wood suppliers sell "seasoned" wood which usually is not as dry as they will make you believe. A piece of truly dry wood was split and stacked under cover at least a year ago, probably more like 2 years.
 

faultymechanics

New Member
Oct 15, 2020
34
New Hampshire
We'll that's for the sweep to say, but the fact that there is a liner and they got it inspected is a good sign even though you shouldn't trust their inspection. (google "slammer insert" if you want to see how it should not be installed).

Unless the sweep finds something intrinsically unsafe about the installation, go at it and see how you like the experience. Somewhere down the road your stove will break down or need service, and that's when you'll have to weigh your options. Did I mention that you need dry wood? 90% of the frustration felt by new wood burners is from trying to burn wood that is not dry enough. Many wood suppliers sell "seasoned" wood which usually is not as dry as they will make you believe. A piece of truly dry wood was split and stacked under cover at least a year ago, probably more like 2 years.
yeah I’ve learned through buying and selling motor vehicles, not to trust some else’s report. Don’t really know what the chimney “cleaning,” in 2019 entailed.
When I video call on Wednesday they’re just going to confirm if it’s safe to use or not. That way we can make plans.

If it is unsafe to use we want to arrange something for when we close on the house....plus we get some negotiating leverage.

In regards to the wood, I got a name from a coworker but if they’re all out of truly seasoned wood, we have a kiln dried firewood place in the next town over; I’m sure it’s just more expensive.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,058
South Puget Sound, WA
When do you expect to close and move in?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,058
South Puget Sound, WA
I think you will have a lot to deal with until January. Just heat with the primary system and when you have a quiet day, try a fire in the insert with known dry wood.