Xtrordinair 44 Elite experience

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New Member
Nov 2, 2023
This will be long, and I'm not really trying to start a conversation, just putting some info out there for others - kind of a one-stop starting point for anyone that's looking for someone's setup and experience using one of these stoves. I've been lurking and gleaning information off this site for a while, trying to pick the best advice I could find to make my wood stove experience the best possible, and I thought I'd return the favor. If you're a new stove owner, you might find this useful. If you're a long-time stove owner, you'll probably find something about my setup at odds with your method, and that's fine. If you're in the planning stages of a new house, remodel, or upgrade, maybe this will give you some insights on what you could do. Not saying I have it all correct, but it works for me, and my goal was 99% functional - get the most heat out of each burn as long as possible with a minimal amount of fussing.

I built a new house in 2017 (2 story w/cathedral over a full basement), and as 1/3 of my HVAC needs, I had an Xtrodinair 44 Elite professionally installed by a local company. I grew up on a stand-alone wood stove, and my wife had a traditional stone fireplace experience, so we compromised with the 44 Elite. I was after the high-efficiency heat source, and she was after the "bake myself in front of the fire" effect - and this stove is a win-win.

My setup:
  1. Whole-house system is a 6-ton geothermal system with two zones (basement, upstairs) - mainly used for AC purposes, air circulates on medium speed 24/7/365.
  2. Basement has in-floor heat installed (3 zones, 9 lines), fed by a 55-gallon electric water heater (set @ 120) and a 60-gallon hybrid heat pump water heater (set @ 130 in the summer, 135 in the winter). The electric WH feeds the hybrid WH which then feeds the house hot water and floor heat, and cooled water returns to the electric WH (there's a circulation pump for the 2nd floor bathroom as well).
  3. The 44 Elite mentioned above, with a Summer switch installed. There are no ceiling fans installed (yet, 2 would be nice).

The house is a timber frame/SIP panel construction, with a wide open 1st floor, and rooms upstairs around the cathedral/loft portion - total sq ft is around 5,700 (2,000 sq ft full basement footprint). Basement is ICF (R22), SIP walls are R28, SIP roof is R44, windows are Pella double-paned argons, and the blower door test ended up at 0.97. The wood stove sits off to the side of the cathedral area (1st floor), facing the center of the house. The circulating air is pulled from the basement directly under the stove, using the staircase as the convection path. Combustion air is pulled from the side of the house just above the 2nd floor joists, and the chimney is a straight shot up through the cathedral ceiling.

NOTE: the installer tried to install the incoming air at the base of the outside chimney (at my request, and with the manufacturer's approval), but the duct work was not insulated, so the entire chimney stack would cool to outside temps, and in the winter any moisture would freeze up inside the chimney - dripping water during weather cycles and use clued us into the problem. We rerouted the intakes to the side of the house using 8" square duct work that is insulated, which mitigated all of those issues.

In the winter, the basement zone of the geo unit is turned off, and the in-floor heat is turned on. The upstairs zone thermostat is set to 70 degrees, and the wood stove is fired up. My wood sits outside for a year before getting burned, and I split it into 4"x16" pieces, generally - mostly hardwoods, no pine. I light 2-3 fires a day, load about 9 pieces at a time, and burn about 3 full cord of wood each year - and the geo unit turns on about once a week, if at all.

My stove setup - I pulled the log grate from the stove, and put 2 pieces of 1.5" square steel tubing in the bottom of the stove about 8" apart running front to back, and stack my wood oriented side-to-side on those, generally 3 layers of 3. In the channel under the wood stack, between the steel tubing, I place my fire starter materials - usually recycled printouts rolled up with wood splitter debris on top of the paper for kindling. I place another few pieces of paper to the right of the wood stack standing up, and use that as my draft starter. Future modification might be a 1/4" or 1/2" vertical steel bar standing up at the back of the stove box to force a gap at the back of the wood stack for airflow purposes, but not critical.

Starting - I light the material under the stack first, then the paper to the right to get the draft going, and let the draft fuel the kindling and get things started. If there are existing coals, I rely on those more than starter kindling to get things reignited. I subscribe to the bottom-up starting method.

Temperature - I use the flue/catalytic probe as my bible, and work pretty strictly off the numbers. I don't like to see temps over 900, and I like to get 8 hours out of a burn if possible (that's usually dependent on the wood). If I see it go over 950, then I watch it till it consistently starts dropping. Anything over 1100, and the by-pass gets opened, and heat gets dumped down to 800, then we try again. I've found that too much wood is my main enemy - keep the wood volume consistent, and my burn temps stay pretty predicable. I stack wood so it just gets close to the baffle at the back, and that seems to work well.

Summer switch - never gets used in the summer, it's just a snap-disc bypass for me. I hate to hear the fan surging on/off while I'm trying to sleep as the burn dies down, and really hate to see the heat headed up the chimney while I wait for that disc to activate. I tried it without the switch for a couple seasons, and my burns and heat output have been MUCH more consistent with the summer switch installed. And even with moving bricks around, the snap-disc just never activates fast enough for me, and cuts out too soon.

Heat cycle - I generally start a burn from low or no coals, and let it return to that state before adding more wood, unless it's really cold or I'm home all day (we work from home frequently). Generally, my house maintains it's temps if the sun is out, so most burning is done from 4pm - 8am on nice days. Thats about 2-3 burns for me a day. I empty ashes about once a week (one ash bucket worth a week roughly), and scoop them to the outside of the stove between burnings.

My method (again, by the numbers):

Open the by-pass (fully out), open the air flow (fully left)
Clean the space between the steel tubing, put the paper/kindling in place
Stack the wood in the center, 3 deep, 3 high, plus/minus if the wood is inconsistently sized
Place the draft starter to the right of the wood stack, leaning against the stack
Light the kindling under the wood stack, then light the draft paper
Close the doors equally until they just touch/overlap - air will generally flow under the doors into the box
Let the fire catch - usually about 5 minutes for me
At 150 degrees, I push the by-pass in about 1/2 way - fiddle with this, find that sweet spot where temps go up but air doesn't slow down much
At 250 degrees, I offset the doors so the left door closes but the right door won't close because the latch is keeping it from closing, cutting down the air flow, and letting heat build more
At 350 degrees, I close the doors fully, turn the summer switch on (up), and turn the fan speed to low (fully counter clockwise)
At 450 degrees, I close the by-pass (fully in), and turn the fan speed to high (fully clockwise)
At 700 degrees, I close the air flow (fully right)
Stove is now fully closed down (low burn air flow, heat lingers longer, max heat draw).
At each of the degree stages, the change may cause a momentary dip in temperatures, but they will climb again. If too much, go back up 1 step
Generally, once closed down, temps might drop to 625, but will then creep up to around 850-900, level out, then start dropping slowly
Hours later, when the hot air starts to feel cool (flue back in the high 100's), there two options:
  • Refill the stove at this point, and restart the "degree" instructions
  • If not refilling, open the air flow (fully left) and turn the fan speed to low (fully counter clockwise). This gets more heat out of the last of the coals, reduces coals to ashes, and minimizes ash buildup.
When it's fully cold, I turn the summer switch off (down), and the stove is set for the next burn.

I frequently fill the stove around 9pm, it blows hot for hours, and I'll do the "not refilling" step before going to bed around 3-4am, and turn the fan off when I get up around 9am. If I do the refill at 3-4am, then I'll do the "not refilling" around noon the next day.

I admit I could probably get 50% more wood in the stove, but I've found that just burns too hot for my stress level. If I could starve the stove of air more (see below), then I might do that and get a longer burn yet.

I'll also admit my door glass is forever black - I can barely see through it, but it's enough I can monitor starting flamage and how well the coals are settling in and what flames are present during most of the burn. If I were in it for the cosmetic, aesthetic portion of the fire, it would b a chore to keep clean and I'd be upset. but I stopped cleaning it a couple years ago, and don't care any longer. With the lights out, you can still see the flames and coals, and that works for me.

The only accessory I've added to the setup (beside a scoop and an ash bucket) is a plastic straw (now slightly melted), which I'll probably upgrade to a stainless one since those are now available at the dollar store. VERY useful for getting the kindling started and roaring so I don't have to babysit the startup as much - and much less ash on my face from blow-back.

I've been burning in the stove for 5 years now, and have had the installer out every couple years to clean and inspect things, mainly to make sure I'm not doing something wrong, or something wrong about the install finally revealed itself - there have been no issues. they actually said I must be doing something right, because there was minimal creosote buildup in the unit. Not bragging, just offering proof that my method seems to have merit.

I'm probably going to replace the catalytic after this season, if I remember to do so. I figure it is probably due, based on usage and the beginners learning curve. The rock wool needs replacing around the catalytic as well - seems to disappear eventually.

For the record, I think the claim that it heats 3,000 sq ft is probably accurate, maybe low if you have a forced air system that's constantly moving air around like I do. Mine is covering 3,700 sq ft, and that's without any ceiling fans as well.

My only peeve about this stove is the VERY limited thermostat - On/Off are the only options it has! There are no alarm points which would make the thing SO MUCH more useful. I am playing with building my own - but we'll see. I really want one that has 3 alarm points: 1) low temp (refill or open it up), 2) high temp (close it down, enjoy the burn), and 3) warning temp (we've gone to high, start dumping heat). These should be annoyance points - beep till someone clears them so they don't get missed.

If there is one thing I could change or upgrade on the stove would be a better air flow regulator - something that can fully starve the burn of air would be nice. The stove I grew up on had 2 air intakes on the front that had twist controls that screwed in to close off the air supply, which seemed very good at starving the fire of air if you weren't careful. I'd really appreciate that in this stove, mainly for when things get too hot. I'd rather kill the fire and bleed some heat into the flue rather than dump all that heat all at once into the flue - that seems risky.

If it were possible to install a fan with a higher CFM, that would be nice, but I don't know if the stove would even let more air through - that's an air flow/mechanical calculation, and I don't have a unit I can disassemble to make the required measurements to figure that out. But more circulation air would draw more heat and be more efficient. But it's not a deal breaker for me either - I still can't stand in front of it when it's burning around 800 degrees, but my wife can :)

I REALLY LOVE this stove - it's my only experience with a stove since I was 18 years old, but I'm VERY happy with how well it installs and integrates into a new house, how clean it is to load, use, and maintain, how low maintenance it can be, and how cosmetically inconspicuous it is. It happens to fit well with my style of house naturally, and people see the fireplace as a whole, not just the stove sticking out like a centerpiece.
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