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04-05-2008, 12:02 PM #1
We purchased a Vermont Castings Winter Warm wood stove insert in Nov. 07. Unfortunately, it has not worked since day one. It does not produce enough heat to increase the temperature of the 13 x 20 interior, well insulated room by 1 degree. I am looking for information to assist us in the diagnosis of the issue. We use very dry, well seasoned wood, and do not use any fire starters. The stove will burn for 4 hours and does not produce heat as stated in the manufacturers specs. We also run the stove per the manufacturer directions because of the cat. combustor. Without any change. Before this insert we had a very old Buck stove that was loud and smelly but it make enough heat to drive you out of the room. I am sorry that I bought this but now I am just looking for help and direction. It has been difficult because both the manufacturer and the vendor have been less than honest with us. Thank you for your time and assistance.
04-05-2008, 01:26 PM #2
Who installed it?
Do the fans work?
Are the ducts to the room open?
04-06-2008, 02:41 AM #3
It was installed by Miller's Chimney and we know the installation is correct. The fans did not work when it was first installed but Miller's came back and corrected that problem. Other duct work? We have baseboard heat and no central air so we have no other duct work.
When you stand within a foot of the stove you feel the warm air coming out but that's it. The room never gets any warmer. The vendor sent the general mgr and the V.C./CFM area rep out to look at the stove. They had already made up their mind not to pull the stove and there was nothing wrong. We don't know if the catalyic combustor is working or not ? and the vendor only wants to point fingers at the installer while we are stuck in the middle. Is there a way to measure the BTU output of the stove? We did the catalyic combustor check per the manufacturers manual and it did the opposite. We got more smoke out the chimney when the damper was closed and the combustor was suppose to be engaged and less smoke when the damper open? Is there anyway to tell if the combustor is working properly based on a visual inspection ? If so what would it look like if it was not working correctly? What should it look like after burning 4-5 fires ? Any direction and help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you !
04-06-2008, 08:34 AM #4
Bob Harper, where are you?
There is no way to measure BTU outside of a laboratory that I am aware of. You might get one of the energy rater guys with a blower door and thermal imaging to take a look at it for some answers about what is going on.
The ducts I was speaking of are the ones that the warm air should blow out of (looking at the manufacturer's spec. sheet I pulled of the internet)
Two fans deliver a steady stream of warm air.
Heated air from your WinterWarm is forced into the
room by two internal fans. The control for the fans is
below the brass primary air control knob, just above the
upper left corner of the door. (Fig. 5)
“Off” is to the far left.
“High” is just to the right of “Off.”
“Low” is to the far right.
Variable adjustment of the fans is possible with any setting
between “high” and “low.”
For best results, coordinate fan speed with the setting
of your thermostat. For example, when the thermostat
lever is set at “low,” also set the fans at “low.” With the
thermostat set for maximum heat, set the fans at “high.”What do the reps. say is the problem?and the vendor only wants to point fingers at the installer
04-06-2008, 09:50 AM #5
Yes, those ducts are open according to the many people who have looked at this stove- 6 service calls to date. It blows out warm air but it does not seem to really produce enough heat to heat up the room ? We have also tried changing the positions on the fan controls to see if maybe there is a problem with the way they are connected. There was no change with heating with any position of the controls.
The sales rep for VC does not think anything is wrong. However, they would send someone else to look at it but they just think it's the installation. The last service call the person tried to say that the liner had a "dent in it" and was not installed correctly. That's why it was not working properly and not heating. A dent would make that much difference ? However, we had someone come out to independently check the installation. They felt it was to code and correct. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for taking time to help !
04-06-2008, 09:51 AM #6
Bob was busy!
This is a quality appliance so I'm a little surprised you are having this problem. Take it systematically:
Installation: You state you know it is installed properly--how do you know this? Who told you, the installer? Mfr? At this point, you might want to invest in a Level II inspection. Is there a full length listed chimney liner? What size? Insulated? All this info. should have been provided by the installer. Now, compare with the installation instructions.
Stove setup: Again step by step through the manual. Verify the operation of the bypass damper and the seal on it. Check the secondary combustion chamber. Is the catalytic combustor properly installed?
Firewood: Split several pieces of typical wood and check the heart with a pin type moisture meter.(~$100 from Amazon). It should be ~12-18% temperature corrected.
Operation: review step by step the mfrs. recommendations for startup. Go through it by the book. Keep a simple log on a note pad of what you did when and what you observed.
Performance: What are the mfrs claims? Note, there is a difference btw a measureable performance and "puffing". Measureable performance means they flat out state it will heat a room a certain size, produce X number of BTUs, etc. Puffing, on the other hand, is where a mfr. makes statements such as, "this is the best stove on the market" or "you'll want to turn off your furnace with this thing running!". With a roaring fire, the heat has to go somewhere. So, how to measure? Most cat. stoves come with a test port for a temperature probe so you can measure stack temp. to see when and if the cat. lights off. It takes about 500-600F for a cat. to light off, then they operate at ~1,200-1,400F. Most stove shops sell these special cat. thermometers. Any sweep should carry one. You can also take simple exhaust gas measurements at the chimney termination. Get the stove warned up but not in bypass mode yet and record the stack exhaust temp. Now, put it into bypass, let the cat. light off and measure the exhaust temp. now. Does it change? Up or down? What does the wood smoke look like? Is is a thick cloud that does not easily disperse or a thin vapour? Is there smoke right at the flue gas outlet or a gap of a foot or more before the visible plume?
Stay after the factory rep. as ultimately, it is the mfrs. problem to prove nothing is wrong with the stove. If it is an installation or operational problem, make him prove it.
I would shop around locally to see what other resources are available. You can also check the websites for certified technician specialists in your service area:
Keep the fire in the fireplace.
04-06-2008, 11:28 AM #7
My guess would be the probe positioning or condition:
•While the catalytic element is removed, check the
condition of the secondary air probe. Use an inspection
mirror to locate the probe within the combustion
chamber. (Fig. 17) The probe should extend 1 to 1¹⁄₂"
(25 - 38mm) into the chamber and show no signs of
deterioration, (warping, short length). Refer to the next
illustration. A damaged secondary air probe could affect
catalytic performance. If the probe needs to be replaced,
call your local dealer.
04-06-2008, 01:20 PM #8
Wow ! You all have given me more information in one weekend then all the people who have been to my home to look at this insert. I can not thank you enough !
I thought I was buying a quality product ?
Installation: We paid out of pocket to have another company to review the liner and stove set up to make sure it was to MD code and what the manufacturer recommendations. Yes, there is a brand new full length 8 inch liner that is insulated. The installer had done many of these stoves so they knew what was correct for the installation.
Stove Set up: Service call #4 they added more gasket material around the damper. That makes me wonder if the damper is too tight? They also added more gasket material around the door. I know that's too tight. The only thing I am not sure about is the combustor? Service call #7 will be looking at the combustor I hope. I could not get the bolt that holds the combustor closed off to look. Also, I did not want to break anything that's not broken.
The firewood I use is very dry and well seasoned. It's kept in the garage. I also use dry clean oak pallet wood which is also kept dry in the garage.
Operation: I have reviewed the manual on several occasions and followed the directions. Even when the vendor and the factory rep were here they felt the fire and how the stove was operated was correct.
Why does a new wood stove have a 43 page manual? Does it have to be that difficult?
Performance: The written mfrs. specs state that this stove should heat up to 1500 Sq ft. which is practically my entire house. I am not looking for it to heat the house at this point, one room would be an improvement.
I will look for the cat thermometer, I did not know there was such a thing.
When I did the combustor test about a week ago with very dry wood when the damper was open there was hardly any visible smoke leaving the chimney. But when I closed the damper and hoping to light off the cat. I got thick gray smoke that was a much more visible plume for several feet above the top of the chimney. According to the manual it's suppose to do the opposite.
Also when you close the damper and attempt to engage the cat. the fire almost goes out and then it flames up like a gas build up inside of the fire box. Once or twice it has done that and blown smoke out the air vents at the top.
Now that I have more information on the catalytic combustor and how it should be positioned etc. I can start asking questions there when they come back for the next service call.
Yes, I am staying after the factory rep. I think he screens his calls because of this stove !
Again, I really appreciate each of you taking time out of your weekend to answer my questions and to help resolve this issue. If you can think of anything else I need to ask about please let me know.
Bob.... it's okay you were busy!
04-07-2008, 05:25 AM #9
Back to basics:
I have seen this issue with this stove and others. 100% of the time it is the victim of improper installation providing inadequate draft.
The draft is what pulls combustion air into the stove. If the draft lags, the combustion process does also. There is something going on.
Many chimneys just do not have proper space for proepr insert installations , meaning insulated chimney liners. Alot of times, a field ovalization takes place and the "flow" is hindered by the change in dimension of the liner. Also, you exsiting liner prior to stove install may be too small to accomodate an inuslated liner OR the liner is just not insulated. I think your problem lies there. I would have a complete Level II chimney Inspection performed. Make sure your chimney inspector documents everything for the rep, installer, salesman etc.
04-08-2008, 03:48 PM #10
Hello Mr. Ryan,
Thank you for responding. We had a brand new 8 inch insulated liner put in when the stove was installed. We also had an independent chimney company come and look at the liner, and the connections to make sure that everything was correct because the vendor was questioning the installation. However, we contacted that installer based on the vendor's list of installers before we purchased this unit. Seems kind of strange that the vendor gives us the name of the installer, then comes back to say that the installer did not do it correctly? That's why we got at least an independent company to come back and look a the installation.
Again many thanks ! I am beginning to think I have to go back and do that level II inspection. I am also beginning to think I should have not bought this stove.