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Seeking advice on EPA wood stove use

EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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Hey everyone, I have this cheap wood stove that was in the house when I got it. I've been using it as my primary heat source here in Western NC for 4 years now and am getting pretty fed up with it. It works well to heat the house but the burn times are ridiculously short (like 4 hours, max). I have only had coals in the morning a few times... usually the stove is freezing cold in the morning and I have to start a new fire. It also ALWAYS spills smoke into the house any time I open the firebox door (yes, I open the flue damper before slowly opening the door).

I grew up feeding a Vestal "Papa Bear" style airtight stove and have had to make some adjustments to my habits. Basically smaller fires, smaller wood pieces, and feeding the fire about every hour or two. I also have a harder time starting or stoking fires because I can't open the door and blow on the coals without smoke filling the house.

The way I see it, there are two major design issues with this stove: King EPA (Home Depot's cheapest model).


1. As you can see in the photo, there is no intake air control. Just a line of slots that feed directly into the firebox. So there is no way to slow down the burn except very slightly with the flue damper.

2. As you can maybe see in the photo, there is a big curved baffle above the burn area. It sticks down into the firebox just above the firebrick. I assume this reflects heat and helps create the secondary burn. But this really reduces the firebox volume and I suspect it is the reason for smoke spilling out when I open the door (it's just easier for the smoke to leave the firebox through the door than through the flue). I tried to fix what I thought was a draft issue by installing a 6" insulated chimney liner all the way up the chimney (originally it was straight-piped into the huge chimney). This made no noticeable difference to the smoke problem. However the chimney cap is about level with the roof peak so maybe draft is still an issue. But I'm glad I did that as it is much safer.

So, I am considering a few options:

1. Learn how to use this stove better. I've definitely improved and know my wood needs to be well seasoned but maybe I'm just missing something.

2. Get a different used wood stove. I am strongly compelled to go with an airtight stove because It is usually freezing in the mornings and hard to get out of bed unless I want to spend $10/day on electric space heaters. I guess I could also go with an EPA stove that DOES have an intake damper but after my experience with this stove, I am leary and wonder if they can really burn for 8 hours or more. I have no experience with a catalyst stove and suspect any one I buy used would need the catalyst replaced.

3. Modify this stove. My thought is to permanently block the intake slots and replace the door glass with steel plate with intake dampers (like on the door of an airtight stove). I know this option will not be popular here but I do have the equipment to fabricate something. I would miss being able to see the fire but that is a bonus, overnight heat is my primary goal.

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks!
 

U&A

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Personally.

Since it’s in my house with me and my family I would want something that I know works well without any concerns. I’d buy a new one or a used but still newer if you don’t want to pay for new.

JMO.






Sent while firmly grasping my redline lubed RAM
 
EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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Thanks @U&A I'm poor so used is the only option. Either that or finance a mini-split heat pump on my electric bill... But I have 43 acres of forest with possibly hundreds of dead locust trees so wood heat is free except for labor. What type of stove do you have?
 

U&A

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Thanks @U&A I'm poor so used is the only option. Either that or finance a mini-split heat pump on my electric bill... But I have 43 acres of forest with possibly hundreds of dead locust trees so wood heat is free except for labor. What type of stove do you have?
Pacific energy Summit.

I went with it because the design is simple, free floating, and it simply works.

I wont pretend it is the best. But they are dang good and i like simple designs.

And you have 43 acres. You are not “poor” in every sense of the term sir. That is a good chunk of land.

Is there and “tillable” land in that 43 acres?


Sent while firmly grasping my redline lubed RAM
 

sb47

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What kind of wood are you burning?
I save knotty wood and forks for an over night burn as they burn longer then strait grained wood.
Are you loading full or are you expecting the small fire in the photo to last all night. Try using a few greener pieces of wood mixed in with the dry wood for longer burns.
Stack the wood cross ways east to west instead of front to back for longer burn times. I suspect you may have a draft issue in the stove pipe that is causing the smoke to come out the door when you open it. When a fire gets low I doesn't create a lot of heat and less draft out the stove pipe causing the smoke to come out the door.
When was the last time you pulled the stove pipe and inspect the area just below where the pipe enters the stove? I have to pull the pipe on mine every year and clean out the crystallized creosote chips that fall out of the pipe and build up in the top of the stove and reduces the air flow. Could just need a good cleaning inside and out. It also looks like some of the fire bricks need replacing. If you are handy and can weld, you can add an air tube on the side to blow air in to stoke up coals and restart a fire without opening the door. I use a hair dryer to stoke coals faster then a bellows will. A 2'' piece of pipe in the side with a pipe cap might work that would fit the 2'' tube of a hair dryer.
The constant flow of the hair dryer works far better then the short puffs you get with a bellows. You could also fabricate a damper out of sheet metal to adjust the intake. Make a groove that you can slide a piece of sheet metal that would cover the intake holes for a damper.Inspect the baffle at the top and clean the little holes as they may be clogged up.
Or just replace the stove if it's in the budget and move this stove into your shop if you have one.
 
EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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I'm renting with the goal/option of buying it. I agree, it's a richness I have always hoped for and a botanical paradise with awesome biodiversity, numerous year-round springs and a few tillable acres that I'm currently cultivating for my small essential oil distillery (well in the growing season). The house is down in the narrowest part of the valley and gets just a few hours of direct sunlight a day in the winter so the house is cold. If/when I buy the property I hope to cut a less-steep road up to the cultivation field and build a house up there and rent this one out. There is probably enough flowing water, sun and wind to be off-grid. I can also open up about 5 more southwest facing acres for cultivation (mostly Poplar and Ash has grown in since that area was clear-cut 20 some years ago). But the dead locust is everywhere, which is a real blessing for heating the house.
 

sb47

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Is there a screen at the top of the stove pipe? Those can clog up and reduce air flow.
 
EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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@sb47 , Thank you for your suggestions! I cleaned everything you mentioned when I installed the chimney liner and the problem was there from day one (even when it was straight-piped into the 2' x 3' chimney) but I think it's probably a good idea to check that damper area again as it has been 1.5 winters since I had the flue apart.

I'm burning mostly locust that has been dead for years. It's so dry it will burn right after splitting but I need to get a good pile built up as I'm sure it would be better after drying a few weeks. Mixed in with some fresher fallen oak, ash and a little elm but the elm is still kinda green so I'm saving it for late winter or next year. Just cut up some old walnut and poplar logs but they're pretty wet (but not rotten) since they were on the ground for the last couple years. I assume they'll need a few months to dry after splitting.

The photo was a fresh fire so the wood was stacked for airflow to get the heat up. I do put the wood in horizontally for overnight and once the coals are established. Yeah, I need to do some firebrick replacement. I have noticed that the smoke spills out much less when there is a lot of flame in the firebox but that is when I don't need to open the door.

Interesting idea about the hair dryer tube. Since it's built with sheet steel rather than cast iron I assume I can weld onto the stove. The baffle doesn't have holes, it's just a curved sheet of steel that redirects the flames/gases/heat toward the intake, which then "washes" over the glass door and into the base of the fire.
 
EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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There is a "screen" on the chimney cap. It's more like expanded metal with about 3/4" openings. From the ground it appears clean and all holes are visible.
 
EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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Oh, I meant to respond to the question about the size of the fire. I do load it more than the picture for overnight burns but I have to be careful or it will heat the house up to 90+ degrees... can't control the intake air. But perhaps if I spread a layer of wood flat across the firebox floor it won't burn as fast but instead will kindof slowly spread laterally.
 

sb47

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I get at least a 1 gallon can full of crystallized creosote that builds up on the inner baffle just below the stove pipe at the top of the stove every year. The gap in that area is not very big so it doesn't take much to reduce the air flow. There should be very little smoke if all you have is coals and no un burned wood.
 

sb47

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Oh, I meant to respond to the question about the size of the fire. I do load it more than the picture for overnight burns but I have to be careful or it will heat the house up to 90+ degrees... can't control the intake air. But perhaps if I spread a layer of wood flat across the firebox floor it won't burn as fast but instead will kindof slowly spread laterally.

I don't have a baffle on my pipe, just an intake baffle but you should be able to control the stove with just one baffle weather it's on the pipe or intake. I do think an intake baffle works better then a pipe baffle though. Still sounds like a draft issue of some kind.
 
SuperDuty04

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Do you have a welder or a friend with one? If so, build your own! I Made my wood stove and love it. My dad built my grandparents wood stove and they heated with it for at least 30 years or so. No need in buying and spending big bucks on something as as basic as a metal box with a few holes in it.
 
EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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Thanks @sb47 , I'll dismantle the flue tomorrow morning when the fire has died. Also need to install a spring on the flue damper because it's a little janky. Maybe the chimney just isn't high enough. I've thought about adding a few feet of rigid stove pipe at the top to get it over the peak of the roof. I feel like it wouldn't be much improvement since the roof peak is south of the chimney but the prevailing winds are east/west. Yeah, the flue damper doesn't reduce burn much at all but I sure do know if I forgot to open it before opening the door... the smoke comes out even more and with less door opening. The flue damper can be the difference between secondary burn and none though, depending on the temp of the firebox.

@SuperDuty04, interesting idea. I've seen some home-built stoves on the used market but never thought to build my own. That said, I do have Mig, Tig and Stick welders plus a plasma cutter... so would just need to find some thick sheet and hardware. I also do have a workshop that could use a wood stove so maybe this EPA stove would be better for that where I don't need overnight fires.
 
SuperDuty04

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Thanks @sb47 , I'll dismantle the flue tomorrow morning when the fire has died. Also need to install a spring on the flue damper because it's a little janky. Maybe the chimney just isn't high enough. I've thought about adding a few feet of rigid stove pipe at the top to get it over the peak of the roof. I feel like it wouldn't be much improvement since the roof peak is south of the chimney but the prevailing winds are east/west. Yeah, the flue damper doesn't reduce burn much at all but I sure do know if I forgot to open it before opening the door... the smoke comes out even more and with less door opening. The flue damper can be the difference between secondary burn and none though, depending on the temp of the firebox.

@SuperDuty04, interesting idea. I've seen some home-built stoves on the used market but never thought to build my own. That said, I do have Mig, Tig and Stick welders plus a plasma cutter... so would just need to find some thick sheet and hardware. I also do have a workshop that could use a wood stove so maybe this EPA stove would be better for that where I don't need overnight fires.
You have those tools and this wasn't your first thought? Were they, or it (multi function welder) ,and unneeded gift lol?

Most guys who have a well setup shop, have one because they choose to do everything themselves that's humanly possible. But it seems that never crossed your mind!?

Get out in that shop and build yourself a stove. You'll enjoy it and save some money. Not to mention, it'll pay for those tools ya have.
 
EastoutWest

EastoutWest

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@SuperDuty04 , I bought the tools to build stainless distillery equipment, trailers, car stuff, etc. I have a plasma cutter, mig welder and stick/tig/pulse multiprocess. I also have a somewhat nearby really good scrap yard with lots of industrial stuff. But no, I didn't consider building a stove, I guess because I know nothing about stove design. But I guess they're pretty simple. As long as there is some kind of baffle between the firebox and the flue outlet I guess? My dad's vestal just had a big thick plate there.

I'm starting to like this idea though... wouldn't be too difficult to incorporate a secondary burn intake setup with pipes with holes.
 
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