Posted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 2:58 am Post subject: solid fuel ranges - considerations when choosing
Some of this will be obvious to you but I had used a range for 6 years and still made a few oversights when changing old for new ( second-hand ) .
The original one had three main drawbacks :-
- It was not large enough to run all the radiators and provide hot water .
- It was difficult to clean out the soot and tar from the side of the boiler which faced the oven , and from the air duct under the oven which could only be accessed thru a narrow hatch .
- It leaked tar onto the floor from the area between the outside of the oven and the casing which surrounded it . I made this worse over time by shoving a flat object too far down from the top plate when scraping off solidified tar from the vertical sides of the air vent . Obviously broke a seal at the bottom .
Real mistake was taking advice from an expert without really thinking it through -- not just the features of the new one but also how we would actually use it .
New one was recommended as a top-of-the-range Stanley Supreme , solid fuel - specifically for timber and turf . Not the most recent of models but , one would have thought , recent enough not to have any significant design faults . Not so !
- It does not have an air inlet in the door to the fire box . This means that if you have the inevitably slightly damp turf or wood on slow burn ( bottom vent shut nearly down ) the fumes from it do not ignite into flame in the fire box . Not only do they not give you any heat they also deposit tar on the way out .
It does have a perforated tube which takes air from the ash box area to the top of the firebox but this is not sufficient unless the fuel is really dry .
- It is apparently not a good idea to substitute coalite for turf/timber as this can burn too hot and crack the top plate unless you are careful .
- It is front-loading only . When you open the door smoke and fine ash billows out unless the fire is roaring and/or you have a good draw from the chimney .
- Burning it hot does minimise the smoke and tar problems but is of course more expensive . Not to mention having to carry in up to 3 bags of turf a day . This may produce more heat than you want anyway .
- I was told that the solution is to open it up in the evening and let it burn out , or nearly out , overnight . Fine if you have got a well insulated house but you still have to get it going again in the morning ---- entails kindling wood or a long wait .
- The cleaning hatch beneath the oven is still very narrow . There is not much room for manoeuver and you can't see what you are doing when scraping the ash out . The angle of access is such that you can't get the scraper right into the corners of the air duct so tar builds up there and restricts air flow .
- The "door" to the hatch is not hinged . It is like a rectangular stopper which you have to tilt slightly then pull out . It has a very smooth surace and nothing to get a grip on . It is a sod to remove , particularly when gummed in by tar , until you have learned the knack .
- The 3 riddle bars are linked together . This sounds good because you don't have to rattle them individually . However , if a small stone or unburnt piece of fuel jams one bar then all 3 are locked and there is very little you can do about until the fire goes out .
- I think this is as a result of modification ( boiler replaced by non-branded item ) rather than design -- there is a gap at the front , between bottom of boiler and base of firebox . When you open the bottom door to remove the ash tray hot coals fall thru the gap and onto the floor .
- Finally ( I think ) the only way to get access to clean the vertical side of the boiler and air duct is to lift the top plate right off . The first few inches of the lift have to be straight upwards ( you can't tilt it ) .Believe me , this is both awkward and heavy ( best guess about 20 kg ) . MOH certainly couldn't do it when I fall off my pearch .
In fairness to Stanley I doubt they are the only make to give the user problems and they may have cured them all by now .
The purpose of this post is not to have a good moan or to put anyone off solid fuel ranges . It is simply to save someone else else from finding out the hard way . That is why it is in this section of the forum !
I think the biggest problem with most solid fuel ranges and stoves available up until recently in Ireland is that they don't cope well with either timber or turf - the fire box's and air systems are not designed for it. They call them multi-fuel burners but all the heat output data is based on burning coke.
The ranges I saw in Canada are similar to the scandinavian type which are specifically designed for timber and i imagine would accomodate turf just as well.
I think there are Jotul dealerships here now.
I can't tell you how happy I was to see the back of our Stanley some two years ago.
As well as all the problems you identified Blowin, I would add the igniting flue. Usually happened after a period of running the range fairly low resulting in a build-up of tar in the flue. Then came a cold spell and a need to make the range burn hot which frequently resulted in the flue catching fire with a very frightening roar and an incredible draw on the firebox which made the situation worse.
The only solution .... half a bucket of water in the firebox and a prayer that the steam would extinguish the fire. It usually did ... after a while ... but it was hairy.
Now our lovely woodchip burner gives us masses of heat for the radiators and the hot water. It's easily controllable ... and it's safe. Joy...
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