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Love this bbs. I'm new and natch. have questions.
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Paula    Posted 05-22-2003 at 08:25:28       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I just bought a couple of wooded acres in PA to
construct a small hosue (1096sq ft including
bathhouse) and had a couple of questions about

1. I've decided to go with the Vermont Castings
Dutchwest catalytic stove. There doesn't seem to be
much difference in the capacity of the small and the
large (one is 600-1400sq feet and the other is 800-
1600sq feet or some such similar relationship). I'm
looking to heat 784sqft (28x28). Is there some benefit
to going with the large as opposed to the small?

2. The stove is cast iron. I may upgrade to radiant in the
future, but for now, can I add a little radiant effect by
putting a couple of rocks on top of the stove.


DeadCarp - design yer own    Posted 05-22-2003 at 16:12:58       [Reply]  [No Email]
Hi Paula and welcome :) Let's sit back a sec and pretend we're designing a stove for heating purposes okay? Believe it or not, the most efficient size for the actual wood-burning fire chamber is about the size of a microwave, 1 1/2 cubic feet. Any bigger, you'll use more wood and get less heat cuz you won't be doing the "secondary burn" as well (heat produced by the actual gases after they're released from the firewood). So as far as size, you're probably better off with the smaller one. Bear in mind tho, we're taking about the actual amount of usable air AROUND a full load of firewood. In a nutshell, a properly-stoked barrel stove is about as close as the average woodchopper usually gets to perfect.
Having generated a nice burst of heat, we should consider storing it somewhere til the next load's needed. Now we're talking thermal mass - that can be anything from ponds or barrels of water to concrete blocks or rocks or a pile of dirt. The idea here is to use something that absorbs lotsa heat and hopefully lets you sleep thru its release.
The other important aspect is to properly locate the heat source to get the air circulating the right way. Heat ALWAYS likes to rise, and it sets up its own circulation so if the stove's near the center of the house, you'll have a warm head but cold feet okay? Better yet, fashion a way to get the heat to rise past those cold windows and the heat will mix with it & balance alot better. Plus that, there's wind chill to think about, and that's what the exterior walls of your house have to contend with all nite. That's why all those electric and hot water registers are located along the outside walls.
There Paula - have fun designing your heating system - you're now armed with more than the average person wants to think about when he's trying to get a bucket of ashes outside without ruining that stupid white rug! :)

BTW: The Finns don't worry about all this, they just flash-burn an armload of wood in the huge heater/stove/oven that grampa cemented together in the middle of the house years ago, the one with the slate baffles in the smoke chamber, with the self-circulating warm slate bench to dry mittens on, the one where you put round bread in at nite (bread with center holes like big donuts) and hang it on the broomhandle in the morning. The darn bread might be so dry it never spoils, but do they know about heat or what? :)

Paula    Posted 05-23-2003 at 04:37:39       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Dead Carp:

1. High thermal mass. Got that - the stove is sitting on a
brick hearth in fronto of a brick wall. I'm thinkng of
putting a slab of soapstone on top of the stove too.

2. Stove is centrally located in a great room with walls
only around the bedroom and the powder room. Lots
of southfacing glass though - may have to look into
honeycomb blinds.

3. Ceiling fans in every space to stop stratification of
hot air up in the ceiling.

4. Funny you mention the Finns:
When I was looking at heating I first considered a
Tulikivi (soapstone radiant stove), but they're about
12grand to purchase and install. Then I looked at the
rais-wittus barrel woodstoves (reputed to be highly
efficient) - they're about 4k to purchase. So much for
keeping things simple. Short of hooking up with a
handsome hunky mason, my woodstove budget
(including hearth) is about 3k.


Ron/PA    Posted 05-22-2003 at 10:38:02       [Reply]  [No Email]
Paula, what area of Pa are you in? Are you sticking strictly to wood, either way you may want to consider a combination of wood/coal. You know we do have a bit around here,, hehehe
There is still a local mfg. here in Pa for coal and I believe wood as well.
Good luck and let me know if you need any info.

Paula    Posted 05-22-2003 at 11:24:52       [Reply]  [Send Email]

If I don't have to murder another appraiser ("I don't
understand, its small, but it costs alot....") I'll be building
in Orrtanna, PA (Adams county). I closed on the lot on
friday last (had to split the loan to give myself time to
find another appraiser grrrrr..).

walt    Posted 05-22-2003 at 09:47:41       [Reply]  [No Email]
Well, hate to disagree with the previous post. I still have a X-large dutch, 8yrs. I haven't replaced my cat yet. One of the big secrets with cats is do exactly as the book states. You have to get the cat extremely hot before you close the stove off. Mine has a temp probe on top that I make sure its in the temp range before I close it off.

River    Posted 05-22-2003 at 09:17:01       [Reply]  [No Email]
Hello Paula,

We used to have an X-Large Dutchwest stove. It did a good job of heating, but ate catalytic units. We used to replace the catalyst about once a year to the tune of about $125, if I remember right.

When that stove gave out, we determined not to get another catalytic stove -- we didn't and we're pleased we didn't.

As for the difference between sizes, when it comes to loading the stove up for the night, you'll be glad for the larger unit. It's hard to get a stove that's too big for nightime loading.

Another item we have been glad to have is the fan mounted on the stove. We live on the prairie in Iowa with nothing to stop the wind but some woven wire fence. Couple that with an old, drafty farmhouse, and you find a need for some significant heat at times. The fan really enhances the rate of heat output.

Finally, we have always found Lehman Hardware in Kidron, OH to have the best stove prices.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your plans.


Paula    Posted 05-22-2003 at 09:22:50       [Reply]  [Send Email]

Thanks for the information. Are you saying then that the
added 'efficiency' of the catalyst is overrated? I've never
bought or depended on a woodstove before so I want
to have as much practical information as I can (I've
learned that 'theorists' are generally full of crap).


River    Posted 05-22-2003 at 09:54:40       [Reply]  [No Email]

I guess I don't put much stock in the efficiency ratings. Most of us can't burn (all the time) at the optimum rate at which those ratings are taken.

In our case, we found the catalyst would deteriorate rapidly through the heating season, so the efficiency had to be dropping, too.

Again, this was our experience. Someone else posted, here, that they get along fine with the same model stove. Nonetheless, I don't ever intend to own another catalytic stove.

I hope we are adding more light than heat to your question!


Salmoneye    Posted 05-22-2003 at 09:46:15       [Reply]  [No Email]
Most people here in VT that bought into the 'catalytic craze' have either removed or never installed the catalytic plate in the first place...A good airtight stove is all you will need for an area that size...

Tom A    Posted 05-22-2003 at 08:30:11       [Reply]  [Send Email]


In our previous house our woodstove had a brick wall just behind it...maybe a foot or 18" away. During the winter, when we'd burn most of the day the brick would absorb the heat and keep the place warm all night after we went to bed and quit feeding the stove. So I guess a few rocks on the stove would help some, but the more mass you have collecting heat, the more you'll notice the effect. If you haven't built yet, a single brick/stone wall would be easy to do and would pay dividends in the future.


Paula    Posted 05-22-2003 at 08:40:12       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Thanks Tom, the stove will indeed be sitting on a brick
hearth that will rise about 6' behind it.


River    Posted 05-22-2003 at 10:01:12       [Reply]  [No Email]

Two things about your hearth and the heat you hope to store in it:

1. Don't get the lower shield for your Dutchwest if you want to store heat in the hearth. The shield is very effective, and little heat will transfer to the hearth just under the stove. The same should be said about the rear shield if you want to store heat in the brick wall behind the stove.

2. If your brick hearth sits on a wood floor, make sure there is a fire barrier between the brick and the wood. Mortar joints have been known to crack, allowing embers that fall out of the stove to come into contact with the wood floor. Certainly that doesn't happen in all cases, but a little prevention is worth a lot.


Paula    Posted 05-22-2003 at 11:34:51       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Thanks River.

I'll print out your message and put it into my file. The
house is on a slab so the hearth will sit on that I guess.
(I'm no builder). The wall behind the brick is
combustible though - should there be something
behind the brick but in front of the studs? Or, maybe I
should let the brick through behind the wall (into the
half bath), it would probably allow that space to benefit
a little more from the hearth.

Thanks for all the input everyone. It was very useful.
IMO the thing that would have stood out is "do not for
any reason buy this stove!!!!" Anything else is a ringing


River    Posted 05-22-2003 at 12:32:41       [Reply]  [No Email]

If the house will be on a slab, there shouldn't be an issue of combustibility of the surface under the hearth. The hearth becomes, mostly, for looks.

You asked: "should there be something behind the brick but in front of the studs?"

Not for the reason given for a barrier under the hearth. In the wall, embers shouldn't fall through any cracks.

Usually, it is recommended that there be a 1" air space between the bricks and the next layer in (such as dry wall). That will effectively reduce the required spacing between the stove and the bricks, thereby reducing the space taken up by the installation of the stove.

As far as I know, it wouldn't hurt to let the brick wall be the only partition between the stove and the next room. I think that's the route I would take, barring another issue pressuring me to do otherwise.

Good luck.


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