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Re: Vermont Downdrafter wood burning stove

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Posted by Bob Durrstein on April 13, 2005 at 07:46:43 from (

In Reply to: Vermont Downdrafter wood burning stove posted by Paul on October 16, 2004 at 03:38:30:

I used a Vermont Down Drafter as my sole source of heat and hot water in Ohio for years in the 1980s. Had an 80 gallon electric hot water heater near it, so ran a 3/4" copper pipe through one of the side vets and then into the top of the heater for a convection loop.

Properly operated, this is the most efficient wood burner available. However it will take a day to get it operating properly, so the early days in fall and late days in spring, it is a PITA to use. The day delay is about what it takes to build up a proper coal and ash bed.

A new or preserved unit will give off smoke and odor as the lubricants used in manufacture are burned off.

There are two basic designs and two variations of each design. Better design has two chambers on either side of the combustion chamber with a heat sensor fan that blows air through the chambers into the residence or structure you are heating. The smaller unit does not have these chambers or fan. Both units have a design with an inverted "V" running front to back in the combustion chamber or just a flat grid. All work essentially the same.

The principle is to get a bed of coals distributed to the sides of the chamber where the unburned gases will meet incoming air with the coals to serve as igniters. This is the increase in efficiency as the gases are the pretty flames you normally see burned inefficiently or not at all.

How to operate: Open the bypass to chimney in the back. Place kindling, and initial fill of firewood on the grid and light - I used paper inserted in the ash removal door at the bottom of the front. Build your fire as you would in any heater. Use the ash door to admit plenty of air to get the fire started. When the fire is burning steadily, almost close the ash door and gradually start closing the bypass valve (handle at back on top) to the chimney. At this time, your chimney must have an established draw. This will force the normally rising hot gases to exit at the sides into the side areas of the Down Drafter en route to the chimney. Once operating properly, you can look in through the ash door and see the blue flames of the burning gases during the coaling process of the wood combustion. Close the chimney bypass completely and the ash door. Trial and error will teach you which thermostat (bi-metallic coil) settings work best for you.


How to reload. IMPORTANT: do not rush. This takes a few minutes. Then, open the bypass to the chimney and partially open the ash door to establish a flow pattern from the front to the back of the unit (with the ash door open, this is a good time to knock the ashes down with a long poker [see note below] and clean out the ashes). If you do not have this flow established you will get smoke and possibly flames into the house. As you close the ash door slowly open the main door so the air flow is from the main door to the chimney bypass. Take your poker and break up the charred wood (surprise – you have been making wood charcoal!) to make the most space available in the unit. Reload and close the main door as you open the ash door again. Let the fire run for a minute or two to get the heat flow through the cold wood to the chimney, then close the ash door and slowly close the bypass valve to the chimney. Tomorrow, reload it again.

NOTE: I made a poker out of 3/8’ rod about 4’ long with a loop at the handle end and a 3”or 4” long right angle on the business end.

Enjoy the warmth :=]

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