Avoid my insert choice

john51January 12, 2011

I'm writing to give a heads up to others of my very disappointing experience with my wood stove insert and to ask advice for a replacement.

In early 2005 I purchased a Vermont Casting's Winter Warm small insert. My research showed it was one of the more efficiently rated units. This unit can't even heat up an area of 22x24 feet with low celling. Add a small hallway and you have 600 sqft. Yesterday the outside temp was 30 degrees. After burning high, all day, even with a boost from the furnace in the morning, I couldn't get that stove to heat above 58 degrees at my room thermostat.

Within two years the catalyst block had deteriorated as well as the refectory assembly, which is the styrofoam looking inner housing. With great persistence through telephone calls and emails supplied with photographs I was able to get the manufacture to replace the items.

Within two winter seasons since the replacements the same items are beginning to deteriorate once again. I have followed the manufacturers guide for proper use and care. I have burned many types of well seasoned wood. Today it is 49 degrees outside and I have had the stove running for three hours and my home thermostat is at 59 degrees. The built in fans which are running at full speed are a joke. The heat basically drifts out. I have hung a 10in. house fan just above the stove to help project the heat. Very decorative.

I recommend that you avoid this unit. Based on my experience I suggest you avoid all catalytic type stoves for they are too finicky and replacement for this catalyst will cost over $150. They instruct that you do not use any colored newspaper or any treated wood for that can harm the catalyst. Following this did not keep mine from deteriorating twice.

I may just bite the bullet, having paid over two thousand and yank this unit out for a better stove. I may see if I can fit a free standing unit instead of an insert. I have since seen inserts that have amazing fans that blast the heat out. Your recommendation of a brand I should consider will be appreciated.

Thanks for your time and advice,


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You were unlucky enough to get the VC insert at the worst possible time for the company. Sadly they were purchased by Majestic, who makes gas grills, and they caused the quality to really suffer. And that's sad because VC was one of the best stoves on the market! Right up there with Fisher.

Here in Vermont many of my neighbors have had them literally for decades with no problems. Up here many of us use their stoves as the main heat source during the day.

But they were bought by Majestic, and later sold again to an investment company, and later still sold to another stove manufacturer. So the local stove dealers won't touch VC anymore. But you can get a Vermont Castings gas grill at Home Depot!

But why isn't your stove heating? Do you have a magnetic thermometer on the top of the stove? If not go to your stove shop and get one. They're under five bucks. The surface temp should be between 400 and 600 degrees. And if it's not, you have to figure out why. Is it getting enough air? Can you remove the CAT and try it that way?

But if you want to replace the stove, the VERY first thing I would do is go to a LOCAL stove dealer and talk to them. You want tomeone who will be there if you have any problems. You don't want to keep at the manufacturer, you want to call Mike at the store and talk to him.

Also it depends on what you want. Cast iron? Soapstone? Steel? CAT or non CAT?

In 1990 just after the EPA stepped in and forced 95% of stove manufacturers out of business, I purchased an Avalon stove. The new EPA design. It had pipes running through the chamber and was very efficient. It heated my home in NE Pennsylvania very nicely. We had electric heat so we never had to turn that on again! In 2002 we moved to Vermont. I wanted another stove so I talked to the LOCAL stove shop and they didn't carry Avalon, but they did have Regency. We sized the stove to our newly built home and found that their smallest stove would do fine. The F1100. Total cost including installation and chimney, $2,500.

Currently it's 15 below outside and that stove is heating the house just fine.

And I like the lifetime warranty too. Last year I had a problem with the door handle. I called Mike at the stove shop and he said "we'll send another one right out".

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 7:24AM
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Thanks Christopherh for your insights and experience. I have spoken to a shop that carries my stove who suggested getting it quite hot before channeling the air current through the catalyst. I have not obtained a thermometer but will do so first. I'm guessing that the placement of the thermometer will be different on my inset for it is shielded on top and sides to funnel the air forward with those weak fans.

I could try it without the cat. I did check out your stove F1100 on the web. I'm sure a free standing as that one is would be best. I'm not sure how much more efficient free standing are to insert's.

Thanks again for the help.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 3:16PM
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The advantage to a free standing stove is that the entire box radiates heat, as oposed to only a portion of an insert doing so.
But all manufacturers, not just Regency have inserts too. What brands does your local stove shop carry?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 7:12AM
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I have a Hampton HI300 insert that I got 1 year ago and it sure will put out the heat. It has a 2 speed fan which works great. Make sure you are putting in enough wood if that is your problem before you get rid of it.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2011 at 12:54AM
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Christopherh, I have a number of shops here with a large variety of brands. Regency is supplied at the closest shop. There I purchased a magnetized thermometer. They had three brands. I asked what the difference was. He replied the more expensive would be more accurate. Upon examination I determined they were all identical except for the painted colored number scale and logo. I bought the cheapest for I'm sure they were all built from the same company. So much for trusting that sales person. Maybe using this thermometer will get me into the ball park of satisfaction.

Other than the problems I listed initially, the design and construction of the stove's cast iron structure itself seems solid and should be a good stove but as I said those fans are weak and the shop said more powerful ones could not be fitted.

Tombo55, thanks for the tip and I will load it up more than I have.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 5:39PM
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When we had the Avalon, it had a fan too. We never used it! It just felt like when the fan was on, it was colder in the house, and when we just had the radiant heat, it was warmer.

All that fan should do is just move the air, not keep you warm. So a slow, "weak" fan is good. And take that 10" fan away! Put it in the hallway, not on the stove, as you will never get warm! I speak from experience!

But you've gotta get that stove cranking! And then a slow warm heat will be moving from it with that "weak" fan.

They're calling for wind chills of minus 45 tonight with the air temp of minus 20. My little Regency will surely be cranking!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 7:19AM
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