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Troubleshooting used wood circulator  RSS feed

 
Lauren Magnolia
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We have come across a wood stove (Birmingham Knight Automatic Wood Circulator). Basically, a large metal box with an interior firebox (hubby's better with the terminology )
Installation has introduced us to a handful of issues.
1. This sucker GOBBLES logs. Big ones, and fast. Any input on making this more efficient? This detail may be due to those issues to be listed now....
2. The interior firebox has removable metal heat shields, of which we are missing two. This led to yesterday's fire getting that interior wall red hot. Our plan of action is to rebuild this shield with firebrick and fire-safe mortar, although there is concern that this will diminish our space in said firebox and lead to future deterioration of this new brickwall.
3. Where the stovepipe meets the stove itself, the collar that was once welded on has eroded away and is now allowing us to gaze upon inner fire from outside the stove, alongside the pipe. This is scary for carbon monoxide emissions, and possibly repaired by using the same fire-safe putty we used elsewhere on the stovepipe. I wonder if there are any other options, short of welding on a new collar which is not feasible for us.

I know there is alot of information I have not included, much of which would be helpful in giving us any advice. This was supposed to be a low-budget self-built home... Then came the International Building Code :/ We plan to encase the stovepipe in the cobwall behind the stove, using vermiculite and then straw. We are happy to answer other questions or provide pictures that might help get us closer to knowing all the options available, and we truly appreciate any kind thoughts towards our mission!!!

Live! Alive!
The Greener Good Life
~Lauren&David~
 
hunter holman
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this will slow it until you figure out a permant wrap round hollow piecesteel pipe and clamp with pipe clamp
 
Glenn Herbert
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I hate to say it, but your stove is going to be very inefficient (gobbles logs), which also means it is polluting the air. If you are building a house with cob, it would make a lot of sense to build in a rocket mass heater instead of an old woodstove. If you are installing such an old stove, you are apparently not getting inspected, as it is now illegal per EPA regulations. So you are in no more hazard by building something safe and efficient though unregulated. An RMH can be built with scavenged or secondhand materials for the most part, if that is all you can afford. And there are configurations that do not need a huge footprint if that is an issue for you.
 
Lauren Magnolia
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We've actually given alot of thought to a RMH, but have a few concerns. Such as needing the wood cut very small and needing to be there to keep feeding it. These factors have steered us towards a larger stove so we may build one large fire in the morning and one at night, hoping the cob insulation (interior walls as well as surrounding the stovepipe) would warm up and slowly release the heat.

Am I missing something about the rocket stove?
 
Lauren Magnolia
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Also, thanks so much y'all
 
Travis Johnson
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Stoves are pretty simple devices with only three ways to control them;

1: Air in
2: Fuel
3: Air out

By the sounds of your stove, I would say number three is hardly the issue as that is really just draft control of the chimney. Number two may be your issue, but only if you are using super dry wood that was felled, split and stored many years ago, but then again, I doubt that is the issue either. This ultimately leads me to the first issue which is air in. Unless you can seal off the intake air with positive draft controls on the ash pan cover, fire box cover and any external draft controls; you are not going to control the fire and go through a lot of wood. The fact that you can see into the firebox is a real problem.

Consider this; as long as you have good draft going up the chimney, the least of your problems will be consumption of wood. That is the air is going INTO these points and not coming OUT Of them. Should you lose draft like on a damp and foggy day; there is a possibility that smoke will come out of those points if you are truly lucky, and carbon monoxide if you aren't.

I think you can see where I am going with this. That stove is not safe to operate! I am not trying to break your bubble, I am not trying to be mean, And I am not trying to post a negative post; I'm telling you straight up it could kill you if the right atmospheric conditions present itself.

Can you fix it? Only you can determine that by honestly assessing your skills. Myself, I weld battleships together for the US Navy in my real job, but even I find welding cast iron difficult. Obviously steel I have no issue welding, and I am proficient with shears and a pop rivet gun on some shielding stuff, and I have modified and fixed many stoves. Still...sometimes they just cannot be fixed.

There are many, many good used stoves out there if acquiring one is an issue fiscally. Maybe there is a way to barter? I really, really, really would consider an alternative to that one. I have not seen it, and could not assess it from a picture, but my intuition thinks that it may be beyond the hope of repair. Until it is fixed, for the sake of yourself, your husband, and children perhaps; do not risk your lives operating that stove.

 
Lauren Magnolia
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Firstly, our feelings are certainly not hurt and our egos unbruised. I appreciate honesty far more than coddling and take your input very seriously.
The joint in question (I believe) is made of steel, not cast iron. As a welder is not available to us, we had planned to use the same fire-safe putty that was used on the stovepipe where pieces were joined to achieve height through the roof. Knowing this fix would notd not last forever, but could last this winter while we spend the warm months replacing the stove. Until the firebox is sealed, we are staying nearby with family for the specific reason of safety (thank you very truly for your concern)

Am I correct in hearing that you feel the putty would not be sufficient in filling the gap? Now wishing I'd photographed the glow, it was maybe 2cm at its widest, maybe a couple inches long running on one side of the stovepipe egress through the back of the box. This repair would also have a wall of fire-safe mortared firebricks to replace the missing heat shield (I hope this would help keep the direct flame off the glasslike putty)


Chances are, the advice will still be "Ya'll need to get a different stove". In which case, we have an old cast-iron stove that was made of slightly lower-grade metal (I'm told) and has already been repaired by way of weld. Any thoughts on our options of burying this in a vermiculite/cob "berm"? Or no, because if this firebox failed the cob would still permeate the carbon monoxide?


Trying like hell to not resort to the gift of propane/natural gas from loved ones, as that seems to solve problems quickly for some.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Too much is made of the notion that an RMH must have its wood split tiny. Ernie Wisner says he uses 3" to 5" split logs after the fire is going well, and only needs to feed it every 40 minutes or so. Small wood will burn faster and hotter if you need a lot of heat right away, but you can burn wood that will only fit two or three pieces in the feed tube. A good RMH sized to the load will generally only need to be fired once or twice a day for an hour or two, except in extreme conditions.

You do need to cut wood short enough to fit inside the feed tube, but an 8" RMH can usually be built to have a 16" high feed tube, or standard stove length. If you are gathering or cutting your own wood, you can get smaller sizes that would normally be discarded by commercial firewood suppliers and only needs one split at most.
 
Travis Johnson
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First off, thank you for not being offended by my concern for your safety. I truly know what it is like to cobble things together and make do when money was tight. I also know home is home and staying away from it...well to put it frankly, sucks! You have my respect for doing a difficult thing, but the right thing too! Good for you!

It is possible that a fix as you suggest may work. The biggest thing really is draft. If you have a tall chimney, live on a hill, are not surrounded by lots of trees, etc...in general have a really good draft, then even a damp foggy day may not cause a draft issue. That very well may be the case because you are consuming wood telling me air is being drawn in, around the fire and then up the stove pipe. The other thing is, we are beyond the half way point in the burning season, where I live January 24th is half way, but it may be sooner or later where you live, I am not sure.

Still life is about knowing the dangers and then mitigating them right? Perhaps you could repair it with an eye towards being as air tight as possible and purchase a carbon monoxide detector? Even that cost could possibly be mitigated by approaching your local fire department and explaining why you need one. Many times they have them, or at the very least have a fund they can dip into to give you one. In my town it is the sort of thing that starts the "hey I know a guy that has a wood stove" kind of thing.

I have taken a cheap $350 pot bellied stove and made it airtight by doing a lot of air sealing, putting on gaskets and even added its own bimetal damper that worked great, and I burned coal with it! (Burning coal is tricky because it is all about getting the stove air tight). So it is possible to repair it, and the fire brick sounds like a good fix too.
 
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