Monday, January 30, 2012

Hamco Blacksmith Mulberry Performance of Inset Stoves


Inset Stoves 
are they
Correctly Rated?

Just received this comment letter from Marie:

Marie 1:05 PM (1 hour ago)
Marie has left a new comment on your post "New Inset Multi Fuel Stove from Hamco":

Hi, We installed this Hamco Inset stove and were so disappointed with the output we have now taken it out and put back in our previous Stanley "Oisin" free standing stove. The Stanley gives double the output but doesn't look half as good unfortunately. Our room is 14x18ft and our chimney does have a strong draw due to our windy location -don't know whether that means we can't have success with any insert stove or what. Would love to know if Inserts should still work well when you have strong chimney draw? 

Poor Heat from Inset Stoves

In a fairly recent post pertaining to poor efficiency questions in the Blacksmith Artisan,

I was coming to the conclusion that the UK rating agency which I think is called "Gastec" is somehow incorrectly over-rating the output to room of at least some of the inset stoves it is testing.

In all fairness to Blacksmith, with whom I have taken up the issue of low efficiency of their "Artisan", I now am beginning to think that most if not ALL inset stoves out there carry a rating some 25 to 33% higher than they actually should.

This is not through the fault of the manufacturer or vendor, I also suspect that it is not through any active fault of the rating agency either. I am starting to think that the problem may arise from the way in which the heat output is assessed.

If the rating for an inset stove, with its dual heat output sections, was fully and properly assessed, I believe that there should be two heat output figures issued. (1) The radiant and convected heat from the exposed surfaces of the stove, and (2) the convection heat output from the convection chamber.

On the other hand, if the heat output is rated by subtracting the flue losses from the total, which would be valid for a simple free standing stove,  but would not give a true rating at all in the case of an inset stove.

Chimneys and Inset Stoves

If the chimney worked OK with the freestanding Stanley, then, it should be OK with the inset stove. Usually the problems arise from insufficient draught. Excess draught will cause the fire to burn too brightly. Insufficient draught, and you will get smoking and sluggish burn.

To round up, I would suggest to anyone considering an inset stove, to take the current rating system and subtract say 25% to 30% when considering the heat they require.

So an inset with a rating of 6Kw you would best consider it to have an actual output of closer to 4Kw.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Experimental and Boru Doras Fireplace Doors


A Fireplace Door or an Inset Stove?

Following my post update on the Experimental Fireplace door I installed over a year ago, I have received several letters and enquiries about the post.

Here is one of these letters:

Hi Tony,

Interesting update about the fireplace door. The fire front seems like a practical and low cost solution - i.e. the kind of thing that some overpriced stove profiteers would dread.

There is an Irish made Boru fire front - I wonder if any one has experience with it yet? It might be particularly worth considering in light of your recent posting about the poor performance of some inset stoves. A fire front is of course less efficient than a stove but the ease of retro fitting may make it a better trade off for cost versus efficiency gain.  

Regards, Simon Quinn, Tralee, County Kerry

The Boru Doras Fireplace door looks fine but the one big factor I see going against it, is the price. At around €550+ it is a truly silly price to pay for a simple door, especially given that it is not even in stainless. You could buy an inset stove for that money.

I would not choose a fireplace door at all- at all -  if I did not have a Firebird back-boiler already installed in the fireplace. You can in fact risk overheating the chimney breast if you do not have a wrap-around boiler in place.

If you are considering a fireplace door in a fireplace without a wraparound boiler, I would be inclined to go for an inset stove instead.

(1) An inset stove will give you perhaps 50% more efficiency that a plain door.
(2) You will not risk over heating the chimney breast and subsequent damage.
(3) You can buy an inset stove for roughly the cost of the Boru Doras!!

What Inset Stove costs the same as the Boru Doras?

The poor quality picture above is of the Hamco "Glen" inset stove. The Hamco inset can be bought for roughly the same price as a Boru door. At the very least it will give a much higher heat output to the room, and you will not have the higher risk of compromising the chimney breast.

The Hi-Flame inset stove is very nicely built and is priced at a very reasonable €565 at McElligotts Hardware Stores Castleisland Co Kerry.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Multi-fuel Stove Design Blacksmith Artisan


Some Design Features Noted
with Question Marks on the
Blacksmith Artisan 

While writing the last post regarding inset stove efficiency, I was looking more closely at the photo I took of the Blacksmith Artisan with the door open, and I noticed a couple of features which might just have an impact on the overall efficiency of the convection section of the stove.

I have marked the two features in the above photo which I feel could possibly adversely affect the airflow of the convection box. (see my previous posts on inset stove design)


The top arrow points to the "air-wash" vent. The question I have in mind is; from where does this vent take it's input. I suspect that it takes air from the convection air channel. If it does this, it is doing two very wrong things:

(1)  It might thus be mixing convection air with combustion air - this is a complete no-no in good stove design.

(2)  By possibly taking warm air from the convection flow, it would at least be reducing the efficiency of the convection heater section of the stove.


The lower arrow points to a large slot cut to accommodate the handle locking mechanism. This slot is about the same size as one of the air intake vents. If the slot is cut into the convection channel, which I suspect it is, it will at least cause turbulence in the convection air flow and reduce the efficiency.

If anyone has clear and concise answers to these two questions, I would be happy to hear and to possibly publish.

ADDENDUM 6th Feb 2012

To be fair to Blacksmith, I have seen the air wash vent in another make of inset stove, apparently take its input from the convection channel.

Another point to add is that Blacksmith's Artisan is by no means the only inset stove with a question mark regarding the rated heat output. I am beginning to think many inset stoves carry an over-rated output figure through no fault of the vendor, and that perhaps the fault lies in the the way these stoves are tested?


Friday, January 13, 2012

Blacksmith Artisan Inset Stove Comment


Problems with the 
Blacksmith Artisan Inset Stove

Blacksmith Artisan Inset stove with door open

I have just received a comment from a reader outlining their experience with the Blacksmith Artisan inset stove. It would seem their experience echoes the "Artisan" case I have documented.

I am beginning to believe that most if not all inset stoves have an over-rated output figure - through no fault of the manufacturer/vendor company, but perhaps more likely due to the methods of testing used by the test and certification companies.

I have contacts in the building trade, and the word out there is that inset stoves are nowhere as good as free standing stoves of similar rating.

I am inclined to think that it would be a good idea to mentally subtract say 33% from the certified output figures of inset stoves. This would give you a more realistic idea of the heat output. For instance, an inset stove boasting a certified 6Kw output, might perhaps more realistically achieve an actual 4Kw.

The Comment Letter

CK has left a new comment on your post "Blacksmith Stove Review Part 4 - Alert -":

Tony,  I too am from Co.Kerry and have recently purchased the "Artisan" inset stove. My experience is similar to yours - disappointed with the product.

We opted for the inset based on the product description - "Fits into any 16" or 18" fireback". Buyer beware - it does not!

We installed the inset and were so disappointed with its performance that we questioned the installation. We then removed the fireback and fully lined the chimney with a 6" flexible flu liner (which was not needed for the inset stove) believing that this would maximise the output from the stove. Again, this was not the case.

We removed the stove again and had a registered Blacksmith installer (recommended by the retailer) install the stove. He completely sealed the chimney recess with fire cement before reinstalling. The heat output improved slightly,but still disappointing.

I agree with your findings - nowhere near the 5KW output as specified.

Our only option now is to contact the Blacksmith technical department and have someone call to inspect the stove. Is there anyway of measuring the heat output from the stove? Please let me know! 

A Partial Answer to above Question

To accurately and scientifically measure a stoves heat output into a room would require complex laboratory conditions and a lot of equipment.

However, that said, there is a fairly simple test you could do yourself at home. It would not be highly accurate, but it would establish roughly the heat output.

1.  The experiment would need to be carried out on two separate days with very similar weather conditions. It would require a calm day with little or no wind.  The outside temperature would need to be within a degree or so on both test days. For instance a calm day with outside temperatures of 10C.

2.  You would need to let the room go cold overnight to the same temperature on both test days. For instance the room should be at a starting temperature of say 17C on both occasions.

3. You will need to buy or borrow 3 electronic thermometers - these are not expensive and can be got on EBay for €5 - €7. They respond rapidly and are moderately accurate.

4.  You would have two sensors in different parts the room well away from the direct source of heat, - and one measuring the outside temperature.

5. You would need a 3Kw electric convection heater or use two heaters -one 1Kw and one 2Kw. These will provide a reference point. Remembers that electric heaters will reach temperature within a few minutes. A fire will need time to fully ignite, and an iron stove will take time to warm up - so the timing points will need to be offset by roughly 30 minutes, (Assuming an efficient and full ignition of the fire - you may need to add some more time until the fire is good and red)

6. On Test Day ONE.  (a) note the inside and outside temperatures. (b) Switch on the electric heater/s, (c) turn the thermostats up fully and (d) time how long it takes the room to reach a steady 23C.

7. On Test Day TWO. (a) Note the temperatures as before. (b) Light the fire using plenty of firelighter and kindling, and allow 30 minutes for the stove to heat up.  (c) Time how long it takes for the room to reach 23C.

This simple method will give you a ball park idea of the thermal output of the stove against a reference point. My bet is that the electric heaters will have the room up to temperature as quickly as the stove, even though their output is nearly half the rated output of the stove.



Monday, January 09, 2012

Smokeless Coal Cosyglo €14.75 a bag


I promised to give details of smokeless coal at good prices. Ganly's of Athlone, Longford and Mountbellew are offering Born na Mona Cosyglo Gems at only €14.75 a 40Kg bag.

The price is for 1 Tonne 1000Kg lots of 25 x 40Kg bags, and there is a delivery charge to be negotiated. Ganly's price for one bag is still very good at €15.95.

They also have an excellent price for peat briquettes at only €3.19 per bale. Another item that they offer at a reasonable price is a stainless steel anti-downdraught cowl at €69.95.

Let me know how you get on with these deals please.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Ecolocap - Fluidic Energy Inc. - EEstor and a Car Super-battery?


Waiting for a Super - Battery

The actual realisation of a truly viable electric car, that can go 400+Km on a charge, is cheaper than an internal combusion car, and requires virtually no maintenance - is still IMHO a long way off.

Why do I say that, especially when all of the drive technology, such as ultra high efficiency motors, control gear, charging devices etc. are all in place, and are reasonably priced. What therefore is the ELEPHANT in the room, or rather what is that elephant which is most evidently NOT in the room?

EV Missing Link

The missing link to a cheap efficient and long-journey viable EV (electric vehicle) is a viable high capacity and reasonably priced battery.

Electric cars are way more expensive BECAUSE of the cost of the battery. Currently available batteries can be up to half the cost of an electric car. The problems with available batteries are: (1) It takes too long to charge them, (2) They give too little mileage before going flat some only 100 - 150 Km. (3) If you go flat in the middle of nowhere, you are screwed. (4) The battery costs a fortune, (5) The battery does not last very long and has to be replaced, perhaps up to three times in the life of the car.

Put life / cost of an EV battery another way,  how many manufacturers are prepared to give a 10 year guarantees on their lithium EV batteries? Experience has shown that a gas or deisel engine can go for 15+ years. If a car engine goes belly-up you can buy a used one or reconditioned one for much less than half the price of a new car!! Batteries are chemical factories and burn themselves out. EV lithium batteriers are crazy expensive. The current cost of an EV car and the possibility of having to replace the battery in its life, would go a long way towards outweighing the saving on juice.

For most people an EV is not a good bet as the current situation stands.

The Mythical Quest

Several companies have, for several years, been promising us a battery with 2 to 5 times the capacity of current Lithium Ion batteries and at half or less of the crazy price of Lithium Ion.

 Ecolocap's  Battery "Test" results?

Among those companies "announcing" the imminent launch of a super battery have been, Ecolocap - who went as far as showing a prototype and publishing its "test figures". Strange thing though, is that over a year on and all had gone VERY VERY quiet and no battery of course.

Another outfit proporting to offer a super battery is EEstor which can now safely be classified as a "mythical" company with an equally mythical battery that has failed to emerge after many years of noising abroad.

Fluidic Energy Inc. which managed to get two large grants from the US government has also gone whisper quiet, and nothing much has stirred in a year or so.

Best Bet

I have been thinking, and recon that a letter addressed to Santa Clause might be a better bet for fulfilling all of our hopes of receiving a gift to the world of a cheap and viable EV battery!!


Friday, January 06, 2012

Ireland: Island of Taints and Dollars


"Taints" - a Definition
particularly as pertains to Ireland

taints; verb

1. To affect with, or as if by, an infection or disease.
2. To affect with decay or putrefaction; to spoil.
3. To corrupt morally.
4. To affect with a tinge of something reprehensible.

To become affected with decay or putrefaction; spoil.

1. A moral defect, a stain or spot.
2. An infecting touch, influence, or tinge.

NOTE: (a) A survey taken last April found that a mere 12% of the population of Ireland trusted members of the Irish Parliament!!  (b) Many of Ireland's problems have money, greed, and dishonesty at the core.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Grossly Inequitable Irish Household Tax


in Irish Taxation
(a rant - I hope you will agree a justifiable rant)

The Irish Government have introduced a grossly inequitable household tax on EVERY residence in Ireland. The same amount €100 will equally apply to the Prime Minister on €200,000 salary as to a pensioner in a broken down cottage living on  €11,000.

A pensioner surviving on €11,000 a year will pay - - - €100
People with massive debts and on the edge of suicide will pay - - €100
The Irish Prime Minister on €200,000 plus expenses a year will pay -  - - €100
A barrister earning €500,000 a year will pay - - - €100

The Stipulations

Beatings will continue until morale improves.

  • You will not be billed or informed of your need to pay.
  • You will pay or be punished by the State.
  • You will pay within three months or we will make you suffer more.
  • The punishments will continue until you pay.
  • Inability to pay - including starvation - will not be an acceptable reason for default.
  • No exceptions - except for the politicians and the rich.

By Order of the Great Irish Leaders

IRELAND Island of Taints and Dollars


Ireland, once known as
The Island of Saints and Scholars
Now better referred to as:
The Island of Taints and Dollars

In some of my recent past Posts/Rants I was expressing the need and the hope that the Irish Parliament might see fit to show some moral backbone and lead the country from the front by taking a 50% cut in their truly massive, and now immoral, salaries and pensions.

This proposition however would seem not to have struck a positive chord from our leaders. The actuality would seem to be quite the opposite in fact. With retired former politicians having the cheek to publicly state they will not budge voluntarily.

It would appear that it will take a legal crowbar or legislative JCB to force any reduction whatsoever from these greedy people.

"Screw the population - we are holding onto what we have" - is the war cry from our elected leaders!


Eco Friendly Solid Fuels Straw Briquettes


Straw Briquettes

Eco Briquettes
Straw - Rice Husk - Almond Shell

I had a recent letter asking about straw briquettes and how effective they are. Truth is I know nothing much about straw as a bio fuel - so like any PC geek, I do a bit of digging on the web.

So I learn that straw briquettes are an ecologically clean, nontoxic bio fuel.

(1) They are made in a variety of ways - just like wood briquettes. Some are better than others. The highly compressed types are better than the less dense sort.

(2) They come in various shapes and configurations. shown above is the full body circular section with a diameter of 50mm. The length can be varied by order.

(3) The above type have a typical density: of 1.2g/cm3

(4) Typical calorific values vary between 3800 - 4700  kcal/kg  or you could multiply by 4.18 to get Kj/Kg 15,884 to 19,646 This is roughly the same heat output as peat briquettes

(5) Ash content typical is 5.8 %. This is high compared to wood, and even higher than some coals.  The ash content of woods varies greatly between different fuels. Typically between 0.43 and 1.82 percent of the mass of burned wood (dry basis) results in ash.

Wood based fuels the ash content varies quite a bit between different types of timber product, stemwood 0,4-0,6%, stem bark 2-5% and 1-2% branches. The ash content is highest in those parts of a tree where growth occurs. In the leaves, needles and branches and leading shoot varied between 2 and 6%. Generally though, wood based fuels can be expected to give a 1 to 2% ash content.

For comparison, Typical Ash Content in Coals are:

    Anthracite Coal : 9.7 - 20.2 weight %
    Bituminous Coal : 3.3-11.7 weight %
    Lignite Coal : 4.2 weight %

Straw briquettes are commercially produced in many places, currently on the web are adverts for supply of large quantities from Ukraine among other countries.

Other types of bio briquettes on offer include almond shell and rice husk. If you would like the figures on these - why not go and look them up?


Monday, January 02, 2012

Experimental Fireplace Door with Backboiler UPDATE


Experimental Fireplace Door

I have had a number of requests regarding this experiment. Some of these email requests want specific information sent to them. I say yet again PLEASE NOTE THAT I DO NOT AND WILL NOT ACT AS A CONSULTANT OR ADVISOR. All such requests get binned so do not bother sending that email.

Others simply want to know how the experiment is going this winter. I am very happy to provide an update for those requests.

1. So far this winter we have used only the experimental fireplace to heat the entire house.

2. Apart from the Christmas week, when we had guests staying, we have not used the electric immersion water heater.

3. The fire burns 24 - 7 for 5 continuous days - then it has to have the ash removed and is re-lit within a couple of hours.

4. 11 rooms including 3 bathrooms are constantly heated to between 19C and 24C  24-7. The bedrooms are kept intentionally cooler. The warmest room is the living room in which the fire is situated. The only source of heat in that room is the fire itself the air temperatures vary between 22C and 24C.

5. There is sufficient hot water most of the time from the fire and back-boiler - except when we have guests.

6. During the cold spell, when the outside temperatures were -1 to 4C and windy - we used just short of 80Kgs of coal per week.

7. In milder external temperatures of 8 - 11C the usage goes down to 60Kgs a week or maybe just a tad less.

8. To answer some enquiries regarding the temperatures of the chimney breast - which I have just measured right now, here are the readings:

(a) 500mm above the fire the wall is at 45C
(b) 1500mm up it is at 35C.
(c) In the room backing the fireplace the temperatures are 1 meter from the floor and directly behind the fire the wall is 36C.
(d) At ceiling level it is at 32C.
(e) In the two bedrooms above and directly in line with the flue the wall is at 29C.

All temperature readings were taken twice using an infrared non-contact industrial type thermometer.

Technical Problems?

Only technical problem I have had to date is in the air control. I modified the under-floor butterfly valve to get a tighter fit using a silicone washer. The silicone sheet I used has not taken the heat too well and has partially melted. I will have to replace this and will use a piece of quality branded silicone baking tray - which hopefully should handle the heat better.


Am I pleased with the results? You betcha!! Everyone in the house is very pleased with having a constantly warm house 24-7. The room temperatures vary only a couple of degrees throughout the 24 hours.

€26 worth of smokeless coal per week during the coldest weather so far to give 24-7 constant heat and hot water seems to me to be very good value for money.


Cons: Tending a fire takes some work. Roughly 4 to 5 times in 24 hours. Then once every 5 days it needs to be let go out and we empty the under floor ash tray and re-light the fire.

Versus Heating Oil??

Would I use the Oil Fired Heating again? With home heating oil taxed to the limit in the Republic of Ireland - it is some 20+% dearer than in the North of Ireland - I would rather go cold than be robbed!!!

It would cost a lot more anyway to operate the oil heating 24-7 to give the same level of comfort we now have with the experimental coal fire.