Overview: Our only source of heat at our home in the Colorado Rockies is a wood burning stove. After a decade with the ancient stove that came with the house, we decided it was time to upgrade. A close friend from our hometown in Alaska recommended a Blaze King. We purchased the Chinook 20.1 with the optional dual fan system and it has totally revolutionized our world. Until now, I did not know that it was possible that the house could be warm with only a wood burning stove.
Beginnings: With the original wood burning stove we went through about a wheelbarrow of wood per day, albeit poor quality wood that we harvest ourselves. When we added logs the fire was blazing and a zillion degrees in the house and all we could do was wait it out. At night we would have to wake up periodically to add logs or the fire would die out completely and the pipes (and children) might freeze. It was always smoky, ashy, and dirty. Starting a fire was a time consuming affair complete with billowing smoke, and even after showering and putting on clean clothing we smelled like campfire. I thought that this was how life was with wood burning stoves.
Here is an image of the front and interior of the stove. There is a lip on the front so that when you open the door, logs do not roll out. The horizontal slats on the top of the stove is where the warm air comes out when you have the dual fan system on. There are decorative holes on the sides of the stove, warm air does not vent out of those.
Here is the thermostat knob that controls the heat, from high burn to low burn. The dampener of the catalytic burner is more effective at higher altitudes. Here at 8000' we only turn the dampener just past half way closed for a minimum burn temperature.
To turn the fan off, you turn it past "high" and it clicks off.
This is the catalyst thermometer that is on top of the stove. When it is in the "active" range, you engage the catalytic converter by turning the handle on the right hand side of the stove.
This is the the bypass handle that engages the catalytic combustor. When engaging the bypass handle to the "on" position, it naturally goes horizontal and you have to push clockwise to the downward position.
Review: Esthetics are important as the stove is the first thing you see when you enter the house. The stove is a sleek, modern European design that really stands out. The Chinook 20.1 comes with the grey side panels which adds to its elegance. The stove stands on two legs with an open bottom. It is not recommended to store wood underneath the stove. The caveat is that this design collects all of the toys that roll away from my children, and is just another awkward area for me to clean. I still love the look but offer that as a consideration when purchasing this model.
All of the handles and knobs are on the right hand side, and the door is hinged on the left. For our required stove placement it is a bit awkward because the knobs are near our wall and I have to lean in close to move them. I do not enjoy being that close so would prefer to have a mirrored/opposite option for purchase.
The fan works really well. In the morning when the fire gets going I run the fan and the house heats quickly. The fan has a range from low to high and I choose the medium setting so that it is not too loud. The stove faces the couch and I can sit and indulge in the warm air with my cup of coffee.
Lighting the stove is sooo easy. If you install the 15' of stovepipe as the manufacturer suggests, you have excellent draft. Now when I open the door to either create a fire or add more wood, no smoke billows into the house. That relates directly to the amount of cleaning and dusting that I have to do. Every spring I wash the wood walls and some areas were black with soot. No longer.
The thermostat is my favorite feature. With the thermostat, the stove behaves similarly to a furnace and a consistent temperature is possible! It's absolutely amazing. No longer does the house have two extreme temperatures; ie the surface of Mercury or Antarctica. When you add logs to the fire and it gets going, you turn the thermostat down and the fire simmers in the background. When you're ready for more heat, turn the thermostat to high and the embers spring back to life, almost like perpetual fire. This feature makes the long overnight burns possible. I load up the firebox around 8pm, then after the logs are blazing I turn the stove down to low when I go to bed. In the morning the embers are still glowing and the stove remains too warm to touch. I turn the thermostat back on high and the coals re-ignite. I add kindling, and then logs and we're good to go. This process is so fast, I can have a full fire before the tea kettle whistles.
The bypass handle is simple to use and adds to the stove's efficiency. The manual states that with the catalytic combuster and the bypass handle, you burn 30% less wood. Also with the handle engaged the amount of carbon created is the same as if the wood was left to decompose naturally outside. This stove is far ahead of the current EPA standards and will be relevant for years to come. It's a particular pleasure to play outside in the yard and not see ash or smell woodsmoke.
My neighbors who helped unload the stove were so impressed they asked to come over for a demonstration. That same day they ordered their own Blaze King!
Summary: It's still a wood burning stove, but it's cleaner, user friendly, gorgeous, environmentally sound, and can keep the house and your family warm 24 hours a day.