CoalTrol Review

CoalTrol Review

PostBy: traderfjp On: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:07 pm

I have an Alaska Channing III stove with a DV and recently purchased a Coaltrol. On the Alaska stove there are too many plugs that which managed well by Alaska. It took me about 15 minutes to mark each plug to its stock configuration - just in case I ever have a problem with the Coaltrol and need to reinstall the slew of plugs. I would suggest this for anyone installing a new device on their system. I haven't read of any failures but it can't hurt to be able to re-install your manual feed system, if need be.

In any event, the control module has several outlets, a nice powder coating type finish, a robust build and a fuse built into it. The unit draws very little power (5w) which is also nice on the monthly bills. I mounted the control module on a board and then mounted the board to the wall. The unit has studs coming out of the back which makes mounting the unit on a board or a hopper very easy. I chose not to mount it on the hopper for cosmetic reasons mostly and the remote chance that I may have a hopper fire and fry the unit. I did have one my first year but have remedied that situation,

The unit doesn't come with any plugs but a plug kit can be purchased separately for around 20.00. I chose to make my own plugs. Once I had my plugs made it was another few minutes to plug all the motors into the Coaltrol's main box. I have the smaller control box so I had to plug my DV unit into a separate outlet which isn't a problem at all. The thermostat uses a computer network cable that plugs into the thermostat and then into the control box. Mounting the thermostat required that I buy small bushing to allow clearnace for the wire that comes out of the back of the thermostat. The thermostat is setup for a true in the wall installation but a flush mount is possible with little plastic bushings that can be bought at any hardware store for under a 1.00. One caveat is that there are wings on the thermostat so the mounting screws are visible but in use it looks fine. The thermostat has an OK build quality to it. At first I thought the buttons were a little sloppy but they seem to be setup so you can either push them in or push them from side to side. Getting into all the menus was easy and I found the interface very intuitive.

The thermostat's main chore is to control the feed rate of your stove and to make small adjustments as the temperature changes. The Coaltrol will also ramp up or slow down your convection blower as needed. There is a setting for this and it can be tweaked. There is also an option to manually control the blower if you need it to be quiet for a Skype call or whatever. The first part of the setup requires that you look in the manual and find your stove and set the Min/Max firing rate to get you in the ball park. I originally used 4 and 40 but found that my fire was going out on 4. I bumped the min to 6 and that seemed to have done the trick. The feed rate determines how many seconds out of 100 seconds your stove pushes coal on to the stove's grate. The more coal it pushes, on the grate, the hotter the fire. It's been too warm to test the max feed setting. However, the user will want to get the largest fire possible without pushing un-burnt coal into the ash pan. If there is temperature overshoot then lowering the max rate can be helpful along with a few tricks which you can read about here on this forum.

The Coaltrol has been doing a fantastic job of keeping my home at one steady temperature. Without the Coaltrol I would guess how much the temp would fall overnight and try to setup my feed rate accordingly. At times I would get it right but usually we were too hot in the morning or too cold. The Coaltrol also has a setback feature. I haven't tried it yet but from what I've read you should keep the temperature swings within 3-4 degrees so you don't get any overshoot.

There are many nifty features on the new Coaltrol. I’m only going to mention my favorites. One is the FEED 10 which allows the user to tell the Coaltrol to feed the stove at Max from 10-1 minutes. This is great when lighting the stove or when you want to ramp up the heat quickly. Another outstanding features is that the Coaltrol will turn off all the motors if the temp gets to 95-97 (not sure which one). Lastly, there is a hack that allows you to set the igniter so if the electricity goes out and comes back on the Coaltrol will not keep pushing coal if the stove goes out.
The Coaltrol is ready for primetime and will add a level comfort to your home and free up more of your time for other nerdy adventures. To top off all the good things about the Coaltrol it comes with a 3 year warranty and expert technical help. This is a no brainer for sure.
Stove/Furnace Make: Alaska
Stove/Furnace Model: Channing 3