Review of Dowling Hybrid stove
Dowling Hybrid after 5 years
We have owned a Dowling Hybrid since autumn 2006 so this is our 6th winter with it. We have also had a Clearview Vision 500 since autumn 2008. This enables us to make a direct comparison between the two stoves and to give a better evaluation of their pros and cons over a few years. I shall focus on the Dowling here since it is much less widespread and prospective buyers may need more reassurance. \n\nJust for comparative purposes, a few points on the Clearview first. I endorse the high ratings given by other reviewers. It really is an excellent product if used correctly. As promised, the glass stays very clean. In its fourth winter, there is some evidence of fogging between the two glass panes, which I could deal with by disassembling the glass and cleaning thoroughly. It is only slight so I put up with it. The back brick has a crack in it, but still seems to work ok, and I shall not replace it until it falls to pieces. I collect and prepare my own wood and it is essential that it is as dry as possible. The only real drawback is the extremely high purchase price. \n\nNow the Dowling. This stove is in our kitchen, in a large fireplace recess. We would perhaps not have it in our sitting/living room as it does look a bit odd, but that depends on your style of house. The Cleaview matches our Edwardian sitting-room better. But we soon got used to the Hybrid and now are very fond of it. It is incredibly simple, being just a massively strong steel box on a stalk. There is very little to go wrong, but I will mention a few issues which might trouble some people.\n\nThe front door clanks loudly when you open it and is not always so easy to stuff large logs through. You can get a big one in half way and the rest won't follow, during which time the front end has already caught fire....errr...But this is a trivial learning experience.\n\nOne very distinctive point about this Dowling is the top damper. Most stoves on the market rely on various sources of air supply, some of which might be near the top of the stove, but their position does not affect whether you can open the door or not.\n\nThe Dowling has a damper above the stove, set right into the base of the flue, which, if closed, prevents all escape of smoke up the chimney. If you open the door with the damper closed, smoke immediately pours into the room. You learn not to do this pretty fast, believe me, but we still very occasionally forget, even after 6 years. The problem got a bit worse when we first had the Clearview as it uses a quite different air supply method.\n\nOther reviewers have rated the airwash rather poorly, and indeed this is nothing like as good as the Clearview. The glass on this stove just sits on the front of the door, held in place by some lugs. You can slide it out very easily for cleaning. We do this pretty much every day. Is it an intolerable nuisance? Not really. You just put it in the sink, squirt some oven cleaner on it and leave it for 10-15 minutes. If you cannot face doing this, then you will have to resign yourself to a dirty glass or getting a stove with a superior airwash. It is true that when you heat the stove up really hot it does burn off some of the deposits, but they can come back as the stove cools down again. This does not happen with the Clearview.\n\nOne problem with this glass removal business is that the edges of the glass tend to get chipped. I have found that filing them down till very smooth and round helps to minimise this. I replaced the glass about three years ago with slightly thicker glass than Dowling supplied, but I don't think this is strictly necessary. \n\nThe best thing about the Dowling is that it can get extraordinarily hot - I've had mine at 375 c. (700 f.) - with no problems at all. This heats up the whole chimney surround and means huge savings on gas.\n\nHas the investment been worth it? In 2006, we paid £837 for the stove including delivery from Scotland to the midlands. Installation cost £1,200, so total investment just over £2,000. In 2008 we spent about £3,200 on the Clearview + installation costs. \n\nIn 2006-07 our gas consumption was around 35,000 kw with a cost of around £1,000. In the two hard winters we have just had, with Dowling and Clearview in harness (not necessarily both at the same time of course), gas consumption was about 24,000 kw, at a cost of around £850. This year gas prices have risen by 18% , but the weather is much milder. It is hard to be sure, but I estimate that it might take us another couple of years to recoup our whole investment on two stoves. We probably recovered the cost of the Dowling last year, i.e. after about 4 years. I do not pay for wood though, as I consider collecting it and cutting it and storing it part of the whole exercise. If you don't actually like wood, then I would say just stick to gas!\n\nBuying a stove is quite a personal thing. Some people are very concerned about appearance. Some want maximum savings on gas. Some cannot be bothered with glass cleaning. Some want it only for social occasions, others want to burn wood every day. The Dowling is an excellent stove for people who want to burn a lot of wood, aren't especially fashion conscious, aren't easily persuaded by fancypants technology, don't mind the rather eccentric looks or a bit of dirt here and there or occasional smoke in their room. We live in a pretty big house, and need a lot of heat, but the Dowling would probably heat a smaller house on its own. I would certainly buy one again in the right circumstances.\n\n
Stove expert replied: What a fantastic review - thank you. Dowling should perhaps consider doing what other European stove manufacturers so which is to have a baffle which automatically opens when you open the stove door - problem solved.