Review of Stratford TF90 stove
Large firebox, very capable.
Overall the TF90 works successfully; ours has been heating a 500 litre thermal store for 3 months (running DHW, 8 upstairs rads and UFH downstairs). During that time (Jan/Feb/Mar 2012), although it's not been a severe winter in the south west, it has been chilly. However the oil boiler hasn't been switched on once. Depending on the weather, one to two good fires a day is sufficient to keep the house warm (maybe one of those will be allowed to burn for a good few hours during the day to provide a background heat at the centre of the house too). On very cold days, an almost continual burn was needed.I've past experience of a few other stoves, but not to heat an entire house; this beast seems altogether more utilitarian: designed to actually run one's heating, rather than heating a couple of rooms and looking pretty (that's not to say I dislike it's looks at all). I’ve used one other stove to drive rads; it was at a friend’s home and worked just about OK, but was possibly undersized or, just as likely, the logs were poor quality and not sufficiently seasoned. Anyway, the TF90 has a MASSIVE firebox, both in initial capacity and also appetite, however it's heating a largish house, so that's to be expected. It can heat up our entire thermal store from cold to 70+ degrees C in a matter of 4 hours (I think that's accurate). For comparison (I know I'd have found it useful when choosing), we're a single skin house with reasonable interior insulation. We're not heavy hot water users and also try not to maintain the house at too warm a temperature (16/17 degrees upstairs 18/19 downstairs with the exception of individual rooms which are sometimes warmer if required (eg often 23 in the room the tf90 runs in). Other internal doors are shut doors to leave the room colder, if it's presently not in use. It's not a particularly cold county we live in, so we don't need to burn as much as we would in, for example, the middle of the country - which gets harsher frosts. However can still get through a couple of wheelbarrows of seasoned wood on a cool day. Anthracite left to burn overnight invariably leaves hot embers for the morning, even though the controls are left normal levels rather than slumbered... (although tends also to fog the glass badly). Slumbering isn’t that necessary with a thermal store, because getting the store hot gradually heats the house once the fire’s out.. other than to make it easier to relight a fire in cold weather. The air wash works OK, as long as the fire's hot - not as well as, say the Dru in another room (rarely ever used other than for isolated room comfort, because the TF90’s sufficient to heat the entire house). Seems to burn quite efficiently (wood is nice and dry): making relatively little ash for the huge amount of wood fed into it. It certainly seems more efficient on anthracite (maybe with house coal mix for a nice flame effect). Problems? - I needed to adjust the system angle me mechanism on the ash pan door because it got stuck swivelled the wrong way (I'd guess poor manufacture control). - Thermostat knob wasn't supplied and I can't bear to buy one at £15 delivered (thermostat / primary air control is usually left at max) - I'd like another ash pan but £80? Come on! - (specific to my installation) the thermal store isn’t elevated enough above stove so, whilst the thermo syphoning works well to heat the store, it tends to reverse thermo syphon once the fire’s cooled down – making the fire act as a radiator to equalise water temp – slowly draining the store of heat (must fix that – but can’t output can’t be impeded due to safety – and regs). - Occasionally, mainly when starting, need to crack the Ash pan door Handle open a little in order to provide more airflow - Riddle works OK, but the wood setting has larger gaps than expected, compared to other stoves. - one side burns less vigorously than the other – I guess it’s likely due to the cooling effect of the cooler water in that part of the boiler jacket. I suspect that, if the pipes were connected at opposite corners, for a reversed cross flow, the opposite side may be less vigorous instead. - I’m worried about reports of reduced longevity here: people having problems with them rusting through.. something to be avoided at all costs given 500 litres of hot water on the floor (any tips anyone)? In summary, it’s pricy, but I don't believe there's anything on the market to rival the output / capacity. So far it appears fit for purpose; as I write, in late March, the thermal store’s still quite hot from last night, there were plenty of hot anthracite embers this morning and I threw a few logs in, because I knew it would start easily and I could therefore easily top up what was lost this morning from the rads and UFH. We’ll probably just relight the fire in the early evening for a good hot burn for a few hours tonight and this will get the TS hot again, through its entire 500l.
Stove expert replied: Large free-standing boiler with integral thermostat which works well. Big boiler for larger properties and very few options available.
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