Review Of The Jøtul F 50 TL Rangeley Wood Stove, by S.T.

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First let me state up front that I have heated with a wood stove for over 20 years, so I am not a novice and I understand the use of wood stoves. Additionally, as a person who worked for over 30 years in the defense industry, I also understand that there are products that are ill or poorly planned by engineers who never used the product and/or have large egos and refuse to accept any feedback from the end users of a product.

Our previous wood stove was a Regency brand, which we located in a single story home. In the more than 20 years we owned the Regency wood stove, we had zero problems with the stove.

When we purchased and moved to our new country homestead property, it was equipped with a 1940’s Warm Morning Coal Stove, which had a sheet metal housing that was just warm to the touch, so we were unable to cook on it. (This was a major preparedness issue in my mind.) We were concerned also that coal may not be available in a long-term SHTF situation. We did not want a pellet stove because it requires electricity, manufactured pellets may not be available in the future, and also we could not cook on it. So we opted to upgrade to a new, modern, air tight wood stove. Both the old coal stove and the new wood stove were located in our finished basement next to the small canning kitchen.

We purchased a new Jøtul F 50 TL Rangeley wood stove to replace the 1940’s coal stove from a local dealer in the county who sold it and installed it for us. With the new stove pipe, the final total cost was approximately $2,800. Just as an added bit of information, we paid for the stove and installation two days in advance of the installation, as the stove was in stock, and at that time the amount of stove pipe that was needed was an unknown because this is a very small Appalachian County. After installation I was told to go back to the local dealer in a couple of days to pay for the stove pipe after the installation. I must say that in our previous home in California, they would not have installed our wood stove until the check had cleared the bank much less told us to pay for the stove pipe at a later date. This was an eye opener for my husband, who was born and only lived in California prior to our retirement.

Pros:

  • Air tight.
  • Accepts large size wood through the main door but not the top door.
  • Good large flat top to hold a dutch oven or a stove top peculator or both even at the same time.
  • Lift up top to accept a Jøtul wintergrill for indoor grilling of food. (We have yet to use this option.)
  • Lift up top to accept inserting smaller wood from the top in addition to the door. (We have never used this option because we keep a cast iron teapot on the top filled with water.)

Cons:

  • This stove is equipped with a grate and ash pan. The ash pan must be emptied everyday and sometimes twice a day, depending upon the weather and how much wood is burned.
  • The legs are only 8” tall and therefore I must lay on the floor to remove and insert the ash pan at least once everyday. When you are pushing 60, laying on the floor and trying to get up just to remove and empty the ash pan in a pain in the rear end or may I say a pain in my back and shoulders. Add at 5am when the light in the walkout basement is not the best, you have problems. There have been many days where this is a real problem, and I am sure that there are and will be many more to come.
  • When trying to empty the ash pan, the lock to the door must be opened fully, and then the ash pan door opened part way. Then, the lock must be closed a few inches or it will hit the ash ledge in front of the main door and not open; the stove must be cool or the door to the ash pan will not re-lock correctly after you empty the ash pan, and the wood stove can over heat. (If you do not empty the ash pan for two days, it could overflow into the ash pan holder, which require the wood stove to be completely cold to get in there with a brush or a shop vac to clean it out. (This has happened to me a couple of times, which is not fun in weather -20 with the windchill factor.)

What will happen in 10 years when I am pushing 70 and my husband is pushing 80, we may be wheelchair bound, and not be able to bend down or lay on the floor to remove the ash pan? Will I have to pay $500 or more to have someone remove part of the stovepipe and install four solid cement blocks under the legs to increase the height of the wood stove and add a sheet metal plate over the grate and a layer or two of fire brick on the steel plate? Or will I have to pay someone to come in everyday in the wintertime to empty the ash pan?

The first year we owned the stove there were not any problems.

The second year we owned the stove, the front glass broke down the middle into two pieces. The replacement glass was an additional $180. I may have to order five additional pieces of glass if this happens again in the future. I understand the importance of preparations; however, something that once lasted us over 20 years and now only lasts two years is a problem for me.

The third year the handle latch fell off when I opened the door at 4am. The metal plate holding the handle in place came unscrewed (due to heat?). The screws used a hex screw in lieu of the U.S. standard flat head or phillips screws. It just sticks in my craw that all of my hot coals are going into an ash pan hour after hour instead of staying in the wood stove keeping the house warm.

What will happen if hot coals burns through the ash pan, which is made of very thin aluminum sheet material material? When you select the contact link at the website, you are directed to a blank page, which has no address or phone number or email to contact Jøtul. So I have no way to provide any feedback to the wood stove manufacturer. I can only assume that Jøtul does not want or value the feedback from the users of their products.

Recommendations to Jøtul

  1. Increase the height of the legs to a minimum of 12” tall and consider 18” tall.
  2. Remove the ash pan.
  3. Replace the grate with a solid steel bottom and a layer of fire brick.
  4. Use standard size fire brick in the design and manufacturing instead of the two or three different sizes this unit used.
  5. Improve the glass and provide a single piece of replacement glass with each unit sold.
  6. Improve the screws holding the door handle plate.
  7. Improve the screws holding the glass.
  8. Use United States standard flat head or phillips screws in lieu of hex style.
  9. Provide a United States contact email address and phone number.

Recommendations To Future Buyers

  1. Consider your age not now but in 10 or 20 or even 30 years in the future when purchasing or upgrading any item in your home and consider any older or disabled family members who may come to live with you in the future.
  2. Look for a future article on buying and remodeling for age.

Final Thoughts

Our previous wood stove sat atop a 20” hearth, and the coal stove loading door was a 3′ height, so it never occurred to me that there might be age-related problems of the new wood stove sitting so low to the floor. At some point in time, yes, I will find a way to elevate the wood stove to a better height. I will even add a solid plate of steel and a layer or two of fire brick to sit atop the grate to lessen the heat loss and solve the problems of the ash pan.

Would I recommend this stove to other people? The answer is “No”, due to the grate and ash pan and ash pan door issues. I hope this review has been helpful, even if you are considering a different brand of stove. I hope this review has given you some things to consider before purchasing a large ticket item, such as a wood stove.

I cook on this wood stove a couple of times every year, just to keep in practice (as I did with my previous wood stove), and I hope every other wood stove user also keeps in practice with their wood stove cooking. My wood stove cooks up the most wonderful pot roast and beef stew every year, and there is nothing better than a pot of coffee made from an old fashioned percolator on a wood stove.

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