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Author Topic: Solid Fuel Rayburn?  (Read 27517 times)

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« on: October 16, 2014, 03:39:57 pm »
 
I'm currently writing this whilst warming my toes on a radiator under the desk, heated using our ancient solid fuel Esse range  :thumbsup: . However, the poor wee fella was second hand when he got here twenty years ago, and since bits have started dropping off that we can't buy spares for, we're starting to think about how to replace him.
 
The obvious choice would be a solid fuel Rayburn. These look similar in all regards except for a couple of extra dampers, so I was wondering if any of you have one, and if so, what do you think? The model we'd be looking for is the 355sfw, or its predecessors if we can find one second hand.
 
What I'd like to know is, what is the Rayburn like to live with on a day to day basis?  For instance, how long does it take to heat up from from slumbering to cooking temperature, how easy is it to keep it there, and how long will the fire 'keep in' for when you're out? Also how easy is it to clean out the flue-ways, and how often does this have to be done?
 
The Esse is hillarious to cook with, in that there's no control over where the heat goes. This means that by the time Christmas Dinner is served, we're all walking round in shorts and t-shirts, sweating! The Rayburn has a damper to switch between oven and boiler, but how well does this work in practice?
 
Thanks in advance!

Womble (Who just remembered he put some rolls in to heat up about an hour ago, and needs to go and rescue them!)
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2014, 03:42:45 pm »
Too late!!  :roflanim:
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

shygirl

  • Joined May 2013
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2014, 04:44:29 pm »
that's a coincidence as iv just spent the day looking at this too so il watch this thread with interest.


we have solid wooden floors (about 4ft above ground level in some areas of the kitchen, so im not too keen on cutting them up to put in concrete base for a rayburn, is there an alternative? we have woodland so are only looking for the type of rayburn that will take solid wood and also heat water and radiators.
we will have to build a new flue as there is no chimney, is his difficult to put in?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2014, 05:28:57 pm »
We put in a solid fuel Rayburn in February and we love it.  It's the larger of the two models which can burn coal, 355SFW.

We already had a suitable base and lined chimney, so I can't answer those questions shygirl.

I find I do need to let it go out and scrape down the sooty stuff at least once a month.  I'm told I'd need to do that less if we burned it hotter more routinely - which no doubt we will do over the winter, so hopefully it will need cleaning out less frequently then.

I'm learning how to manage the temperature.  I do find I can direct the heat to water / heating, oven and / or hotplate reasonably well, yes.  Getting the oven hot depends on using the right fuel and driving it correctly and takes some trial and error to get the hang of.  If you have some really dry ash wood, or can use coal, then it's not difficult to get it up to 150-170C.  Hotter takes longer.  The manual says to allow about 40 minutes to bring the oven up to temperature, and that's about right for the 'BAKE' zone.  Mostly I can do it reasonably quickly and reliably now, but on still days it's harder.  Once you get the temperature it's reasonably easy to maintain it.

It's brilliant at keeping in for long periods.  Overnight is a doddle if you can use the 'duck egg' coals.  Otherwise good dry hardwood will keep it in for 8 hours, just about.  There are a lot of different controls on draught, so once you know how they all work in your situation you get good at knowing how to set it for overnight.

If it does burn right out, it's very easy to get it going again. 3 - 5 sheets of newspaper, 4 or 5 sticks of kindling and a match is all it takes me.

I did try it briefly with all the 'wood only' settings but, although it did then burn all wood down to the finest of ash, and need emptying only every two or three days, I found it very difficult to keep it in all night and much harder to get the oven up to temperature.  I've been using wood only, but with the firebox set up for 'any fuel' for some time now, and don't feel the need to use coal yet.  When it gets colder I expect I will use a bit of coal.  I think I might give the 'wood only' setup another try next spring, if I've got a good supply of really good dry hardwood.  It was quite a still time when I tried it before, I think it would be better when there's more wind ;)

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that my neighbour has a Rayburn in the house and an Esse in the café - and says that the Esse is much easier and cheaper to run.  I suspect that they use wood only.  I have no personal experience of the Esse.

All the different controls on the Rayburn work well, I think.  The Heating / Cooker select thing can get a bit stiff to use if the top gets coked up.  I do use it to direct the heat and also to reduce draught - the 'Heat' setting gives a smaller opening than the 'Cook' one. ;)

We have 5 radiators on our Rayburn, plus the 'overspill' one, and thus far it runs them to maintain the house warm and dry with ease.  I can forsee needing to use more fuel when the weather is a lot colder.  We deliberately left some capacity (it's rated to run 7-8 radiators) so that we could be sure it could drive the ones we put in.  We may make some adjustments - move one radiator and add another one or two - after a winter's experience.  All but one of our radiators will run without the use of the electric pump; when we add that one in then we do need to burn a lot more fuel to maintain the heat around the system.  The far front room downstairs is an 'occasional use' room, so we don't need the pump on very much.


Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Victorian Farmer

  • Guest
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2014, 06:19:29 pm »
Shygirl you need second hand if you have no chimney get one second hand cost £200 pound twin flue .The straighter the better .Plan haw much you will need 6ft vitious 45 bend out and 45 out twin flue .Stove get second hand the rayburns iv took out £200 pound but you could get a smaller range that's not heavey .Make you're mind up whots important cooking or heating .Remember a rayburn runs best on coke anthrasite 17 a bag 3 fills a day .Plan the build get chimney first and travel for ether . Iv done lots even iff all ok the wood is £120 pound a ton and a half .This costs a £5 reclamed lasts 3 days.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2014, 06:21:01 pm by Victorian Farmer »

verdifish

  • Joined Jan 2013
  • banffshire
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2014, 07:12:05 pm »
We love our rayburn ! Stocked up at 930 pm last night and it was still in at 0730 this am ! Its a dream for cooking with and heats the water to almost boiling point fully damped down !!! Xmas dinners are a doddle !!!

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2014, 07:23:31 pm »
And you don't have to turn the radiators up to full whack and walk around in your undies until the turkey cooks???  I think I'm sold!!  ;D
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2014, 07:50:41 pm »
We had a Stanley and loved him.  However he was needing refurbishing after 30 years so has been relaced in the kitchen with a woodburner that does the hot water and heating but not the cooking.  This is purely as we are future proofing our home for when we are really old and housebound.  He was easy to control and also keep clean, however when the wind was in a certain direction... we had sandwiches for christmas dinner and ate at 9pm when the goose finally cooked.

little blue

  • Joined Jun 2009
  • Derbyshire
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2014, 08:26:42 pm »
We have a multi fuel Rayburn .. she's called Betty!

just beware if you buy second-hand... we had the boiler burst after only 23 hours in!!!!

 Luckily, the main manufacturers who make them for Rayburn and Aga are less than an hour away, and made us a super new one in the week before Christmas!
(Shame the plumbers weren't so efficient! Christmas dinner in a halogen oven and caravan hob)

We love our Betty, even with the disaster above. Eco-coal will "keep her in" over night better than wood.
Just plan ahead if you're wanting to cook and are out, takes abit of practice!

She provides loads of hot water, heats all the rooms in the house (to the point that the bedroom windows are often left open!) and loads of different dinners - need I say more??!
:D
Little Blue

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2014, 10:51:06 am »
Well, with a month of winter cooking and Christmas Dinner out of the way, I think it's time I reported back with an in-depth review.

Here's Rosemary  ;) our Rayburn 355SFW, unpolished, undusted and exactly as I found her this morning. We haven't done anything about a surround or a splashback yet - just too busy.





I deliberately didn't sweep up the small pile of ash under the left hand door, since it comes free with every solid fuel stove unless you're very fastidious, and I think it's only fair to point that out.

And here's the ancient Esse she replaced, just for reference



So here are our findings after a month:

Heating

The thermostatic control works very well, and keeps everything burning very evenly. The firebox is much bigger than on our old range, but seems to burn colder (as I think it should - see below on clinker). We have the Rayburn set up in tandem with a wood burning boiler stove in the living room, with everything controlled using a Mitsubishi Alpha-2 PLC (Programmable Logic Controller). This is mainly because all our local stove shops / installers told me that this couldn't be done, or at least not for less than twelve grand, and you should never ever say things like that to an engineer  ;D .

Because we will be burning coal for a while yet at least, we installed a thermostatic loading valve (like a car radiator valve) on a recirculation loop. This stops the system from taking too much heat out of the range overnight, so keeps the back boiler at a minimum of 60 degC all the time. The idea is that this stops sulphur compounds in the coal from condensing out and causing acid attack of the boiler. This seems to be working - our old system used to cycle between hot and cold when we were out at work, and there was always a layer of white sulphurous ash type stuff on the boiler. In contrast, the Rayburn boiler and flues have stayed very clean so far, with no sign of such deposits.

I think the trick to heating is to match the range to the demand, so that there is always enough capacity to get rid of unwanted heat out of the boiler, but not so much that the radiators run tepid, which is basically just depressing!

Note, some sort of thermosyphon heat leak radiator is usually required for systems like this, so that excess heat has somewhere to go if there's a power cut.

Cooking

Cooking is a dream compared with our old range!  The whole thing stays at temperature so well that it's ready to cook at very short notice. Even when on heating mode, the oven is still at a useable temperature, and the warming oven is at the right temperature for well, warming food!  (we used to keep kindling and geriatric cats in the warming oven of our old range, since that was all it was good for!)

Controllability

We're talking nearly half a tonne of cast iron here, so nothing changes particularly quickly. This is both a good and a bad thing. However, as long as you anticipate a bit, the thermostatic control works well.

It isn't exactly 21st century though, and you can't get it to shovel coal using your smartphone (now there's an app I'd queue up to buy!).

One issue is that the heating / cooking knob on the front, and the firedoor closure knobs get very hot in use, and I have burnt myself on them once or twice when not wearing oven gloves  :innocent: .


Overnight Burning

No problem! It will 'stay in' overnight using wood if you must, and with the back boiler temperature control, ours will stay lit for 24 hours on minimum setting with coal ovoids.

Output & Economy

Meets our needs, but output doesn't seem as high as our previous Esse, despite the bigger firebox. However, the burning is far more controlled.

We're getting through two coal thingies a day with the Rayburn (17.5kg), compared with three for the Esse, and the house is warmer due to the Rayburn burning steadier and giving a longer low heat (Our house is a traditional farmhouse with 1m thick stone walls, so it has very high thermal mass).

This puts our annual coal bill at about £800, plus 2-3 m3 of wood which we process ourselves for free. There's still plenty of room to reduce this though, and our next job is to beef up our insulation and go to town on the drafts upstairs!

De-Ashing

The Rayburn is very easy to de-ash, as it's done by working a lever on the left hand side, with the fire door etc still shut. This means there's no dust released when riddling, just when emptying the ash pan. The grate is made up of long bars that rock back and forth in a sawing motion. This is very effective. Just beware that it can get jammed up with nails etc if you're not careful. Also, it's easy to catch your fingers on the ash door hinge whilst riddling. I suspect everybody with this model has done this at least once!  :roflanim:

We invested in one of these Tippy ash caddies, which are a great idea. You're supposed to put the pan inside with the carrier horizontal, then close the lid, tip the carrier back to vertical, let the ash settle, then open the lid and retrieve the pan.



In practice though, just as life is too short to remove USB sticks safely, we've taken to pouring the ash in and closing the lid quickly! There is a wee bit of dust, but not much more than by doing it 'properly'.

What I have noticed is that hardly any clinker forms in the Rayburn, whereas burning the same fuel in our old range needed a complete shutdown once a week to remove large sheets of the stuff. I'm also convinced we're now producing less ash per bucket of coal put in, so perhaps we're burning more efficiently?

Cleaning

Easy enough, and certainly no worse than doing a toilet or henhouse! There is a flue-way around the back of the boiler that has to be cleaned out periodically using a bottle brush affair, then the flue above the oven gets swept too. However, all the sweepings end up in the firebox, so there is little external mess. This is again a marked contrast to our old range which had to be swept out from the firebox, so that you were pinging all the soot and ash towards yourself!

Installation

This was well covered under another thread on moving a Rayburn, so I won't repeat here. However, it was pretty straightforward. We just rolled her in, greased her bottom a bit and pushed her back onto the pre-prepared plinth.



Ours was almost a like-for-like replacement, with all the services already in place, but beware that there are local building control regs to comply with, and especially in England, you may have to have your Rayburn installed by a registered bod.

Conclusion

This is in every sense the Landrover Defender of the heating / cooking world. It's either going to fit your lifestyle or it isn't. Don't be swayed by the glossy brochures though - that's why these things come up second hand! We paid £1800 for ours in good nick at four years old, then another £200 on flue pipe and plumbing bits to install it.

Would I buy one from new for £6K plus installation? Hell no.

Would I install one in a new house? Again, no - I'd go with a wood chip or pellet system and milk the RHI for all it's worth!

Would I want one as my only means of cooking?  No. It's definitely wise to at least have an electric / gas hob to use in summer when you don't need the Rayburn on for heating, or for times when you've mis-judged the Rayburn fuelling!

Is it green? Well yes and no. We do burn coal, but also some wood, and anything the cat drags in.  I guess the truth here is it can be as green as you want it to be, but you're going to get through a hell of a lot of wood!

Is it Economical? Yes. We're paying les to heat our big draughty old farmhouse than friends are paying to heat much smaller and more modern homes. This could be further reduced by buring more wood if we had the time to collect it.

Does it cook well? Yes. It takes some getting used to, but once you have, it's hard to go back. I think Mrs Womble would lynch anybody who tried to take Rosemary away now, whilst our gas-bottle cooker now sits forlornly in the corner and dreams of summer  ;) .


Phew, that was an essay. I hope it's helpful to somebody!  :thumbsup:
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 10:57:15 am by Womble »
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2014, 11:55:43 am »
Great review, Womble  :thumbsup:

Very glad to hear Rosemary is a success for you. :)

You could probably set up a business going round houses with Rayburns installing your clever thermostatic control thingy.  I frankly didn't understand much of that bit apart from it evens out the heating when the fire is damped down, which is certainly something we could use.

Having just had an expensive chimney sweep and cowl replacement, BH is very grudgingly coming to accept that it's very very bad to burn wet wood, even though it will.  I think it'll take me another two seasons to win this one completely...  ::) 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Victorian Farmer

  • Guest
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2015, 07:46:56 pm »
Good post wombul iv swoped my charnwood CW 50 1b for a stovax 1/3 more saving and clean burn .I reconditiond the charnwood but it eats fuel  at 14 kw and 53000 btu .

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2015, 11:02:36 am »
Just when I thought we were going to live cosily ever after...... I was wakened up last Sunday to the sound of the carbon monoxide detector going off downstairs. I toddled off bleary eyed to see what the matter was, and......



Something had clearly upset Rosemary!  She'd be fine for a minute and then suddenly start belching smoke out into the room, from every orifice.

The whole kitchen was filled with smoke, so I opened the front door, which promptly made it even worse!



I figured that some extra buoyancy in the flue gases might help, so I fired her up a bit more by adding some logs. Ooops  :innocent: .



And the problem?  A Northerly wind!

We don't get that very often round here, but it seems that when the wind is from the North it hits our roof in a certain way, resulting in the airflow going upwards instead of sideways.

We never had this problem with the old range, but at the same time as we installed the Rayburn, we also installed rain-cowls on all the chimneys:



The kitchen chimney is the one on the right, and I think what was happening is that the wind was blowing from right to left, but also upwards at an angle, so it was hitting the cowl and deflecting back down the chimney.



Some people are so picky!



To cut a long story short, when we removed the rain cowl the problem corrected itself immediately and Rosemary has been fine ever since.

I'm therefore posting this partly for its amusement value, and partly to say yet again, only buy a solid fuel Rayburn if you're prepared for the learning curve! ;D
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2015, 08:28:47 pm »
Great pics.  When we had this I was too busy choking to think of getting the camera out!

Our guy fitted a special cowl that goes round and round and always turns any wind (from any direction) into an updraught.  Since when, no further problems. :fc:  :innocent:
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

little blue

  • Joined Jun 2009
  • Derbyshire
Re: Solid Fuel Rayburn?
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2015, 05:55:40 pm »
blimey, thanks goodness that's all it was!
Little Blue

 

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