Hearthstone Woes

HC 64 Box 41
Yellow Spring, WV 26865-9507
January 26, 2001

Pam Warner
Warner’s Stove Shop
1201 Virginia Avenue
Cumberland, MD 21502

Manuel Perez, President
317 Stafford Avenue
PO Box 1069
Morrisville, VT 05661

Ms. Warner & Mr. Perez:

This is in reference to the problems we have been having with our Phoenix woodstove.

First and foremost let me again thank Pam Warner for her quality service. She has been unfailingly pleasant and responsive and we thank her warmly (literally!) for the “loaner” stove. That being said, let’s get down to brass tacks. We are profoundly angry and upset Hearthstone customers!

The Phoenix that we bought on October 7, 1998 had the primary air manifold, air tube risers, and secondary air pipe mounting brackets fail after only 2½ heating seasons. We, and everybody we have talked to about this, are shocked that a stove of such perceived quality would fail in such a complete and untimely manner!

We have operated our Phoenix “by the book” — allow us to quote from our Phoenix Woodstove Owner’s Manual (Revised October 1996), page 14: “The surest indication of overfiring is when the stove creaks and glows.” This never happened. Not once. “Monitor the stove temperature with a stove thermometer placed on the top center stone of the stove. The thermometer should read approximately 800 degrees F (427 degrees C) on high burn and 300-400 degrees F (149-204 degrees C) on
low burn.” Well, we routinely use a thermometer to monitor both the stove temperature and the stack temperature, and our stove never got near 800 degrees and in fact generally ran between 200 and 300 degrees. We followed all the operating practices outlined in the manual, including burning only seasoned hardwood and using a medium burn rate most of the time (except for the low overnight burn and the morning high burn to minimize creosote buildup.) So why did this stove fail?

Our stove, we have recently discovered, is a model 8601. The design uses the upper steel bar of the manifold assembly to hold the top firebricks in place and has the stainless steel air pipes bolted to the steel air tube risers. This places steel components directly over the fire. We compared this design to the Starlight stove that we had bought at the same time, since we have had no trouble at all with it. The Starlight has the secondary air pipes mounted in brackets that are off to the side, out of the direct heat of the fire, with no exposed bolts. A better design, it seems to us.

The warrantee service Hearthstone has provided to date has been poor, to say the least. We have been left hanging for weeks on end, with moving repair dates in the dead of winter. This is egregious! To be fair, when we first notified Hearthstone about the problem we were somewhat mollified with how quickly the replacement parts arrived and the timely repair scheduled by Warner’s. This glimmer was short-lived however. Once Warner’s got our stove taken apart it was immediately apparent that not all the parts required to repair our stove had been sent. We feel strongly that Hearthstone should have realized that if the manifold/firebrick bracket had failed and the middle air pipe mounting had failed, as we described to Hearthstone by phone on December 27th, then the air tube risers would likely have failed as well. Had we known that some parts weren’t available we would not have taken the stove apart at that point so we would have at least had a usable stove in the interim weeks – marginal, yes, but at least we could have burned low fires.

Instead, it was January 8th, the stove was in pieces in our kitchen, and we were waiting for parts. Since the first parts had arrived in just a few days we were quite expectant that the parts would arriving promptly. After a week of waiting without hearing anything, we inquired and were told that the parts were out of stock and that it would be another week to ten days to get them. When we called Hearthstone to inquire further we were told that the delay was caused by the fact the parts needed to be custom-made since the model was old and parts were no longer carried. Five days later we were told “another two weeks.” This is not reasonable fulfillment of a warrantee. An offer of a three-year warrantee on parts implies that parts will be available for at least three years. And if for some reason parts will not be available for weeks or months that should be made crystal clear, up front, so customers can make informed decisions and alternative plans!

Now, however, for the clincher. When we got the new “loaner” Phoenix stove home from Warner’s two days ago we were naturally curious what, if anything, was different. Upon examining it we noticed immediately that the internal design was different. This new stove has smaller air tubes with mountings off to the side. The secondary air supply tubes are routed across the back and sides, not the top. The upper firebricks are held in place with a stainless steel bracket, not the steel manifold. This
new design places fewer, smaller and all-stainless-steel parts directly over the fire. In fact, every single part that failed on our stove has been reengineered! What prompted these changes?

A reasonable person could conclude the following:

  1. The old design, even with new parts, seems destined to fail again, since it places steel parts and bolts directly over the flame.
  2. When it fails again, how can one believe, based on Hearthstone’s poor “service” while still under warrantee, that one will even be able to get parts for it?
  3. The newer design improves precisely the parts that failed on our stove.
  4. This design change, based on the February 1998 date on the newer Owner’s Manual, was already in production at the time we bought our “new” stove in October 1998!

We can come to only one conclusion: we should keep the “loaner” stove.

We do not take this matter lightly and trust that you do not either. We look forward to a timely and satisfactory conclusion to this ordeal.

Eric Burleyson
Kirsten Weiblen

HC 64 Box 41
Yellow Spring, WV 26865-9507
February 5, 2001

Pam Warner
Warner’s Stove Shop
1201 Virginia Avenue
Cumberland, MD 21502

Ms. Warner:

Thank you, Pam, for your prompt attention to the matter of our failed woodstove. Warner’s courteous, ethical, and professional follow-through throughout this ordeal stands in stark contrast to the actions, or lack thereof, of Hearthstone.

As we agreed over the phone, enclosed is a check to cover Jim’s trip to our house to try to fix our old stove. Warner’s acted entirely in good faith under the belief that all the necessary replacement parts had been sent, so we have no problem in paying the agreed-upon estimated repair fee.

For your records, the new Phoenix stove’s model number is 8612. I have sent in the warranty registration card to Hearthstone, although Kirsten and I certainly hope that we never have occasion to deal with them ever again!

I trust that you will destroy the receipt that I signed when I picked up the new stove, or at the very least amend it with a notation of “exchanged stoves, no charge” or some such.

Once again, Pam, thank you. It is truly a relief to have this matter resolved.

Eric Burleyson