Heaters and cooker and oven. Oh my!

Our house needs a heater. It currently has a hole in the roof for the flue and a chimney on the roof, nothing else. Given that Ballan has some rather cold nights (and days) over winter and well into Spring, we will need some decent heat. I don’t want to be relying on fossil fuels for our heating either which means we are quite restricted Β with how we can heat the house. In fact, from all I’ve read, there really are few sustainable choices; passive solar housing design, houses with high thermal mass (such as Earthships, straw bale homes, earth-bermed/sheltered homes and rammed earth homes)Β or geothermal heating (like in Reykjavic). These are the only ones I can think of that are truly environmentally friendly heating options.

The normal options would be electric heating which as we all know, can be expensive. It’s also usually reliant upon fossil fuels unless you buy “green” electricity. Gas is still not a renewable fuel no matter how clean it is, well not unless they start using methane. πŸ˜‰ Wood fires can cause issues in some areas where the smoke pools and it can cause problems with some people with respiratory problems and not all heaters are efficient. There really don’t seem to be any truly viable in all areas heating options out there and unless you have a house that requires no or very little heating, you will need to make a compromise somewhere.

Passive solar heating is capturing the heat from the sun that’s coming through the northern windows (for us here in the southern hemisphere) and trapping it in flooring such as tiles or cement slab floor. However, our house in Ballan is on stumps and technically faces south. We are considering changing the back door to a larger glass sliding door to add greater glass space for passive solar heating but the house, even if it was insulated to the extremes, will just not generate and store enough solar heat to be solely heated by passively solar. We need to look at another option.

We have chosen to try and kill as many birds with a single stone as possible and have opted for a wood burning heater which has an oven and stove-top (so we can cook once post peak oil prices have driven gas to unreasonable amounts), hot water heating capabilities that can also use hydronic heating to further utilise the heat. It’s a LOT of work being done by each piece of wood and we should truly get full use of the heat.

I love the idea of being able to heat the house comfortably, then further make use of the heat to also bake my bread (I bake bread at least 4-5 times a week) rather than turning on the oven. I can use the stove top to reheat soups, boil the kettle and other such things and I already use cast iron cookware all except for a kettle. They are hard to come by.

We are installing solar hot water too, hopefully at the same time which, although it will have a gas booster for back up, I hope we won’t ave much need for it. Β The house is only 120 square metres, give or take so we’ve opted against a hydronic heating panel for now but we can retrofit that easily enough if we need it.

The best bit is that I believe they are made right here in Australia. πŸ˜€

Anyway, today was all about a trip to actually SEE one of these heaters. It’s bigger than I thought even despite all the pictures I’ve seen and after being warned at the small sized oven I was pleasantly surprised at its size. I hadn’t expected a full sized oven but it’s more than big enough for a casserole dish, roasting tray or 2 loaves of bread which is all I ask for. I am also stoked that I will be able to generate my own wood ash which can be of benefit in the garden.

So, one more task is knocked off the list and we will let our plumber (the installer) now we are ready to go. YIPPEE!


77 thoughts on “Heaters and cooker and oven. Oh my!

  1. narf77 says:

    When we inherited Serendipity Farm (then “Highfield Gardens”) from my dad when he died 2 years ago we also inherited a small amount of money to renovate it. We thought long and hard about our sustainable choices in the face of rapidly and exponentially increasing power bills and decided on putting in a wood burning stove for our heat, our cooking and our hot water. It cost as much as a small family car BUT Brunhilda is one purchase that I will never regret. We chose to buy a stove that is made in Australia (Thermalux) and we bought one with 4 ovens. I have baked bread, I have dehydrated almond pulp, I have warmed plates, kept food hot, thawed the dogs meat, kept a kettle on the top and loved every moment of winter with Bruhilda who never stopped a single day from mid may this year until now. You will never regret a wood heater. There is something satisfactorially primal about rekindling your fire daily…ours never actually went out as it slow burned all night after we shut it down and she burst into Viking flames every morning. There are actually wood burning stoves that are completely carbon neutral if you check it out. They use a special technology that accomplishes this but I can’t remember who they are. We looked into them but their pricetag was too steep for us and we are more than pleased with our locally made Thermalux. By the way, I am not pushing them! Just thought I had best say that now…I just love Brunhilda and she is one of the family now…that plus the dogs haven’t left here side for the whole of winter and actually have a recliner each side of her to sleep on at night πŸ™‚

  2. I can remember visiting German family friends while I was younger. They had a stove like that and there was always water ready for a pot of tea, and often a pot of soup simmering on the top. I am sure you will make full use of all the heat you generate.

  3. leonefabre says:

    I wonder if you have met Tom and Jenny Whittington? They are very much into self sustainability and have this amazing home in Ballan, just behind the Police Station. They do a lot with the Ballan Community Garden and Tom writes for the Moorabool News Paper and they belong to many of the Eco Groups in and around Ballan …. you maybe able to get some help or advice from them.

    Am sure they would be more than willing to show you their home too!

    Good luck with the move ……. Ballan is a lovely rural village with a wonderful Community spirit. We have been here since March and very happy with our choice.

    Though must admit we have struggled with the winter, but can only assume no matter where we lived in Victoria – we would be cold! No in the world is ‘perfect’ but you have to be happy with the choices you make.

    and we are πŸ™‚

    • Leonie, thank you! We would love to meet them, and you too once we are all moved up there. πŸ˜€
      Yes, the winter I believe has been a cold one but as you say, nowhere is perfect. The warmer weather though is definitely welcomed. πŸ™‚

      • leonefabre says:

        For sure we will meet soon ….. have already passed on your URL to others in the area too!

        But do try to make contact with Tom and Jenny. I do not have their contact details here, but someone around will know who they are. Or, call in at the Community Garden (behind Police Station) there are contact details on the board.

  4. Andrea says:

    We have a thermalux gourmet cooker and it smokes thro the hot plates when we shut it down for the night … any suggestions how to rectify this?
    Its quite awful to have a house full of smoke

    • Oooo, no idea I’m sorry. We’ve never had that happen to be honest but yes it would be awful, not to mention probably quite dangerous. Have you tried contacting the people through which you bought your gourmet cooker, or Thermalux direct? The only other thing I can think of is to ask if there is something underneath the hotplates causing them to sit up slightly, like ash or something? I’m sorry I can’t help further.

    • Wildflower says:

      Hi Andrea
      We have one of them as well and the same problem.
      We regret having bought the gourmet cooker.
      For a stove in that price range it has some really bad faults.
      There is no other stove on the market where the handle of the firebox door closes to the right and comes to rest in front of the hot glass making the handle so hot, one will burn the hand.
      The problem with the back pressure-smoke is a design fault with it’s air vents and channels.The manufacturer will not admit this but rather blame the customers flue system.
      We’ve got the perfect flue situation for our Gourmet cooker and get smoke coming out the front when reloading the firebox.It is awful and a insult to the public to sale a product like this.
      We are no beginners with fireplaces and have tried everything to solve the problem.
      The draft that normally carry’s smoke from a firebox up the flue is slowed down by airflow at the top sides of the on the Gourmet cooker.
      If the stove is operating very hot, it is working all right.
      But at slow combination it is a failing fire place.!
      The round top plates are useless any way and it would be a better unit with out them.
      The air vent on the fire box is also hard to slide when the stove is hot and that handle gets to hot to touch as well.
      How the Gourmet cooker passes Australians Health and safety standards is beyond my understanding.
      We seriously come to the conclusion that all the positive comments about this stove on the net are fake or put there to sell it.
      However, with more $ and effort the stove can be improved.
      We love to hear from other people who have one of them.
      Thank you.

      • Damien says:

        I actually agree with that.
        We purchased our Gourmet 4 years ago and use it as a Hydronic boiler (also have a gas boiler on the same system for when I don’t feel like using wood).
        The door handle does get extremely hot, the bottom main air vent on the fire door also gets massively hot, to the point that I need to tap it either way with with the fire poker or shovel.
        Smoke does flood the room at times when refuelling, but I’d make note that you always need to have the rear flue vent open while doing this, which helps.
        I find that creosote falls down the flu and cloggs up the back of the Gourmet. To clean this properly I need to physically lift the flu from the top of the Gourmet and stick something down the back of the unit to loosen up the piles of crap, then continually remove the bottom tray to try to clean it all out. This is a pain.
        I find that the fire box could be set lower, as after a day or so of use the ash piles up so high that you end up with hot embers falling all over the place every time you dare open the door and our kitchen floor has the burns to prove it, even with a large hearth.
        Yes, the round hotplates are useless. The thermometer on my model on the oven door is nowhere near being close to accurate and I find that I really need to have the fire cranked and the firebox recently emptied of all excess ash for the overn to heat to a useable temperature.
        My flu system was brand new 4 years ago and there is nothing wrong with it. I called Metal Dynamics several times and got that English guy who worked there. I spoke about these problems, and of course it was the way I was operating the stove and my poor flu system so he said. One of the times I called I spoke to the boss, who I believe designs these stoves and he spent a good 20 minites talking me through it and explaning things – I was very impressed with that.
        At the suggestion of the English sales rep I purchased a ‘vertical discharge flu’ which apart from looking genuinely weird on my roof, it hasn’t seemed to make any difference to the smoke from the door when it’s open.
        I’ve also replaced the firebox door seal once with a new one from Metal Dynamics, however after 2 seasons it’s already stuffed!?! Annoying.

        Having said all this, I still like the Gourmet and the other Thermalux stoves, however I think the Gourmet needs a little more R & D.

    • megan says:

      We had the same problem for the 1st yr no problem. This yr we had to remove our smoke detector. Today my hubby took the ash tray out & saw some ash around the perimeter, we had a 1metre metal ruler, he placed it at a angle that would scrape the edges. We ended up with 1/2 bucket of the same crap we collected in the ash tray. The fire is now going great we closed it down NO SMOKE & the oven is hotter. Today we have used a lot less wood

  5. Megan Coffee says:

    We have the thermalux gourmet as well, had no problems the first year but now if we leave any vent open when we shut the flue we get smoke. We have read the manual & are going to clean the smoke vents as stated (if we can find them). The handles are a pain but we use welding gloves (looks great LOL). Ours isn’t hooked up for hot water but as there’s only the 2 of us we just keep a boiler of water on the top for dishes & cleaning. We cook on the top & use the oven all through winter, I’m still trying to learn how to control the oven but I’m sure I’ll work it out. It does make great baked dinners but you still have to cover the meal till you need it to brown. The other design fault we found is if the oven door gets dirty on the inside you have to take the thermometer off to clean it.

    • I too struggle with the oven. I guess it’s guesswork and more an oven for slow cooking meals etc rather than biscuits and precision cooking but it works fine for us too. πŸ™‚ I love our water jacket and between that and the solar hot water unit I can count the days each year of less than toasty water on my fingers. πŸ™‚

    • sonya says:

      Well , we started with welding cloves too but in the meantime we replaced the positioning and material of the handles.
      That was the easy part.
      We still are frustrated with the lack of draft in that fireplace.
      There is nothing worse than having smoke coming out the fire box into the lounge room when refueling the Fire.
      We never had that problem with any fire place-stove before in 45 years.
      Considering the money we payed for this unit, it is just a joke.
      And we where proud to buy a Aussie made Stove.
      We made a mistake.
      We have 5 more fireplaces on this property and all came out of China.
      Some as cheap as $ 500.
      They all work perfectly and none of them requires welding gloves to operate it!
      Pivot Stove claim that they have been manufacturing Stoves and Fireplaces since 1876.
      To sell a product with faults like this after all this time…….?!?!?!?!?
      Friends of us have Bakers Oven that works much better and costs over a 1000$ less.
      Unlike on the Gourmet cooker, it’s handles come to rest away from the hot glass( to the right) when in closed position.
      It cooks and bakes fantastic.
      The oven has no problem with top and bottom heat like the Gourmet cooker.
      Why did we get caught with a Gourmet cooker?
      We got fooled by manufacturer feedback like on the top of this page and the great advertising on You tube.
      If I had a chance to look at one before buying, I would not be here writing this feedback.

      • megan says:

        We have cleaned the Thermalux Gourmet cooker every where we could find, still smoke comes out once the fire is shut down for the night. I have to open up the house to clear the air, hence the house gets cold. I’m disappointed with this fire especially with the high price. Bunnings now have a similar product for $ thousands cheaper.

        • wildflower says:

          Howdy Megan
          Sadly your problem is not getting fixed by cleaning the Gourmet Cooker.
          Looking at the air vents and channels, it becomes very obvious that the Gourmet cooker has a problem with it’s draft up the flue.
          To make it work properly and not having smoke in the lounge room, it needs serious alterations-surgery.
          Just like the metal handle that closes to the left and then get’s so hot in front of the firebox glass….touch it = pain.
          How did it ever pass health and safety standards??
          We asked Pivot stove if there was a reason for having this open and closing mechanism different from any other fire place on this planet.
          No answer.
          For us the choice of this Gourmet cooker has been bad from the beginning.
          We where promised that the stove would be delivered to our door step and into the building. This was after we e-mailed them satellite shots where we live.
          Their delivery contractor just dropped it of 30 klm away in the next town.
          He rung us and said that he is not delivering to rural areas outside of town.
          When the Stove finally got here it had a dint in one of the panels as well.
          Baking in it is a challenge but I may be able to help you with some of our experiences.
          Step one, trow the thermometer that came with the stove as far as you can.
          Step two, do the same with the stainless steel tray that deforms badly when getting hot.
          Replace it with basic baking gear that you can even buy at Crazy Clark.
          Because the oven struggles with it’s bottom heat place your bread or cookies on the very bottom of the oven floor.
          To decrease the top heat, move the hot coals to the out side in the fire box. This will also increase to bottom heat and decrees the top heat.
          Sometimes it pays to turn your baking up side down for the last 5 or so minutes.
          We still also bake in our Camp oven on the out door fire place and it works easier and better than in the Gourmet cooker.
          If you are interested in gaining hot water from your fire place, just wind some copper tube around the flue pipe.
          Cold water in-hot water out. If wish, the hot water can go into a storage thank ect. All for very little $.
          All the best.

          • megan says:

            I am over the smoke, it’s 11:39pm & I have the front door & back door open to clear the smoke, as I thought by getting the fire HOT it might stop the smoke. I have to have the flue open just a little to stop this. Last year (the first year we installed the Gourmet cooker) we could shut it down completely without smoke. I could wake up & open the top right vent with all the other vents closed & the fire would start up again. I thought we would pay a premium price for this cooker it would last us through our retirement & save us money. This cooker is a ripoff

            • John says:

              A ripoff alright! we have one of them too.
              Amazing, how a bad product like the Gourmet cooker can leave production and is sold to people like us!?!?
              I hope you have sent your concerns to Pivot Stove too.
              We did and got told they never had a problem with it.
              Ye, right!
              I like to hear from somebody who’s got one and is satisfied with it.

      • tara says:

        I had a bakers over and it worked great for over a year, then…..it had all the same problems you are describing. THe creosote gets clogged inbetween two pieces of steel where the heat has to circulate, and I had to use a coat hanger to scrape it out. We used the right wood. I am canadian who only had wood heat my entire life, need I say more? Both of them have design faults.

  6. In hindsight we too have some regrets over buying it. I saw the Bunnings version on Saturday and the price made my stomach sink. Reality though is we needed a stove and the Bunnings one wasn’t available then. I wish now though we’d bought a “proper” wood stove/oven and hooked up the hydronic hot water pipes, thereby using the hot water twice but there you go. I think long term the consideration is for replacing Ignisa with a rocket stove as the reality is that there is insufficient wood in the world to warm everyone and for cooking when fossil fuels are no longer readily or cheaply available. A rocket stove is a far more fuel economical option. We find too that the Gourmet cooker chews through the wood rather fast although less so now that we’re learning to manage the fires much more efficiently. Even so.
    I wouldn’t say I’m hugely disappointed and we’ve yet to experience any problems with the GC but this is a stove for people who want a heater and to have a hot kettle or heat some soup occasionally. For people who bake frequently and who want to pressure can or water bath preserve and basically use the stove and oven over the winter instead of gas or electric versions then this is NOT the unit for them.

    • megan says:

      we had no problems the first winter, it worked perfectly. It would shut down fully without smoking. Not so this year, we have cleaned everything from the chimney to the stove it’s self. Nothing has worked. When we shut it down sometimes it works for a while but then it’s as though it’s breathing & puffs of smoke come out through the top vent at regular intervals. Never again

      • This is our second winter and you’ve all got me filled with trepidation. On the bright side if ours does bugger up I might be able to convince my husband that a rocket stove inside is a good idea sooner rather than later. πŸ˜‰
        Here’s to a smoke free winter for us all. :/

    • wildflower says:

      Well, we are hugely disappointed with the Thermalux Gourmet cooker .
      One, because for the $ we payed.
      Second it’s not functioning like it should.
      Third because it is sold “proudly made in Australia”
      We do make great products here in Australia but products like the Thermalux Gourmet cooker give Australian made products a bad reputation.
      No native from the Kalahari dessert would let something like that go out of a work shop and sell it for top $!

      If you wane reduce the quantity of timber that the Thermalux Gourmet cooker chews up, you must ad a butterfly valve to the flue.
      That is easy done where the fist join is on the flue pipes.
      It will also supply the oven with more heat when the butterfly valve is regulating -reducing the draft-heat going up the flue.
      Unlike any other fire place on this planet, the draft on the Thermalux Gourmet cooker can not be regulated.
      The control lever on the right only redirects the airflow.
      I love to see a Bunnings version of it.
      Is there anything on the internet about it?
      We are far a way from the next Bunnings store.
      It is so easy to make a good Stove out of a 44gal.drum.
      But we also rent this place out and that’s why we bought the Thermalux Gourmet cooker.
      With health and safety in mind we spent the $ for a product that must be operated with welding gloves to avoid burning your hands!?

      • megan says:

        We were thinking of adding the butterfly valve but beware, this could effect your household insurance as it’s added after the sale. they are illegal in Australia. We looked into it & could only buy them from the US. be careful

        • wildflower says:

          We are not worried about insurance and I just made up my own.
          It’s just a steel rod with a round plate (little smaller then your flue pipe)welded to it.
          As a handle I used a nice piece of hardwood.
          The higher up the butterfly valve is placed, the better it is.
          The flue pipe from the top of the stove to the Valve becomes a radiator and that’s where our cooper pipe produces the hot water.
          It is so easy!
          However, if your insurance policy is priority no.1, then forget the all above.
          Good luck!

  7. Neil says:

    We have been operating the Gourmet Cooker for over a year now. We have the water jacket version for hydronic heating and hot water in conjunction with solar.. No electric backup and always plenty of hot water.

    While we have experienced the hot handle issue we have never had a smoke problem other than on start up or when using green wood (and that is only when the firebox door is open). We never close the flue damper except for cooking and only when the fire has been stoked to a high temp. We do this with small dry wood fuel and can get the temp to to 350f sufficient for roasts, pies, biscuits and cakes. We use an internal thermometer as the inbuilt one misreads the temp significantly.

    We can get overnight burn but it can be hit and miss depending on the wood.

    While it’s not perfect it’s certainly the only one we could afford to achieve hydronic heating and hot water and for us it does the job reasonably well.

  8. Damien Odell says:

    Further to my last comment, I called the manufacturer asking why the performance of my Gourmet seemed to be declining and I was told that I needed to clean it more thoroughly. Right…ok…silly me…
    So, the method suggested to me was to get hold of a metal packing strap (like you’d see on a shipping pallet etc), bend it into some kind of fomr where you could remove the round hot plates, then meticulously scrape the down the side smoke paths inside the stove. I did this, it took a while but I did seem to clear a lot of soot etc that landed in the ash tray.
    I find that the ash tray fills up at the back regularly and I’ve often had to empty it while the thing is still burning, whilst wearing the thickest gloves possible of course. This results in ash flying around the kitchen then settling on everything, and me in trouble with the wife because the kids dinner has just gained some sprinkles.
    The manufacturer also told me that the flu control handle should a ALWAYS by shut except when initially lighting or refuelling the stove.

    It works ok as a hydronic boiler, I have the large wet back on mine.

    It’s a high maintainence heater basically. We currently have our house for sale, and when we sell I’m going to have to compose a 10 page document clearly outlining how to safely and efficiently operate this thing, heaven help the new owner if they’re not at least slightly technically minded.

    Overnight burn is good I find (don’t use cheap or free rubbish wood, you have to use good dry hardwood) provided I have cleaned out the firebox within the past 2 days. Again, that English guy who worked there told me how easy it was to empty the firebox of excess ash while the fire was still burning….oh yeah? I’d almost need a full body heat proof suit to do that safely, and while you’re doing it all the hot embers fall out onto the floor. True.
    I find that the inside of the firebox door gets blackened in no time, and I’ve become expert at cleaning it….so annoying.

    • surprised says:

      So tell how DO u clean the inside of the firebox glass? never have had a clean glass since we first lit it… EVER … thks … in anticipation of a solution

      • Our glass isn’t too bad at the second but none the less it could also do with a good clean. I’d be most interested to hear too.
        My GC has been smoking more and more and yes, I too had a heap of gunge to clean out of the tray (including a sparrow so I found 😦 ) and I’m becoming less and less impressed with it over time. I hope we never see the dramas people have mentioned.

        • Andrea says:

          yes smoke continues a problem for us too – my husband added 3 metres of extra flu(chimney) .. seems to have assisted smoke reduction when you open the door and we dont experience smoke from around the hotplates any more but it has not solved the problem.. it was an expensive try..the powdercoat has flaked of the airvent grills on the door so its now a different colour than the rest of the unit…We clean regularly down the side and the tray (only when cold- we let it go out once a week so we can do this safely)and that definitely has improved things – I do love its compact size and i use it occasionally for cooking.. glad to hear that, as i thought, the temp gauges were inaccurate- when using her metters stove my mum always said if you could just tolerate your hand in the top of the oven its about 350 F -so good for cakes – i used this gauge with success..lol so be careful if you try that method..enjoying the conversation..thanks again..

        • Damien Odell says:

          Cleaning the glass…well if I’m feeling old school I just get a piece of scrunched up newspaper or paper towel and slightly wet it. Then, dip it in some of the ash in the firebox and rub it on the inside of the dirty glass. You’ll have to keep finding a clean bit of the paper towel or newspaper and dipping it in the ash, but it works. Don’t have the newspaper / paper towel too dry…but dripping wet will make a mess.

          The other way is to use a very sharp blade, like Stanley knife type sharp. Wet the inside of the door with warm soapy water then scrape all along like you’re shaving your face, or your legs….but hopefully when you’re shaving you don’t need to push as hard as you will when cleaning the glass. You won’t scratch the glass, hold the blade at say a 45 degree angle to the glass so the blade is facing towards the direction you’re scraping in.
          I have a tool that I purchased from that famous hardware store which has a razor like blade on the end of a plastic handle, I think glaziers use these to clean new glass etc. This method is also very effective and sometimes I’ll use both methods to completely clean the glass. It’s a great feeling….clean as the day you purchased it….the you light it and cringe as it gets dirty again.

          Burning the fire hot minimises the filth that builds up on the door, I find it usually gets blackened most when I shut the fire down overnight. Before lighting, clean out the firebox so there’s only around 2-3cm of ash in the base of the firebox …this helps the burning and also allows the oven to get nice and hot.

          For the person who mentioned that their Gourmet is smoking more and more, it sounds like it needs a proper clean. You’ll have to at least remove both round hot plates, when you’ve done this you’ll be able to see two cavities down either side of the stove. These are where the smoke passes on its way though the base of the stove and up the back to the flu. I clean mine with this old metal packing strap…methodically scraping up and down. There is no way to see how effective you’ve been, though shining a troth down there helps you to see a little.

          Also, as I previously mentioned you can also lift the flu from the top of the stove and clean down the back section of the stove. Removing the flu is the only way to access this area. Crap can fall down from the upper flu into the back of the Gourmet….it’s meant to land in the removable base tray, but I find that sometimes the larger pieces can jam in the back of the stove and then other bits build up around them.

          If you have a good properly installed flu then and the gourmet is property cleaned there shouldn’t be too much smoke.

          The other important thing is to ensure you have a clean flu. In my quest to solve my Gourmet related problems I purchased a flu cleaning brush. So, once every season I climb up onto the roof and remove the top ‘vertical discharge flu’ that I purchased from Metal Dynamics, I then drop the rope on the end of the flu brush all the way down the flu until it is sitting in the firebox of the Gourmet….then I evacuate the house of every living thing, mask up and start pulling the flu brush down the flu. This is messy. Very messy. I usually end up black, as does the kitchen. It’s unbelievable the amount of muck that comes out.
          A hot burning fire won’t clog the flu like that, but let’s face it we don’t always want to burn the fire at heatwave temperatures and have to have the windows down and get around naked. Just not right.

          Anyway, I still like my Gourmet. It’s no longer our main source of heating as we also now use a gas hydronic boiler. I only light the gourmet some weekends so it’s more of a novelty. It’s a matter of learning to properly maintain it and operate it.

          No, I don’t think there should be this much work involved in keeping the thing operating correctly but it is what it is.

          • No, there should NOT be this much work maintaining a heater or stove. We rely on ours entirely as our only source of heat in winter, to cook on/in over winter as much as possible and as our secondary hot water heater too (solar is primary). We only have those 2 options as the gas boost is not connected and the electric boost is switched off.
            I must let ours go out and cool down as it needs another thorough clean. Given that it was -4 this morning though I’m not sure today will be the day.
            Our chimney likely needs a goodly clean too. Would it work dragging it in reverse? Drop the rope down, tie the brush on inside the fire and then back onto the roof to pull up and out? Not pulling into the house that way and so perhaps, with the firebox closed whilst the brush goes up, possibly a little more soot containment?
            As an aside, I saw once that in Edwardian times they would use chickens (the RSPCA would dislike that as much as the poor chickens I am sure) to clean the flue but also they used holly branches tied to a rope. I guess anything bristly and fairly firm would do the trick. Still, a brush will be a good investment.

            • Damien Odell says:

              I guess you could pull the flu brush up the flu rather than down, however the mess would still drop down into the fire box for the most part. Might be a little cleaner to do that way, the thing to watch our for though is that the flu brushes are usually a fairly tight fit and pulling it though puts stress on the flu sections. Depending on how they’ve been joined together you don’t want to dislodge a join somewhere that may not be accessible. I found with mine that it was safest pulling the brush from the top down.
              Our flu runs up an old chimney part of the way so if I dislodge a section then I have a serious problem.

              Wow, -4 is quite something. And yep, unfortunately the only time to do any of this would be to have the fire completely out. It does burn better though when cleaned. Prior to the Gourmet I had an old Everhot 204…that required some cleaning but nowhere near this level.

              • phil smith says:

                Yep, any fireplace-stove that is properly designed and working does not require that much maintenance.
                The gourmet cooker and it’s designers need to go back to the drawing board.
                Just look at any Asian designed fire place-stove and you will get it right!
                And all for half the cost.

      • david fieldhouse says:

        Hi surprised
        whay ya do is remove the door when cold. da
        then wet some ordinary newspaper
        with hotish water and rub the inside of glass
        and hay presto clean glass
        after a bit of elbow grease that is
        and rubbing with a clean towel

        • Peter says:

          Remove the door???!!! It’s usually every other day that I feel the need to have a pristine glass, so I just open the door when cleaning out the ash from thew previous nights fire, get either a (half) wet piece of paper towel, or any sort of paper (just needs to be damp, not dripping) smooze it over the gunk on the inside glass and wipe it smear free and dry with the dry part of the paper, then chuck the paper in the firebox. Definitely don’t need yo take the door off.

  9. savethegaywhales says:

    You can clean the glass by cutting a potato in half and rubbing the wet sides on the glass when it is warm/hot. It then self-cleans further when it heats up.

    • Andrea says:

      so going to try this thank you!!!!!!

    • Peter says:

      Tried that on the bottom oven, but I think it’s too many years of stuff. it didn’t work… I’ll give it a whirl on the firebox door, but dread the thought of wasting a good potato!! Down here in Tassie, potatoes are currency!! πŸ˜‰

  10. julia says:

    Just about to buy the gourmet cooker from Wise Living is this the same as the thermalux so many have had issues with ?

    • Yes it is. I must admit I am now partly regretting our purchase but mainly as we use our Gourmet cooker all winter long for cooking and the oven has proven disappointing. Please read all the comments before committing to your purchase.

      • julia says:

        OH ! well thanks for saving us a lot of money. Can anyone recommend one that works and is worth the money. We are retireing and money will be tight so trying to minimize use of gas and electric. Have some solar panels but cant really afford a battery but at least they off sets elcetric costs somewhat.

        • Damien Odell says:

          They’re not all that bad. I think it’s a case of being aware of ongoing cleaning that will need to be done. If you’re planning on having it on 24/7 all through winter maybe you’d consider something else. I use mine most weekends in winter and it’s fine for heating and also powering 8 x radiators.
          You’ll need to clean the ash out of the firebox every couple of days, empty the ash tray at the base of the stove and occasionally clean the smoke paths down the sides of the stove.
          Despite some of my negative comments above, I’d probably buy the stove again.
          Again, just a matter of being aware of cleaning etc and the stove should perform for you.

          • julia says:

            Morning Damien, thanks for that. We need to replace the current heater and would have loved one of there but the property will be rented for 18 months while we are away on contract so knowing tenants, we would not expect them to care for it like we would. It needs to be an easy no fuss fire.

  11. Peter says:

    Our Thermy was in the house when we bought it, and was a big selling point as it has a wetback and the area we are in gets ‘cool’. However, we have an unlimited supply of wood, so that’s all good.
    It’s been a case of trial and error over the last two years with the heater/stove as this is the first one we’ve ever owned.
    I too had the ‘smoke in the house of a night time’ problem and the ‘puffing smoke out of the vents’ problem, and found the ash level in the firebox was too high.
    Keeping that down to the brick layer (that’s in there) has solved that and it’s never happened again.
    I’m about to replace the glass on the firebox because I was careless and put in a piece of wood that was about 2mm to long and cracked the glass when closing the door. At $156 for the glass, seals and postage, I won’t be making that same mistake again!!
    I noticed after a while that the oven performance/heat was dropping off, but getting down and scraping out all the gunk on the very bottom drawer, and scraping as much out of the side panels as possible cleared that problem right up and we’re back to searingly hot temps in there… enough to cook a pizza in under 3 mins!!
    I also get up on the roof and use a chimney brush to give the flue a clean every 6 months or so, as well as using those special logs you can buy around the place that go in the firebox and are supposed to clean inside the flue etc.
    As for the firebox, I’ve been told that the bricks/floor layer that are in there could taken out and just a 1-2″ layer of sand can be used. That will lower the height of the firebox floor and stop logs rolling onto the glass. You *must* have a layer of something on the firebox floor.

    All my neighbours *love* our Thermy when they come over, especially when it’s cold outside. The fire blazing in the box, being able to see the flames and feel the heat radiating has them all standing around it warming their body parts while we cook some food in the lower oven πŸ™‚
    (They all have closed fireboxes that are mainly used for a stove/cooker and none of them seem to work for them as well as Thermy does for us!!)
    During the January fires 2 years ago down here in Sth East Tasmania, I was the only person in the district who had hot water for showers because we also have gravity fed water (everyone else is on water pumps). Thermy was going non-stop for the two weeks of no electrical power keeping the water hot for the continual line of neighbours wanting a hot shower, as well as cooking communal food and keeping us warm during the cold nights.
    So, with a new glass coming, a new set of bricks going in, a couple of days off for repainting, a thorough wire brushing of all metal parts like the baffle and joins around the flue and two circular cooking plates, a flue clean, and a thorough clean out of the bottom tray and side walls …. Thermy is going to be brand new all over again πŸ™‚

    I’ll take a series of pics through the revamp process and put them up on somewhere like Photobucket, and will post a link here for anyone who is interested.


    • Peter, PLEASE link your clean out process for us all to see. I know we need to do the thorough clean of all the hidden crannies this summer but so far it’s been cool enough to warrant having it lit (crazy for mid-summer but there you go). When it stays warm for enough time to get in and clean it out I would LOVE a thorough process to follow.

      • Peter says:

        No worries, will do. We’ve had the same sort of weather here, it’s summer but gets down to about 9c or less at night…. but then again, it’s always cooler here, as we are at about 250m above sea level, and not that far from the coast.
        I’m just doing a patch up on the cracked glass at the moment, as the new one won’t get here till the end of this week or next Monday.

        • I broke the glass on ours too but no nice crack. I closed the door firmly and the wood went right through it. We paid for them to come repair it – similar pricing from memory. At 500m ASL and inland we are definitely cold climate although we definitely get the super hot days too.

          • Peter says:

            Living in SE-Tas, an hour and 45mins from Hobart…. I’m not going to pay travelling time for someone to fix mine πŸ˜‰

            It’s easy enough to replace. I’ve replaced the ‘seals’ myself.

            So…. I’ve done the patch job, as well as applying some of the mortar to a slight gap around the flue. I think the owner/builder didn’t line it up properly and there’s been a bit of a gap for a while.

            I noticed that we were getting a bit of soot/dust around the place, so tried a couple of other products that blocked it for awhile and alleviated the soot/dust problem…. but they couldn’t handle the high temps.

            So now I’ve got this refractory cement and thought I’d give it a whirl on the glass as well. Fired her up and it seems to be going great guns.


  12. Bernadette Borg says:

    Oh dear! I’ve just been reading all these comments and out of my narrowed down choice of the Nectre Big Baker’s Oven and the Thermalux Gourmet, I’m leaning towards the Nectre! I think the Thermalux looks slightly better, but as there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in size and the Nectre is cheaper…Unless anyone has any other ideas? We also want the heating/cooking option. We’ve recently moved to Broomfield and at the moment only have split systems.

    • Peter says:

      The Nectre looks good, at least the handles are away from the heat/fire. Is it cheaper than the Thermalux? The only price I saw for it was around the $3,300 mark.

      • Bernadette Borg says:

        You’re right. It does cost that much, but that does make it about $350 cheaper than what I was quoted for the Thermalux. It’s flue kit is also cheaper, but it doesn’t have the splash back as an extra. Apparently the Thermalux splash back is pretty basic, though it looks good in the pictures. I just wish there were some reviews of the Big Baker’s oven. The smaller one seems to get a good rap though, so hopefully they haven’t changed anything, but the size. We had an Inbuilt Nectre 800 in our old house which is just for heating and we were happy with that.

        • I know someone mentioned there is an oven heater at Bunnings and it was considerably cheaper (I’ve seen it too). Not sure how it performs and how the handles are aligned but it might be worth a look given the considerably lower price tag. πŸ™‚
          I love the discussion going on here. Thanks to everyone who has added their thoughts on the Thermalux and other heater/cookers. πŸ™‚

          • Bernadette Borg says:

            That could be the Scandia one. I was told that the steel wasn’t as good in that one, but I’d be interested in hearing from someone who has one.

    • Sue says:

      They installed my Big Bakers Oven this week and I couldn’t be happier. Well I would like the weather to be colder so I can crank it up to bake bread. Only roasting pumpkins and drying apples & tomatoes at present.
      It is very economical on the wood compared to my old Masport wood heater – only 4 logs keep it ticking over nicely all day/night.
      It does take well over an hour to heat up to usefulness from cold – probably due to its mass.
      No wetback unfortunately as no one will do hotwater systems around here.
      Aslo my glass is black due to the low air setting – it does clear a bit when I pull the knob out.
      I’m in South Gippsland and the weather is cool, windy and wet for the 5 days since installation.
      Big tick from me.

      • Bernadette Borg says:

        Hi Sue,
        Yes, we’re pretty impressed with the Big Baker’s Oven too, Ours was put in a few weeks ago, but we only needed to fire it up this week. We’re going to duct it so that the other half of the house gets some of the benefit. It was a toasty 24 degrees in our family room/kitchen.

        We haven’t had a problem with the glass, but ours draws pretty well and seems to use more wood than just 3 or 4 logs. It gets hot pretty quickly too. Maybe it’s because of the length of the flue?

        We haven’t tried the oven yet, but the installer said to cook something really fatty in there to start with and then throw it away as he said it would be contaminated with paint fumes and would taste pretty awful.

        Just as well we didn’t go for the Thermolux. The only agent for them in Ballarat, went out of business not long after we visited the showroom, so we could have lost our money on that one!

        • Sue says:

          Hi Bernadette
          I have ducting put in to the bathroom and main bedroom which works well but cost a bit $650 for the double ducting. It has a thermostat for automatic startup when temp in lounge/kitchen reaches set temp 5 – 30 degrees. Or I can put it on/off manually. This also lowers the temp in lounge when the stove is too hot rather than opening doors/windows. The vents can be closed, which I like – can have a warm bathroom without overheating the bedroom.
          My mum has a Gourmet stove which doesn’t burn all night and is a bit smokey, so I went with the cheaper Nectre. Lucky you dodged the dodgy dealer.

          • Bernadette Borg says:

            Hi Sue,
            Thanks for the info! I didn’t realise the ducted option was quite as sophisticated as that. We’ve been quoted about a $1000 and I don’t think that included the electrician. We were also told that to go in two different directions was quite expensive, so we’re either going to duct 3 bedrooms which are all on one side or the area that they face onto.

  13. Peter says:

    The new glass has arrived, and thankfully the seal is already attached!! I’m a bit happier with the price now πŸ™‚
    I have replaced the rope seals in the past, and they are a slight PITA and require a bit of patience, but can be done.

    This one is going to be eesy-peesy!!


  14. Peter says:

    *Finally* got my finger out and changed the glass. A 5 minute job…. the hardest part was getting the hinges lined back up and getting the door back on πŸ˜‰


    • Damien Odell says:

      Yes, hear hear to the hardest part being getting the door back on the hinges!! I thought it was just me. I’ve had the door off my Gourmet many times to either paint it or replace the rope etc….each time I fumble around for ages trying to get the door back on..haha

      • Peter says:

        Thanks for the feedback Damien.
        Very happy to know I’m not a door replacing numpty πŸ˜‰

        It’s taken me a couple of times to get it sorted, but the right angle to get it back on is the one in the pic.
        Just to be sure, I spent about 4mins trying just about every variation of angles…. but each time I got it to the one in the pic, it just slotted in.

        Since the new glass is in, it’s like Thermy has got a new ‘spark’ on life…. she’s burning cleaner and hotter, and it’s almost like there’s no glass in there at all!!
        Old grumpy Thermy is gone and we have new Turbo Thermy in her place πŸ˜‰

  15. Mark says:

    Hi Guys this has been a great read, I found this thread whilst researching the Thermalux gourmet and Big Bakers Oven. I was leaning towards the Gourmet for the higher capacity boilers that can be fitted to possibly run a few hydronic radiators but the smoke issues are putting me off. Has anyone through cleaning or re-flueing fixed their issues or is it a design fault do you believe? Without the hydronic radiators Im happy to go for the Big Bakers oven as it looks to have the same output and is a tad cheaper. The small bakers oven gets talked up and exported everywhere so Im confident in the design moreso than the Thermalux. Ive seen the Scandia Heat’n’cook at buunings which is definitely cheap but I’d rather buy locally made and looks to be built to price.

    Any comments appreciated.

    • Damien Odell says:

      Despite some of my comments on the Gourmet in this thread, having looked at both the Gourmet and the Nectre I think the Gourmet is a better build quality.
      Mine doesn’t smoke with the proper flu and cap at the top. It burns overnight easily (with decent hard wood).

      • Mark says:

        Great thanks Damien. is there a flu setup you found better ie avoid 45 deg bend go straight up etc. Was there a good cap you found?. Other than that I guess clean thoroughly? Good to hear it burns overnight as we like to leave the fire on in the middle of winter saves relighting especially when we work during the day away from home.

  16. Per Bernard says:

    Hi All. Thanks for the many great and funny comments. We began renting our current home in Daylesford July 2014. I has at its core the Gourmet which in this house runs the hot water service, four hydronic heating panels and heats the main living area. It was a terrible experience to begin with as the instructions and past tenants didn’t provide us with the correct information. We have slowly learned to operate Gourmet much better and agree with most comments made here, both negative and positive. After a thorough clean and learning how to It now easily provides all the heating and hot water 3-4 adults use on a daily basis, backed by roof mounted solar hot water collector. It easily burns overnight/day or 8-10 hours from one load of wood. It must be kept clean as described above with flue and all air/smoke channels kept soot and dust free. We use heavy wire and hoop iron strapping, bent to suit to clean channels between sides/rear of fire box and outer panelling. Must be done very regulary. Clean from both below oven through bottom tray opening and through stove top. We removed all fire bricks from fire box which increased the firebox capacity for both firewood and ash. This makes water jacket (sides and rear) fully exposed to the fire and has possibly doubled the capacity to heat hot water. We also keep scraping any soot build-up of water jacket as it can get rather thick and hence insulate water jacket. Of course good dry wood is a must for any wood heater and we use a vararity of wood species depending on what we need Gourmet to achieve. Each type of wood requires slightly different settings. We’ve found that the flue damper would really only stay fully opened or fully closed. We added a small steel block to the top of gourmet that the damper handle rests against, and with this we control how much or little the flue damper is open. E.g. when fire is first lit or more wood added the flue is of course fully opened and then gradually closed by moving the steel block towards the front. Often the damper is left slightly open and the other air controls adjusted to suit. Gourmet certainly needs more attention than other wood heater/cookers but it is possible to learn how to. Cheers

  17. david fieldhouse says:

    Has any one else had any problems with the fire door window seals?

  18. plant more trees than the wood you burn! says:

    Oh my! Some good reading there. We inherited an old thermalux cooker in a house (cottage) we purchased. No instruction manual provided but knew how to strike a match! By the end, almost everything that should turn had rusted shut, broke the metal handles off as they had seized! (the fire box door just sat where it was comfortable and the ash door was adjusted with a brick); the concrete lining in the firebox at the back had crumbled away from chucking so much wood into it. The flu! Got that roaring every now and again with too much air flow, glowing red hot and burning all the creosote off. (Thought I was burning the house down the first time that happened!) Smoked out the house a few times, (either creosote build up under the hat on the top of the flue stopping the air flow or poor firelighting technique). Had to clean out between the firebox and flue (above the oven) a few times because of ash/creosote falling down the flue, but getting it too hot generally took care of that. But what a unit! It is the middle of winter and the front door needs to be opened to cool the place down, the butter is soft enough to spread on fresh bread; meals cooked on the stove top or in the oven fill the kitchen with an aroma of anticipation. The kettle is constantly ready on the side. Have to get up twice during the night to load up with wood to have it ready for the morning. But, for all of the hard work in splitting and stacking firewood, the cleaning and dusting, and the melted butter in the pantry when the house got too hot, or killing a few non-stick pans from too much heat, our thermalux gave us some great memories, great meals and warm nights. And I bet the rats in the roof enjoy the warmth too!

  19. Cuppa says:

    So has *anyone* had a Scandia Heat N Cook? I’m keen to read some users thoughts on it.

  20. Keith langton says:

    To clean the glass door I use steel wool or the smaller steel pads that have some cleaning agent in them

  21. Max Contact says:

    Hi all
    Very interesting reading! We are close to finishing the design stage of our β€˜forever’ house, like some of you we have looked at many options like Esse, Nectre Big Bakers oven, Gourmet and the Scandia. At this stage it seems our choices are diminishing. Just this afternoon we thought we had found the answer, the Gourmet….. Perhaps not? Trouble is it seems one of the few that has a boiler capability to suit our design.
    I have one question regarding the maintenance of the Gourmet, how β€˜regular’ is regular cleaning mean? We have a good supply of dry hard wood for burning and of course the ash tray has to be emptied as required. I would hope I didn’t have to clean out the inside of the oven over the season? We have had several wood burners over the years and running them hot was always enough to clear the flue and kept the glass clean. Once a year for the Gourmet would do surely??
    I would appreciate any feed back


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