Friday, January 11, 2019

Cheap Stovetop Thermometer Review

Living with a wood cookstove is a bit of an art, as well as a science.  For a nervous person like myself, it can also be a source of stress.

Two nights ago it was very windy outside, and I made the mistake of loading up the firebox and then closing it down airtight for the night.  For some reason, once or twice a year, the wind blows just so and creates a weird downdraught that pushes the smoke out into the cabin.  It was especially bad that night, and required two doses of Tullamore and some extra good snuggles from Kenny to help alleviate the worst of my anxiety.

I'm always watching the stove, trying to keep it in that sweet prescribed temperature zone of 200 to 350 Celsius, where it's not producing creosote, but also not stressing the metal of the stove or stovepipe.  I suspect that with a stainless steel stovepipe, I probably should worry much less than I do.  I have a friend who seems to be unconcerned about having multiple chimney fires each year - I guess it cleans his pipe for him?  I would die of panic if I had even one.

Up until two years ago, I had a non-contact thermometer that I would constantly be using to monitor the surface of the stove and often the stovepipe as well.  Then I discovered the "Inferno" thermometer - it wasn't cheap, but I decided to try it anyway as it would be much, much more convenient than the non-contact one.  It was.  It was a great investment.  But then this fall, it stopped dropping back to zero when the stove wasn't in use.  Later it stopped moving smoothly, and instead would "jump" suddenly up and down in temperature, until finally it barely moved at all.

Cheapskate me thought that it was a simple device, so I hit up a Chinese retailer online and ordered two inexpensive versions of the same thermometer and duly waited three or four weeks for their arrival.

Looks great!
I was happy to see they began at zero, and so I put the first one on the stove and the second one aside for if and when the first one failed.  I didn't have to wait long.

After firing up the stove, I used my non-contact thermometer to calibrate the new stick-on one, and was slightly annoyed to find that it was reading 200, while the stove was actually 250.  I figured it was just lagging, but as the stove got warmer and warmer, it stubbornly refused to move.

I put the second thermometer alongside the first, and was even less impressed to see that they were consistently reading about 75 degrees differently.

I lived with it for the day, annoyed, but at least they moved. I figured I could just "get use" to the needle not pointing at actual numbers, but the fact that neither thermometer pointed much beyond 250 no matter how hot the stove was, weighed on my mind.

The next day I put on a good fire and sat down to do my paperwork.  After a few moments, I thought Mama's morning coffee was especially pungent.  Then I realized that it wasn't the regular "burnt" smell of coffee, but something more "painty" - I bolted to the stove and saw that the thermometers were finally reading about 300.  I checked with the non-contact thermometer which registered closer to 400.  Crapsicles!

I closed all the vents and used a fork to lift the thermometers off the stove.

Very, very annoyed with them now - and the paint had baked off to the point that I could barely see any of the markings anymore!

What the heck?  I need a camera flash to see the text!
I have subsequently ordered another thermometer that I believe is made by the same company as the original Inferno - the only difference I believe between the two is that the new one no longer has Fahrenheit markings on it, only the "sweet spot".

I'll report back if it disappointments me even a fraction as much as these cheapo thermometers.

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