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Thread: Replacing an old Fireplace insert question?

  1. #1
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    Replacing an old Fireplace insert question?

    Ok, You guys are the brightest, most talented folks on the internet, so I thought I'd get your take on this.

    In our house we moved into a couple years ago, we've got a fireplace. It's a tacky brass fronted, probably pretty cheap fireplace insert sort of thing. The ceramic lining is cracked, and the sides are pretty dented. We've never felt safe using it. To add insult to injury, the fireplace surround is ugly, and the wall it's on is some old paneling that somebody decided to paint. The whole thing has to go. I'm doing research on craftsmen period style type fireplaces and such and feel like I can come up with a good design and replacement.

    The big question is, What do I put in the hole to burn stuff with? We are in an all electric home, no gas/no propane, so the ventless type of fireplaces are out, plus, the pyromaniac in me likes things that actually burn wood.

    Would you put in another fireplace insert? Or how about one of the woodburning stove type inserts? I'm leaning towards a woodburning stove type insert because:
    A) They Look nice. The ones I've seen have glass doors that close and still let you put in logs and play with the fire.
    b) The appear to be very efficient on combustion, in fact, some have catalytic type converters to make sure they are pretty clean burning.
    c) They have fans and other things to pump heat into the room, instead of sending a bunch of it up the chimney.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide.

    Sincerely,

    Brent
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
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  2. #2
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    before you make any decisions remove the old insert and have the flue inspected by an OLD mason.......one who has been in the trade varifiably for a coupla decades...if it passes muster? one woodburner that i have firsthand experience with is earth stove......there are other high quality stove manufacturers in the market today so invest some time doing the research and have your flue cleaned (or do it yourself) every year if you`re burning hardwood, twice a season if you`re burning resonous wood.
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  3. #3
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    What Todd said.

    If your really going to use it and your floor plan is open enough to really help heat the house. I would spend the money on another Vermont Castings stove in a heart beat.

    We had one in our first house, it was a contemporary style with an open floor plan with high ceilings. We could pretty much heat the whole house with that stove. They are not cheap but they are well built and really put out the heat. The styling is nice too.

    We built a fake fireplace. It looked real but it was just a masonry shell. We put the stove in there and it looked great. Of course your house style and fireplace size might not work.
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  4. #4
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    My parents really like their pellet stove. The also make them as fireplace inserts. Clean burning, load the hopper and it runs for quite a while, so you don't get to play with the fire as much, but.... When we bought this house, the fireplace has the insert with the glass doors, and the metal "fabric" drapes, and the blower. The blower does help with pushing the heat into the room.
    When we're in the room, the glass doors are open. I think there is a little more heat radiated that way. When we go to bed, the glass doors are closed. I'd like to put a timer on the blower for night time use to turn off after about 4 hours. Just haven't gotten there yet. Jim.
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  5. #5
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    I probably should have provide more info. The house was built in 1978 during the last major energy crisis and really bad economy. The ceilings are low, and there's no masonry fireplace or chimney. It's one of those insulated flue models, on an interior wall, so there's no real chimney worries. I can replace the whole darn thing pretty easily.

    Part of the house (My 'office' area) is a converted garage. There's another crap fireplace out there, but one of the previous owners already put a free standing pellet stove out there and vented it through the old flue. I'm planning on replacing that mess someday too, but for now, I just want to take care of this one wall.

    I really like the pellet stove, as it can get the old garage heated up pretty good with a minimum of fuss.

    As much as I like that, I'd still like to have something that actually burns logs, and am looking for information on inserts. Just really want to get an opionion on if the stove type inserts are worth it, or if I should stick to a 'regular' fireplace type insert.

    Thanks again!
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Horton View Post
    If your really going to use it and your floor plan is open enough to really help heat the house. I would spend the money on another Vermont Castings stove in a heart beat.

    Thats exactly the type of thing I'm looking for.

    Our house has a 'great room' type feel, with low ceilings. (And baseboard heat). I'm planning on someday getting rid of the baseboard heat and replacing it with radiant floor heating, but I think I'd rather fix the ugly wall first. If that wall can provide heat and cut the electric bill, well, that'd be a bonus!

    I guess what I'm looking for is advice on these types of woodburning fireplace inserts. They seem to be much more efficient than a normal fireplace, and yet still have some of the charm and pyrotechnic appeal. They also seems safer.

    But I really don't know anything about them and am just starting to research them.
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
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  7. #7
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    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  8. #8
    Hi Brent,

    We were in a similar situation: The living room had a wood burning fireplace of the 'steel bucket' type. Didn't work at all. Unless you made a small fire all the way in the back of it, smoke would come out into the house (the chimney was clean, it was the design of the thing). Besides, a regular (open) fireplace has an efficiency between -20% ... +20%. The reason it can go negative is because it draws the warm air out of the house out the chimney.

    Last year we replaced it with a BIS Panorama stove-type fireplace. It still looks like a fireplace and works like one, with a closed glass front, and catalytic converter. Efficiency around 70%! It was quite a bit of work to take down the existing masonry around the old fireplace, put the new one in, and build everything up again. As with all high-efficiency stoves and fireplaces you cannot use a stone-lined flue due to condensation. We lined it with an approved stainless steel flue. Because we had a stone flue we could get away with single-wall stainless, normally code requires double-wall (and much more expensive) pipe.

    The new fireplace works like a charm! It produces a ton of heat, and is great to look at. Compared to a regular (open) fireplace there are two minor gripes: The glass window needs regular cleaning if you want to see the flames, it gets dirty/dark pretty fast. Also, there is not nearly as much direct radiative heat in front of the fireplace as with an open one. The glass blocks much of the infrared. Lots of hot air coming out the vent pipes though.

    Good luck!

    -RoB-

  9. #9
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    Man, I'd love to have some kind of wood burning stove etc, it would be really nice, and I'd have a place to "hide" my offcuts

    One of my uncles put a new fangled insert in his new house, he said he was SHOCKED at the amount of heat it put out, compared to the last one he had in his old place, which was from the late 70's.

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  10. #10
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    Not to hijack the thread, but i i've been looking at something from Vermont Castings to insert into my old coal burning fireplace. The fire box is too small for a regular wood burner, but there is a small glass door stove unit that will fit - i'll just be limited to logs shorter than 18". I can definitely live with that.

    I know i'll have to drop a stainless liner down my chimney. It'll cost some dough, but i really don't like having a fireplace in the living room that i can't even use. It's too prominent in the room, and it could actually do what it was intended to do - help heat the house.

    The stoves are by nature more efficient than the open face fireplaces, but they lack the open flame appeal. I'd go for it if i were you.

    You should check with your local permit department to see if there are any updated code requirements for switching out your fireplace. Normally, i wouldn't mention that, but with fireplace inserts, there have been recent improvements to the code requirements that addressed real oversights and problems that were quite dangerous. Also, engineering of the inserts has improved dramatically in the past 20 years. Your current flu is likely a good match to a replacement insert, but the newer more efficient inserts don't work well with all older flus. It's as much about potential fire hazzard as it is about effectively venting off combustion gasses.

    Not to scare you - just an FYI. I wouldn't cut corners on this without at least having all of the pertinent information in front of you.

    Have fun with it.

    Paul Hubbman

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