Author Topic: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?  (Read 9083 times)

Offline notmyrealname

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Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« on: October 07, 2016, 09:30:37 AM »
We have an original 1969 fireplace that is drafty and not the greatest.  I am thinking about upgrading this fireplace with a wood burning stove insert.  From what I have read, a wood burning stove insert will be much more efficient and provide a backup way to heat our home.  Our house is an 1800 sq ft L shape ranch.  It seems that stove inserts are not inexpensive.  Would you consider this a good upgrade?  We live in Wisconsin, where it gets cold!

I think this is something to have professionally installed.  It seems that the units have fans and blowers.  I would appreciate any knowledge about these units and if they are more valuable as a backup heat source than a traditional, not very efficient fireplace.

Thanks!

Offline notmyrealname

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2016, 09:31:09 AM »
I will try to ask this on the show too.

Offline mountainmoma

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2016, 11:04:06 AM »
Yes, you absolutely should do this.

There are two basic types, one type is all the way into the foreplace cavity, flush to the outer fireplace surface. These would likely be more expensive to rip things out and install, and they absolutely have to have the fan going to give you heat. I dont like that. Although, a freind has one, and she does get some heat by leaving the glass door open during power outages, it is not enoughheat realy, and you would want to realy have some sort of backup power at least for the fan.

The other type is more like having a wood stove and you are sending the stove pipe up your fire place flue. Wether this is DIY or not depends on the person. There are varying degrees as to how much these stick out from the original fireplace. If it was me, and I had the room, I would want it to stick out, if not all the way, at least a fair amount, even if that meant I needed to extend the hearth area to accomodate. Given my feeling on fans and heat, I would actually be very inclined to just get a regular wood stove, totally all in the room in front of the old fireplace and just use the fireplace to run the woodstve pipe. But, a good compromise is to have an insert that at least sticks out enough that there is a surface to set a pot down on ( so maybe halfway out ? ) and that way, even though it will usually use a fan to get all the heat, you will also get convection off the metal if the fan isnt working.

You should state here what you situation is. Is this for primary heat ? Or just back up heat ? How much room is there by the fireplace etc...

I live in an area where, due to fuel prices being crazy, no-one in this area uses their gas or electric heat any longer, and wood stoves are primary heat. And we have power outages. Your situation may be different

Offline notmyrealname

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2016, 11:37:23 AM »
Thanks for the reply.  I found episode #808 back from 2011, and I wonder if Jack installed one in his home in AR or TX.

In regular life, we don't use the fireplace much.  We live in the suburbs and have a typical gas furnace, it's not cheap but it's reliable and convenient.
We don't have trees and buy our firewood.  So this is really backup heat, not primary every day heat. 

The fireplace is in a small room that is our family room and one end of the L shape of our house.  This is our TV room, about 14' x 14', where we sit and relax.  Our family of 5 piles into this room to watch TV, it's a chairs and couches and lounging type room. The fire opening is about 1 foot off the ground (carpet underneath) and there is a stone-type ledge that projects 13" from the opening into the room.  The family room  is wide open to the kitchen and the kitchen is open to the dining room and somewhat to the living room and front of the house.  The bedrooms are in the back of the house down a hall from the other side of the kitchen.

We would want visual appeal / resale value if we ever move to the real country.  Our power is very stable so it's really about nice day to day life, and backup if life gets crazy.  If life gets crazy we will have to work hard on sourcing or building up a wood supply or will need to find other stuff to burn, so this is not really an end all be all. 

Thanks for the help!

 

Offline mountainmoma

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2016, 01:05:36 PM »
you could do something when you wire the fan in that you could either unplug or switch so that you could run this insert fan off of an extension cord to your vehicle ( a la Steve Harris) in case you need this heat during a short duration emergency. And, you can always burn wood with the door open to get heat, make sure to buy a fire screen to put in front of it for in case you need to do that

Having enough wood to heat for a week in whatever emergency would shut off your normal way to heat, and otherwise use for fun and easthetics sounds good enough.

Your local place that sells woodstove inserts will have the best information on costs, types that would fit, installation.

Offline Carl

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2016, 01:54:03 PM »
My parents put in an insert stove with an electric fan that blew room air into the area between the fire box and outer shell of their insert.
 It does well at heating the front few rooms of the house and keeps the back rooms from getting FROSTY.
During our HUMID winters in the 20's fahrenheit the KRAFT STOVE does a great job at keeping the frost outside.
The only minor issue is the need for smaller logs (28 inches) and the occasional chimney cleanout...though not so often as the insert burns LESS WOOD
and ,with the draft adjusted (air intake) the insert is cleaner burning too and lasts 6 to 8 hours on a few logs as the flame can be better controlled
and more heat is utilized within the house.

Also,the insert has been in use ,with NO REPAIRS, since 1973...only lubricant for the blower fan (maybe 1/6 horsepower) and only
the soot and chimney cleaned every 5 years or so.Re-reading you might need a fan to circulate heat better out of the room it is in
because the room at my parents house is about 25 by 45 feet with 14 foot ceilings so you heat it ant the dineing room and kitchen as it is
open above the bar.

Offline outoforder2day

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2016, 03:28:42 PM »
We moved into an old farmhouse with a fireplace and wood stove last year. Primary heat is oil, which isn't the cheapest, but is really reliable. I bought two cords of wood and we used that stove whenever we were around. It really cut our heating bills dramatically.
I wouldn't hesitate at all to get a wood stove insert as long as it came out into the room a bit. We're looking at possibly upgrading our fireplace with one to have a heat source in that side of the house.

Offline Carl

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2016, 03:37:08 PM »
We moved into an old farmhouse with a fireplace and wood stove last year. Primary heat is oil, which isn't the cheapest, but is really reliable. I bought two cords of wood and we used that stove whenever we were around. It really cut our heating bills dramatically.
I wouldn't hesitate at all to get a wood stove insert as long as it came out into the room a bit. We're looking at possibly upgrading our fireplace with one to have a heat source in that side of the house.

The one my parents use have about a 12 inch flat top that is out of the fireplace,it was made that way and they have put water on it mostly for the humidity helps the breathing but I have known them to 'cook' with the hot water too.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2016, 06:37:48 AM »
Quote
There are two basic types, one type is all the way into the fireplace cavity, flush to the outer fireplace surface. These would likely be more expensive to rip things out and install, and they absolutely have to have the fan going to give you heat. I don't like that. Although, a friend has one, and she does get some heat by leaving the glass door open during power outages, it is not enough heat really, and you would want to really have some sort of backup power at least for the fan.

This is the type I use in the house. It does seem "cooler" than an open fireplace. They are continually warm, but never hot. However, the amount of heat produced per volume of wood is significantly greater. This is what you would use if you wanted to keep the house warm overnight. Drop in a log, and it will go all night, burn clean and slowly. But it is a more passive heat. If you're used to an open fireplace and like the intense heat and rapid warming, these will be noticeably different (but you can just open the door if you want). The reason you go with this type is to use less wood, burn cleaner, and have more reliable heating. The trade off is it's not something you can cook over, and you want to keep it going all day when you burn. There's no quick fire for a few hours, if you let it cool down, it takes hours to get back up to peak performance.

If you want it to double as cooking heat, or have short duration fires to warm a few rooms, get a wood stove instead of a fireplace insert. If it's used to replace gas or oil heating in the winter, get a high efficiency insert.

More important is the size. some only take 8" logs. If you cut and split your own wood, that's a lot more work. 18" is better, but I would never go below 24" now that I have one. Cutting and splitting is reduced to 1/3 over the smallest inserts, and a big log will go all day. The smaller stoves need to be reloaded every few hours.

Quote
The one my parents use have about a 12 inch flat top that is out of the fireplace,it was made that way and they have put water on it mostly for the humidity helps the breathing but I have known them to 'cook' with the hot water too.

Many of the inserts have this. The higher efficiency models don't get hot enough to really cook on the plate (older ones do, but I don't recommend them, they burn through wood much faster). However, one thing many people miss when they get the inserts is the smell of the wood. You get no odor from the burn (good if you have crap wood), but it will feel like something's missing. If you stick a small cast iron pot on the burner however, you can add a few inches of water for humidity and toss in some birch bark, which, as the water goes down will give you that fireplace smell (without smoking up the room), and serves as a good indicator that you need to refill the water.

Offline mountainmoma

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2016, 11:50:11 AM »

Many of the inserts have this. The higher efficiency models don't get hot enough to really cook on the plate (older ones do, but I don't recommend them, they burn through wood much faster). However, one thing many people miss when they get the inserts is the smell of the wood. You get no odor from the burn (good if you have crap wood), but it will feel like something's missing. If you stick a small cast iron pot on the burner however, you can add a few inches of water for humidity and toss in some birch bark, which, as the water goes down will give you that fireplace smell (without smoking up the room), and serves as a good indicator that you need to refill the water.

Doesnt make sense. The air intake and burn inside the stove is what is or isnt efficient, not hte mode of heat transfer. Maybe the older ones that stuck out ( ie, maybe those older ones did not have insulation anywhere to keep heat from going out on all sides inside the wall), but I would imagine a newer one intended to work this way it would make no difference. What I mean is, with an insert, you want to insulate the sides so that the heat wanted in the room is not used to heat the walls and outside world. Then, they often use a fan to move hot air into the room. But, forced convection is not more efficient (efficiency is how much wod is burned for heat to room) than radient heat or natural convection. So, a modern insert that is made to have a small spot to heat up a pan wouldnt neccessarily be less efficient, as long as the part in the fireplace/wall is insulated, the part that stick out and is allowed to radiate heat, that is not a loss, just a different way, and just as efficient, to get heat into the room.

If you want it to double as cooking heat, or have short duration fires to warm a few rooms, get a wood stove instead of a fireplace insert. If it's used to replace gas or oil heating in the winter, get a high efficiency insert.

Wood stoves, new ones, are just as efficient as a forced convection insert. Even my, at this point, older wood stove is. My wood stove is rated at .. I forget... realy high... and has a catalytic converter to get even more heat out of the waste smoke. So, efficiency is not biased on insert vs. wood stove. Where I live, we have experience with all of these options. Maybe you have a different idea of efficiecy ? We usually use efficiecy to mean how much heat value hits the living space per amount of wood btu's burned in the unit. So, there is no difference based on that. If you mean efficiency by how much wood you use, well, if the insert puts out less heat, it will go thru less firewood, but its firewood to heat efficiency is not better. I am talking about efficient wood stoves.

In any case, it will be easy for the OP to compare the ratings and sizes made today and get what he needs.

But, the OP doesnt have room for a totally free standing stove.



Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2016, 06:57:27 PM »
I understand your point. My experiences have been quite the opposite, but there are so many different designs, we could be talking about two different styles. For example, an insert for an older fireplace will be designed to heat the surrounding stonework. In new construction, the surround is usually just a facade laid over sheet rock, so there is no thermal mass. Inserts designed for that use are well insulated and use a blower. The manufacturers try to span both scenarios with hybrid designs. Some do it well, others not so well. There's a lot of variability.

Usually you compare BTUs per cord, but that's it's own set of complex variables. What kind of wood, what moisture content in the wood, what's the room humidity, how well is the cord stacked... There's such a huge margin for error, big design flaws in one model may still be hidden within the variability of these other factors.

I use an insert to heat a 2,600²ft ranch home in Western NY. I burn 5 logs a day (a 24 hour period) to keep the house at 68°F. They're American Green Ash, cut to 18-24" in length (unsplit), and are about 6" in diameter. I'll throw an 8" diameter log on overnight sometimes. It's very efficient (no colored smoke, burns to pure white ash, no charcoal left behind).

This is similar to the insert I use:
.

Mine is the next size up (about 3-4" wider), but nearly an identical style. Couldn't find any exact picture matches to mine, I believe it was discontinued a few years ago, but this looks just as good.

Offline Bubafat

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2016, 07:53:14 PM »
We have a high efficiency fireplace and love it. I grew up with a standard fireplace. It burnt a ton of wood to heat up a small room and cool the rest of the house. Our high efficiency fireplace takes a few logs and truly heatsorry our whole main floor and upstairs. Cuts our heating costs big time.

Offline Carl

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2016, 04:25:12 AM »
My parents' CRAFT STOVE INSERT is all metal/no glass and forced fan air through it's double wall space between inner and outer shells
and metal air adjusters about 4 inches diameter ,screw them in to limit air into the fire and wood burns much slower.I had to enhance
the image and resize it a lot to see the flat black stove better ,The craft stove is over 40 years old in this image taken years ago.


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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2016, 07:04:33 AM »
Just a couple things to also take into consideration.  Talk to your insurance agent and ask if it will impact your home owners insurance rates to install a wood stove. In my case it would double my homeowners insurance because I would come out of premium coverage. If you lie to them or don't tell them on your annual survey (might be a premium coverage thing), then realize they might use it against you on a future fire claim.

Most wood stoves put out more creosote when running in an oxygen-starved condition, so you may need to get your chimney swept more than once a year. I just had a call this week for a home filling with smoke due to a clogged chimney (probably more squirrel related than creosote in that case), and we also get a couple chimney fires a year. There are products you can use that help keep your chimney cleaner or make sweeping more effective and they're worth looking at and discussing with your sweep.

Have it professionally installed and make sure you have at least 18" of unburnable material in front of the stove. Burning material can roll out when you open the door, so ripping up the carpet in front of the stove and putting in tile can save you from damage and the risk for fire.

Do a cost benefit analysis for your home and your situation. Look at all the costs you currently pay for heating and compare it to the cost of the stove, the install, the insurance, and cost of wood per year (including permits, fuel, tools, wear and tear, and your time if you plan to cut your own). In some cases it's clear, like when I moved into a home at 9500' in the Colorado mountain with electric heat that was costing me $450 a month, and sometimes it's not, like my current home which has a high efficiency gas boiler and has yet to cost me more than $140 a month and often is under $75 a month. I simply put a glass door on the fire place to make it somewhat more efficient so I can use it for ambience and a backup heat source and it serves the purpose I have for it. When I had boiler troubles a few years ago it worked adequately as my primary source of heat for two weeks and I keep about a cord around just in case.

Offline Carl

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2016, 07:14:55 AM »
Yes,my parents had 40 inch by 8 feet of ceramic tile placed on the mostly carpeted floor and the brick ledge is over 24 inches wide also
and the girls were totally flame retardant.The land has wood or we/they would have installed butane as secondary heat as the area is
all electric and electric heat is too costly ,even in the South when compared to gas.

The wood augments the central heat as it is electric and it makes a large difference in the electric bill for 2 months or so a year.

Offline notmyrealname

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2016, 01:33:41 PM »
First estimate is in, and it's $4,300 for an Osbourne 1800 installed  (materials sell for $1,900 online)  and $5,275 for a Jotul (pronounced Yule, it seems) C350 Winterport installed.

Not a small investment.  I will need to research further and get at least one more bid, I think.

Offline Bubafat

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2016, 12:33:18 PM »
The cost for materials is higher than just the stove/blower.  You also need a liner that inserts into your chimney that is a tube within a tube as well as any ancillary materials for installation.   External air come down the outside tube, while hot gases go up the center.  Depending on your chimney length and diameter and material of construction this adds ~$400-500 in material costs. There's still a bit of labor involved.  Their quotes don't seem un-normally high.

Assuming you have access to "free" wood, you'll probably recoup the expense in 4-8 winters depending on your current heating method/costs.  We have a high efficiency geothermal heat pump, so use of our high efficiency fireplace lowers our winter heating costs by only ~$100/month, saving us ~$400-500/year. So for us, the recoup timing would be closer to 8 years if we were in your position.  With a less efficient or higher cost primary heat source, your payback could be shorter.

Base solely on large log size, I would go with the Jotul.  From an aesthetic/resale standpoint I think the Jotul looks nicer as well.

Offline mountainmoma

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2016, 12:39:44 PM »
love my freestanding Jotul (series 8, we have had it for a while....)

Offline r_w

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2016, 02:20:50 PM »
I installed my own woodstove a few years ago.  The stove itself was less than half the materials cost.  Chimney pipe was almost as much as the stove, plus hearth and fireproof wall. 

But I heat my house on $40-60 of sawmill scraps per year!

Offline markl32

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2016, 01:21:38 AM »

We put a fireplace insert into our living room.  It has a builtin fan motor.  Now granted I am in the mild pacific Northwest but during the coldest part of the year I can keep the house hot enough to open windows.  The fan motor is key.  We also have 1200 amp hours of battery bank and a generator to recharge it so we can run the fan (and other stuff) during a power outage. 

Honestly its a luxury as it just does not get that cold here.  We have enough blankets, coats and sleeping bags to get though just about anything.  But its darn nice to have.   

Offline DrJohn

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #20 on: October 19, 2016, 11:28:35 AM »
We have a Jotul insert in our great room (25'x15').  It does have a fan, but most of the time we don't use it.  Once the masonry gets warmed up (we have a big stone surround) we have to crack a window as it will get to 80 and stay there.

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #21 on: October 19, 2016, 01:23:10 PM »
Another thought is to look on CraigsList for a used stove. In Denver, because of air quality issues many days burning is prohibited, so a lot of folks have removed their stoves and out in gas. 20 miles away we are above the inversion layer and are allowed to burn, so there's a lot of city stoves moving to the mountains. ;)

Offline mountainmoma

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Re: Upgrade fireplace with wood burning stove insert?
« Reply #22 on: October 19, 2016, 03:16:04 PM »
Another thought is to look on CraigsList for a used stove. In Denver, because of air quality issues many days burning is prohibited, so a lot of folks have removed their stoves and out in gas. 20 miles away we are above the inversion layer and are allowed to burn, so there's a lot of city stoves moving to the mountains. ;)

This is how I bought the Jotul years ago, I bought it used from town, an environmental aquaintance of mine that was philosophically against burning wood, and found it mild enough down by the coast to realy almost never have to heat