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Buying a pellet stove insert and advice is welcome

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by LanceBaxter, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. LanceBaxter

    LanceBaxter New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Loc:
    Colorado
    Hi all,

    I discovered hearth.com while googling'up pellet inserts and there appears to be a deep breadth of knowledge here, so I thought I'd try to tap into some of that. So here goes!

    Circumstance:
    I have an existing fireplace that is entirely less than efficient. When the house was built in 1995 the builder decided not to install a blower and the manufacturer of the pre-fab fireplace went belly up shortly after construction of my home. I tried an after market blower with less than positive results. After researching alternate heating sources to my existing natural gas furnace, I decided on a pellet stove insert for a couple reasons.
    -- Efficiency
    -- Relative ease of operation, when compared to a traditional wood burning stove (I am aware of the maintenance requirements)
    -- I am unwilling to part with the floor space required for a free standing stove
    -- No more dealing with cords of wood
    -- I am concerned that natural gas prices will only continue to rise, slowly if we're lucky

    I understand and accept that my entire home will not benefit from a pellet stove, as it's a two story with basement. However, it appears that if I buy an adequate model, I can at least provide acceptable levels of warmth to my living room, family room, kitchen area and bedrooms upstairs. For reference my home is 2,500 sq ft. including finished basement, basement being roughly 600 sq ft. give or take. I don't care two hoots if my basement is cold, maybe then my kids and wife will stay out of it!

    With that conclusion in mind I started researching vendors and models for a pellet burning insert. What I can deduce so far:

    -- Harman & Accentra make pretty good inserts but are on the pricey side of the market.
    -- Napoleon/Continental/Timberwolf are ok stoves, but appear to be from the same company that has really bad customer service.
    -- Don't buy a US Stove, Summers, or Breckwell as they're poorly built and regularly fail
    -- Quadra makes an ok stove but the ignitors regularly fail

    Question(s):
    -- In my estimation of vendors where have I gotten it right and where have I gotten it wrong?
    -- I want to buy an efficient, well made, stove that will last, which manufacturer will most likely provide me with those qualities?
    -- If you were in my situation, from which vendor would you purchase a stove?

    I wholly intend on taking care of my pellet stove so it can in turn, take care of me. I understand mechanical components fail, that's just the way things are. However, my overriding concern is I buying a stove that was poorly designed or manufactured, that no amount of owner maintenance can overcome.

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  2. mralias

    mralias Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Messages:
    873
    Loc:
    MA
    Welcome to the jungle. I would suggest that you consider dealer location and reliability as well.Try to fine an established dealer that is has been there a while and has customer service as a top priority. As far as stove selection, have you considered not using an insert and going full size? I have an insert and the hoppers are just way too small. They also need to be pulled out to be cleaned properly. If you have the room, consider a free standing stove. I think you will be happier in the long run. Good luck and remember, once installed, pictures or it did not happen. :)

    Also take a look at this thread on the subject. There are many more like it, just do a search if you have not already do so.

    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/newbie-with-a-question.109141/#post-1436808
  3. Aquion

    Aquion Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2012
    Messages:
    115
    Loc:
    Portland, CT
    Take a look at the Enviro inserts too. I'm finishing up my first season with my M-55 Cast. I've been very pleased with the stove. Make sure you get an OAK (outside air kit) when the stove is installed even if the dealer tells you that you don't need one.
    GuyWithBigHearth likes this.
  4. TriMom

    TriMom New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2013
    Messages:
    88
    Check to see if your prefab fireplace is workable for pellet stove. The pre fab fireplace we have no insert would work.
  5. briansol

    briansol Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Messages:
    1,783
    Loc:
    central ct
    You may need a 'zero clearance' compatible (and with a kit to match) stove to fit. That may narrow your models down.
  6. steamguy

    steamguy Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Messages:
    110
    Loc:
    In the windy Columbia Gorge, WA
    I have a pellet stove in a zero-clearance fireplace and can perhaps share a bit of wisdom. You're going to spend serious bucks on an insert, spend them only once.

    I'd recommend ponying up for one of the Harman stoves, after my experiences with my Enviro. The Enviros have been downrated for heat output, and you want something that's going to have more than enough output for your space, in case you get into really extreme weather. My experience would seem to point to the logic that it's better to buy a stove with more than enough heating power as it won't be working to full capacity on a daily basis. But I live in an area where we can get cold, damp, blasting winds. 40 to 60 knots is not unusual. 20 knots+ and 20° is also a common cold-snap.

    The Empress I have now is only rated for 1500 square feet; I had an Austroflamm Integra in that space before; it was rated to heat 2800 square feet, if I remember the spec right. It had enough heat output in our house to allow you to bake bread on the hearth with a blizzard outside! But it eventually wore out and Austroflamm isn't selling stoves in my area any more. I admit my mistake - that I let my dealer talk me into the Empress, and I believed him that it would be enough. It is just, plain, not enough. Not even near enough. This is an expensive mistake that won't be remedied until I get a new stove - which won't happen until this one is beyond repair.

    I also understand from speaking to others that the Harmans are very quiet. Some stoves are louder than others, and the 'tin box' of the zero-clearance fireplace can magnify that. I miss the near-silence of my big old Austro.

    Also, check the clearances to combustibles. Some stoves allow combustibles to be closer than others and you want to make sure your house will pass inspection for insurance purposes.

    You may not need an Outside Air Kit if your fireplace has an external air intake already built in. (I didn't need one for that reason, but that's how the code in my particular municipality is written.)

    Hope that helps.
    Lousyweather and MZR800 like this.
  7. great balls of fire

    great balls of fire New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2013
    Messages:
    29
    Loc:
    East Fishkill, NY
    I just came across a used Timberwolf insert the guy who bought it originally said it made too much noise and only ran 20 bags through it and brought it back to the shop.I picked it up for half price barely used.definitely one of the cheaper pellet stoves.doesn't have all the bells and whistles no thermostat just low medium and high .this stove cranks some heat out I think my p43 is louder .needless to say I am overjoyed with this insert .it does exactly what is expected of it .good luck whatever you find I'm sure you will love it.
  8. Jack Morrissey

    Jack Morrissey Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Messages:
    275
    Loc:
    Stoughton, Ma
    Ive had my Quarafire for 5 years, with the same ignitor, no problems...
  9. imacman

    imacman Guest

    If by "Summers" you mean "Summers Heat" by Englander, nothing can be further from the truth. They make a good, solid stove, and their customer service is THE best in the stove industry. There are MANY happy owners of their products on this forum, including me.
  10. UpStateNY

    UpStateNY Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    97
    Loc:
    Catskill Mountains
    Right now natural gas is cheaper/equal per BTU compared to wood pellets. At best wood pellets would be equal in price. Here is a link to a calculator for comparison. I doubt natural gas is going to increase in price over the next few years. A wood pellet stove would make it possible to heat a localized area (nice and warm) and keep unused rooms cold, which would could save you a little bit of money.

    http://pelletheat.org/pellets/compare-fuel-costs/
  11. john193

    john193 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
    Messages:
    910
    Loc:
    Southeast PA
    If you are going insert I'd give quad another look. My father in law has been using his AE for 4 years now with the same ignitor. The mt Vernon is also one of the higher btu stoves out there. It is also noticeably quieter than my now sold XXV.
  12. LanceBaxter

    LanceBaxter New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Loc:
    Colorado
    Thank you, to everyone that responded, I appreciate it. I took mralias advice to heart and ended up going with a family owned, local vendor for my insert. They've been in buisness for over twenty years and have a solid gold reputation locally, after doing business with them I can see why. In the end I chose the relationship with my local company, over the the manufacturer of my stove. My logic was even the stove manufacturer is great but the local support is terrible, than it's all for naught. As an added bonus the compnay that installed the insert also performs cleanings and sells oak pellets (which are pricey!) So it's win-win as long they live up to their reputation and by evidence of how smooth the installation of my insert went today, I suspect it will.

    I also sided with steamguy's logic and bought a little more stove then I needed. Figuring it's easier to lower the output of a big stove because it's too hot, then to have smaller stove cranked to the max because it's too cold.

    In the end I went with a Napoleon NPI45, because that's what company supported and sold. I received a well priced quote from a Harman dealer for the Accentra insert but after reading online reviews and getting a negative overall "vibe" from the guy during his visit, I ended up not getting the Accentra, which to be honest was the pellet stove I wanted.

    The Company:
    http://www.rayschimney.com/

    Code inspection is tomorrow, after which the shroud and metal sheets to hide the bricks will be put into place. I'll get my free 15 bags of oaks pellets and we'll run through the operation and maintenance of the unit.

    Thanks again to everyone that responded, I appreciated your input.

    Pics because it did happen :D

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  13. tjnamtiw

    tjnamtiw Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2009
    Messages:
    3,605
    Loc:
    North Georgia
    My two Quad inserts are going on 4 years each with the same igniters. Not sure that igniters are a real problem, and even if they are, they are relatively cheap.

    Can't wait to see the final, final installation. I like the way they used the T in the end of the flex to swing over to the blower outlet. It makes it easy to service that way.
  14. Lake Girl

    Lake Girl Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,512
    Loc:
    NW Ontario
    Looking good and, bonus, it's likely not too hot for your first fire-up;lol Welcome to the group!
  15. Eatonpcat

    Eatonpcat Minister of Fire

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    Messages:
    2,074
    Loc:
    Eaton Township, Ohio
    Nice looking stove!
  16. steamguy

    steamguy Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Messages:
    110
    Loc:
    In the windy Columbia Gorge, WA
    Good looking stove... Ooooooo... I like that - it looks like it just slides back and mates up! :) Wow.

    You may want to get some sheet metal bent to cover the concrete blocks, like I did (pic is in the avatar). I measured length to <angle bend> then figured the angle I needed, then length to next <angle bend> then length to finish. I ended up with a local gutter-making company of all things, but the guy had dark colored coated aluminum and he bent up the 'lower fender' within five minutes. Cost me about $15 as I recall.

    Hope that helps.
  17. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2009
    Messages:
    3,890
    Loc:
    Southcoast, MA
    Hey, if you ever talk with ray's chimney again....tell him to write his own copy for his website and stop taking mine.


    The comparison below was created by Copyscape, which searched for copies of this page:

    http://www.pelletstoveservice.com/pellet_stove_cleaning.html

    The page below has 448 words matching 43% of the page, as highlighted below:

    http://rayschimney.com/preview/faqs.html

    Been copied? Defend your site with a Free[​IMG]Banner.

    Rays Chimney Service Plus answers the most frequently asked ...
    ... If you are burning a low grade quality pellet, cleaning will be more frequent. Nearly ... This will involve removing ash from the burn chamber and the ash pan, ... To get the best performance out of your pellet stove with the least amount of maintenance you must use the best possible pellet fuel possible. Using a low grade pellet will require more ... Failure to perform maintenance will decrease efficiency, will stress out vital components and may lead to costly repairs. ... Depending upon your pellet stove model, burning habits and fuel selection, ... Removal of pellets, vacuum of debris, inspection of hopper, auger plate, pressure and/or latch switches, minor repairs as needed and refill of pellets ... Inspection of auger, auger assembly and test for unobstructed rotation within the auger tube; Combustion Blower: Access, clean, ... lubricate as needed; Convection Blower: Clean and lubricate as needed; Auger motor: clean and ... lubricate as needed; Visual inspection of all wiring and terminals; Cleaning of the entire fire chamber ... including: burn pot, ignition assembly, fire walls, draft chambers, exhaust ports and heat exchangers etc... Test electrical sensors and igniter for continuity and working order;
    http://rayschimney.com/preview/faqs.html

    word for word copy of my pellet stove cleaning page. Are they them or are they me? I doubt they actually do any of this. And they speak about their integrity as a sweep...
  18. stoveguy2esw

    stoveguy2esw Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2006
    Messages:
    5,830
    Loc:
    madison hgts. va


    and i didn't have to bribe him at all, but i may have to after this.;) thanks imac

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