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Harman Magnafire Elite vs. Hitzer 503

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Westlake, Apr 29, 2006.

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  1. Westlake

    Westlake New Member

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    This is my first entry with this forum. I'm in the process of purchasing a home that has an existing fireplace in the basement. I spent the day visiting various wood stove dealers in the area. For the past 10 years I have heated my home with a soap stone wood stove. I'd pay for a tri-axel, cut, split, haul, stack the wood to which becomes a tiring chore every year. I have a brother who heats his house with a coal stove and he brags that he doesn't have to do all the work that I do to prepare for the winter months. So I spent today considering a coal stove insert for the fire place. I came across 2 models. 1st was the Harman Magnafire Elite, and the 2nd was the Hitzer 503. Can anyone recommend either one as better than the other. My wife and I liked the hopper on the Hitzer, however Harmans seem to have a good reputation as well. My brothers stove is something called an Alaska that can only run if there is electric. If the power goes out, so does his stove which is a feature I don't like, especially in our area where we get some storms that knocks out our power at times for days! :ahhh: I don't think I care for a pellet stove either. Any suggestions you can send my way would be helpful :coolsmile:

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  2. mlouwho

    mlouwho New Member

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    Definately go with the Hitzer. The hopper is a great feature, so easy to use. I heat my 3000 sq ft home with the Hitzer insert. I spend about $700 for the entire winter, and have no work to do cutting, splitting and hauling. Hitzer is considerably lower price, but excellent quality. (I am a Harman dealer, don't tell anyone)
  3. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    I'm a wood burner so take my advise with that in mind. Look into using compressed saw dust logs. Or think about what it takes to burn wood. I have roughly 7 cords in the yard now and the total cost is: 1 chain, about 3 gallons of 50:1 2 stroke mix, 1 replacement bar for the chain saw I had before I heated with wood, and 1 Osburn 1800i. To date I think after 1 year I'm at about .75 of cost recovery.....


    That was the cost... Now the benefits:

    The wood is free. Really! I've never paid a single penney for any of it.

    It's renewable. And it's everywhere.

    I'm in much better shape for it. Since about July or August of last year, I've cut and split around 12 cords of Elm (grrrr), maple, oak, pine, cherry, apple (yes, I live in the hudson valley), ash (what wonderful wood) , mulberry, and Sumac. That total is what Eric burns in a year, and, I believe, he'd have it no other way. I consider the splitting and cutting almost recreational, as I sit at a desk all day. It sure beats going to the gym!!!

    Today was an especially great day!! I was out there splitting some cherry and mulberry, and my 9 year old son came out to help. He split about 5 rounds of mulberry with the ax!!! Both he and I were very proud of that accomplishment. One of the Mulberry rounds was a really knotted peice. He must have hit that thing a hundred times before he gave up, and then my daughter (11) hit that darned peice of wood a good 50 times... Both of them are learning what it takes to help heat our home. It's a wonderful lesson.

    O.K.....enough pontificating... My parents heated with coal for years.......Other than the smell and a little work to fill the stove twice a day, and a debatable environmental down side, it's a great fuel to heat a home with.

    My parents used a Warm Morning stove years ago, so not one of the ones you mentioned, but if you want real advise on coal, go read the nepa forums. (Hey Lime you still out there?)
  4. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Have you considered the VC Vigillant? will heat up to 55k BTU's unique shaker grate system and can be bought for under $1,500
    IT's not a monster 80 or 90 K BTU unit but a very attractive stove. (the wife pleaser) We have had post concerning it just use the search and type in Vigillant
  5. mlouwho

    mlouwho New Member

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    The VC Vigillant is a freestanding stove, this poster is looking at inserts. The coal these stoves burn is Anthracite, not the coal your parents burned. Anthracite is so much cleaner, actually less emissions than natural gas. You can see nothing coming out of the top of my chimney, not even smoke -yes when burning. It is the easist heating alternative. You should not spend more than 5 minutes 2 times a day tending coal inserts.

    The original poster talked about buying wood, not getting it for free. But then he still would have to do all the work, splitting, hauling & stacking. With free wood, you have to figure in the cost of your time scrounging, hauling, splitting & such. If you buy all your coal for the winter at once, bagged very convenient, you have 1 hour of work stacking it in convenient place, outside in the rain/snow is fine. The rest of the summer you spend with your family, camping, at the beach, golf etc. My time is too valuable to me to have it all tied up in a "free" heat source.

    Compressed sawdust logs are fine for occasional fires, but not a practical option for whole house heating.
  6. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    mlouwho. I would have to check this out but I believe the vigillant has a reversiable flue collar and could be vented in most fireplaces with the rear exit location. I did not realize he was looking for an insert. At one time around here coal stoves were plentifull, many homes had Chubbys.
    BTW they are retro-fitting them and refurbishing them again. In Plymouth MA area

    The VC has the ability to burn either the harder or softer coal they just have to set up the air flow differently.

    Coal in this area though still available is few and far beteween I have done about 4 coal stove inspections in the past 4 years
    Current cost was about 180- $200 a ton

    mlouwho I almost bought the oakwood which you are very familliar with. Great stove My situation is replacing an existing stove with a flue location being 28.5" to the top Which goes threw a combination field stone and masonry 16" thick Alterning the location w taking or drilling granite field stone is not an option. I needed a rear exit stove to exit equal or lower. That is why I went with VC. The other factor is I can reburbish their products so buying used and bringing it back to specs I can do.
    I have an interior chimney with seperate 8/8 ma clay flue liner so drafs issues are non issues, I can used a cat stove.

    Over the years I have developed a relationship with the in charge guys at VC in Bethel Vt. That is why I lean towards and support thier products and being manufactured in USA makes it even easier. I do not recomend the winter warm inserts.
    Thought I would explain to you why I favor VC and why I chose them. I wish I could have found or had more choices but my location eliminated almost all
  7. mlouwho

    mlouwho New Member

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    My company, in Michigan, installed 36 Anthracite coal units this past burning season. 29 of the 36 were the Hitzer brand. They are made in Berne, Indiana, a small "mom & pop" type company, staffed with a lot of Amish workers. They build a wonderful product and are great to work with. Customers often ask me about their warranty, my response - I don't know, I have been selling their product for 8 years and never needed to file a warranty claim. I've only ever had to get 3 replacement parts, all due to user error.

    Good stoves, good reputation, low maintenance, easy to use, better price - this is why I reccomend Hitzer.
  8. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    You don't understand compressed sawdust logs very well do you? They are giant pellets, and the are extremely good for whole house heating. Actually as good or better than cord wood. Cheaper..? Not if the wood is free, but if you pay for wood, then compressed sawdust logs (without anything but sawdust!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) are a really good option. They are super easy to use, clean, low ash, high btu content, and eco friendly.
  9. mlouwho

    mlouwho New Member

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    No I don't know much about compressed logs, so I did some investigating, found this on the LOPI web site FAQ section

    "Can I burn compressed sawdust logs in my Lopi Woodstove or insert?
    No. Some compressed sawdust logs contain parafin (wax) or other volatile binders which can produce twice the heat output of regular cordwood. Excesive heat can stress and damage woodstoves or inserts. Compressed sawdust logs are intended to be burned only in open fireplaces, not in closed appliances such as woodstoves and inserts."
  10. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The compressed logs that the Lopi site is warning about use wax (paraffin) as a binder - like Duraflame or Presto logs. The compressed logs Warren and others are referring to have no binders. They are just sawdust, compressed under high pressure. This is the same process used to make the smaller pellets used in pellet stoves. They are an excellent source of heat and do no damage to the stove. Actually they are very practical fuel for some people because they are easy to use, clean, create less ash, burn a long time, use a waste product and put out less emissions than many types of wood, especially poorly seasoned wood. I know I'm going to try a batch.

    http://www.clarkpublicutilities.com/Residential/TheEnergyAdviser/Archives2003/03_01_05
    http://www.wowpellets.com/p_firelogs.shtml
    http://www.homefirelogs.com/faq/
  11. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    I understand the principle of the hopper fed coal stove, but can someone explain the benfits to me?

    I understand that the hopper is loaded with coal and then it feeds into the fire; however the stove still needs to be shaken twice a day. The only advantage I see is that you don't have to sling a bucket of coal in and throw it through the front door every loading, maybe just ever two or three.

    If that's the case, I'd take a regular stove and load it every time before I would take a hopper stove with a big hulking hopper chute directly in front of the viewing glass.
  12. Westlake

    Westlake New Member

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    I had to work this past weekend and I wasn't able to respond to all who posted to my entry. Thanks for all your input. I think we are leaning towards the Hitzer coal stove insert. It's about $400.00 cheaper than the Harman unit. I never heard of the sawdust logs before. We have pellet stoves however pellet fuel was scarce this winter with ads stating first come first serve. I do have a second question in regards to these coal stoves. I'm new to coal, but I'm assuming that you need to start the stove with wood, and once the fire is going you then add the coal. About how much wood do you need to have on hand for the winter months?
  13. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    Well hypothetically you only need to start the fire once or twice during the burning season. Generally it's not the kind of fire you let go out very often because it can be a pain to restart. My dad was going throwing about 4 milk crates worth of small hardwood splits per winter when he was first learning the coal stove. Now that he has the hang of it, he needs about half of that amount because he lets the stove go out when we're on vacation, etc.

    I've also found that hardwood lump charcoal, which is amazing on the grill, also is a god sent when you need to light the stove. It lights super easy and burns with a very very hot flame which makes igniting the coal very easy. I recommend it to anyone new to coal stoves. Even kingsford briquettes will do the job; just make a quick hot kindling fire and throw the charcoal on top, in no time at all you've got a nice hot bed of coals and you can start adding the coal. Just be careful to avoid the matchlight stuff!
  14. mlouwho

    mlouwho New Member

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    Why avoid the matchlite? That is exactly what I use, then I can skip the kindling wood. 15 minutes with the matchlite & I am good to go
  15. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    Well because common sense tells me that anything which has been soaked in a flammable liquid prior to being put it my stove doesn't belong there. Besides the fact that I would never have matchlight around the house and would therefore never have used it anyway.

    But plenty of people seem to use it with sucess so, to each their own I suppose.
  16. Westlake

    Westlake New Member

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    thanks for all the reply's! We are going to go with the Hitzer 503 because it costs less and appears to be of good quality. We just sold our house this past Wednesday and bought a new house today. I appreciate the advice of the charcoal starters to get the stove going. I'm sure that this coming winter I will have my up's and down's in getting the stove going. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it and if not, I know I can always get some good advice and tips from you all with this web site. Thanks again.
    Westlake (my Coleman camper make)
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