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Insert Advice

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by DenD, Jun 8, 2006.

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  1. DenD

    DenD New Member

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    This is my first post, but I've reading and learning quite a lot from this forum for the past few months. This an incredibly informative site!

    I currently heat my 2500 sq st colonial in CT with oil (1100 gal. last year). In looking to reduce my oil consumption I initially began researching pellet inserts, but with the high cost of pellets in CT it doesn't seem like it will save very much. So I have changed my focus to wood inserts. I have visited a few local dealers to get advice and rough price quotes. Two of the dealers I liked quite a bit, one carried Osburn, Harman and Napoleon, while the other carried Regency. Currently, I am leaning toward the Regency, either the I2400 or I3100. I want to heat as much of the house as possible, but I don't want the 350 sq ft room (2 doors 30" and 40") in which the stove will be installed to be too hot. Does anyone have advice on sizing? I don't want an undersized model, but I also don't want one that's too big and has to be choked way down. The other models I am considering are the Harman Exception, Osburn 2400 and the Napoleon 1401. Are there any pros or cons to any of these units that should influence my decision one way or the other? The price quotes I have been getting have been fairly similar, approx $3000 (give or take a little depending on the model) installed with a full SS liner and a blower. Do these prices seem reasonable?
    Thanks for your guidance.

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  2. mlouwho

    mlouwho New Member

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    I am familiar with Harman & Regency, both good stoves. Both have good afterburn systems & airwash. $3000 installed with liner is a very good price. Make sure you get the blower. If you go Regency I would go with the medium one, better to work it really hard than have the large one choked down all the time.
  3. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Hi DenD,
    Welcome to the forum. I have a similar situation, only my house is a bit smaller. More like 2200 sqft. I installed an Osburn 1800i, because it was one of the largest I could fit. I've been very happy with it, I only wish I had installed the 2200i, but I believe the 2400 would cook you. My livingroom temps regularly hang around 78, and the upstairs sits around 68, kitchen around 72. My wife wishes it were warmer, but the previous year the whole house was at 65-68. We reduced our oil consumption from 1000 gallons to 300. I'd go with a mid size stove given your floor plan. Don't try to heat the whole house, just look to reduce your oil, and in the end your expectations will match reality. Only the most open of plans truely can be heated completely with a stove. Look into finding a Lopi Revere with a blower. Price should be around $2100 just for the stove and blower, or look into the Osburn 2200i. It's a bit cheaper, the big glass area is really nice (but needs minor cleaning to keep fire view good), and includes a blower. You might also want to look at the VC winter warm stoves, or the Hearthstone Clydesdale.
  4. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    As much as a Vermont Castings fan I am. I can not recomend the Winter warm inserts.
    Unless you find a dilligent dealer, that solves the front door gasketing problem
  5. freeman.public

    freeman.public New Member

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    I am very familiar with the Osburn 2400 and Osburn 1800. First of all, either of these is more than capable of running you out of the room.

    I personally like the look of the 1800 much better than the 2400.

    Both will easily burn overnight with plenty of coals in the morning (up to 10 hours later with a clean firebox, 12 hours if you leave 1-2" of ash on the bottom. (assuming you are burning good wood, and don't have an extremely high chimney)

    The 2400 tends to "run away" when you fill it. It is very hard to stop it from hitting over 700 degrees after loading. Even if you stop it down right away (which you shouldn't), it will hit 700 - 800 degrees once it gets going. Both of these units have air tubes in the top of the firebox, which feed a "top burn." This cannot be stopped down - this is true for all non-catalytic stoves I have seen.

    The 1800 has a better fire view, as it has a taller door. It is also easier to load.

    The 2400's cast iron door is unforgiving if you touch it when it is burning. You must be more careful when loading the stove. The 1800's steel door is much less apt to burn you. The thick cast iron door holds way more heat than the relatively thin steel shell on the door of the 1800.

    I highly recommend the 1800. I am planning on purchasing a second one soon. (I am building a masonry fireplace just to hold it, which shows how much I like my other one). I burn at least two cords through mine each year. The flame view is outstanding, and its performance is flawless.

    If you buy either one, three bits of advice:
    1. make sure the surround is not dragging on the ground (the legs of the insert control this). If it hits the ground, it lifts the air control lever, making it harder to move.

    2. The gold trim on the surround can rattle when the blower is on. A simple fix is to put some sort of glue between the trim and the surround before bolting it to the fireplace. High temperature silicone works well.

    3. If you leave the screw out of the top heat shield (the one just above the door), you can remove this, then the surround very easily. This makes cleaning the flue easier.
  6. DenD

    DenD New Member

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    Thanks for all the great advice everyone. I appreciate it! I will take a closer look at all of the recommended stoves.

    Warren - How much wood did you burn in your Osburn to drop your oil consumption from 1000 to 300 gallons? And do you have vents to get the heat to your second floor?
  7. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    4.5-5 cords, and no, only the stairs. Some was crappy wood, but mosltly cherry and elm.
  8. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    As already mentioned maybe give the Clydesdale a thought, it may be out of your price range. The Hearthstone Clydesdale is a soapstone insert, not firebrick. Wood fire heat is lopsided. When you light a fire it's peak output happens quick, within 2-3 hours, and then for the next 6 hours or so it's downhill from there. So, with wood fires it's not particularly even heat. Soapstone takes a lot of energy to warm it up, and releaseses a lot of energy to cool it down. When that heat spike happens most of that energy is absorbed into the soapstone and gets it charged up preventing you from getting roasted. However, it now has a lot of heat energy which it releases over the upcoming hours into your living area. It's like a buffer to help even the heat output and unlikely to give that "roasting" effect, if it does it will be subtle, and the reason when the fire is out the soapstone continues to heat for several hours more as it releases the energy stored from the fire.

    That's one of the benefits of soapstone but it also has it's short-comings. It's more expensive, and as mentioned it doesn't heat/cool fast which means if you want to quickly heat the place or get the "chill" out of the morning not going to happen with soapstone. It takes 2-3 hours to start to warm a place. But, when the fire is out it keeps warming the place for another 2-3 hours afterward so not good for quickly heating, but good for overnight burns as it continues to heat for hours after the fire's out. From a cold start, it is not as easy to get moving as a non-soapstone unit so they are not particularly good for stop & go heating. But, on the other hand if you burn 24/7 they are better than non-soapstone. The second fire, and every time you reload the draft is already going great, the logs start right up because of that, the fire gets going great, the secondary burn starts right up, to keep them going is a dream. Soapstone units remind me of steam locomotives, they take time to warm up and start moving but once you got them moving they're nice!

    So, maybe give the Clydesdale a look if you can get over the initial price shock and you'll need to include the price for the blowers. The blowers are so useful in inserts (all, not just the Clydesdale) I don't know why they're an option. It also needs to be pulled out the 5" for heating, though the manual tells you it can be flush or pulled out 5" if you don't have it sitting out the 5" all the heat comes out behind your surround. Not going to be a lot of good there!
  9. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Why would you build a fireplace and insert a stove inside? Why not build a masonry hearth and have a freestanding stove? Inserts are great for people that want to get more heat from their existing fireplace, but a freestanding stove is more efficient. I don't care how great the stated manufactures efficiency ratings are, inserts still loose heat to the surrounding masonry or up the chimney.
  10. freeman.public

    freeman.public New Member

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    There are several reasons to build a fireplace for an insert instead of having a freestanding stove.

    1. It is safer for small children. It is much easier to place a fireplace screen around the front of the insert than to keep a stand alone stove save.
    2. It is an internal fireplace, so any heat absorbed by the fireplace will work its way into the house or into the garage. (I am happy "losing" some heat into the garage. It is insulated, and I like it to be a little warm when I get into my car.) In addition to this, the masonry helps hold the heat. This helps prevent the room from becoming too hot when burning the stove on high after adding wood.
    3. You can place a plasma screen above the insert. (I am putting a 2.5" thick sandstone mantle 10" out 42" above the floor (10" above the insert surround) to block the heat.
    4. Most importantly, my wife likes the look of our insert, and does not like the look of a freestanding stove.
  11. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    All great reasons. Don't forget to post some pictures of your project. I can relate to #4, my wife is the opposite. She doesn't like the looks of inserts, so I'm having problems figuring what to do with our fireplace.
  12. Jason762

    Jason762 Member

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    DenD,
    I have a pretty similar situation to you. Here is what I did. I own a 2400 sq ft, 2 story colonial in CT. I purchased the Osburn 2400 insert with a full 25' SS reliner kit from Obadiah's on the internet for around $2000. I did the install myself and saved a bundle. The room it is in is about 250 sq ft with 4 large windows and high cathedral ceilings. I only burn 90% oak and the rest a mix of birch and ash. I am very very pleased with this insert so far. It keeps downstairs around 75 and upstairs around 68. The room it is in can get overheated but this can be fixed by using my ceiling fan and opening a window or two. The stove itself is very easy to operate (even my wife can keep a fire going, after some training). It burns for a long time, there are plenty of coals in the morning and in the evening after work to get a fire going again quickly. The blowers work great, but I found when left on low they seem to work best. The view of the fire is very nice, I liked the 1800 better but I didn't want to undersize my stove, and i'm glad I went with the 2400. From what I've seen this stove works great and I saved a lot of money versus buying a bigger name brand.
  13. Webwidow

    Webwidow Member

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    We always had a stove in our fireplace opposed to an insert. No blower needed. Best of both world, if you like the styling.
  14. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    The 2200 splits the difference between 1800 and 2400 and retains the bay window.
  15. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Interesting list of stoves WebWidow. I figured you folks for being pure wood burners.
  16. Webwidow

    Webwidow Member

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    Our home was Craig's test lab for some products. Mostly burned wood in the Upland 107 then the Resolute in the fireplace. Morso was in the sun room, until we changed over to hot water heat. I must say that I sure did enjoy the Jotul gas, no more mess in the house. Can I say that in here? ;-)
  17. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    There are other things besides efficiency and losing heat to the masonry. I think you'd have to own an insert, or go from a freestanding stove to an insert to realize there is very little lost. The world may never know but the area above my insert is sealed off and does not get particularly hot. Neither does the masonry around my insert so it's not aborbing much radiant heat. It has the other benefits like my insert pushes 150 CFM's of air through my insert and forces all the air in my house every hour and fifteen minutes to be heated to 150-175 degrees and then repeats. That causes even heat throughout my house, and with my freestanding stove I had to burn "extra" wood to keep the area near it 85 degrees so the rest of the house would feel warm (and yes that's with registers, vents, fans). I look at it as, my insert I only need to heat the air around it to 74 degrees, with a little loss to the masonry. My wood stove had no loss to the masonry but I also had to burn extra wood to keep the air temp around it 85 instead so the rest of the house could feel warm. Which takes more wood, heating the air to 74 and having a little loss to the masonry, or no loss to the masonry but having to maintain 85 degrees instead of 74. May break even, whatever it is, it isn't much off one way or the other.

    My point may be with freestanding stoves, I've experienced convection heat and will never go back to freestanding. I think the Lopi Answer the best of stove & inserts because it's an insert that can sit in the open. Best of both worlds, heats like an insert nice and even, and doesn't have any masonry loss. I wish they made a larger version.
  18. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    They do, it's called the Revere.
  19. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    The Revere can't sit in the open. If you look on their website you can see the lopi answer is listed on their wood freestanding stove and also under their insert and the only difference is the surround or legs. The Lopi answer is an insert at heart that can sit in the open. I'm sure someone's thinking about the Pacific Energy Summit which isn't the same, as it's a freestanding stove at heart which can be converted to work like an insert.

    The answer is the only insert I've seen that can sit in the open. Placed as such that's where its power lies. In that mode it has the convection shroud around all 5 sides like an insert, whereas almost all other "convection" wood stoves have them only on the back, occasionally on the back and sides, but not all like the lopi answer. Placed in the open with blowers the lopi answer heats exactly like an insert but no loss to the masonry. But, small.
  20. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Rhonemas,
    I have owned an insert in my old house in Michigan, infact it was a Lopi Answer. It was centrally located in a 1200 sq ft ranch and didn't impress me. I also had a block off plate and it just didn't seem to heat the area. I had a freestanding stove in the basement of that house (same sq ft) and the Lopi just wasn't close to comparison for heat output and room warmth. For me it seemed like it just couldn't heat the house as good as a free standing stove.

    I doubt that you have real even heat throughout your house. Stoves are space heaters and you will always have hot and cold spots. I'm glad your insert is working for you, but my opinion is a freestanding stove gives you the best of both worlds, radiant, and yes even convection. Extra baffles or a shroud around the stove doesn't create more convection, it's just forces the heat towards the front of the unit. My thinking is, and I could be wrong, the more the stove is open to the surrounding air the more convection and radiation it will create, thus better heating efficiency.
  21. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I seem to remember that the inserts are NOT tested in the configuration where most people use them...with an exterior chimney exposed to cold outside. If this is the case, and I think it is, then the insert efficiencies mean very little.

    Remember, EPA is really testing only for pollution. There is really no accurate standard or test method for real world operation/efficiency.

    In most cases with external chimneys, I would guess that a hit of 10-20% of efficiency is taken with a flush insert. With internal chimneys, there may be little or no difference.
  22. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Boy, I feel everyone keeps talking about the efficiency of the engine and not paying attention to the miles per gallon of the car. Which unit makes the most convection heat per load of wood? It may be better stated that way. The one that makes the most convection heat, is the one best suited to heat your house. My insert is like having 4-5 hair driers while it's going, heats all the air in my house in a little over an hour to 150-175 degrees and then repeats. A freestanding stove can't touch that in convection heat. Anyway, my point goes something like that. A freestanding stove creates radiant heat which makes the area around it feel hotter than it is. If a freestanding stove makes 15% radiant heat and 85% convection and you're heating 6 rooms each room will split the convection heat getting approximately 14% of the available heat. However, the room with the stove is putting out radiant heat which is localized to the room, so that room gets around 32% of the heat, all other rooms get around 14%. So, it's difficult to have "even" heat with a freestanding stove since some of it's heat is localized around the stove. An insert, produces almost all convection heat, and more of it so each room gets an equal amount and more convection heat than a freestanding stove.

    Convection heat, and almost no radiant heat of inserts can mislead people into thinking inserts/convection wood stoves don't heat as well, my brother was one. Growing up, walk into our house and you got hit with a freestanding stove blasting convection and radiant heat at you giving the WOW I'm going to die of heat, stick a fork in me I'm done. After getting an insert, no more searing heat instead you walk into a warm, comfortable room and each room in the house was almost equally as warm. What a letdown giving my brother the impression the freestanding stove heated so much better and puts out so much heat. But, he didn't see the freestanding stove did a great job of heating the area around it, but wasn't as efficient at heating other areas. Whereas the insert did a better job than the freestanding at heating other areas, but didn't heat the room it was in as hot as the freestanding stove.

    I think an insert losing 10-20% is pretty high. I haven't seen people with inserts require 5 cords of wood and people in the same area similar house with a freestanding stove only need a little under 4. It may be like I was suggesting, that any loss to the masonary is compensated for by increased capacity of convection heat that travels around to heat your house.
  23. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    In my mind, there is no doubt that given an installation of, for instance:

    1. An avalon insert back in the fireplace with blower
    and
    2. The same unit freestanding on legs with exposed stovepipe

    that the difference would be in the 15-20% in total heat recovered to the house.

    Think about it this way....look up basic heat loss calculations and see how much an exterior wall loses(a lot) as opposed to an interior wall (nothing). Masonry is even worse than a normal exterior wall by far.

    Certainly a properly designed and installed insert COULD beat these odds by heavy insulation on the convection chamber, etc., but in reality this rarely occurs. So, to be specific, the losses I see are:

    1. Radiant heat penetrates right through the double wall of the insert and heats the air and masonry in the rear and chimney - all of which does not make it into the house on an exterior chimney.
    2. Because of space issues, the flame is often nearly lapping out of the stove and up the chimney.....BIG loss of heat.
    3. Related to #2, because no stove pipe is exposed, you are losing approx 10% right there (this HAS been tested).

    Another way to look at it is that you are installing an insert into a refrigerator. Of course it will take some heat to get to "par" and then you get the rest.

    There is never 100%, but I feel fairly confident about this - that a stove gets more MPG than the insert, even with the same engine because it has less friction to overcome (stated in the automobile way).

    Interior chimneys are probably a wash.
  24. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Good points. A freestanding stove is more efficient, but have any idea how much "convection" heat a freestanding stove makes vs. an insert with a blower?

    The list can go on. An insert loses radiant heat to the masonary whatever is left over from the shroud, but what about a freestanding stove's radiant energy that's more powerful that strikes outside walls of your house or a ceiling with an attic above? Isn't it whisked to the outside and wasted as well? I had to keep the area my freestanding stove was at 82-85 degrees for it to make enough convection heat to heat the rest of my house. My insert, I only need keep it 74. Having to maintain 82-85 degrees instead of 74 costs me 20-25% more energy. That doesn't help a freestanding stoves position.

    I think this is probably a debate that will last till eternity and just too many variables.
  25. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    This whole thread has me thinking about laying a blanket of 2000 degree RockWool on the top of the shroud of my insert and lining the fireplace with it.
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