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Insert - or - freestanding on the hearth ???

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Monosperma, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. Monosperma

    Monosperma Member

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    Got an old fireplace that will be converted to a modern, efficient, heat machine. The question is, what delivers better heat, an insert, or a free-standing on the hearth?

    My dimensions: 29" wide, 26" high, and deeper than should be allowed by law. The hearth is elevated and comes approx 21" into the room. I'll be able to run a six-inch flexible stainless pipe down the existing crumbling chimney.

    The room is 400 sq feet and I am hoping some warm air will leave the room and provide secondary heat to the rest of the drafty old ranch house.

    Elevation: 6750'. Fuel: Juniper or, second choice pinon.

    I can set a Jotul F400 Castine or even an F500 Oslo on the hearth and run the vent out the back, into the fireplace, up, and out. Or, to keep the discussion apples to apples, a Jotul Kennebec insert would fit as well. I may not be able to afford these 2 choices, but for the sake of discussion let's use them.

    What are your thoughts on freestanding vs insert? Pros and cons? (Let's not do the cat/non-cat debate for now.)

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  2. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    One major benefit to a free standing is it creates usable heat without a blower/fan. If backup heat during power outages is important this could be a factor.
  3. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    I agree with jharkin. When there's a power outage the inserts would need some sort of a backup source for the blowers. Considering it's only fans, a small generator would work.

    If it is for the pleasure of a fire, an insert would be great. If it is your only source of heat, a stove would be nice.

    I love both and want to have both in my house some day!! lol.
  4. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I own two freestanding stoves, both installed in old fireplaces, so you know my opinion. Any chance of Enlarging that miniscule opening? Some extra height would let you slide the stove back into the opening a bit. If not, then maybe the insert is the better solution, minding the aforementioned blower caveat. There are inserts that can run without blowers, though.
  5. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    If your insert is PROPERLY installed, the heat will still convect in a power outage. It may take longer to reach outlying areas, & the amount to reach those areas won't be much, but it WILL get there, if doors are left open. BTDT. Used to burn a Regency I3100L & NEVER had an issue with my house - a 26 x 44 ranch with the FP on an outside 26' wall - staying warm without the power to the blower unit. It would get cool in the kitchen at the other end of the house, but not uncomfortably so. The FPI will use up less space, & the efficiency of burning wood is generally the same. Every house/installation is different.
    What look are you going for? How much space can you sacrifice with the stove on the hearth & an additional hearth pad of protection projecting out into the room? Do you have little kids running around?
    When I was on the sales floor, I asked indecisive folks to take pix of the room & photo shop the stoves or inserts onto them. Not an exact science, but a decent enough visual to see if one or the other is better suited to your home & it's EXISTING decor, or if major renovations will be required to make either of them work... Good luck with your decision & we'll need pix when the install is complete...
    jjs777_fzr likes this.
  6. dafattkidd

    dafattkidd Minister of Fire

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    I don't think I'm speaking out of terms when I say the general opinion is freestanders give out more heat and usually with no need for a blower, so the burn times tend to be a bit better. That being said some inserts do protrude with a significant amount of mass into the room allowing for good amount of heat to pour into the room even without the help of the fan. Still, i think if I were in your situation I'd be looking for a rear vented freestanding stove to install as far into the room as makes sense.
  7. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    I have an insert myself and I am very happy with it but after reading a lot about stoves vs. inserts here I think its only benefit is aesthetics compared with a stove. A stove on the other hand is usually cheaper, is less dependent on a blower, easier access when you want to fix something and you have the stovetop to warm something up or a steamer. DAKSY is right that both options should provide the same heat but when running an insert without a blower you have to be careful not to overfire it. A stove sitting in an open fireplace should be less prone to that.
    If you provide a floorplan and/or pictures we will be able to give you a better idea what are the options you have.
  8. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    Not exactly. If that was completely true, every insert would be equipped with a blower... Many insert manufacturers DO NOT include a blower as standard equipment.
  9. etiger2007

    etiger2007 Minister of Fire

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    My insert radiates heat into the room with the blower turned off, not to mention it has a big glass door that helps with this. Just to throw it out there if I were to install a free standing stove in the house the insurance company would have a 10% raise in my home owners insurance, because I installed an insert there was no surcharge applied.
    blacktail and DAKSY like this.
  10. Monosperma

    Monosperma Member

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    My primary concern here is heat, not looks. I was already leaning towards a free-standing hearth stove until a salesperson tried to get me to take a hard look at the insert option. And I am also willing to learn more about inserts since due to the low height of the lintel (26"), my choices of a free-standing stove that will work are somewhat limited. I'm really not interested in taking on the additional project of altering the fireplace to accomodate larger units.
  11. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    Ins co reactions to wood heaters vary. Some don't care; some completely freak out; some are in between. Search the topic on here for more examples.


    Another thing to consider is whether you want a more radiant heater or more convective heater. Most stoves are going to be more radiant than most inserts. The exception might be those stoves that have a "jacket," like the PE Alderlea, Jotul F50, etc.

    I say freestanding stove FTW, but venting below a 26" lintel height is going to severely limit your options.
  12. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    F500 with short legs miiiiiiiiiiight just squeak by. . .F400 probably.



    Option 3: Vent a stove out the top, run stovepipe up several feet, then punch through the wall and into the chimney. Not exactly the same as modifying the fireplace, but still extra work. Getting the liner/pipe connected to an insert can be a real PITA too though, especially with only a few inches of clearance available for workspace. Some inserts are made so that the liner can be connected from inside the firebox, after the insert has been shoved into the fireplace. If minimal hassle is one of your install requirements, I would look for one of these. . .if you can't find a freestander that will work for you.
  13. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    My experience with the F400 in a rear vent - short horizontal - 90 - vertical liner is that it's usually (not always) temperamental & tends to back-puff on re-load. The company I worked for actually stopped installing them for that reason. We had one in our showroom that smoked like a locomotive at times...The top of the loading door is higher than the firebox baffle & that may be a contributing factor...Top venting had similar issues, but not as frequently...
  14. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    Just a thought experiment: Put the same stove freestanding and enclosed in a masonry box except for the door. Fire them both up with the same amount of wood. Which one will get to higher temps? I am pretty sure the enclosed stove as the air between stove and the masonry both will act as an insulator. In the long run, the masonry will radiate the heat into the room so you do not loose anything (It may even be beneficial since the heat will be more even during the day.) but at the beginning you will have to be more careful in regulating the temp. There are also enough threads here where fellow burners were close to overfiring and put the blower to the highest level to cool things down. I also know that turning on the blower on my insert reduces the temp easily by 20 to 30 F on low and probably more when I would get it to full speed.

    Would that be a major criteria for me to choose a stove over an insert? Probably not, but almost having to buy a blower may be for some people.
  15. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    IME, it depends on the location of the masonry.Our fp is on an exterior wall; the hearth and external brick chimney act like a big heat sink, conducting heat to the crawlspace and the great outdoors. This was one of the main reasons I changed to a freestanding stove. (Different story with an interior chimney and hearth in the middle of the house.)
    Our insert was pre-EPA, and didn't have a liner, so I can't make an apples:apples comparison, but I have the strong impression that the freestanding stove with liner is putting more of the heat in the room, less into the exterior masonry. There are some threads on here by insert owners who pulled the insert and put ceramic/rockwool insulation on the walls of the fireplace, then put the insert back. Result: more heat in the room.
  16. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    I believe BG has said similar about the F400, except not an issue with top venting and proper flue. I wasn't recommending the F400, just saying that it would probably fit, if the F500 with short legs would not. On further thinking, Woodstock has a flue adapter that will lower the outlet ~1", which would probably clear a 26" lintel. You should measure the lintel height very carefully to make sure it's not something like 25.875". Also note the possibility that the floor of the hearth may not be level. . .might tilt the stove a bit, which could affect lintel clearance.
  17. Monosperma

    Monosperma Member

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    While there are some inserts without blowers, and there are some freestanding stoves with blowers (e.g. Blaze King), it might be nice to get away without having to use a blower. 1) One more cord in the room. 2) Cost of electricity (am I being a cheapskate? Is the cost of running the blower even significant?) 3) Sound of the fan could be annoying, depending on the model.

    This chimney and fireplace, by the way, are NOT located in an exterior wall.

    I had thought about the idea of having a top-venting stove, running a few feet of pipe up, and then punching into the chimney, but with a fireplace this old, built from whatever they had on hand at the time (stone? adobe? old car doors?) there is some chance the project could turn into a crumbling nightmare. Last winter, when cleaning the chimney, I ended up almost filling a 5 gallon bucket with loose sand that had deposited above the damper, thus the enhanced push to upgrade to a stove or insert before the next heating season. At any rate, I am confident it is wisest to leave the old chimney intact and just run a modern pipe down it. All joking aside, the original liner of the chimney looks from above like corrugated roofing, but I am told the material is in fact repurposed from old calcium carbide drums (as in carbide miners lamps). Circa 1920 or so, possibly 5 or ten years older.

    Great thoughts, so far. Keep 'em coming!
  18. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    For an interior fireplace and chimney, I'm not so anti-insert. Still more of a PITA to install though, if you have only, say, 2" of clearance between the top of the insert and the lintel, unless you have one of the inserts designed for flue attachment from inside the stove.

    Looks like the F500 with short legs will clear 26". See sec 3.2.
    http://www.jotul.com/FileArchive/Technical Documentation/Wood Stoves/Jøtul F 500 Oslo/Manual_F_500_USA_P15_310111.pdf

    However, this site says it needs 26.75" with short legs.
    http://www.northweststoves.ca/2011/pdf/jotul-wood/m-oslo-1.pdf


    Maybe talk to Woodstock about their flue offset adapter, if you like cats. ;)
  19. dafattkidd

    dafattkidd Minister of Fire

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    All of this being interesting and seemingly factual, those of us who have inserts love them. If I had to install a stand alone stove with a smaller firebox to make the clearance and I could definitely get a larger insert in there, I would opt for the larger firebox.

    I don't even know if that's an issue here, but for whatever reason i felt compelled to add that to the discussion.

    Have we talked about square footage of the home?
    etiger2007 likes this.
  20. Iembalm4aLiving

    Iembalm4aLiving Feeling the Heat

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    I have an insert and love the clean look, and it keeps my entire downstairs toasty. Either one will keep you warm and work worlds better than the open firplace.
    blacktail and etiger2007 like this.
  21. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

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    I have an insert upstairs in the living room and a freestanding stove downstairs. I am happy with both. When the power goes out ( a couple of times each season) I pull the surround off the insert and it is basically a freestanding stove. I do not need any tools to remove or replace my surround. With the block-off plate just above the lintel the heat spills out nicely. When the fan is running and I am not trying to quickly heat a cold house I keep it on low and the noise is minimal.

    The room the free standing stove is in is larger and near the steps. I normally have a room fan near it to help circulate the hot air to the steps. This keeps the family room and the two rooms at the top of the steps toasty warm.

    I put the insert upstairs to save floor space in the living room, downstairs I had all the room I needed for a radiant stove.

    The choice is up to you. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Think about what you want to look at for the next 5 to 10 years and the features of each that you can fit into your space. Once you know what you want the people here will gladly guide you to the best fit for your requirements, needs, and desires.

    KaptJaq
  22. Blue Vomit

    Blue Vomit Minister of Fire

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    Just measured my f500 w/ short leg kit. 26 1/2" fwiw
  23. Monosperma

    Monosperma Member

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    Special thanks for that!
  24. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    Just a thought. In cases where there was a minimal amount of additional clearance to fit a hearthmount stove under the FP lintel, I have modified the short legs to make them even shorter. A bench or a pedestal grinder, a vernier caliper for measurement & a steady hand are required (along with leather gloves & safety glasses for protection)...If modified carefully, only a trained eye (i.e. HEARTH-HEAD) will be able to see where the material has been removed...
  25. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    The cost of running the blower are minimal; somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 bucks a winter but I can see point 1 and 3 although they are less of an issue for me. Now, the way you describe your chimney are you even sure it is in a usable condition? I would not feel confident installing a stove using a chimney that is slowly falling apart. And having those carbide drums instead of flue tiles would not make me feel much better. It is your house and family but having a certified chimney sweep coming in and do an inspection before installing anything may be money well spent (~$200). Is the chimney actually wide enough to allow a liner to be installed?

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