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Is there a future?

Post in 'It's a Gas!' started by jebatty, Jun 3, 2008.

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  1. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I was at a conference last week and two local dealers were present, sell wood stoves, pellet stoves, gas fireplaces, traditional gas boilers and furnaces. They said the market has collapsed for gas fireplaces, and the only people buying these now have more money than they know what to do with. Also that corn stoves are dead; that pellet stoves remain a big question due to availability and price issues of pellets.

    Sounds like the dealer side of the business is tough -- pressure from mfr's to stock expensive stoves at very low margins, and customers pressured with high prices all around and being really squeezed by the economy.

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Gas still probably represents vastly more unit sales than wood and pellet combined....

    But, in some ways that is not a fair comparison because you have large markets in temperate areas - down south, west coast, southwest, etc.

    Of course, it has relatively collapsed because of the building market (down down), but so are wood fireplaces.

    The hearth industry is always fickle - you could not give away a pellet stove last year or central heaters for most of the last 2 decades! But efficient gas units are bound to be a large part of the mix for a long time into the future.

    You are correct that the dealer side is usually tough - the exception being some smart long-term dealers who have established such a good niche that they almost always do well.

    Most typical hearth dealers do little "builder" business anyway, but focus on the one-up.

    With natural gas cheaper than pellets in most areas, you can imagine how much of an upgrade it is to convert an open wood or gas log fireplace to an efficient gas inserts. The customer now has a backup heating unit that works without electricity and uses 1/3 the gas of open gas logs. There is also something really nice about flipping a switch when your back is hurting.
  3. R&D Guy

    R&D Guy New Member

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    IMO the gas market will continue to grow and sales will always far out weigh wood and pellet. While LP is high right now, natural gas is still cheap and traditionally so. If you see any big changes in the next few years I think it will be greener gas units meaning intermittent pilots instead of the standing pilot systems you see today and a lot more buttons and options.

    As far as money to burn I think they're right on the money. Only a small niche in the market seem to care the slightest about efficiency, and it's taken a big dive in the last 5 years. It's gotten to the point where people want fans to remove heat off their fireplace and blow it outside the house. Seriously, like a glorified dryer. Not many MFG's design gas fireplaces with heat exchangers anymore and with the move toward contemporary, there's a lot of new designs with no convection air vents into the room at all. Heat's got to go somewhere and that's up the flue.

    Anytime I've asked about efficiency in the last few year I've had it explained to me this way - If someone has gas available in their home, 9 times out of 10 they have a high efficiency gas furnace, so the fireplace is more for looks than heat.
  4. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    A couple points - the market for gas stuff is quite vast and differentiated. The typical specialty hearth dealer in a colder climate will often sell MOSTLY high efficiency units - which are often supplied by the same companies that supply high end wood and pellet products.

    But the BIG market has always been builders...and therefore the numbers follow the construction starts. So, "boom" areas like the South end up with a lot of gas units and they certainly don't need a lot of heat!

    There are a lot of ways to skin the gas cat, but one example of an inefficient gas fireplace still being relatively green would be:

    A homeowner installs a gas fireplace as opposed to the wood prefab normally put in. The wood prefab is used less than 15 times a year, and just for a hour or two each time. This means buying duraflames or firewood, and often burning the wood at less than perfect conditions.

    Now take a sealed gas fireplace with the same use pattern....maybe 30-40 hours per year. That is the equiv. of about 1+ million BTU, which a normal house in cold climate could burn in ONE DAY (heating the entire house). The sealed unit also does have a much higher efficiency than a wood prefab, and the pollution aspect is low. So, all in all, even a decorative use for low hours can be an advantage.

    I remember driving to Pico ski resort one evening and the hundreds of condos there were occupied with people starting up the wood pre-fabs.....people who probably don't know much about starting fires! The entire valley had a large cloud of smoke hanging over it and smelled pretty bad. Of course, that says nothing for all the drunk partiers burning who knows what in the fireplaces! (condo furniture, plastic bottles, etc.)

    So gas can definitely be a good "bridge" to cleaner air and safer situations.
  5. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    For those that are serious about burning gas efficiently, a gas fireplace will never be as efficient as a good gas furnace. I've ony seen one gas fireplace that was efficient enough to vent through PVC, but I don't think it is available any more. PVC implies efficient as it can't stand the heat from less than a 90% efficient burner; it would melt.

    The gas fireplaces are purely ornamental IMHO and are a lot cheaper to install than a ZC wood fireplace. They can even be direct vented on an outside wall, saving the cost of a full chimney. It makes great advertising to say your new house has a "fireplace" even if it is only gas fired. The heat output from these things is marginal at best, but they do serve a purpose. Turn a valve, press a button and voila, fire. Close valve, go to bed and sleep well not worrying about sparks, chimney fire, downdraft, etc. This works well for many people.

    Don't get me started on the "vent free" units. They are against code in Baltimore City, but are allowed in many jurisdictions. I would never have one of those in my house...

    Funny story: we know a family that moved into a McMansion with 3 gas fireplaces and really lived it up for a month. When the gas bill hit $700, they realized the error of their ways and shut them all down. These are also the people that accidentally left their outdoor NG grill on for several weeks while on vacation, but then that's another story...

    Chris
  6. BotetourtSteve

    BotetourtSteve Member

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    I've been using vent-free logs for over 10 years. Have never experienced any of the horror stories associated with vent-free (odor, headaches, condensation, etc). There have been times when they were my exclusive heating source (don't ask - it was a rough patch) and burned for days on end. Now, they supplement my wood stove, and I find them very efficient and very nice at, yes, clicking the button (in my case, on the remote) and yes, instant flame but also instant heat. It warms the living room and upstairs of my home quickly and nicely when it has cooled, such as in the mornings or after I have been gone a day or two and the stove is out and furnace cut down. Other than the high cost of propane, which doesn't really hurt me THAT bad with the logs no more than I use them, I guess I have to wonder what all the fuss is about vent-free.
  7. R&D Guy

    R&D Guy New Member

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    LMAO!! I special ordered a natural gas BBQ and piped gas in from my house. I love never having to worry about how much propane is left, but I always worry that I'm going to leave it on!! We only use it about twice a month and I know one of these times I'm going to go outside and have to ask myself how many weeks it's been on for.

    On that PVC vented fireplace I believe it, or one like it is still on the market. It was a pretty small mfg who made the one I'm thinking of. It wasn't real pretty as I remember it, but it was shown as a new product at the 2007 HPBA. One of the big challenges you have with that kind of efficiency is moisture building up in the pipe and/or heat exchanger.
  8. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Central boiler - yes, the OWB folks, made one that used PVC and could vent downward, etc....used blowers for draft. Heat n Glo made a coffee table model that also vented down, but I think it used metal pipes.
  9. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    I have always worried about forgetting to turn off the gas grill, but so far, it hasn't happened. I do make it a point to double check it before locking the back door for the night. I also shut off the gas cock to the grill as well.

    I just checked out CB's website (centralfireplace.com) as well as Heat n Glo. CB is claiming up to 92% efficiency, but through B-vent. This is implying to me that it isn't always 90% efficient and there might be corrosion issues on low fire. It would be nice to have a gas fireplace or stove that could match the efficiency of my condensing furnace, but I'm not holding my breath. Zone heating does have it's advantages, though.

    The one I saw was definitely venting out PVC and was a multi sided fireplace. The ad copy I saw showed a freestanding fireplace set up as an island with nothing over top the firebox. Seemed like a good idea, but havent seen it in a while. Maybe I was imagining the whole thing?

    RE: the unvented appliances. We could (and probably should) start a whole thread on these devices, but I just can't stand the smell of gas combustion products in my home. We are even fanatical about running the hood fan on the gas range whenever a burner is on. I understand that they save a lot in wasted heat, but they aren't for everyone. I'm just hoping that anyone who uses these has a good CO detector with battery backup near them. I have read accounts on them gradually running up the CO levels in a room. Used judiciously, they aren't a bad idea, but there are so many things that could go wrong in their operation. The same goes for unvented portable kerosene heaters. Lots of them out there, but not in my house...

    Chris
  10. jtp10181

    jtp10181 Minister of Fire

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    We (or someone else) are still putting at least one gas fireplace in almost every new house being built around here. We domniate the market so we get just about every new house. It also seems they can't built a condo or appt complex without a fireplace in at least half of the units, often times every one. Yes it is slowed down because less stuff is being built but the demand for the fireplaces is still there just the same.
  11. Mack The Knife

    Mack The Knife New Member

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    www.pickensplan.com
    T. Boone Pickens is an oil guy that wants to use NG as the energy bridge to the next fuel and supplement it with massive wind farms throughout the midwest where the wind corridor is basically the largest in the world. Electric line would be run from these wind farms throughout the land (major cities etc). It’s really not that great a challenge.
    For those of you that do not know, there are water, gas and oil pipelines throughout the country that make the interstate system look like kid stuff.
    Lastly Tom Brokaw busted the leader of the House (Nancy Pelosi) last weekend on Meet The Press. She has already invested her own money in the plan (somewhere between $50K - $100K). She couldn’t duck Brokaws questions when he pressed her about why she hasn’t spread the word throughout the land to all Americans or brought it to the House floor for a vote to support.
    She just sucks for that!! Leader of the House.... Taking care of America.... Not!!
  12. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    In this case, duct tape note in clear plastic baggie to burger flipper handle. "HEY, YA YOU, TURN OFF THE FLIPPIN' GAS !!!!"
  13. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Pickens hasn't hidden his profit motive in his plan. Pelosi's $50k-$100k investment in a natural gas company is wise diversification of investments. Her investment is small chicken feed in the oil/gas investment world - wouldn't even register as a drop or cubic foot. Pelosi's net worth is greater than $20 million. I's surprised she was even aware of this investment.

    I detest our addiction to oil, support higher oil taxes, support much higher fuel standards, oppose drilling in ANWR, want to see a major drop in US oil consumption within 10 years, and oppose politicians who take a contrary view, yet I invest in oil stocks - diversification.

    As to Pelosi and many others, it's always far easier to call names ("she ... sucks") that it is to deal with the issue of our addiction to oil. Besides, if you call someone a name, you don't actually have to do anything yourself. If you take a position on a real issue, then if you don't act on that position and do something to achieve your positin, you're not being honest. Let's take positions and also state what we are doing to achieve the position we proclaim.
  14. retiredff

    retiredff Member

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    We bought an old farm house in '04 that has a 90% trane LP furnace (basement) and a ventless LP fireplace in the dining room. The previous owners swore by the fact the fireplace was "cheaper than the furnace". They would use ceiling fans to move the heat!! The duct work for the furnace was not properly sealed (taped) and the newer windows were not sealed properly (very drafty), I fixed both of these problems. Last year I paid $1500 for LP to heat a 2 story 2100 sq ' 100 year old farm house. After many hours of reading posts here on the various type of heat; pellet, corn, wood, we decided to install a Regency F2400 stove. The LP fireplace has been advertised for sale almost a month with very little interest. I have dropped the price from 500 to 100 or equal amount of firewood. Yesterday, the fireplace was removed and will be set out in the trash, unusable! I have never liked the idea behind ventless fireplaces, they seem very dangerous to me. I suppose if the power went out, that fireplace would be better than nothing at all...

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  15. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    <>For those that are serious about burning gas efficiently, a gas fireplace will never be as efficient as a good gas furnace<>

    The main reason for that is the flame appearance. Yellow flames are dirty and inefficient by nature. Your gas furnace/boiler has a nice, clean, blue flame. Nobody looks at it. It's not aesthetically pleasing, nor does it have to be. Gas fireplaces, on the other hand, are designed to be a reasonable facsimile of a woodburning unit. Nobody has blue flames when the burn wood, unless they've got some cobalt in their fireplace. To make it look like wood, the flames are yellowed by depleting the air in the mixture by closing the air shutter on the burner tube. You want an efficient gas fireplace?
    Make it so! Open the air shutter so your flames appear blue! VOILA!
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