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Looking for a new insert

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Viny, Apr 27, 2013.

  1. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    Ok, so I have a similar question. first for some background. When I built this house, I had this fireplace built from an Isokern kit, and I had the masons put in a fresh air inlet. I then constructed the (nearly) airtight door to turn the whole thing into an inserty type of creature. For all you experts, sorry, I like to tinker like that.

    However, after several years, I am ready to throw in the towel as it just doesn't produce the heat a real insert would. So, I'm looking for an insert that would be appropriate for this fireplace that has the following features (no particular order): Wood burning, Fresh air intake for combustion, a domed flashing kit to work with the fireplace masonry, Glass Door to see flames, Gas ignition. I'm probably forgetting something, but you all can school me on that...

    I have access to plenty of wood to burn as I live on a wooded acreage, I have gas built into the fireplace for ignition and an electrical outlet close by for the fan.

    Anyone have any ideas, etc? What else am I overlooking that I need to consider before I leap?

    Thanks in advance for any input, etc...

    Fireplace.jpg Air intake.jpg

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Welcome Viny. I moved your post to a new thread so that it gets the proper attention. Each case is unique. You can have most of what you want, but cap of the gas line before the fireplace and drop that option. If you have good, well seasoned wood (a necessity for modern stoves IMO), you will have no problem lighting it. And there are great starters like SuperCedars to help if need be.

    A couple questions on the fireplace, what are it's complete dimensions, front and back including depths top and bottom. (height should be at side and center due to the arch). What is the size of the area you are trying to heat and how high are the ceilings in this area?

    In general terms you will usually do better heating with an insert that projects out onto the hearth. What is the hearth depth? This is especially true if the power goes out. If you want to keep the arch you could not install the surround. Otherwise it may need a custom surround cut to fit the arch.
  3. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    Thanks for the redirect. No worries on abandoning the gas, I just thought I'd mention that it was there.

    Dimensions: Height at front - 26" at side curving up to 29" in middle
    Width in front - 39"
    Width at back - 30"
    Depth - From the bottom up about 20" it is 26" deep then it curves in(in the back) to about 24" at the top.
    Hearth Depth - about 12 3/4" It is a raised hearth if that matters about 16" off the floor.

    From my searches, I didn't find any domed surrounds, but I guess I could cut it to fit the masonry. What else do you need to know?

    Again, Thanks...
  4. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    Oh, sorry, I just reread your post. This is located in a den room off the kitchen, so an open area of a couple hundred square feet I'd guess. 10 foot ceilings. I have geothermal heat, so this is mainly for enjoying the fire while being efficient and for those times when we do lose power, like that horrid ice storm a few years back when we we out for about 10 days...
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The raised hearth off the floor helps. You will need some ember protection on the floor, but this could be a simple hearth pad that is removed in summer.

    That's a good sized fireplace. You have lots of options. How large an area will the stove be heating? Approx. how tall is the chimney. Will you be adding a stainless liner to connect the insert?
  6. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    The floor is the concrete slab with a finish on it, so no ember worries there. I'm not sure of Chimney height, but it's tall. I'm not sure about the liner to connect the insert. It currently has what I'd call a standard steel flap with a handle steel damper, so I'll connect it in whatever appropriate manner it calls for...
  7. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    Can't say I've ever heard that phrase before. (clever)

    The FP you've built is good looking (to my eye). Have you tried to fit a free standing stove in somehow?
    I run an insert and like it, but would prefer free standing if I could fit it.
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    You might consider a catalytic model insert. It will give you greater burn flexibility without driving you out of the room. Buck makes some solid units. The 20 is 1.6 cu ft and the 80 is 2.6 cu ft. In non-catalytic you have a ton of choices. At the low end, but a good stove is the Englander 13NCi, on upward to the Enviro Kodiak 1200 or 1700 or the Pacific Energy Pacific Super model.

    It may be possible with the aid of a table fan to distribute the heat to more of the house depending on the floorplan. If you can post a rough sketch we can see if this might work.
  9. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    Ok, so I stopped by a local dealer who sells Lopi inserts and he told me several things that caused me some concern. First, he told me I would have to have the stainless steel liner installed, with the free space in the chimney filled in. The problem I see with that is that my fireplace is definitely a one-off with screens on the top of the sides for exhaust. Picture below. I wondered about not putting it in at all and he said it wouldn't work properly.

    Does that pass the collective smell test?

    Also, to fit my domed fireplace opening, it would take a custom job and an extra 4 to 500 bucks...:-(


    Chimney.jpg
  10. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Ohh wow, that is an interesting chimney cover. That would be a PIA to run a liner down, I think the extra charge is valid.

    These stoves really need to be hooked up to a stainless steel liner to help with the draft since they exhaust at lower temperatures (more efficient).

    Are you after looks or burn time?
  11. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    Ok, I believe I have this nice fireplace, but I don't use it often during the winter since it doesn't really produce much heat. It's nice to look at, but not much heat. My brother-in-law has an insert, loves it and burns fires all winter long. So, I thought I'd investigate installing an insert to get that heat and build many more fires during the winter.

    However, with this cursory investigation, I'm starting to think it'd be more trouble than its worth. Installing that liner pipe would definitely be a pain.

    I'm starting to think maybe I ought to consider modifying my door and crafting a wood rack like I used to see years ago that was basically a hollow set of pipes that would get hot from the fire. I could make panels at both the top and bottom of the door where the pipes would enter and exit and duct the bottom set to a blower that could be hidden past the end of the hearth. This would require replacing the existing door with a rectangular one between the top and bottom panels, but maybe this is a better solution. Kinda like this thing:

    [​IMG]

    Again, I'm just spit-balling here while summer approaches and I have some time to figure this out. This might be a preposterous idea, but I do appreciate the discussion and ideas that everyone has...
  12. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    Viny, you're going through the same line of thinking that a lot of others did.
    I personally had a nice, (not as pretty as yours, but still nice) brick FP; traditional construction. I live in the South, heating oil was reasonably priced, so....we enjoyed our open FP, but wanted more. Through some luck, I got a tube heater sort of like the one you pictured, (but fancier), as a hand-me-down. It was an improvement in many ways, and we enjoyed that too. Then I finally installed a Quadrafire insert, and wish I had done it the first year we bought the house.

    That's just my experience.

    I think the chimney lining is workable enough. I would break off that top spire and put down a liner pipe. Fabricate a little bit of a top plate...I don't think it would be visible...and then rebuild the stone spire. Not that difficult, IMO. Or, now may be a good time to think of a new style of spire. I was thinking of a metal (maybe copper) cone that can be more easily removed for sweeping. But that's just an option. I think there are those that sweep their chimney from the bottom and don't need to access the top.

    BTW, I think the "free space filled in" is just the insulation. There are a few ways to do that, and depending on your layout, may not even be necessary. (But I do recommend it, especially if it's an exterior chimney.....from personal experience.)
  13. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    GranpaJohn, you are probably right, but (fortunately or unfortunately) I don't usually leap to the most logical conclusion first...:cool:.

    The great news with this exercise is that it has gotten me to look at this problem from different perspectives. I will tell you that this fireplace does work good as a fireplace and I can get a great roaring fire going in it. The only real "problem" is that most of that heat goes up and out the chimney. Now, it appears fairly obvious that a pretty fair amount of modification would need to be performed to get an insert to work properly. I really don't want to replace that cap for a number of reasons.

    With that in mind, I'm going to think more about some form of this hollow grate idea. I do have access to the back of the fireplace as it sits in a mechanical closet. Therefore, I could put the fan, etc back here and make it look really good, with no ducting, etc in the front. I've attached some pics of the back of the fireplace and the OAK. The good news with this approach, imo, is that I can do all or most of this myself for little to no money and if it doesn't work, then decide if it is worth it to do the heavy lifting of installing an insert...

    FP1.jpg FP2.jpg
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I normally don't do predictions but will go out on a limb and predict you will be back in a season with this idea. The heat tubes can help deliver a bit more heat into the room when the fire is going. But as it dies down it does nothing to stop the flue system from sucking most of the heat out of the room and up the chimney. Glass doors will help, a little. But neither will be nearly as efficient or clean burning as a modern insert or freestanding stove.
  15. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    Having now seen the chimney from the other side, I think you can possibly skip the insulation if it is a problem.

    I will have to look around for a photo of my old unit. It incorporated the tubes and the doors into one piece. (It's no longer made.)
    However, there are airtight doors available. But there are also fireplaces that use such doors and blowers. Here is a member who has one and is quite knowledgeable:
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/merry-christmas.101825/
    picture of it (for future lookups):
    [​IMG]

    I only have photos to go by, but this seems similar to your fireplace.

    Just one option...
    Billybonfire likes this.
  16. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    Begreen,

    I'm not sure it'll take even a season. As I'm still in the thought experiment stage of this project, I'll probably go with an insert for starters anyway.

    I was really turned off when I visited a local Lopi dealer and he was just all matter-of-fact about how I was going to have to tear off my masonry cap and replace it with a metal or copper one. Much design work with the stone masons went into that cap. You'd have to see the other ones to appreciate what's going on here. To have him take this attitude without asking questions and investigating alternatives, etc was quite off-putting. The good news is that I have the stone Mason coming out to look at some other work and I'll probably have him assist me in installing a chimney liner should we deem it necessary. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.

    Here's what I think I understand. The much larger diameter of the chimney would cause the exhaust to slow and cool causing an increased rate in cresote formation and other possible draft problems. However, most of what I've read online act like the liner is an "if" issue and not a "fer sure" issue. I have an Isokern fireplace. Here's a link to the chimney portion of the kit: http://earthcore.co/index.php/products/view/dm54_chimney_system/2

    So, the chimney has always drafted quite well. I can't believe it would have draft problems with an insert as it has a good draw with my (nearly) airtight door shut and the OAK open. The liner almost seems like belts and suspenders. So, I guess this boils down to 2 questions for me:

    1 - Is the liner an absolute requirement or is it just that it is necessary in most cases?
    2 - If it's not an absolute, then is it necessary in my case?

    Because, if I can eliminate this item, the insert becomes a no-brainer for me. I'm not trying to create an unsafe situation, just trying to really understand this.

    Again, I appreciate your patience and guidance with this...
  17. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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  18. Bster13

    Bster13 Minister of Fire

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    Are liners required by law in the US or just a good recommendation? I installed a liner for the safety aspect as well as ensuring a good, insulated draft as my BK insert will extract much more heat from the chimney than an open fireplace.
  19. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    No law I am aware of, yet. It is a common sense kinda deal, not to mention your insurance will have cause to not cover you if not installed correctly (liners are part of a "correct" install as per manufacturers).
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  21. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    My manufacturer allows a direct pipe connection to the chimney, but I never figured out how I would be able to sweep the chimney without moving the insert every year. (Which is NOT on my list of things to do BTW).

    The full liner makes it a snap to sweep my chimney each fall. (It is a short, easy one). Also, no more smokey smell; or is it creosote?.

    My sister had a slammer install, and used to hire a sweep to clean it. He had to remove the insert every time, and then one time, it screwed something up, (making it backpuff), so she finally replaced the whole system.
  22. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Coming from someone who has had 2 full on chimney fires I am lucky to have found this site and received the knowledge on better burning habits and that my slammer install was one major reason for my issues. Thankfully I did not burn my house down learning the hard way, I like to pass on that knowledge so others won't make the same mistakes.

    The fire department is also thankful they do not have to bring the ladder truck to my house anymore (its a tight fit).
    etiger2007 likes this.
  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Slammer installs are illegal for a reason. The can create a life-threatening condition.
  24. webby3650

    webby3650 Master of Fire

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    Here is a product that will do what you are wanting. Stoll is a great company and can custom make just about anything you want. The Heat Champion is very well made, attractive, put out decent heat, and can have a custom arch made from the factory.
    http://www.stollfireplace.com/heating/HeatChampion
  25. Viny

    Viny New Member

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    Webby3650,

    Thanks a bunch. That's exactly what I was looking for. I figured if I kept whining, someone would come along with a solution such as this...

    I'll keep everyone posted on progress...

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