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Newbie building a new house and needs fireplace guidance. Help?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by lithnights, Dec 29, 2012.

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Should the woodburning fireplace be in the family room or living room?

  1. Family room

    80.0%
  2. Living room

    20.0%
  1. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    1st floor jpg (Medium).jpg 2nd floor jpg (Medium).jpg
    I just found this site (love it!) but I am a total newbie to fireplaces/stoves. I'm hoping I can get some good answers for my question which is.. WHAT WOODBURNING FIREPLACE SHOULD I GET for my new home?

    Here are the details that I think are important to my situation.

    We are building a home next month via a semi-custom builder. The current home design comes with a propane fireplace in the family room (20x15). But I also want to add a wood burning fireplace in the living room (13x18) which is on the other side of the home. See .jpg floorplan which I hope you can view.

    The home is around 3100 sq ft., around 1500 on each floor. Center hall colonial with 2 story foyer. It will have forced hot air and the heating system in the specs is a propane furnace but with the price of propane here (Philadelphia PA area), I am leaning towards an electric heat pump with either propane or electric backup. Gas line is 700 feet away and thus not available.

    Regardless of main heating source, I want to install a wood burning fireplace (we like the look of a fireplace, not a wood stove) to supplement heat when it gets a bit colder (under 40 degrees or so?). And I'm an outdoorsy and fire person so I like the idea of making and tending a real fire, not flipping a switch. The propane fireplace would be more for simplicity and low maintenance (for the wife), and it would likely pain me to run that all day, knowing how much the propane (3x the cost of my current gas) is costing me.

    1. I know this may be a broad question but what wood fireplace should I look to? I've been to 2 fireplace stores and they both suggested a Travis Industries Xtrordinair Elite model, either 36 or 44. Would one of these make sense for my situation, which is that I don't need it to heat my entire home, but would like it to be supplemental heating, and ambiance. Although if it COULD be used to heat the whole house, that'd be fine since it'd be cheaper than propane and electric. I'm just worried the fireplace heat alone (forced hot air not running) won't make it upstairs to the far bedrooms.. e.g. we'd have a family room at 74 degrees and a bedroom at 65 degrees. I believe the 36 heats up to 2500 sq ft, and the 44 does up to 3000 sq. ft

    2. For my needs, should the woodburning fireplace be in the family room or the living room? I'm sure most would say it's personal preference but I'm thinking from a heating efficiency perspective. We would spend most of our time in the family room and kitchen, and little time in the living room. So if I wanted to burn the wood all day in the LR on a cold day, would the heat reach us in the FR/kitchen, or would that heat just stay in that side of the house, and eventually find it's way upstairs via the 2 story foyer that is right outside the LR? Again, see floorplan attachment. Similarly, I'm wondering if the wood fireplace was in the FR and we ran it all the time, would the FR and kitchen get TOO hot? I just have no idea of how the heat would travel and circulate.

    Sorry for all the verbiage but I figured more info was better than not enough.

    Thanks so much in advance!

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  2. Pallet Pete

    Pallet Pete Guest

    Shoot Hearth.com Members a PM he had an efficient fireplace installed I believe it is supposed to crank the heat like a stove but be a fireplace.

    Pete
  3. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Depends on which room you plan on spending the most time in......and the layout of your house will have to be factored in as far as figuring the heat convection. We installed a Napoleon NZ3000 in our living room remodel....

    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/building-the-hearth-for-my-napoleon-nz3000-what-a-quest.74273/

    There are quite a few good EPA ZC fireplaces, BUT....we also have a stove that is our primary heat source. The fireplace could and would be very capable of heating our entire house, but we wanted it more for the cozy effect (and for heat on that end of our "L" shaped house). Have you considered installing a freestanding stove in a nook that looks like a fireplace? I can tell ya, that ZC fireplace I put in my living room is NOT cheap. I could have bought TWO high efficiency woodstoves for the price of that fireplace..

    Whatever you decide to do, I'm here (as are many other members with modern, high-efficiency ZC fireplaces) to help you along.......
    Pallet Pete likes this.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    In a new house your best investment will be careful attention to sealing and good insulation of the house envelope. That will pay off year round. Get a contractor that knows what he's doing for energy saving.

    I would put the heat where you are going to spend the most time. In this case that sounds like the family room. I like the FPX units, but don't think that is the right choice for this layout. Instead I would go for a ductable fireplace so that the heat throughout the house is more even. Maybe duct the heat from the fireplace to the 2nd floor or to the living room?

    Take a look at the BIS Tradition, Kozy Z42, and the RSF Opel for ductable systems.
  5. schlot

    schlot Minister of Fire

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    Family room, based on the idea it will be used more and can be seen from the kitchen/breakfast room too.

    Heat pump is great idea, but if you decide to go with forced air, the cost of installing a gas service would be worth in in the long run.
  6. FanMan

    FanMan Feeling the Heat

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    If you plan to use the fireplace a lot, put it where you'll be, i.e. the family room. If you want, put the gas fireplace in the living room. Consider the logistics of carrying wood to the fireplace, though, and where you'll store it.

    My situation is a bit different; propane is cheaper than oil here so I'm using a gas fireplace as the primary heat source for the entire house, replacing the existing oil furnace (we'll see how this winter goes before i actually remove the furnace, but so far so good). Living in PA you might want to consider coal which I hear is cheap there.
  7. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    That's quite a remodel! Regarding a freestanding stove in a nook, we just don't prefer the look of those compared to a fireplace and hearth look. But if there's something out there that can give us the fireplace look but is a wood stove, I'm all ears. Regarding the price of the xtrordinair fireplace, I think the quotes were around 4K or so. Not cheap.

    So based on my floorplan (note the FR and LR locations, what would you do?
  8. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    I agree with the insulation. I have stressed this to the builder, and am actually working with an energy consultant to determine the best use of money for windows, insulation etc.

    When you say the FPX units aren't the best choice, why is that?

    I hadn't heard of a ductable fireplace but I'll look into it. I'm not sure about the ducting options, like to the FR or 2nd floor..would a typical HVAC guy know the best way to do that?
  9. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    I ran the numbers on installing gas service. Believe me, I wanted to get gas in the worst way (have it now). After multiple calls, the utility company flat out said it was $100 a foot to get it installed. And we're talking 700 feet away from the gas line. I even asked if they would negotiate if I could get other neighbors (all use oil or wood) to sign up for gas service. They wouldn't budge. It's just too much to get gas. That's why I'm trying so hard to utilize wood burning.
  10. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Yes, the logistics are something I thought of. If you see on the floorplan, the garage is very close to the family room, and I could store some wood there which would make easier transportation to the fireplace if in the FR. Or if bringing directly from the outside, I'd come through the breakfast room back door and turn right to the family room. Much easier than walking across the entire house to the living room.

    How much is propane there? I didn't think of coal as an option..I've never heard of people using coal to heat a home.
  11. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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    Have you considered a wood/oil furnace?
    I know oil isn't cheap but hopefully you wouldnt use much oil and if you are interested in heating your entire house cheaply and you are thinking of installing a heat pump with propane hot air , Why not put your money in a wood furnace and place a smaller wood burning unit in your living you if wanted.
    I think wood furnaces can be easily lit using an igniter built in the furnace and when you don't feel like loading it with wood it will switch over to oil.
    You won't have to worry about how to get the heat moved around the house and you can control it with thermostats and you can put in as many zones as you want. Maybe one upstairs and one down or have each bedroom or each room on a different thermostat.
    Some people on here have rooms that are 90 degrees and on down as you get further away from the wood burning device.
    Many people have trouble moving heat from their stoves.
    I'm just saying if you're putting in the ductwork you might as well get the most use out of them.
    You could always put a small wood burning unit in your living room anytime.

    Edit I guess they do make gas wood furnaces if you prefer gas.
  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I don't believe the FPX is ductable. Look up the models suggested. The contractor or hvac guy can hook up the ducting. It will allow you to duct heat from the stove and blow it into the opposite end of the house. That can make a nice difference in evening out the heat.
  13. schlot

    schlot Minister of Fire

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    Wow, that's incredibly expensive. I guess they aren't in the business of selling gas...just keeping it!
  14. FanMan

    FanMan Feeling the Heat

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    Ii paid $2.48/gallon at my last propane fill, which is significantly less than oil even allowing for the BTU/gal difference. I've heard people in different areas reporting prices ranging from half to double that.

    A fair number of people burn coal. Lots of discussion about it on nepacrossroads.com. There are a whole range of coal options, from small hand fired stoves like the antique one in my cabin bedroom, to automatic hopper fed stoves similar to a pellet stove, to big coal furnaces.
  15. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Oil was not even a thought. Around here, all you hear is how people hate their oil systems, and their oil bills.
    A wood furnace (or even better, a pellet stove of some sort..since less manual feeding), was an idea but quite simply I guess I thought the maintenance would be too great if it was the main heat source. What if I'm gone for days, or for some reason, the furnace can't get tended to? Concerning.

    The 90 degree room example is exactly what I DON'T want. So I guess a ductable fireplace of some sort is a better and better idea.

    I agree, if I have all that ductwork, get the best use out of it. Lots to think about..
  16. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Yea, I was a bit ticked off. I actually had put together an analysis for them, showing that if 10 homes used X amount of gas per month, it would be Y amount of revenue for the gas company per year. And that they would break even in Z amount of years, but it was like talking to a wall. They wouldn't even discuss ANYTHING less than $100 a foot, so it's like they just didn't care about new business. Reallllllly aggravating.
  17. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    My neighbor has a small propane tank outside his home that he uses for a gas fireplace. He said he paid $2.84 last fillup. Yea, I just don't get the huge fluctuations in what people pay for propane. That's why I dread leaving my gas house for a non-gas home.

    I'll take a look into the coal option. First thoughts are how messy it may be, and how much work it would be, and would the savings be worth it. But I admit I have no clue.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The ducting for the fireplace will be independent of the house furnace ducting. It is purpose specific.
    ScotO likes this.
  19. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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    If you get a propane wood combination furnace you don't have to worry about tending the furnace as it will automatically switch from wood to propane when the wood fire goes out.
    Should be no more maintenance then any other furnace.
  20. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    OK, got it. Makes sense. I'd hope the HVAC guys would be familiar with such a setup (combining furnace with fireplace/stove) and balancing it correctly. Do we think they would be well versed in that, or is it ideal to have a fireplace installer work side by side with the HVAC guy? Just don't want to mess something like this up, since once it's done, it'd be very messy/costly to fix/correct down the line.

    Learning much here. Thanks everyone!
  21. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The fireplace operation is independent and shouldn't affect the hvac. The installer may want to have the hvac installer do the fp duct run out of convenience, but should be qualified to do the job. You'll want to keep the fireplace duct run as short and direct as possible. Make sure it is insulated.

    One nice feature with some of these units is that the blower can be mounted in the basement. That makes for quieter running. In new construction you'll want to feed the fireplace with its own outside air supply. That will help it to burn well even if the hvac or exhaust fans are running in the house.
    ScotO likes this.
  22. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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    In regards to a wood propane combo furnace anyone that installs furnaces can install it. I don't think you would want a wood stove installer involved except to maybe make recommendation on chimney sizing and so forth.

    In regards to a duct able fireplace which Begreen stated is separate from the houses furnace ductwork perhaps Begreen will answer that.
  23. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Ahh.. this propane wood combination furnace is very intriguing. So how often would one have to load in wood for something like this?

    When I say maintenance, I really mean the effort needed to keep it full of wood, as opposed to a hands off approach of a propane furnace or heat pump etc. Thus my question above.

    Is this a good forum to get more info about propane wood combination furnace? If not, any suggestions on where to get more info?
  24. firebug

    firebug New Member

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  25. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Regarding the short duct run comment, my fear is the distance from the FR to LR would be over 60 feet. That doesn't seem ideal at all. Darn big house. : )

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