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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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    I guess I meant more to have the fireplace guy there side by side, to make sure the HVAC guy knows how much heat is going through the fireplace ducts, just in case HVAC guy needs to moderate/adjust furnace ductwork (e.g. using dampers), knowing that the fireplace will kick out a lot of heat. BUT if we're saying they would run independently (different ductwork), then I guess that's not as much a concern.

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  2. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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    Dam big house is exactly why you should seriously look into wood / propane combo furnace. You can heat your entire house to exactly the temperature you want.
    You can always burn wood in your fireplace if you like watching wood burn but in a new house I can't think of a cheaper way to heat your entire house then a wood furnace and there is no extra ductwork then from any other furnace.
  3. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Now we're talking. I am starting to really like this idea. BUT my question is, what is the manual work needed for something like this? Basically, how much wood can I load in such a thing at once, and how often would I be reloading it on a typical cold day (e.g. 30 degrees)? We talking once a day, 3 times a day, 10 times a day? I don't mind some work, but want to have an idea for how many trips through the house, down the basement, and 30 feet across the basement to get to the furnace. I know it's tough to say but based on my 3100 sq ft and the wife wanting it a toasty 70-72 degrees, any estimates?

    And what about ash cleanup? Just wondering how much and how often?

    Also, do you have any links on where I can look into this more? I googled.. wood propane combination furnace, but didn't find too much helpful.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I noticed that. This will depend on the fireplace and the blower used. Some can handle a 50ft run, just be sure it is sized correctly and well insulated. The run could exit in the foyer and study though which would help get heat upstairs.
  5. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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  6. BIGDADDY

    BIGDADDY Feeling the Heat

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  7. Jasper 83

    Jasper 83 New Member

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    Those are pretty neat units. Thats what I would go with in a house that size. The yukon ones that burn coal also would be a plus for your location.
  8. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    OK, first off, thanks to everyone's input. After a couple days or thinking, research, talking to the wife, and a trip to a fireplace store, I think I've made some decisions.

    1. The wood fireplace/stove will likely be in the family room. Like most said, why not enjoy the look of it where we are most often, and why not enjoy the heat where we are most often. Also, storage of the wood could be in the garage storage area, which is only a few steps from the family room. The gas fireplace, if we do it (didn't realize how expensive a wood fireplace would be!) would be in living room.

    2. I'm shying away from the wood furnace. As much as I like the idea of relying on that to heat my home, the location in the large basement is a deterrent since it would involve so much manual effort..walking across the house, down the steps, then across the entire basement again. Doable, yes.. ideal, no. Also, I wouldn't be able to enjoy seeing the fire, like I would with a fireplace/stove in our main family room. Also I'm hearing that there are fireplaces out there that can almost heat the entire home.

    3. The guy at the store was high on RSF units. I think we discussed the Opel and Onyx. Are people familiar with these? He seemed to think that if we used one of these units, it would do a good job of heating up the 1st floor, and we could duct the fireplace down into the basement and hook into our heating system. I was thinking if we have a 2 zone system, the fireplace ductwork could hook into the ductwork for the upstairs zone. Thus the fireplace would likely run non-stop during the winter, heating up the family room and kitchen/breakfast room area very comfortably, and maybe the heat would die down as we get to the other side of the 1st floor (DR and LR). But since we're not over there often, that may be acceptable. Then the heat would also get sent fed upstairs (into the upstairs zone ductwork) so as to heat up the 2nd floor. Does that plan sound feasible? I realize this fireplace alone may not heat up the home enough but it sure would reduce the need for a propane furnace (or heat pump) to run.

    4. The pricing of such a wood fireplace seems very high. He stated it could run from $7-10K with material, install, chimney, ducting, etc. To compare, a wood stove install is much less expensive, right? We REALLY like the look of the fireplace over a free-standing stove, and we plan to be here for 20+ years, so money may not rule this decision.

    Thanks in advance!
  9. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Just bumping this up to see if there was any other feedback to my recent questions.
    Thanks in advance!

  10. Beerdog

    Beerdog New Member

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    lithnights...

    We're looking at the Opel 3 for a 2200 ft^2 T-shape ranch that will be very well insulated in upstate NY... 8000 degree day climate. I look at the Opel as a supplemental heater for the shoulder seasons, but primarily it's being installed for the ambiance of a fireplace that generates and circulates heat.

    Whether, and how well the Opel 3 heats a home will depend on the heating load and how well heat is circulated. I don't expect it to provide a well regulated central heat, and, because our intention is decorative, I don't see it being used 24/7. I plan to use the clean face option and a blower driven dump heat in a remote bedroom.

    Wood heating requires attention and time. For central heating, I am planning to heat with a propane boiler and I have not yet decided whether to add a wood boiler with storage which would be a significant cost and demand more commitment, or just use a wood stove in the basement for supplemental heating. I've never heated with wood and I'm concerned that the demands on my time and energy would be too great, which is why a wood stove has appeal at this point.

    As for costs, the fireplace units are expensive, and the estimates you've got are what I also expect to pay. Keep in mind that a wood fireplace, unlike a wood stove, is integrated into the structure and so its construction will be more involved and costly than a wood stove or insert install.
  11. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    I assume the Opel 3 is just a different trim or something than just an Opel or Opel 2? I don't know much about the different "versions".
    Yes I agree that wood heating is going to require some time and effort. I have spoken to a bunch of my neighbors who use a wood stove to solely heat their homes. They are putting wood in every 3 hours or so (due to the smaller size of the stove). I'm not sure that is for me. But if I can get 8 hours out of an Opel (which should not be an issue based on specs, and based on people I know who have one), I think I can manage. My wife and I both work from home most of the week so there is always someone home. We rarely travel or are not in the home, so I think wood burning will be a good fit. And we'll have an electric heat pump as our main heating source so if for any reason, we can't tend to the fireplace, we'll be fine.

    Yes I've learned that the fireplace is much more integrated and involved..and expensive. I've accepted that, since we simply don't like the look of the wood stove as much as the fireplace, and it will be the main focal point of our main living area downstairs.

    Thanks!


  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like you're on the right track and your expectations are realistic. I like your plan, though there's one thing to think about if tying it into the upstairs ductwork. You may want to have the hvac guy put in an accessible, back draft damper at the point of connection. Otherwise, when the furnace or AC is on, it will be blowing back through the fireplace. You need to plan for what happens when the fireplace blower is on and the furnace kicks on to satisfy a heat call in the living room. The central heating 635 cfm blower moves a lot of air. I am wondering if tying it into the main plenum is an option. Where will that be located? RSF makes good units and the Opel is a popular unit. Do you have a simple sketch of the duct runs that are planned for the hvac? I may be missing some options.

    Yes these units are expensive. They are doing double duty as a fireplace and a stove, yet have very tight clearances. But a good large stove installed with hearth and chimney is going to run in the $6-7K range, so this is not that far off. Class A piping is expensive, but it's infrastructure. You want it done very well and safely.
  13. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    If you have not yet, go to the RSF site. They have info, plus tools to customize the install and see what each stove will look like with various options and installs. You'll also see the comparison of output of the different fireplaces.

    Don't know how close you are to starting, but have you considered putting that fireplace in the family room on an internal wall? It will be more central, and there are real advantages to having the stack in the house, rather than outside. If you can work it with your second floor....

    If I were building today, I would put angled windows in every south facing room to take advantage of free, and incredibly effective, solar heat. My sister renovated a home in Ottawa, Canada 40 years ago. Put in Pella windows at about a 60 degree angle faced south...a bank about ten feet long in the kitchen eating area. Those windows heated the entire eating nook, kitchen, tv and family rooms, with heat spilling over to the living room. I'd put such windows in EVERY south facing room. It was so effective the Nationakl Research Council went and looked at the home, and wrote it up. She had blinds in the airspace of the windows, that could be closed at night. Windows need to be installed at optimal angle for your latitude. Soapstone can be used in window seats under the windiows for heat storage, although just sitting in the area is nice.

    I kniow you prefer the appearance of a fireplace, but have you looked at the Woodstock products? They are very pretty. They make a few LP?Propane stoves that are thermostatically controlled and use little propane, have all the heat storage qualities of any soapstone stove. Their Fireside Franklin might be a great choice for your living room. It is direct vent, so not expensive to install. That in your living room and the RSF in your family room would give you a lot of heat. Or you could go with a RSF Renaissaince Rumford Fireplace in teh LR...probably a lot more expensive than the Woodstock unit. A nice benefit of the Woodstock Fireside Franklin is that you can set a tempfor it and run it when you are not home. Woodstock gives details at its site as to how long it will burn on high on one tank of propane...plenty long wnough if you are away for a wekm or even two during the winter, which would be nice as a back up.

    Good luck.
  14. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Agree about the back draft damper.

    I asked the builder where the main plenum, and heating unit, would be.. i.e. which end of the house (the FR fireplace end or the opposite end of the house). I'm assuming I could have some say in that since the fireplace is an integral part of heating the home.

    I don't have any HVAC sketches yet; we just signed paperwork yesterday, so it may be a month or so before they do a manual J and get some ideas on how to run the ductwork. When i get something, I'll be sure to post it here.

    Thanks!
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Let's see where the furnace gets located. If it is under the FR or Mudroom, then maybe tap into the supply trunk just past the breakfast nook. With that back draft damper that will feed the foyer, LR and DR nicely.
  16. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    Well I'm back as promised. We got the permit plans and the proposed location for the furnace is under the family room (left side of house). See my less than artistic drawing of it. It will be the red star location. Although the builder did say that could be flexible, but who knows. So if it is indeed there, does that help with guidance of how to utilize the Opel 3 heat? I have since spoken to RSF (in Canada) twice and both techs advised AGAINST tying it into the main plenum. They both (on separate phone calls) suggested running to the opposite end of the house (either the living room or foyer).

    I have the actual permit set but it's a pdf and too large to upload here. And even that doesn't seem to have the duct runs on it.

    One other thing.. I finally got a quote from the builder, after meeting with the local dealer to discuss options, and it's around $10,700..without chase top. Here is the quote.

    "High Efficiency Wood Fireplace with Black Louvers, Black Door (no trim), Ash Pan, Internal Blower, Outside Air Kit and Chimney System and components with Black Chase Top Flashing. Installed - $9,379.00

    Options for above fireplace:
    Stainless Steel Chase Top Flashing, ADD $695.00
    Heat Outlet Kit with Blower, T-Stat and Ducting to basement directly below fireplace. Ducting only Installed (Homeowner responsible for installation of future extension of ducting, blower and t-stat into other areas of house), ADD $1,325.00"

    I called a local dealer (dealer 2) to see what it would cost me if they came in POST construction, and they emailed me a quote of $7,400 for pretty much the same material and labor. So I'm confused to say the least. Both will install the same unit, same venting, same louvers, same internal blower, same central blower etc. Dealer 2 did say there would be a couple extra hours of labor, and I assume some additional electric work (which builder quote includes). But $3,300 difference!? Thoughts? I'm tempted to just have the builder build the chase in the family room, then have dealer 2 come in a month later and do the fireplace install.

    Thanks!!

    basement floorplan with possible furnace location (Medium).jpg
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Kind of brings us full circle. I would follow RSF's guidance if that is the fireplace of choice. Keep the system independent and it will be simpler to maintain and redundant in case of problems with the primary hvac system.
  18. Oldhippie

    Oldhippie Minister of Fire

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    It's a large house. You haven't said where you are, but if you are in the northern half of the US, you are going to have high heating bills.

    The wood furnace is some excellent advice, given you are in build/design phase and can make these kinds of choices pre any kind of a retrofit. Remember that bringing wood to the wood burner is messy, and a design where the heater is in a basement may not make that as much of a factor.. and maybe you can "design in" some easy access to from the outside.

    Then you could augment your relatively inexpensive wood heat with a fireplace if you are still inclined to do so.

    Please forgive this one last try on selling you on a woodstove but I still can't help thinking you just haven't seen some of the absolutely gorgeous woodstove/hearth installations that might change your mind on the whole "fireplace thing". Go to the Woodstock Soapstone site and review many of the hearth/stove installations you'll see there as an example.
  19. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    To follow up on Steve's advice, you could put a Woodstock Progress Hybrid at each end of the house, with fuul ICC pipe and chimney installation, almost certainly for less than the price you are being quoted for your install. You'd have two beautiful, easy to use, soapstone stoves that would each be capable of putting out a ton of heat when wanted, or a moderate amount at other times, and I am sure would easily heat a home of 4500 square feet well into the 70's, especially a new, tighter home, using a reasonable amount of wood. Secondary back up heat would never be needed. You could probably just go with inexpensive to install back up electric baseborad heat, with thermostats in each room, for those times in winter when you were going to be away for longer than a weekend. Then you'd only need to leave heat on in rooms where pipes could freeze. Save a ton of money on installation, and no maintenance worries on a furnace, or concerns about running furnace occasionally to make sure it keeps working, etc. Only reason to go with a furnace is if you are using it to heat your water, and even then, have you looked into electric supplemented by heat exchange to heat your water?
    Oldhippie likes this.
  20. Coog

    Coog Burning Hunk

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    I think there are two types of people with some balance in between. The ones like me that will not buy until all options are thoroughly reviewed and others who just want to get the job done. Both are annoyed by the other. If you are permitting the house than time is of the essence and you have to make a choice. If there is time, I would recommend studying the options and balancing that with what your wife wants/accepts.

    Regarding the Opel, I have seen people on this forum speak to 8 plus hour burn times. With that size of house though, you will have to keep the fire hot to maintain temperature if ducting. That means refills probably every 3 to 5 hours. I have an 1,850 sf house with a full basement and my quad 7100 handles it fine at zero degrees but the basement stays at 50 or 60 degrees.

    I think people forget that Burning with wood is a life style change, especially if you plan to cut down the tree, cut it up, split it, and stack it. Which is really the way to save money, unless you have a cheap source to buy from but there is still work in moving it around. It is not for the faint at heart, burning with wood I really only started for my boys. They need to learn how to work. Probably would not have been worth it otherwise as propane is pretty cheap around here. Admittedly, I like doing it though.

    Good luck with you decision.
  21. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    I think my original post had it, but if not, I'm in the Philadelphia, PA area. The winter can get chilly here but nothing like some of the more northern areas of the U.S.

    The wood furnace was very tempting and I did go back and forth on it, but my biggest fear is, if I had done an outdoor building furnace, the space that it would take up in the backyard (I only have a quarter acre, and the backyard is already going to be quite small compared to what I'm used to). If in the basement, I didn't want to be a slave to heading down to the basement several times a day..I plan to keep a fair amount of wood in the garage so it won't be as messy as it would be if bringing in from outside 3 times a day. AND I want to look at the fire in that family room it will be in. I still think about it now and then but simply decided the fireplace was a better idea for our situation.

    Thanks!

    Coog likes this.
  22. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    I checked out the website and they seemed nice. Unfortunately, the wife really isn't crazy about that look. If we were more in a rural area, the look may fit in better with our home, but she isn't crazy about the woodstove look, AND she definitely wants a gas fireplace in the other end of the house. No, it's not as efficient nor will warm the house as well, but that gas fireplace would be more for looks and simplicity.. turn on for a quick/nice fire. Also, if we were further north, I would think long and hard about the two woodstove idea, but quite frankly it doesn't get too too bitter cold in my area.. so function sometimes takes a small backseat to form..especially for the wife. : )

  23. lithnights

    lithnights New Member

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    I think you make a good point about that balance. Although I'll try not to get annoyed by anyone when they're helping me out. : )

    I'm OK with giving in a bit on the wife's preferences..after all she isn't crazy about fire and burning to begin with. Nor the potential mess of any wood in her nice new clean house..nor potential smoke/ash etc. She would rather have 2 gas fireplaces and just don't worry about wood anything.. I'd rather have both wood so one of each is a fair compromise IMO.

    I know a couple people with Opel 3 with similar size house (mine a bit bigger) and I think they said they load 3x a day or so. I hear what you're saying about needing to keep it hot, and I can see that potential. I guess I'm willing to take that chance, especially since my main heat source is supposed to be a heat pump (with propane backup). I understand that during those very cold days (barely ever gets down to the teens here), I'll be loading that thing pretty often. If I can't keep up, the heat pump should keep up and if not, the propane backup is there.

    I realize, at least I think I realize, the lifestyle change. I've never had a fireplace so people probably think I don't know what I'm getting into. But, I love having fires, I love being outside, I don't mind manual work, I'm always home (work from home most of week), and I designed a larger area in the back of my garage to store a lot of wood so I don't have to go outside all the time.. so I have confidence I'll manage. If not, it will be an expensive judgment error.

    I don't have the wood on site (small unwooded lot) but I can get huge logs delivered fairly cheap and can split myself (and neighbor has a splitter). But even if I have to buy cords of wood, it will still be cheaper than a propane furnace since propane is insanely expensive in this area.

    Thanks!

  24. aansorge

    aansorge Minister of Fire

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    Another aesthetically pleasing wood stove that cranks out the heat....http://www.lopistoves.com/product-detail.aspx?model=364

    The advantages of a stove:

    Generally more heat
    Lower costs
    Can run without a fan (noise).

    The new fireplaces are very good (I have one, the Enerzone 2.5ZC), but stoves are better. Show the wife a Lopi Cape Cod or Woodstock in person, then talk price (about 3000 for either stove), then make a decision!
  25. Dave A.

    Dave A. Minister of Fire

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    If you go with the woodburner in the family room and store your firewood in the garage as mentioned in another message (am assuming on the rear wall partition adj. to FR), might want to think about an access door from the FR near the fireplace to the woodbox in the garage during the planning stage. Not only will access be easier for loading but there also will be less debris/mess tracked through the kitchen and rest of the house.

    An access door/panel to the wood box certainly could be added later, but would be easier during construction.

    (This may have already been mentioned in another message -- don't see it atm-- but sorry if I missed it)

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