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Newbie - please review my plans

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by dwizum, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. dwizum

    dwizum New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2012
    Messages:
    42
    Hi forum,

    I've been researching and reading about pellet stoves for a few years and am finally ready (I think) to bite the bullet.

    I live in upstate NY and own a 2-story 1800sf home currently heated by an oil furnace. The home is from the 1800's but it's been "gone over" pretty thoroughly in recent years so it's probably tighter than you'd guess for the age. Last year was a pretty warm winter, we probably went through 2/3 the oil we have in a typical winter (been in the home for 10 years). This winter is promising to be nice and cold, so I'd like to switch to a pellet stove for most of the heating demand. I have a tentative plan in my head and I'd like feedback. Please feel free to shoot my plan full of holes if it's garbage as I'd rather find out now than after. As a note, I'm a fairly handy person and will do the install and maintenance myself.

    The first floor plan consists of a large open kitchen/dining/living room, plus a small bath and two bedrooms off a central hall. The first story is pretty much divided down the middle of the footprint, main room on one side and beds and bath on the other side.

    Second story is a master bedroom with bath. Stairway to the second story is from the central hall. The second story was new construction about 3 years ago, we took the time to insulate well at that point. Whole house got new siding and windows 2 years ago (brother and I did all that work so I'm comfortabl that it was done right.). I'm planning on putting the stove in the middle of the main room on the first floor, pointed at the hall that leads to the 1st story bedrooms and second story. I'm OK with the bedrooms and second story being cooler, we generally spend most of our waking hours in the main room and like it cooler at night anyways (so in fact a heating method that lets us keep the main room hotter than the bedrooms is preferrable). So that's the general plan, now on to the details.

    I'm a penny pincher so I'm trying to find a solid stove at a reasonable price. The remanufactured timber ridge stoves sold by amfmenergy seem like the best deal on the market among budget stoves, based on google searches and reviews I could find. Specifically I am looking at the 55-TRPAH model, at $1050 it seems like a bargain. If I budget $300 for the vent, make a hearth out of leftover tiles I already have, I figure I can spend maybe $2500-$3000 on the stove, install materials, and enough pellets (4 tons) to do "most" of the heating this winter. It's looking like I'd spend that much on oil so I should hopefully have the system paid for in it's first year (to me, that is an incredibly short ROI for such a major project).

    Anyone have comments on this particular model of stove?

    The install location turned out to be a little more tricky than I had hoped, based on meeting the minimum requirements for the termination of the vent outside the house. There are 4 big windows and a sliding door along this main room, and there is only one contiguous segment of wall long enough to put the stove on (about 12', between the sliding door and the first window). However, there's a little stub wall inside the house at this point, dividing the kitchen from the rest of the main room. I'd like to put the stove on the living room side of this stub wall, but then it's only 3.5 feet from the first window. To alleviate this, I had planned on putting the vent through the wall, to a 90 facing away from the window, over a foot, then to the cleanout T and up 3' vertical to the cap. Is that a reasonable plan? I am hoping that extra 90 and horizontal section of pipe won't create issues. Any thoughts?

    My final question resides around the pellets themselves. Is there any central resource or single forum thread to help a newbie figure out which brands to steer clear of? I see lots of comments about how people hate this brand or love that one, but it's a lot to keep track of without some sort of central reference. Also, how would you go about evaluating a brand you've never used? Just buy a bag and see what happens? I ask because right in my town there's an entrepreneur-type who, a few years ago, started a business selling pellets, and it appears that it's his own brand (not sure if he's actually making them, or getting some major brand to re-label their product). If it's a brand name that none on the forum are familiar with, would I just try a bag out or would it be safer to stick with known brands?

    Any other thoughts, tips, stories, or newbie advice would be much appreciated. Sorry for the long-winded post, just wanted to lay out my whole plan and see what you all thought!

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  2. mmckee83

    mmckee83 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2012
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    46
    Well all I can say is that everytime I try and save a few dollars I end up spending way more in the long run!!! I would suggest doing it right the first time and getting what you really want not just whats cheap (that is of course staying within your means). I would much rather spend a little more $$$ now as opposed to getting something and then replacing it in 2 years, but thats me. Good Luck
  3. will711

    will711 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2011
    Messages:
    1,204
    Loc:
    Pocono mts.
    First off Welcome to the forum.

    I can't comment on the stove not familiar with it. The extra 90 in the pipe shouldn't be an issue I'm sure one of the experts will be along to comment on that.

    As far as pellets go click on the pellet sticky links top of the forum page there are links to Jtakeman's tests and reviews of various brands of pellets. You are going to hear this " buy a few bags and try before you commit to tons" this is good advice until you know how your stove runs on what brands don't want to be stuck with a ton of pellets that don't preform .

    Good luck and Happy Burning.
  4. newtonh

    newtonh New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
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    29
    Loc:
    Contoocook Valley NH
    My advise is "Buy the best and only cry once" don't settle, save up if necessary. The payback will be over and over. Welcome to the board.
    DexterDay likes this.
  5. dwizum

    dwizum New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2012
    Messages:
    42
    Thanks for the advice about the link in the sticky. Despite pouring over this forum for months I've somehow missed that particular link.

    Any comments on this particular stove from people who have owned it? I've searched the forum and seen more or less positive feedback about the particular model, this vendor, and this manufacturer.

    Getting down into the weeds a bit, I've seen lots of people mention ash vacuums. I'm assuming it would be boneheaded to own a pellet stove without one? I did mention being a penny pincher but I'm also happy to spend money on things that are clearly justified. Anything else equipment- or tool-wise I shouldn't be without?
  6. will711

    will711 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2011
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    1,204
    Loc:
    Pocono mts.

    I use a shop vac with a dry wall bag use only when stove is stone cold.
  7. dwizum

    dwizum New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2012
    Messages:
    42
    Well, time to bump this post. I bought the 55-TRPAH from amfmenergy as planned. It shipped quickly (was in my garage in 3 or 4 days). It LOOKS brand new despite being "refurbished." The manufacture date is last year but it has clearly been worked on freshly, as there was still a new paint smell. At any rate I'm totally happy with it and with amfmenergy. The stove actually arrived in a "summer's heat" brand box though the unit itself is (apparently) identical across the threee Englander brands anyways.

    I bought the standard simpson duravent kit from Lowes since they had the cheapest price ($191). Also the powersmith ash vac as mentioned in my other thread. I tiled the hearth with porcelain tile.

    The final install work was completed this past Saturday. I sealed the segments of vent pipe together with high temp silicone and secured the appliance adapter to the stove with three screws (which were siliconed in place). I let the silicone on the exhaust cure and fired it up on Sunday. Looked great, but there was a smoke leak around the T. There's a billion seams on those T's! I couldn't tell where the smoke was coming from so I ended up sealing pretty much every seam in that area one by one - it ended up being a seam on the bottom cap that was leaking. It was a minute amount of smoke and now it's stopped so hopefully the problem is dealt with.

    So it's been in the 20's at night and 30's during the day since Sunday, and we've been heating with the stove only. The stove has been on setting 2 at night, and 1 during the day. This has been PERFECT so far - main living space has stayed right around 68, bedrooms around 62-64. I'm really happy that the stove is able to maintain these temps at such low settings and it seems like it'll be a perfect fit for our home. If I crank it up to the max setting of 9, it puts the whole house above 70 in about 15 minutes!

    I may eventually get a thermostat and run it in high-low mode during the winter, or on-off mode in the shoulder season (since I'm guessing even the setting of 1 will be too high when it's above 40 outside). Right now I'm burning New England brand pellets since that's what the local hardware store had by the bag - I've got 4 tons of Cubex on order that will be delivered in about 2 weeks so once those get here I'll dial in the three "don't touch these" settings to optimise the burn. It seems like it's a little off right now (flame is pretty variable and the ash is pretty dark) but I don't want to bother tuning with these pellets if I'll be switching soon.

    Anyways just wanted to update the thread to let people know how it's going! I'm so happy I did this. I should break even this year compared to heating with oil, and I stand to save $2-3k per year after that!
    will711 likes this.
  8. gbreda

    gbreda Minister of Fire

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    Lakes Region, NH
    Congratulations and welcome to the forum! !

    Sounds great but if no pics, it didn't happen.

    Enjoy the warmth
  9. will711

    will711 Minister of Fire

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    Congrats my friend. Thanks for the update . I'm sure some one is going to tell you " with out pictures it didn't happen", but I believe you because I don't know how to post pictures if I did I would:confused:
  10. John Wallington

    John Wallington New Member

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    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    Yeah pellets are way cheaper than almost every form of heating. I believe natural gas is still the only competitive form and that depends on your supplier/cost per CFM and how 'tight' your house is. The only thing I might have suggested, and I dont know is if your oil heat is a boiler you might have looked at an exterior wood boiler system and tied the 2 together so if your outside wood boiler went out the oil would kick on and keep the water/house at temperature....If your oil heat is forced air, then you probably went with the right solution..
  11. will711

    will711 Minister of Fire

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    You beat me to it I can't type fast enough
  12. doghouse

    doghouse Member

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    maine
    dwizum, you bought a good stove. Your Timber Ridge is an Englander product. No stove manufacturer has better customer service than Englander. If you're handy with a wrench, the stoves are easy to fix. You dd good.

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