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Recommendations for home nearly 5,000 square feet.

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by aspinfo, Apr 12, 2013.

  1. aspinfo

    aspinfo New Member

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    I bought and moved into an oil heated home in Massachusetts around Thanksgiving. Got quite a surprise with oil bills. There is a single chimney in the home with back to back fireplaces in the family room and formal living room, so the chimney is not on an outside wall. A third fireplace is off the same chimney in the master bedroom. The only one I'm considering converting is in the casual family room on the first floor.

    Most so-called "large" wood burning inserts I have researched are rated for up to 3,000 square feet, which, if that's the high end, it is what it is.

    My fireplace opening is also large with an arched top. One dealer told me that the top piece of the surround would have to be supplemented with another piece by fabricating something to look the same. Didn't like the sound of that.

    I would also need a hearth extension, even for an insert, based on what I'm told about current code.

    What's the biggest and baddest wood burning insert that people have been happy with or is there something else I should be looking at? I've seen other posts about a free standing stove, but don't have room for that in front of this fireplace.

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  2. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    Are these Rumford fireplaces? How tall is the opening? Other dimensions? (Height at sides, Height in center, width, depth, height and width at back? How large is you present hearth, and is it built on combustibles or non-combustible (ember protection only, or heat protection as well)?

    What kind of layout have you? How many stories, where is this room in relation to the stairs, how open are the rooms to one another on the first floor? Sounds like the family room might be on the end of the home? 5000 square feet, 8 foot ceilings, or higher on the first floor?

    Do you use your other fireplaces? If not, have you put or considered putting covers (doors or other) on them?
    Is there a possibility or likelihood you might put inserts or stoves in any of them down the road?

    Do you know how much oil you used this winter? It would give an indication of the minimum BTUs you'd need to keep the home warm. If the home is very compartmentalized, an insert might very well not deliver the heat as well as a furnace, but if you know amount of oil used, we can get an idea of how much of a difference a large wood burner might make. .
  3. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Welcome.

    Do you have some measurements of the fireplace opening? A pic would be helpful, and maybe a rough sketch of the floorplan.

    I don't think there is a single stove or insert capable of heating that much volume. What type of central heat do you have now? There are add on wood burning furnaces that tie directly into a forced air system, and can produce a lot of btu. If you already have an hydronic system, there are very efficient boilers out there as well.
    rideau likes this.
  4. aspinfo

    aspinfo New Member

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    The width of the opening is about 40". The height at the center is 35" and at the sides is 32.5". The depth of the fireplace is about 20". The width in the back of the fireplace is 29". The hearth is a single piece of slate, 20" deep. The rest of the family room is hardwood flooring.

    I have hydronic air for the heating system with 3 zones in the house. This year I have easily burned 1,400 gallons of oil from the 330 gallon tank since Thanksgiving through the end of March.

    The furnace is a Burnam V-7 that runs about 85% efficient, based on the printout from the oil company's analysis. I heard something about that model having a recall back in the day due to some rusting or rotting of the cast iron or something like that.

    Two local companies suggested I install a wireless device outside that would override the burner based on the outside temperature and would save about 10% of the bill. Another company said that with my setup, there was a reason to not install one of those. Either the furnace or the hydronic or whatever.
  5. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Not sure of your goal, your wood supply or storage area, how much space you have to work with, or your budget, but I would seriously consider a wood gasification boiler.
    BoilerMan likes this.
  6. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Man that is one huge home or mansion! I raised 5 kids in a 1632 sq. ft. home! No one stove can heat that home in Mass. but 2 could do it.. Your other option would be a wood boiler if your town allows it but it will cost double or more than 2 stoves.. Two Englander 30NC stoves would set you back around $2,000.00 or less if you get them on clearance but be prepared to handle and store lots of wood. I would estimate you'd use no less than 6-7 cords a year which would be much cheaper than oil. Keep us posted and good luck! Welcome to the forum :)

    Ray
  7. aspinfo

    aspinfo New Member

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    I have an overhang on the side of my storage shed that can easily hold 1.5 cords of cut wood. The roof extends to keep it dry and its off the ground as well. I've seen wood inserts that claim to be rated for 3,000 feet, such as the Quadra-Fire 5100i (61,000 btu) , the Lennox Canyon C310 (84,500 btu) , Regency i3100, (75,000 btu) and just a few others. With 3 fireplaces on a single chimney, I could see using the back to back's on the first floor, but to use the one in the master bedroom upstairs might cook us at night as its only 6 feet away from the bed.
  8. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    OK disregard the BTU claims what matters is stove efficiency and firebox size. You will need at least a total of 6 cu. ft. of firebox capacity to heat that home. If you are serious about burning wood you need to get your firewood ASAP. It needs to be cut, split and stacked off the ground and in the wind.. Allow at least 2 years for oak. Maple, cherry, locust and ash should be ready in a year or so.. I suggest you use a s/s liner for each stove and insulated is better.. I do not believe you are allowed to have a stove in any bedroom..

    Ray
  9. aspinfo

    aspinfo New Member

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    Lennox Canyon C310 = 77.9%. Firebox 3.0 cubic feet.

    Regency i3100 75.4%. Firebox 2.9 cubic feet.

    Quadra-Fire, 80.5%. Firebox 3.0 cubic feet.
  10. aspinfo

    aspinfo New Member

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    Maybe from the standpoint of total cost per btu, I need to look at 2 medium units vs. one large, plus the efficiency factor. Are there smaller units that are super efficient and when doubling up would be a better overall value is the question.
  11. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    OK lemme put it this way.. I heat 1632 sq. ft. with one 2.0 cu. ft. firebox stove.. Your home is triple the size of my home therefore 6.0 cu. ft. makes sense.. Going undersized your oil furnace will need to run too.. You will be happier if you go larger.. What is your budget?

    Ray
  12. aspinfo

    aspinfo New Member

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    I'm also not expecting to eliminate my oil bill. I'm realistic and would just be thrilled to cut at least in half.
  13. aspinfo

    aspinfo New Member

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    So you're talking about a free standing stove, not an insert to get a box that big, right?
  14. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    If you really want to burn wood consider....

    It is extremely labor intensive, meaning, the more sq. ft. you want to heat, the more work you get to do.

    I heat pretty much with all wood and have 2100 sq. ft. I use 5 to 6 cord or so yearly. It is my lifestyle. I spend a lot of time working wood. You may very well use twice as much wood as me, or more, meaning 10 to 12 cord annually, if you wish to heat mostly with wood.

    I'd start by doing this, get wood now, split, stack, cover. Wet/unseasoned wood is the enemy of modern stoves.

    PLEASE DO NOT think the stove is the most important part of your system, THE CHIMNEY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT!!! Talk chimney, research chimney, inspect chimney, research chimney some more! Prepare to line chimney with stainless steel liner.

    Buy big, but don't believe the sq. ft. heating hype. It's all relative, I can heat my home with a candle in August, but wish I'd have a bigger stove in January when it's 5 degrees and blowing 20mph.

    Then, get an insert, just one, start with that, it will reduce your oil bill and you can also determine if the woodheat lifestyle is for you.

    Also prepare to have a masonry or some other non flammable hearth extension installed.

    Oh yeah, then there's ash removal, and splitting mauls, and wedges, and axe's, and sledge hammers, and tractors, and woodsplitters, and chainsaws, and fuel, and bar oil, and protective gear, and hearthtools, and.......

    That's my $.02 :)
  15. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Yes they will do the job better especially if you have a power outage when you need the stove and heat the most.. Even if knocked out 1/2 your oil bill you'll save thousands and once many realize they can heat it all with wood they decide to do just that.. Something to think about.. My oil furnace only runs for DHW... I heat my home to 75 degrees 24/7 and costs under $600.00 buying the wood C\S\D.. This winter I got a 2-3 cords from a family friend around the corner plus some wood from my property but I had to cut, split, transport and stack it.. I did it for something to do in the winter :)

    Ray
  16. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Wow why do you burn so much more wood than I do?
  17. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    You can ignore efficiency. That is a silly specification that means little to nothing in the real world. Firebox volume is key.

    I would recommend that you skip any thought of using an insert. You'll want the biggest modern freestander you can find.
  18. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    Also realize that woodstoves are space heaters. The heat comes out of one place and heats that room the most and the other rooms as the heat makes it's way there. Don't expect all of the house to be heated to the same temperature. There are many posts on using fans to move cold air to warmer places in order to even the heat out some.

    I agree with the advice to get one stove and go from there. I'd place the stove where your family will be spending the most time. Having the place where you spend the most time warmer will dramatically cut down on your oil bill. You may find you can keep the other areas of the house much cooler and be comfortable.

    Matt
    Woody Stover likes this.
  19. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    At 1400 gallons of oil, 85% efficiency, you are getting 117,725 BTUs per gallon, so using 174,815,000 BTUs per season.

    At about 5000 BTUSs of delivered heat per pound of wood in a 75 % efficient device, you're approaching 35,000 pounds of wood: that translates to about ten cords.

    I have heated with oil and with wood. In my opinion, the straight conversion of BTUs from the two sources doesn't give a true picture picture of the amount of energy needed from one versus the other, but it's a guide. Fundamentally, you're going to need a lot of wood if you want to replace the furnace. But you may well be warmer, and like the feel of the heat more. Will likely get more even heat than with a furnace cycling on and
    off.

    If you go with stoves or inserts, you are going to need two large ones, not two medium sized. You can always burn them lower, but when it is cold, you'll need the heat output of the larger stoves.

    I think you might have more of a chance of heating your home with two of the higher output wood stoves that are in the 3 cu ft range size, like the Progress Hybrid and the Cape Cod. They are not very big, and have close clearances, so it may be worth your while checking to see if you can install either with the room and clearances you have. There are quite a few people heating homes well over 2500 square feet with the PH in climates as cold as yours, so I would expect two would provide all the heat you could need. They are very efficient stoves. I'd think with the Cape Cod or PH, or a combination of the two, you'd burn less wood than with the inserts. But you could still be easily talking 6 or 7 cords a winter. You really need to be able to store at least that much wood, and preferably twice that, to have the wood burning experience be other than a pain in the neck, unless you can actually find a guaranteed source of seasoned wood, which is really hard to do, or buy kiln dried to supplement your stacked supply, which could run you $400 a cord. Still less expensive than oil, but not an insignificant cost. If you can only stack 1 1/2 cords on your property, you will have to be sure of your wood source before undertaking this. Or do you just have room for 1 1/2 cords covered, but room to stack more uncovered?

    I have no personal experience with inserts, but there have been good reviews about the amount of heat put out by some. I don't know if they will get the heat distributed around the home as well as a stove.

    We don't know what your floor plan is like, so have no idea how easily warm air will move around your home. If your rooms are not open, and you haven't a central hall on any upstairs levels, it is certainly worth investigating a wood burning add on furnace.

    If you have not already, you should close off and insulate the entrance to the flue of any fireplace you are not using. And put doors or a removable insulated cover on any fireplace you do use. Could make a big difference in the amount of heat you need.
    raybonz likes this.
  20. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Is a boiler totally out of the question? If you plan to stay in the home, and cut your already huge oil bill in at least half, a boiler system would be well suited. Personally I wouldn't want to drag 8+ cord of wood through my living space. I have a Quadrafire 4300 in the LR, we light it for the cozy factor (about a cord or less a year) the wood boiler does the heating.

    TS
    raybonz likes this.
  21. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, I've seen guys say they burn 3 or 4 cord in a climate similar to mine. Who knows? I will tell you this, we built this house in 2007 and have burned about 70 gallons of fuel oil so far :p

    I don't burn all oak/hickory/locust, a good bit of my stuff is walnut, cherry, maple, and some catalpa/boxelder.
    raybonz likes this.
  22. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Rideau you've pretty much summarized what I was thinking.. I agree 2 efficient 3.0 cu. ft. stoves would do the job and the 2 stoves you mentioned are good choices along with BK King, Alderlea T-6 or Summit will minimize wood consumption and reduce wood storage. The OP hasn't mentioned budget or how much wood storage they have and that could be a real issue.. I am thinking you could justify most any stove with oil expense being that high and payback would be quick.. Personally I can't imagine heating a huge house like that!

    Ray
  23. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Your oil usage is awesome! I use my tankless from my oil boiler and use around 350 gallons per year of oil for this purpose.. Electric rates are high here so I am unsure if an electric hot water tank would save enough money to make it worth doing..

    Ray
  24. Dave A.

    Dave A. Minister of Fire

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    Your fireplace is rather large. In fact possibly large enough for a wood stove inside. There are some examples here on the site of stoves installed in fireplaces. Joful has two cast iron Jotul cat stoves installed in large old house fireplaces. You might want to look at the install -- there are photos (though the fireplaces are much larger than yours).

    I've seen some other examples, of stoves in large fireplaces (not just on the hearth but at least partially inside the fireplace), some on the site here.

    Even if you go with an insert you might think about not using the surround-- With fireplaces on exterior walls sometimes the interior of the fireplace is just too cold so the surround seals off the space from the room.

    With an interior fireplace with a full liner (and a full insulated liner is the recommended way to go with all inserts) it's different and the surround (though aesthetically more acceptable to some) actually can trap heat within the fireplace. So if you go with an insert, rather than having a special surround attachment made to fit your fireplace, you might want to try it without any surround first. There are some examples on the site.

    With a stove there are more choices/options. Though either way, stove or insert, you'll want to decide on cat, non-cat, or hybrid. Cat uses a catalytic converter which almost manufactures heat (higher efficiency) from the precious metal it uses up over its lifespan. You generally see much longer times between making and loading fires with cat stoves and more even heat. Non cats tend to see a burst of heat over the first few hours and then a significant drop off in heat over the rest of the burn. Cats will have a more constant heat level over a generally longer burn. But cat stoves require more concern about not damaging the cat, possibly some maintenance issues with it, and it will eventually need to be replaced-- several hundred dollars about every 6 years (on average, from what I've read).

    If going with a large insert you'll also want to decide on whether to go with the extra large 8" liner models like the Buck 91, BK King, and there are a few others all with fireboxes larger than 3 cf.
  25. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Have wondered that about some other folks as well.

    I burn around 3.5 cords a year. I'd guess it's colder in this area than most everyone else on here? (well other than more north in AK and some parts of Canada)

    Keep the house at around 70*. House is fairly new, nothing out of the ordinary for insulation.

    raybonz likes this.

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