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RSF Opel 3 review after 1.5 seasons

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Mortimer452, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
    Messages:
    12
    Loc:
    Kansas
    Over the last couple years I've mostly been a lurker here, so I figured it's time I contributed something.

    My original thread here sorta describes my situation about a couple years ago, sorry but I deleted my Photobucket account so no "before" pics:
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/wood-stove-recommendations.45523/

    Long story short, took some time but we finally saved up enough cash to get a decent fireplace last fall (2011). After much deliberation and research (much of which was done on here) we finally decided to go with the RSF Opel 3. I chose that model for a couple reasons, mostly because of the available options such as the ash drawer, central air blower and front blower. The other one we were considering was a Quadrafire, I forget the model, had the same options but it was quite a bit more expensive, quite a bit larger and it was "iffy" on whether it would fit properly in the chase.

    The company that did the install was Hobbs Mechanical out of Wellington, KS. I have nothing but great things to say about them. Price seemed too low to be true . . . $6,900 installed and hooked up to the central HVAC, that included tear-out of the old fireplace and installing the new one but no finish work. They did an amazing job. Showed up early, worked hard all day, didn't cut any corners and cleaned up after every work session so I didn't have to deal with any mess while they were gone. We developed a small water leak during some heavy rain in the summer about 6 months after the install. They came out right away and fixed up the leak for no charge.

    Anyway, after they were done it was up to me to finish things out, so I ripped out the entire flagstone wall, replaced with drywall and decided to go with manufactured ledgestone around the fireplace. I had hired someone to do the drywall and ledgestone, but they both flaked out on me (stopped answering calls) so I ended up doing the whole job myself.

    This was my first experience doing any kind of masonry work so I was a little nervous but I think it turned out well. Installed hardi-backer around the fireplace, wire mesh and base coat of quick-set mortar, then started sticking on bricks. Thank goodness we were replacing the carpet in this room next, it is a messy, messy job. I had tarp over the floor but still . . . messy.

    All said and done, we really love the Opel. It puts out crazy heat. Surprisingly enough, this thing is actually heating our entire 4,800sqft home pretty darn well, without using the furnace at all, down to outside temps of about 28*F. Below that, the furnace kicks on to help out. I keep the thermostat at 68*. We absolutely love using it. I know "heat" should be "heat" but the fireplace seems to put out a much denser, penetrating kind of heat. Can't explain but it's just better . . . I'm sure most of you know what I mean.

    I started out using mostly the central air blower but found that when it gets really cold, the room blower actually works better, for our home at least. The central blower does great at distributing the heat, but I think alot of heat is lost in the ductwork and the pressure is pretty low. The central air blower is only 600cfm I think, compared to a typical furnace fan of about 2000cfm. I can turn the furnace on fan-only and move the heat around better but that dilutes the heat with room-temperature air from the return vents. Also, due to our ductwork configuration, it was impossible to hook it up in such a way that the heat was delivered to all vents in the house, so some rooms get no heat when the central fan is blowing. Don't let this deter you -- on a smaller home, I'm sure it would work much better.

    The central fan is also great at sucking heat out of the fireplace room, it can get a little hot in there sometimes. Kick it on for a few minutes, cools it down in there quick.

    The combination of central blower and room blower is working out great for us. During the day I can run the central blower and get heat throughout the first floor of the house pretty well. At night I turn it off, just run the room blower (or no blower) and the heat naturally travels upstairs to our bedrooms quite well.

    The manual states the firebox can handle 18" logs, which it can easily. The firebox is not square, it's wider in the front and can handle about a 22" log towards the front, and 18" across the back. Diagonally you could get maybe a 24" log in there. There's a thermostat for the room blower in the bottom grate that will not allow it to turn on until the firebox gets up to temperature, this can take 45 minutes or so when you're starting cold.

    Burn times. I shouldn't complain, but I wish they were longer. It's hard to define exactly when the "burn time" ends but I feel comfortable saying you're pushing pretty hard to get 8 hours out of this unit. Cramming as full as I possibly can with good hardwood, I'd say 7 hours max before you're down to a bed of coals that is not producing much heat. Overnight it's definitely not doing much for us by morning, still enough coals there to easily restart with a quick stir and fresh wood (maybe a little blowing) but it's not putting out much heat.

    The verdict? We were consistently using about 2,000 gallons of propane per hear, on average. First year with the Opel, we used less than 500. Based on my last fill price of $1.85/gallon back in April, that unit saved me $2,775 the first year. It was a very wise investment!

    A few pics of the install
    Old fireplace torn out:
    [​IMG]

    Behind the flagstone that covered this entire wall, we discovered not one, or two, or three, but SIX layers of wallpaper underneath the flagstone. This pic is the only decent one of the final, bottom layer. The home was built in 1890 so I can only assume it's from around then
    [​IMG]

    New Opel in place, chimney and central air hooked up
    [​IMG]

    Drywall done, hardi-backer up
    [​IMG]

    Stone veneer installed
    [​IMG]

    Crappy pic, sorry, but it's all I've got of the completed room. I used 16" ceramic tiles for the hearth. Yes I took down the stockings right after the pic :)
    [​IMG]
    Joful and Billybonfire like this.

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  2. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
    Messages:
    12
    Loc:
    Kansas
    A few additional notes that popped into my head . . .

    Ash tray: not worth it. Sounded like a great feature but it's not as useful as I thought it would be. It's pretty small and if you wait until the firebox is full of ashes like I do, it will take more than one trip to empty it out. I find it easier to just shovel them into a coal hod. Also, there's a plug in the bottom of the firebox that has to be removed to scoop the ashes into the tray. If the plug is not properly seated it will allow additional combustion air into the firebox and limit your ability to control the fire with the damper.

    Door glass. I love the single huge door on this unit, awesome viewing area of the fire. Downright gorgeous once you get that good secondary burn going. The glass stays clean pretty well, maybe some light scorching around the bottom edge and corners, as long as you keep the damper above halfway open. It will get cloudy pretty quick if you turn the damper down too low. So far, nothing I haven't been able to clean up with some Windex and paper towels once the glass has cooled down, or a good hot fire.
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    45,834
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    Great job and very nice review. RSF makes nice units. Good to hear that your fireplace is doing it's job well.
  4. sam81

    sam81 New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2012
    Messages:
    3
    Loc:
    Quebec
    Hi, i'll chip in since i have the same insert ( was already in the house I bought). My house is a total of 5600 sq ( basement, main, 2nd floor) or about 1800 sq per floor. With the opel 3 ( in my living room), I can manage to heat half of the main floor and the entire 2nd floor pretty good ( had some -4 F outside and managed to keep about 73F). It does put out some heat and is relatively "controllable"...I mean once the stove gets too hot, the bimetallic damper automatically shuts off. Best burn times with dry wood but crappy wood i.e birch ( and with a full box) is about 6-7 hours of meaningful heat...cant wait to try next winter with better wood. I did install the central heating blower in order to try to send it to the basement but 1) the suction noise is drove me crazy 2) there wasnt enough heat to properly heat the main and 2nd floor...Also, the worst thing about this stove i think is the shape of the firebox i.e. it forces you to put the biggest splits in the front, next to the window and I hate doing that because I'm always afraid the coals are going to end up against the window and break or something like that. Also, the depth of the fire box versus the ash is driving me crazy, way too much spillage of ash .

    So I'm currently looking for a stove that will heat the basement and the other half of the main floor. Around here (quebec), the Regency F5100 is about 3400$ and the blaze king king 3500$...However, someone i know has one and he told me that when you crank it up...burn times go way down....So, i dont know if I should invest the 6K$ + between these two or just go with an osburn 2400 or drolet 2000 for 3k$ +....My main concern is wood consumption, if I go cat/hybrid will I save significant amounts of wood (knowing that where I live jan, feb and march it'll be about -4 to -22F ( meaning I will be cranking up the basement stove). Ps: my goal is to use wood only for heating.

    Thanks,
    Sam

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