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Sizing a Fireplace Insert for more than 3,000 square feet

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

  1. Puffins

    Puffins Member

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    Hello all. I'm a born again newbie, having been raised in homes with wood burning stoves, but living in without a stove for more than 15 years. After trolling here a while, I realized there's a lot of good advice to be found, (along with some possible bad advice as with any internet resource) so I'm hoping to get the community's input on my current situation. I went to my first fireplace dealer this past weekend and while helpful, the sales rep seemed to be surprised at some of my questions, not really showing confidence in some answers he provided.

    I live in New England, and we moved into a larger home with oil heat, forced air, last summer. Even though the winter was ~20% warmer than usual, we went through more than 1200 gallons of heating oil. I was beside myself. I've done some easy things to help: automatic thermostats, weather sealed the doors, etc. But I'm here for a reason and I'm looking at buy a fireplace insert for our family room in hopes of reducing oil consumption by 40% or more. I've also provided a rough layout of our home.

    Facts:

    Home was built in the 90s, fully insulated (R30 in the attic, not R38)
    Double pane windows
    Open floor plan
    Total square footage is a bit over 3,500
    Chimney is exterior, brick
    Main entry are and family room have 17 foot high ceilings and I have a bi-directional ceiling fan in the family room. The family room has very tall windows on each side of the fire place that reach as high as 14 feet, I believe.

    In the layout, I've shown details of the 1st floor. Second floor bedrooms and hallways are featured with shading:

    The shaded green area denotes a room above on the 2nd floor that we would like to get some heat from the insert. I've labeled these areas with room names on both the 1st and 2nd floor so you can see what the second floor rooms are above.

    The red shading denotes open-air catwalk area on the second floor that connects to the 2nd floor hallway.

    The light blue shading denotes the 2nd floor hallway (which actually runs all the way to the left to the stairway next to the garage.

    There are 2 staircase - 1 between the kitchen and garage, 1 in the main entry area.

    1st floor square footage is about 1700 sq ft
    2nd floor, excluding the guest area (far left) is about 1400 sq ft

    Layout here:

    Layout.png

    Assumptions:

    I would have 1 insert in the family room burning 7 days per week.

    Ideal temp for all rooms would be 72, but it's understood that distribution would depend on proximity to fireplace.

    Guest room upstairs would almost always be closed off.

    If it were up to me, I'd get a wood stove, but I respect the misses and her wishes and she wants to keep it flush as possible, hence an insert is at play.

    So far, I have zeroed in on a Jotul Rockland or a Regency I3100. I know I would need a large insert, large firebox.

    Questions:

    Based on your experience, especially if you have an open floor plan of this size or more, and knowing a little about my home:

    Is it feasible to expect I can get heat to each room upstairs and down?

    Do BTUs really matter, or is it all about firebox size or sq ft rating? One thing the sales rep could not answer: Regency I2400 vs. I3100 - rated at 75,000 and 80,000 BTUs respectively, yet the I2400 is rated for up to 2,000 sq ft while the I3100 up to 3,000 sq ft. The math does not add up - an additional 5,000 BTUs pushes the sq footage rating up another 1,000 sq ft?? Huh??

    What about a pellet stove? I can't seem to find any rated large enough to compete with the Jotul or Regency wood burning inserts. If you know any that can generate enough heat, that are relatively flush like the Regency I3100 wood burning, I'm listening.

    Is my goal of > 40% reduction in heating oil way off or am I in the ballpark?

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Welcome Puffins. This is a huge space. Your oil bill is not that out of line considering all the cubic footage that is being heated. The Rockland would make a nice dent in the oil bill. I don't think it will carry the house completely when it gets very cold, that would take also running the furnace or having a second stove. I think a 40-50% reduction in the oil bill is realistic. Expect outlying rooms (office, LR and DR?) will need some supplemental heat if they are closed off from the family room. A fan blowing cooler air from the LR into the fam. room may help.

    Stove cubic footage is a better guide than mfg's claim. Every house's heat loss is going to be different. As noted, you have a lot of house volume to heat here. By all means get a 3-4 cu ft insert as long as it will fit.

    Question: Is this a masonry fireplace in the family room or a prefab? Note clearances to combustibles including mantel when measuring.

    PS: Be sure to drain the pipes or have heat under that guest bathroom or you may be dealing with a pipe freeze up in very cold weather.

    PPS: Curtains or insulating shades on the windows could also help.
  3. James02

    James02 Feeling the Heat

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    Look at the PE Summit also....My house is smaller than yours, but it's got a 3.1 cu ft firebox. I'm looking foward to 12 hr burn times....And get your wood now!
  4. dafattkidd

    dafattkidd Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forum. I'm glad you have a realistic view of 40% reduction of consumption. Honestly you may do even better than that. Once you get the measurements of the existing fireplace I would put the insert with the largest firebox possible. Buck makes models with 4 cf fireboxes. I'm sure other manufacturers like Kuma make large inserts too. That would be the direction I would go. But the limitations will be chimney size and existing fireplace dimensions.

    A few things worth mentioning: expect to line your chimney with a ss liner from the unit to the chimney cap, install a block off plate separating your heated area from your chimney, make sure your insert has access to an electrical outlet to plug in your fan, and as previously stated stock up on wood now if you're hoping to be heating with wood this winter. Hope that's helpful.

    PS woodburning is addicting, so beware of the sickness. Once you start its really fun! Good luck with your decision.
  5. Puffins

    Puffins Member

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    Thank you for the replies so far. Good stuff, keep them coming.

    I forgot to mention details about my fireplace. It is a masonry fireplace and the dimensions are fairly good sized. 36"W x 30" H x 22" D. Rear width is 28".

    I am definitely planning on lining the chimney with a SS liner.

    Going to check out the Buck, PEs and Kumas online right now.

    And yes, burning wood is VERY addictive as I witnessed with my father growing up. We used to drive all over kingdom come in his pickup, scavenging wood. Some good memories there.
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Main thing with a barn that size is not to expect too much from one stove to heat it. And don't discount the work involved if you ever decide to really get it done using two stoves.

    Lots of good info available from here based on real world experience.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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  8. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yeah that is the direction I would head in. But there will always be that fireplace hole to fill. Might as well start there.
  9. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Two large stoves or a wood furnace would be my choice.
    Hiram Maxim likes this.
  10. James02

    James02 Feeling the Heat

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    Kuma and Buck I believe have an 8" flew (sp) , and the PE has a 6" for sure...Just so you know what to get...
  11. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Re: your goal of 40% cost reduction- That also seems reasonable to me. I swapped my smoke dragon for an NC30, and our electric usage dropped by 80%. !!
    'Course, last winter was a little warm....

    Oh, yeah- start getting wood now. If you grew up burning you know that dry/seasoned makes a difference and that don't happen overnight.
  12. Dieselbreath

    Dieselbreath Member

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    I have a similar sized home that I do a pretty good job heating (not all of it) with a Regency i2400. I love my stove but I wish it was the larger sized I3100 but the 2400 is the largest I could fit in the hole. The 2400 doesn't have a long burn time thus I just let it burn out at night. The 3100 might be able to burn all night.
    If I was you I would get the biggest insert in there I could get and just see how that works. Maybe that's all you will need.
  13. Puffins

    Puffins Member

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    I'm definitely starting with the stove insert and see how it goes. I also have another fireplace I can use before considering a wood burning furnace. Ambience is key too.

    I like the Kuma but I don't think it will fit my fireplace. It's too deep and too wide if I am reading their site correctly. I've added the PE Summit to the list. Looks like it can really put off a lot of heat - good-sized firebox, long burn times. My wife's first choice is already the Jotul Rockland since it is flush with the fireplace surround. If I knew it could put out the same or more heat as the Regency I3100 and the PE Summit, it would be an easy choice. I dont care about astetics We are going to 2 nearby dealers on Friday morning to see all 3 models in person. I'll let you know how it goes.
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    The Rockland is a capable heater and it looks great. And a happy wife can be priceless, particularly if she too likes running the stove.

    Is there nearby wood trim or mantle? That could be a deciding factor.
  15. madison

    madison Minister of Fire

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    I would also measure and consider the hearth dimension in front of the current fireplace, as that will also play a role in fitting an insert into the fireplace and maintaining the clearance in front of the unit. No matter how large the current opening is the dimension in front of the insert is critical as well.
  16. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

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    Puffins, welcome to the forums !

    I'd go with an insert that had radiant heating, IE one that sticks out from the FP. You get more bang for your buck that way.

    Ambiance becomes less of an issue when you are trying to heat a house with wood. And ya know what, that insert is gonna give one hell of alot of ambiance, you'd be surprised.
  17. Puffins

    Puffins Member

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    After shopping around at a couple of dealers, my wife and I agreed on going with flush mount. (I'd prefer a wood stove, to an insert, but I'd rather be 'happy' than 'right'). The Jotul Rockland was 'it', until I noticed that the minimum clearance from hearth to top trim is ~52" while the clearance on mine is only 40.5". Looking for options, and also at other flush mounts like the FPX 33 or FPX Hybrid-Fyre/Lopi Declaration with lower minimum clearances (heart to top trim).

    In re: to madison, I think we are ok with our hearth size. It extends 22" from the FP so shouldn't be an issue.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Picture from the Jotul 550 thread

    FP.jpg

    Have you looked at the Hearthstone Clydesdale? Its depth (projection onto the hearth) is adjustable. Also check out the Hampton 300i.
  19. tfdchief

    tfdchief Minister of Fire

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    I have heated with wood for 40 years and just last year put in my second wood burner. Don't know now why I waited so long. Love it. Unfortunately, wood burners are space heaters and sometimes in order to do it right, you need more than one.
  20. Puffins

    Puffins Member

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    Ok, so after at least 2 cords of research, we decided on the FPX 33 Elite by Travis Industries. I had to pick one that was flush (compromise with my wife) and I had to conform to one that would fit our configuration and still abide by local building codes and manufacturer specs. Install date is 8/10 and I will be posting pics. Total price, including wiring kit, 35' stainless liner, labor and tax was a hair over $4400. Not bad in my opinion. I was quoted $5400 for a Jotul Rockland from a different shop in CT.

    I cannot wait to see how much of a dent we put in the f$&*# oil bill! Time to go stack green wood while I wait. :(
  21. kingquad

    kingquad Minister of Fire

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    Congrats. That's a really nice looking stove.

    If your cutting your own wood now for this winter, look for standing dead ash trees almost exclusively. Cut, split, and stack(C/S/S) it now in single rows where it will get plenty of sun and wind. I'd seriously consider buying a pallet of Ecobricks from TSC when they go on sale. Toss one in with each load. The low moisture content(MC) of the bricks should somewhat help to offset the higher MC of your wood. Check and sweep your chimney often. This first season will probably suck for you, but each season will yield much better heat and easier stove tending if you get way ahead on your wood supply.
  22. jeffesonm

    jeffesonm Feeling the Heat

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    Any pics of the insert installed?
  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Yes, please show some pics of this beauty installed. Also, can you post throughout the winter to let us know how the stove works out? I'm wondering how it's going to handle the 35 ft liner. That's a mighty tall straw.
  24. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    2.1 cu ft is larger than 2.2 cu ft?
  25. FyreBug

    FyreBug Minister of Fire

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    Sorry, should read my own specs...

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