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Starting Out Obsvervations

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by camdids, Sep 17, 2006.

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  1. camdids

    camdids Member

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    Loc:
    Very North and Very East Mass.
    I am new to the Forum, but would like to share my recent experience with you.
    I recently decided to help reduce my Oil heating costs and have a Pellet stove installed. I did some research and decided to get a Harman. Largely based on friends and neighbors who have them. So I went to the local Harman dealer and was informed of the required Fireplace(existing) measurements I would need for my chosen stove.(accentra Insert). So i went home and measured up.
    My fireplace was one inch too narrow at the back. So called again and was told I could have a Freestanding. Ok but would have to increase the size of the hearth. Went back to view models and then told Insert would fit. But then informed that the existing Liner(in very good condition) was too big at 12*12. So would have to have a 4" SS Liner installed. I would have to get someone to do that. After calling several Chimney places, Prices ranged between $1200 and $3000.One actually said I would have to have the existing Clay liner removed. After sharing all this with a neighbor who purchased the same stove last year and has the same fireplace setup, he told me that he told them the liner was smaller (although its 12*12 too). They didnt check when installing. They install using the "Stub In" method I understand. Also the measuring of the Fireplace is left to the Customer. Only checked when they come to install the stove. It is all up to the Customer to get his measurements right.
    It seems,Obviously, that your success in this area of purchasing a Stove, is reliant tottaly on how good a Dealer you have. This one is rated very highly by Harman(There words not mine). It also seems that maybe because the demand for these things has increased so much that the dealers arent looking for business. It has made me quite distrusting of them. Will probably just have to eat the Oil Prices.

    I would say,however, that after just a few posts on this forum,I would trust some of you guys more than my local "Trusted " Dealer.

    Thanks for all your help.
    Camdids

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  2. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
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    580
    Loc:
    Shokan, NY
    Hi camdids,

    welcome aboard. And thanks for sharing your experience. If I may, I would like to suggest some possible reasons for your less-than-expected first attempt at buying a pellet stove.

    It doesn't sound like you had any competent chimney profesional out to your house. In my opinion, it is nearly impossible to get a reasonable quote on anything over the phone. Even over the counter, at the dealer, you are not likely to get a very good quote on installation services without a site visit. Remember, most dealers are retailers and not all dealers offer installation services. They may be a good dealer for Harman and respected as good folks. But if they are not installers they are at a disadvantage when giving you advice about the actual requirements of your particular fireplace and chimney. They will rely on you to measure correctly and give them a correct description of your fireplace and chimney. This is not always a successful formula. You may or may not know what you are looking at or how to communicate what you see in the language that the stove dealer understands.

    It is not wrong for a dealerto retail a good product and ask that you hire your own installer. It is not the best way to sell stoves and fireplaces, in my opinion, but there are many dealers who operate under this model. If you prefer to buy from a company that also installs their products you need to find a dealer in your area who will provide what you need. If you are satisfied that the Harman is the stove you want you may have no choice but to hire your own installer or install it yourself, if you do not have an installing dealer close to you.

    I don't think it's a good idea to play games and lie about your flue tile size. You're the one who will suffer. The reality is that 12 x 12 is too big for that stove. Besides the problems that could surface due to size it is also MUCH harder to service if you do not reline all the way to the top. Yes, a 4" liner will suffice, and No, you do not need to remove your existing flue tiles. (That's the kind of advice you get over the phone when the poor guy doesn't really understand what you need or want).

    Finally, it is not always as clear cut as it might seem when you are not getting what you want. I would say that it is probably not that the dealer does not want your business (although it's possible) but that he/she has not yet learned what you want or need. You may be able to help them by clearly defining what you want. They may not be very good at drawing you out and may think that you are a qualified do-it-yourselfer or are willing to suffer through a trial-and-error process as long as you get an acceptable final result. Trust is earned. Both ways. Maybe they don't trust you either. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won't. Keep looking. Keep trying.

    One thing I can say with confidence: you will be happy with the Harman insert. If it takes some doing to get it installed it may be worth the effort. You decide.

    Take care,
    Sean
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    This is the issue I have with some dealers treating a pellet stove like an appliance. There are a lot of variable that go into a successful install. Almost all are covered in the manuals for these stoves, yet it seems many salespeople and some installers have never read the manual.

    Camdids, there are other great pellet inserts. For example, the Quadrafire 1200i is very nice and has a bit smaller depth requirement. It's not as quite as pretty as the Accentra, but is easier to use. Post the fireplace opening dimensions Height, Width, Depth at top and depth at bottom. A picture will also help.

    How tall is the chimney? Is the roof pitch and access good or bad? I installed my own, 2 story, 3" flex liner system in an afternoon for a total of about $300 if I remember right. If roof access is good, and you are comfortable working up on the roof it's not that hard. However, if this is 2.5 - 3 stories with a steep roof, I would definitely leave it to the pros.
  4. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    580
    Loc:
    Shokan, NY
    Well, to be fair, it IS an appliance. :) But, you're right. There are a lot more variables than say, a refrigerator. Although, I know some folks who shouldn't be installing their own fridge either. And, again, I agree, most sales people seem to skip the manual and some installers also.

    When I bought my appliances I had them delivered and installed. I am a pretty handy guy and I could have done it myself. The sales people at Sears also did not read the manuals. They typed into the computer that I wanted to have them installed. That was the end of it from the salespersons perspectives. They assumed that someone else would handle the install details. Their job was to present the appliances and their features and have me sign the sales invoice.

    I do not think it is fair to brand a dealer as "bad" just because they are only selling an appliance. That is their choice. They have decided they only want to sell appliances. You, as the consumer, have the right to buy or not to buy as you see fit. If you want services beyond the sale of the appliance you can either purchase these services from the same company or hire an outside company, or as is common with Sears, have the sales company handle all the details of contacting an installer and overseeing their qualifications, etc.

    What we are talking about here is expectations. If you as the customer are expecting that the dealer be an installer you may be dissapointed when the sales person tells you that they sub-contract their installs or hands you a business card of a third party. It is important that you discuss with the dealer what you expect and then decide if you want to buy from them even if they cannot meet all your objectives. In the end, a "bad" dealer is a dealer who tells you one thing ("Yes, we install and service all the appliances we sell") and then does another. If they are honest, they will disclose exactly how they handle the installations. Do they have an agreement with a competent third-party sub-contracted installer? Do they tell you that they "don't do installations" and then hand you a business card of someone who does? As long as they fully disclose their business practices I find it hard to find them lacking in trust simply on account of who does the install. There may be other weaknesses that affect your trust but its not black and white where installations are involved.

    Sean
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    All good points. The Sears analogy is a good one. I installed our horiz. washer and am glad I did. It's worked great for 10 years. The instructions were very detailed, but fortunately thorough. A friend had the same model installed by her contractor and it destroyed itself in 5 years. The appliance repair guy and blew smoke at her telling her that front loaders were no good. But it was the bad install that did the washer in. The contractor never leveled it and missed removing one of the shipping straps. So the burden in this case was on the customer assuring the job was well done. Unfortunately for my friend, she didn't have the requisite skills to know there was a problem and didn't tell me about the problem until the damage was done.

    This isn't really about a good vs bad dealer, just a caveat to future stove buyers. Often the best dealers are the ones that offer great customer followup and service and not the best price. If there is a problem with a stove install or later on in the warranty period I would really prefer to have a dealer and service dept. that understands the issue and if need be, communicates it with the manufacturer. It seems too often we hear about a dealer more than willing to blame the customer or the installer for an issue that turns out to be with the stove. If it weren't for this forum several users might still be stuck with the problem. My point is to choose ones dealer carefully or accept that you may possibly be on your own if a problem arises. If you are mechanically competent, then this may not be a big deal, but if it is, then go for the dealer with the best long term customer satisfaction and service record.
  6. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    You Ran 3" flex Two stories?
    I dont know what stove you have but every pellet stove I ever installed you have to have 4" venting if you have over 15" of vertical run.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I was at the upper limit for the Quad1200i, but still within the acceptable parameters for 20ft of pipe at sea level. The installer I spoke to where I purchased the stove and pipe said it would work, and it did. Never had any issue with it.

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  8. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

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    I have never received a positive response from a customer who purchased a stove and had it installed by someone else when I ask them:

    "Was the stove installed according to the manufacturers instructions?"

    Never. It is never suggested that it could be anything other than a faulty stove. As a technician I have no choice but to confirm FIRST that the stove is installed correctly. Next in line is fuel choice and then operator technique. Believe me, customers NEVER like this process. They will jump up and down with glee IF it turns out to be a defective stove, which, admittedly, happens. This is precisely why we prefer to do the installations and do not do an overwhelming amount of cash and carry sales. We will be held responsable regardless of who installs it, so, we prefer to do the install. We do not require it. But if you want me to service the unit I have to go through the "Was it installed correctly?" routine. I have no choice. The manufacturer will pretty much agree with my decision if I inspect the stove with due dilligence. They will disavow any responsibilty if the instructions were not followed.

    As I stated above, in my opinion it is best to service and install what you sell. But I don't fault retailers who choose to only sell the product. As a consumer, we need to know the difference between an installing retailer and just a retailer. Then, we need to compare the service offered to their competitiors, etc. If you are DIYer, the retailer expects you to do it yourself. If you don't want to do it yourself, find a competent installer and then make sure they follow the manufacturer's instructions. Your protection is the instructions. If a dealer won't side with you on this matter, move on.

    Sean
  9. camdids

    camdids Member

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    Loc:
    Very North and Very East Mass.
    Thanks all for your replies. I admit ,maybe, that I wasnt very clear with the specifics. The dealer sells and Installs. They asked me dimensions, and I gave them to them. It was just a gut feeling, from talking to the guy in the store, that they didnt care too much about getting my business. I do a lot of business over the phone,and can assure you that the Guy who wanted to rip out my half New existinf liner, had all the needed info.He was the third one I spoke too.
    But back to the stove Dealer. I had checked around( this Forum and other sites) and realised I needed a Smaller Liner. Although the Harman manual doesnt specify the dimensions of an existing Chimney to use the Stub in method which is shown in there manual.
    I have looked into doing the Lining myself,But the Chimney is around 33 feet high from the ground and the roof pitch is steep.(Gable End). Not that I'm afraid to get up there, but feel getting the right staging up there would be more than its worth. The amount of Chimney from the Fireplace is just about 25 feet. Its on the first floor of a 2 1/2 story house.
    The Fireplace is 35"W at the opening. 29" H. The sides angle in to the back. At a 16" depth the sides are 24"W.
    I looked at the dimensions on Quadrafires site for one of there inserts and think this is big enough. But I kinda got the feel that the Harman was a better stove.
    I have to say again that the replies I have been getting in this forum have taught me a lot more about this subject than any of my research AND the Dealer.
    Thanks again
    Camdids
  10. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy Minister of Fire

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    Harmons are good stoves, but not any better then quadrafire in my opinion. Both are very different in design, but by no means is quad a inferior product. Ones a top feed, ones a bottem feed, one uses a screw auger one uses a spring auger, one can burn more fuels one doenst jam, quality of craftsmen ship is equal IMO.
  11. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
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    Camdids,

    Better is in the eye of the beholder. Both brands make good stoves. As you are finding out, the most important thing is that you have a working relationship with a good dealer who will help you have a satisfactory experience with your stove.

    I cannot defend your local dealer. But I can tell you that sometimes even a good dealer screws up a potentially good relationship. Also, sometimes the personalities just aren't a good fit. I consider us to be one of the best dealers but we do not always respond in the way a customer wants.

    Just yesterday, a cash and carry customer had stopped by to ask about how to make their pipe fit into their stove collar. At that moment, I was the only technician in the sotre and I was deep into helping another customer figure out if the stove they wanted to purchase was going to fit their existing hearth. I was helping this customer while I was evesdropping on the other conversation the cash and carry customer was having with one of my CSR's (a very nice girl who is still learning). There were at least two other customers in the showroom, waiting for help. After the cash and carry customer did not get a satisfactory answer from my CSR they started loudly complaining that "they don't care, let's just leave" to his wife. I excused myself from the couple I was helping and in a strong tone informed him that I was the lone technician in the store at that moment and that if they would please be more patient I would be glad to help them in a few more minutes.

    The husband went out the door but the wife stayed around. When I was done, as promised I helped her understand that they were attempting to install the pipe upside down. I spent the time to show her how it works and she ended up buying a specialized piece of pipe for her thimble and they both left with renewed confidence that they could finish the hookup. The wife apologized for their behavior. The husband stood stoicly with no comment.

    Now, does this guy think he got good service? Shouldn't I have at least four technicians on staff, especially on Saturday? What's wrong with this store? And, how dare that guy speak in such a tone to me, a paying customer! In fact, I had two other technicians on staff that day. One was on lunch and the other was in the warehouse with another customer who wanted to pay us $800 for a used stove we had just refurbished. Not five seconds after these folks left the store was filled with three technicians. It just so happens that I was in a good mood that day. I might have been tempted to tell those folks to take a walk, or completely ignore them as I moved on to someone else. That guy was lucky, that day. Maybe we saved our relationship.

    That same day I got a call from a guy who was waiting for an estimate and got nasty and threatened my CSR over the phone that they would take us to small claims court. Now mind you, this guy has not paid us one red cent and we've made no proimises yet. So I called him back and told him to take his business elsewhere. I then sat down and documented our conversations and faxed him the letter. He called me back and apologized and asked that we keep going with our estimate.

    The lesson? Relationships are hard to groom. We're human. Stuff happens. Be patient. You may be surprised.

    Of course, sometimes its just best to cut your losses and move on - from both the customer's and the dealer's point of view. I got to tell you, I'm leaning toward telling that contractor who was threatening me that we're not interested. Maybe he's thinking the same about me.

    Sean
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