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Wood stove recommendations

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Mortimer452, Jan 11, 2010.

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  1. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Kansas
    Hello all, been lurking here for awhile and decided to post today with my first project.

    The propane bills are killing me. Just filled up for the SECOND time this winter, he left with a $1,700 check . . . price has gone from $1.39/gal to $2.19/gal since November. I'll have this tank burned through by end of February.

    First a little background. House is approx 4,800sqft, built in 1890 but has been added onto several times. There is a single 70,000BTU propane furnace to heat the entire place. Obviously that is grossly undersized for this much square footage. It pretty much runs 24/7 when it gets really cold out. The rear 1/2 of the house downstairs has pretty good pressure in the vents and it stays pretty warm. Front 1/2 of the house has almost no vent pressure, heat just barely seeps out and it's pretty chilly in there, maybe 15* cooler than the rest of the house.

    We have a steel fireplace insert, pictures are attached. Unfortunately it doesn't do a very good job of heating the place. Honestly I think sometimes it makes the place colder due to the negative draft.

    Wanting to replace this with a wood stove insert, something that can put out some serious BTU's and actually provide some decent heating capacity. I've called around a bit, and have been told by some that the existing fireplace can NOT be removed, and whatever insert I buy has to fit inside the existing fireplace. Others claim they can remove the old one entirely, and replace with a more efficient model. Prices have ranged from $3,500 to $5,000. The prices don't scare me much . . . I'm already paying $6,000 per year in propane, if I can reduce that by even 1/3 I'll have the new stove paid for in just a few winters.

    Looking here for suggestions & advice. Pictures below. I appreciate any input and I'm open to any suggestions. Most local dealers I have spoken to (brands include Jotul, Buckstove, Lennox) have offered, based on my measurements, inserts rated at around 1,500sqft, that can fit inside the existing insert. I really want something with more heat output than that, minimum 2,000sqft rating, or more if possible. Something in the 50,000btu/hr range. Keep in mind no one has been on-site yet to check things out, all my dealings with local dealers has just been over the phone. I'm sure some opinions will change once they see my setup.

    Corn/pellet stoves are out for me. I'm really only interested in woodburning units. I have a crapload of cord wood laying around right now, and plenty more to cut & split. We live in a rural area and have tons of access to free firewood, just takes a little elbow grease . . .

    Here's the fireplace from the front. Doors measure 35" across, plus another 9" on each side for the blower vents. Insert is 23" high, 18" deep to the heat exchanger, if that could be removed you could get another 3" in depth. Entire wall this is installed in is done in flagstone (field stones)
    [​IMG]

    Here's the inside of the firebox. Yes I know it's filthy we haven't had it swept in over a year. When we moved in, the rear wall was an accordion-style piece of metal, acted as the heat exchanger for the blower. It was rusted and full of holes, and blew smoke & ash into the room like crazy when we turned it on. I had a few people come out & take a look, none of them recognized the brand of fireplace or blower. One offered to fix it buy screwing on a piece of stainless steel and sealing up the edges with some high-temp putty. It works OK but the fans are weak and don't blow much air. Plus, with the additional piece of steel covering the exchanger it takes a heckuva fire to get it to put out much heat.

    There is a pipe coming in from the right side, under the fire grate, running along the entire width of the firebox. I assume it is a propane lighter. There's a key on the wall to the right of the fireplace to turn it on. Doesn't work. Pretty sure the piping that used to fuel this is long gone.
    [​IMG]

    Here's a pic up top towards the flu opening.
    [​IMG]

    Another pic of the flu itself. Steel going up the chimney is 8" diameter.
    [​IMG]

    Here's another pic angled up towards the side. Hard to see due to the lighting but the walls on either side have kindof a lip on the top, with another 2 1/2" or so clearance to the part that angles up towards the flu. These are the ducts attached to the blowers on either side.
    [​IMG]

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  2. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    If I was forking out $850 every month (that's more than my mortgage) then cost would not be an issue when it came to the purchase and installation of a wood stove. And if I was trying to heat 4800SF I'd say stoves, as in two, maybe three. Even if it cost $10,000 to purchase and instal several stoves they'd pay for themselves in 2 years.



    There's lots of good stoves out there. I'm a PE guy. They are simple to use, offer an outstanding warrantee, and cost quite a bit less than most trendy brands.

    In terms of heat output, efficiency, and build quality it's hard to find a bad stove these days and I'd say anything beats an $1700 propane bill.

    Also, I have no expertise in the matter whatsoever but I vote for cutting that HOS out of there.
  3. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I'd pass on the idea of an insert into the existing fireplace. Rip it out and start over with a zero clearance and/or close it up and go with freestanding stoves. For 4500 sq ft you will want more than a 50,000 BTU unit. My RSF with a 3.1 cu ft box is rated to 50,000 BTU and at -40 it struggles to keep my modern well insulated 2200 sq ft home much above 72.

    You cannot expect to run a wood stove at max BTU all the time. They are cyclical beasts so if you expect it to keep you warm you need to upsize. I'm thinking that a total of 150,000 BTU would do it, so that is two or three stoves.
  4. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

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    Kansas
    HAHA!!! How I would love to have my house at 72 . . . heck at 15*F right now I have a hard time keeping above 68. I definitely don't expect any single stove to heat the whole place, only looking to supplement my existing furnace.

    More than one stove is probably in my future. The floorplan of this house, however, doesn't lend itself very well to heat distribution. The original part of the house is where I plan to put this one, it has three large rooms downstairs with large doorways between them, and a large staircase leading upstairs to the bedrooms. I think heat should flow well from the "stove room" through that part of the house.

    The rest of the downstairs is a hodge-podge of small rooms added-on over the years. Multiple levels (some are on concrete slab, some raised with crawlspace) and small doorways leading between them. I may add additional stove(s) in these areas later. The original part of the house is coldest right now, a bit drafty but I have done some work there to seal up air leaks. Mostly it's the poor vent pressure in that part that makes it so cold.

    I got the wife talked into this one based on the hope that we'll be able to reduce the propane bill by something significant. Plus making the house more comfortable. When we woke up Christmas morning it was 55* in the house. Outside temp was around 20*F and the wind was blowing fierce. Opening presents with the kids downstairs was frigid. I think that made us both realize we really needed something to supplement the furnace in this house.
  5. Valhalla

    Valhalla Minister of Fire

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    Welcome!

    I would put something in that is a lot more efficient!

    Depends if you want the responsibility of planning and properly processing wood fuel 12 months a year. It seems as you have a woodlot supply.
    Consider all options.
  6. Dakotas Dad

    Dakotas Dad Minister of Fire

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    anything you do should help reduce the propane costs you are dealing with. At $850 a month, even if you spent 10k on a couple stoves installed, it will pay back in literally less then 2.5 winters if you can scrounge your wood. and after that, it's all free. I think from the looks of it you may find going with free standing stoves would be best, and cheapest, and with that kind of square footage, you should have the room. My brother switched over to pure wood heat a few years ago, he has not turned on his furnace in three years, scrounges all his wood, stove paid for itself last year. they keep their house around 80, and it's 3,000 sqft ranch, just a little south of you.

    and don't forget the TAX advantages if you do it in 2010.
  7. fredarm

    fredarm Minister of Fire

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    What about an add-on wood furnace?
  8. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

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    Kansas
    Have considered that -- but I think the install cost would be too high. The ductwork is really, really cobbled up, would require some serious re-working to add a second forced air unit of any type. Plus they're ugly and I'd have to find a place to put it (no basement, crawlspace only).
  9. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    How about an outdoor wood burner? Pipe the hot water to the various areas that need the heat.
  10. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Mortimer,

    I live in a stone farmhouse built in 1741. Definitely NOT a tight house (though, it is getting better over the past 4 winters filled with caulking, insulation, more caulking, spay in expansion foam insulation, even more caulking...).

    Old homes usually do not have an open layout (mine sure as hell doesn't) and it will require more than one stove (most likely three, if possible) due to the layout of the home. Also, if you have a lot of stone (walls, etc.), like I do, they have a tendency to hold onto the cold and it takes quite a lot of time to warm up the walls.

    Post a diagram of your layout.

    My layout is only 2,200 sq ft but will require 3 stoves to get whole house heating.
  11. Danno77

    Danno77 Minister of Fire

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    4,875
    Loc:
    Hamilton, IL
    Welcome to the forum. If you haven't, then you must visit http://www.oldhouseweb.com/forums where you will find a wealth of information about old houses.

    I don't have a lot of advice for you except to say that i understand your dilema (although yours is greater than mine) My solution to the underpowered NG furnace and fireplace was this:

    Add electrical heat to various places in order to "supplement" other heating methods.
    Add a freestanding stove to the fireplace and close off furnace ductwork to that portion of the house (really only amounted to one big room and two smaller rooms)

    With a house that big I think you'll find it hard to get the heat to travel from only stoves and inserts, but you might have a chance if you just use the stove/insert to heat part of the house and then close off vents and registers to that part of the house and let the furnace do the rest.

    When you have a firm grasp on how the thing is gonna heat after one wood stove THEN next season have a second ready to go if needed. I know people have done this in the past, but i just can't see myself trying to keep 3 woodstoves going at once. seems like a lot of work (for the wood and for the actual stove use).

    again, please visit that other forum and read whatever you can on tightening up an old house, INCLUDING how to make OLD windows energy efficient without throwing them in the dump for vinyls....

    Good luck!!!!!
  12. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

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    Wow and I thought my place was old! :) Plenty of air infiltration here as well, I'm fighting them all the time. Most of the windows upstairs are the original single-pane counterweighted windows. Definitely on my list to replace this summer, as well as maybe blowing some more insulation up in the attic.

    It would probably take me the better part of 2 days to draw up an accurate floorplan myself . . . I'm tellin' ya, it's downright wacky. Two floors, three separate staircases going up to the 2nd floor, weird little nooks & hallways everywhere. But as I said the original part of the house I think will work OK, just three large rooms with large entryways between them, including large open staircase leading upstairs, I assume the heat will tend to rise and get up to the bedrooms from there fairly well. This area probably represents half of my square footage, and is also the coldest part of the house.

    I'm pretty sure this house was originally heated with just a single cast iron stove in the downstairs area, close to where I'll be replacing the insert. The original brick chimney is still there, but it has been sheetrocked over, leaving large "dead space" in the center of the house downstairs. It's a rather large area, maybe 4ft x 3ft, just a giant pillar in the center of the house. There could be a small masonry fireplace in there, or it could be solid brick and just has a stovepipe sticking out one side to hook in to a cast iron stove. Unfortunately at some point a previous owner decided that original brick chimney was no longer of any use and decided to knock off the top 3ft or so, and closed up the roof over it.

    I've considered tearing down the sheetrock around the old brick chimney, maybe could extend it back up through the roof, then I could keep my fireplace for "ambiance" and just add a freestanding stove for heat. But there's alot of variables at play there and I'm not real crazy about tearing down all that sheetrock just to find out it's not usable. For all I know it's falling apart behind that sheetrock. I'm sure it is masonry all the way up to the top, so I would have to add a liner, and I'm not sure if the inside diameter is large enough for a 6" pipe to fit through.

    I'm also pretty sure there's an old steel grate underneath the carpet in the floor upstairs right above that area, I could always tear into the ceiling downstairs to re-open that grate to help the heat get upstairs. Fortunately there is also a LARGE return air vent in the same room as the fireplace (maybe that was done on purpose?) so I could just turn the furnace on "fan only" and that will hopefully help move the heat around.

    As for the rest of the house I'll cross that bridge later. It's been a long process rennovating/fixing up this place and I have to take baby steps :)
  13. kscowboy

    kscowboy New Member

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    Loc:
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    I too live in an old farm house as far as we can tell at least 125 years old has two staircases and at one time from what we can see 3 chimenys we are at 3000 sqare feet two level not including the basment in square footage last week outside temps huvered around the low single to neg with out kansas wind with wind average about -15 to -25 could not get the house above 60 with the pellet stove and electric furnace cranked up with out the pellet stove would not go above 50 we will be installin a add on wood furnace with all the research done here it seem be the best option would you do some searching on this site about them you will see the benifits as i have good luck
  14. Leonard

    Leonard Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2009
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    Loc:
    Central Maine
    Not sure about your insulation condition of your home but your propane bills are OUTRAGEOUS!! I am heating 2600sq ft of living space and using gas to cook with and dry my clothes, heat water, we have yet to burn $ 1000.00 in propane a@ $ 2.69 a gallon since August. I setup my house with a condensing boiler that is 96% efficient and we have a Majestic I300 insert that we have been burning. I would look into a more efficient heating system then a wood boiler and after that a good insert and or stove.
  15. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

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    Loc:
    Kansas
    Yeah the furnace is definitely a big propane hog. During the summer, using propane just for hot water, cooking & drying clothes, 150 gallons will last all summer long. By my best guestimation, based on my propane furnace size & efficiency rating, BTU capacity of 1gal propane, I'm burning through about a gallon an hour, maybe a bit less, while the furnace is running.

    I have a gentleman coming out tomorrow afternoon to actually check out my existing setup & give me some recommendations. Sounded pretty knowledgeable on the phone. Will keep you all posted with what he says.
  16. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    A centrally located space heater gives you a big bang for your effort and buck. A big free standing stove is the way to pump some heat into that house while you are tightening it up. The boiler concept is probably next. Tie it to a water to air exchanger in your existing forced air system to start, then add cast iron radiators in the other parts of the house. Managing more than one fire might turn into a full time job. Best of luck with your project.
  17. moosetrek

    moosetrek New Member

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    I feel your pain, though not on the same scale. Last week at this time I was cussing about how we had a mere 5 below last week and our stove, rated to heat 3000 square feet, couldn't keep the 500 sqaure foot room it's in above 65 degrees. I'd suggest you maybe stick a huge stove (Blaze King, Hearthstone Equinox, Englander 30, etc.) into a the largest common area you have. That way you have one nice, warm "pocket" of the home that you can enjoy, it makes the rest more bearable. A nice feeling to be able to crank the heat up so hight you have to open a window - at least in that part of the home - and it doesn't cost you anything else except a couple more logs. If you're thinking about using two stoves, look at a radiant cat stove like the Blaze King King or a long-burning huge stove like the Hearthston Equinox. The equinox with the soapstone might go better in an area with multiple smaller rooms as the heat is more even and not so intense, but long-lasting. I would expect keeping two stoves with long burn times going is a lot easier than two with short burn times. Two blaze King King models, plus two Class A chimneys, would come in well under $10K installed, and will put out about maybe 75% of the heat you require (?), allowing the furnace to handle the rest at a more efficient rate. I would avoid a convection stove, a radiant stove will provide its heat directly to the objects in the room, and I think attempting to use convection to heat it until you solve the heat loss problem will leave you feeling colder.

    However, that only gets at the heat generation. You still have the issue of your heating requirements - you need to reduce your heat demand to somthing your system (stoves, furnances, etc.) can meet. In your case, the difference is so dramatic you'll need to both increase heat generation and reduce heat loss. The stoves will increast the BTUs put into youtr home but you need to mitigate the heat loss at the same time as adding the stove (or it won't matter what you do, you'll still be wasting btus into the air, windows, etc.) Reducing two huge heat sinks (attic and windows) will help a great amount, if you haven't already done it. First, consider spending about $500 for blowing some insulation into the attic if that's feasible. At about $10 a bag, 50 bags will give you a great start on keeping some of the heat in since most heat is lost vertically (as it rises...). Maybe about 3-5 hours of work including setup and cleanup. Another huge amount is lost to windows, in your case single pane ones. A cheap (well, cheaper than the propane bill) option is good thermal drapes and shrink-to-fit plastic on many of the windows. After another 8" of insulation over what I thought was adequate (I was wrong), and $99 on drapes later ($11 ea @ Walmart), we're waiting for a cold snap to try again but I can feel an enormous difference already. Walls are not likely to be the biggest bang for your buck for insulation. If it's an older home, the walls are likely plaster and lath, which actually has better insulation values that you'd expect for an uninsulated wall. Assuming good overhead insulation, and solid walls, your heat loss should drop dramatically. Then close off (actually block at the source closest to the furnace) all unneeded vents. A couple stand fans, and ceiling fans, and I think you'll be a lot more comfortable in your rambling mansion. Good luck and warm wishes-
  18. fredarm

    fredarm Minister of Fire

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  19. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

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    I'm definitely open to suggestions -- I guess I don't really understand what the difference is between a "stove insert" and a "fireplace insert." I know stove inserts produce far more heat with much less wood than a "traditional" steel insert, but I guess there are EPA-certified fireplace inserts that are equally efficient?
  20. FLINT

    FLINT Feeling the Heat

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    yeah, i bet that big old house is a bear to heat.
  21. Mortimer452

    Mortimer452 Member

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    The next time I move it'll be to the grave . . . LOL

    The wife and I are both kindof suckers for old houses. Love all the beautiful woodwork & architecture, this place is no exception. We've come to terms with the fact that when you live in a place that's 100+ yrs old there's something needing fixing pretty much all the time. It's a "labor of love"

    We do have a family here, wife & I plus three kids. We really do love the place, not too far outside of town, we have some acreage so we raise chickens & grow a huge vegetable garden every year. Enough square footage for the kids to each have their own bedrooms & baths. Gotta love real estate prices here in the midwest.

    What you have is exactly what I'm looking for -- I want the darn thing to chase me out of the room it's so hot!
  22. Redburn

    Redburn Member

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    I am heating a 4500sqft 104yr old stone Tuder Victorian home with large overhanging sofits that keep it cool in the summer and the sun out in the winter and in the spring its colder inside than outside. We have oil heat and it was $$$$$ to run the furnace just keep running the stove keeps half the house very warn and throws just enough heat in the other half to make it comfy, BUTT!! when its real cold like its been comfy goes to to cold so we have allot of blankets on hand . My stove is in the den vented with a class A chimney we have to fireplaces in the formal rms but don't want to incert them because of the fear of the water pipes breaking in the house the hot water system is a large . We are paying half of what we used to and are warm and everyone who comes over love's gathering by the stove. I have come to the conclusion that this is just how it is living in a antique home there beautiful but there's a flip side to the coin thats if I'm not cutting wood I am doing some other kind of upkeep 12 months a year it jut doesn't stop.
  23. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    You HAVE to love old homes to own one as it will become your hobby. If you are the type that looks forward to the weekends so you can sit on the couch, go to the bar and watch the game, or whatever, than an old house isn't for you.

    Back to the stoves, if your old house is anything like my old house and it lacks an open floor plan, then multiple stoves are in your future. If you get a Blaze King it will definitely warm you up, but do not think the heat will get to all areas of the house. I can get the Vigilant to raise the temps in the room that it is in to over 90 degrees when I run the stove hard. But that heat will only extend out so far due to my layout.
  24. nelraq

    nelraq Member

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    If your ductwork is in decent shape, then IMHO, an outdoor wood boiler is your answer. Properly sized, it will heat your house and your domestic hot water.
    Disadvantage: no inside fire to view!
    I heated with an outdoor boiler for 9 years. It worked flawlessly; and it had an automatic backup oil burner. When I retired, I decided to install a wood burner in the house - as I now have more time to sit and watch the flames!!
    One additional comment --I use at least 1/2 again as much wood for the indoor stove as I did for the outdoor boiler - and the boiler heated my hot water as well!!

    Something to seriously consider for sure!
  25. dougand3

    dougand3 Minister of Fire

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    I initially thought...just rip ALL that hearth and fireplace out...then build a hearth for a big freestander like the NC-30 and drop in a chimney liner. But after looking at the Fireplace Xtrordinair - that would be less work if you can get the clearances to work. It looks and reads like a dandy unit. May be real expensive, tho. I'm cheap - bet the price would make me take a sledge to the hearth and re-build. And when you decommission the fireplace - doubt you'll miss the "heat" while you upgrade.
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