Advice needed for new construction ZC fireplaces

treeguy27

New Member
Feb 17, 2020
3
Missouri
Hello, new member looking for advice. There seems to be a wealth of knowledge here and I'm hoping I can gather some information and learn from your experience. I'll apologize up front if these new member posts and questions are common and annoying.

My wife and I are building a new home, the first new construction home for us. It will be on 10 wooded acres in Missouri. We both have always wanted a fireplace in any new home we build. The budget wont allow for a masonry fireplace and chimney, and we would prefer a fireplace over a free standing stove. So we are interested in a zero clearance wood burning insert. To us it seems like the best compromise as we can burn wood for supplemental heat and my wife will get the design benefits of the faux stone fireplace and wood mantle she has always wanted. The fireplace won't be a full time heat source. It would mostly be used for supplemental heat during exceptionally cold spells or for ambiance whenever entertaining or just when a fire seems like a good idea. I probably wouldn't burn more than a cord or two per year. So the fireplace doesn't have to be super efficient and convenient for daily use, but at the same time I don't want to through the expense and hassle of designing and installing a fireplace for it to be only decorative and put out virtually no heat.

So I would be grateful for any thoughts and opinions you may have. Does a zero clearance wood burner sound like it would meet our requirements?
I'd love any recommendations on brands and models of inserts to look at. I've done some looking around but I keep getting lost down a rabbit hole and don't really end up anywhere.
Are some brands way better than others?
Brands to avoid?
Features to look for or avoid?
How convenient is the ash removal on these fireplaces?
Are the forced air systems significantly better or just something to fail later? Some of the ones I've looked at in the 36" range seem like what we'd be interested in, but the firebox seems pretty small? My wood burning experience was with barrel stoves that can hold a lot of wood.

We are currently working with an architect to design the house and are at a point we need to have some more detail about the fireplace size and framing specs. The idea is to build the fireplace and chase on the outside wall on the end of the house. Is that acceptable for the zero clearance inserts?

Obviously I'm pretty uninformed on these style of fireplaces so any info or advise you'd be willing to share would be greatly appreciated.
 

jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
4,720
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
If you wanted supplemental heat and plan to burn 2 cords a year, you really dodged a bullet when you decided an open fireplace wasn't in your budget.

The best place is usually going to be in a big open room in the middle of the house. During a power outage, a stove at one end of a house may struggle to heat the far end. Likewise, if the stove faces a big open area that leads upstairs, upstairs gets a lot of heat. If it is in a room with narrow doorways a couple rooms away from the stairway, upstairs gets very little heat. Since you are designing the house, put some thought into making it space-heater friendly. Large openings in the stove room, adjacency to stairways, and central location are all desirable from a heat distribution point of view.

If it was me shopping, I'd be looking for a big firebox, good turn-down ability, high efficiency, and good reviews from actual owners. Big firebox + good turn-down = long burn times. (Then again, if it was me shopping, I'd also be looking for a freestanding wood stove. ;lol)

I don't know much about ZCs, but plenty of folks here do.
 

Jdbs

New Member
Dec 24, 2019
3
Manitoba, Canada
We just built a new house and went through the same process as you are now. We didn’t think we would use the fireplace as our main source of heat but once you start burning it’s hard to go without that flame flickering and the coziness of wood heat. Our criteria was good quality, could heat the entire house if needed, didn’t increase insurance rates, and needed to give the ambiance we wanted while keeping the glass clean (I hate a smoked up glass.) Our house is just shy of 3000 square feet not including the 1800 square foot basement. We put the fireplace in the dining room as that’s where most of our entertaining goes on. We installed the Pacific Energy Fp30. It seems to be the perfect fit for us. Great fire show and puts out heat when needed. Not the longest burn but usually enough coals in the morning to restart. Our house is extremely well insulated and a week or so back it was -38c here, -49c with windchill and this fireplace kept the house comfortable without the furnace kicking in and that was using white poplar wood. For warmer days the heat dump works great to transfer some of the heat to the basement. I’ve attached a pic of our install. It’s quickly become the one thing we are most impressed with and wouldn’t go without in the house. Hope this helps.
 

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treeguy27

New Member
Feb 17, 2020
3
Missouri
Thanks for the info.

Jdbs, that is a great looking setup. Much more elaborate than ours will be.

In just the last couple of days we have come to the realization that our TV will likely need to go above fireplace. This is not what I wanted and had not planned for. We intended to have the TV on one wall and the fireplace on an adjacent wall. After doing some furniture layouts we've come to realize it just isn't going to work with the space available. So now I find myself looking at minimum mantel heights on most of the fireplaces to see if I can keep my TV from being too high for comfortable viewing. Does anyone here have a setup similar that can offer any advice or experiences?

One of the lowest minimum mantel heights I have found is on the Superior WRT4820. Does anyone have any thoughts on this model? Durability? Fan noise? It doesn't seem to be the most efficient (63%)

I'd be interested in any other models that can sit low to the ground and have lower mantel heights.
 

treeguy27

New Member
Feb 17, 2020
3
Missouri
Well, we've figured out a work around so that the TV doesn't need to go above the mantel. Now I can focus on a fireplace that fits my needs instead of one that fits under my TV/mantel. I'm leaning toward the Pacific Energy FP25 Arch. I think the FP30 may be a little more than I need. I'm not looking to use the fireplace as a main heating source, mostly just during colder spells to help out on heating costs. The fireplace will be situated toward the end of an 18x34 open room. The seating area will be fairly close to the fireplace, some furniture as close as 6- 8 feet. I'm wondering if we will be roasting ourselves while sitting that close? Can the FP25 be run safely without the blowers operating and let the heat just radiate from the unit? Can it be run at lower temps without creating issues or does it need to run hot to burn clean? How loud are the blowers? Part of the intended use of the unit will be for emergency heat in the event of power failure so safe operation without power will be important as well.

Those FP30 installs above look great. I appreciate any info you guys can provide on the Pacific Energy units.
 

Jdbs

New Member
Dec 24, 2019
3
Manitoba, Canada
Well, we've figured out a work around so that the TV doesn't need to go above the mantel. Now I can focus on a fireplace that fits my needs instead of one that fits under my TV/mantel. I'm leaning toward the Pacific Energy FP25 Arch. I think the FP30 may be a little more than I need. I'm not looking to use the fireplace as a main heating source, mostly just during colder spells to help out on heating costs. The fireplace will be situated toward the end of an 18x34 open room. The seating area will be fairly close to the fireplace, some furniture as close as 6- 8 feet. I'm wondering if we will be roasting ourselves while sitting that close? Can the FP25 be run safely without the blowers operating and let the heat just radiate from the unit? Can it be run at lower temps without creating issues or does it need to run hot to burn clean? How loud are the blowers? Part of the intended use of the unit will be for emergency heat in the event of power failure so safe operation without power will be important as well.

Those FP30 installs above look great. I appreciate any info you guys can provide on the Pacific Energy units.
I can’t speak to the fp25 but I assume it is similar to the Fp30, just with a smaller firebox. It’s funny, we had the same concern about the dining room area getting to hot with the closest chair being about 6 feet from the fire. Our dining room is about 15’ x 20’ with 9’ ceilings. We also have a ceiling fan/light in the room but don’t really use it much. The room is the warmest in the house but we haven’t found it too hot for comfort. I would say if your within 4’ of the fireplace you will be quite warm but the natural convection (cool air coming along the floor to the stove) from back rooms is quite evident. In fact, in our house, if your laying on the floor about 5’ in front of the fireplace, the side of you facing the fireplace is quite warm while the side of you facing away is constantly being cooled by the cool air convecting towards the fireplace. At floor level the air is moving quite quickly. In general the room is quite comfortable. We also turn on the fan assisted heat dump to move heat to the basement and turn the fireplace fan off if we’re getting to warm. As far as fan noise, I would definitely install a fan speed control so you can adjust both heat output and noise. I wouldn’t say they’re real loud but I do think it would be annoying while watching tv or during get togethers if being ran on high. Probably similar to or a little loader than a portable house fan. Again we’ve shut our fan off and turned on the heat dump fan when we have company. Turn it back on high when it’s just me and the wife. Lol!! As far as it running hot on a full load if the power goes out, ours will warm up the stonework above the fireplace more if the fan isn’t running. That would be a question best answered by Pacific Energy. A standard load for us using poplar (I don’t have the luxury of oak, ash or similar yet) will run between 400 and 600f depending on what part of the burn. I personally don’t think you would run much under 400 degrees anyway.
One negative. If it’s not burning there is a slight cold air draft that comes in at the bottom of the fireplace through the outside air kit. For us it’s simple to stop by plugging the oak when not in use.
We’ve only had the fireplace operating for a few months so I’m definitely not an expert but you have a lot of the same questions we had before purchase so thought this input may be helpful to you. Good luck and let us know what you decide on.
 

fordtrucknut

Member
Nov 24, 2015
25
missouri
Another FP30 from Missouri owner here, with a little help it heats my 2500sqft ranch style like a charm,
I WOULD NOT recommend running the FP30 or FP25 without the fans going, I had switch go out on mine and the fans didnt kick on and it got so hot, we brought in a metal trash can and were throwing the logs and coals in it to get them out of the stove.