Brand new to inserts and could use some guidance

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bcinmd

New Member
Jan 13, 2022
2
Ellicott City, MD
Hello Hearth.com! I am completely new to the wood and pellet stove space and could use some guidance.

Our first-floor family room has a builder installed Superior fireplace insert with a heatilator. We used the fireplace many times in the 20 years we've lived in the house but three years ago an inspection revealed a crack (or split seam?) in the metal flue, about 18" above the firebox. We were advised not to use it, and following that guidance, we haven't used it since then.

I am now considering replacing the fireplace with either a wood burning or perhaps a pellet burning insert. Our primary use case is the warmth and ambiance of the fire; second would be as a supplemental heat source during the winter cold spells we get here in central Maryland.

My home is a 33-year-old cedar-sided, 2700 sq' dwelling (roughly 1100 sq' 1st floor, 900 sq' 2nd, and a finished and insulated walkout basement of ~700 sq' finished space). Our house is all electric, so HVAC is a heat pump with auxiliary electric heating built into the air handler. (Our current system is 14 years old and I'm about to replace it with a new, higher SEER system.)

I've done some research into the pros and cons of wood vs pellet, and right now I think the only real advantage to pellet would be availability and cost of pellets vs finding good quality seasoned wood. My understanding is that a wood burner is much less complicated, doesn't require power (although our current fireplace is wired to power the heatilator).

A third option could be to just replace the existing fireplace insert with a new one. I got a quote for over $9000 for that option and was told it was that expensive since they would have to go through the outside of the house to remove the existing and install the new. That might be necessary no matter what direction I go.

My questions:

1. Am I on the right track with a wood burning insert given how we would use it? Or is there a compelling reason I should lean toward pellet?
2. I know nothing about brands / manufacturers - are there any I should stay away from? I assume there are the low level 'value' brands, mid-tier, and then high-end. I'm OK spending for quality, but don't need the highest end options.
3. What is a realistic budget range for a good mid-tier wood burning insert including installation?
3. What else should I be thinking about as I make this decision?

Thanks in advance for any feedback!
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
Is the one in there now an insert or a zero clearance fireplace (as I suspect).

If the latter, then you won't be able to put an insert in there. You'd have to go with a new zero clearance fireplace.

An insert is a wood stove that needs to be inserted into a real masonry fireplace.
 

bcinmd

New Member
Jan 13, 2022
2
Ellicott City, MD
Is the one in there now an insert or a zero clearance fireplace (as I suspect).

If the latter, then you won't be able to put an insert in there. You'd have to go with a new zero clearance fireplace.

An insert is a wood stove that needs to be inserted into a real masonry fireplace.

Well damn, I think it is a zero clearance fireplace. I guess that really limits my options.

Thanks for the response.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
It would be good to have the chimney inspected before installing (ordering...) anything. Not to see its state (you already know) but to get a quote for what's needed there.

The inspector will be able to tell you for sure (others here maybe too).