How can one tell when EPA Exempt / Decorative means poor efficiency vs. when the manufacturer just didn’t want to be bothered with the testing?I had my heart set on importing one of the many amazing wood-burning hydronic ZC fireplaces manufactured in Europe for integration into my gas hot water baseboard heating system. While my town’s very friendly and receptive building department deliberated for 15 months whether to allow a unit tested by European labs to European standards to be installed in the single family home I own, I constructed my foundation and three-story chase. Ultimately, the town had to say NO on the foreign units.
So now I’m choosing a wood-burning hot-air ZC fireplace. The house is 3100 SF, very well insulated. The criteria are:
Insulated chimney pipe only, no air-cooled chimneys. So all models from Travis Industries except for one are disqualified.
Vastly prefer when the installation manual specifies any UL-103HT chimney pipe, rather than needlessly restricting the installation to a subset of brands and models.
No catalyst. Why spend the money saved on reduced natural gas bills on a replacement catalyst every five or six years?
Outside combustion air inlet required. Obviously, using heated inside air for combustion makes no sense.
Top gravity-vent knock-outs for convection air output required. Why would one choose not to pull the hottest available convection air by using side outputs?
Prefer bricks over panels for firebox lining.
Would like secondary air injection and a well designed glass air-wash.
This is a retrofit through a 2x6 exterior wall so units with the flue collar as far back as possible from the face make installation much easier.
Prefer smaller chimney IDs over larger ones. Almost no one on the American market seems to include dampers on the flue collar any more and retrofitting one is probably not permitted. So the hole to the outside that lets cold air in when the fireplace is not in use might as well be as small as possible. Considering the area is a square function of the ID, this is more pronounced than it may appear at first glance.
When one pours this rant into the current American ZC market, out comes the Pacific Energy FP30 Arch LE and the Kozy Heat Z42 . ……but here’s the rub. I built a monster of a chase. The dimensions inside the 5/8 type-X sheetrock are 66” wide by 39” deep. So to select such a puny glass viewing area of the above two models after killing myself building a chase that can fit almost anything on the market seems like a dumb waste.
That FINALLY brings me to my point. The Wilkening GranView, the Stuv 21-105 SF, the Stuv 21-125 SF and the Spartherm Varia M-100h all offer the large viewing areas my wife and I would vastly prefer, never mind improved home resale value, but they are all rated Exempt / Decorative. Other than comparing the ridiculous mish-mash of apples-to-oranges BTU ratings, is there any way to tell whether each of these Exempt / Decorative units will put out the BTUs and the manufacturer just didn’t want to be bothered with the testing or whether the unit is just another pretty builder box that sends all the heat up the chimney ???
Thank you in advance for any and all input.