We operated a 52i last year without an OAK, and this year we have an OAK installed. The difference is night and day as far as burn quality (more active flame) and heat retention. We seem to be burning less pellets as well. The glass stays cleaner, longer. And the drafts are gone. Additionally, it used to take up to 10 minutes to ignite, sometimes longer... now it ignites in 5.
On ours, I took the OAK down through the cleanout and out through a side basement wall. Maybe you could do that too, OP. Not to sound like a broken record, but it's well worth the effort.
Interesting. Sorry for my lack of knowledge with fireplaces since this is basically our first home with one, but when you say clean out, are you referring to the ash catcher thing? In the basement below our fireplace, there are two small cast iron doors in the wall that you can open where I assume the ash collects or drops down from above. I've honestly never checked them inside, but I'm assuming they're there for a reason. You ran it down the chimney, out that door, and then out your basement that way?
Mind sharing with me your kit? This sounds like a pretty simple way to address this whole oak situation with my chimney. Did you just wing it, or did you follow along with a visual of some sort to ensure you did everything correctly?
To be honest, I'm kind of shocked it's this difficult to find a pellet stove dealer or company willing to install an oak around here. And as much as I'd like to do it myself, I don't trust myself with chimney stuff and I also want to be confident it's installed and operating properly. However, your way does sound like something that's pretty straightforward.
Thanks for the help!