Insert advice requested

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Tinkerer

New Member
Sep 13, 2022
3
South Carolina
Hi,

New to the forum here. I'm looking to install a wood burning insert into a masonry fireplace. I am attempting to select a winner from the inserts listed below and looking for input from anyone, particularly those with experience with any or all of these. I have reviewed some of the previous posts regarding most of these and I'm hoping for even more detailed and opinionated responses. I'm currently not considering any catalytic models based on unit price, operational learning curves/difficulties, and what seems to be a minimal gain in efficiency over that of modern non-catalytic stoves. My house is around 1300-1400 sq. ft, brick veneered with decent insulation/windows. Are there any pros/cons to using wood stove inserts going well over my square footage range?
I plan to use a pre-insulated liner and like many here will have to cut and curse the damper in the chimney. I'm going to use one of the run of the mill flue top caps to attach the liner to a 13x13 terra cotta section. These things look sorta chintzy and I was also hoping to see any examples of what others here have done to make this a little more attractive. Anyway thanks for reading this far. The stoves I'm looking hard at are below. Also if anyone would like to recommend a stove similar to these I'm all ears. Cheers!

1. Osburn Matrix OB02028
2. Osburn Matrix 2700-I
3. Osburn 3500-I
4. Ventis HEI350
5. Drolet Escape 1800I
6. Napoleon S25I
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
3,548
SE North Carolina
As a fellow southern wood burner welcome to the “it just doesn’t get that cold here club”. I can heat 2000 sq ft of a 1968 ranch with new windows and many walls removed with 1.6 cu ft stove. If it drops below 25 at night and it doesn’t warm up much during the day it struggles (bedrooms at 65 or below). So I added a Drolet 1800i to my 1000 sq ft basement. It didn’t burn much last winter, may 20-25 loads.

Don’t go smaller than 2.0 cu ft. It’s just not practical if you want to heat 24/7. (I did the first 3 winters) as the burn time is just too short. Now if it’s over 45 my heatpump is running.

I see no reason to bigger than 2.4 cu ft Unless you want/like a sauna unless your fireplace is in a large room that opens to the rest if the space.

Drolet and Osborn are part of the same parent company SBI. So some of the Osborn models are the exact same firebox as the Drolet just dressed up a bit nicer.

I like my 1800i. I think the best value out there. I got the trio kit and wrapped the liner my self. It’s connected to 24’ of insulated liner in an interior chimney. Only complaint is the burn rate adjustment pull rod. Ehh it’s does the job it’s just not satisfying to use. It’s not a looker. I didn’t bother to install the surround yet.

I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a Drolet or Osborn product.

Do you have dry firewood? These new stoves need dry wood. Get a moisture meter. I like my Auber AT thermometer alarm. Don’t be afraid to burn pine. It dries fast I can get a load in February or March and split and stack it an burn in November. Oak my take 2 years still haven’t tried my stash I might get to it this year. Pine burns hot and fast with not much coaling so if I want to pump out max heat fast I burn pine. It won’t last overnight. I can burn almost to full cords of pines a year to heat 24/7. Probably a bit more than a cords last winter more heatpump less cold. Think seriously about building a woodshed. Wish I had one every time it rains and I won’t if the tarp is leaking (it is I’m just ignoring it).

Last piece, I won’t ever break even on my 8k$ Of wood stoves plus axes gadgets ect. Even getting my wood for free. But I would still do it again. The house is warmer and I keep telling myself that every day the heatpump doesn’t run in the winter it’s another day it will run in the summer. I figured I’ve extended its life by at least 3 years now.

Check Costco for the the Drolet 1600i. I think that would be a good size.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,392
South Puget Sound, WA
That is a broad range of options. Will all of these inserts fit the fireplace?
Drolet, Osburn, & Ventis are all SBI brands and often have the same fireboxes with upgraded details on the Osburns. Based on the location and house size I think the Osburn 3500/Ventis 1350 are too big for the space unless the home heat loss is high.
 

Tinkerer

New Member
Sep 13, 2022
3
South Carolina
Dear Minister of Fire,

I love that moniker BTW.

Yeah I like cold weather just not Vermont or Montana cold weather. I get just enough here in good ole South Carolina. I lived in a small singlewide for many years and heated with an Englander 13-NC that was good enough for an old poorly insulated trailer. I did have window condensation troubles but other than that I survived.

I’ve been using an old Silent Flame 1661 in my current house. Incorrectly I might add with exhaust going straight up the chimney. Chalk that up to ignorance and stupidity which I will fight until the bitter end. I am now trying to correct this by installing something properly and hopefully add some higher efficiency and less strain on an aging and aching back. This 1661 unit is a bit of an anomaly or at least to me. It has an add on Catalyst unit made by some outfit called Nu-Tec. It would take a round 5.6” x 1.5” combustor that I never was able to locate. I have suspicions that it is undersized and probably would cause more problems than benefit so I neglected to pursue making it functional.

My concern with a larger firebox volume and subsequent heating area range was such that I’d have to operate smaller fires to keep from driving me out of the house and possibly not running the unit to its designed efficiency specs. Also a larger unit will allow me an easier connection to the chimney liner which is another obstacle that I’m doing much homework currently to overcome.

I’m leaning toward the Drolet and Osburn models presently and apples to apples I really can’t see much reason to go with the comparable but more pricy Osburn. The specs to me seem identical. I suppose the difference is probably in the aesthetic which I can easily ignore. The Napoleon model however boasts an impressive low fire burn time of 16 hours. I doubt my stove twerking skills could accomplish that but still that number is almost double what most other comparable size non-catalytic stove makers state.

I agree that the Drolet 1800I seems to be the best value presently. It’s roughly half the cost of the other units I’m considering which definitely gives it an attractive edge. I’m still however haunted by the old timer’s adage that “If its too good to be true it probably is”. I’ve seen some pretty positive remarks about this unit though which is definitely luring me to get in the boat with Team Drolet.

I have several cords of dry mixed stuff. White/Red oak, poplar, red elm, sweet gum. I have to say I’m most fond of White/Red Oak and Hickory. Poplar is easy to split and light but burns fast. Red Elm seems to burn longer but is a major nightmare to split. Sweet gum pretty much sucks all the way around. I built a 10 x 25 enclosed wood shed that I keep my wood in. It works great other than getting the wood in, out and stacked which like sweet gum, sucks but I have dry wood. I’ve heard a few folks say the same thing about pine. I’ve been leery of it for while now because a friend of mine burned it often, maybe not completely seasoned and had a volcano coming out of his chimney one day. I figure its probably not as bad as some say. Like my good old country neighbor down the road is fond of saying, F@#* a chimney.

Absolutely keep the hours off the heat pump. I managed to get 20 years out of a Coleman gas pack unit by burning wood. Starts on the compressor is one of the biggest contributors to wear and break down. I’m going on a tangent but I had some summer woes a while back where my AC was cycling WAY too many times an hour, possibly due to a slightly oversized unit. I learned that a lot of thermostats only allow for a 1 degree measured temperature change before starting the unit to bring the inside temperature to setpoint. I wound up downgrading to a Roberstshaw thermostat that allows me to set the swing up to 3 degrees. This allows for longer run times between cycles. I’m thinking this was a good modification. Time will tell.

Yeah I think you’re right, owning and operating wood stoves is a losing investment. Always going to be in the red I am. I had the bright idea some years back about installing an outdoor wood boiler and came sooo close to doing it. I just don’t have access to enough wood to feed these insatiable monsters.

The absolute best price is as you say the Drolet 1600 from Costco but I’d really, really like something bigger with a deeper insertion which I think will assist me on the liner installation. I’m seriously thinking about going with a 304L rigid pipe straight down to the wood stove. I’m thinking this predominantly from a cleaning aspect. I’m almost certain I would damage a flexible liner. Do you have any thoughts/opinions/war stories about liner types or installations?
 
Last edited:

Tinkerer

New Member
Sep 13, 2022
3
South Carolina
That is a broad range of options. Will all of these inserts fit the fireplace?
Drolet, Osburn, & Ventis are all SBI brands and often have the same fireboxes with upgraded details on the Osburns. Based on the location and house size I think the Osburn 3500/Ventis 1350 are too big for the space unless the home heat loss is high.
Dear begreen,

You should have seen my list before I really started thinking about dimensions. The large units on my list will fit either almost all the way against the back of the fireplace/firebrick following the "Minimum Insert Projection" guideline, as detailed in the user manuals, which to me is aesthetically preferable. They would also certainly work utilizing the less preferable "Maximum Insert Projection". I believe my house is insulated fairly well. I'm sure it's not the best but I have definitely lived in worse.

Operating a larger wood stove my home space would cause what problems for me? Would it require smaller fires/more tendering?

Any thoughts on the Napoleon S25i? I am not running across much on this one. I have seen a recurring theme of poor after sales support which does trigger some alarm bells.

Do you have any opinions on a flex vs rigid liner?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,392
South Puget Sound, WA
We don't see many Napoleons these days. There don't seem to be as many dealers selling them.

Rockford sells good liners just avoid the 2 ply smooth wall liners. Champion and Forever Flex are also good.
 
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