Mendota vs Fireplacextrodinair/Lopi-my journey

FrankD1200 Posted By FrankD1200, Mar 4, 2014 at 9:19 PM

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  1. FrankD1200

    New Member 2.

    Mar 4, 2014
    United States
    In fall of 2012 we bought a cabin in the WV mountains. I wanted to replace the existing fireplace (insert.) The insert is the main source of heat in our cabin where we get 180" of snow per year. I knew nothing about fireplaces and I was completely lost until I found this forum. I'm very thankful to you guys and wanted to share my experience in case it might help someone.

    I learned from this forum that there are a handful of gas fireplace/insert manufacturers that are significantly above the rest. These top brands usually have a tight area of distribution and you can't just buy them anywhere. I didn't want to buy without seeing one so I was limited to 2 of the better brands in my area-Mendota and Fireplacextrodinair (about the same as Lopi and also from Travis Industries.)

    Knowing nothing about gas fireplaces I was blown away when I went to look at them. They were both beautiful and far, far better than the cheap builder grade junk that barely puts out any heat in my primary home. The type of glass they use on both of these is amazing because it's super clear and looks as if almost nothing is there. That glass lets the heat through as if you're standing in front of a roaring real wood burning fireplace.

    They had a lot of similarities and initially the FPX sounded cheaper but it doesn't come with many necessities. Once you add them in and compare apples to apples they were very similarly priced. I ended up going with the Mendota FV41 and the grand total was around $5300. It's been awhile so I can't remember the model # of the FPX but it was whatever is very comparable to the Mendota FV41.

    Although I did like the FPX I chose the Mendota for several reasons.

    * The FV in Mendota FV41 stands for full view and it's a good name. It's well named because the Mendota is almost all glass with a thin portion of black around it giving a very 'full view.' The Mendota has *no* louvers and the dual fans vent around a thin opening that surrounds about 2/3rd's of the fireplace. The fireplace is absolutely beautiful. The FPX is a good looking fireplace but it has your typical give-away louvers and it doesn't offer the view that the Mendota does.

    * Despite the fans in the Mendota being completely not visible, they are strong and aren't very loud. You can hear them for sure but nothing that's distracting. Thanks to this forum I heard that the FPX fans were loud. Indeed they were. I could tell this was a common complaint because when I told the salesman I heard they were loud and asked to hear them he put it on low and tried to quickly dismiss it. I didn't let him out of it and asked him to put it on high. They were very loud.

    * As I said above, the glass lets the heat right through. This means the glass gets about 700+ degrees (according to my thermometer anyway.) A child touching this glass is obviously a nightmare. The Mendota had several choices of fronts including the one that I chose that is basically 2 screen doors that when closed cover the entire glass (the Pioneer.) The FPX had no choice in their fronts that covered the entire glass. When I asked the guy how you protect children around this he seemed to think it was no big deal and said that if they happened to touch it a few times they'd learn. Really?? He then said, "besides what did they do with children back in the day when everyone had heat stoves?" I said, "they spent the night in the emergency room and many of those children still have scars today."

    Having children in the family, this was a really big deal to me. We close the doors of our Mendota if there are children (especially new to the cabin) around. The doors on the Mendota definitely get hot but if the children would happen to palm the doors when the fireplace is cranking then their injuries would likely be far less than if they palmed the glass. The difference is probably seriously major burns from touching the glass vs. when touching the doors having a crying kid and running his hand under cool water and he might have a mark for a couple of days.

    * I liked the log layout and flame placement much better on the Mendota. Both of their logs and backings look nice but the FPX looks almost if you have a layout of logs surrounding a fire in the middle with no logs. The Mendota has flames licking through the logs and it looks much more realistic IMO. It also has a really nice dimmable LED light that you can shine onto the logs when the fire isn't on (or also when it is on but I don't use it when it's on.) I can't say for sure but don't remember the FPX having a light.

    *The Mendota had better/more flame levels if I remember correctly. And it's really nice because as it approaches the set temp on the thermostat, the flames begin to die down rather than just shut off. I'm not sure if the FPX did that but I don't think it did.

    I liked the Mendota better but that doesn't mean the FPX isn't a nice fireplace. If I didn't have access to the Mendota I would have bought the FPX and probably would have been happy with it.

    Onto the installation... There are only 2 people in that area that install fireplaces and neither would call me back. I finally tracked down one of their secretaries and she said he was backed up for 1 year and his price was ridiculous. I could never get in touch with the other guy. With winter fast approaching we had to do it ourselves. We knew nothing about fireplaces and had to call the factory guys a few times. It really wouldn't have been that difficult if their manual wasn't incorrect and/or outdated in a few places. I found that very aggravating for something so important/dangerous. Every time I would call the guy would say(despite it being something that they left out of their installation manual), "see that's why we don't like the homeowner installing these fireplaces." I would have to remind him yet again that we had no other options and that a Canadian type winter was approaching. Besides those comments making me want to slap him the guys actually were pretty helpful.

    We got it done and I think the fireplace is beautiful. It heats like crazy and really toasts our 1900 sq foot cabin and is very efficient. Every person who enters comments on how beautiful the fireplace is and many of them say at some point, "hey I just realized that there's glass on there. I couldn't even see it before."

    I planned on posting pictures but I couldn't find any pics of the fireplace. I'm going there this weekend so I'll take some pics and edit this post.

    What don't I like about it? The remote! Well, sort of. The remote itself isn't bad and looks/functions nice. I don't mind it-for me. But it's complicated to the average person who tries to use it and it's going to be an issue if we decide to rent our place. The worst part is that the fireplace's only real controls are in the remote. The thermostat is in the remote and all of the main controls. There is a wall unit thing but it is only for on/off (full blast or nothing) and a dial for the light. This probably won't be a big deal for most but it is for us because if we don't visit the cabin for a month and the batteries in the remote happen to die, that means the heat won't come on at all and the whole place could freeze. i.e. it was -23F with -55F windchill there when we had that polar vortex. I called the factory and they said there is no option for a different remote and/or no option for having a hard wired thermostat. I've seen several posts about Skytech remotes on this forum but I don't quite understand how it works so I'm going to look into that.

    Well I hope my long-winded post has helped someone. I like this fireplace so much that I would put one in my main residence if it got cold enough often enough to justify the price.
  2. Ironhorse74

    Member 2.

    Oct 24, 2009
    The Great Pacific North Wet

    The Sky tech remote could work for you. I think there is a much simpler option. A standard wall thermostat could be installed and spliced into the wiring harness in the fireplace. Fairly simple to wire however pulling the wiring through the wall and into the fireplace could be tough.

    I am glad you are enjoying your Mendota.

  3. scott1120

    New Member 2.

    Mar 12, 2014
    I saw your post the day we were finalizing our decision between the same 2 fireplaces. We were leaning toward the Mendota FV41 but this was a big help in making me feel more confident in the decision. We were going with a screen for the same reason although went with the narrow Grace with the corners which is also very plain. The FXP and even the other Mendota line seemed to be either busier or the louvers. It just got ordered so it will be a while but I am excited. This weekend we pick out the bricks. Unfortunately the install will be in the summer and we will have to wait to use it but at least I can look at it and admire it while we wait for the cool fall nights.
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