Need wood stove/insert consultation

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

Freep

New Member
Aug 26, 2018
9
Pacific Northwest, USA
Greetings, All,

I've been cruising these forums for a few years now, but am a first-time poster. I have some experience using an old Grizzly wood insert that I got with a house I bought, but am now in the market for my first new (or new to me) wood stove. I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts. Apologies in advance for the long post, but the number of considerations seems pretty extensive.

Last year I purchased a house in the hills just NE of Seattle. The house has a main floor with vaulted ceilings, lots of windows, and (I suspect) very little insulation: It is hard to keep warm in the winter, and there is as much as a 15 degree temperature variation between ceiling and floor. (Side note: I'll be installing some ceiling fans to address air movement in the this room.) The basement is directly below. Both areas are around 700 sq ft. Off to one end of the house, a half floor up from the basement, there is a sun room and a bedroom. Above that, a half floor up from the main level, is a master bedroom and bath.

Eventually I figured out that the only way to be comfortable is to heat the basement consistently and then heat the main floor on-demand. However gas (propane) bills were near $400/mo last year. I have six acres of fuel growing outside (alder and bigleaf maple being the best for heating, I think), so I had intended to replace both gas stoves with wood stoves. However I since learned here that chimney length is an issue: Measured from the basement, my masonry chimney is about 18 feet tall from stove exhaust, but only 9-10 feet measured from the main floor at stove exhaust height. Therefore I believe I'll need to stick with gas on the main floor and install a wood stove/insert in the basement. Worth noting, also, the main floor's ceiling and the chimney are right around the same height, and the top-floor MBR is a bit higher.

Our primary goal is to heat the basement efficiently, creating a heated floor on the main level, then using the gas stove on the main floor for on-demand heating. We'd love to urge heat up the stairs from the basement and warm some of the rooms off to the side of the house if possible. We'd like to achieve 8 hour burns, and to have coals in the morning so as to avoid restarting a totally cold stove. My wife ideally seeks a 6+ inch cook surface on which to place a small kettle.

The basement is tiled and has a two foot deep hearth made out of bricks: Clearance to walls and combustibles is not a concern, however any freestanding stove needs to exhaust from the rear and protrude less than 24" on to the hearth - thus eliminating the stove of my dreams, the Jotul 118. The basement layout suggests an insert might be best, but we could work with a stove that sticks out onto the hearth. Having considered various stoves our short list as as follows:

The Lopi Revere insert seems to be well regarded, has a bypass damper (which seems super useful), and a sizable lip on which to place a kettle or pot of chili or etc. This is the most expensive option, with stove plus installation nearing $4k.

A local fireplace store has a discontinued Avalon Arbor stove looks very nice and would be $3k installed. It would extend all the way out on the hearth, but the top-loading feature seems extremely useful. We could place a protective screen around the whole area (we have kids) and leave it in place, feeding from the top without having to move the screen. (Side question: Would snugging a freestanding stove up close to the fireplace be disastrous for heating efficiency?) The cooktop on this stove is pretty serious. A freestanding stove also seems more flexible, should we decide to move it at some point, for example. Finally, this stove would circulate heat without a fan, a real bonus when you lose electricity for a week at a time and don't want to run your generator.

And then Costco has a Drolet Escape 1800 insert. It has no lip for a cooktop, but comes with a liner and all installation materials (supposedly) for the relatively meager sum of $1400 and I can return it if doesn't work out as intended. I would probably elect to self-install if I bought this stove, but even if I hired an installer the total cost should be under $2k.

We are willing to consider other suggestions. I had considered a Blaze King as well, as I've read here that they are ideal for burning is moderate temperatures (it's often in the 50s here), but I would either have to give up the cooktop on the insert, and it would cost more than all other options. Please feel free to point out my oversights and/or make suggestions. All input is most appreciated!

PS - Another side question: We are told by Lopi sales personnel that fans are generally unnecessary in our circumstances on a Lopi Revere insert - that the stove circulates air well by design without a fan. It seems to use that, even if the fanless convection statement is true, a fan would improve the efficiency by coaxing more heat from an insert. Any thoughts on this? If this is true of Lopi inserts through some genius of design, is it also true of others (such as the Drolet)? Or is this just a sales pitch?
 

Bushels20

Feeling the Heat
May 20, 2018
418
OH
I will let the folks on here with a lot more knowledge than I address your questions however I will say that with regards to your question about not needing a fan (and I assume you mean blower) on Lopi Revere (or any other insert) for that matter; sounds like a bunch of BS. Perhaps there is something I’ve not read about that particular model, but in my experience, the blower on a wood insert is vitally important to heating capability.
 

Freep

New Member
Aug 26, 2018
9
Pacific Northwest, USA
It sounded odd to me as well. The Lopi dealer's manager (a generally respected dealer, I think) said the Lopi inserts were built to convect hot air using the heat generator by the stove somehow. It may be that he was implying my relatively small space needed no blower, but that is not what he said. I'm hoping there are some Lopi dealers here who can better confirm or refute or expand on the idea.

Also, having just come from Costco, I realize that the Drolet will be $1330 net after my 5% rebate. It's a pretty good deal if it's a decent stove. I have read reviews on the site that seem to suggest it is, but I also notice that most of the more informed experience seems to be shared on these forums rather than in reviews, so hopefully there are some folks with first hand experience who are willing to weigh in.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,548
South Puget Sound, WA
Most likely the liner will need to be insulated after the chimney and interior of the fireplace including smokeshelf have been completely cleaned. That will mean buying an insulation kit for the Drolet liner. Measure up the current chimney ID to see if an insulated liner will fit. And check to verify that 25' will be a long enough liner.

I would not buy an insert without a blower, especially a flush insert. Even inserts that convect reasonably well for mild weather will benefit from a blower when it gets cold.
 

Hogwildz

Minister of Fire
I will let the folks on here with a lot more knowledge than I address your questions however I will say that with regards to your question about not needing a fan (and I assume you mean blower) on Lopi Revere (or any other insert) for that matter; sounds like a bunch of BS. Perhaps there is something I’ve not read about that particular model, but in my experience, the blower on a wood insert is vitally important to heating capability.
You are ill informed
 

Bushels20

Feeling the Heat
May 20, 2018
418
OH
You are ill informed



I think the general consensus and wood burning population would strongly disagree with you.

If I am however “I’ll Informed” please elaborate. That’s why I am on this website. To learn from those who know more than I.

Then, Begreen and Bholler will correct people when, they’re wrong. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: iceman2424

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
Eventually I figured out that the only way to be comfortable is to heat the basement consistently and then heat the main floor on-demand.
There are several here heating from their basement. It will pay to be aware of the stack effect problem of heating from a basement, as it has caused trouble for a few folks trying to do this, and learn how to evaluate whether or not this will be an issue in your house. I only know “of” the problem, not much “about” the problem, so I’ll leave it there. Do your research.

We'd like to achieve 8 hour burns, and to have coals in the morning so as to avoid restarting a totally cold stove. My wife ideally seeks a 6+ inch cook surface on which to place a small kettle.
Non-issue. Most EPA stoves (unless very small) can exceed 8 hours, some by as much as 5x. However the tea kettle thing may come to bite you because of the following...

The basement is tiled and has a two foot deep hearth made out of bricks
Stoves move heat into your house via two mechanisms: radiation and convection. Radiant heat is the searing line-of-sight heat felt when you step from shade to sun, or stand in front of an open fire. Convection is simply the movement of hot air.

Now the problem with putting a stove in any environment where there is a lot of exposed masonry (basement, in a fireplace, or anywhere in my old stone house) is that masonry has a damn near infinite capacity to soak up all of that radiant energy, and pass it directly to the outside (i.e. the earth surrounding your basement walls). I ran this setup for years, and gained about 30 cords of experience in wasting wood with very poor results, before giving up and switching to a more convective stove.

So, if you have exposed masonry (concrete floor, brick wall, etc.) that’s not completely contained within the heated envelope of the building (such as a central fireplace, not on an exterior wall), you’d do well to search for more convective stoves. These stoves still radiate a heck of a lot of heat thru the front window, but move most of the heat off their sides, back, and top by moving air between two metal surfaces.

The reason this goes against the cook surface you mentioned above is that convective stoves are usually made by having double walls, such as decorative cast panels over a welded steel firebox, and so those outer panels remain relatively cool. The good news is that many of these designs permit the convective top to be lifted off, to expose the hot surface below.

We are willing to consider other suggestions. I had considered a Blaze King as well, as I've read here that they are ideal for burning is moderate temperatures (it's often in the 50s here), but I would either have to give up the cooktop on the insert, and it would cost more than all other options. Please feel free to point out my oversights and/or make suggestions. All input is most appreciated!
I installed to BK Ashford 30.1’s in my house three or four years ago, and am completely thrilled with them. I almost couldn’t believe the performance that some of the BK users were claiming, so I had to try it myself, and I can say I would never even consider trading them for any other stove today. However, BK gets so much positive praise on this forum that the mod’s are clamping down on it, not wanting the place to turn into a BK advertising forum. So, you’ll need to go do your own research, there.

All I’ll say is the Ashford is a convective design, with a removable top. I believe the Chinook and Sirocco are the same.

PS - Another side question: We are told by Lopi sales personnel that fans are generally unnecessary in our circumstances on a Lopi Revere insert - that the stove circulates air well by design without a fan. It seems to use that, even if the fanless convection statement is true, a fan would improve the efficiency by coaxing more heat from an insert. Any thoughts on this? If this is true of Lopi inserts through some genius of design, is it also true of others (such as the Drolet)? Or is this just a sales pitch?
Any stove or insert is going to convect better with a blower than without, but it is possible that some inserts are designed to promote a level of natural convection.
 

BKVP

Minister of Fire
I am surprised no one has asked you to post some pictures!

1) Regardless of what brand wood stove or insert you purchase, your future ceiling fans could compound spillage issues, given the stove/insert will be in the basement. The higher efficient wood heaters today are more sensitive to proper draft or anything that can complicate performance. If you experience spillage during starting of fire or reloading, try turning off the ceiling fans on the main floor.

2) Is the fireplace masonry or factory built. Not all inserts are approved for such applications and before Bholler reminds me, not all factory built fireplaces are approved to have an insert installed in them. Regardless, you should have a level 3 inspection performed of the fireplace and chimney before use...even if you use the insulated liner that BeGreen mentioned. Here is the link to the NCSG and they can help you find a qualified sweep for the inspection: http://www.ncsg.org/

3) Drolet stoves are made by SBI (Stove Builders International), a very good company. Travis makes great products and is a great company with great leadership. They are also made in your back yard. I can't tout our products here or I'll get reminded of policy.

And congrats on the new home!
 

Freep

New Member
Aug 26, 2018
9
Pacific Northwest, USA
"There are several here heating from their basement. It will pay to be aware of the stack effect problem of heating from a basemen..."

This is in fact my primary concern, but I'm not sure how to verify whether it will be a problem or not. I could hire installation to a professional and have them come out to do so, but this locks me into the high end of expense (it seems I normally have to purchase the stove from the company as well. As an alternative, I could install the Costco stove and then return it (ugh) if I cannot sort out a way to make it work properly. A third choice is to purchase an older stove that is less sensitive to draft issues.

Great info on the nature of radiant and convective heat and their relationship with stone and masonry. Given various puzzling choices made in the construction of my home and the multiple additions since by different owners, I think it's best to assume that my basement floor is not well insulated. The walls have some old-school insulation and newer school drywall in them, so they should be less a concern. I'm hoping to get some radiant heat and some convective heat. Good to know about the lower temps of cooktop surface, too - I think my wife would be happy if it were just hot enough to simmer if nothing else. We drink a ridiculous amount of tea in the winter; just being able to have a constant supply of hot-enough water for that would be nice. Considering your comments on convective heat I feel compelled to revisit the BK stoves... I have read (here) that the PNW climate is ideal for them because they can burn well at more moderate temperatures. But again... draft is the great limitation in my house, I think.
 

Freep

New Member
Aug 26, 2018
9
Pacific Northwest, USA
"I am surprised no one has asked you to post some pictures!

1) Regardless of what brand wood stove or insert you purchase, your future ceiling fans could compound spillage issues, given the stove/insert will be in the basement. The higher efficient wood heaters today are more sensitive to proper draft or anything that can complicate performance. If you experience spillage during starting of fire or reloading, try turning off the ceiling fans on the main floor."

What sort of pictures would be most helpful?

Spillage and proper draft is my biggest concern with this project. As noted above, I am even considering an older stove that is less sensitive to draft issues. Perhaps I ought to make a post on the older stoves forum as well, but I was really hoping for something newer and more efficient.

The chimney is masonry built, and seems to have originally (1950s) been intended for a fireplace. I'll try to find some time to eyeball the chimney from above and learn the interior diameter.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,548
South Puget Sound, WA
If there is negative pressure in the basement then it could be an issue for most stoves. In general, Drolet stoves are fairly flexible for draft. If the house is well sealed above and windows are kept closed in the winter, then negative pressure in the basement may not be too bad an issue. Watch for sneaky leakers like recessed can light fixtures. The LED, sealed variety should not have this issue. Strong exhaust fans can also affect the balance.

You can check the draft without a stove attached. Even some simple tests when the chimney is cold will be helpful. Use a punk or cigarette at the thimble and see how it pulls. Then turn on some fans like the dryer and bath or kitchen exhaust fans. Test it again. Note that pre-EPA stove sales are not allowed in this area. The F118 is a nice heater, but not very clean burning compared to modern stoves.

Pictures of the 1st floor and basement hearths will help. Also include a full exterior shot of the chimney. I wouldn't rule out a 1st floor wood heater yet, there may be options.
 
Last edited:

yooper08

Minister of Fire
Jan 4, 2016
618
South Lyon, MI
When I installed my insert in the basement, the primary objective was to be the heat source for the basement, so same as yours. Any heat that made it's way upstairs was a benefit. It sounds like you have a split level house instead of a true basement, so that may help you in moving heat.

As for stack effect, is your basement a walkout? Stack effect becomes a problem when heat rises and there isn't a good way for the house to provide makeup air to the basement. The best way to really know is to see how well the current flue draws by testing it somehow, whether as begreen mentioned or lighting a fire if possible, preferably when it's cooler outside.

So all of that said, I have the Century version of the Drolet 1800. The Drolet is virtually the same with a couple of added features. For my setup, this firebox works really well for me. Also, get the fan if you go the insert route and if you want 8 hours, I wouldn't go smaller than the Drolet...unless of course you go the BK route.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
Considering your comments on convective heat I feel compelled to revisit the BK stoves... I have read (here) that the PNW climate is ideal for them because they can burn well at more moderate temperatures. But again... draft is the great limitation in my house, I think.
You’re on the right path. BK’s have the long and low burn times that may work well in your climate, but they need good draft to take advantage of that capability. Otherwise, you’re stuck running them like a much less expensive stove.

I’d think begreen or @webby3650 would be good at finding ways to determine if you have a stack effect problem in your house. Old audio cassette tape on a straw, held in an open window, type thing?
 

Freep

New Member
Aug 26, 2018
9
Pacific Northwest, USA
There is a gas stove in the fireplace presently, so, no possibility of a fire down there. The 'let's not rule out a first floor stove' idea if promising! I'll get some pics shortly. It is a split level house. If we count the basement as floor level 1, there is a sunroom and bedroom on level 1.5, the main floor is level 2, and the MBR is level 2.5.

In terms of checking draft, might it work if I turned on the basement bathroom exhaust fan and checked to see airflow in stairwell leading up to level 1.5? Or perhaps the upstairs (level 2.5) bathroom exhaust fan?
 
Last edited:

Freep

New Member
Aug 26, 2018
9
Pacific Northwest, USA
More information:

From basement to top of masonry chimney: 20.5 feet. The basement hearth is a 1.5 inch layer of bricks.

From main floor to top of masonry chimney: 12.5 feet. The hearth is 13 inches above the floor. I could remove that hearth and install a lower profile one if need be.

The masonry chimney has two side-by-side flues that look like they are made of terra cotta tile. They are 11.5 inches square. I cannot quite tell the internal diameter, but considering that each chimney two 3.5" flex pipes connecting to gas stoves in the fireplace, the internal diameter must be 7 inches at the very least.

Attached is a picture of the chimney from the outside. From the base of the chimney in the lower left, the floor (inside) is about 28 inches down. Also worth noting, the top of the masonry portion of the chimney is about 6" higher than the top of the house on the main level. The upstairs MBR (off the side of the house) is still a bit taller, but the chimney is at least taller than the vaulted ceiling to which it is exposed on the main floor.

Also: Further discussion with my wife reveals that a cooktop is not absolutely necessary. Consistent, trouble-free heat is her primary interest.
 

Attachments

  • WP_20180827_17_50_46_Pro.jpg
    WP_20180827_17_50_46_Pro.jpg
    98 KB · Views: 121

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
Well, dropping the cooktop requirement opens up the options a bit more on the convective stoves, which is really the direction I’d go anytime I’m trying to heat from a basement.

Sorry I’m no help on the draft issue, but since you already have a gas stove down there, could you just disconnect the pipe and see how it’s sucking? If it pulls air when it’s this warm out, I’d think you should have no issues when it’s cold. All windows should be closed, of course.

If it’s not pulling, that’s not necessarily a problem, either. Even one of my regular first-floor (4 feet above grade) chimneys reverses when temps go much above 45F.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,548
South Puget Sound, WA
The chimney is a bit on the short side for some 1st fl inserts, but an Enviro or Pacific Energy insert could work. Looks like a daylight basement, so I wouldn't rule out that option unless it was a strong negative pressure zone. Is this a split with wide stairways connecting the half floors? If so, they can heat pretty well from the lower level.
 

Freep

New Member
Aug 26, 2018
9
Pacific Northwest, USA
It's a split, but has narrow stairs.

If I were going to install something on the first floor, I'd much prefer a freestanding stove, preferably a small one such as the Jotul 602B. Are there any small (and inexpensive) freestanding stoves that draft well enough that a short chimney might not present obstacles? Is there any sense exploring an older stove for this purpose? And is there any way to tell with any certainty how my house flows air before installing stoves? Should I consult an HVAC company, for example?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,548
South Puget Sound, WA
The Hampton H300 might be a good choice for a freestander. It has a short leg option if the lintel is low and can work on a 12' chimney. Would the stove sit on the existing hearth? What is the lintel height of the fireplace?
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,715
Philadelphia
Is there any sense exploring an older stove for this purpose?
Many/most older stoves require very substantial clearances, something on the order of 36 inches, so this is not the direction I’d be thinking.
 

Hogwildz

Minister of Fire
So you are saying it heats well with no fan?
Do you run an insert? Do you run that particular insert?
Do you run the insert I use?
My home heats well with or without the insert. Several power failures have proven that.
While a fan is nice to have, and does help to distribute some heated are a bit better, it is not "vitally" important as he posted.
Go find someone else to debate with, that chit don't work with me.
 

Hogwildz

Minister of Fire
I think the general consensus and wood burning population would strongly disagree with you.

If I am however “I’ll Informed” please elaborate. That’s why I am on this website. To learn from those who know more than I.

Then, Begreen and Bholler will correct people when, they’re wrong. :)
You are at a great place with great info no doubt.
As far as all words being gospel, not so much, not even my own. I speak of my experience of my own burning here at my own home with the insert I use. A fan is useful of course, but not "vital" to heat with, not in my case anyway. Wood heating with a stove or insert is great for power outages, which I experience several times a year here. Never had an issue heating my 2666sf house with or without the fan, which again is great for power outages & shoulder seasons, when I can't or don't use the fan. It all comes down to the stove, the set up, the location, etc. etc. etc. Not one model fits all bills. Begreen is a wealth of knowledge, I have met him personally, and is a great guy. He gives real thought and sage advice. Others on here are more of the "I know it all" type folks, and you have to decide for yourself what advice works for you, and what doesn't. Take everything with a grain of salt, and much research does bring knowledgeable answers. There are some here that rely on a fan to get the heat they need I suppose, but some does not make all. Anyone telling you a fan is a must is closed minded, and can't realize the many scenarios that come with each set up. Just cause someone has burnt for many years, cleaned for many years, did this or that for many years, does not always mean they know it all, or even used best practices. I know what works for me, and I really don't care what other say or think, unless I ask. There are no set systems that work for every scenario, and in time you will find what works best for you. That said, I personally would always get the fan with the setup, can be a real PITA to install later on some models. You may also want to look at what it would take to replace or service the fan. Some are easier to get to & service than others.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,484
central pa
Do you run an insert? Do you run that particular insert?
Do you run the insert I use?
My home heats well with or without the insert. Several power failures have proven that.
While a fan is nice to have, and does help to distribute some heated are a bit better, it is not "vitally" important as he posted.
Go find someone else to debate with, that chit don't work with me.
Excuse me!!! Not sure how asking you to clarify your statement pissed you off but you need to lighten up. I know some inserts heat fairly well without the fan. Yes a fan will increase the output on them but as you say in some cases they are not vital. Am i not allowed to ask questions about stoves i have little experience with?