Opinions and recommendations for a new wood burning stove insert

  • 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.

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
Good morning all.

It's been years since I've written, but I always enjoy reading your insights into everything relating to my pellet stove and wood stove. Thank you in advance for always taking the time to write helpful advice to novices and amateurs like me!

My mom (in her seventies, living alone) is in New York, about a quarter of the way north from New York City to Canada (roughly halfway between NYC and Albany). She wants to make her living room fireplace more useful by adding a wood burning insert so she can enjoy looking at a fire through the glass and get supplemental heat into that room on cold days/nights - she doesn't need it to heat her house. She will want to pick an insert based only on how appealing the metalwork looks to her and how big the window is, so I want to give her a short list of a few options to choose from.

I've spent a couple days looking over the scores of similar posts others have written over the past 10 years, so I hope I can make it easier for you to help me by narrowing down what I'm asking for.

My hope is to hear from you about the brands you recommend. I won't trouble you about specific models but, just in case it matters, her fireplace opening is at the front 33" wide and 26" tall (but only 24" to the bottom of the damper handle and bracket), 21" deep at the bottom, 17" deep at the top, and at the back 14" high before it slopes forward and... oops, I forgot to write down the width at the back, but it's not too much less wide than it is at the front.... It already has tile over the wood floor, sticking out 18" in front of the fireplace. Her chimney is maybe 25 feet tall and is on the side wall of the house. Her house is a 1900 square-foot (two-storey) Cape Cod built in the 1930s, with insulation blown into the walls. The living room fireplace is on the first floor, above an unheated, cement block basement.

My priorities are brands that are 1) high quality builds that will last 20+ years, 2) easy to use and clean, 3) can be fixed and maintained by local chimney/stove guys or a reputable dealer, and 4) have good customer service and inexpensive readily-available parts if I need to call the manufacturer.

She can pay more money for a premier quality brand if the value is worth the extra cost (I don't want her to pay more just for a name or fancy appearance), and she's also OK with an inexpensive brand so long as it meets the priorities.

We prefer to buy something made in the US or Canada, and then Europe/Scandinavia.

From what I've read in other posts, I think I'd like to choose from among Jotul, Osburn, Drolet, or Pacific Energy. I believe all are good quality overall. I read that Drolet is inexpensive but a good value, easy to use and dependable; and that Osburn is preferable to Drolet as it's a higher build quality with some better materials and possibly better engineered features. In addition, I read that SBI's customer service is very good and parts are cheap and easy to get. I read that Pacific Energy has better engineering and better quality parts than SBI brands, and that since their Super and Summit inserts jut out from the wall a few inches they will help heat the room better. It seems Jotul is a premium brand, but I know nothing about it except that it's probably more expensive. At the moment I think we won't choose Morso (good quality but hard for her to handle with ash/coals falling out the front) and Vermont Castings (reduced quality, too many problems). I'm open to other brands that I haven't mentioned. What I'd really love to hear from you gentlemen and ladies are you opinions about these or your other favorite brands based on our priorities. I've read in other posts very helpful advice regarding superior air flow engineering and better/worse materials in particular brands (dense brick vs pumic, vermiculite, steel thickness, etc.), and which brands have the exact same materials and engineering but cost more or less for other reasons, and I'd appreciate if someone might rattle off some of those things about these brands. Please feel free to offer differing opinions or correct me anywhere, since my opinions are built from your past opinions and I know that over the years brands have gotten better and worse and materials have changed.

I'd prefer a non-catalytic stove to one with a cat, but one that is at the more-efficient and less-polluting end of the range of inserts. I looked through the EPA's short list of 2020-certified stoves and their older database of certified stoves, and I saw that all the inserts are within a somewhat small range. Why are their HHV efficiency ratings and pollution level values are noticeably worse than those advertised on the manufacturers' websites? The manufacturer says 80% efficient, EPA says 71% efficient. One says 2 grams of pollution per hour, the other says 5. Which is to be believed? I want to recommend to my mom inserts that are more efficient and that put less carbon monoxide and smoke particles into her air.

I believe I want the largest firebox I can fit.

I have a competent installer who will put in an insulated sleeve as well. Our good local fireplace guy (who also does my annual pellet stove, wood stove, and chimney cleanings) is a dealer for Jotul, Morso, Harman, Quadra-Fire, and Heatilator, plus a few other brands. The nearest Drolet dealer is 100 miles away in Massachusetts, which seems like a deal-breaker, but we could also buy a Drolet from our local big box store (when they're back in stock). There are two Osburn dealers 30 miles away (45-60 minute drives). I called Osburn and the guy told me that my mom wouldn't need a dealer because their stoves are so easy to fix that homeowners and chimney guys can do it, but I'd like to be sure that if there's a problem she will be able to call someone to fix it without spending a fortune.

So, what do you think? I hope my post isn't too long. I wanted to be as specific as I could so you'd know exactly what I'm after. Please let me know anything else you'd like me to mention.

Thank you so much!
Chris
 
Last edited:

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
963
Massachusetts
I cant answer all of your questions but I have an Osburn 1600 and it's my primary heat in our two-story 1600 sq ft cape in Central MA with a 24' external wall chimney. Fairly similar to your set up. It has a 1.85 cu ft box which is relatively small but it is a work horse...my back up heat only comes on if its less than 5 degrees overnight. I wouldn't call it fancy like an enameled Jotul but it looks sharp and as you said in your post, SBI has good customer service, easily findable parts, and the Osburn line are quality stoves. It's very easy to use and clean.

The 1600 is the pre-2020 version so you'd be looking at the 1700. I can't say how the 170p burns as they made some changes to get from 4 gm/hr to sub 2 gm/hr but I'd say it's likely still fine, especially on a 25' chimney.

The brushed nickel trim is optional, it also comes in all black. Mine protrudes about 8" onto the hearth which I like as it helps get more heat into the room, especially in a power outage.

1615858859990.jpg 20210215_180216.jpg
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
I cant answer all of your questions but I have an Osburn 1600 and it's my primary heat in our two-story 1600 sq ft cape in Central MA with a 24' external wall chimney. Fairly similar to your set up. It has a 1.85 cu ft box which is relatively small but it is a work horse...my back up heat only comes on if its less than 5 degrees overnight. I wouldn't call it fancy like an enameled Jotul but it looks sharp and as you said in your post, SBI has good customer service, easily findable parts, and the Osburn line are quality stoves. It's very easy to use and clean.

The 1600 is the pre-2020 version so you'd be looking at the 1700. I can't say how the 170p burns as they made some changes to get from 4 gm/hr to sub 2 gm/hr but I'd say it's likely still fine, especially on a 25' chimney.

The brushed nickel trim is optional, it also comes in all black. Mine protrudes about 8" onto the hearth which I like as it helps get more heat into the room, especially in a power outage.

View attachment 277805
View attachment 277806
Thank you, Caw, that is a good endorsement!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,678
South Puget Sound, WA
Currently, Jotul doesn't have any inserts on the market that have passed EPA 2020 certification. The VC Montpelier is not a complex fireplace insert. Now that VC is an HHT company it shared internals with the Quadrafire Expedition II. Both of these inserts are flush, single-burn rate stoves. You might check to see if your local Costco carries the Drolet 1800 insert package still or if you can order it. That is a good deal. Personally, I prefer an insert that loads N/S. The PE Super and Drolet Escape 1800i (or Osburn 2000i) have this attribute.

 
  • Like
Reactions: buc74

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
Currently, Jotul doesn't have any inserts on the market that have passed EPA 2020 certification. The VC Montpelier is not a complex fireplace insert. Now that VC is an HHT company it shared internals with the Quadrafire Expedition II. Both of these inserts are flush, single-burn rate stoves. You might check to see if your local Costco carries the Drolet 1800 insert package still or if you can order it. That is a good deal. Personally, I prefer an insert that loads N/S. The PE Super and Drolet Escape 1800i (or Osburn 2000i) have this attribute.

Thank you begreen, I appreciate seeing the low price on the Costco package, and they do have it in stock in our area! Please can you confirm about the N/S loading? On Osburn's website I see a 2000, but no 2000i, and the 2000 states it loads E/W. Drolet's website shows the Escape 1800i with wood loaded E/W in the photos, but doesn't state anywhere if they can fit N/S. I have a PE Super insert and I love the N/S loading, I think it's be a useful characteristic for my mom's insert as well.
 
Last edited:

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,574
central pa
Thank you begreen, I appreciate seeing the low price on the Costco package, and they do have it in stock in our area! Please can you confirm about the N/S loading? On Osburn's website I see a 2000, but no 2000i, and the 2000 states it loads E/W. Drolet's website shows the Escape 1800i with wood loaded E/W in the photos, but doesn't state anywhere if they can fit N/S.
You can load any stove ns if you cut your wood to the required length
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hoytman

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
You can load any stove ns if you cut your wood to the required length
Thanks bholler, I do understand what you mean. I ask about the N/S-E/W because I couldn't tell from the websites what the internal depth of the firebox is, so I don't know if it's possible to put 18" logs in N/S. She'll be burning 18" split wood that we buy from someone else (though 6"-12" sections do sound like a nice lightweight option for a senior citizen with low upper body strength!).
 

Riteway

Member
Jul 27, 2020
122
Kitsap County, WA
Thanks bholler, I do understand what you mean. I ask about the N/S-E/W because I couldn't tell from the websites what the internal depth of the firebox is, so I don't know if it's possible to put 18" logs in N/S. She'll be burning 18" split wood that we buy from someone else (though 6"-12" sections do sound like a nice lightweight option for a senior citizen with low upper body strength!).

I have the 1800i insert...you can load N/S with 16" splits, but the firebox isn't deep enough for 18" splits.
 

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
I have the 1800i insert...you can load N/S with 16" splits, but the firebox isn't deep enough for 18" splits.
Thank you.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
963
Massachusetts
Just for example...I can load my Osburn 1600 N/S with 14" logs and E/W with 17". Having done both I can wholeheartedly agree that N/S is the way to go whenever possible. It's much easier to tetris in the perfect load and you never have to worry about your glass. If I had a deeper fireplace I'd have picked a stove that loads N/S.

That being said, I always load E/W because cutting everything to 14" is a pain in the ass. 17" rounds are more standard and less cutting. Im used to it and the stove works great. When I save up enough shorties I treat myself to a luxurious N/S load lol.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chris_F

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,678
South Puget Sound, WA
Thanks bholler, I do understand what you mean. I ask about the N/S-E/W because I couldn't tell from the websites what the internal depth of the firebox is, so I don't know if it's possible to put 18" logs in N/S. She'll be burning 18" split wood that we buy from someone else (though 6"-12" sections do sound like a nice lightweight option for a senior citizen with low upper body strength!).
I thought 16" splits can squeak into the Drolet 1800i N/S but not 18" splits. Looks like Chris_F has verified this. They need to go E/W. The PE Super or Alderlea T5 firebox is 18" square.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chris_F

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
I thought 16" splits can squeak into the Drolet 1800i N/S but not 18" splits. Looks like Chris_F has verified this.
No, I couldn't confirm, I'm sorry to say. If you think they can, they very well might!
 

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,678
South Puget Sound, WA
Yep. Also be sure and don’t let the wood touch the back and front of the stove. Allow for your wood to go in north/south and still allow for air flow front and back.
Our splits almost always touch the back firebrick. The airflow is fed from the front mostly. With secondary air across the top.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chris_F

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
Thank you guys for good advice! I'm leaning toward one of these. It would be nice to whittle the list down further. Does anyone have any reason (like bad value, bad materials, bad engineering, has frequent problems) I should NOT buy any of these inserts?

Top contenders
Quadra-Fire Expedition II (higher quality, reasonable price).
Hearthstone Clydesdale (higher quality, more efficient, eligible for the 26% tax credit).

Runners-up
Pacific Energy Super Insert LE (higher quality)
Osburn 2000 or Inspire (better quality, reasonable price)
Drolet Escape 1800 (good quality, super low price)
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,574
central pa
Yep. Also be sure and don’t let the wood touch the back and front of the stove. Allow for your wood to go in north/south and still allow for air flow front and back.
Many of mine touch the back and are all but touching the glass. No need for space for airflow
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chris_F

Solarguy3500

Member
Dec 3, 2020
171
Western MA
The Osburn 3500 insert can take a max 18" log loading N-S and a max 22" log loading E-W. I have been cutting most of my wood to 16"-17" so I have a little extra room front to back and not jammed against the glass in the front.

But this is a big stove with a 3.5 cu ft firebox and it might be more stove than what you said you are looking for given the stated goals for your mother. You had indicated that the stove would be more for ambience than heating, so this might put out too much heat, but it would fit the bill on your other desire to be able to fit an 18" log.

I can't speak from experience yet on heating ability, ease of use, maintenance, etc. as I have not actually installed mine yet. I bought it late fall last year and did not get it installed before winter set in. I'll be finishing the install this spring or summer. I started an install thread on here a while back and I'll update when I get back into the install and finish it up.
 

Hoytman

Feeling the Heat
Jan 6, 2020
356
Ohio
I was referring to a stove where the recommendation was to load E/W. Just as bholler said you can load any stove N/S, even one where the manual says to burn E/W, if you cut the wood shorter it will fit. Common sense says shorter will work.

Common sense also says an open fire receives oxygen from all sides and therefore burns faster and hotter.

I offered the tip from a modern stove manual, though I don’t recall which one. Take it or leave. Doesn’t matter to me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bholler

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,678
South Puget Sound, WA
I offered the tip from a modern stove manual, though I don’t recall which one. Take it or leave. Doesn’t matter to me.
That might have been a Quadrafire? Some of their stoves have a rear start-up air supply. It's not all that common.
 

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
The Osburn 3500 insert can take a max 18" log loading N-S and a max 22" log loading E-W. I have been cutting most of my wood to 16"-17" so I have a little extra room front to back and not jammed against the glass in the front.

But this is a big stove with a 3.5 cu ft firebox and it might be more stove than what you said you are looking for given the stated goals for your mother. You had indicated that the stove would be more for ambience than heating, so this might put out too much heat, but it would fit the bill on your other desire to be able to fit an 18" log.

I can't speak from experience yet on heating ability, ease of use, maintenance, etc. as I have not actually installed mine yet. I bought it late fall last year and did not get it installed before winter set in. I'll be finishing the install this spring or summer. I started an install thread on here a while back and I'll update when I get back into the install and finish it up.
Thank you, that's good stuff to know!
 

Easy Livin’ 3000

Minister of Fire
Dec 23, 2015
2,920
SEPA
Thank you guys for good advice! I'm leaning toward one of these. It would be nice to whittle the list down further. Does anyone have any reason (like bad value, bad materials, bad engineering, has frequent problems) I should NOT buy any of these inserts?

Top contenders
Quadra-Fire Expedition II (higher quality, reasonable price).
Hearthstone Clydesdale (higher quality, more efficient, eligible for the 26% tax credit).

Runners-up
Pacific Energy Super Insert LE (higher quality)
Osburn 2000 or Inspire (better quality, reasonable price)
Drolet Escape 1800 (good quality, super low price)
I would go with the Drolet. Because I have used one for 5 years, and it is great. And low cost. It lets the fire be the star of the show, as it should be.
 

Chris_F

Member
Dec 10, 2014
29
East Fishkill, New York
I would go with the Drolet. Because I have used one for 5 years, and it is great. And low cost. It lets the fire be the star of the show, as it should be.
Thank you, I appreciate a solid endorsement!