I've been reading a lot on these forums and am getting overwhelmed so I'm going to lay out my situation and ask that you help me narrow down my choices.
We just purchased a home, a main floor and a walk out basement in Nova Scotia, Canada. Gardening zone 6a if that helps anyone. It was built in 1993 and has 2x6 walls and R40ish in the attic decently sealed. Main floor and basement are ~2000sqft each. The basement is one large room half the exterior walls are insulated, other half bare concrete (plans to insulate). There is a 7' wide garage type door access the basement.
Here our temp data -
The heating situation is a 25 year old no longer serviceable wood burner (corrosion though the back of the firebox, nut sure if due to leak in chimney, age or misuse but chimney will be inspected and fixed as necessary with new install). It's a Napoleon NM2020 large airtight fireplace with outside air kit and is located upstairs in the main living area with a big brick surround. Sorry about picture quality, phone lens is cracked.
We're looking to replace this with something that will provide primary heat when it's below freezing outside, Nov to March or so. The current unit is large - 36" wide, 22" deep, 51" tall. This is what's behind the bricks.
The support for the chimney is also behind the brick. I won't know how much space is available for a possible alcove install until I start ripping out brick to get the old unit out.
The chimney is directly above the current unit and is a straight shot up and almost 30' tall. We also live on an exposed hill side and frequently experience high winds, from what I've read I may have issues with too much draft?
There is also an old freestanding wood stove in the basement. The stoves are one on top of each other, on a two flue brick chimney with round clay (8") liners. The clay liner can be knocked out and replaced with insulated steel. Electric baseboards are in every room, and the previous owner retrofitted a minisplit heatpump into the main living room area as well that does a great job from until slightly below freezing temps.
The main living area is about 60% of the 2000sqft upstairs and is pretty open. It has 12 foot cathedral ceilings with a large ceiling fan to circulate air. There is also an intake near the top of the ceiling that hooked to a fan that can suck hot air into the basement.
A Venmar is installed with ducting to every room and the basement.
I do not have much experience with wood burning. I am comfortable with a learning curve on running the stove. I am comfortable stocking wood 2-3 years ahead to assure proper moisture levels and the labor required.
Hardwood is generally burnt in my area, primarily oak, birch and maple. Softwood and poplar can also be had for less.
What I think I want -
- A single woodburning unit to primarily heat the upstairs and secondary to add some heat to the basement. Basement does not need to be 72, just enough to keep the humidity down, it's used as a gym and workshop and storage. I've gotten quotes for ducted air, radiant heat and more mini splits and it looks like for 1/3 to 1/5 of the cost of those I can put in a modern wood burner and probably be happy.
- An efficient burner - I don't want to move more wood than I have to. I'm open to cat, secondary and hybrid units.
- We both work and enjoy sleeping through the night. I want a large firebox unit that I can tend 30 minutes max twice a day (morning and evening) then be able to leave the stove alone and get an efficient 12ish hour burn.
- We would like to create circulation somehow to the master bedroom, it shares a wall with the upstairs woodburner ( the wall to the left the brickwork in my picture above is the wall to the master bedroom) so I assume it would be easy to setup.
- I think I would prefer a frestanding stove but I may be limited to an insert if there's not much room behind that brick. What do I lose efficiency wise going from a freestanding stove to an insert. In other words, how much effort is it worth avoiding an insert?
- I see the Blazekings coming up over and over for set and forget. They are pricey and the cat replacement seems like it would add up over it's life but I am willing to pay for convienience if it's really that much better. Can I get the hands off burning I describe above from a unit with secondary burn only? Do the hybrids have longer lasting cats? I don't think I need the super low burn the Blazeking advertises as we could use the heatpump.
- What would you do in my situation?