Replacing Fireplace with insert

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Lbc

New Member
Mar 31, 2018
4
Pa
I live in a 1920's house, two stories and a walkout basement. We love our fireplace but we have to either get a wood stove insert or a gas fireplace because the flu has to be fixed, and the diameter of the chimney will be too small for us to be able to make fires that are not all smoke after the flu liner is added (that is my understanding). The liner is now clay. I don't think we would seriously consider gas.

I have been reading threads on this forum as well as visiting showrooms, and I am pretty confused as to what we should do. We have gas heat with radiators which is our primary heat source. The fireplace is at the foot of the steps, in the front corner of the living room, and our 2nd floor is already significantly warmer (at least 5 degrees) all winter long. It is warm enough upstairs that I do not generally need to turn on the heat during the day if I stay upstairs.

From reading, it seems that the newest wood stoves require very dry wood because of improved efficiency. I have two primary interests.

1. Ease/simplicity of use, including (if possible) less finicky about using super, super dry wood
2. Ability to moderate temperature

I am leaning towards a stove with catalytic converter because of ability to easily moderate temperature and I do like the lower emissions. Are stoves with cats more finicky about wood as the tradeoff?

I live in a pretty urban area (Southeast PA) so not much space for wood storage. I can't imagine that this would ever be a primary heat source for us unless we have a power outage (a bit too frequent these days).

I think that for our purposes, the brand may not be the most important thing, and that's where I start getting super confused because each brand seems to have its proponents.

Any help with the technology that we should be looking for? Features? Materials?

Appreciate any help!

Cheers,

LBC
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
88,845
South Puget Sound, WA
Welcome. Any stove is going to work the best with fully seasoned wood. This doesn't have to be super dry (<10%) but ideally should be somewhere in the 12-18% range. If the wood is a bit higher, say 21% moisture it will still burn ok but more energy is going to be wasted driving out the water. Wood that is not fully seasoned or too damp (>23%) will be harder to start and keep going and it will cool down the flue gases. Over the length of the liner these flue gases will continue to cool down. If the gas temp drops below 250º the gases start to condense in the liner. This can happen rapidly at the top of the chimney where it goes through a cold attic and when there is outdoor exposure. The condensed gases cause creosote formations which can restrict the liner and are potentially combustible. You want to avoid this if possible. Once the fire is down to the coaling stage this is not an issue, the water has been completely boiled off.

A standard EPA stove or insert will have flue gases in the 4-800º range depending on how the stove is run. Catalytic stoves tend to run a bit cooler flue temps, especially during milder weather burning when the air is turned down. If the wood is not fully seasoned and the stove is being run on low, the build up in the liner will happen faster. This means more frequent cleaning to prevent draft reduction and serious creosote buildup.

Based on these parameters I think a non-cat would best fit your needs, particularly if a good looking fire view is also desired.
1) occasional use
2) simple stove
3) more flexible with less than ideally seasoned wood

The operator controls the heat output by the amount of fuel the fire is fed, the amount of air the fire is fed and how frequently it is refueled.
 

Lbc

New Member
Mar 31, 2018
4
Pa
Thank you, begreen! This is so helpful. So many high tech things out there these days. Easy to get lost in the literature. You do us a great service!

Happy spring!
 

jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
5,283
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
Picking the perfect stove isisomething we argue about because we heat with wood and burn these stoves thousands of hours per year.

If you want an ornamental stove, pick whatever is safe and looks nice, and don't look back.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
88,845
South Puget Sound, WA
A well made cat stove can be
Picking the perfect stove isisomething we argue about because we heat with wood and burn these stoves thousands of hours per year.

If you want an ornamental stove, pick whatever is safe and looks nice, and don't look back.

Not everyone needs 24/7 wood heat and no stove is perfect. The OP is not looking for an ornamental stove. They just want a simple heater to do the job.