Seeking Fireplace Insert Advice

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bladeofanduril

New Member
Nov 5, 2021
39
PA, USA
Greetings! I'm hoping I can find some advice here on my investigation into purchasing a wood-burning fireplace insert. First, some background info.

I'm in PA, and have a roughly 100 year old Craftsman-style home with an original masonry fireplace and brick chimney. A large ~500 sqft "great room" was added to the house about 15-20 years ago (before we moved in) - I'm not really concerned about being able to heat this with the insert. The original portion of the house is a 2-story. The room in which the fireplace is situated is central to the original house, with the stairs opposite the fireplace, and to the left and right of it entryways to the kitchen and front/sun room. The house currently has oil-fired hydronic heat via old-school radiators in the original portion of the house, and hydronic baseboard heaters in the addition. My primary desire in looking into an insert is in having a secondary way of efficiently heating the main part of the house to reduce oil costs. Another detail, is that the fireplace is faced on all sides with historic Mercer tiles, that I really want to leave exposed as much as possible (picture below). The current 26% tax rebate is another consideration - I'd like to take advantage of it, unless there are compelling reasons to go with a unit that doesn't qualify.

The fireplace dimensions are 31.5" wide, 31.5 height, 25" depth (at deepest point), and 26" width at back.

PXL_20211102_182952265.jpg

I've contacted a few local fireplace stores and initial contacts have suggested inserts (all of which meet the standard for the tax rebate) such as the Regency i2500, and the Blaze King lineup. Are these good units? They all employ a catalytic system. Is that added expense and hassle of maintaining a catalytic system worth the benefit in efficiency? This is the first time I've started to seriously look into inserts, so I know fairly little. I considered pellet inserts, but think I would prefer the flexibility of wood-burning as trees are plentiful in my area if I ever had to scavenge for fuel. I was told by one of the stores I contacted that due to the opening height I'd need an oversized faceplate which would be 33x48" and cover a large portion of the tiles. How essential is the faceplate surround? Could I potentially fabricate one with some sheet metal, or have one fabricated?

What units would you all recommend? Are there any important questions that I should be asking, but don't know enough to?

I really appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks for your time.
 

Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,525
Long Island, NY
Welcome to the forums !!!

#1 . That fireplace is GORGEOUS!!! Don't you dare mess with that !!!:p ;)

#2. How far out is the hearth area in front of it, and what is it made of?

#3. Have you considered a wood stove inserted in or partially in the fireplace, if one will fit. Or extend it out on the hearth fully. It can be done. Not sure if you'll qualify, how ever. Just a thought :)

#4. My daughter in stalled the Regency last September in northern CT. Does a damned good job of heating her 2000 SF 2 story house.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
93,751
South Puget Sound, WA
That is a one-of-a-kind fireplace. I would either put in an insert with no surround or a freestanding stove. It's late in the season to be adding a stove so your choices may be limited to what is available. Some stove companies are now not promising delivery until Feb. 2022.

My first thought was the Woodstock Progress Hybrid, but that is one of the stoves that is backed up in production right now. Take a look at the Jotul F55 or F45. They are freestanding stoves that are available with short legs and will fit.
 

bladeofanduril

New Member
Nov 5, 2021
39
PA, USA
Welcome to the forums !!!

#1 . That fireplace is GORGEOUS!!! Don't you dare mess with that !!!:p ;)

#2. How far out is the hearth area in front of it, and what is it made of?

#3. Have you considered a wood stove inserted in or partially in the fireplace, if one will fit. Or extend it out on the hearth fully. It can be done. Not sure if you'll qualify, how ever. Just a thought :)

#4. My daughter in stalled the Regency last September in northern CT. Does a damned good job of heating her 2000 SF 2 story house.
Thank you Dix! The harth extends 18" out, and is made of (I assume clay) tiles. A wood stove set into the fireplace is certainly an option I'd be open too - I just wasn't sure how that would compare to an insert with fans and such.
 
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bladeofanduril

New Member
Nov 5, 2021
39
PA, USA
That is a one-of-a-kind fireplace. I would either put in an insert with no surround or a freestanding stove. It's late in the season to be adding a stove so your choices may be limited to what is available. Some stove companies are now not promising delivery until Feb. 2022.

My first thought was the Woodstock Progress Hybrid, but that is one of the stoves that is backed up in production right now. Take a look at the Jotul F55 or F45. They are freestanding stoves that are available with short legs and will fit.
Thanks. I'll look into those models. I know realistically I'm likely looking at something in place for next winter rather than this one that's fast approaching.

@Supersurvey Thanks! That's what I was hoping the answer would be.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
2,663
SE North Carolina
I’m partial to stoves. You have height and width to accommodate several choices. An insert will be lower to the floor. I’m debating where to to a custom surround that goes within the opening of my fireplace for the insert. I might just leave it off completely.

I have a fan behind the stove. The stove is really tucked back in and I only use the fan 50% of the time.
It really is nice here in the south that I can have a roaring fire and masonry soaks up a lot of the heat. Had two loads today. Small loads. Bricks are still warm 9.5 hours later. It’s not the best setup when it get really cold but the fan helps a lot. Have not lit a fire in the insert yet. But I imagine I will run it similarly fan on about 1/2 the time.

85A88E8E-8FDC-4DEA-9E94-44B2EF4B6B0B.jpeg 2F5B1F45-98B0-41E5-A769-BFDADDEB918F.jpeg
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
2,353
Colorado
EbS-P Is that a electronic something above your insert and will that be removed in time...Won't the heat hurt the electronics in it? just wondering....clancey
 
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EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
2,663
SE North Carolina
EbS-P Is that a electronic something above your insert and will that be removed in time...Won't the heat hurt the electronics in it? just wondering....clancey
Tv will stay. I will make a heat shield for it. It’s on a full articulating mount so it can swing around a good bit. Having taken that tv apart none of the main boards are along the bottom. I’m guessing during a normal year it will only get lit 16-20 times.

Evan
 

bladeofanduril

New Member
Nov 5, 2021
39
PA, USA
That is a one-of-a-kind fireplace. I would either put in an insert with no surround or a freestanding stove. It's late in the season to be adding a stove so your choices may be limited to what is available. Some stove companies are now not promising delivery until Feb. 2022.

My first thought was the Woodstock Progress Hybrid, but that is one of the stoves that is backed up in production right now. Take a look at the Jotul F55 or F45. They are freestanding stoves that are available with short legs and will fit.
I looked into those models you mentioned. The Woodstock Progress Hybrid is a beautiful stove, but appears to be a side-loader so it wouldn't work set back into the fireplace opening - not enough room to open the door and load it from the side.

The Jotul F45/55 both look nice, and would work, but don't seem to be efficient enough to qualify for the tax rebate. As mentioned before, that's not necessarily a deal-breaker. I'll have to look into stoves more.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
93,751
South Puget Sound, WA
Yes, the PH would need to sit a bit forward, but still on the hearth and not all the way out of the fireplace. Because it's a sideloader it does not need as much hearth extension, only 8" IIRC. They also have the Ideal Steel if the steampunk look is desired.
 

bladeofanduril

New Member
Nov 5, 2021
39
PA, USA
Thanks to the suggestions of placing a wood stove into the fireplace opening I've been looking into that option and think that's the direction I'll go in. I think it will be more aesthetically appealing, but the added bonus of being able to cook on it is nice too, in case of a prolonged power outage.

Right now I'm looking primarily at the Vermont Castings Encore, which would be able to sit back into the opening a bit, or the Defiant, though its legs are just a little too wide to fit into the opening. I suspect the Defiant would be overkill though, so likely the Encore is the right choice.
 

ToastyRanch

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
57
Coastal Massachusetts
Thanks to the suggestions of placing a wood stove into the fireplace opening I've been looking into that option and think that's the direction I'll go in. I think it will be more aesthetically appealing, but the added bonus of being able to cook on it is nice too, in case of a prolonged power outage.

Right now I'm looking primarily at the Vermont Castings Encore, which would be able to sit back into the opening a bit, or the Defiant, though its legs are just a little too wide to fit into the opening. I suspect the Defiant would be overkill though, so likely the Encore is the right choice.
Have no experience with Vermont Castings. However, from a purely visual perspective, based upon how the colors are coming out in the photo, I think one of their white stoves would look good with that gorgeous tile.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
1,271
MA
Wow! on the fireplace.

I read A Christmas Carol every year. I can see the tiles transforming into Marley.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,681
central pa
Funny you should mention A Christmas Carol. I've been told the tiles illustrate scenes from Dicken's The Pickwick Papers.
Where are you in pa? We work on 4 fireplaces with similar tile. One is a massive walking in an ice skating rink 5' tall and 8' wide.

As far as your questions go is this an internal or external fireplace. If it is internal to the structure of the house the radiant heat lost to the masonry structure from placing a stove in the firebox will still eventually end up in the house. If it's external much of it will be lost to the outside.

Regardless my recommendations would be either a free stander Infront of the fireplace or an insert with custom surround in it. Not a stove inside the fireplace.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,681
central pa
The huge fireplace tiles are all Grimm's fairy tales
 

bladeofanduril

New Member
Nov 5, 2021
39
PA, USA
Where are you in pa? We work on 4 fireplaces with similar tile. One is a massive walking in an ice skating rink 5' tall and 8' wide.

As far as your questions go is this an internal or external fireplace. If it is internal to the structure of the house the radiant heat lost to the masonry structure from placing a stove in the firebox will still eventually end up in the house. If it's external much of it will be lost to the outside.

Regardless my recommendations would be either a free stander Infront of the fireplace or an insert with custom surround in it. Not a stove inside the fireplace.
I'm in SE PA. The fireplace is external. So that's a good point about heat loss to the outside. The VC stoves I'm looking at wouldn't really work in the fireplace itself, at least not more than set back into the opening a couple of inches. The next issue I'll need to consider is the harth. It's tile, extending 18" out from the opening of the fireplace. I believe the hardwood flooring extends at least part of the way under it based on what I can see from the basement and I don't know if there is any sort if insulating material between the two, but since it's a fireplace harth I would assume not, which could be an issue for a stove.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,681
central pa
I'm in SE PA. The fireplace is external. So that's a good point about heat loss to the outside. The VC stoves I'm looking at wouldn't really work in the fireplace itself, at least not more than set back into the opening a couple of inches. The next issue I'll need to consider is the harth. It's tile, extending 18" out from the opening of the fireplace. I believe the hardwood flooring extends at least part of the way under it based on what I can see from the basement and I don't know if there is any sort if insulating material between the two, but since it's a fireplace harth I would assume not, which could be an issue for a stove.
That depends on the requirements of the stove. Or insert for that matter.

I would do some research on VC before committing to them. They have certainly improved on their reliability issues in the past few years but there are other options as well.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,681
central pa