Traditional fireplace options/recommendations

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dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
I live in upstate NY and have a traditional masonry fireplace in a room above my garage. The room is a large square (about 500 sq ft and vaulted ceilings that are 20 feet high. The room is connected to the rest of the home via a single entrance.

I am looking for options to make this fireplace more efficient to gain some heat from it. I've gotten quotes for "conventional" inserts, and they are in the $6-8k range; more than I want to spend now.

What are some options/recommendations to make this area more efficient. I love fires and would like to add more auxiliary heat to this room, but I hate cooling down the rest of my home for winter time fires. I've looked at things such as blowers, but I am not sure if they will do much.

Thanks all
-Dan

IMG_7811.jpeg IMG_7809.jpeg
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,242
central pa
I live in upstate NY and have a traditional masonry fireplace in a room above my garage. The room is a large square (about 500 sq ft and vaulted ceilings that are 20 feet high. The room is connected to the rest of the home via a single entrance.

I am looking for options to make this fireplace more efficient to gain some heat from it. I've gotten quotes for "conventional" inserts, and they are in the $6-8k range; more than I want to spend now.

What are some options/recommendations to make this area more efficient. I love fires and would like to add more auxiliary heat to this room, but I hate cooling down the rest of my home for winter time fires. I've looked at things such as blowers, but I am not sure if they will do much.

Thanks all
-Dan

View attachment 303417 View attachment 303418
There aren't really any options worth spending your money on other than an insert and liner honestly. Most others might gain you a few percentage points of efficency if any
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,392
South Puget Sound, WA
If you can safely DIY install a liner after the chimney is thoroughly cleaned, then putting in a Drolet, True North, or Century insert should keep the cost down to about $3500-$4000.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
Hard to see thru the ash, but if there's an outside air inlet on that fireplace, you might just use it as-is by closing the door to the rest of the house and opening that air inlet. A fireplace can actually be a good heater of the room in which it's installed, if you can prevent it from pulling cold air in thru the rest of the house.

If no outside air inlet is already installed, you might still do better installing one yourself, than aborting and replacing the whole works.
 

dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
Hard to see thru the ash, but if there's an outside air inlet on that fireplace, you might just use it as-is by closing the door to the rest of the house and opening that air inlet. A fireplace can actually be a good heater of the room in which it's installed, if you can prevent it from pulling cold air in thru the rest of the house.

If no outside air inlet is already installed, you might still do better installing one yourself, than aborting and replacing the whole works.
Would I be able to see an inlet from exterior chimney photos? What should I be looking for?

Thank you for the help!
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
Oh, it would be obvious if you had one. Usually a little hinged or sliding door in floor of firebox, most often front and center. The idea is you open this door a controlled amount, such that the fireplace draws it's own air directly from outside, rather than pulling cold air in thru every distant crevice in your house.

If one doesn't exist, installation in the firebox may be a bridge too far, but I do wonder how one might benefit from an inlet thru the wall very close to the fireplace. @bholler or @woodgeek would probably have some thoughts on this.
 

dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
Oh, it would be obvious if you had one. Usually a little hinged or sliding door in floor of firebox, most often front and center. The idea is you open this door a controlled amount, such that the fireplace draws it's own air directly from outside, rather than pulling cold air in thru every distant crevice in your house.

If one doesn't exist, installation in the firebox may be a bridge too far, but I do wonder how one might benefit from an inlet thru the wall very close to the fireplace. @bholler or @woodgeek would probably have some thoughts on this.
I have a little door that I can open at the bottom of the fire box under the hearth. There is a clean out located in the garage beneath the fireplace. I assume that this door was there for helping to clean ash?

Sorry for the upside down photo on the left, but I've attached a photo of the sliceable grate in the firebox and the door in the garage directly underneath the firebox.

tempImagekFb3T0.png tempImageKf4DMf.png
 
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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,782
SE PA
The perimeter of the house is getting cold not bc of the cold air being drawn in by the stove (which uses far less air than a fireplace) but from a lack of heat distribution to those areas. So an outside air supply to the stove won't make a huge difference in that issue IMO.

The best/cheapest way to distribute heat from a central stove is by moving a large volume of air slowly using a large diameter fan. Ceiling fans work great (if possible). Otherwise a large stand fan strategically placed near a doorway or hallway can make a world of difference. Try to feel how the air wants to flow by convention and use fans to reinforce that motion.

For example, my insert is in a basement family room, and all the heat needs to escape through a normal sized door and then rise up the center of my split level house. I set a large fan on the floor a few feet outside the doorway blowing cool air INTO the stove room along the floor level, and the hot air exits the top of the doorway. Once it gets to the center of my house, a ceiling fan mixes it with all the other air, and keeps most of my house quite toasty.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
I have a little door that I can open at the bottom of the fire box under the hearth. There is a clean out located in the garage beneath the fireplace. I assume that this door was there for helping to clean ash?

Sorry for the upside down photo on the left, but I've attached a photo of the sliceable grate in the firebox and the door in the garage directly underneath the firebox.

View attachment 303598 View attachment 303599
Yeah, if that connects into the chimney you'd want to keep it closed, to prevent cooling of chimney gasses.

@woodgeek is right, with regard to heat distribution. But an open fireplace can draw enough make-up air to frustrate this effort.
 

dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
Thanks for the information. What is this box near the bottom of the chimney near the outside? Could it be an exterior vent? Sorry that the photos are uploading sideways.

tempImageqlhv7F.png tempImage50Kllc.png tempImageYqCWpl.png
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
That looks like it could be an outside air intake, although the grates or louvers are usually smaller to keep out wasps and animals. Any idea where it leads?
 

dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
No idea where it leads to as its pretty impossible to see inside that area. There is a small screen like thing between the grates. I don't see how any animals or large bugs could get in there. I have another wood burning open chimney on the other side of the house that has the same thing.

I should note that it is directly opposite the clean out
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
No idea where it leads to as its pretty impossible to see inside that area. There is a small screen like thing between the grates. I don't see how any animals or large bugs could get in there. I have another wood burning open chimney on the other side of the house that has the same thing.

I should note that it is directly opposite the clean out
So, do you think what you're calling a "clean out" is actually a fresh air inlet connected to that opening? If so, problem solved.

"Clean outs" connect into the chimney, i.e. the black door you show in post #7. "Fresh air inlets" connect only to the outside.
 

dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
So, do you think what you're calling a "clean out" is actually a fresh air inlet connected to that opening? If so, problem solved.

"Clean outs" connect into the chimney, i.e. the black door you show in post #7. "Fresh air inlets" connect only to the outside.

Sorry, I am a bit confused by this. There are two different areas. The clean out and what I *THINK* could be the intake to the outside.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
At night, when everything is dark, think you could shine a light into that grate from outside, and look for it inside. Or vice versa?
 

mikey

Burning Hunk
Dec 4, 2013
152
rhode island
An open fireplace is not very efficient but if you really want to get a little more heat out of yours a grate called grate wall of fire is a option, its self feeding and it will expose the coals and that is where most of the heat comes from. I have one in my dining room for ambiance wen hosting friends for dinner, that grate plus a fireback will increase the heating output, but it wont ever be a substitute for a wood stove.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,242
central pa
It honestly doesn't matter the efficiency of the fireplace will still be absurdly low even if the air inlet is large enough to supply all the air needed. Which it isn't.
 

dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
I tried the flashlight trick. The vent (or whatever it is) is located about 3-4 feet higher than the cleanest in the garage. When shining the light in, the "Vent" is on the same "pipe". Would its be advisable to open the trap door and light the fire (drawing air from the outside)?

until I get an insert, my goal isn't so much to make it more efficient, but to suck out air from the outside and not air from the house,.

Thanks all
-Dan
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
Drawing outside air will reduce the amount of air drawn through the rest of the house, so if I were convinced that's an outside air inlet, I'd be using it. Of course, while Googling to find you a good link to discuss their usage, I came across this consenting article:

 

dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
Drawing outside air will reduce the amount of air drawn through the rest of the house, so if I were convinced that's an outside air inlet, I'd be using it. Of course, while Googling to find you a good link to discuss their usage, I came across this consenting article:

Very interesting read. I am not convinced that the "vent" on the outside of the chimney is meant as an air inlet. All I know is that it connects to the tube leading to the clean out box. When I open the clean out cover in the bottom of the firebox, the fire would really roar and you could tell that an additional draft was being supplied.

If it is not a vent, I'd like to know the purpose of it.
 

Woodsplitter67

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2017
2,464
Woolwich nj
With current energy prices I go get a reasonable priced insert and install a liner and actually heat the home with the wood im burning.. Fireplaces are so inefficient. Your wasting alot of energy up an open fireplace plus adding in the time to make something thats hard to work actually work.. put your time into something that actually works.. dont sit there and try to figure out how to put a square peg in a round whole.. fined the round peg .... and just be done..
 
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dan7800

New Member
Nov 21, 2022
22
Upstate NY
With current energy prices I go get a reasonable priced insert and install a liner and actually heat the home with the wood im burning.. Fireplaces are so inefficient. Your wasting alot of energy up an open fireplace plus adding in the time to make something thats hard to work actually work.. put your time into something that actually works.. dont sit there and try to figure out how to put a square peg in a round whole.. fined the round peg .... and just be done..
Agreed. I am shopping around for an insert now. In the near term, I am just wondering what that ?vent? actually is. Even when I get an insert, the ?vent? will still be there.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,242
central pa
Agreed. I am shopping around for an insert now. In the near term, I am just wondering what that ?vent? actually is. Even when I get an insert, the ?vent? will still be there.
Well if it is a vent that goes from outside to the ash dump it is clearly a fresh air intake
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,626
Philadelphia
Well if it is a vent that goes from outside to the ash dump it is clearly a fresh air intake
Agreed. Maybe not an ideally sized or implemented example, but if it goes straight from the firebox floor to outside, there's not much else it could be.
 
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