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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    287
    Hey guys, I'm looking at getting a wood insert for my masonry fireplace. I have a below grade family room that is cold as hell in the winter unless you blast the heat whereby you overheat the upper floors. I have a source for free wood and the free use of a log splitter so it seems like a no brainer (other than the initial cost of the unit/install)





    Both places I've shopped require that the chimney be lined in stainless. Any other things I should be looking for with regards to the installation?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,205

    Exclamation beforeyoubuy

    Get a qualified chimney sweep or Fp inspector to do a Level II inspection and advise. Yes, you will need a listed liner, which means it must be insulated per the listing and based on the clearances found in the level II.

    Make sure it is a full length liner and ask them to set you up with a suitable non-metallic brush to sweep it yourself. Still get it inspected annually but is better if you sweep often and learn how you are burning.

    HTH,

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    287
    Thanks.. The places that sell the things would also be doing the install. Both wrote on the estimate sweep and reline, but I'll ask about that level II stuff.


    Both firms have been around a long time, seem reputable and specialize in fireplaces, so I was fairly confident that they would be doing the right thing, but wasnt sure what questions to ask. Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Northern Virginia, Fairfax County
    Posts
    641
    I burned wood in a fireplace insert set into a masonry fire box like you say you want to do. I did this for 23 years with the largest insert made by Lopi. It was good enough to heat the whole house with natural air flow up stairs through the foyer plus two register vents in the ceiling plus fans to adjacent rooms.

    So if you want to heat only the family room, get a small insert or you will heat yourself out of the place.

    Burn only hard wood and keep a lively fire to minimize smoldering and to keep the pitch/tar from condensing inside your steel chimney liner. That free wood had better not be pine. The only place I ever had tar showing up was in the two two inches of the liner that projected above the masonry into the open air and on the mesh of the chimney cap. That was easy to clean.

    I do not understand hearthman's advice about a non-metallic brush. I used a nice metallic brush 23 times with no problem in an 8 inch diameter, 23 foot high, stainless steel liner.
    Al

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    287
    It's all good wood, maybe not the best, but definately not pine.. a lot of elm and maple though. My buddy owns a landscaping service and he hooks me up when they cut down a tree worth burning. My father in law owns a log splitter, so it's almost a no brainer.

    I'm looking at Quadra Fire, Lopi, and Avalon, the smallest units, to heat that room. At the rear of the room opposite the fireplace there are 6 steps up to the kitchen.

    If you are standing in the kitchen, the family room ceiling is about at your waist level. I figure I'd see some benefit up to the kitchen, it looks like the heat would want to naturally draft in that direction.

    I've gotten different advice from the various dealers.

    The Avalon guy said- get the smallest unit and burn it at "full throttle" instead of trying to burn a larger unit at half throttle. Also you dont necessarily need a blower, it may end up just pushing the heat out of the room. You can add one if need be.

    The Lopi guy said - get the biggest one that fits, I felt somewhat dubious about this.

    The quadrafire guy said, get the smallest unit for the reasons outlined above, but definately get the blower kit. He also was showing me a pellet stove.. .those things are cool!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    287
    My house is configured like a small rancher over a crawlspace in front of a small 2 story on a slab for a grand total of 1900 square feet. The Insert itself would be located in the 2 story section with the family room, mechanical room, kids playroom, and upstairs of that all the bedrooms.

    I'm sticking with the smaller ones because they claim up to 1500 square feet, which would be that entire rear section of the house where the insert is located.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Huntsville,AL
    Posts
    4,125
    buy whichever weights the most! the mass will release the heat slowly.
    hackleberry is good for burning. cedar will get a quick fire.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Posts
    1,383
    Personally, I like the advice of the Avalon guy.

    The small unit with a bright fire is the way to go. Fans tend to be noisy, get dirty and be a nuisance. If you want a fan, use a box fan in the room to circulate air and get warm and cool room temperatures to mix.

    And to be candid --- most people get tired of stoking a fire after two or three years. That even happened to me, and I'm a big firebug.

    Burning wood is a LOT of work, even with the assets you already have available to you. But it can be fun until you get tired of it.



    Seattle Pioneer







  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,205

    Cool wood vs. wood vs. wood

    On a kiln dried basis, a pound of wood is a pound of wood is a pound of wood when talking BTU content regardless of species. However, each species has its own equilibrium moisture content. Therefore, a kiln dried piece of pine will absorb moisture from the air until it is back in the 12-15% range, for example. Most hardwoods have a lower EMC. Also, the EMC varies with Rh%.

    So, at ~8,600 BTUs per pound (kiln dried), what matters more is the density of the wood. A cube of hardwood is much heavier than the same size cube of softwoods and therefore has more BTUs concentrated in that oak block. However, hardwoods are harder to get ignited due to their dense cell structure. Therefore, as pointed out earlier, softwoods make good fire starters.

    Oh, yeah, the thing about pine and creosote: pine is a soggy wood full of sap. Sap is sugar water. Dry up the water and you have C6H12O6--glucose. This is pre-oxygenated hydrocarbon fuel in a simple form that readily pyrolyzes into combustible vapors. Wanna fire starter? Toss in a Snickers bar or potato chips.

    The size and shape also has a lot to do with how quickly a fuel ignites. Small pieces ignite much quicker than large pieces. Angular edges ignite easier than round edges. Short logs ignite much quicker than long ones.

    The thing about no metal brushes in stainless flues is based on an unproved theory: metallic brushes scratch the stainless liner creating an environment for the formation of chromium carbides. If you have swabbed a liner x23, I'd say you are so much farther ahead of the pack it isn't even funny Al. You are getting good feedback on how you are burning while removing the chimney fire threat for awhile. Great example Al!! God bless you. I wish more woodies would follow your lead.

    As for stoves, I agree with S/P and the Quad/ Avalon dealers. Buy small then burn hot. Modern EPA Phase II stoves are designed to burn very hot, whether Cat or non-Cat. Most people grossly over estimate the size stove needed while grossly under estimating the heating horsepower of modern stoves. When it cooks them out, they choke it down, thus turning it into a creosote factory. A hot flue is a happy flue!

    Wood burns twice: once when you cut it then again when you burn it! (I'd add to it all the humping wood to and fro)
    HTH,

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Northern Virginia, Fairfax County
    Posts
    641

    Re: wood vs. wood vs. wood

    Originally posted by hearthman
    The thing about no metal brushes in stainless flues is based on an unproved theory: metallic brushes scratch the stainless liner creating an environment for the formation of chromium carbides. If you have swabbed a liner x23, I'd say you are so much farther ahead of the pack it isn't even funny Al. You are getting good feedback on how you are burning while removing the chimney fire threat for awhile. Great example Al!! God bless you. I wish more woodies would follow your lead.
    Wondering about chromium carbides, I pulled up these links.
    http://www.engineersedge.com/wwwboard/messages/298.html
    and
    http://www.corrosion-doctors.org/Mat...stainsteel.htm
    When I tore out the stainless steel liner, made up of four foot lengths of pipe by the way, I did not notice any corrosion. But what I did see on the outside of the pipe, the lower two sections had become a beautiful, copper tone which gradually transitioned to the dull grey of the three upper sections. Possibly that was "rouging"?

    We thoroughly enjoyed using the wood insert for 23 years, but my old bones and other body tissues told me to give it up. Now we have the Mendota gas insert waiting for its first season. Just when we expect another boost in fuel prices. But wood is not cheap in suburbia.
    Al

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    4
    I am new to the forum but I can add my 2 cents here. For years I had a large wood-burning insert and a split-foyer home. We had a heat pump but it rarely kicked on. We'd burn nearly 3 cords of seasoned hardwood each winter, and it kept the house very comfortable. I am considering installing the same in my current house. Yes it's some work stacking and carrying wood and hauling out ash, but it's a chore I am used to from my youth and to me it's worth the benefit of a warm fire. Good luck with the project.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Huntsville,AL
    Posts
    4,125
    my Daughter has a pellet unit in their house in Lafayette IN & have used it 2- 3y -- does good -- they burn corn, some left over, mostly bought at end of season --
    harvest rainwater,make SHADE,R75/50/30= roof/wall/floor, use HVAC mastic,caulk all wall seams!

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