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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Kingston, Ontario
    Posts
    207

    Should we abandon our fireplace?

    We have a 60's house. It has a heatilator type fireplace built around a metal firebox. The air passages appear to be built into the brickwork - there is one low level duct and two high level. I have attached some pics - maybe someone could identify it (no nameplate visible). The glass doors are a later addition.

    The chimney is built of brick and supported by the fireplace and it's foundation. It is about 22x17 OD and appears to have a clay-tile flue inside (or at least that is what sticks out the top).

    Problems we have found:
    - Clearance to combustible framing:- at ceiling level, there is one 2x4 that is hard up against brickwork. A ceiling rafter on one side is 3/4" away and on other side varies from 1-2.5" clearance. Other side has nothing at present. These pieces are not easy to remove and even if possible work would be costly.
    - I found a piece of light gauge steel lying in hearth as well as some sort of a bracket with 4 screws. They can be seen in the second picture. It clearly rusted off. Anyone have any idea what that might be?

    What should we do?
    - We no longer build big fires in the fireplace. At most a couple of those fireplace logs when visitors come and over holidays. I doubt the brickwork even gets warm from one of those, so one option is to just carry on doing that.
    - Abandon fireplace and install a propane insert or just logs? (we don't have natural gas piped in). We would likely just use this as we use the existing logs - just for special occasions. Or we could think of the installation as backup heat if we lose power (we have baseboards/heatpump)

    Questions:
    - If there is an air gap between the brick chomney and the flue, does the 2" clearance requirement still apply?
    - If we install a gas insert or logs, is the existing chimney still used? Or is a separate vent pipe installed?
    - If a separate vent is installed, is the existing chimney sealed to stop heat losses?
    Attached Images Attached Images      

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Southern Ontario, Can
    Posts
    26

    Hmm

    In 1975/76? we installed a Heatilator Fireplace at my Dad's. It was a double walled steal heat exchanger with vents top and bottom allowing for convection heat flow. My father hated opening the flue to start a fire as he felt it sucked the heat from the rest of the house, lol. The bricking was just a facade around the heat exchanger. The liner was a regular clay flue liner. I can't remember exactly how it attached to the liner. I would think you would be into some extensive brick work to remove it. The only thing dad thought that would help with the efficiency was a tight fitting glass front that he could not get to work as his bricking had a ledge. I was 19 when me and the brother in-law did the install (I mixed the mortar he was the chimney guy) and though it looked great it was a bust.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Ontario
    Posts
    381
    Why don't you get a w.e.t. certified pro to give you a assessment? By the book it is not likely legal to use. A propane insert in Ontario requires 2 3" liners run down your chimney to unit. 1 for exhaust and 1 for intake air. All would be good with insert. Wood burning is a whole new book of rules. Insurance will want you to have it wet certified for wood but no questions asked when gas insert installed as long as it meets manufacture specs.
    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Kingston, Ontario
    Posts
    207
    Quote Originally Posted by talktowags View Post
    Why don't you get a w.e.t. certified pro to give you a assessment? By the book it is not likely legal to use. A propane insert in Ontario requires 2 3" liners run down your chimney to unit. 1 for exhaust and 1 for intake air. All would be good with insert. Wood burning is a whole new book of rules. Insurance will want you to have it wet certified for wood but no questions asked when gas insert installed as long as it meets manufacture specs.
    Hope this helps.
    It DOES help - Thanks!

    We are not happy having a chimney with clearances that don't meet code even if we don't use it, except with those food store logs.

    Plan will likely be to instal a gas insert. But that might have to wait until our current heatpump/insulation/airleakage upgrade is complete (and paid for!)

    Air Leakage is a big concern at present. When they run those 3" ducts up through the existing chimney, do they seal around them so there is no air leakage from the room to the chimney?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Ontario
    Posts
    381
    You can seal around the unit where it meets the brick, not a problem. Make sure they follow manufactures instructions and include it in quote.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,225

    Cool

    You should start with an inspection by a WETT certified pro. You can pack insulation around the two liners but it never seals 100%.

    Any gaps between the steel fireplace form and the surrounding masonry must be sealed even with an insert regardless of fuel type. Note that any insert is not recognized as a repair item.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Southern Ontario, Can
    Posts
    26
    Quote Originally Posted by Freeagent View Post
    It DOES help - Thanks!

    We are not happy having a chimney with clearances that don't meet code even if we don't use it, except with those food store logs.

    Plan will likely be to install a gas insert. But that might have to wait until our current heatpump/insulation/airleakage upgrade is complete (and paid for!)

    Air Leakage is a big concern at present. When they run those 3" ducts up through the existing chimney, do they seal around them so there is no air leakage from the room to the chimney?
    As an Engineer you know that specific information for particular devices must be looked up and the ability to find this material is part and parcel of your job. This is no different here manufacturers supply detailed instructions for correct installation and it is mandated that the installer read these instructions. This does not preclude you as a customer form obtaining and reading the same information. We live in an age were this information is a click away. If you know the model go to the manufacturer's site and lock up the tech sheets, this applies from toilets to fireplaces. Here is and example:http://www.napoleonfireplaces.com/Te...ls/BGD33NR.pdf
    RTFM as troubletime likes to say, lol.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    49
    Fireplaces are a luxury item that do not provide anything near the COP as your standard gas furnace AHU. Seal it up and you'll save a fortune on wasted energy going out the flue.

    However, a stove that radiates heat all around it, is a luxury item that actually delivers heat generating a COP comparable to a gas furnace.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Kingston, Ontario
    Posts
    207
    Quote Originally Posted by bironacad View Post
    As an Engineer you know that specific information for particular devices must be looked up and the ability to find this material is part and parcel of your job.
    One thing I learned as a design engineer, was to ask the practical guys who maintained and operated equipment before choosing anything. The manual thing come later

    There is a lot of terminology around these fireplaces and I am just picking it up. Especially when it comes to retrofitting an insert.

    Quote Originally Posted by hearthman
    You should start with an inspection by a WETT certified pro. You can pack insulation around the two liners but it never seals 100%.

    Any gaps between the steel fireplace form and the surrounding masonry must be sealed even with an insert regardless of fuel type. Note that any insert is not recognized as a repair item.
    We have two problems - lack of clearance from combustible at ceiling penetration and rust up above damper including one or two parts that fell down (see pic). Fixing the clearance problems would require some demolition of interior walls and will not be an easy or inexpensive fix. Changing a rusty firebox, even worse, I would imagine.

    I have set up an appointment for an inspection, but it will probably be a waste of money because it seems clear that our FP/chimney is not safe as it is. I may instead, just have them clean the chimney in preparation for a future conversion to gas and just stop using the FP for now.

    Quote Originally Posted by lafittejdubb
    Fireplaces are a luxury item that do not provide anything near the COP as your standard gas furnace AHU. Seal it up and you'll save a fortune on wasted energy going out the flue.

    However, a stove that radiates heat all around it, is a luxury item that actually delivers heat generating a COP comparable to a gas furnace.
    You are right! We are currently removing our Jotul woodstove in another room - It did provide a lot of heat, but we are past the wood chopping stage . If we put in a gas insert, it will just be for cosmetics and backup for our BB/Heatpump if the power goes off.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    S.E. Pa
    Posts
    6,225

    Cool poor comparison

    Quote Originally Posted by lafittejdubb View Post
    Fireplaces are a luxury item that do not provide anything near the COP as your standard gas furnace AHU. Seal it up and you'll save a fortune on wasted energy going out the flue.

    However, a stove that radiates heat all around it, is a luxury item that actually delivers heat generating a COP comparable to a gas furnace.
    Not sure how you would apply COP to a hearth product that is not a heat pump. There are many reasons to buy a hearth product other than pure heating efficiency alone. Even when you address efficiency, there are many ways to look at that.

    You can compare AFUE's where a typical gas direct vent approaches your typical fan assisted furnace. You can look at combustion efficiency and know that the fireplace will be lower but keep in mind, it is a luminous flame appliance so by definition, it will be lower. Then you have the less tangible aspects. For instance, many clients report actual fuel savings with a gas DV insert because they use it as a zone heater for the bulk of the day thus burning less fuel overall. Now where is your COP?

    Hearth appliances are also built and installed for aesthetics. Look in those home decor magazines and show me a pic of a family gathered around the furnace or boiler. The hearth is a gathering place for the family and friends. There is valiue to that. They look nice, which also holds value. They can function as a backup heat source so you can remain in your home during a winter storm and be comfortable while your main furnace sits cold. Something no furnace has been able to do is provide that sense of security and joy that comes from sitting around a fireplace or stove.

    Just so you understand, direct vent gas inserts are blocked off so you don't lose a ton of heat up the chimney, suffer from cold smelly downdrafts or pollute the home with CO, aldehydes and NOx the way a backdrafting furnace can. Since it does not draw indoor air, it does not cause thermostats to cycle as cold air infiltrates into the home the way a typical 80% furnace does or a CAT IV furnace with an exhaust pipe only does.

    Which costs more in energy: a sealed direct vent gas fireplace insert properly installed and operated as a zone or supplemental heater or a gas furnace improperly set up, not tuned with leaky ductwork, a clogged filter and a Hg thermostat located in a return bay or too close to the front door?

    lafittejdubb but I disagree with your broad characterization. It is not an apples to apples comparison.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Kingston, Ontario
    Posts
    207
    I did find a good reference to gas fired fireplaces that has helped in getting a general understanding of what we should be looking at:

    http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collectio...23-9-2003E.pdf

    We are spending $20k on our heat pump/energy upgrades this year, so the FP will have to wait. Meantime it will not be used!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Southern Ontario, Can
    Posts
    26
    Quote Originally Posted by Freeagent View Post
    I did find a good reference to gas fired fireplaces that has helped in getting a general understanding of what we should be looking at:

    http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collectio...23-9-2003E.pdf

    We are spending $20k on our heat pump/energy upgrades this year, so the FP will have to wait. Meantime it will not be used!
    Practical guy here, lol, I have found that discussion forums are and excellent way to get a broad overview of a topic. I recently purchased a tractor for the farm and found the shared experience of a discussion forum immensely helpful. One thing that was suggested is that I load a free download for spell checking my posts, lol, http://www.iespell.com/ I still have challenges with my posts at times but the speel check helps.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    49

    Red face My apologies

    Quote Originally Posted by hearthman View Post
    Not sure how you would apply COP to a hearth product that is not a heat pump. There are many reasons to buy a hearth product other than pure heating efficiency alone. Even when you address efficiency, there are many ways to look at that.

    You can compare AFUE's where a typical gas direct vent approaches your typical fan assisted furnace. You can look at combustion efficiency and know that the fireplace will be lower but keep in mind, it is a luminous flame appliance so by definition, it will be lower. Then you have the less tangible aspects. For instance, many clients report actual fuel savings with a gas DV insert because they use it as a zone heater for the bulk of the day thus burning less fuel overall. Now where is your COP?

    Hearth appliances are also built and installed for aesthetics. Look in those home decor magazines and show me a pic of a family gathered around the furnace or boiler. The hearth is a gathering place for the family and friends. There is valiue to that. They look nice, which also holds value. They can function as a backup heat source so you can remain in your home during a winter storm and be comfortable while your main furnace sits cold. Something no furnace has been able to do is provide that sense of security and joy that comes from sitting around a fireplace or stove.

    Just so you understand, direct vent gas inserts are blocked off so you don't lose a ton of heat up the chimney, suffer from cold smelly downdrafts or pollute the home with CO, aldehydes and NOx the way a backdrafting furnace can. Since it does not draw indoor air, it does not cause thermostats to cycle as cold air infiltrates into the home the way a typical 80% furnace does or a CAT IV furnace with an exhaust pipe only does.

    Which costs more in energy: a sealed direct vent gas fireplace insert properly installed and operated as a zone or supplemental heater or a gas furnace improperly set up, not tuned with leaky ductwork, a clogged filter and a Hg thermostat located in a return bay or too close to the front door?

    lafittejdubb but I disagree with your broad characterization. It is not an apples to apples comparison.
    HEARTHMAN, I apologize for hitting a nerve with you! I should have been more careful with my words considering your response to my post.

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