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Old 02-21-2013, 08:56 PM
Forever Man Forever Man is offline
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Default Fireplace Insert vs. Stove / Wood vs. Pellets



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I'm not experienced with alternative heating and need help with a couple of important decisions.

I have a two-story home with a basement. The two stories (not counting the basement) is 2300 sq.ft. I have a newer, high-efficiency furnace that isn't getting the job done due to my duct work. I've had multiple HVAC people look at and they all say I'm stuck with the situation. So I'm looking for an alternative that doesn't involve my current duct work.

My house is rectangular. I have a den on the first floor that has a functional wood-burning fireplace. It's at the opposite side of the house from my living room where I spend most of my time. The coldest room in the house is my bedroom on the 2nd floor, directly above the living room.

I'm considering either adding a fireplace insert in the den or installing a stove in the living room. Problems I see with the insert are that it is more expensive than a stove (correct me if I'm wrong on any of these points), puts out less BTUs, and is on the wrong side of the house. If I went with a stove in the living room, I could have a vent cut through the ceiling to allow warm air to flow directly up to my bedroom above it. So I'm leaning toward going with the stove. I need someone to critique this plan. What kinds of costs and "surprises" might I be missing? Would an insert with a good blower get the job done just as well?

My second consideration is wood-burning versus pellets. Pellets are enormously appealing to me. I can buy a couple of tons of them in bags and store them in my garage. Much neater than having wood stacked up outside somewhere. Strong preference for pellets. Except from a prepper standpoint. My understanding is that a pellet stove (or insert) requires electrical power to feed the pellets into the hopper. Not a SHTF-friendly set-up. I want something that will still be functional if the power goes out for 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months. Does that force me into a wood-burner, or are there other options or considerations that I'm unaware of?

Your endurance in making through this long posting is a testament to your strength and resolve. I appeciate your willingness to help.

Forever Man
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:20 PM
Southernflymaster Southernflymaster is offline
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Do not get something dependent on electricity in my opinion. You would regret it if the SHTF scenario and defeats the purpose.

Also, your pellets would not last forever. Would is abundant if you are in the wilderness.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:30 PM
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Get a free standing woodstove, no electricity required.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:30 PM
delphidad delphidad is offline
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We have a woodstove. It puts out a lot of heat and has more area for cooking than most inserts I've seen. There was a pellet shortage several years ago in our area, prices got pretty high if you could find them at all.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:32 PM
jronwood jronwood is offline
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Even my 5 and 6 year olds know they can burn furniture to stay warm WE had an "exercise" when one of our dining chair fell apart. Add to the list (in a SHTF), old tires, used oil "drip", coal, paper, cardboard, pallets, books, my 50,000 board foot wood inventory .

Point is, get something that CAN run without electricity. Think of how many COLD COLD folks there were in NYC after Sandy.

Want to scare many millions of US citizens, attack in middle of winter, take out grid Nearly everyone (Englishman) I know cannot heat their homes without electricity. That is perhaps OUR greatest weakness. Amish ("non- Englishmen") can thrive in that environment, nearly all non Amish FAIL! Suburbanites would likely have natural gas (wells are pressurized out of the ground), but without electricity is useless.

Cant help you with layout in your house, but the closer to the center of the house the better. you could always use a "zero clearence" fireplace style chimney (non masonry chimney), and plumb it to your NEW woodburner.
Old 02-21-2013, 10:46 PM
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Chimney is generally the biggest material cost unless you buy a fancy stove or insert.

An idea to consider...

Your bedroom is directly above the living room and those are the 2 rooms where you most desire heat. How about running the chimney up through your bedroom and putting a heat exchanger on it. Would be a lot more efficient than running the chimney up the outside of the house where a great deal of heat will just be sent off into thin air.
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:04 PM
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We burn wood.

When we also have electricity, we run a circulator pump that moves heated water through our radiant heated floor. That water is heated by the same woodstove. It radiates heat directly, plus it heats water that we store in a thermal-bank, that also heats our floors. [when we have power]

Having electricity is a bonus but not a need.

I hope this can give you some ideas
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:11 PM
HB of CJ HB of CJ is offline
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Yep; strongly consider the free standing wood stove. Models are available with a flat top great for cooking also. Cheaper to run the "to-code" vent pipe than to build another chimney. Our wood stove set out in the middle of the one big room.

Some even have a environmental thingie certification and draw their intake air from dedicated inlet vents/ducts and burn very very clean. No smelly smog inside the cabin, or at least sooss little you can not smell it. Air tight. Easy to cook off of toos.

Pellet stoves are very $non-efficient$. Price per BTU vs firewood is very high. Most also require electricity...like already said. A few have a optional large wind up crank spring mechanism if you really want a pellet stove. Can't cook off of them. Not hot enough.

Didn't that Thireox, (sp) guy once say that fire wood warms you twice? Once when you cut it, once when you burn it? We take our firewood gathering/buying here in SW OR very seriously. Also...wood stove burn scars are fun to show off. HB of CJ (old coot)
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:37 PM
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RedTail had a good idea of running the flue up through the inside of the house, in order to utilize the heat that comes off it.

Definitely go with wood stove with a flat cooking top. Here's what my uncle did: He put a wood flat top stove in his basement and cut an huge opening right above the stove. His heat ducts all fill with the heated air and travels along the ducts to all the rooms upstairs. He has a very cozy home in the winter.

I think you should cut a hole and install a vent right above the stove. Install the vent to open/close side to side, not front to back. Do it so you can open and close the vent with a long chain attached, that could be held in place, off to whichever side it was last pulled. When you want to adjust the vent, just let the chain with weighted pull, swing free and it will swing towards the other side, where you can catch it and pull the vent closed or open. If the pull fob gets too warm, just stitch a heat resistent pot holder around it. If you run the flue up through the bedroom, you may not have to cut a vent. The heat that radiates off the flue might be all your bedroom needs.

If you go with pellets, you will regret it in a no electricity situation.
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Old 02-22-2013, 12:03 AM
innayat innayat is offline
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We have a massive masonry fireplace in the center of our house. It has some sort of metal pipes in it that discharge hot air from openings in the brickwork. It heats our whole house (2400 sq.ft.), with some outlying rooms that we use for storage quite a bit cooler, but never freezing. We use about 5 cords of maple and birch each year and stay quite comfortable. Cutting the wood is very hard work, though.
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Old 02-22-2013, 12:05 AM
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There are free standing stoves with blowers on them you can burn wood and have a blower until SHTF then you have a regular free standing wood stove. They cost a bit more but they are nice, my family has one at the cabin we have in the Sierra's and it works well to heat a large room.
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Old 02-22-2013, 12:09 AM
pugrendo pugrendo is offline
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Would is abundant if you are in the wilderness.
Old 02-22-2013, 12:11 AM
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There is no such thing as free pellets. There is the occasional downed tree or limb or pallet to be broken up etc. If you keep your eyes open and a handy chainsaw you can keep thewood box pretty full for the expense of only your labor and fuel.

When I was working as an LEO we would have trees knocked down by storms, blocking roads. Before county road crews could get out and clear the road, the "good old boys" would show up. Usually all the county had to do was shred some smaller limbs and leaves.
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Old 02-22-2013, 01:00 AM
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I went through the same researching and decision-making process about 2 years ago so I'll offer my input.

We had a similar situation except the home is much larger, 2 floors and around 4,400sqft. Single 80,000BTU propane furnace which is grossly undersized for that much square footage. Several cold spots in the house due to crappy ductwork and undersized furnace.

I looked hard at free-standing stoves but running the chimney from the ground floor, through the second floor and out of the roof was pretty expensive, and I didn't really want a hole in the wall and chimney pipe running up the side of the house. And it takes up floor space. And the wife didn't want a stove So, I decided I was just going to rip out the entire existing fireplace and replace it with something newer that could put out some serious heat.

Next was the pellet vs. firewood decision. I decided to go with firewood simply because I have a ton of it available for free, just takes a little elbow grease. Besides my own property, most of my extended family lives on small acreages within 10 miles or so, never heard anyone turn down a free offer to clean up their treeline.

There are some definite advantages to pellet stoves, however. Firewood is messy. Doesn't matter how careful you are you're going to get chunks of bark and crap on the floor. It also takes alot of work. Gotta haul loads of wood in, stack it, cut it, split it, etc. Gotta shovel out ashes every day or so. Pellet stoves are pretty easy and clean, buy the pellets, pour 'em in.

Wood stoves also typically will not burn as long as pellet stoves will. Depends on the model but most wood stoves will go maybe 8-10 hours on a load of good quality seasoned hardwood. That means loading the stove 2-3 times per day at best, and you may wake up cold in the morning if you don't get a good load in before bed. Pellet stoves, pour 50lb in the hopper and you might be good for 20+ hours depending on how high you have it cranked up. But, pellets cost money, firewood can be had for free, and even if you do have to buy your wood, it's usually cheaper than pellets. To me, it's a cost vs. effort thing.

As for SHTF preparation, pellet stoves are not the best. They do require electricity, albeit very little, only around 150W. Could be powered by an inverter and deep-cycle battery for a couple days easily, but significantly less if you ran the blower as well. Some models REQUIRE the blower to be on while in use so they don't overheat so keep that in mind. To me the biggest issue after SHTF is acquiring pellets. Stock up. You could easily use 1.5-2 tons per winter so you'll need a place to store it.

Anyway, having decided to completely tear out the existing fireplace and replace it gave me tons of options. I decided on a model from RSF called the Opel 3. It's basically a built-in fireplace that works like a wood furnace. Has a blower in the front, and a second blower that hooks up to your ductwork to move heat all through the house. Using the ductwork blower, it heats the first floor of the house pretty well through the ductwork during the day. In the evening, I turn that bower off, and turn on the front blower, the heat blow out the front and travels naturally upstairs quite well and keeps the bedrooms warm at night. I was also planning to cut vent in the floor to get heat up to the bedrooms but it turned out to be unnecessary. Honestly, I think if I had a hole in the floor going upstairs it would be TOO hot.

Sorry, long post but suffice to say we love the thing. I went from using 2,000 gallons of propane per year to around 600 per year and the house is MUCH more comfortable. It has paid for itself in 2 winters. Cost me around $8,000 by the time it was done for the complete install and finish work.
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Old 02-22-2013, 01:33 AM
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Good answers. And while on the subject of non-electric solutions:

https://www.lehmans.com/p-1308-large...tove-fans.aspx

Wood Stove in living room+Chimney+Non-electric Fan. Heat rises. So unless you've got some weird angles between your living room and the bedroom(s) on the second floor, the problem will come in with keeping the heat on the first floor.

The shipping's kinda spendy from Lehman's, though.
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Old 02-22-2013, 08:43 AM
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Go what as many non-electric heat sources as possible.
Some things to consider are-
Harmans Coal-wood fireplace insert
Lehmans Bakers Oven
Ventless propane heater
Kerosene portable heater
Portable propane tent heater for short term use.
Harmans Coal-wood free standing stove with a small grill

If you go with a pellet stove, have the batteries and inverter and/or generator to operate it during an outage.

You present system can be fixed. It may take lots of $$$ and someone that know how to make it work properly.

For now, install ceiling fans in each room to circulate air through out the house.
Do you keep interior doors open, or is there enough gap under the doors to allow air to leave the room?
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:20 AM
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Remember, any time you put a hole in the roof you will have issues. We put both stoves (heat and cooking) thru the walls. This gives you a 90* bend that helps radiate the heat.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:32 AM
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I own a pellet stove and love it. I know it has limited use in a LT power outage. During a short term outage it can be run with 12v batteries and inverter. Mine will run on low for about 24 hrs with a 65amphr marine battery. I also use the mR Heater propane unit for power outages.

I agree a wood stove is best for off grid but I don't miss cutting and messing with wood.

Maybe you could go with the pellet stove and in case of long term end of grid stuff have a lower priced free standing in storage with the needed duct work.

If you do go with pellet remember it requires regular cleaning. It has moving parts and computer stuff so those can fail. Most pellet stoves have 1-2 year warranties on electronics. Your dealer will be your best friend after the install so make sure you get a good one.



BIH
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigislandhikers View Post
I own a pellet stove and love it. I know it has limited use in a LT power outage. During a short term outage it can be run with 12v batteries and inverter. Mine will run on low for about 24 hrs with a 65amphr marine battery. I also use the mR Heater propane unit for power outages.

I agree a wood stove is best for off grid but I don't miss cutting and messing with wood.

Maybe you could go with the pellet stove and in case of long term end of grid stuff have a lower priced free standing in storage with the needed duct work.

If you do go with pellet remember it requires regular cleaning. It has moving parts and computer stuff so those can fail. Most pellet stoves have 1-2 year warranties on electronics. Your dealer will be your best friend after the install so make sure you get a good one.



BIH
In my opinion a pellet stove is a total waste of money. There is no way of knowing when TSWHTF . That being said, invest in a wood stove, chainsaw and splitter.
Old 02-22-2013, 11:42 AM
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Also remember that a pellet stove is just a big space heater. The room it is in will have to be really warm in order the heat the rest of the house. You get some radiant heat from it but not as much a wood stove.
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