Author Topic: Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace  (Read 2438 times)

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Offline flyingvan

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Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace
« on: November 16, 2012, 06:57:40 AM »
   On the first owner builder project I went with a freestanding woodstove, with single wall pipe going up two stories before going through the roof.  It pulls air from under the house.  The glass door makes viewing the fire nice....
    For the second build I went with a zero clearance built in airtight unit instead.  I thought I'd compare the two here.
    First, the woodstove.
About 1/3 the cost and easy to install.  I went for maximum heat transfer.  The base/hearth is a remnant I picked up from a kitchen countertop company for $50, I had to cut a hole in it for the draft right under the pedestal.  If you get the downstairs comfortable, the upstairs is too hot.  It's hard to figure out furniture seating around it as the 'goldilocks' spot of not too hot/not too cold is narrow and moving.  I wasted a fair amount of space with the required clearances.  It gets dusty in the summer and the first burn is a bit musty and smoky.   Once the fire's out, it cools quickly and I think it even creates a heat sink to the outside---I've looked at it with a thermal imager on a cold morning and it's 20 degrees colder than anything else in the house.
     Now for the airtight fireplace. I went with the smallest I could find, a Bis Nova.  It is very well built.  It's mounted in the middle of the downstairs  (Sidenote--if there is any way your heat sources can be in the center of the structure instead of an outside wall, do it.  The chimney will draft better and the heat distribution is far superior)  It drafts air from outside too---this is important, if you are burning the air from inside the structure you're pulling cold air in from all the cracks and windows and doors, and creating a negative pressure.  It has a thermostat controlled blower that pushes the heat into the room.  It's a gentler heat with all the stone thermal mass around it--heats up slower, takes a long time to cool down.  It uses less wood.  You can sit right on the hearth, and position chairs around it.  The likelyhood of some small child or tipsy guest falling against it is much less.
    I'm certain a top of the line soapstone woodstove will outperform a cheap sheet metal fireplace insert, and as with all comparisons there are exceptions and personal tastes.  My two builds are identical in size only (714 sq.ft. compared to 716) and in the same area otherwise very different designs.  For function and aesthetics, I'm much happier with the airtight fireplace.
    Sidenote #2--- it just struck me how amateur and primitive the first build looks compared to the second.
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2012, 09:00:21 AM »
Thanks for posting this comparison and the installation photos. The zero clearance fireplaces have gotten much better over recent years. That is a handsome installation and your comment about a central location makes a big difference when the stove or fireplace is more than an occasional heating device.
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Offline flyingvan

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Re: Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2012, 10:46:32 AM »
You can see the edge of the wall furnace on the wall to the right of the fireplace.  They are basically in the same spot, right in the middle of the structure.    Way up high on the ceiling I ran a 10" duct, thermostat, and in-duct blower to pull hot air off the ceiling and blow it down to the low corner of the house.  I haven't cut out for the registers yet though and the heat distribution seems to be very good without it so I might just leave it.  The bedroom upstairs is soundproofed on all sides---that seems to have helped with it getting hot even though it's right above the livingroom with the fireplace and wall furnace
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Offline flyingvan

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Re: Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2012, 06:07:16 PM »
Oh and Thanks, John....We really didn't want to mount the flat screen TV over the fireplace---we both always thought that was sort of tacky---but there just wasn't anywhere else to put it.  The seating around the fireplace and for TV viewing are the same.  Iwas worried about it getting too hot, but the solid hardwood mantel diverts the heat rise away, and when the blower's going the mantel itself doesn't even warm up much, the heat goes into to room.  We did hide the TV behind shutters though---we didn't want the first thing you see when you walk in to be the screen
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Offline flyingvan

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Re: Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2012, 12:54:35 PM »
The wall opposite the fireplace across the room gets warmer than where the TV is with the bulky mantel.  I was worried about that too but turned out not to be an issue
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Offline JRR

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Re: Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2012, 01:04:40 PM »
Congratulations on both of your builds.  Each looks fine to me.  And thanks for your comparisons. 

Do you throttle the air into and out of each stove/firebox?  Manually/automatically?

Offline flyingvan

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Re: Wood Stove vs. Airtight Fireplace
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2012, 05:16:56 PM »
Yes.  Thanks for the congrats...Manually, and I've found every stove has its own personality.  It takes a few burns to get to know them.  If you never smoke up the glass, you've got it down.  This Bis Nova, the choke on it slides left and right, like I'm used to, but it also pulls out "For an extra burst of air".  You keep it to the left and pulled out fully until there's a good coal base going, then push it in, then slide it to the right until you just get the rollover flames.  A log will burn like that for hours.  When you throw a new log in, you pull the lever out again until it gets going, then choke it down again......On our first night when we..uh...'broke in' the cottage (pictures are NOT forthcoming) we burned 3 logs in 14 hours and I was way too hot (AnnaMarie thought it was perfect)
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