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Wood burning for heat in a big open fireplace

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by cyborg, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. cyborg

    cyborg Oregon City Active Member

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    In my home I have an old style fireplace. It is in an island in between the livingroom and dining room. Glass doors on each side as it is a see through type with openings to both rooms. Essentially it is about as inefficient as it could be. No way to control the heat or burn rate and the bulk of the heat simple goes up the large masonry chimney. It does heat the rooms but requires a lot of firewood to do so. We like the looks and ambiance it creates but in a difficult time we would like to be able to do SOME house heating with it more efficiently.

    I know a fireplace insert would be a good way to go but we would like to keep it as is for now. I am wondering if there would be any problem with simply acquiring a small woodstove and simply set it into the fireplace and stick a pipe up the chimney a few feet when needed? Do any of you know if there would be an issue with doing this as needed? I am wondering if there would be any issues with creating the proper updraft or convection or whatever to get the smoke to go up the chimney properly. I have only owned one woodstove before in a cabin so i have limited experience.

    Any advice would be appreciated.
  2. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    You'll never get good draft going unless it seals..just FYI it would also violate federal law.. go over here and read this thread, you'll learn a lot

    Wood stoves - Q&A
  3. elsullo

    elsullo Portland Oregon New Member

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    It's a bad situation as is, a veritable vacuum sucking your house heat up the chimney. When the fireplace is cold, even with the glass doors shut a huge amount of heated air gets sucked out of the house---light a candle or some incense and watch the smoke dive into the gaps around the glass doors. Maybe you could fashion a sheet metal shield to seal the fireplaces when not in use? Or a fiberglass or asbestos seal of the cracks?

    The devil with adding wood stoves is that unless done with a licensed contractor or at least with a building inspector's approval it very well might void your home fire insurance! They are very serious about NOT paying for fires when an amateur installation goes bad. And for further insult, all new wood stoves in Oregon must be state certified for efficiency, which makes them expensive and heavy. For best efficiency, you ought to seal up one side of the fireplace and add a fireplace insert or a free-standing woodstove on one side, with all air gaps around the installation sealed. The stove pipe should go all the way up and out the chimney with the chimney top sealed, which will drastically reduce the draft to the house. This calls for LOTS of money, though it will add much to the homes value.

    Myself, I adore the fireplace ambience, and would just go with burning lots of wood to keep it. The masonry does store SOME of the heat, while the fire warms the soul.........................elsullo
  4. deadeye

    deadeye Albany,OR. Moderator Staff Member

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  5. MA Duce

    MA Duce Central Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I had the grate heater type in a previous home, (with properly fitted doors), it seemed to make a big difference in our heating bill. It was certainly better than an open shot to the outside, although you still used inside air for combustion, and thus lost some heat that way. If you could rig an inlet for outside combustion air sourcing, ( my pellet stove has a 2" intake through the floor), you would make good gains in efficiency.
  6. Thebastidge

    Thebastidge 10411 NE Fourth Plain Blvd Vancouver WA 98662 Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm not sure why you wouldn't put a stove insert in instead of putting a woodstove in the gap, which would both look odder, and be less efficient, because you still have the gap around it. A stove insert can be had which will enhance the look- but since it is a through and through fireplace, you might spend a lot to make one custom. I would research that.

    As for stove inserts being very expensive, that's not necessarily the case. Do your research. I put one in my house, and even hiring the labour done I got away under $1000, all-inclusive.

    Getting your chimney lined is definitely a safety issue. Older brick chimneys leak CO, CO2, and particulates, and can also allow flames out to more flammable materials. Getting your chuimney lined and making your drafting more efficient can greatly reduce the risk of chimney fires. Retro-fitting does require adherenece to code, but not necessarily done by a contractor. Just learn what the code is and see if it is feasbile as a DIY project in your particular circumstances.

    At a very minimum, newer fireplace enclosures (new glass doors) can be installed which are essentially air tight. You could keep the glass door look but get rid of the unwanted airflow around the older style, poorly fitting glass doors. This is what I need to do with my second fireplace. You will probably pay in the low hundreds to have one fabricated, and then installation costs. It won't necessarily make your fireplace work better, but it would eliminate the draft when you're not using the fireplace, and that could be significant.
  7. Sun195

    Sun195 Pugetropolis, WA Well-Known Member

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    How about going with a gas insert instead? If you don't have gas, maybe you could run it off propane?

    We have a cheap, metal-insert, wood-burning fireplace at my house - mostly for looks, I think. It certainly doesn't do a good job heating anything. I've been hesitant to convert it to gas because if "things go to heck", I can at least burn wood in it (even if it's inefficient). However, the most common "disaster" at my house is the power going out for extended periods of time & at least I'd have heat with a gas insert. Losing power is much more likely to happen than EMP/Zombies/etc/etc. My friends converted one of their fireplaces to gas & things are toasty-warm at their house when the power goes out.

    Just a thought - I'm no expert.