It's 2009, want to replace prefab fireplace with what?

rk8102May 20, 2009

Hi folks, I've got a 9 year old house ~1800 sq. feet, and in the living room (cathedral ceiling) I've got a prefab fireplace (Majestic) on the exterior wall, with a wood-framed "chimney" on the outside that runs to the roof, vinyl sided. The problem is, I don't think the chimney or behind the prefab was insulated at all - in the winter (SE Michigan) ice forms on the metal surround of the fireplace, and it's drafty like no tomorrow, making the entire room chilly. I'd like to do something this summer to get ready for the next heating season. I'm not looking to heat the whole house, but just rather supplement the NG forced air heating. I'm thinking I'd like to move to a stove that is closed up and I don't have to watch it all the time for sparks jumping out, etc. I also have some cats, so I'd need to plan for that (guards, etc.) What's the current thinking these days - corn, wood pellets, wood, etc. A co-worker has a Bixby and really likes it, what are some others I should consider? And any recommendations for a reputable vendor/installer in SE Michigan would be great too. Thanks for any help!

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You need first to find out the source of the draft. It could be there is an opening in your chimney that brings cold air in from the outside. Some prefabs ae equipped with an outside air intake to feed the combustion. There may be a damper on that intake that can be closed. Aside from that, you should figure out a way to insulate the unit because unless you do that you will not be happy with any improvements you make. You might want to hire a chimney sweep to clean your unit and to ask him questions about it. -- just make sure the person you hire has some expertise on fireplaces.

If you have access to natural gas (or propane gas), you should seriously consider installing a direct vent gas insert. They are very energy efficient and safe, and will provide a serious source of heat. Unlike a conventional fireplace in which most of the heat goes out the chimney, with direct vent most of the heat radiates into the indoors, and the unit is sealed, so it does not affect indoor air quality. If you do a search of "direct vent" in this forum, you will find useful information about these systems.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 9:03PM
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If you have ice that means you have water. First, you must find that source and stop it.

I have always been a fan of wood. Gas can fluctuate in price and to me it's too much of a chance pricewize.
We had a zero clearance fireplace and we installed aa Avalon insert. We loved the warmth of the wood and the flame was very relaxing. They put a liner in our existing chimney and insulated it. We have power failures and I don't know how the DV unit works in one. But wood needs no power to operate.
We now use wood as our main heat source in our Vermont winters. Last year it cost under $400 to heat our home.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 8:05AM
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DV needs no electric power, although a blower will not work. But you get plenty of heat without the blower.

Wood fires are terrific, but when you get up there (I'm 73) it's nice to have a really good fire that's just a click away.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 4:20PM
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Ok, thanks for the info ... a few notes:

I don't have a water leak, the ice forming on the front of the unit is from condensation from the indoor air. The thin metal of the surround gets really cold... and the unit does have a external air intake with this cheesy lever for damper control; I think closed, it is actually closed all the way, but hard to tell.

I will check out the direct vent gas inserts; and power failure doesn't matter too much, I have a 6kw generator I converted to tri-fuel that I use to run the house when the power is out, which happens more often than I'd like especially because I am in the CITY (Ann Arbor MI.)

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 3:59PM
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