fireplace (wood, gas, pellet, or other) recommendations

plyangOctober 11, 2005

The house that my husband and I just bought in Boston has a mantle but not fireplace. The house inspector said that there is a chimney but it is being used to ventilate the gas heating system and that we would have to install a new chimney or other vent if we want to install a gas fireplace or other fireplace. (Why someone had a mantle installed with no fireplace, I don't understand. Were they planning on painting a fire on the wall underneath the mantle?) Would people give me their recommendations on what would be best to install?

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What is best is dependent on what your goal is.

Cheapest heat possible? I'm not sure what a cord of wood in Boston in May is, but your most economical bet is probably a freestanding wood stove.

Cheaper heat but easier than hassling with wood? Pellet stove.

Gas, i don't like. Not renewable, and getting more expensive.

Other - Coal, corn? Small nuclear reactor?

Tell us more.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 4:31PM
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Cheap heat but also the least expensive (or least complicated) installation since we will have to figure out how to vent whatever we install.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 5:39PM
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If you're looking for cheap heat and you don't have a standard fireplace, then what you want is a wood stove - unless you're buying that Boston wood at 300 bucks a cord, as I saw another poster post. There are dozens of good brands. They can be vented in a bunch of different ways. We had one in our last house that had a really cool, section to section polished stainless, insulated 6" pipe meandering up to the ceiling, straight through the sheet rock and roofing shingles to a stainless vent cap. Pretty cool little Jotul stove.

Xandra will know more, but I'm pretty sure that you can vent free standing wood stoves through a wall and then have the pipe run up higher outside the house.

In other words, I would save the money on a new fireplace and put it into a new stove.

Wood is even cheaper if you're willing to work for it or go get it.

Pellets, on the other hand, are fairly inexpensive too, and if you're paying a premium for wood, pellets may be cheaper. Pellet stoves for sure can be vented right out the side of your wall.

Pellet stoves use some electricity, however - about 200-300 watts. Running 24/7, at 15 cents a Kwh, that's about a buck a day in electricity to add to the operating cost. They are also more prone to break, etcetera. On the positive side, you can control the heat output better, the pellets are not as messy as wood.

So there you have the basics.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 7:19PM
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The only problem with installing a freestanding wood stove and then going out the wall and then up the side of the house, is that the chimney pipe and components to do that install will most likely exceed the cost of any new stove. It's just a very expensive install. Plus, they don't draw well as the pipe is outside and cold.

The best and least expensive wood stove install is usually up through the middle of the house, unless it is multiple stories. Then it gets expensive again.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 7:34PM
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Multiple stories...yes. The living room with the mantle is on the 1st floor. There's a 2nd floor and then a finished attic on top. Expensive, right? But that will be the case, won't it, regardless if we opt for the pellet stove or the woodburning stove or a gas fireplace or anything, right?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 10:18PM
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If you get a pellet stove or a direct vent gas stove then you can vent it right out the wall.

Those would be your least expensive options.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 11:25PM
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Pellet stove is literally vented directly out the back of the stove, through the 2/4 wall, through an elbow up 90 degrees and then up another 6-12 feet depending on some factors. The venting pipe is smaller, and hence less costly than for a wood stove.

Gas sounds great, but it's getting more expensive every day. Of course, gas is easier.

Then again, if you already have gas heat and you're looking to save money, then installing a 90% efficiency Direct Vent gas fireplace will be useful, IMO, only to keep one room warm. If you have a newer furnace/boiler, it's efficiency will be close to 90%. If you have an old furnace/boiler, I'd upgrade that unit before I put in a DV fireplace.

Also, there are some units that just vent right into the living space. To me, this is insane. We breath enough crap on a daily basis, I really don't think breathing natural gas combustion products is very intelligent.

Depending on how much of your house you want to heat, pellet stove is probably your best option.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 11:36PM
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Most pellet stoves can be vented directly out the wall without any further pipe. Just straight out like a dryer vent.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 2:12AM
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In Boston, you might go to some fireplace store to get some suggestion. There is one at Cambridge named as Black Magic. They are close to Boston and big.
Their website is
If you want marble mantels to upgrade, you can go to Evan's Home Luxuries to buy. Their price is pretty fair and hand carved. It is in Boston area. Their website is
Ask the professional guy to get the idea might be better.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 10:04AM
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