Help! How the heck do I use my fp insert?

jenicaOctober 11, 2007


I'm hoping you all can help me out. My husband and I bought a house this past summer and it has a fireplace insert. I was excited about using it to help heat the house but now the time has come and we can't figure the darn thing out. I've looked online to try to find some directions but no luck.

The insert has cast iron doors, and says "The Ashley" on the left door. It has two knobs at the bottom of each door that unscrew to allow air to flow into the fireplace when the doors are closed. There is a vent fan under the doors and also vents at each side of the doors and above them. Next to the vents above the door there is a lever. Outside the house on the back of the chimney there is a little cast iron door that says "Hutch". Inside this door there is about a 3 foot squared off tunnel that was filled with ash.

Does anyone know what I am suppose to do when we start a fire. Doors closed with knobs unscrewed right? (doors closed with knobs closed smothers the fire) What about the lever next to the vents above the door, it doesn't seem to move for some reason. What's the purpose of the little door on the back of the chimney and where is all the ash in there coming from, the firebox doesn't have any holes in it for ash to drop through.

We can get a fire going and close the doors and everything but I want to know how to use it properly so we are not wasting the energy efficiency. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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I think it sounds like you have anolder unit with no glass on its doors. to start the fireopen the air vents or knobs so they are fully open. Take a flash light and look inside the unit and open handles next to vent, so you can see if the damper is opening and closing. make sure it is open. start the fire small letting the flu heat up as the draft gets stronger add more wood. Sometimes leaving the doors crack opened a little bit will help also. as for the ash drop you can clean it out if you would like. after the fire is roring and you want to slow the burn down, close the vent knobs half way and it will slow it down. good luck

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 8:19PM
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The square door on outside is the clean out. Are there any other fireplaces on floors above?? If not, it sounds like the fireplace insert was installed after the previous owners used actual fireplace and just swept the ashes to the clean out. As far as using it, I would have a chimney sweep check out the chimney, make sure there are no faulty areas, or that no critters have built a nest in it.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 9:24AM
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First, DEFINITELY get the chimney cleaned and inspected!

Then have the sweep show you how to operate the stove. You have an OLD pre EPA certified stove. The manufacturer is no longer around because when the EPA stepped in to regulate the stoves, 90% of the manufacturers went out of business. It was made before 1990. When you screw in the knobs you are indeed "smothering" the fire, which causes smoke to go up the chimney. We call these units "Smoke Dragons". Smoke is unburned gas and useful heat. The new units burn this smoke before it exits the stove.

If I may make a serious suggestion: Go to a stove shop and look at a new insert. They are MUCH more efficient and you can actually see the fire through glass doors. Many states are offering cash incentives for homeowners to replace the Dragons. The new inserts are an asset to the home and they will burn longer on less wood.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 8:00AM
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The previous owners told us when they moved in that they used it all the time and got it swept once a year, so I know it's safe enough, although it does need to be swept again.

As far as heating the house, this one definitely does. We started a fire a few afternoons ago and the temp throughout the house went up 8 degrees in about 3 hours. So it is much better than the plain old fireplace at my old house. That one seemed to just cool off the outer rooms of the house and not heat up anything. However, not being able to see the fire is a bummer. Plus, I like the idea of an insert that burns the smoke too, better for the environment. How much do the new ones cost? I have an inkling that they are about a few thousand dollars. If so I think I'll have to stick with this one a few years, the house was built in 1914 and has a few other things that need updating first.

Thanks for your responses.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 2:08PM
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I am brand new to forums in general, but after hours of research on the internet and visiting countless stove dealers, I will now resort to real people. People who aren't trying to sell me one thing over the other.

First of all we want to heat a very small home not even 1800 sq.feet, even though its small our heating bill is about 400-500 dollars a month for gas, BUT my house is still very cold. So we are tired of paying so much for heating such a small house and still be cold. We had decided on a wood stove but then a dealer said, that its too much work, get a pellet. He said its more efficient and less work. Then another said its the same amount of cleaning but mechanically more can break from a pellet stove. Also, they said I could fit an 75,000 btu wood instead of just a 40,000 pellet. Then I told them that after 2 years we have never been able to start a fire in our fireplace no matter what we do, then the dealer said then YOU shouldn't get a wood stove.

So can somebody please tell me, is a wood stove really more work? Is more btu's better, will wood heat my house more? For pellet stoves should I just get a Harmon and for wood stoves should I get a Regency or Hampton? Should I really stay away from the Napoleon brand? Will wood bring in termites?

Somebody pleas help!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you so much.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 1:20AM
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OK, I have been neating my homes with a woodstove for over 18 years. First in PA and now in VT.
Wood IS work. You must cut or have it cut to length, stacked, aged, and then you must bring in the wood regularly to burn.

I can heat my home up here with 3 cords that will cost about $135 per cord. About $400 for the entire season! I do have oil as backup and I used 250 gallons last year. That's for hot water and backup heat when we were away.

I happen to LIKE wood stoves! I like the fire you see when relaxing in front of the stove. The lazy flames that can lower your blood pressure. A pellet stove has a much too "busy" fire for me. It's like watching an oil burner in action. I like the fact that when the power goes out we will have heat AND hot water as we just put a kettle on top of the stove. I don't have to worry either about pellet prices or if the local stores will run out in February as they have done in the past.

My home is 1,200 sq ft. I purchased the smallest unit Regency makes and it does the job quite nicely during a Vermont winter when it goes to minus 20 at night. But a 75,000 BTU stove will be WAY too big! You'll either have the windows open all winter or you'll always have a "cold" fire which causes creosote. My stove is rated for 800 to 1,000 sq ft. We don't heat the bedrooms directly as the heat will find it's way there. We want to heat the living areas. So the small unit does the job nicely. So you may want to look at a stove that heats up to 2,000 sq ft. That's a medium sized stove.

And in all my years of using a woodstove, we've never seen a termite.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 7:34AM
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