Considering Harmen Exception Wood Insert

RhondaLee_CTOctober 1, 2005


Does anyone have experience with the Harmen Exception Wood Insert? Or know how it compares with the Regency I2400 or the QuadraFire 4100 as far as ease of use, etc...

I would consider the freestanding Harmen Exception stove, except I only have 18" in front of the fireplace (a raised slate hearth), and for esthetic reasons, I don't really want the stove on the floor in front of the fireplace, with a pipe running back to the fireplace flue. But I am open enough to change my mind if a freestanding stove would be a lot better than the insert...

Thanks for any advice!!


(in Connecticut)

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Hey Rhonda - I'm in CT too.

Generally, as far as I've read, Inserts are better at heating than free standing stoves - also, they don't take up space, and I think they're safer, particularly with the accidental burn factor.

So, if you have a fireplace that can house one, I'd think it'd be the best choice to go insert rather than freestanding.

I just put an insert in the other day, same set up as you with a raised 18" slate hearth. Insert looks great, and it really cranks out the heat.

You can check for reviews of the various inserts and heaters. Most brands get good reviews.

The top two things on my list were . . .

1Put it in and never remove it for cleaning. For this, you need to be able to access the vent pipe from inside the unit, and you need to use a liner to the top of the chimney.

2Outside combustion air to help prevent dryness and drafts in the house.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 5:35PM
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Freestanding stoves are ALWAYS better. You get one side of heat from an insert-the front. With a freestanding you get ALL sides.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 5:50PM
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Xanndra, I disagree.

If you look at the Pacifica Energy Line, for example, every insert is at least as efficient and has the same BTU output as the equivalent freestanding unit.

I was wrong to say "better at heating." But freestanding are by no means more efficient simply because they are free standing. Inserts, in fact, can be engineered to be much more efficient because they are not constrained by needing to have finished outside surfaces.

Certainly, if anything, freestanding stoves are significantly more dangerous and they certainly take up more room.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 6:27PM
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What good is the BTU output of a woodburning insert when you don't get all of it into the room, but into the fireplace walls instead? The BTU's are the same between the inserts and the freestanding stoves of the same brands because they are exactly the same units. One is just modified slightly and stripped down to fit into the fireplace. That one does not have "finished outside surfaces" does not mean anything. That's why it is recommended that you have a blower installed in the insert so that you can try to get that lost heat. But of course, the blower won't work if there isn't electricity to it.

Inserts are MUCH more dangerous as there can be problems with not only creosote buildup, but problems inside the fireplace, not to mention the framing inside the home that could be affected by the heat that cannot be seen. Actually, that is the point: that there are lots of problems stemming from the fact that most areas cannot be easily seen. Are you going to be able to see the dripping creosote with an insert? No you won't, but you WILL notice when you have that chimney fire (unless you die from it in your sleep). At least in the freestanding stove (I am not referring to one in a fireplace), you would be able to see the dripping creosote from the stovepipe and be able to take proactive measures.

Inserts are also usually more expensive and restricive to purchase and install and are difficult to replace. Freestanding stoves do not take up more room in a new install, but it only APPEARS that they do in existing situations where someone is trying to make the best of a bad situation (i.e. an open fireplace)and they already have a lot of wasted space with the fireplace. They just can't see it.

In all my years in this business, never, ever, ever, ever had I heard someone say (professionals and laypersons alike) that an insert is safer and will give off more heat versus a freestanding stove. It just isn't so. Again, one side of heat versus 6 sides of heat.

To tell the truth-inserts scare me. I would never install one in my own fireplace as I have seen so many potentially life-threatening problems with them and I always have tried to steer people away from them when possible.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 7:02PM
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Well Xandra, reasonable people can surely disagree.

We disagree.

Your analysis of insert BTUs is wrong, in my opinion. The % efficiency number is the percent of BTUs that is delivered to the living space, not emanated into the surrounding brick.

For Pacific Energy units, for example, the btu output is the same for both the insert and the freestanding stove AND the estimated house size heated is the same. If your conclusion about the btus being lost to the brick was accurate, then this would not be the case.

So I stand by my original conclusion, which is that the heat output for stoves is not better than an equivalent insert.

With regard to safety, I agree that a poorly installed insert is a hazard. As is a poorly installed free standing stove.

But I disagree that that is the end of the analysis.

I have 5 kids. I can GUARENTEE you that free standing stove would be impossible in my house. One slip and my kid just got a 3rd degree burn on his/her face. While it is possible with the insert, it is significantly less likely because the insert is set 1.5 feet back on the raised hearth and there is only one hot surface.

Finally, with regard to fire, I disagree with you again. Whereas a properly installed insert is encased in a protective masonry chimney, a free standing stove poses a fire hazard on all sides - if something falls behind it, etcetera, a fire can start. Further, if it's installed poorly, then the venting becomes a fire hazard.

In short, we disagree.

I respect that your experience is valuable, but it certainly does not mean, I'm sure you'll agree, that you are right about everything.

You heard about the surgeon with 15 years experience who cut off the wrong leg on a patient, right?

So I respectfully note that your experience is valuable, but I, in the mean time, have attempted to provide rationale for my counter point.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 9:56PM
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I GUARANTEE you that they DO NOT measure the BTU's for an insert while the insert is in a fireplace. They test them outside of any fireplaces just like a freestanding stove. Hence, they do not measure how many BTU's are actually delivered to any living space.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 12:45AM
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Switching2Wood and Xandra,

Thank you both for your input! In my situation, the insert will probably be safer, as the room with the fireplace is going to be my sewing/quilting room, and fabric does sometimes get knocked off a table, etc. If it was a basement room that wasn't being used for anything else, I would consider a free standing stove. I think that where a free standing stove is better is in a situation with no electricity, as the stove is further into the room. But I think an EcoFan on top of the insert will get heat into the room with a power outage. And the insert will get more heat into the room in a power outage than just a fire in a regular fireplace.

Meanwhile, any input on one brand of insert over another? Switching2Wood, what did you get, and where did you go? I went to Milford and Meriden today, and called the shop in New Milford, but they were already closed. I went to a sale at the New Milford store several months ago, and found their prices to be high, so decided I would try to just call, and save the money on gas.

Xandra, you seem to know something about both Napolean and Harman stoves. The one dealer has both, but they said the Harman Exception was better, for only $200 more. What do you think?

Ok, thanks!!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 12:59AM
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Harman uses a thicker steel. Since I have used both brands in my own home, I would go with the Harman if it is only a $200 difference.

Also, if it matters to anyone, the Harman is American while the Napoleon and the Pacific Energy units are both Canadian.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:06AM
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Well Rhonda, I bought a Pacific Energy Summit Insert in New Milford. It's been run for just about 24 hours so far.

So far, I love it. It cranks out the heat, the glass has stayed perfectly clear, big cubic foot area, using outside combustion air, I like the decor, the thermostatically controlled, variable speed fan is nice, and otherwise just a great addition to our house.

It's got a patent on "extended burn" technology. I have not much experience, so I don't know how good that is. I went to bed at 2 PM last night with a single unsplit 6" diameter log in the middle of the unit. I got up at 8 when the kids started yelling, threw a few pieces in and went back to bed. In another 10 minutes I hear the kids ew-ing and ah-ing as the flames cranked up. A few minutes later the fan kicks on and my wife sits bolt upright and asks, "are the kids playing with the insert?" It was the thermostat! Hilarious stuff.

Anyway, when the sun went down today and the temp dropped to below 50, I cranked it up to see what she could do. What's amazing is that the heat reaches the whole house to some extent. The upstairs and the peripheral rooms stay about 5 degrees cooler than the room with the insert, and, set on a medium setting, the insert had no problem keeping its room at 80 and the rest of the house at 75.

Anyway, it's going to be in the seventies this week, so I won't be burning for a week.

Good luck, and, after a single day, I can say I highly recommend Pacific Energy (made in Canada, so you know they know fire).

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:10AM
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OK Xandra if your following contention is correct . . .

I GUARANTEE you that they DO NOT measure the BTU's for an insert while the insert is in a fireplace. They test them outside of any fireplaces just like a freestanding stove. Hence, they do not measure how many BTU's are actually delivered to any living space.

Then it means that Pacific Energy is actively and intentionaly misleading consumers by claiming the insert can heat the same space as a stove.

I'm guessing other manufacturers are guilty of the same crime, if you are correct.

My opinion only here - I don't think that any of the major manufacturers would lie so blatantly when they have got to figure, if you're right, that it would be easy to show they're engaging in the unlawful defrauding of consumers.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:14AM
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The stoves are all tested in laboratories, not in the real world, which is why I always tried to use as many different stoves in my home as was humanly possible. There ARE major differences in brands/models.

Again, most of the manufacturers use the SAME fireboxes for both their freestanding and their insert units. Hence they would have the exact same BTU's as tested. Legs, pedestals and the such will have no bearing on that.

As far as them claiming that they heat the same exact heating space, when I sold stoves there was a marked difference in what the brochures would say as to the sq. ft. that it would heat between the freestanding and the insert. Several hundred sq. ft. usually. I have not compared brochures lately. I will tell you that one clue is to look at the cubic feet of the firebox. The exact same CF of firebox cannot heat the same sq. ft. if it is an insert. So compare the CF of the firebox.

I am absolutely not defending anything as I have no stake in this whatsoever. I'm just telling you how it is.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:38AM
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Point taken, and let me be clear . . .

I've enjoyed your posts here, I value your experience, and I think you add a lot of value to these boards.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 1:43AM
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Xanndra and Drew,

Thank you both very much for your insight. Xanndra, you are the reason I now have a Harman pellet stove in my sunroom!

Drew, I just checked on the Pacific Energy Summit insert at New Milford, and it is too big for my needs (and too expensive). I am on a really tight budget, and because I have the pellet stove heating part of the house, really only need it for my downstairs family/sewing room. Pacific Energy has a smaller insert, but it doesn't have a blower, so it is out of the picture.

I am going to see if my local Harman pellet stove dealer can order and install the Harman Exception insert for me, at a reasonable price. All the inserts are a bit expensive, but if it will pay for itself over 3 years, I think it will be worth it. And I like the idea of having something other than just a plain fireplace as an emergency heat source.

Thanks again for the input!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 11:10AM
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Actually, I quite enjoyed this discussion. It made me bring out brain cells that had been stored away for some time. LOL

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 12:47PM
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I am renovating my living room and have an existing stone fireplace. Its dimensions are 32WX28HX23D w/18" hearth and can be modified if necessary. After reading this and many other posts, and given my situation, I am not sure my dream insert exists. I made a list of everything I wanted in a pellet insert and Googled it. It sent me to Homedepot which displayed a stand alone model (Englander 2000) that can be converted into an insert hmmm! Anyway, does anyone know of a model that is: atleast 48,000 btus; atleast 70% efficient; has auto ignite; is thermostat controlled; the glass stays relatively clean; holds heat well (like soapstone does); low maintenance; large hopper (50 lbs pellets (min); not excessively noisy; auger that breaks up clumps (if necessary); battery back up; and under $3500. installed?
I have a 14´ chimney (cap to fireboxÂs ceiling). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 2:36PM
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