Insert or Stove

gildomiloNovember 14, 2010

Hi There,

We have a masonry fireplace in a 1920s colonial. The fire place is 34" wide, 28" tall 19" deep at the bottom and 15" deep at the top. We went shopping for inserts today and liked the Jotul Kennebec. We also really liked a couple of hearthstone and Jotul freestanding stoves. Is there really an enormous heat loss by installing a stove instead of an insert into a fireplace? I'm sure people used to install free standing stoves inside fireplaces, is it stupid to do it because you like the looks of the stove better?





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There are several issues involved in comparing free standing stoves with fireplace inserts. In general, most free standing stoves produce omni directional radiant heat from all of their surfaces while an insert produces a combination of radiant and convective heat - the radiant heat from the front and surrounding masonry and convective heat from the blower.

No matter what you decide, you need to look at the overall heating potential of either insert or stove as measured in btu output (these tend to be rough comparative guides only). The second thing you need to consider is the required clearances between the heater and flammable surfaces, including any wood trim around the fireplace, such as the mantel.

To me the chief drawback of inserts is the blower. They use electricity, tend to be noisy and don't work if the power goes out. Installation of an insert tends to be more complicated as well. Placing a free standing stove inside a fireplace would seem like a good compromise, but it is not. The natural radiant heat output is greatly reduced because of the masonry surrounding the stove.

You can find a huge amount of far more detailed information at

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 5:31AM
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Thanks for the info. We have plenty of clearance above the fireplace for all of the inserts. The room is narrow and long 11*25 ft and of course the fireplace is on the long wall. So putting a wood stove outside the fire place really isn't an option (it would have to be in the center of the room). There's so much out there, I wish our house was more suitable for a stove somewhere nice.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 7:50AM
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I think you would be suprised how much radiant heat come from the Jotul Kennebec. We had ours installed a few weeks ago and our still adjusting to it and how we want to heat our house. First off, Ours is located in our dining room which is our shoulder room and not our sitting room aka where the couches and tv is. I think this is a luxury because we just have to direct the heat into our kitchen/breakfast nook/living room area. Ceiling fans work great and once oscillating fan helps a bunch. Its nice being able to run ours even in the shoulder parts of the season without getting ran out of house because of too much heat. So last night it was 35 outside. I started a small fire yesterday evening and added to it with a big load before bed at 10. I woke up and it was 71 in our kitchen which is again in our shoulder room. I even just had the blower on low speed. When I wake up in the morning I rekindle the fire and crank it on high for awhile if the temp is a bit down. Once its up to temp I turn it back to low. It easily heats and maintains heat our house. We are asking it to heat around 1200 sq ft, and it does that easily. Your layout makes a huge difference in how well it will work, as well as how well insulated your house is. We love ours and again in case of power outage it will still do pretty well. take care,good luck,

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 8:30AM
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Just to clarify a bit. Radiant (long wave, infra red) heat comes from the heated (400 to 600 degrees) cast iron surface of a stove and primarily warms objects rather than the air. The blower in an insert and brandond's fans push air that has been heated near the stove so is really operating as a convection heater, just like an electric heater with a fan. (That's why electric heaters can remain cool to the touch; it's air being heated then circulated, not the enclosure around the heating coil.) You will get some radiant heat from the front of the Jotul Kennebec but not nearly as much as you would from a free standing stove. Either system can work well depending on room layout, insulation, winter temperature extremes, and personal taste. Convective heat is often described as more gentle, but does not produce the coziness of radiant heat.

Most stoves require 16" to 18" of non-flammable surface extending from any opening and 6 to 8" from other surfaces. If you placed a free standing stove close to but not actually in the fireplace opening, how much would the hearth have to be extended? If it's only 12 to 18", perhaps it would be doable without the stove sticking out too much.

By the way, the two brands you mention, Jotul and Hearthstone, are among the very best stoves being manufactured today. Soapstone stoves like Hearthstone do produce a gentler radiant heat than cast iron, but the minus is they take much longer to heat up.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 9:58AM
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I would concur with maingrower. My mom had a hearthstone soapstone freestanding stove and loves it. Its very nice looking, and I believe is handmade. We love ours, and would really reccomend it. If I had to buy the wood IM not sure we would have bought the stove. We live in the country and our wood is free and plentiful. WE have lots of really good oak, and walntu,and some hickory. I also have a tractor for pulling trees out of the timber to be sawn up. So ya Im thankful for my stove. I also take great pride in being able to and having the responsibility of keepning my family warm.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 11:48AM
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Friends of mine were faced with the same question some years ago. Their fireplace would have required extensive work to fit an insert, so they went with a stove and placed it in front of the fireplace, covered the opening with a sealed plate, and ran the stove pipe through the plate and up the masonry chimney.

The benefits are they were able to use the existing chimney. The drawback, of course, is that they now have a stove sitting farther into the living room than they really wanted.

Over all it's worked well for them for over 20 years.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 12:39PM
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