Cost to replace vent-free with DV in basement

tca16November 2, 2009

There's currently an old ventless FP in my basement that 1) is way too big for the space and 2) has always made me nervous, especially since energy-efficient windows were installed in the basement last fall, replacing the old drafty, rotted (i.e., naturally ventilating) wood junk.

I tried running a small electric ceramic heater last winter when the weather got really chilly, in lieu of the FP, but that wasn't producing enough heat and also caused me to blow the circuit if we were doing too many things at once. In the end, I ran the FP only on the worst evenings, briefly cycling it on and off, with a window cracked - what a waste - and a carbon monoxide detector, of course.

As we move toward our midwestern winter, I'm getting anxious about lighting it up again.

It's on an outside wall, the NG line is there already but no vent, obviously. I'm on a really, really limited budget and before I even go looking at some small DV units, I'd like to have a general sense of what I'm looking at for installation expenses.

Since it's below grade, how/where does the vent run high enough to clear ground level sufficiently? Inside the wall, meaning cutting into drywall/paneling? It's a raised ranch so "ground level," from inside the basement, is about 48" from the basement floor, so the vent run has a ways to go. I'm sure there's a code (in my locale, one can't sneeze without a permit) that specifies how high off the ground an exterior vent must be, so for the sake of this post, assume it's, say, 30", plus another 30" down to the FP box, right? So about 6 feet, plus breaking through masonry.

What should/would something like that run me? If I were to buy one of the DV units at Costco or Sam's Club, would I be able to hire someone to do this, since the gas/electric lines are already in place, or is installing the vent a major job for a FP specialist?

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I can only tell you my experience. We had a direct vent insert installed about 2-3 years ago into our prefab fireplace in our living room, which is located on an outside wall. The cost was about $4K, and the installation took a whole day. These are not quick and easy installations. And you really need a COMPETENT, EXPERIENCED installer. They are hard to identify. I was disappointed with ours, and would not recommend him. I recommend you ask around for a recommendation from homeowners who have been through the process.

After all is said and done, I have to say that they are a joy to have on a cold morning. If you decide to do it, make sure you get one with a remote thermostat. They are overpriced, but worth having. The other concern is that with retrofits there is a risk that the seal from outside air is incomplete. If that happens, you lose efficiency. But when they work right, they are a delight.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 7:59PM
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