Wood stoves come in a few different varieties. There are fireplace inserts, free standing stoves, and the latest variation is the "zero clearance wood stove". Fireplace inserts are designed to be installed into an existing masonry fireplace (some are approved to be installed into a zero clearance fireplace, but it requires specific parts and permanent alterations to the fireplace). Free standing stoves are just that, they stand alone on a set of legs or a pedestal. Normally these will be vented into an existing masonry chimney or into a "class A" chimney. In some cases they are vented into an existing fireplace flue (which technically makes it an insert). Zero clearance wood stoves are a cross between a zero clearance fireplace and a wood stove. Zero clearance wood stoves are designed to be installed into a wall or some other type of enclosure. This combines the look and feel of a fireplace with the high heat output and efficiencies of a wood stove. Some zero clearance wood stoves, such as the Napoleon NZ-6000, have heat output ratings that exceed 100,000 BTUs. Another variation to consider with wood stoves is the type of material used to construct the stove. The two major materials used today are steel and cast iron. Cast iron stoves tend to be more decorative since they can be molded into various ornate forms. However, cast iron stoves require a break-in period in order to avoid cracking caused from being over fired too soon. Steel stoves tend to be more plain in form but cost less and are quite resilient to abuse. The last thing to consider is whether or not you want a catalytic stove or a non-catalytic stove. A catalytic combustor is made out of exotic metals, and once heated up will burn any residual creosote in the smoke. The catalytic stove meets its EPA emission requirements through the catalytic combustor. Non-catalytic stoves are designed to operate without a catalytic combustor and still meet the stringent EPA emissions guidelines. The upside to catalytic equipped stoves is a bit more heat output for a given amount of wood (provided the stove is operated correctly). The downside is that catalytic combustors cost between $200-$400, and typically need to be replaced every three years (if used properly, more often if not used properly, which is often the case). If the catalytic combustor is not working properly, then the heat output goes down dramatically, and harmful emissions go up dramatically.
Inserts turn an inefficient fireplace into a visually pleasing, heat producing unit. When choosing the type of insert, the first thing you want to do is to make sure that the unit will fit. Typically measurements are taken of the fireplace opening height and width, the depth of the firebox, the width of the back wall and the height of the mantle (if it is made of a combustible material) off the hearth. Next is to choose the unit that you like. One of the things to consider is how much area are you trying to heat. Remember that you can always build a small fire in a big stove, but you can't build a big fire in a small stove. So if the room that you are putting the insert into is a small room, you might be thinking of a small stove. But what if you lose power and are trying to heat more of the house with that stove? Once you have selected the stove that you want, compare the dimensions of your fireplace to the dimensions of the insert that you have chosen to make sure that it will fit. These dimensions are available on-line through the manufacturers web sites or give us a call (877-294-4328) and we can help you out. The final consideration is the chimney. Try to determine the length of the chimney from the hearth to the top of the chimney. This measurement is used to determine the length of the liner that will be needed. Stainless steel liners are inserted into the existing chimney and run from the top of the stove to the top of the chimney. This makes the insert more efficient, easier to start, less expensive to maintain, odor free and safer to operate. If the chimney is unlined or if the existing liner is damaged, the stainless steel liner will need to be insulated as well. Complete Heat carries inserts from these fine manufacturers; Archgard, Napoleon and Pacific Energy.