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Our 1886 house has a fireplace that we occasionally used for fires for ambiance (we know how inefficient it is heat-wise.) However, the chimney sweep suggested that the fireplace is unsafe since it's not lined so we haven't had any fires this winter. I'm considering a wood-burning insert but not sure how this will look. (Note: this is one of four fireplaces in the house, but the one in our main living area- a sitting room near the kitchen.)

My main interest is to generate more heat as the house is very cold, but what holds me back are the looks, the cost of lining an ancient chimney, and the hassle of a maintaining a woodpile.

Has anyone had any experience with this?

Or with putting a wood burning stove in a place where there isn't a chimney? Because I'd really like heat in my kitchen, but there is not chimney option there. I assume venting it would be major construction.

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I am looking into the possibility of using a pellet stove for a secondary heat source. They can be exhausted through the wall with a 3-4 inch pipe. No chimney is needed. No wood pile. Very clean burning with low emmissions into the atmosphere. My neighbors use one and they buy the pellets off season when they are cheaper. You do need space to store the pellets. They come in 40 lb bags. There are all kinds of styles, from plain to fancy, and different efficencies.
Jeff
We do a lot of historic tile reproduction/restoration work. One feature of stoves that I like is when the stove is independent of the electric system so that if there is a power outage, the stove acts as a back-up to the heating system. Don lesperancetileworks.com

This is an old post, but it fits my question, so, here goes:

I have an 1885 Queen Anne with two fireplaces that share an unlined masonry chimney.  They are both functional from a technical aspect, but like Foxglove, my chimney sweep advised us not to use them for burning until they were properly lined.  We do still use them occasionally in the winter (we just throw one of those firestarter logs in there for ambiance), and that is ok because it doesn't create much heat.  What I am wondering is this:

If I add gas inserts to my fireplaces (they are very small...probably for coal originally), assuming my chimneys are already clean, will I still need to have them lined?  My dillemma is that if I am going to go to the trouble of lining my chimneys, I would rather burn real wood (let's face it...real wood is a lot sexier than fake logs with gas flames shooting through them).

Any/all comments are appreciated.  I can post pics of my fireplace openings if necessary.

Real wood is clearly a better fire and ambiance.  But if you go gas, you can avoid lining.  Like most of us on this site, I have an unlined chimney that is small and was originally for coal.  I was told by my chimney sweep that it needs to be lined if we want to use it for wood and that it would be expensive and maybe a failure to line it for wood.  I put in a ventless gas log and I don't even open the flue when I run it, so no need to line.

Phil,

I've heard of this "ventless" option.  Exactly how does it work?  My guess is that it doesn't use much more gas than maybe your oven, which usually isn't vented, and since you don't use that all the time, there would be no chance of ever creating enough CO2 to cause a problem.  Plus, in our drafty old houses, there is never a shortage of fresh air infiltrating.

Basically you have it. They are tuned to burn more efficiently than the vented gas logs.  Efficient burning of gas is blue, with only Co2 and water as a byproduct.  So most of the flame is blue, hidden from direct view and pointed at a ceramic foam log that glow red when it is really hot.  A small quantity of the gas is in front of that and set to burn less efficiently (orange flame) for visual effect, but the volume is so low that it doesn't create enough carbon monoxide to cause harm.  It has a built-in oxygen sensor that will shut it off if the oxygen levels fall too much.  It has never gone off.  Also, I have one of those C0/smoke detectors, and that has never gone off (for C0 that is, chicken roasting in the overn....).  By keeping the flu closed, I get 100% of the heat in my living room, rather than piping lots of heat out the chimney.  So it is super efficient.  I put a decorative screen in front of the fire, not to stop sparks like it is made for but to further obscure the view to the fire. There is a slight hiss with mine and obviously no smell of wood, so it is not as nice as a wood fire. But there is no clean-up, wood hauling, etc. either.  Really it is the gas BBQ of fires, inferior in style but so much easier to deal with than charcoal. 

I have one (gas ventless log) in the living room fireplace of the house we just moved into, and am so thankful for it, have 12 foot ceilings  and it is so easy to close off the rest of the house and have one warm room wthout heating the whole house (4000 sq. feet) to 55.  We dress in layers,  it would cost a fortune to have the chimneys readied/lined for wood, and gas is relativey cheap here in TN. 

You can get vent-less gas logs down to 16" and I have a Petersen 16" set in my dining room fireplace. They are vent less, and do put off some heat, but are only rated at 20,000 BTU. Original Victorian fireboxes are a challenge as they were originally mostly coal burners (I would never try to burn logs/wood in one, it would be very unsafe and could set your carpet on fire). The one in my front parlor is gas also, but a very early conversion (probably done around 1910 when there was a nationwide coal strike). It is of course vented, and it pumps out the heat (the burner orifices are huge), but then part of the heat goes up the chimney. It is also a gas hog as it is not a modern burner. I did have it fitted with an oxygen sensor controller some years back, and they also wired it to a wall thermostat as well. However, the front of the house stays so cold in winter it never shuts off unless I do it manually at the thermostat. I want to convert it to the vent less logs, but that firebox is even smaller than the one in the dining room so unsure if it will even fit.

As to chimney lining, if you use the new stainless flexible liner install it is realativeley easy and does not cost that much and is done from the roof (tile liners will require knocking holes in your walls most likely).

Scott

We have two fireplaces and thought about relining them so we could burn pellets. We had the central chimney lined for our new boiler, and thought we had to do the same for the room chimneys. But, I had not thought of using a ventless stove or insert. And we do have a gas stove, so see the point about not needing a vent.

The ground floor would be easy to convert as it is above the basement and easy access to run the pipe, but I would have to give some thought about how to run the pipe to the fireplace above.

All in all, good info. Thanks.

We had a gas plumber run a flexible gas hose (sort of like water pecs) from our basement black pipe right up through the ash trapdoor into the firebox.  No drilling, very quick labor.  Since it was on the floor, we had him put a second cutoff in the basement, in case our toddler (at the time, now 15) started messing around with it.  We bought the smallest size log, 16",  in March at Lowes when it was 50% off for seasonal clearance.  If I were to do it over again, I may consider using a fake coal box instead of a fake log, since I am quite sure ours was originally for coal. All in all, it was super cheap.  A chimney guy quoted me $3,000 for a stainless steel liner and told me that he could not guarantee how well it would draw after that, and he told me that if it was his house, he would put in the gas log.  Since he did not sell or install logs, I thought that he was being quite honest there.

Our living room fire place as an ornate cast iron insert:

The mantle was missing, but it looks like this now:

So, I don't think the wife would want to put an insert that would block this, like the logs. But a free standing stove may be the ticket.

We have a house that is essentially the same age as your home. It's a Victorian row house in Alexandria, Virginia. Our fireplaces were originally coal burning as well (very shallow). Our interest was far more in the way of aesthetics rather than trying to generate heat, but we installed a gas fed coal basket. We wanted to maintain an historically accurate look to our fireplace, so this was the only logical way to go. We bought the basket and element from GasCoals.net and have loved it since. Since the unit is a relatively low BTU unit, our simple metal liner protects the original chimney. Total cost including running a new gas line and placing a manifold for future gas expansion in the basement ran about $4000.

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