Fireplace insert  (2010)  by Mary

Most fireplaces are just for fun, and whether they are worth the cost for esthetic purposes is debatable since they are rarely used. We often enjoy using ours here in the city. When most vegetation goes dormant and winter chills approach, a cozy fire is something to look forward to, and what are winter holidays without one?

We also liked our fireplace at the farm with its big open hearth. It cozied up the living room, and falling asleep on the air-mattress to its sounds and dancing light was calming and romantic. Now, with a family living there, we were wishing to buy an insert for it. Unlike a regular fireplace, an insert doesn't empty all the warm air out of the house, and burns efficiently. If you turn on the ceiling fan above it and the furnace fan, the heat circulates to all parts of the house. The furnace on the farm burns expensive propane, but with the plentiful wood, we could save a lot of money and be closer to self-sustaining. 

Our son-in-law, Dave, installed an insert in his home in Wisconsin. Since he is a research person, we used his recommendations, figured out the size that would fit, and ordered one on line.

The insert was delivered directly to the farm. It sat in the yard in its crate for weeks while all the necessary shelters were being provided for the animals. We couldn't use our 'its just an experiment' attitude on this expensive item, and it became an annoying reminder of the unknown: Will it actually fit? Are we capable of installing it? Will it really heat most of the house? Todd didn't like using the fireplace those first few weeks before installation because it required more wood. He wanted to determine exactly how much was needed to heat the house with the insert for a typical winter.  

Finally, Todd was able to begin the process. He is a patient person doing something like this and has a lot of ingenuity. He spent 25 hours installing the fireplace insert. It weighed 350 pounds so moving it into the house and onto the hearth was a challenge. It was also too big for the fireplace opening, requiring some messy stone cutting. But the biggest challenge was inserting the stovepipe down the 14 foot chimney and attaching it to the top of the fireplace insert. Nancy saved the day by squeezing her head and shoulders into the firebox and reaching up through the small opening to guide the stovepipe into place.

The last important project was completed. Fall had been dry, but kind.


Above: The original fireplace                    Right: With insert                                                                          

That monstrous propane tank in the front yard is now mostly a lawn ornament saved for emergencies and times when everyone is too busy to build a fire just to take the chill off.  

Remember the wood pile created from cleaning up dead trees? It is three rows deep. We'll see how much it takes to heat a house the whole winter.
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