Starting from a clean slate ... ideas on a stove vs ZC

swilk

Member
Jan 9, 2013
6
Every year as the temperature drops I go wrestle with the idea of putting in a wood stove of some sort. My home is a single story (with a single bonus room above the garage) and currently uses 2 separate heat pumps for my heating needs. I have a large, open floor main living area that includes a living room, kitchen, dining and entry way. This area has a vaulted ceiling and at the top of that vault is the main cold air return to the air handler that services about 2500sqft of the home.

I have bounced around two separate ideas .... the first would be a simple freestanding wood stove on the wall that contains the air return.

The second idea is a bit more elaborate .... I would build a "fireplace" on the wall that has the air return and then use an insert. My question really centers around this idea... If I were to build this "fireplace" it would be built directly under and therefore over, the existing cold air return. I could simply extend it out to the new face of the stone "chimney" or I had thought about just venting the bottom (think largish grills on each side of the new "fireplace") of it so that when my air handler is turned on it will suck air from those bottom vents and all of the warm air that is surrounding the top of the insert and the chimney pipe (before it goes through the existing ceiling) should be circulated throughout the rest of the house.

Does the second idea have merit? Is there any reason such a thing should not be considered?
 
Last edited:

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,577
South Puget Sound, WA
There are a couple flaws with plan "b". First, an insert must go into a proper enclosure, typically masonry. That can get expensive very quickly. Also, return air vents need to be at least 10ft. from the stove or insert. If you want a fireplace look, consider a good EPA Zero Clearance fireplace. These ZCs are designed to go into a much less expensive framed enclosure. Many of these units have remote fan and outlet options that can help with moving the heat.
 

swilk

Member
Jan 9, 2013
6
I was looking at the xtrodainair 42 Apex model of insert with the enclosure built to their specifications.....I guess my newness showed there. By "fireplace" I simply meant the look with a ZC.

I am looking at a Lopi Cape Cod or the Xtrordinair Apex 42.
 
Last edited:

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,577
South Puget Sound, WA
No problem. Unfortunately a lot of marketing materials and shops call a ZC fireplace an insert which confuses the customer. There are many good ZC fireplaces to choose from. Take a look at those by RSF, Northstar and IronStrike too. Also, several stove manufacturers are starting to package their fireboxes in a ZC cabinet. These are often more cost effective and have some nice designs. There are a few recent threads here on some DIY installations of the PE FP30 that help illustrate the process and final product.
 

cjgoode

Member
Aug 30, 2016
83
Sylva Nc
You might be overthinking option two. If the intake to the air handler is in the same room it will probably be good enough. We have ceiling fans in our great room with a valuated celing the length of the house where the wood stove is, and we turn them on in the winter forcing air up. It is surprising how well the heat rises and naturally distributes through out the open area of the house, even to the kitchen on the opposite end of the house while flowing along the ceiling. I also have two heat pumps and plan to put on the thermostats that let you schedule only running the fan to help distribute it to the bedrooms and bathrooms. I had plans on how to pump the heat all the way to the kitchen, but it gets there without any help, which really surprised me.
 

mminor

Member
Sep 11, 2015
141
Long Island NY
I only see "inserts" listed on the Ironstrike website, but maybe I'm missing their listing for zero clearance fireplaces....
 

swilk

Member
Jan 9, 2013
6
If I go option 2 I will be building over the existing return....so I'll either just extend straight out the face of the new work or put the vents at the bottom. I don't think one way will be and more difficult or any easier than the other.

I assume if I vent the bottom it should collect the maximum amount of heat to distribute through the air handler...just didn't know if there was something I was missing that would make it a bad or dangerous idea.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,577
South Puget Sound, WA
The return grille must be at least 10 ft away from the fireplace per mechanical code. If it's up 10+ ft above the fireplace that's ok. It could be ducted 90º and placed on the side of the chase to be more discrete.
 

swilk

Member
Jan 9, 2013
6
National code?

If that's the case then I guess that answers that question....if I go option 2 I'll just extend the return straight out the face of the new work. I might just grill the front of the opening but not duct it though. That way it would still draw any warm air from inside the space as well as air from the room.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,577
South Puget Sound, WA
Putting negative pressure on the chase probably would be a bad idea and also against code. There is a chimney pipe running up this same chase.

If cost is the issue, just put in a wood stove. That would cost thousands less and would have no problem with the return grille up near the peak of the cathedral ceiling.
 

swilk

Member
Jan 9, 2013
6
The chase should never be under negative pressure...it will be vented to the main room. Scavenging all the heat off the chimney pipe and box itself is the only reason I was thinking of pulling air past those things. If the pipe or box have a tendency to bleed internal fumes into the chase then obviously I wouldn't want to draw air through that space. I had just assumed that things were pretty tightly sealed.

Cost isn't an issue...it'll be compatible in cost whichever way I go.
 

swilk

Member
Jan 9, 2013
6
I guess it would be under slight negative pressure....the more I think about it the more I'm abandoning that idea. I'll just extend the return, with ducting, to the new face and draw from the room.