Connecticut Master Hearth Services 
division of   Chimney Works Of Connecticut 
FAQ's

 
Which is a better stove - wood, gas or pellet? 
Which is the cheapest fuel? 
What can I do to make my fireplace heat my home?
What is a zero clearance fireplace? 
I'm interested in a gas-burning  stove or fireplace, but don'tunderstand what they mean by the different kinds! Could your pleaseexplain the differences?
What does Direct Vent mean?
Can a wood-burning zero clearance fireplace, insert or stove be Direct Vent?

Do I have to reline my chimney if I have a wood burning insert installed? 
How often should I have my chimney cleaned? 
What kind of service is required on gas and pellet stoves? 
What is creosote? 
If I want to replace my existing wood stove with a gas or pellet stove, can I use the pipe that's already there? 
What is the difference between gas logs and a gas insert? 
Is there a unit that can burn both wood and gas? 
Can an insert be installed inside a two sided fireplace? 
I want the look of a fireplace, but I don't want a lot of construction going on in my house. Do I have any options? 
 
Which is a better stove - wood, gas or pellet
 
Which fuel is best is determined by your individual needs and lifestyles. Here is a list of pros and cons for each type of fuel:

Pros and Cons of WOOD  
PROS

Wood heat is a more thorough heat. A large wood stove can put out over 70,000 btus, depending the water content of your wood, type of wood, etc.
Wood stoves are the most cost effective to operate, especially if you cut your own firewood.
Wood stoves have fewer moving parts. Not much can go wrong with a wood stove as long as you follow the manufacturers recommendations such as, burning only good hard well-seasoned wood and cleaning the flue regularly.     
Wood stoves work even if you have no electricity.
There is nothing like a real wood fire.  

CONS


It's messy.  Bringing the wood inside from the wood shed is messy, cleaning out the firebox is messy and cleaning the chimney is messy, if you do it yourself.  
It's more work.  If you are fortunate enough to live where you can use wood from your property, you still have to cut, split and stack the wood.  If you purchase wood from a vendor, you may still have to stack it yourself.  Don't forget building and tending to the fire as well.
The efficiency of a wood stove -averaging around 63% for most EPA stoves, but as high as 77% for some models- is dependent on the quality of your wood, installation, skill level and attention.
It's not as easy to control the heat as with a gas or pellet stove so you are more likely to overheat your room.  

Pros and Cons of PELLET 
PROS

Pellet stoves are convenient.  You can start your fire with the push of a button or a quick adjustment of the thermostat.  
Pellet stoves are clean burning - 97% efficient -and therefore, better for air quality.  Also, most pellets are made from waste materials created from the manufacture of wood products such as furniture and lumber, material that would otherwise be useless.  
Pellet stoves burn more efficiently and create less ash than wood, making clean up less of a hassle.  
Pellets require less storage space and are easier to handle.  Pellets are typically packaged in 40 lb bags which can be easily stacked and transported.  
Pellet stove heat is easily regulated by using a thermostat or changing the heat output directly on the stove itself.  

CONS


Pellet stoves are mechanical and therefore more prone to failure than a wood or gas stove, particularly if they are not properly maintained.  
Pellet stoves require electricity to run the various fans and motors, therefore if you lose your power you lose your heat.  
Pellet stove fires are purely functional.  You won't get the pretty fire that you see in a wood or even in a gas stove.  The fire is concentrated in a burn pot which gives it more of a blowtorch effect than a crackling fire.
Pellet stoves require ongoing maintenance to keep them performing well.  In addition to having the stove cleaned by a professional yearly, there is maintenance that you'll need to do on your own.
You will typically pay more for pellets than you will for wood.    

Pros and Cons of GAS 
PROS

Gas stoves are extremely convenient.  There are no pellets to load, no wood to cut.  To start the fire you click the switch or turn on the thermostat.  
Gas stoves are clean and burn efficiently, averaging around 83%.  There is very little ongoing maintenance that is required.
Gas stoves are becoming increasingly more realistic.  The logs and the flame pattern look more like a wood fire than ever before.  
The only storage required is a propane tank if you don't have access to natural gas.
The gas stoves that we carry all have a standing pilot, which means that it can be operated without electricity.  In the event of a power outage, you would simply lose access to your fan.

CONS

Although, they have no moving parts like the pellet stove, gas stoves do have parts that will eventually need replacing.  
The cost for natural gas and propane is typically higher and increases with the cost of fossil fuels, therefore; you are at the mercy of your utility company for pricing.  There's no shopping around for a better deal or chopping your own wood.  Propane tends to be the costliest fuel.
 
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Which is the cheapest fuel? 
  
Typically you get the most heat for your money with well seasoned, hard wood, but that is not taking into consideration in the time, mess and maintenance that is involved.  Here's a link to a great comparison fuel calculator to help you compare your current fuel costs to other choices- CALCULATOR
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What can I do to make my fireplace heat my home?   
The best way to turn an inefficient wood fireplace into an efficient heater is by the installation of  a wood, gas or pellet burning insert.  By it's design, a standard open fireplace is less than 10% efficient which means that most of the heat is going right up the chimney.  Compare this to a wood burning insert which is typically around 70% efficient and you'll understand the difference.  

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What is a zero clearance fireplace?   
When people think of a fireplace, they usually envision a massive brick chimney sticking above the roof.  Not so much anymore.  In the past 10 or 15 years, zero-clearance fireplaces have become increasingly more popular than the standard masonry fireplace. A zero-clearance (z/c) fireplace (see figure 2 below) also known as a pre-fab or manufactured fireplace, is a metal fireplace that is lined with brick panels and installed with a metal pipe running inside a structure called a chase.  If you look at your chimney from the outside of the house and it looks like the rest of the house, you probably have a zero-clearance fireplace.  If it's brick or stone, then you have a masonry fireplace. Fireplaces like this are not designed for heating since most of the heat goes right up the chimney.  If you would like to turn your fireplace into a heater, your best bet is to install a wood, gas or pellet certified stove insert.  

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I'm interested in a gas-burning  stove or fireplace, but don't understand what they mean by the different kinds! Could your please explain the differences?
 
Three basic types of gas hearth appliances that are widely available in the US:
1) Inserts  2) Factory-built Fireplaces (zero-clearance units) and  3) Free-standing Stove designs.
Your biggest challenge will be sorting through the wide range of models available to select a unit that is as efficient as possible and that suits your particular needs.

1) Gas Fireplace Insert in Existing Wood-Burning Fireplace

Inserts are used to convert existing wood-burning masonry fireplaces. The gas burner and simulated logs are contained in a special metal housing that fits into the existing fireplace cavity. The unit has a glass front for viewing and a decorative metal trim. Existing chimneys must be relined with an approved vent


when a gas insert  is installed.


(Figure 1)  Gas Fireplace Insert in Existing Wood-Burning Fireplace
(ALSO designed for Pellet-burning inserts)



2) Zero-Clearance Direct-Vent Gas Fireplace 

Zero-clearance gas fireplaces are used in installations where there is no existing fireplace (i.e., during new home construction or as part of a renovation project). The simulated logs and burner are inside their own firebox, around which is an inner and outer shell. This type of gas fireplace can be installed inside the house envelope, even against an outside wall. The manufacturer's instructions must be followed carefully to ensure proper clearances to combustibles and that approved venting materials are used.


(Figure 2) Zero-Clearance Direct-Vent Gas Fireplace



3)Free-Standing Gas Hearth Stove

Free-standing gas-burning stoves typically resemble some of the new wood-burning stoves. These units tend to be more effective in supplying heat to the house, since all of the fireplace's surfaces are exposed to the room. The glass fronts used on all of these gas fireplaces can be manufactured from tempered or ceramic glass. Tempered glass is much less expensive but may be more susceptible to breakage, and it significantly reduces the amount of infrared heat transferred from the flame to the room. Ceramic glass transmits most of the infrared radiation from the flame to the room, and it resists shattering.


(Figure 3)  Free-Standing Gas Hearth Stove
(ALSO designed for Pellet-burning stoves)

 

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Can a wood-burning zero clearance fireplace, insert or stove be Direct Vent? 
No. Direct Vent is primarily used for gas appliances and can not be used on wood burning stoves as they require a length of vent flue to create a natural draft.


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What does direct vent mean? 
While a traditional wood-burning fireplace consists of an open burning chamber that vents through a natural draft chimney, a direct vent- usually natural gas or propane fueled- fireplace does not require a natural draft chimney, and can vent horizontally out a sidewall. The venting system of a direct vent fireplace consists of a double-walled pipe, or pipe-within-a-pipe. The inner pipe provides venting to the outside, while the outer pipe carries outside air into the fireplace. As the outside air is sucked into the venting system, it's heated by the hot central venting pipe, improving efficiency. Though a direct vent fireplace does not require electricity, it does require a propane or natural gas pipeline for fuel and burns logs specifically made for direct vent models.
(See below &  figure 2 for more visual detail)






















(Figure 4) Direct vent flow configuration 



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Do I have to reline my chimney if I have a wood burning insert installed?   
Although in some instances it technically isn't a requirement, we highly recommend it for all installations.  A wood burning insert with it's own flue running the entire length of the chimney (aka a full liner) will be safer, less likely to have a chimney fire, have less drafting problems, reduce the amount of creosote build up and make it easier and cheaper to clean. We have a unique perspective at Connecticut Master Hearth Services because, unlike many other stove retailers we also do chimney cleaning and NFPA 211 Level II inspections, so we see the effect that years of excessive creosote build up has on a chimney.  Quite often we find damaged flue tiles and evidence of chimney fire in the chimneys that have inserts with no liners.  The way to make the chimney safe again is to install a full liner, which is more expensive after the fact.   It is much safer and far less expensive to have the liner installed at the same time as the insert.

 

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How often should I have my chimney cleaned?   
We recommend that you have your chimney inspected yearly and have it cleaned at that time if needed.  It is also a good idea to take a peak down the chimney periodically during the burn season to check for excessive creosote.  If you notice more than 1/4" of buildup, it's time to call for a sweep!  Having and inspection in the spring and summer months will save you money and you won't have to wait long for an appointment.




 
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What kind of service is required on gas and pellet stoves?
  
Contrary to popular belief, both gas and pellet stoves should have yearly routine maintenance performed by a professional. It saves you time and money by identifying potential problems before they effect the performance of the stove and also is required by most manufacturers to keep your warranty in effect.

Routine gas service involves testing the pilot assembly, checking the logs for sooting, checking the burner for cracking and deteriorations, checking for gas leaks, check the air adjustment and cleaning the glass.  If you are on propane rather than natural gas, it is even more crucial because the heat of the propane tends to burn out the pilot fixtures more quickly than natural gas does.

Routine pellet service involves cleaning the exhaust ducts, vacuuming accumulated fly ash from inside the stove, cleaning out the exhaust blower and the venting and checking  for air leaks around the door, glass and ash pan.


 

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What is creosote?   
Much like warm air forms condensation when it interacts with a cool surface (imagine an ice filled glass on a warm day), smoke condenses when it cools down as well.  The difference is that in addition to water vapor, smoke condensation (a.k.a. creosote) contains tar and soot and causes chimney fires if not cleaned out on a regular basis.  Creosote builds up more quickly when you burn small, cool fires, use unseasoned wood or have a wood burning insert installed without a properly sized flue.  To avoid excessive creosote build up it is recommended that you burn only well seasoned hardwood, burn hot fires, don't make a habit of burning small fires, have your chimney inspected at least once per year or more often if you use your stove as your primary heating source.
 
 
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If I want to replace my existing wood stove with a gas or pellet stove, can I use the pipe that's already there?   
Gas and pellet stoves use a different type and size of stovepipe than what is required for a wood burning stove. It is necessary to install the an appropriate vent for the hearth appliance you choose to meet current code and safety requirements! So,  although we don't normally remove all of the existing stovepipe, the appropriate venting will either follow the same path through the existing pipe, or it will be adapted to the stovepipe at the ceiling.

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What is the difference between gas logs and a gas insert?   
The main difference is that a gas burning insert is considered a certified heater whereas gas logs are not.  Gas logs are a good option if you are looking for something easy, inexpensive to purchase and pretty to use, but they you don't expect much heat from. They have no heat exchanger or fan and are very inefficient with about 90% of the heat going directly up the chimney. Also note that in CT and MA, it is a code requirement to seal the damper permanently open to meet safety and manufacturer requirements, which makes gas logs very costly to your home heating bottom line!
Compare that to a gas burning insert which can be as efficient as 85%.  If you are looking for something that is easy, pretty and can heat your room or home, then an insert is the way to go.  

 

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Is there a unit that can burn both wood and gas?   
Besides the use of gas log starters in open fireplaces to start wood fires (
see gas logs), there is no wood and gas hearth appliances on the current market that we are aware of.
 
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Can an insert be installed inside a two sided fireplace?   
We know of no insert on the market that addresses this scenerio as two sided fireplaces are not so common or standardized.
 
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I want the look of a fireplace, but I don't want a lot of construction going on in my house. Do I have any options?
  
We recommend looking towards a
zero clearance, direct vent gas fireplace. Depending on the installation needed, these, by their nature, are most likely the least intrusive construction-wise.
 
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Connecticut Master Hearth Services
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860-978-8443
"Bringing Warmth and Safety to your Hearth and Home"
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