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Vermont Castings Montpelier Stove Fireplace Insert | by Doug Barnes
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Vermont Castings Montpelier Stove Fireplace Insert

Fireplace inserts have become more and more efficient over the years. Recently this Vermont Castings Montpelier fireplace insert with a Georgian surround was installed in our home. This is a medium sized insert that can heat anywhere between 1500 and 1800 square feet, but it will be used mainly as supplmental heat fror our gas furnace.


I will update the performance over time, but see my attached energy blog entry for a short history of improvements in heating stoves.


Update 1. This stove is a real performer. We have it about two months duirng late fall and early winter. The temperatures have been mild, so there have been no really cold days. The insert is used for supplemental heat. The stove does back smoke into the room if you do not start it in a certain way. We leave a bed of ash in the bottom of the insert, put two balls of newspaper at the back, dry kindling over the newspaper, and light it from the very back. This produces an immediate draft with very little smoke entering the room. The stove then requires dry medium split logs (about 2 inches by 2 inches) to really get the temperature in the firbox to rise. After that it is very easy to maintain the fire by simply adding dry split wood and adjusting the airflow. We do not use the included fan (which on low is not as noisy as we thought it would be) as we do not want the room to heat up too much and would rather have the stove heat up and then give off heat after we quit adding wood. So all in all it is a great performer as well as very attractive. More updates coming.


Update 2. We use the Vermont Castings Montpelier fireplace insert every night for supplemental heat and it has performed very well. However, after more experimentation we now start the fire by using fatwood and what has been called a log cabin approach. The old procedure worked fine, but it tends to give off quite a bit of smoke during fire starting because of all the small branches and newspaper. The new approach promotes greater air flow in the firebox, a cleaner burning fire and very little carbon on the glass viewing area of the door. To accomplish this, one oak log is cut in half so the pieces are able to fit front to back in the fireplace, and then each half piece is split into three more pieces to make kindling. Two of the six to 10 inch long split pieces then are placed over the ashes vertical to the fireplace opening to take advantage of the stoves air flow system. Several smaller pieces of branchwood along with one piece of fatwood are placed on top of those pieces and laid across the foundation wood. This square crossing pattern is continued with all six split pieces of oak. If there is enough room we put a normal sized log on the very top of this square structure. The fatwood is lighted and due to its slow initial burn rate it activates a positive airflow up the flue preventing any back-smoking problems. Once things begin to catch the door is left slightly ajar until the fire blazes and becomes hot, usually taking just a few minutes. After this the door is closed and the air control is set to maximum until the firebox becomes hot (about one-half hour). At this point the airflow is turned down to the desired level (medium or low) and wood is added as needed. Once all this burns down to form a bed of coals, we just add wood in the usual manner.


Update 3. I am still impressed with this stove after a year of use and we have just started using it for this heating season. I have refined the method of starting this stove and now do not have any backsmoking into the room. I put two large logs on the bottom parallel to the back wall of the stove. Over these logs I then put two 8 inch long logs perpendicular to stove back wall making a kind of rectangle. Or if they are short enough you can criss-cross normal logs diagonally in the firebox. Between these 8 inch logs I place fatwood and kindling at varous angles. The fatwood is optional if you have very small branched that will light with fireplace matches. Over this I put some small logs just under the air tubes. I can't stress enough the importance of having seasoned wood. We purchased wood (mostly oak) in March and put it in our garage. On purchase the moisture content was in the 30% range for many pieces even though the dealer said it was seasoned. But many wood sellers often do not split the wood until just before delivery. At that time this wood was not usable in the wood stove due to the high moisture content . After 6 months of having this wood in a hot garage over the summer the wood's moisture content is now 20% or below and is ready for use in the wood stove. Good luck.


Update 4. Much has been written about this stove and backsmoking (when airflow reverses direction and smoke comes out of the combustion air entrance for the stove). I have found that for our stove chimney configuration the stove only backsmokes when the stove is very cold and there are unique weather conditions. If you use the stove daily, it is unlikely to backsmoke. You can tell if it will backsmoke if you put your hand under the top front of the stove and feel cold air coming down the chimney into the stove. If this is the case then you have to warm the stove before attemplting to start the fire either by placing a candle or electric light bulb inside the stove to warm it and to create a draft. But this takes quite a bit of time. An alternative method is to use some fatwood or other material placed at the top of the stove to start the draft.


For information on heating stove standards for the USA, see the link from my blog below.


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Taken on November 17, 2011