Are Inserts Worth It?

A Coal stoker furnace or stove controls most operations including automatically feeding the coal. They are quite similar to any conventional oil and gas units and easily operated for extended periods of time. They commonly use rice coal but may use larger sizes like buckwheat. They can be used as primary heat, supplementary heat or have a dual set up with your existing oil/gas furnace.
NJJoe
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Post Wed. Aug. 07, 2013 4:27 pm

Planning on buying a house that has a wood burning fireplace in a centrally located part of the home. It is a hearth raised from the floor and I would really like the idea of using it full time in the winter, but to burn coal instead. There is not much space in the living room to install a stove, an insert probably makes the most sense space-wise.

I've searched for a bit and it seems that fireplace inserts don't get much love here... I know Harman makes a coal insert, but I'm somewhat reluctant to buy a Harman after reading about some users here with customer service difficulties. Hitzer has one advertised but I don't know much about this company.

Can anyone recommend a good insert or tell me if I should avoid them?

Also, I'd love to get a non-stoker insert. I see that inserts have fans, but I can't tell if these are fans solely for distributing the heat or there to maintain the fire. The reason behind this is that if we have a power outage, the coal will continue to burn and not rely on electricity to power a forced draft fan. I don't mind loading and ashing the insert by hand if it means electricity is out of the picture entirely.

Can anyone tell me what size coal the Hitzer insert takes? Can't seem to find that on their website. The Harman insert I found burns pea, nut or stove. Thanks for the help...


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Rob R.
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Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93
Coal Size/Type: Lehigh Rice
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy
Location: Chazy, NY

Post Wed. Aug. 07, 2013 4:43 pm

Nut size is optimal for the Hitzer hopper-fed insert, but it can handle pea size as well. The fans are for distributing the heat, they have nothing to do with keeping the fire going.

How far does the hearth extend past the face of the fireplace? I would see if you can fit a small radiant stove in there like a Chubby or a Crane 44...or maybe a restored anique stove.

mikereliant
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Stove/Furnace Make: leisure line
Stove/Furnace Model: pocono

Post Fri. Aug. 09, 2013 10:21 pm

Leisure line makes a fireplace insert. Its called the hearth model, comes with coal troll , 70 pound hopper burns anthracite rice and is 90,000 btu. I just bought one for my rental property. Great stove company to deal with. Their customer service is top notch.

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Ziggy
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Posts: 18
Joined: Sun. Nov. 09, 2008 3:55 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM 520
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Stove/Furnace Make: EFM
Stove/Furnace Model: 520
Location: Harleysville, PA

Post Sat. Aug. 10, 2013 1:30 pm

In my opinion, inserts have their place and will perform well, as long as you expect them to behave like inserts, not stoves or boilers. My daughter and son in law recently purchased a 2400 SF two story home that has a fireplace. I located a Hitzer 903 coal insert which is intended to be hand fed, but modified it into a hopper fed style similar to their model 503 insert. It ran flawlessly all winter, providing around 80% of the heat needed for the house. The stairway provided a natural duct for convection flow of heat to the upstairs. The living room stayed around 75-78 degrees and the upstairs was 68- 72 all winter long. On the coldest or windy days, the heat pump would need to supplement the coal insert, but as a whole they are now coal lovers!

Anyway, I have an EFM 520 boiler and would recommend something similar as the best way to use coal for heat, then a free standing stove, preferably a stoker second, then a fireplace insert last because of the reduced efficiency and increased maintenance with each method. I would still take a coal insert over wood fuel of any kind, unless the wood is free.

Good luck!!
Tom Zickefoose
Harleysville PA
1960 EFM 520

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Fritzi
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Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: Magnafire Elite
Location: Schuylkill County, PA

Post Sun. Aug. 11, 2013 6:13 am

My Harman insert is probably the single best investment I've made for my home. I was lucky enough to find a display model that was being sold off and got a tremendous deal. We burned nut coal all last winter. Our house has never been more comfortable, with less effort and lower cost! My wife couldn't be happier. ;-) And really, what's more important than that?
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CapeCoaler
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Stoker Coal Boiler: want AA130
Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machine BS#4, Harman MKII, Hitzer 503,...
Coal Size/Type: Pea/Nut/Stove
Location: Cape Cod, MA

Post Wed. Aug. 21, 2013 1:48 am

Hitzer 503...
very nice
I am not an engineer, train or otherwise!
I stay at a Holiday Inn at least once a year!
Most of all I do have common sense and a practical application of logic.
Oh, add humor, on the dry side, along with a wee bit 'o sarcasm.

NJJoe
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Post Sun. Sep. 15, 2013 1:01 pm

Rob R. wrote:How far does the hearth extend past the face of the fireplace? I would see if you can fit a small radiant stove in there like a Chubby or a Crane 44...or maybe a restored anique stove.
The hearth extends from the fireplace face 14.5 inches. Its relatively small so I don't think a stove may fit on top of there. Which is why I was thinking that an insert tucked into the fireplace would fit better.

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freetown fred
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Hand Fed Coal Stove: HITZER 50-93
Coal Size/Type: BLASCHAK Nut
Location: Freetown,NY 13803

Post Sun. Sep. 15, 2013 1:16 pm

Joey, you don't have that friggin insert installed YET--- :clap: toothy
"A people that values it's privileges above it's principals, soon loses both"--Dwight D Eisenhower


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ONEDOLLAR
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Hand Fed Coal Stove: 2014 Chubby Prototype
Coal Size/Type: Nut/Anthracite
Location: Sooner Country Oklahoma
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Post Sun. Sep. 15, 2013 1:19 pm

NJJoe

You can fit a Chubby Jr on it with a little room to spare.
It is the small things in life that push us over the edge........

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davidmcbeth3
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Coal Size/Type: nut/pea/anthra
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 503

Post Sun. Sep. 15, 2013 5:27 pm

CapeCoaler wrote:Hitzer 503...
very nice
I examined several inserts ... went with Hitzer 503 ... 2400sqft house 2 floors.

Its the only fuel I burn for heat - 4 tonnes/yr ....

After 5 yrs ... its a good stove and can put out some heat and you can lower to heat to a putter, just to keep it going.

I wanted a hopper stove ... not too many inserts with hoppers ... hopper is simply gravity feed ... only moving parts are damper, shaker, and fans .. simple machine.

I don't know , but I had to order my stove in May or June to get it in and installed by winter....

NJJoe
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Post Mon. Sep. 16, 2013 10:13 am

freetown fred wrote:Joey, you don't have that friggin insert installed YET--- :clap: toothy
Haha well in all fairness I still don;t have the house. My GF's parents will sell us the house in the future after they retire (in a few years) and move to Europe. Since we learned about their future plans for the house, I began to look for a way to get coal in here. House currently burns oil and its expensive.

Another question: My GF likes the idea of the wood burning fireplace; the wood smell and crackle of logs. Can the Hitzer (or any insert) burn wood too? I understand that no stove is truly dual fuel and efficiency may suffer while burning wood. This is mainly to appease her for when she wants a wood fire. Possible to burn with the door open? Otherwise, it will usually be coal burning to offset as much oil consumption as possible.

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Carbon12
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Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KA-6
Coal Size/Type: Rice/Anthracite
Other Heating: Heat Pump/Forced Hot Air Oil Furnace
Location: Harrisburg, PA

Post Wed. Sep. 18, 2013 10:21 pm

I had a hitzer 983 insert. It kept a drafty 3000 square foot house toasty warm burning coal without even pushing it hard. It will burn wood well for ambiance and heat during warmer spells. You can place a fireplace grate in front of it if you want to hear the crakeling fire. That, of course would cut down on the efficiency. In a new home now and am in the processes of installing a used Keystoker KA-6 Boiler in the basement. I think I'll keep my eyes open for a used 983 to put in the great room for just the purpose of being able to burn wood for shoulder seasons. Would also provide heat if electricity goes out. I burned about 4 tons of nut coal/season in my precious home.
No matter where you go,......there you are.

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Carbon12
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Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KA-6
Coal Size/Type: Rice/Anthracite
Other Heating: Heat Pump/Forced Hot Air Oil Furnace
Location: Harrisburg, PA

Post Wed. Sep. 18, 2013 10:22 pm

Make that "previous" home. Lol!
No matter where you go,......there you are.

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dcrane
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Location: Duxbury, MA./Hanson MA./Brockton, MA

Post Thu. Sep. 19, 2013 3:54 am

a Crane 404 has a depth at feet of 14" and can be placed in most fireplace slightly if needed. My set up is shown here... Once My soapstone top is on it and its pushed back slightly it will almost "appear" as an insert but will have all the heat and function of a dual fuel free standing stove. Its 60,000 BTU rating is extremely conservative.
404 in fireplace.JPG

NJJoe
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Post Thu. Sep. 19, 2013 10:03 am

Thanks to all for the responses so far. I'm researching all suggestions; inserts & stoves. The research will be worth it when I can enjoy myself in front of the fire and fee nice and warm :D


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