Flue size / new stove?


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Old 02-06-15, 10:53 PM
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Flue size / new stove?

So I've recently purchased my first house, in Maine. I moved here from Colorado where pretty much everyone's on the grid and nobody burns wood or has even heard of anything but natural gas for heating, unless you rent a unit in a really old apartment building. Then you still just call it "heat", and call maintenance and hide your cat when there's a problem.

So I've got a chimney now, which I paid a sweep to come clean out and he tells me the tile liner is cracked and it's pretty much totally F'd. Of course I have already learned from the house inspector that you can't run an oil burning boiler and a wood stove through the same flue anyway. But it's "semi-safe" to keep running the boiler through it, but I definitely shouldn't burn wood. Which is kinda one of the huge selling points of the house for me, I'm one of those weird survivalist people that likes to have a back up plan in-case the system fails.

Anyway, so my options are many. People around here really like pellet stoves. I don't like the idea. We've nowhere to put one anyway. And I love the heat you get from a forced water system anyway, I just really want to be able to go cut down a tree and burn it in a stove if I have to, as a backup. What I'd like to do is power-vent the boiler out the side of the house and use the chimney for burning wood, when I can get it, hopefully cheap or free. I'm semi-broke and willing to do the work for any free/cheaper supplemental heat. Oil is at it's lowest price ever right now and still expensive as hell!!

Right now we've got a Vermont Castings "Vigilant" stove down there, which I've had to disconnect due to codes (yeah there's some kinda grandfather law that allows connecting it to the same flue as an oil boiler, but homeowners insurance doesn't give a s--t about that).

So the quote for a new stainless flue is like over $2000, if I want to run that stove, which needs an 8" flue they say. A little research on some forums and I hear people calling that stove a "smoke dragon", and that there are way better options as far as efficiency. They said it would be cheaper to go with a 6" flue, but I haven't got an actual quote yet...

My question:

From my (very limited) understanding, an 8" flue is a bit large for most of the newer, more efficient stoves. So going with a 6" could maybe save me money in the first place, as well as in efficiency over the long run. So wouldn't it be kinda dumb to pay that much to put an 8" flue in there just to run the dated stove we've got when I could almost pay for a used, more efficient one that could use a 6" flue, with the cost savings I'd get from the price difference between the flue sizes? Or am I wrong?

Also, my father in-law mentioned some kind of new-ish option where they put a balloon in there and then pour around it with some sort of new material, as an alternative option to a stainless flue. I have no idea what this is called so no way to research it. Anyone have any info on this option, does it exist? Could it be cheaper?

With the money I could save going with a 6" flue instead of an 8", couldn't that almost pay for a decent, used but newer, more efficient wood stove? What would you do? I know not "next to", but actually "nothing" about burning wood, so any info is really appreciated. Thanks for any responses!
 
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Old 02-07-15, 03:18 AM
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How tall is the chimney? 6" is the smallest you can use with a wood stove. Mine has 6" stove pipe from the stove to the chimney where there is a 7" liner although I only use about 8' of the chimney. IMO it's better to have a flue that is a little too big than one that is undersized. The smaller the diameter of the flue, the more often it will need to be cleaned.

I've heard of the balloon/cement deal to repair flues but don't know anything about it

Generally used stoves are a good bit cheaper in the spring than in the fall/winter - least ways that's how it is around here. It's best to burn seasoned hardwood as it will produce less soot/creosote. A hot fire will burn cleaner than a slow smoldering fire.
 
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Old 02-07-15, 09:27 PM
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Thanks for the input! I thought I had read something about old chimneys with bigger flues not being so good for the higher efficiency newer stoves, but I think I probably just misunderstood something somewhere. I have a lot more to learn. (that's a good point about the cleaning though, that I hadn't thought of!)

We have a one story house with a basement, which is where the chimney starts and the stove is located, so it goes from the basement floor up through the first floor and out the roof. Honestly I have no idea how tall that would make it, maybe 30 feet or a little less? Of course the stovepipe doesn't go into the chimney until about 6ft off the ground if that matters.

I definitely plan on doing the whole "spring buy" thing, I'm new to Maine but I think it works pretty much the same around here, more demand (and higher prices) when there's a need for the item. Probably pick up my snowblower then as well, hoping prices drop when everyone does their spring cleaning and there's not such an immediate need for these things.

Sounds like the 8" may be the way to go then, so I'll probably do that. I would really like to find out more about the balloon/pouring idea, I will have to ask the guy that told me about it I guess. He said it wasn't really cement but a new material that really holds up super well to high temps and such. But still no idea if it's any cheaper.

In the mean time I have a lot to learn about wood burning. Do you happen to know of any links / PDF's or whatever that can educate in more detail? I have tried google searches but never seem to come up with what I'm looking for, they all kind of assume people just know these things. I have my current stove in case of emergency, but honestly don't even know what all the little adjustment knobs/levers/ and chains that raise little flap things do, at all, lol...
 
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Old 02-08-15, 03:53 AM
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My chimney is 18'-20' tall but from where the stove pipe enters the chimney to the top is only about 8'
I don't know a lot about the newer wood stoves but the manufacture's paperwork should state the chimney flue requirements. If you are buying used, you could research different brands to get a better idea.

While I'm sure there are websites and videos galore on the internet that would tell you everything you want to know - I don't know where they are, never have looked. Basically the more air that enters the bottom of the stove, the hotter/faster the wood will burn. Closing the little flapper will slow the fire down, opening it will make it burn hotter.
 
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Old 02-11-15, 10:54 PM
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Thanks for the info! Will have to do some more research and start looking at used stoves in the spring
 
 

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