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Old 09-22-2009, 09:06 PM   #1
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


Another post, another project. Hey, I have to have something to do while waiting for glues to dry and materials to show up.

This is the Waterford Irish Stoves brand gas insert in our house. I've held off asking questions about it until now, because I wasn't certain that it was even worth working on until recently. Parts proved to be a little difficult to come by, since Waterford pulled out of the North American market back in 2004, but there is one place in Ohio that I can special order any Waterford parts I might need. With winter coming, and a source of parts secured, it's time to work on this thing. Heating entirely with electricity last year was brutal.



This unit was installed in September of 2003 along with the entire propane system for our house. It was the only thing that the previous owner ever bothered to pull a permit for. It was non-functional when we moved in, because it would not light. A little burner cleaning got it working, but not well enough to consider using.

Known problems:

1. Blower fan is EXTREMELY noisy. The rubber isolation feet for the blower need replacing, and I think I can handle that.

2. Rust. It's probably due to have the rust cleaned up and painted. That's also something I can handle.

3. When last inspecting the unit, something shorted. There was a little smoke and the breaker tripped. I have simply left that breaker off since then, since it is on a dedicated circuit. The short seems to have been the direct result of the insulation on the wiring cooking off due to improper routing of some internal wiring. The fan speed control circuit seems to have been fried as well.


Now, before I get in to ordering parts for this thing, I wonder if anyone can shed some light on the installation for me. The wiring was poorly executed, but my knowledge of what to look for beyond that is non-existent. I have a feeling that this thing was a complete hack job, and may be completely unsafe.

A view downward from the attic. Both the gas line and the cable run through the same hole. It must have been awkward drilling that hole.



This can't be a good place for a shut-off valve. My arms are not skinny enough to reach in behind the insert. (See next image to get a better idea where the valve really is.)



The red circle indicates the location of the shut-off valve behind the insert. Maybe if I had scrawny arms...



The fan variable speed controller is circled. It's also quite fried. I'm unsure if there is a universal replacement for this, but perhaps one of you could shed some light on the matter.



Finally, a series of random shots taken blindly. To me, it seems kind of scary looking.












I'd love to have this thing throwing some heat this winter, but before I throw money at replacement parts and a thermostat so that it doesn't have to run continuously, I'd like to know that the installation isn't too botched. If I have to gut the mess to re-install it correctly, I'll spend the money elsewhere. (Like the electric bill!)

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Old 09-23-2009, 09:10 AM   #2
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


If you are concerned about safety it is nearly impossible to judge by those pictures. So I would recommend getting the install manual and consulting with your local codes office. Having someone qualified to verify its safety would be money well spent.

If you're looking to just save money tell us more about that entire propane system you mentioned. Even lower AFUE propane furnaces will beat this thing efficiency-wise.

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Old 09-23-2009, 10:10 AM   #3
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


A few things.
The gas line needs a protective sleave where it penetrates through the brick.
I'm not sure about this but I don't think gas and electric can share the same hole.
Finally, I wouldn't feel comfortable with the gas line touching the hot exhaust flue liner.
Was there any way to get the gas line to enter from below the unit?
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Old 09-23-2009, 04:21 PM   #4
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


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Originally Posted by dac122 View Post
If you are concerned about safety it is nearly impossible to judge by those pictures. So I would recommend getting the install manual and consulting with your local codes office. Having someone qualified to verify its safety would be money well spent.

If you're looking to just save money tell us more about that entire propane system you mentioned. Even lower AFUE propane furnaces will beat this thing efficiency-wise.
Understood. It's nearly impossible to see anything in there, really. The installation manual is really less than informative for this insert, and only lists clearances to combustible surfaces that apply only to how high above the fireplace the mantle is to be mounted. The insert has a 79% efficiency rating.

The rest of the propane system is very straightforward. There is a 500 gallon tank on site, and a single black iron pipe which I believe is 1" Nominal that runs straight up one side of the house from the regulator and through the attic from one end of the house to the other with a total distance of what I'm guessing is 80'. There are four CSST lines that tee from that line, even though the permit records six. The four existing CSST lines run to the water heater, clothes dryer (unused), the fireplace insert, and a free-standing stove in the family room.

Heat for this house has historically been electrical, first in the form of radiant electric baseboard heat, and then in the form of Cadet brand forced-air register heaters. (No worries, I spotted the ZA series heaters, and replaced all of the cores myself.)

Honestly, I'd love to have a gas furnace installed in the attic, but that will take some time. I'm not even sure that the supply of gas to the house is sufficient to handle a furnace. I'll have to hire someone to figure all of that stuff out for me, so it's a long way from getting done. The economy sucks, and I'm just trying to keep the place from burning or falling down for now.

Either way, your thoughts are welcome. Efficient heat would be nice.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Clutchcargo View Post
A few things.
The gas line needs a protective sleave where it penetrates through the brick.
I'm not sure about this but I don't think gas and electric can share the same hole.
Finally, I wouldn't feel comfortable with the gas line touching the hot exhaust flue liner.
Was there any way to get the gas line to enter from below the unit?
I didn't pick up on them sharing a hole, but I think you're on to something. Did you see that J-box dangling in the chimney? Ha! The insert came with a cord and a plug on it, so they cut the plug off and hardwired it to the NM-B in a box. I suppose I should just be happy that they used a box, but it is completely inaccessible.

Can Gas and electric even share the same chaseway? As I see it, the chimney is just a chaseway, now. I'm not sure if they can be together in there.

The whole flue being intertwined with the gas line has me concerned, too. It's hard to see, but the yellow jacket on the gas line is split/melted in places. That is what sent up the red flag for me. I don't think the gas line could have come in from the bottom since from the original firebox down, it's poured concrete. Perhaps there are ways to do it, but I know not what they would be.

I'm just glad that I'm not alone in thinking that this warrants further investigation.
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Old 09-23-2009, 05:32 PM   #5
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


Seriously, I would be VERY worried if you had a fire and the fire inspector and insurance company saw that unit. Looks like a hack job to me. Propane is far more deadly than Natural gas as it settles in small areas, builds up and then explodes. Natural gas rises. I would start new with a professional company and get a higher efficient unit and all the proper permits and inspections. Will cost more to repair than it is worth IMO. Cannot put a price on your family's safety and $$ ain't worth dying over.

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Old 09-23-2009, 06:38 PM   #6
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


Quote:
Originally Posted by yuri View Post
Seriously, I would be VERY worried if you had a fire and the fire inspector and insurance company saw that unit. Looks like a hack job to me. Propane is far more deadly than Natural gas as it settles in small areas, builds up and then explodes. Natural gas rises. I would start new with a professional company and get a higher efficient unit and all the proper permits and inspections. Will cost more to repair than it is worth IMO. Cannot put a price on your family's safety and $$ ain't worth dying over.
I agree.

Just spent an hour reading through the CSST manufacturer's installation guidelines, which can be found at http://www.gastite.com/include/langu...8_DI_Guide.pdf

This stuff is installed in a manner completely in violation of the manufacturer's standards. I will have the line for this insert completely disconnected in the attic immediately, and will remove the breaker in the load center and wire nut the cable for the circuit it is on. If I die next week, I don't want anyone coming in after me and hooking this thing back up the way it was.

This should have never passed an electrical or mechanical inspection.
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Old 09-23-2009, 06:48 PM   #7
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


Maybe the previous owner slipped "Bubba" the inspector a few "bills".
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Old 09-23-2009, 10:57 PM   #8
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


Quote:
Originally Posted by yuri View Post
Maybe the previous owner slipped "Bubba" the inspector a few "bills".
Actually, the wife and I were theorizing about this. We figure that maybe they applied for and obtained the permit, but it was never inspected or signed off. The online records only show what a permit was for and that it was paid. It says nothing about the status of permits.

I hate the previous owner.
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Old 09-24-2009, 12:01 AM   #9
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


CSST gasline is still pretty foreign to a lot of people, including some inspectors. Sad fact is that some cities do sell permits and never give you your money's worth in inspections.

The CSST and the electrical sharing the same chase doesn't bug me and to my knowledge it is not a code violation. The j-box, incorrect CSST install, ect....That's another story. Can't determine from the pics but I wonder if the roof termination is done correctly so it stands a chance of drafting the way it should. Hard to even tell if the vent pipe is the appropriate material without the manufacturer's specific requirements on hand.

I'd err on the side of caution here. You could probably get a fireplace company tech to come out and take a look for a service fee so you at least know if you're risking your life by using it.

Heat and fire aside, carbon monoxide can also be a big threat when dealing with improperly installed or improperly vented fuel burning appliances.
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Old 09-24-2009, 01:58 PM   #10
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


Fireplaces et all are specially bad. They don't have flame rollout or spill switches like a modern furnace. 4 people in a family of 5 died last year in Ontario from CO poisoning caused by a badly burning leaking gas fireplace. TERRIBLE tragedy.
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Old 09-24-2009, 02:31 PM   #11
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


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Fireplaces et all are specially bad. They don't have flame rollout or spill switches like a modern furnace. 4 people in a family of 5 died last year in Ontario from CO poisoning caused by a badly burning leaking gas fireplace. TERRIBLE tragedy.
CO detectors are not code in Canada?
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Old 09-24-2009, 02:46 PM   #12
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They are recommended and most people have them. Unfortunately they didn't.
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Old 09-24-2009, 02:48 PM   #13
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


That's too bad. Same thing happened in the US where the exhaust for a heating system was blocked by snow and the house filled with CO killing all occupants... Now CO detectors are required.
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Old 09-24-2009, 04:22 PM   #14
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


Forgive my ignorance, but snow can actually block a hot exhaust? I would think the heat would keep the snow melted.

We don't have snow issues here in southern Va. They shut down the city if we get 3".
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Old 09-24-2009, 04:43 PM   #15
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Anything questionable about this gas fireplace insert?


If you get a good amount of snow it can. When the insert isn't on.

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