Sunday, November 6, 2011

using a fireplace insert to heat a mid-century modern living room

We have heating problems in our house. Big problems. And it is rapidly heading into winter. Later in this post, I'll explain how we solve the heating issue with a fireplace insert. But bear with me for now.

Our house is a flat roofed mid-century modern and all the heater ducting was laid into the concrete foundation. The ducting is galvanized metal and has rotted out down to the dirt underneath. When we turn on the heater every winter, sand blows through the house. I called a heating company, Empire Plumbing & Heating and described the situation.They said it was serious and sent out the owner of the company who put a scope down the ducts. Quote from their extensive report that includes an estimate for $14K to repair, "When we video observed the ducting we observed broken portions of ducting in every single run. We also witnessed several breaks in the ducting from what appears to be defect from new construction in the 1950's." Other problems include water building up in the pan below the heater, "The ducting runs leaving the plenum were draining water back into the plenum and the appearance of water fall like calcium deposits can be seen."

This company sufficiently scared me and I almost signed up on the spot. Later, upon checking Yelp, I learned they are experts at scaring people. My husband and the architect came up with a solution where we would run heat down the 18 foot section of dropped hallway and pump into each of the bedrooms, bathrooms, and the entrance to the family area. And, then we would shut down the floor ducting. Which leaves the entire living room and dining room area without heat.

Before pictures of fireplace 

My husband has been wanting to purchase a fireplace insert for years. Fireplace inserts go into your fireplace seamlessly, dress it up, and have a fan contraption which blows the heat into the room. After some online and in-store research, we purchased a fireplace insert for our mid-century modern, corroding brick fireplace (Regency Fireplace Inserts) from Wilshire Fireplace Shops in Costa Mesa, CA. We got the Regency Horizon because it had a modern look and was essentially unembellished. It cost about $2,500. Wilshire had a contractor measure to ensure what we wanted would fit.

Unfortunately, rather than hiring the contractor, we had Wilshire do the insert. They neglected to tell us that we needed electricity in the fireplace (I know, seems obvious) so now we have a black cord running from the fireplace to the wall. The good news is, we have a fireplace that actually produces gas heat. It turns on with a remote. The remote doesn't seem to work right when left in automatic mode (meaning it should turn on when the temperature drops below a set point, but it doesn't), and eventually we will probably just install a switch in the wall to turn it on. Our gas bill is higher but our electrical bill is way lower for this time of year. All-in-all, pretty cool.

Within a few weeks we went back to Wilshire and bought glass for the pan rather than the silly rocks. Another $60 bucks. The glass looks much better. Overall we are really pleased with the fireplace, but the process to get the right look and the install could have been better. We eventually found Oakland Custom Fireplaces which would have likely done the job right the first time.

After Far Away

After Close Up

Rocks have been switched out for glass, you can just see the glittering and not the rocks.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, just looked at your blog, wish I had seen it before. Have a look at mine - Hope your house is now finished and you are looking forward to a cosy winter. Mid century houses seem to come with as many problems as Regency homes - and we thought ours was such a small project. Best wishes,Maggie


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