Earth Stove “Colony Hearth” Fireplace Insert

I've been getting the occasional email and comment lately, with questions about my fireplace insert — one correspondent went as far as to say TFM is the only place on the 'net where he found anything about it!

This seems to be one of the most popular entry points for my blog. I hope this page is informative, and then you’ll have a look around. Lots of strange fiction, from very short to novel-size, and even stranger reality. I usually post a new flash (less than 1000 words) story on Fridays, if nothing else.

UPDATE (26 Jan 2010): Clint obtained a PDF of the manual from the manufacturer, and posted it on Google Docs for all to use! Thanks much!

I didn’t receive a manual, so everything I know about it has been from using it and from knowledgeable blog-buddies like Beth. Here’s the links to my older posts (with lots o' pix) about preparing and installing the thing:



So here’s a few things to look out for, and a few tips on using the thing.

Inspection

If the insert is already in place, you should be good to go. Calling a chimney sweep would be a good idea, unless the previous occupant did that fairly often. If nothing else, you can shine a flashlight down the chimney — or pull the insert out of the way and shine it up from the bottom — to look for creosote build-up.

If you’re bringing one in, open it up. Make sure the firebrick inside is all in place; you may have to scoop out some ash to see if the bottom if it hasn’t been cleaned out. The door comes off (just open it and lift); that will give you a lot more room to maneuver. Check the damper, make sure it opens and closes when you move the slider on the side. Likewise, there’s a “Draft” lever under the skirt on the bottom right — the pic on the right shows the insert tipped on on its back; you can see the lever and the intake to its left. Work this lever and make sure the draft opens and closes.

Plug in the blower and turn it on, to see if it works.

There’s also a hood on a lot of these models, above the door. You’ll see the hinge on top of the insert. Lift it up, make sure the prop is still attached and holds it open. A little WD-40 on the hinge will free it up if needed.

If it has been stored in a barn or shed, it might be rusty. If it’s surface rust, no problem; mine was like that and the posts linked above describe how I dealt with it. Use high-temperature paint after removing the rust. If it’s rusted through anywhere, don’t install it.

The trim panel should be in good condition. It comes in three pieces; if any of the screws are missing, just go to the hardware store and get some more. Clean it up and repaint it if necessary.

Installing

Measure from the screw holes on the side (which line up with the holes on the trim panel) to the back of the insert, then measure the depth of your fireplace, just to make sure there’s room to stuff the thing in! Open the fireplace damper all the way and make sure it stays open. If the lever hits the insert when you slide it in, you'll have to remove the lever.

These suckers are heavy. Count on needing two strong people and a hand truck (“dolly”) to move it. Measure all doors you have to bring it through, clear a path, move any obstacles. Once you have it on the hearth, slide it in most of the way. Attach the trim panel, then slide it in until the panel meets the brickwork.

Done!

Using

Dry hardwood is the best thing to use in these inserts. Open the damper and draft all the way. Clean out the ash, if necessary, and build a fire in the bottom of the insert (again, you can remove the door to give yourself some room). Add small pieces of wood to the fire, then larger ones as those catch fire, then close the door. Leave the damper and draft open until it heats up, then close the draft about halfway and the damper about three notches. Close it down further if it heats things up too much, open it up for more heat. Close it down to about two notches from completely closed to keep the fire going overnight.

In the picture above, you’ll see the blower control on the side. The speed is (turning the knob clockwise) OFF-HIGH→LOW. You can vary the blower speed by turning the knob. Using the blower cools the insert down quite a bit, so you may have to open the damper a bit more to compensate.

To add more wood, open the damper all the way and crack the door open about an inch. When the smoke clears out, you can open the door the rest of the way and toss in more wood. Don’t put your face down at the crack; the wood can start popping and throwing sparks! (Ask me how I know this…)

Remember to have your chimney inspected and cleaned every fall before you start using the insert… creosote fires are scary and can burn your house down.

Good luck! Comments are open on this page. If you have a question or better info, drop a comment and I’ll address it as best as I can.

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