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Fix/Replace Pre-fab fireplace

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Just had a level 2 inspection done by a reputable company on my fireplace for annual cleaning and because I was concerned about some cracking so I had the whole thing inspected. They said it is safe to use but does not have much life left in it, maybe 3-4 years of average use. It does not operate as intended but is quite useful for aesthetic purposes.

It is the original and the house was built in 1986. The blower is louder than my TV and really doesn't push any air. I have two options, flue 100% open or 100% closed (two position lever). If I stack wood on the grate, the fire roars like a fan is underneath it and burns extremely fast. If I manually hold the flue lever in the middle position or half closed, the fire drops down to a more normal burn, but then smoke begins to come out of the blower vents. if I don't use a grate, the fire burns with a lot less intensity but does not burn completely or smolders for a long time at the end.

According to the inspectors, the floor of the unit is all cracked up, but still solid. As long as there is no bounce or softness, they said it's perfectly safe. All side liners are still in good condition. The flue is clean and no problems. A little rust at the top but no leaks.

I specifically asked and they looked, but they could not tell who the manufacturer of the unit was.

So, my question, what do you think my best options are? They suggested a complete replacement with a new more efficient unit (in the range of $7000) but I think there has to be more of a middle ground. If I do the replacement route, I have no problem going with a good efficient unit, but if I can just replace a few pieces and stretch this one out, and have it operate as intended (provide a little heat) than I would be happy with that too.

Can the blower motors be replaced with any generic motors? Why does is burn so fast? Any clue how to track down the model or manufacturer to get new doors and screen, they work but are beat up and ugly.

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Edit: Note that the intensity of the fire is unchanged if I have the blower running or not. So the blower is not fanning the fire.

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You're keeping the firebox too clean. You want to leave a nice big bed of ash under the grate. This will insulate the bottom of the unit from the intense heat of the fire and it will limit the amount of air that enters the fire from below. Let the ash accumulate right up to the grate and build your fire on the ash bed.

You can replace pretty much any motor with a replacement from Graingers or someone similar.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Mike, Hrmm that is an interesting site. Gonna do some measuring and stuff, but it looks like there is a decent replacement, thanks.


LOL, You see, us Florida raised boys know nothing about that. Now I can burn down areas of swamp, but no real experience with real fireplaces. One note, I cleaned it extra special for the picture, but I (used to) remove most all ash in between burnings. Gonna give your method a try as it just makes sense.

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I forget exactly what they said, but is was a new, more efficient induction type I think. One that draws air from the outside. Of course to install it, the entire thing would need to be replaced, fireplace, flue, cap the works.

Going to do some more research and look at how much work it takes to change it out.

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