Back in November 1999 we pulled apart the fireplace in the playroom, restoring it and working on the rather basic heat exchanger, to good effect. Eventually we removed the front door assembly, and by the time we installed the skylights in the room early in 2003, we had returned the fireplace to being a plain, open fireplace. However, it never worked as well as the loungeroom fireplace. This can be attributed to the extra ten feet of chimney height on the East end of the house since little else differentiates the East and West fireplaces.
We have now had a high-efficiency, wood-burning stove installed. We chose a Country model, after looking closely at a number of different types, including Osburn (as installed in my mother's house in Wentworth Falls 20 years ago) and Avalon.
Here you see it in place, being run in, with the brass dragon
steamer to which we treated ourselves.
In my extensive research, what struck me was the uniformity of all the available models. Efficiencies and emissions vary slightly, colours and aesthetic points such as door shape and trim are individual, but ultimately nothing is different enough in any brand or model to justify one type over another exclusively. Some have less durable-looking hinges, others offer brass rather than gold plate on the door, but all models have the same sort of chamber design, few need the bypass vent arrangement used to prevent smoke emission with the door open, as did my mother's 1980s-vintage Osburn, few require any sort of catalytic converter to meet Californian emission standards. (This analysis ignores the cast-metal and great-blocks-of-stone models that command much higher prices purely for their mass and appearance.)
They will all outlive me, I suspect, especially as this will not be the main source of heat for the house and Santa Rosa weather is not on a par with Dakota or Canada.
In the end we selected a brand heavier than most (giving a slightly longer night burn), and we chose a model with a cook surface, which is rarer than you might expect. Memories of those magnificent pots of Coq-au-Vin, simmered all afternoon, and the beauty of steamers convinced us to bypass all the ones that did not support cooking utensils. You never know, the owners of this house may value that capability when an earthquake cuts off gas and electricity for weeks or months on end!