Heating your home using wood?

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Kankujoe, Jun 6, 2008.

  1. Kankujoe

    Kankujoe Monkey+++

    After the last several months of propane use and it's certain rising costs (more than doubled in the past year) I've decided to look into getting most of my home (& hopefully hot water) heat from some combination using wood burning. Since I live in the woods I have an unending sustainable fire wood source. Just never got around to putting any fireplaces in my home.

    I've been looking at wood burning furnaces and wood stoves but I'm not sure which way to go.

    1) Wood burning furnace boiler which sends heated water into my home to a heat exchanger that will then use my existing furnace to move the heated air. This would also heat water in my hot water tank.

    2) Wood burning furnace that sends hot air into my home for my existing furnace to move. Leave hot water alone (heat with propane).

    3) Wood burning stove. Leave propane furnace & water heater alone.

    Anyone have experience or expertise in this area? Suggestions much appreciated.
  2. walden3

    walden3 Walden3

    I know what you mean. I heat with oil. Last winter we paid $3.00 a gallon. This summer it's selling for $4.50 a gallon. That's a 50% increase. Wait till it gets cold. I hate to be dramatic, but people will freeze to death.

    I think the first kind, the boiler types, are really nice, but I don't have any first hand experience with them.

    I have an old Nashua wood stove. It has a fan built into the back. It easily heats my whole house. If I were you I'd get a wood stove and keep the propane for another option. Wood is a great option especially if your fuel is free. There's these new fans that sit on top of the stove and don't use any electricity. I'd like to get one of those. I personally don't like pellet stoves because you need electricity to feed them.

    Chop your own wood and you get heated twice.
  3. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I think the IDEAL set up would be to keep the propane furnace set up, install a wood burning furnace (with water heating tank) AND have a wood stove in the main part of the house. With a set up like this you have both the wood and propane furnaces on thermostats, set the propane furnace thermostat say 10 degrees colder than the wood (or colder if wanted) so that you heat with the wood in general but if you are away all day or whatever to where the wood in the furnace burns up and you dont get it fed then it gets a little cooler but the house still wont freeze and bust pipes, canned goods and such and people dont freeze, also keeps it easier to bring bact to comfy temp. They can both use the same duct work but the propane just works as a back up.

    Have the water for the hot water heater heated in the wood furnace (when its cold enouph to be useing it) then go into the propane hot water heater preheated and have the tank well insulated and it will use far less gas to KEEP it hot than if it has to heat the water up but you still have the standard gas water heater to use in the summer and when the wood burner isnt in use.

    The thermostats and blowers for both furnaces normaly rely on electricity to put the hot air in the house (and at the least are mechanical and can break down) so have an old fashioned wood stove in the house that can be used if the electric is out or there is a problem with the furnaces and it can also be used to cook on or just to enjoy the fire from time to time.

    With a set up like that you save a LOT on your heating bill and have the best of all worlds IMO.
  4. Akheloce

    Akheloce Monkey++

    I have a friend with an outdoor wood fired boiler... the thing is great.. as long as you are there all the time, and have a little army to keep it going. He has pex (plastic tubing) running through his concrete slab floor. The reason they are so efficient is that once the concrete heats up, it takes very little (comparatively) to keep it warm. However, it takes about 3 days to heat it up. Thermostat changes take a while to take effect. Also, in the winter months, he has to really stay on top of it, so it doesn't freeze the water. He has a closed loop glycol system for the floor heat, but his domestic hot water of course it open loop. When the water comes above the frostline into the boiler, it is unprotected from the cold, and must be heated. Again, if you're there all the time, no big deal... just a pain if you leave for more than a day or so.

    I run solely on wood heat, and it works great for me, however a little inconvenient. When I'm leaving for more than a day, I have to treat my place like an RV and drain all the water out of my holding tank. I also have to be cognizant of anything I leave which freezing could damage. I figure I probably spend about 60% of what it would cost for oil, since I have to factor in chain saw gas, log splitter gas (yeah I'm lazy), and the gas for my Rhino to skid the logs up to my yard. Also the upkeep on all of the above- chainsaw chains, oil, broken parts, etc. Luckily I have enough lumber on my property to keep me busy for years, but if you don't, that's another consideration (transportation)
  5. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    A friend of ours can't use her propane-based system due to the increased costs of fuel.

    For less than the cost of one month's electric heating bill, I can purchase (delivered and stacked) enough wood for the winter. More than enough if we do the work ourselves.

    Kankujoe; Did you choose?
  6. sheen_estevez

    sheen_estevez Monkey+++

    In my neck of the woods everyone is putting in the outdoor boilers, to the point where some people are calling for rules against them [beat]. Me I love the smell of wood burning in the winter, just add to it.

    You asked which way to go, forced air or hydronic. The question would be what are you set up for? My house is set up for forced air, and no I don't heat with wood, I'm on Natural Gas, the problem I have with forced air is that with the run to my living room on the other side of the house the first blast of air I get is cold, hydronic you don't have that issue it is a nice steady heat, it sure would be the way I would go if I could.

    The nice thing about the outdoor boilers is that you don't have the mess, most of my friends feed the boilers twice a day, sometime 3 times a day when the temp drop to -20 or colder. Although depending on when you feed it at night it may be a bit chilly in the morning.

    I have one friend that installs outdoor boilers, he is set up at his house with it and the nice thing is he has his house zoned, he is hydronic in floor heating so he keeps his entry way around 80, so when he comes in from work or the kids come in and throw their snow covered clothing all over, like most do it dries it real nice for them. The rest of his house he keeps cooler, he still has his standard furnace as a backup for when he is not around. The other nice thing about that is you can price out the propane, buy when it is cheaper not when the winter is starting.

    I've talked to my buddy about putting in a system at my place, it would take me between 5 and 7 years for it to "pay for itself" in savings from paying for gas.
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Sheen, the cold blast is pretty easy to control with a variable (or two) speed blower that can be set to stay on at a low speed when there is no fire in the furnace. This will keep the air in the duct moving and at the same temp as the rest of the house. When the stat calls for heat, the fan can be ramped up to whatever speed you need to bring the house up to set point. For your case, it'll be a stop gap until you do the conversion. Also, there is no need to put pipe in the floors (or ceilings) if you convert to hydronic, you can hang a hot water (fed from the outdoor furnace) coil in the air handler for a lot less money.

    Currently, I have a propane fired heater that circulates warm water in radiant coils under the floor. I have not done a winter with it yet, so am not so sure it'll work as well as it should. But out in WA back in the 70s, we had numerous occasions to be in electric radiant heating home setups (all wire in the ceiling) that worked well. (Back then at least, electric was cheap off the Bonneville Power Authority, all hydro generated.)
  8. sheen_estevez

    sheen_estevez Monkey+++

    I've thought about the changing my blower to a variable but until it goes out I'm leaving it, not a bad idea though.

    Let us know how your set up works.


    This is the first winter in our house we just moved into and I have been using my fireplace quite a bit. My only complaint is that it does not have any kind of blower system in it, so it does not seem to put out a whole lot of heat. I usually keep the doors open with the screen closed and use a little fan to blow hot air out of the fireplace and into the living room....Someday I would like to get a insert installed.
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