Home Forums Miscellaneous Outdoor Tidbits Central Boiler outdoor wood furnaces

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  • AvatarLundImpact1675
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    Post count: 260

    DGorman, thanks for starting the thread on your supplemental wood burner. This reminded me to ask the gallery about the Central Boiler outdoor wood furnaces.

    My current propane furnace was installed in 1998 and there are much more efficient models available. However, I already use a wood burner about 75% of the time for home heating, so I already spend quite a bit of time harvesting and splitting wood. As a result, I am interested in learning more about these boilers and get some first hand experience from guys on the site- installation cost, efficiency, pros/cons, etc…

    Thank you in advance for any feedback!

    Joe

    AvatarRutHunt
    Participant
    Post count: 20

    I can’t answer your boiler question but how old is your existing wood burner? If it is pretty old you may also consider one of the newer super efficient wood stoves. You may gain a ton more heat for less wood. I was amazed at the difference when I switched.

    AvatarLundImpact1675
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    Post count: 260

    Thank you for the response Rut, and my wood stove is <5 years old. I went with a True North TN20 stove which is non-catalytic, so not one of the super-efficient and clean-burning models. However, it does have the combustion tubes and convection heat in addition to the natural radiant heat. I also ordered mine with the squirrel cage blower and heat sinks. My first floor is roughly 900 square feet and open concept, and I can get it up to 90 degrees in there without much trouble. LOL!!!

    EDIT- my main issue is getting that heat delivered and distributed to the 2nd floor. When it is really cold out, you can feel it when you leave the warm layer and hit the cold air about midway up my stairs. People have suggested just running my furnace fan and trying to recirculate the air from downstairs to upstairs, but I haven't had much success with this approach. I have considered an attic fan or some other kind of exhaust fan to draw the heat upstairs, however, I am stymied at this point. To TwDenney's previous statement, HVAC and home air circulation is a complex science.

    Avatartwdenney
    Blocked
    Post count: 772

    I have burnt wood all my life in parents home along with my home. First I would never burn wood if when I purchased my home it already had wood burner/chimneys installed. I am a firm believer in good building science, windows, house wrap, insulation and a conventional high efficiency furnace (propane, natural gas). Burning wood is a huge mess and pain in the ___. Add up what you have in pickup, chainsaws, wood splitters, trailers, wood stoves and all the stuff and maintenance to go along with it (oil, chains, gas, back windows on truck, tires, etc, etc.) and propane looks cheap especially if you own a 1000 gallon tank and can take advantage of buying in bulk when it is cheap! If you are going to live there for some time by the tank and buy when cheap alot better option! Whatever a Central boiler costs divide it out on how many years of propane that would buy and do not forget to ask about life expectancy of Central boiler! Also I heat a 2500 sq ft home with wood I have a little bit of experience with it.

    AvatarBrownItsDown
    Participant
    Post count: 1066

    I run a Nature’s Comfort OWB for radiant heat. It cut my budget-billing monthky propane bill by 80%. I did a ton of research b4 buying and am happy with my purchase.

    You could always cut vents in the 2nd floor that would allow the warm air downstairs to flow into the rooms above. I lived in an old house that had these when I was a kid. Not a fantastic fix, but inexpensive and relatively easy.

    There are multiple more extensive and expensive options too, but it sounds like you may be working with a budget, just like the rest of us.

    medicdanomedicdano
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    Post count: 4987

    Quote by: LundImpact1675

    Thank you for the response Rut, and my wood stove is <5 years old. I went with a True North TN20 stove which is non-catalytic, so not one of the super-efficient and clean-burning models. However, it does have the combustion tubes and convection heat in addition to the natural radiant heat. I also ordered mine with the squirrel cage blower and heat sinks. My first floor is roughly 900 square feet and open concept, and I can get it up to 90 degrees in there without much trouble. LOL!!!

    EDIT- my main issue is getting that heat delivered and distributed to the 2nd floor. When it is really cold out, you can feel it when you leave the warm layer and hit the cold air about midway up my stairs. People have suggested just running my furnace fan and trying to recirculate the air from downstairs to upstairs, but I haven't had much success with this approach. I have considered an attic fan or some other kind of exhaust fan to draw the heat upstairs, however, I am stymied at this point. To TwDenney's previous statement, HVAC and home air circulation is a complex science.

    You have to think about it like you are pressurizing a system, not circulating air. Air will take the path of least resistance. So if there is 20′ of ducting to get upstairs and 8′ to the 1st floor, most of the air is staying on the first floor. So you have two viable and affordable options that I know of: (1) Partially close off the ducting to the first floor with damper(s) in the ducts. Sometimes you can just close down some of the vents on the first floor. (2) Install a booster fan in the ducting going to the 2nd floor. This may not be easy to do in an older home.

    Depending on age of your home, the 2nd floor attic insulation may be poor/non-existent. Checking for air leaks in windows and adding insulation to the attic saved me about 30% the first year in my house. I literally went from a $120 gas bill to $80 in one month….and it was colder the 2nd month!!

    Just a thought.

    Avatartwdenney
    Blocked
    Post count: 772

    This is where some building science comes into play. Insulation, windows, etc. Sometimes if we look at these items it is more cost effective to fix these problems and also fixes your house while adding value and looks(windows). Many items should be taken into consideration before just adding a wood burner because it is cheaper. I too like wood heat and my family also. With whatever you do just be careful there is much misinformation about wood stoves.

    Avatarbowhunter87
    Participant
    Post count: 275

    I had a Natures Comfort OWB installed a couple of years ago when propane was at $5 a gallon. The central boiler looks like a good unit too, I just went with the NC since it was a bit cheaper. I would look at some other brands too, I may swap mine out for a Portage & Main in 5-10 years to try and burn a little less wood. There are pros and cons with the outside unit. Biggest for me was I didn’t have to install a chimney, no mess in the house, safer, I can just lift pallets of wood to it with the tractor. It cost me about $2000 to have it installed, that included all the piping and labor.

    AvatarLundImpact1675
    Participant
    Post count: 260

    Great feedback guys and here is some additional information.

    -My family lives in an old farmhouse built in 1914 with field stone 1/2 basement and crawlspace (drafty and home to a few large bullsnakes)
    -I upgraded the windows roughly 10 years ago with high efficiency vinyl units with low E and argon
    -The house has vinyl siding over wood and no house wrap was installed with the siding 🙁
    -The attic is insulated with cellulose, and local lumber yard inspected and said i could add more but would likely not see any material ROI
    -The two entrance doors have decent Larson storms and are roughly 3 years old.

    -As mentioned before, we have a propane primary furnace that was installed 1998 that is both inefficient and nearing end of service. The same goes for our dinosaur A/C unit.
    -I own the 500 gallon tank and burn roughly 800 gallons per season, down from 1200 since installing the wood burner
    -The house has central air and ductwork, but to Dano’s point, ducts to 2nd floor are constricted and there is no cold air return on the second level
    -I bought the wood burner to act as primary heat during the day with propane providing “whole house” heat at night
    -I also bought the wood burner to ensure that if the $hit hits the fan my family would have a secondary off-grid source of heat

    TW- I hear you on the total cost of ownership/operation of the wood burner, and it is likely a break-even or even negative when propane is cheap. However, propane market is very volatile and I really like the peace of mind of not being 100% dependent.

    My wood lot is 3 miles away and has a virtually endless supply of dead red elm and other hard woods. I have a Buffalo tools electric chain sharpener and a DR kinetic splitter. However, I also have a couple mauls and enjoy splitting manually for exercise and to supplement the wood pile.

    Since I am already harvesting wood the central wood boiler seems like a decent alternative. However, a ground source heat pump is a potential option as well. The biggest challenge is that I may never achieve a “tight house” given the construction type and age, and this tends to confound the ROI for any high efficiency system.

    Avatartwdenney
    Blocked
    Post count: 772

    Ground source heat pumps are WAY WAY WAY overrated. They are not cheap to install and only offer savings on cooling your home they are not cheap to heat especially if you buy your kilowatts from rural electric coop. I know more people that are not happy then ones that are. With the TAX incentives gone one these they are not a legitimate option unless you like the theory that it costs to go green. Kind of like the Prius VS the Corolla debate.

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