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Heating with wood

Discussion in 'How To Save Energy' started by justin_case, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Dec 4, 2012
    justin_case

    justin_case Power Conserver

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    Well I am new here but thought I would post on how I heat my home and stay warm through a Canadian winter. I have heated with most every type of wood heater in my time, but about 12 years back I bought a Blazeking fireplace, the smaller princes model. it came from the factory with a bi metal thermastat control,catalitic converter, and bypass door. Now I should say I dont believe much in the way of advertizing, and this was no different before I bought it, I was sceptical of the claims, and burn times given, but I did know one person who had one of these, and was very happy with it, and had played around with them at the home shows, and decided to give it a try.
    The first winter I used it was a learning experience (a good one). The most dramatic change from other heaters I used was the long even burn times.This meant no more getting up multiple times a night to feed a fire. Real important if you dont want to be cranky the next day.
    The heat given off the surface was amazing, the catalitic converter actually burnt the smoke extracting the heat from it. I remember that first year going out side just to look up at the chimney and being amazed at not seeing any smoke from it.
    That first year using it was a eye opener as to how far solid fuel burning has come.
    After I think the second year I started giving thought to improving it and seeing how much better, and user friendly I could make it. I should add its not just the stove as it came, or what I have done to it, but also the wood itself. I cant stress enough the importance of stacking wood properly, and letting it dry out. I burn unsplit logs (up to 9inches in dia) I let this unsplit wood dry for 2 years stacked in racks before burning it (like money in the bank earning interest). That makes a huge difference in performance. Very dry, and large diameter= long even burn times.
    over the years I built a water tank to heat my water with, modified the cat so I can pull it out when not needed, and put back in if temps go below -20 and I need the extra heat. I built a large ash box so I only empty the ash box twice a year, this also doubled the size of the firebox, (maybe empty the ashes 3 times a year depending on the type of wood being burnt).I found that I could modify the thermstat control a bit for a little longer burn time, and I think my last change was building a short section of chimney(from3/8 wall thickness pipe) that has a door on it that can be swung open so I can look straight up and out the chimney to check its condition.
    All these little incremental improvements have made my heating with wood more economical, and trouble free.I am still always looking for ways to improve it....but I find myself short on further ideas lately. The house this heats is 1000sqft, not large but it keeps the house toasty warm through 6 months of winter using 3 cord of Birch (4 if using poplar).
     
  2. Dec 4, 2012
    Marianne

    Marianne Almost Self-Reliant

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    The fact that you can stay warm burning birch or poplar is the first thing that surprised me! :D I'm sure your winters are colder than mine here in Kansas, too. In my area, most of us burn osage orange, oak, mulberry, hackberry, ash. I burn some elm if it has been cut on our property, but I wouldn't drive to get it - it just doesn't burn that hot.

    We have two wood burners - a steel wood stove and a wood burning furnace. Both are great! You're right, having that wood dry is very important. We plan on burning 6 cords per winter to heat our 3500+ sq ft house. We keep an eye out for free or cheap wood all year 'round and stack it in cords under a pole shed.

    Right now we're having some issues - a guy gave us a couple pickup loads of cut stuff from his farm pasture. Yay! Bad thing is that he told us it was ready to burn, so we stacked it with our other wood. Now we found out that he'd cut it just the month before he brought it to our place, so now we have all this damp wood mixed with our dry wood. He doesn't have a wood burner, so he just didn't know. Now we have to hunt and peck. :/
     
  3. Dec 4, 2012
    justin_case

    justin_case Power Conserver

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    What I have found is the poplar heats well, no problem there, it just requires more of it. It leaves more ash, and very little creosote, next to none.
    Birch provides more heat, less ash, and more creosote than poplar.
    Tamarack, is my favorite, lots of heat, longest burn times, ash about the same as Birch, a tiny bit more creosote than Birch.
    Spruce or pine heats, but produces lots of creosote. In fact because my stove is set to a low setting most of the winter, if I am using spruce I will climb up, and clean the chimney each month to 6 weeks. maybe 4 or more times a winter.
    The dryer the wood the better, but the longer and largest diameter the wood, the longest the burn times I have found.
    What a lot of people who dont heat with wood fail to realize is how important getting your consumption down. Cutting wood, transporting,stacking, carying, splitting, loading, is all work, I like to work less, and stay warm more, thus my intent on always improving the efficiency, of my system, or finding other systems that work better. So far I havent found a more efficient heater than the Blazeking with the features listed, but I am always looking as the manufacturers are always trying new things. I do suspect they may be bumping up to to the ceiling, or close to it as From memory the Blazeking is somewhere at 80% efficient. You cant hit 100% so there is really only about a 15% or so range to work on, and each percentage better must be harder and harder to design for. I just did the math and even if they got a full 15% better that would only mean .4 of a cord less in consumption for me, I would take it ofcourse but as They havent been increasing the performance past this 80% mark or so, I wont hold my breath for it. Been thinking more about keeping this 80% in my house longer, using solar gain, and other things to cut my use further.
     
  4. Dec 4, 2012
    Joel_BC

    Joel_BC Super Self-Sufficient

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    Where are you justincase? (Maybe you've said and I missed it.) Somewhere in Canada, and somewhere east or north of me, I think. I'm in the central-Kootenay region of British Columbia, and I figure usually we have about four months of wintry weather - and with our overnight lows sometimes getting down to -12 degree Celsius (10 degree Fahrenheit). I guess you experience colder low temps than this, and definitely a longer cold season.

    On aboutfour cords of wood, we heat a two-story house with 1000 sq ft on the main floor, and about 850 on the second floor (with a 1000 sq ft full basement, left pretty cool but never freezing). That's starting with low-level wood-heat supplement in November, and similar in March. Our stacked wood is ordinarily mainly Douglas fir and larch (with larch being the genetic cousin to your tamarack) - sometimes just a touch of spruce, pine, birch,or logs from hardwood-shrub species mixed in. We don't have those hot-burning eastern and southern hardwoods like maple, oak, ash, and so on.

    Yes, dry wood is very desirable. It is possible to dry an immediate supply out by having a stack near your heat source during the winter, and adding to it from your woodpile as you burn the stuff that has dried out. It's possible so long as the wood isn't still real sappy - but, anyhow, not too many people will want to have a stack of wood right there in their main room!

    I could describe our woodburner set-up here, but it may not be very necessary. Pretty efficient, though probably not quite as efficient as your own.

    For many people, the next frontier after getting efficient woodburning equipment in place is always insulation (and sealing out infiltration) in the house itself.
     
  5. Dec 5, 2012
    justin_case

    justin_case Power Conserver

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    I am roughly between Edmonton, and lloyd. Yes a lot colder. -40 shows its head each winter with -30 a frequent unwelcome vsitor. I do have good insulation, and such. That is a big thing in keeping the heat in. I too leave the basement unheated.
     
  6. Dec 5, 2012
    ThrottleJockey

    ThrottleJockey Power Conserver

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    I'm from International falls, MN and grew up heating with wood. Everyone there has a barrel stove in the garage. Now I live just south of Indianapolis, IN. Our first winter in this house, we used LP and spent around $6,000 for it!!! The house isn't insulated very well I guess. After that first winter I decided to go back to my roots. Our garage is attached and the furnace we have is only 7 years old so it is one of the "high efficiency" models that doesn't use a chimney but rather a PVC pipe. Before that was installed there was a fuel oil furnace so we have a good lined chimney already in place. I threw together a barrel stove and piped it into the chimney, it sits in the garage. I hung a box fan from the ceiling in front of the doorway at about a 45* downward angle. We run the fan on low and stoke the stove about every 4 hours through the cold part of the winter and the only time it drops below 65* in the house is if we forget to get up in the middle of the night to check the stove. I also have a small, 25 gallon LP tank that we use with the furnace for times that we are gone for more than a day or if we need a boost in the cold mornings. We average about a rick of wood per week and usually get ash, cherry, black locust, and oak with some walnut from time to time. We're just beginning our 4th winter heating like this and really enjoy it to be honest. Not just the savings but the smell and the fact that we are pretty much self reliant when it comes to our heating needs. I have started a new project to try to get a bit more efficiency from our setup though. I have welded a barrel lid from a 55 gallon barrel to the top of a 30 gallon barrel and cut out an opening. I will put the 30 gallon drum inside the 55 gallon drum and pipe the stack through to the chimney. This will leave me with the 30 gallon drum as a firebox and the 55 gallon barrel will become a heat exchanger with a blower on the back and a vent on the front. I expect to get more heat and burn less wood at the same time with this setup when I finish it. I bought a used wood furnace 2 years ago that will utilize our existing ductwork but this is just sooo much fun I haven't bothered to even install it!
     
  7. Dec 5, 2012
    THEFAN

    THEFAN Lovin' The Homestead

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    I have an Encore catalitic converter stove too. They function best above 400 degrees. The only real issue is cleaning the catalitic converter every year. Takes time and you have to be very careful not to break the converter. Last season I burned 3 cords all winter and 1 tank of oil. total cost 500 wood and 700 for the oil. 1200 total. Normally I would use 3 plus tanks of oil a winter. A nice 900 plus savings. 900 plus back in my pocket and not to big oil. Bascially last yr paid for my stove and this season will start paying for my tile and stove piping. :) Last season was a very unusually warm season and this yr should be a better gauge do to a normal winter season coming on. Good luck to you all. Keep your powder dry.
     
  8. Dec 5, 2012
    justin_case

    justin_case Power Conserver

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    Yes to ignite the smoke you need to run it hot. My cat is behind a perforated metal plate right at the front. I cut away the gasket holding it in place so I can easly remove it. 85% of the time I run the stove without it in place because I only need the stove runing at a minimum level but when temps start going south of -20 I put it back in and run the stove hotter.
    Never really had to do more than use a pipe cleaner to clean maybe every couple years.
    A niebour south of me bought the exact same stove I have after seeing how mine worked. He has been using it for maybe 10 years now. He runs his hotter than mine as he lives in a old trailer poorly insulated. His cat stays in year round, and he estimates the cat saves him 25% to 30% on wood. For the first few years he had it, he misstreated it badly, burning junk wet unseasoned wood in it(he was learning) and that shortened the life of the cat, I think it failed at the 7 or 8 year mark and for the next year he ran it without and found he used 25 To 30% more wood. now that is his estimate, and only such, he does not measure things as exactly as I do.
    I think when he replaced it he told me a new one cost 250.00. unlike me, he burns way more wood something like 8 cord a year due to the poor construction of the trailer, I think his walls are something like 2 inches thick and old single pane glass windows.
     
  9. Dec 5, 2012
    Joel_BC

    Joel_BC Super Self-Sufficient

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    Sounds like an interesting project, TJ. Think you could post a couple pics of the project for our DIY section?
     
  10. Dec 5, 2012
    ThrottleJockey

    ThrottleJockey Power Conserver

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    Sure, that wouldn't be a problem.
     

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