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Old 01/11/08, 09:05 AM
CJ's Avatar
CJ CJ is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: The Ozarks
Posts: 5,202
Outdoor wood boiler versus indoor wood stove

I realize this isn't really comparing apples to apples, but I'd like some opinions from those of you who have used both. We've always had a wood stove, and they're wonderful, best way to heat in my opinion.

However, the outdoor wood boiler has a lot of good features as well. We like the idea of radient floor heat, and using the wood boiler to power it, also the fact that it could heat a greenhouse or a shop as well.

I've heard they're very inefficient however. I'd love to hear some feedback comparing them.

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Old 01/11/08, 09:44 AM
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Master Of My Domain
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 7,220
have never owned an outdoor boiler, but i do have several woodstoves and an indoor wood/oil boiler. i love the indoor boiler, but it is installed in a bad place with a long pipe run before it hits the chimney. there is also little clearance between the stovepipe and the floor. you can build a very large fire in the boiler and it will heat the entire house as long as you stoke the fire. when you shut the fire down for the night, or just leave it, you do lose a little heat and need to rely on the oil back-up. the real consideration for me is safety. if this old house caught fire, it would be fully involved in 10 or 15 minutes.

so the biggest appeal for me about having an outdoor boiler is safety. all of the fire is outside. the next good feature is leaving all of the wood dirt outside the house. i simply do not have a clean house in the winter. i have wood dust and ashes coating everything. i would need to dust every single day to keep up with the mess. another big plus is being able to burn sub-standard wood. i have lots of poplar that just rots as it doesn't fair well in the small fireboxes. load a big heap of it into a large firebox and it will burn ok. the same goes for the nasty hawthorn trees i need to cut out. they are simply too nasty and dangerous to handle. i could cut them into longer lengths and use them outside instead of carrying in arm loads of one inch thorns.

like you said, you can also heat a greenhouse or shop...or hot tub (lol). outdoor boilers are not as efficient as woodstoves, but they do have advantages. consider the efficiency deficiency to be offset by being able to burn inferior wood, or offset by the fact that the stuff you burn outside requires less processing and handling.
this message has probably been edited to correct typos, spelling errors and to improve grammar...

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Old 01/11/08, 10:06 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: ny
Posts: 425
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i had a wood stove in the house and now now i have an outdoor furnace. the nice thing about the stove in the house is i had heat without power , now i need to run the generator in power failures. as far as wood use i see no difference , contrary to all the people saying the use alot more. maybe its because i use the same high quality wood. a big plus is the fact that the dirt stays outside . and the safety of the fire being outdoors. you hear people complaining about them all the time but i cant say enough good about mine. ..............mink
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Old 01/11/08, 10:12 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 204
I have read on another forum ( - excellent resource) that outdoor wood boilers may soon need to meet EPA standards, just a indoor woodburning stoves currently do. This is a good thing - when forced on the wood stove industry it forced great increases in efficiency. If you are considering the purchase of one, you might want to look into this issue more. Holding off a while might allow you purchase a more efficient unit.

One other factor which I don't think was mentioned was the look of the fire inside. With a nice stove or insert you can see and experience the fire more. To me this is a benefit, although it certainly is safer to have the fire moved outside.
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Old 01/11/08, 11:26 AM
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Haney Family Sawmill
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Liberty,Tennessee
Posts: 1,186
I own and use a hardy out door furnace. This is a hot water system.
It is far ahead of any indoor stove for comfort and ease.
You can deliever the wood to the stove but tractor or truck meaning you don't have to haul in wood by hand.
The ashes are burnt to a dust meaning you have full combustion.
It burns alot more wood so if that is a problem maybe a indoor might be better
It is less messy
It will burn greren as well as dry no fire hazard
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Old 01/11/08, 11:42 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Middle of NC
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I have a Taylor outside wood fired water stove. I will never have another inside wood stove. I fill it twice daily or less and my 1800 sq. ft. house is hotter than it has ever been.
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Old 01/11/08, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: CHINA
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You'll need backup power for the circulator during power outages w/ outdoor boiler.

An inside stove also gives you the ability to cook and dry laundry power or no power.
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Old 01/11/08, 01:34 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 47
We have had both ..

We burned wood in our previous house in a Quadra Fire woodstove. I liked that I did not have to worry when the power went out and liked having a nice warm spot in the house but I love having our outdoor Central Boiler now.

We now live in a bigger much less insulated farmhouse but it was already set up with hot water baseboard heat. The entire installation probably came to about $8000 but we did not really bargain hunt for heat exchangers and we hired out for the install. The insulated PEX pipe that goes underground was $12 a foot so it really adds up. We did install this ourselves. The boiler and circulators are wired with a plug on the end so we can easily hook them up to a generator if need be.

DH and I called our woodstove our "woodbaby" because when it got cold (less than 20 degrees) we needed to feed it every 3 hours to keep our house warm. We also had oil filled electric radiators plugged in the kids room because the woodstove was not in a central location. On the contrary, dh feeds the outdoor boiler about once a day. If it gets cold it may be twice. It has a huge burn box and he generally fills only the front half. I like to pay attention to smoke output because we used our woodstove in town. With a wood stove you need a nice hot fire that burns down to coal before reloading (think cold at the end of the burn time). If done right the smoke is minimal. Even though he could, dh doesn't put huge smoldering pieces in the boiler and the smoke output is not much at all. It uses a solenoid to open and shut the draft so he waits till it is open to load. We used to have sit with our woodbaby for about 5-20 min. for it to get going so we could shut it down at night. This stinks when you get up at 3 am just to load it. I also don't miss the underlying worry of a chimney fire in the house.

Good luck with your decision. I think optimally, I would have both using the outdoor boiler to heat everyday and keeping a woodstove for backup or romantic nights.
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Old 01/11/08, 03:41 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: NW Georgia
Posts: 7,215
I've only used wood stoves, but I stayed at a hunting lodge two years ago near Sussex, NB that used one of the outdoor boilers. They heated several buildings with their unit, including the cabin I stayed in. Each building had it's own pump to call for more hot water as needed. If I were building new again, I'd certainly look at one of these boilers, and I've been reading that newer models are more efficient/clean burning. The one in NB didn't seem all that inefficient to me though. They loaded it in the morning and at night with whatever wood they had available.
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Old 01/11/08, 03:44 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Near Traverse City Michigan
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I built my own outdoor wood furnace. I used to use an indoor wood furnace that was forced air.

I like having the furnace inside the house. I think more of the heat stays inside the house. What I dont like about the inside furnace is all the processing the wood needs. The wood has to be cut short, and split small, and stacked neatly to conserve space.

With my outdoor wood furnace I can shove 4 foot logs in it, and I dont have to worry about chimney fires because it is outside.

I am tumbling ideas around to find a way to have the best of both worlds.
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Old 01/11/08, 06:13 PM
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Wow great feedback, thanks! It sounds like an outdoor wood boiler might be the better way to go. I didn't however, realize they took electricity to operate. HOw much power do they need? Could they run off of a solar setup?
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Old 01/11/08, 09:10 PM
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1 acre homesteaders
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Location: Maine
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What about using a wood stove with water heater built in. I have only known one person that had one, but it heats the water fine, they had HWBB in most remote rooms of the house, the look of the stove, the efficiency of the stove, no power needed and it saved a lot on the electric bill. Dried clothes, heated water, and cook on it. That is my ideal setup.

Mark and Sara Cowperthwaite
Nathaniel, Virginia, Naomi, Samuel, and Josiah
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Old 01/11/08, 09:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: WI
Posts: 2,180
Lots of areas are outlawing most outdoor boilers because they don't comply with pollution standards. Many people who own them build smoldering fires in them, often with trash wood, so they smoke more than a properly sized boiler wood. There are quality units coming into production, but most of them out there now I would avoid. They are usually way oversized for the load, hence the smaller smoldering fires. I don't like the idea of having to go outside to feed the furnace, either. I have considered getting one of the better wood-fired boilers, like a Tarm or similar unit, and having in a ground floor furnace room with access to both outdoors and indoors, instead of in the basement or in a seperate shed.

We did buy a new wood burning furnace a year and a half ago, got a Charmaster made in Norther Minnesota, and are happy with it. It does have a water heating coil in the firebox which heats most of hot water this time of year, and may have potential to heat our sun room which has radiant heat tubing in the floor, which is so far not connected to any source of hot water.
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Old 01/11/08, 10:00 PM
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Location: Ontario
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We have an Empyre 450 heating my house 1900 square feet the attached 1200 square foot apartment and the kennels 1500 square feet. 4600 square feet. We're adding another Empyre 250 for my brothers house and a shop. I heated with a PSG 4000 indoor furnace which worked very well but the fire was often out by 4am so it could be a chore to keep the house warm. (we did have bad windows then) I took that out and added a woodstove to provide for some supplimentary heat and a hot surace for cooking when the power is out. The circ pumps are pretty low draw you could set up a solar power supply or even a battery back up.
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Old 01/11/08, 10:05 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Missouri
Posts: 1,350
I do know that MIL and FIL have outdoor "Hardy" That boils the water. And they saved a lot of money on electricity. They said they LOVE IT.. They want us to buy for ourselves too. We are going do that.. And They said that they only give two BIG wood once a day. Like They put one in the morning before they go to work then before they go to bed they put again. And the house stays sooo WARM and the water gets really HOT. They love it. So I cannot wait to get one of those one day!
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Old 01/11/08, 10:17 PM
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Master Of My Domain
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Location: Pennsylvania
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ok...a quick question about pumps. is it customary to run only one pump, or in the case of a larger home, would you need to run another pump from a tank...or something, lol? how much can one pump handle? for example, it is common to install these furnaces a long distance from the area to be heated. what if a person also has a large home with lots of cast iron radiators on several floors? i have heard that people often use this retrofit in place of a forced air or baseboard hot water heat exchange. what troubles me is that i get the impression that outdoor furnaces normally operate at temps a little lower than what cast iron radiator hot water heat normally do. i assume this means a lot more circulation. how about zone control? i guess you need a pump for each loop?
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Old 01/12/08, 07:22 AM
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Location: Northern Michigan (U.P.)
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Those that have one system swear by it, those that have another swear by it. I've had an indoor wood boiler and I've had a freestanding wood stove and I have several friends that have outside wood-fired boilers.
Alot depends on how you feel about the mess and smoke from burning wood in your house. My wood boiler was in the basement so I kept all the mess and smell down there. The free standing wood stove is handy and I don't mind the little mess and seldom smokes. The outsie wood stove allows you to have no mess and no smoke in your house but you lose a lot of heat and will burn more wood. Because an outside boiler burns long pieces, you won't be able to get the wood as dry , when you use long pieces you burn them "in the round" and wood doesn't dry that way. Also to get the fire to last most people burn less seasoned wood and shut down the air intake for a long smoldering burn. That kind of burning is why many communities are moving to ban all outside wood burners. They stink to high heaven.
So if you hate the mess, can't stand the smoke in your house but don't mind cutting lots more wood and don't mind stinking up the neighborhood, get an outdoor wood burner. You decide. I think that if I was stuck on getting one, I'd see if I could locate it in a garage or shop, so the lost heat could be put to use.
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Old 01/12/08, 07:39 AM
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zone 5 - riverfrontage
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Forests of maine
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We use a woodstove inside.

We like it as it burns less fuel. When our power goes out [and it does] we still have heat.

Our unit also heats water for our radiant floor heating system, though that part requires electricity. I will be wiring ours to operate off 12VDC.

Many woodstoves include a water tank and will heat water for you.

Especially the Amish/Mennonite cookstoves.
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Old 07/27/14, 07:12 PM
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: South Central Va.
Posts: 519
As I have said before, as some of you already know, I am building myself an out side wood fired boiler, or actually a furnace because I hope it never boils any water.
I have used fireplaces, I have used them with tube grate/blower systems in them, I have used wood stoves with and without blowers built into them, and I have stayed at a couple of friends houses who had factory built outside boilers, but I have never had one myself, except the one that I am still building and Pray to the Good Lord that I complete before winter gets here.
The two friends that I have that had boilers swore by them and they have both moved out of town now. Actually one moved to W. Va. and Billy moved to Kentucky, but Billy made an extra trip back to get his Boiler, while Gary got $9,000 more for his house with it left as was after he showed the buyers the utility bills for the last four years.
The house was as clean as a pin and they heated with wood. Just how often does that happen?

CJ, there are a lot of things that has been said here that are true, but you can't take this as a one size fits all situation, because it is far from that.
You have as many different types and different designs of inside wood stoves as you do outside wood fired boilers, if not more. And it probably is more!
This is more like comparing the oranges that came from an apple tree to peaches that came from a grapefruit tree.

As soon as I can get enough done on the boiler that I am building to fill up my camera and get the pictures developed, I think I can make a lot of the problems here a lot more easily understood.


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Old 07/27/14, 07:20 PM
Join Date: Jan 2013
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I have both. I use the indoor stove for evening heat and load up the outdoor boiler before bed to keep it warm through the night and above freezing for the next day.
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