Fiery furnance with existing boiler heat?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by townmouse, Nov 17, 2004.

  1. townmouse

    townmouse Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    373
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Location:
    Indiana
    Does anybody know if this would be possible?

    Our ranch house was built in the early 60's, has a boiler in the garage and hot water baseboard heat. (system works great, but we want a backup system for emergencies, power outages...)

    We know from experience that there's no point in trying to heat a ranch with a woodstove!

    How about getting one of those big wood furnaces and putting it in the garage, to heat the water that heats the house? Maybe rig it so we could switch back and forth, from the wood furnace to the boiler?

    Or does anybody have a more workable idea? We can get firewood cheap.

    thanks,
    Amy
     
  2. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

    Messages:
    665
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2002
    Location:
    Southern Ontario CANADA
    Although I'm no expert on boilers... I think the glitch in your plan is that regardless of whether its a wood fired boiler, or propane fired, or natural gas... you're still gonna need electricity to pump the water through the system. The advantage of a "wood stove" is that it just sits there creating heat and does not require electricity.

    If you're trying to prepare for power outages, you're gonna have to either use a heating system which does not require electricity, or create your own electricity (i.e. generator).

    cheers,
     

  3. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    Messages:
    10,854
    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 7
    One of the woodstoves that has a water reservoir will work fine. You will just have to wire it to where when heat is required the circulating pump will come on. As for switching back and forth IMO it will best be handled in a manual manner. Having a person to make the valve adjustments would simplify the installation. This converting from one system to another would not be done frequently and would not be a hassle. Your present system most likely has zone heating capibility. All that the installer would need to do is plumb the system to where a zone is activated the circulation pump on the water stove would simoultaneously active. You would enjoy the system and it would work wonderfully.
     
  4. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    932
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2002
    Location:
    South West MI
    You can get 12 volt pumps for wood boilers and just keep a couple of car batteries charged.

    mikell
     
  5. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,977
    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2002
    Location:
    East TN
    I've got a friend that has had exactly the setup you want in 2 of his houses. It is a wood/coal furnace that he plumbed in to his existing system. It heats his water for his baseboards and his domestic hot water. He has the advantage of the existing system taking over if needed. If I remeber correctly the heated water will circulate somewhat on it's own even if you lose power and can't run the circulation pumps.
     
  6. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,266
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    You could also get a smaller more efficient type of wood boiler, like Tarm or Heatmor or AHS or several others.....

    If the wood boiler is somewhat below the radiators it will naturally convect the water if it is plumbed right - in case of a power outage, it will supply some heat.

    All you really need to power in an outage is a small circulator & maybe the stove controler - a $50 battery inverter & your car battery will give you a day's worth of heat if you need to.....

    There are many, many ways to plumb the 2 stoves together, and it depends how your setup already is. So yes it can be done. Hard to give you any more details without getting the whole picture.

    Just some ideas.

    If you go to Yahoo & join the wood heat group, they have lots of info & resources....

    --->Paul
     
  7. antiquestuff

    antiquestuff Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    752
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    I used to live in an old house, with the original heating system. There were those big cast iron radiators, and a 50 year-old boiler. It burned oil, but the point is it had NO PUMP. The water was heated, and it created enough pressure just being heated in such a tight container to go through all the radiators, and this was a BIG house. Or, can you set up a steam heating system? Steam needs no pumps to get to your heaters, but they probably have to be set up a little differently. The old fashioned steam radiators were plumbed differently than the hot water ones. They used to heat with both steam and hot water, BEFORE electricity was available or reliable. Look into an antique furnace if you can't get a modern one that doesn't need electricity. :)
     
  8. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,266
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    It's not the pressure that curculates the water. It is gravity.

    You need the furnace in the basement. Hot rises, so as the water heats, it goes to the top, and the cooler water drops. It works real well, but is becoming a lost art for how to size the pipes & plumb the different wings of the house.

    Most of the modern furnaces will do this in limited fashion if you are able to put the furnace down low in the system. However they don't have the pipe size for 100% output, and some require fans or damper controls to really work well...

    --->Paul
     
  9. Nette

    Nette Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,811
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2003
    Location:
    NC
    Just my opinion, but for supplemental and/or emergency heat, I like the unvented propane heaters. I have a Vanguard wallmounted unit at my permanent residence, and it heated our 1200 sq. ft. ranch home just fine during a power outage. Seems like it was about $400 installed. For my "playhouse" (which is a 1908 farmhouse) I recently installed an Empire cast iron unvented heater. Paid considerably more money for this, but it looks more appropriate for the house. While shopping around for this unit, I came real close to buying the squat-looking little heater at this link:

    http://www.stpaulmercantile.com

    I could have gotten this heater locally for about $300, and I really liked the way it looked. But I couldn't find anyone who had real-life experience with it, so I opted for the more expensive one.
     
  10. Yankee1

    Yankee1 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    188
    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2003
    Location:
    Arkansas
    If you are running Natural gas or Propane you can get a millivolt burner that will run during power outages.
     
  11. Nevada

    Nevada Voice of Reason Supporter

    Messages:
    41,434
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2004
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV
    Many residential systems of that vintage are not really boilers, they are hot water systems. They look do somewhat similar to boilers, from a distance, but hot water systems are much less complicated. If this is the case then your project will be much simpler.
     
  12. townmouse

    townmouse Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    373
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Location:
    Indiana
    Wow! Thanks!

    This was my idea but dh is the one who will have to set something up...I'll just print this page for him.

    I'm grateful for the varied trains of thought: dh was envisioning me on a bike, to power a pump! I guess I could do that, while tending the newborn, homeschooling the other 3, cooking, cleaning, etc.
     
  13. PezzoNovante

    PezzoNovante Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    75
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2002
    Location:
    Texas
    We use an unvented propane heater for back up. It is allowed where we are. Some locales require venting, but the idea is the same.

    I wouldn't try to heat a closed water system from a wood or coal fire. Without a good hpt water supply water temperature control regulating the burning there is the risk of flashing the water to steam. Nasty BOOM when that happens.

    I think it would be cost effective to go propane over piping in, with proper temperature controls, pressure relief valves and extansion tanks, a second wood-fired unit.
     
  14. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,266
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    Not sure where you are coming from? Not an issue with any of the purchased wood furnaces. Perhaps with some poorly designed home-welded gismo????

    If they happen to _like_ making wood & feeding the furnace, it is very easy to just install a second thrmostat in the house. Set the wood stove thrermo a couple degrees higher than the other boiler furnace, and all you need to do is feed it wood once in a while, save a _lot_ on fuel bills. If you don't get out to feed the wood furnace, the other boiler will kick in in a couple degrees & take care of things for you.

    If they really wish to make fire wood, the wood stove turns into the primary stove, and the old one will be the backup only used once in a while. :)

    Now, the built-everywhere outdoor boilers you see advertised are often open water stystems, and might smoke a lot, and are less efficient.

    The true wood boilers like I mentioned above that have a few lbs of water pressure & air tank are built to much better standards, and can be plumbed directily & simply into the exsisting water loop.

    There is no more concern about a wood boiler blowing up that the other boiler already there. Can't see that as a concern?

    --->Paul
     
  15. PezzoNovante

    PezzoNovante Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    75
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2002
    Location:
    Texas
    Right, commercial made wood fired boiler meet ASTME standards. It's the idea of adding a second, wood fired heat source to an existing closed loop that should be of concern. If one goes to all the trouble and expense to install it properly, one might as well use propane as the backup heat source, it'd be cheaper.

    Those outdoor wood fired heaters are cheap to operate, though scale may be an issue where there's hard water circulating through the pipes. Still, there's a lot to be said to adjusting a thermostat over venturing outside to stoke the furnace <g>
     
  16. townmouse

    townmouse Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    373
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2003
    Location:
    Indiana
    Thanks for all the replies!

    Dh is ruminating over all the info, has promised to come up with something!

    We may just skip the whole idea, and put a small woodstove in each end of the house. We've installed woodstoves before and build hearths, and we like doing that. So I don't know.