Heating your home

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Patti, May 26, 2004.

  1. Patti

    Patti Well-Known Member

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    Michigan
    Does anyone here use a fireplace to heat your entire home during the winter? We are looking for ways to become less dependant on "outside" sources.

    If you do not use natural gas or other commercial heating devices, (or very little) - I would like to hear your stories!

    :)
     
  2. MarkNH

    MarkNH Well-Known Member

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    We use a combination of Oil heat and a wood stove. A wood stove is much more efficient than a fireplace as the fireplace tends to suck air from the room up the chimney where it's not doing any good.

    Do you have a fireplace now or are thinking of building one? There are woodstoves which do go into the fireplace hole if you already have one. If you don't, I would save the money of building a fireplace and put it into a wood stove.

    Using a wood stove is messy, tracking in stuff when bringing in the wood, smoke from the stove at times( when lighting or rather trying to light), taking out the ashes..

    One option that I'm thinking about for our house if we decide to stay in this place, is to replace our oil furnace in the basement with a multi-fuel furnace in it's place. This way we could keep the wood in the basement and use our existing heat distribution system throughout the house and reduce the chance of frozen pipes. If we are away and the wood fire dies down then the oil part of the furnace can kick in.


    -Mark in NH
     

  3. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    We've had a wood/coal burning furnace in the basement for 8 years. The plus is that we spend next to nothing on propane. The bad part is the inconsistancy of the heat, and the dust. Sometimes, especially when my pyromaniac husband makes the fire, it gets pretty hot in here. Other times, when it's dropped below zero at night, and the wind is howling, we'll wake up to an empty grate and the house will be 56 degrees. We have a woodlot, and people are always asking us to take their dead and fallen trees, so fuel is free. I'll take the extra work and discomfort over a $600 yearly propane bill any day! By the way, if you're considering one of the outdoor woodburners, think about the proximity of your neighbors. The family two houses down got one this year, and it chugs out smoke like a steam train. The smoke envelopes their next door neighbors house completely. They can't even open their windows, and because it heats the water, they have to burn 365 days a year. I know that some people love them, but living next to one stinks!
     
  4. Patti

    Patti Well-Known Member

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    Well, honestly - I do not know very much about buring anything except natural gas. We did have a fireplace growing up... and, when I asked my question, I should have asked about a wood burner. ;)

    Can you hook the wood burner up to your heating ducts, and also have natural gas as a back up? I will have to look into this "multi-heating" device. ;) :p

    They should have a book "heating your home for dummies." ;) :D

    I'll take all ideas here! :worship:
     
  5. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    Patti, we have a propane furnace to back up our wood burning furnace. I'm not sure how either of them is hooked up, but if you really want to know, let me know and I'll ask my husband (that technical stuff is his department). All I know is that, if it's not possible to make a fire, we can just walk over to the thermostat and turn the propane furnace on. Natural gas probably works the same way, but we don't have it out here. The wood burner blows through the heating ducts with an electric blower (just like the one on your natural gas furnace). We did have to have a chimney put on the house. I forgot about that little expense! All in all, its been worth it to us. Even if we've only saved $500 a year, in 8 years, that has been $4000, so the furnace and chimney have paid for themselves!
     
  6. Bret F

    Bret F Well-Known Member

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    Idaho
    My parents tried heating the house with the fireplace years ago and we about froze. Dad then made a stove that woud slide into the fireplace with a metal jacket around it and a fan to force the heated air into the room. He also put a cook stove in the kitchen.
    With the two stoves going, the house gets too warm - about 78-80. We fire up the natural gas furnace about once every five years just to make sure it still works or to keep the house from freezing up if they leave for an extended time during the winter.
    Dad also put a water jacket into the cook stove and has a storage tank standing beside the stove. The water goes through them before going to the gas water heater.
    A pretty funny thing happened two winters ago. The gas company sent a man out to change the meter because they said it wasn't working (they have gas bills of about $4.00 in the winter). Dad told him to leave the meter alone because there was nothing wrong with it. It took him about an hour of discussion and showing his set up, and starting the furnace so the man could see the meter actually turning before he was convinced.

    Bret
     
  7. Patti
    The first winter in our house we had propane heat only. Our house is approx 1900 sq ft ,native limestone with no insulation in the walls. The first winter we used over 1500 gal of propane and I knew I didnt like the bill for gas so we purchased a Lopi Freedom Bay insert for the fireplace.
    It cost about 4500 for the stove,liner and installation.The propane man
    was out last week and it took 300 gal to fill it .so we used 300 gal in the
    last 18 months.We keep the furance set low so that if we are gone the
    funace will keep the pipes from being froze.I have firewood here on the farm so costs are nothing for it..Yes some times the mess and dust are a
    irration but the savings are worth it.
    gregg
     
  8. Ohiosteve

    Ohiosteve Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Ohio
    Patti,
    We heat our house exclusively with wood burners. We have one in the living room and one in the kitchen area. We only use one at a time unless it gets very cold ( 0 or lower) The only disadvantages are that the air in the house can get very dry in the winter and you cannot go away for extended periods of time in the winter. When we adopted our babies we had to be out of state in Dec and Jan and had to have neighbors keep the fires going. For us it is ideal because we have 90acres of woodland and I really enjoy cutting firewood.
     

  9. Then we can assume you have a forced air (not hot water) ng furnace.

    Fireplaces tend to waste more heat than they generate, as air always leaks out of them, so when not using it you lose heat that your ng furnace produces. When using the fireplace, 80% of the heat goes up the chimney, and only 20% goes into the house. And generally only one room. In short, an open fireplace is a bad thing....

    An insert can be pretty good, if you want the nice looks of a fireplace & want to get some heat out of it. If you already had a fireplace, install an insert for sure!

    If you want real heat & not looks, get a wood central heating furnace for your basement for next to the current ng furnace. There are several different ways to go.

    You can replace the furnace you have with a combination unit. This is the easiest to get past building inspectors & insurance agents, and a real good thing if you have to replace your furnace anyhow. These will run $4000 tho.

    Or, you can get an add-on. There are 100's of models, and it is quite simple to tie into your exsisting duct work if you have room right next to your current stove for the wood burner. However, lots of inspectors & insurance folks frown at mixing ng fuels with other fuels in the same room, and you MUST at the least have a seperate chimney for the wood stove, cannot combine the exhaust of the 2. You can find some under $1000, probably pay $2000 for a good unit.

    Both of the above come in different flavors, you may be required to get an EPA or cat stove to cut down on pollutants, etc.

    Or, you can get an outdoor wood furnace & pipe the heat in. These are real easy to get approved, have no mess in the house, and can burn all sorts of junk wood or good wood. However they are terribly innefficient so you will need to double the amount of wood needed for any other indoor wood stove. They can esp in mild damp weather smoke terribly so location is important. There are a million being built, some are really poor, others are good for what they are. These things don't need much inspection as they are not in your house, and it's up to you to pick a good one.... They will run about $4000 as well.

    Our 1926 house was heated by a hot water wood furnace in the basement until 1972 as the only furnace here in Minnesota. Then an add-on oil boiler was added, and you could use one or the other. In 1991 a different oil boiler was installed, and you could use both or either. Last October the wood boiler cracked, so I spent the past 6 months researching a very small nitche of a market (wood boiler furnaces that work plumbed with an oil burner) and just took delivery on a unit.

    I can offer more, but my research was on water heat, you have many more & cheaper alternatives with forced air heat. Be sure to address the seperate chimney issue, and you need to have some room for the furnace & a bit of wood storage, and check your local codes & insurance on wood heat.

    Check how big your current ng furnace is, it will be rated in 1,000 of btu & will say on a plate on the furnace, you probably would look for a wood stove with about the same output.

    --->Paul
     
  10. Leay

    Leay Well-Known Member

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    Wisconsin
    I have electric heat because there are no heat ducts in my house so I try to run the woodstove which sits in my living room all winter. I'm lucky as I have a small AFrame house. The second floor has an open loft to the first floor and the third floor has a big vent in the wall so the heat rises and keeps the whole house toasty. I have a blower on the woodstove that we can switch to solar and the ceiling fan in the living room also will run off of the solar. It's a pain to get home from work and start the woodstove but it sure pays off. If I don't cave in and turn on the electric heat, my electric bill only runs about $100.00/month. I'm very careful about turning off lights and using energy efficient light bulbs also. I just love wood heat because it always feel warmer for some reason!
    Leay
     
  11. BrushBuster

    BrushBuster Well-Known Member

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    va
    if you have a fireplace and don't want an insert you can bolt 2 angle irons inside on each leg and bolt a piece of flat metal to that and cut a round hole in it for a stove pipe and use a wood stove. put stove black on the metal and it looks very nice. just remember to keep your fireplace damper open.
     
  12. Irish Pixie

    Irish Pixie Well-Known Member

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    We heat the log cabin exclusively with a woodstove. It's a fairly small cabin (1600 sq ft) and the stove keeps it nice and toasty. We do have fuel oil backup but we only use it to make sure it starts for a couple of days a year.

    We live in Upstate NY and the last two winters were harsh so we went through about 5-6 cords of wood each year.

    Stacy in NY
     
  13. Hoop

    Hoop Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Northern Wisconsin
    Fireplaces are notoriously inefficient. It wouldn't surprise me if the efficiency hovered around 25%.

    Wood heat is ONLY a viable alternative IF one has a free or very cheap supply of firewood.

    I can't believe that nobody has mentioned how antagonistic insurance companies are towards homeowners that heat with wood.....especially those that use "inside" furnaces.
    I suspect that insurance companies have taken this antagonistic approach because very very few wood burners do it right. By "doing it right", i mean having a wood stove properly hooked up, well away from combustible materials, burning only well seasoned wood, and cleaning ones chimney at least once a year.
     
  14. Mrs_stuart

    Mrs_stuart Well-Known Member

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    MISSOURI
    We use an old ben franklin free standing fireplace to do some of our heating. It is very hard to control the heat and to get the heat around the house. We use a propane furnace as a back-up or for really really cold days. We used only 200 gal of propane this last year and if we burn no wood, we usually use 800 gal. With the price so hight, we feel like wood is the way to go. We dont have our own wood supply but wood is plentyful here and we can get it free at many different "wood" using factories and from friends that have very large lots. We are already getting ready to haul wood in for next year cause i don't want to be cold... :eek:

    Belinda
     
  15. I have a small house. Probably less than 1100 sf. This last winter we heated only with a wood stove. We do have a small wall heater in the hallway but this last fall we found out that it doesn't work anymore. So therefore we did not use it this winter. At the first of October I bought 8 ricks of seasoned wood which constisted of Oak, Cherry, and a little bit of Elm. Each rick cost me $30. for a total of $240. We started out with a rough fall. It got cold and we had a big snow fall before christmas. If stayed cold through January but when Febuary arrived it warmed up nicely. Many days I would only keep a fire going through the night and let it die down during the day. It ended up being a mild winter for us. So I ended up using about 6 ricks of wood total this last winter. If winter had stayed with us we might have used all of the 8 ricks. When I was burning totally propane I think it was costing me about $120 a month to stay warm. Quit a bit of savings if you ask me.
     
  16. Irish Pixie

    Irish Pixie Well-Known Member

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    We had to buy a good portion of our wood last winter-4 cords of it. It was $125.00 per cord delivered (I got a deal because I bought all 4 cord at one time). That wood lasted about 3-3 1/2 months for a cost of heating the house at around $150.00 per month during a very cold winter. We never got over 26 degrees for well over a month, and the lows were below zero most nights. My mother in law pays over twice that amount, granted her house is bigger, but not twice as big, with natural gas.

    We have to pay an additional $25.00 per year "auxiliary heating charge" because we heat with the woodstove. The insurance company did come out and check out the stove, stove pipe and chimney.

    Stacy in NY
     
  17. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    KincoraFarm, which woodstove/model do you have? Our home is 1700 sq. ft, and we are considering either the Vermont Casting Encore which is rated at 1500-1800 sq. ft, or the Jotul F500, same amount of sq. ft. coverage, and wondered if these would be adequate or if we should get the larger model.
     
  18. Tractor Supply Company sells add-on wood stoves. These units set next to your existing furnace and a couple of plenum connectors are hooked to your existing heat runs. TSC has three different sizes avialable based on the amount of heat needed/size of your house.
    I have one of these wood burning "add-on" furnaces next to my primary furnace, which burns fuel oil. We used it extensively from about early March on this year because Janurary's fuel oil bill was $300. Burning wood made a huge difference in the fuel bill and I keep the house warmer when heating with wood than I do with oil, which makes the family happy.
    One thing to do before springing for a wood burner is to check the insulation levels in your house. Little or no insulation in your house will be expensive (and time consuming in the case of wood heat) no matter what you heat with. Our house is an old two story farm house (between Flint and Lansing) surrounded by a mile of open fields in three directions, so it gets windy. Insulation was minimal when we moved here. Just improving the insulation level and sealing the cracks/openings made a big difference.
    If you're on a budget consider the add-on wood furnace. If you can afford about $3500-4000 skip the add-on furnace and get a dual fuel furnace like the Yukon Eagle www.yukon-eagle.com The Yukon will be our next furnace when the time comes.
     
  19. Irish Pixie

    Irish Pixie Well-Known Member

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    We use an antique Andes Parlour Stove, it works well especially for a stove that's over a 100 years old. We will be replacing it this year tho. From what I've read it's better to go with a smaller stove than keep damping down a larger stove because of creosote buildup.

    We'll be buying a Vermont Castings stove. I believe the Resolute Acclaim model is what we decided on getting.

    Stacy in NY
     
  20. OD

    OD Well-Known Member

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    We bought a Jotul 600 this spring to replace our old soapstone stove, that we thought wouldn't hold enough wood.
    It is extremely hard to get a fire going in it and unless you leave the door slightly open-it will go out. The air intake just won't let enough air in.
    I wish I had my soapstone back!