Outdoor boiler rant

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by johnkl, Jan 13, 2004.

  1. johnkl

    johnkl Well-Known Member

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    I bought a demo model boiler several years ago (4 yrs). Every year has been a struggle with the damned thing. Some were due to installer malfunction (me) and others have had to do with boiler design. The first coupla years I went thru 12-14 cords in one winter, in spite of the boiler supposedly being designed to burn less wood than conventionally designed boilers. I took care of that by re-routing the lines and insulating them alot better.

    Last year my wood wasn't nearly as dry as it could have been but I figured "Hey, they told me I can burn green wood." and yup, I can and I still used alot of wood without being really warm most of the winter. What the dealer failed to mention is the boiler is rated for 60,000 BTU/hr so it ran twice as long to get an equal amount of heat out of it because green wood will only produce about half as much heat per pound burned.

    This year I did things almost right. I cut and split 12 1/2 cords of mixed hardwood and had it stacked in the woodshed before winter. Up untill a coupla weeks ago things had been fine and I was feeling good, then the damned thing boiled over. Ran it almost dry and made a mess in the bldg I have it in. I replaced the aquastat with a new one and things seemd OK till this AM. It boiled over again. I don't know exactly what the problem is. I'll track it down eventually but its tricky because its an intermittant problem. I am really fed up with it. I don't mind making wood and the routine work involved with having a boiler but I expect the damned thing to be dependable.

    I'd like to hear from folks who actually have and are heating with an outdoor boiler. What kind is it? How do ya like it? How much space do you heat? Where are you located? How well is your bldg insulated? How much wood do you use in a heating season? What did you pay for it? Etc? Etc?
     
  2. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

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    Please tell us the brand. I'm setting one up this year and haven't decided on the brand yet.

    mikell
     

  3. earthship

    earthship Well-Known Member

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    12 1/2 cords of wood - yikes! That is a huge amount of wood to have to burn. Consider building an earthship - we have 2100 sq. feet and burned a half cord last year and maybe we will burn 3/4 this season (we enjoy a kiva fire for atmosphere even when we don't need the heat. The wood heat is our ONLY heat source. We live in Colrado and it gets down to -15 occasionally - maybe you are in a COOOOLD climate but that is a lot of wood.

    our earthship:
    http://www.airwaze.com/album/010704n.JPG

    notice we have a door and window open on the upper level - it was about 25 F when I took this picture last week ;-)
     
  4. Ardie/WI

    Ardie/WI Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We have had a Central boiler for over ten years. In fact :) , we started the trend out here because the number of outdoor boilers increase yearly. And the most popular brand seems to be Central Boiler.
     
  5. Tracy

    Tracy Well-Known Member

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    We Have a Taylor and it came with the house. Always heated with wood as a primery heat source with back up oil. Our old house had a Grizzly wood stove and that heated an almost 2000 square foot home. We would use 5-6 cords a year. This was an indoor stove.

    This Taylor we have now has burned 9-10 cords already and have had problems also. Boiler has ran dry and the fan motor went.

    We are rethinking this stove. Probably going to hook up a good wood stove for the house and divert the boiler for the garage/shop area and use it to heat the outbuilding as needed. I am not impressed.

    Also this was suppose to heat the water for the house but water temps never seemed to be regulated, either burning hot or would run out of hot water. We have now got an elictric water heater for the house.
     
  6. earthship

    earthship Well-Known Member

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    Tracy - that just seems like so much wood - where do you live? I figure a cord of wood is like spending 125.00 or more even if you are getting wood on your property, cutting and splitting it. This equates to pretty expensive heating in my book - and I won't even start in on the environmental consequences ;-)
     
  7. chaplain robert

    chaplain robert Well-Known Member

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    I have a Hardy that I love. This is my second season with it. I cut as I need it from timber that is downed, so it is hard to give a number of cords but I would bet I am somewhere between 2 and 3 and will be at 4 or more by the end of the season. I am heating only a really small house (900 sq ft) and a 14x24 greenhouse. I love it to death. Let it turn cold, I'll just push my thermostat up and stay home. Ours preheats the hotwater too.
     
  8. Ardie/WI

    Ardie/WI Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Oh yeah, I forgot to say that it heats our water. We don't run it at all in summer and then we use the water heater. The water is sometimes a bit hotter than usual but not enough for problems.

    I can't tell you how much wood we use. Roger probably could and I'll ask him later.
     
  9. I run a Classic CL 5648 from central boiler (http://www.centralboiler.com/). I use it to heat an old un-insulated farmhouse (3000sf, just like heating a barn!) and it also heats the domestic hot water. Max furnace output is 500000btus. She eats a lot of wood. On a cold week, it will eat about 1 to 1.25 cords, (house at 68F with 6 hot showers). I pushed an easy 35 cords through it last winter (northern new England). I burn mostly softwoods (pine) that are salvage from my part time tree business but the furnace will burn anything (green, dry, punky, frozen, pallets, branches etc). Cost of wood is nothing, except time in smashing the wood up into chunks that you can lift to get them into the door. Water capacity is 500 gallons with light and water guage right at the door. I have only had a run away boiler once due to a stick getting wedged in the draft door. Water simply boiled out the top. I checked the guage and water level was fine. Only problem I have ever had was a small hair line crack (about 2 inches long) on the inside of the cast iron door. I discovered the crack at the end of my first heating season ( I am on season number 5 with it). Central boiler sent me out a new door under warrantee. We used to heat with woodstoves and I will never go back to them. Compared to the woodstoves the outdoor boiler has made life a lot more comfortable and easier. Compared to oil or gas heat the outdoor boiler is a lot more work but if you half to heat with wood it is like night and day compared to a wood stove. Cost installed was right around $5500.00 but that was 5 years ago, we did all the dirt work, paid for the plumber and got the electrics done on a favor.
     
  10. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    I have a rental that is 1889 built and has 3000 sq ft of heated area with high ceilings. The floor and walls are not insulated. With a 14 year old Hicks waterstove the entire house is heated comfortably. Wood consumption is reasonable and the tenants get their domestic hot water from the unit. I find that when the tenants change it is necessary to acquaint the new occupants on the operation of the heater. Most people want to burn the stove like a conventional wood stove and that does't work. Obviously this is a large heater and has ample storage for heated water. To me, the capacity of the storage is key. The stove needs to be fired and burned hot till the water reaches 190F or so and then let the fire die. This is a more efficient burn and there is no creosote builup. With the large water reservoir this is sufficient to provide heat for not less than 12 hours and until the next firing. Problems with the stove have been minimal with only having to replace the circulating pump twice The circulating pump was a Grundfos with a ceramic shaft and it cannnot tolerate the shock of the water temp. I have now switched to a different pump and all appears to be OK. Time will tell.
     
  11. george darby

    george darby Well-Known Member

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    have a taylor love it!only uses a lot of wood below20 when i try to keep the greenhouse above freezing....... greenhouse,trailer and heats the hot water love it burn all the things other people cannot split...... quite a few stumps have gone through............
     
  12. Sparkplug

    Sparkplug New Member

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    I have a Eympre, luv it. Other than the dealers, I have no problem with the stove. Burnt for 2 yrs now. I tried to find a dealer, big problem. when I did find one he didn't come back with a quote, 2nd dealer came out and took forever to give me a quote. Then he would not put the stove in. Not a problem I did it. He said he set it up and it is ready to burn. First year I went through a bunch of wood probably 3 to 4 cords! I got to looking and the aquastat was set for 190 degs. I have radiant floor heat, and am warming hardwood floors, they are not to see temps above 110. So this did not make alot of sense 190 degs. I changed it to 140 and alot less wood. This does heat the water also.
    You have to remember that it heats what ever your water heater cap is. warms the water that is in the water heater. When you run the water tank out it will run out of hot water. Some people think you have an unlimited hot water supply, you do not have unlimited sourse.
    The stove I have will run 10 to 12 hrs with fill up. Under 10 degs we do see a problem warming the water up. Keeps the house warm just has that chill everyonce in while.
    Tom.
    Ohio.
     
  13. Carol K

    Carol K Well-Known Member

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    We have a Central Boiler also. We heat a log cabin with cathedral ceilings and basement total about 3000 sq ft. Have infloor radiant heat and baseboard in the basement, it heats our hot water with a water heat exchanger.

    Only had it 6 months, but am SOOOOOOO pleased with it. Last year it cost us 400-500 per MONTH to heat with propane over the 6 month heating season. We paid $525 for a full load of logs (approx 18-20 face cord) and that may just get us through the season. It has saved us a fortune. Even if I had to buy another whole semi full at 525 I'm still ahead compared to heating with propane.

    We live in Western NY, last week it was -25 and we had to fill it morning and evening. We mostly fill it once a day and then just top it up befor bed.

    Carol K
     
  14. craig pawlowicz

    craig pawlowicz Member

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    I use a Heatsource 1 wood boiler.I heat aprx. 6200 sqr.ft.3800 is a 100yr old house single pane windows the rest is my shop both forced air which takes more heat than hydronic heating.When using green wood takes about 10 cord plus 5 bundles of slab.Thats for a cold winter.This also heats my hot water.My shop also only has 4in. walls and no insulation under the slab.With a newer house and shop insulated correctly would probally use a third less perhaps even half as much wood.I save about 3500 a year even with my hard to heat buildings.I never have had a complant with performance with these stove and the way i set them up.
     
  15. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    After searching for a year and talkign to folks we'll be getting an Empyre. They've simply done things right. Real chimney section to exhaust the smoke, an ash pan system, a similar heat exchanger to Central boilers (which also got excellent coments) powered draft control, and the highest quality stainless steel. (thier welding was superior too) Takes alot to make one of these things work wel in Canada but so far I've heard no serious complaints. I have a PSG 3000 wood furnace inside the basement and it will go through 8-10 stove cords, for 100% of the heat. Wood only costs $70/stove cord cut split and delivered. Think $30/cord in 8 foot lengths here delivered.
     
  16. craig pawlowicz

    craig pawlowicz Member

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    Ross, what type of stainless are they using if it is not 409 or otherwise known as titainium enhanced stainless. Such as 304 it will not hold up as well and that info comes right from the steel mills.Testing was done years ago for the purpose of building these stoves and 409 was the winner.As for the welding most companys use certified welders for building there stoves,what really breaks welds most of the time is design of the fire box and how it expands and contracts or at least that is what i have seen over the years of installing these things.How well insulated is the unit itself.The biggest problem i've seen is how the unit is installed underground tubing ect.Don't install it properly and it doesn't matter what brand you get.
     
  17. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I'll have to check Craig, 409 will rust though. I've heard that critism about the higher grade stainless but in most cases either would be fine. 409 won't rust fast enough to matter and 304 won't break easily. As few of these actually hold much presure (I think aquatherm is the only high presure system) I'd wonder why certified welders were needed. The welds on the Empyre were certainly neater than on the Wood Dr, Pacific Western, or Heatmore I looked at. The Empyre is cool to the touch on every outside surface and holds snow on the roof. The simple fact they use real chimney means you can duct that low hanging smoke higher without risking a wind chilled pipe loosing draft. What brand do you sell again Craig?
     
  18. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Oh wait is it the Heatsource? Is that the one with the water jacketed door?
     
  19. craig pawlowicz

    craig pawlowicz Member

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    Ross,yes i do sell heatsource1,but i had a heatmor and i didn't like it used alot more wood ,also seemed cheaply built and was still an expensive unit in my opinion .My heatsource stove now will also have snow sitting on the roof it also has 10in insulation in the walls and 20in in the roof.These stoves are built really well in my opinion.Yes they have water cooled doors and they are a modular design so say for instance your ash tray and grates rust out in 15 yr they can be taken out and replaced.
     
  20. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    My goodness!!! Reading the amount of wood you folks all go through, I am very grateful we went with the Vermont Casting wood burner. It was a toss up for us, some years back, but we decided we wanted the warmth of a fire to sit by as well as the economy of heating with wood. We heat a little over 1000 square feet with 2-4 face cords, depending on the severity of our winter here in south central Michigan. We have a propane furnace for a back up and use propane for cooking, heating our water and drying cloths in the winter. We use approximately 500 gallons of propane in 14 months. Us old folks could never keep that amount of wood cut!!!