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Any one have a Steffes storage furnace out there? I need help.

Post in 'The Green Room' started by MountainStoveGuy, Sep 19, 2006.

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  1. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Before you read this, it might help to know alittle about these furnaces. There a computer controlled electric mass furnace. It weighs about 5000 pounds, is full of ceramic bricks and coils. They way it works, is there is a outside thermometer that sensed outside temp, and tells the computer to charge according to the outside temp. The bricks get hot, air rushes through them, and heat enters the living space. The idea is that it charges enough off peak to heat the house when its on peak metering. this is a forced air system. If this unit pulls full power, 7 hours a day, 7 days a week, at .04/KwH, thats 10 bucks a day. I cant image that it actually charges full blast, i think thats the point of the computer. I made a major mistake last winter that i didnt catch untill feburary. I didnt have the clock set right and it was charging on the on peak 12 hour period, i had severl $450/month power bills. I cant do it this winter.


    I am trying to tweak my furnace to make it allitle more efficient this winter. So i have a few questions.
    1) i am on off peak metering. Just because its cheap to charge, i chose not to use the full off peak time period. Out of the 12 hours avalible, i am choosing to heat 7 per day. 7 days a week. Time will tell if thats enough.
    2) i set the minumum charge for outside temp to be 40* outside. factory is 50* is that bad?
    3)i set the full peak charge for out side temp of -10* factory is 10* , am i messin with things i shouldnt be?
    4) does this unit, when it is charging, use full power to charge during the off peak time that i have programed? my unit will pull 26Kw per day if thats the case. That seems extreme.
    5) I programed the wall thermostat to call for heat if needed at 5:00 and warm the house to 68* i told it to hold it at 60* after nine pm. Does this make any sense? some one is always home and thats our wake up and bed times. Is it worth messin with the programable thermostat?
    6) if im using a woodstove most the day, and the thermostat doesnt call for heat, will the unit charge anyway? I feel like when i dont use the furnace, i waste the heat stored in it. The unit stays warm, but the basement sucks all that radient heat out.

    My house is a 1800 sq/ft two story house, the 1200 on the main floor and 600 in the upstairs. I know thats alot of questions, i apreciate any help that i can get.
    Here is a link to what i have,
    http://www.steffes.com/offpeak/comfortplus/cen_overview.aspx
    I have the model 4130
    So what do you guys think?

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  2. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I do not know the unit but find some things odd. How can the unit get charged when there is no call? you set it back the times non peak where one would want to charge it?. It sounds like a system that has to run all the time ITs not a fast heat up system./ It may not be condusive to wood stove shutdown the system. Is there a way to charge the system with out demand from the thermo?
  3. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    the unit charges by the outdoor thermostat, within the times they computer tells it to charge. in other words, the way i have it set up, if it is below 40* and between 12:00am -4 am or 1:00 pm to 3;00 pm, it charges the core to a point that the computer thinks will suffice at the current out side temp. The colder it is outside, the more the core gets charged, and when it hits 10 below zero, the unit puts a full charge on the core. the wall thermostat just calls for heat, if there is no heat in the core the furnace will blow cold air all day long. You can force charge the system anytime by pushing some buttons on the computer. I answerd one of my questions i think.
  4. Homefire

    Homefire New Member

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    So you use this for heating when your not home as you burn wood or pellets at other times.
    You can check google for your averave daily air temp and set the unit for that. At least that is how I have my Budarus controls setup to work.

    I bet if you email your post to the co that made that unit they will advise you of the correct settings, but it seems to me the more cheap heat you store he better off you are. Just make sure it is not charging during peak hours.
    Please post any updtes you get
    thanks :)
  5. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    as matter of fact, i cut and pasted this thread to the company that made it. If i hear back from them i will let you know. Last year, when my house got hit by lightning, it wiped out the clock in the furnace, and it was charging during the on peak 12 hour cycle. 4 $450 electric bills later, i figured out the problem. The first year i had it, i was averaging $200 electric bills, the first year it was set up by the company that installed it. I was going nuts last year, i changed every bulb in my house to CF, unpluged one of the water heaters, and did all the high load stuff after 10 pm or between 1 and 3 (dishwasher, laundry, baths, etc) well almost $2k later worth the electricity, i figured out the problem. SO this year, im getting a little anal on making the furnace run at its best efficiency.
  6. Homefire

    Homefire New Member

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    Did you pick this unit out or did it come with the house?
    Do you have any idea what it cost or the age of the unit?
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Interesting system - don't forget to set the clock for daylight savings time.

    I downloaded the installation manual and it seems to answer most of your questions. The unit only charges as much as it thinks it needs for the next day based on outside temp. It does have internal regulation so I would expect it to use full load 7 hr off peak only when the temps are very low.

    http://www.steffes.com/downloads/pdf/comfortplus.pdf
    "The amount of heat stored in the brick core of the Comfort Plus system is regulated automatically in relation to
    outdoor temperature and the heating requirements. The outdoor sensor, supplied with the system, monitors
    outdoor temperature and provides this information to the Comfort Plus. As the outdoor temperature decreases,
    heating requirements increase and the system stores more heat accordingly."

    I would think that during the shoulder season of say 45 deg. temps you would want the unit to handle the spring/fall temps instead of the stove. It won't be fully charging, just enough to bring the house up to temp when the demand is called by the thermostat. And do you really want to wait until minus 10 for a full charge? If the unit is strictly supplemental that might be fine, but if you find it can't bring the house up to temp at say zero degrees, then you may want this set to the default 10 degree setting.

    It looks like having the computer/pda interface for the unit would be handy. Being a geek, I'd like to have a record of how it behaved in a variety of circumstances to determine the optimum setting for my lifestyle.

    As to the basement losses, is the basement insulated? If yes, then this heat is within the conditioned home space. If not, well it maybe time to think about the benefits of this.
  8. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    I couldnt realy decipher the manual as well as you. thank you for looking over it! My basement is a walk out, 2x6 walls on one side thats insulated, the concrete wall has a couple of layers of blue foam. its not the best, and its always cold down there.
    So here is one for you, can you anticipate what the usage would be? there are 4 cores at 9300 watts apiece. If there going full blast that 37200 watts per hour of operation wich is at max power usuage for the day of 260,400 watts a 7 hour cycle. at .00004 cents per watt, is max of $10.416 per day. Now what percentage would you guestemate that this thing uses on average?
  9. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    I picked it with the house i built. Its 2 years old. I didnt set it up, and its a little more complicated then a tyical furnace. Its supposed to be the cats butt if you have time of day metering. Can you imagine what this would cost to operate at .12/Kwh? if i remember right it was in the $5k range.
  10. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    BeGreen? where did you find the info on the computer hook up? That would be awesome.
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good question, but it woud be pure speculation on my part to guess at this. Best to ask Steffes. I don't know what is meant by half charge. Is this 2 of the 4 cores? Or, if at say 27 degrees outside temp, does it use staged heating, with only half the elements to reach a half charge (half temp?)? Or does it use all the elements for a shorter period of time to reach half charge. My guess it that it has 4 storage levels based on the cores and that it charges at either 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 or full, but that is a total guess.

    Anything you can do to increase efficiency, like insulating ductwork should help. Do you know if the floor of the basement insulated?

    The sales literature says that it has a palm pilot PDA hookup option for diagnostics. It also mentions Power Line Carrier (PLC) wireless communication. I'd like to understand that better. More questions for Steffes.
  12. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    my basement floor is not insulated. In the frenzy of the building project, i never realy got into my furnace. Now im into it, lol. I will ask steffes some more questions, the owners manual doenst address the PDA at all, i like talking to you guys about it. If you didnt have gas, would you have installed one of these for a whole house heater?
  13. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    You have me wondering about it. I had never heard of the thing before. A guy in the neighborhood has a wood furnace thing like it. Fires the crap out of it twice a day and the mass heats water for the house heat and hot water. Has had it for twenty years.
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like the floor might be a big heatsink. Would the space be condusive to installing an insulated floor or is it not worth it at this time?

    No natural gas available for me and I'm not sure I can get off-peak rates. We have a much more benign climate that a heatpump can work in, so probably not. But the concept is interesting. It's kind of like an electric, Russian fireplace. So in the right region with the right heat requirements and available low cost electricity (off-peak), it could make sense. The best plan is to minimize the heat requirements for the house and in your region to maximize and store the solar gain for nightime release.
  15. Homefire

    Homefire New Member

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    MSG , ask the co if you need to add more heat mass?
    After-all 2+1/2 tons isn't really all that much area.
    What is your average daily temp? It's got to get pretty darn cold in the Rockys.
    It may be that you could place your unused pellet stove in basement on low to offset
    your heat loss.
  16. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    ohhh there is plenty of mass, the last two years it didnt have any problem keeping up on the coldest days, im just trying to figure out how little charging i can do so hopefully i can save some kilowats. Pellet heat here would be $1.80 per therm, electic heat is only $1.17 per therm. Our average mean temp for the year is 27.9 degrees, average temp in feb is 15.34 degrees.
  17. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Hey BB, what system does your neighbor have or is it a masonry heater with a Hot water coil? Also, some of the Masonry heaters can have electric coils added to essentially provide a system like BB's.
  18. Homefire

    Homefire New Member

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    BURRR...thats plenty cold ,
    Find out if you can full charge it at the beginning of off peak and then again just before the end of off peak.
    At any rate it seems you would want a fully charged heat mass to use during the day.
    Do you happen to know how long it take to get up to full charge with this unit.

    I have an electric klin I fire pottery in and I can fast fire it to cone 09 (923degrees cent) in about an hour to fuse glass.
    So maybe you could actually run the electric for less than 2 or 3 hours a day.
    I may be wrong but if not you could be in for huge savings.
  19. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Haven't been over there in years but recall it was a big ole masonary thing with a coil and insulated holding tank. The logs he tossed in looked huge.
  20. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    here is my reply from steffes, just what i wanted to hear.

    I am trying to tweak my furnace to make it allitle more efficient this winter. So i have a few questions.
    1) i am on off peak metering. Just because its cheap to charge, i chose not to use the full off peak time period. Out of the 12 hours avalible, i am choosing to heat 7 per day. 7 days a week. Time will tell if thats enough.

    -Our systems charge based on outdoor temperature and depending how your unit was sized, it may need the full 12

    hours off-peak available in order to not run out of heat. You can try to cut back on the charge time but cutting the

    amount of off-peak hours from 12 to 7 may cause your ETS furnace to run out of heat on the colder days.


    2) i set the minumum charge for outside temp to be 40* outside. factory is 50* is that bad?

    -What this will do is make the unit not charge as agressively. What could potentially happen is if you have may days of temperatures in the low 40's and you need heat, the ETS unit will not have any heat in it as this location

    sets the start charge temperature at 40 degrees. So could this be bad? Depending on heating needs and outside temperature it could cause some problems. With what you are doing in #1 above this could potentially be a problem.


    3)i set the full peak charge for out side temp of -10* factory is 10* , am i messin with things i shouldnt be?

    -This is the full charge set point based on the outdoor temperature. Again this will cause the unit not to charge as agressively. This could cause the unit to run out of heat depending on the heating needs based on what you are doing in #1 above.


    4) does this unit, when it is charging, use full power to charge during the off peak time that i have programed? my unit will pull 26Kw per day if thats the case. That seems extreme.

    -It has the potential to draw rhe full power if the core charge is targeting a full charge. If the unit is not targeting a full charge based on OD temperature and energy usage it will not draw full power. If the unit is only targeting a 50% core charge it will only bring on half the elements to get the core charge to 50% and then once the core reaches 50% the elements will not energy to take a charge.


    5) I programed the wall thermostat to call for heat if needed at 5:00 and warm the house to 68* i told it to hold it at 60* after nine pm. Does this make any sense? some one is always home and thats our wake up and bed times. Is it worth messin with the programable thermostat?

    -Programmable Thermostats work great and can save you money on your heating bills. I would recommend only a 5 degree difference in temperatures so the heating system does not have to work so hard to get the temperatur up to the 68 degrees. Would maybe look at a temperature of 63 degrees for after 9pm.


    6) if im using a woodstove most the day, and the thermostat doesnt call for heat, will the unit charge anyway? I feel like when i dont use the furnace, i waste the heat stored in it. The unit stays warm, but the basement sucks all that radient heat out.

    -The unit will charge anyway based on outdoor temperature and on energy usage. If you do not use as much energy the system will twek back the target amount of storage in the brick. The unit needs to charge in case you decide to not use the fireplace for a day or so otherwise you would have little or no heat in the unit.


    I went down this morning and changed back the settings to 50* and 10*
    I also decided to go buy a mansfield. :) i happen to know where they sell them.
  21. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    No real surprises there. I'm glad it doesn't fully charge if the outdoor temps are milder.

    So the question is, with the Mansfield, do you really need the electric furnace at all? Or can the Mansfield carry you overnight until it is refilled and maintain at least 60 degrees. If it can maintain the temp even at the 15 degree mean Feb. temp, and wood only fits your lifestyle, then it sounds like the main concern would be pipes freezing in the basement.
  22. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    with the mansfield, i wont realy need the furnace at all, the ground is warm enough to keep the basement from freezing. The heratige almost carries me overnight, the mansfied will definalty do it. What i need most of all, are window coverings on my windows, i have this great room that faces north, and its all glass, there some of the best windows on the market but still.... the problem is i dont want to cover up my view! My limitation on the wood stove is the amount of fuel i have ready this year, between school, the baby, and work and HEARTHNET i dont have near enough to get me throug, i have less then last year, time to whip out the checkbook and buy some wood. grrrrrr.
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