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Boiler or Masonry heater ?

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Nicholas, Jan 12, 2008.

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  1. Nicholas

    Nicholas Member

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    Just wondering,
    If You could snap Your fingers and have a Gasifing wood boiler with storage/pumps, heat coil in the duct work, etc. OR have a masonry heater in the center of your "open" floor plan house, Which would You want ?

    Adding up the cost, the boiler set up will cost the same as a masonry heater (all masonry by Me except core), and is not a boiler with storage trying to emulate a masonry heater ?

    But I am a tinker-er by nature, something about the pumps-pipes, coils, etc ?????

    Still have not ruled out a boiler in the basement and a soapstone stove in the great rm, but that would be as much (or more) than the Masonry heater.
    Am I nuts ??

    Nick

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    People like Marty S who have high-mass masonry heaters in their homes really like them, so I'll leave it to them to pitch their preference.

    There are many really nice things about hydronic heat, including the ability to send it anywhere you are willing to put a pipe run, especially in the form of infloor radiant. Done right, you kind of get the benefit of both approaches, as a properly designed infloor run can hold and radiate heat for a long time. Unlimited domestic hot water is another nice feature of hydronic heat. And I like having a heat source, in the form of cast iron radiators, in every room. So it's flexible, expandable, efficient, and compatible with fossil fuel backups. In my mind, hydronics is a slam dunk compared to just about any other form of heating.

    And don't forget that all your wood handling, etc. is outside your living space.

    Oh, and as you may have noticed, there are unlimited opportunities to tinker with hydronics. Can you say Alpha Geek?

    As to your specific situation, an open floor plan/great room layout is probably what masonry heaters were designed for. And you get the ambiance of a fire, which sounds like a high-value improvement to me. You mentioned air ducts and the need for an inline heat exchanger, so I'm guessing your current system is forced air. That's obviously a factor to consider, and kind of negates many of the points I made in my pitch for hydronics. I'm heating an 1865 farm house, so my needs and preferences are obviously skewed to what's already installed and working great with a gasifier.
  3. kuribo

    kuribo Feeling the Heat

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    I am planning on both with the boiler/hydronics as a supplemental heat source. Masonry heaters are generally only good for about 30-40,000btu/hr output max.....
  4. SciGuy

    SciGuy New Member

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    Nick,

    When we first built our 47' diameter geodesic dome house 26 years ago I built a Jay Jarp designed Russian Fire stove and we heated exclusivley with it for ~10 years. We then installed ~ 300sf of radiant floor heat in the kitchen/dining area. This has been heated with a Dunkirk XEB2 (40,000 btu gross) natural gas boiler. Since the day we first warmed the radiant floor we have not run the Rusian stove at all except during times of extended power outages. (2 different ice storms) The wood mess in ones living area really gets old. A greater area of concern was the amount of carbon monoxide released by the stove when it was run in its most efficient heating mode ie close the damper competely with a large bed of coals still burning. I believe all current masonry stove designs prevent one from doing this but at the expense of btus stored in the stove.

    To make a long story short, if I were to do things all over again today, I would install a wood gasifier in the basement or and out building and get the best of two worlds.

    Hugh
  5. woody&sons

    woody&sons New Member

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    you could put a water coil in your masonry heater, it works good.
  6. pbvermont

    pbvermont Member

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    I'm doing a hookup for DHW loop in a masonry heater this week. Have done several. They work great.
    Just to complicate things: why wouldn't you have a hybrid system of Masonry heater with hot water loop for floor AND add in a storage tank. Add some SOLAR DHW (for summer) to THAT as well.... Go to it uber-geek! Lots of opportunity for circulators, plumbing, controls etc. But...you still have all the woodburning in your living space.
    Keep in mind, WATER is the best heat storage medium and perhaps heat-delivery medium there is. I dare say, even better than masonry (soapstone, concrete, brick) . More reason to consider a boiler in cellar/basement/outbldg.
    Masonry heaters become most problematic during the "shoulder" seasons (spring, fall), when you have some heating needs but not necessarily great enough to get the full load from the masonry heater. (then there is always opening windows and doors! to regulate.
    These are often referred to as Russian (think...SIBERIA) stoves. Now consider the climate in Siberia and the lifestyle that might be "enjoyed" there. Long, COLD winters and lots of time being housebound. Perfect for a Russian stove. Consider the AMERICAN lifestyle. In and out of the house A LOT, going to work much of the day etc, global warming, our relatively temperate winters (these days) and a masonry heater doesn't loom so practical.
    Also consider, how might the NEXT owner of the house feel about a LARGE masonry mass in the center of the house?
  7. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Eric, I don't want things to get ugly here and I don't want to introduce an unpleasant element of competitiveness in what has been an otherwise civil venue, but I think it's safe to say that if there is an Alpha Geek, I can claim that title.

    With that out of the way, I'll agree with the general comments about hydronic in general and radiant in particular. There's something primal in our makeup that likes a fire in our living space, but hydronic wins hands-down in any practical comparison.
  8. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I was thinking of you, nofo. Others may vie for the honor, but in my mind, it's yours to lose.
  9. steam man

    steam man Minister of Fire

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    Alpha Geek-THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. Willman

    Willman Minister of Fire

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    Radiant floor heat is claimed to save 30% in energy cost. So it stands to reason that there would be less wood consumption using the same radiant floor set up. No air currents set up to cause drafts. Even heat across the entire room with no cold spots. A true comfort system. Set up the wood shed next to boiler room for less wood handling. More usable square footage in the house to boot. Might even be less on real estate tax bill with outdoor boiler room versus indoor masonry heater. Definitely less of a fire hazard on the main dwelling.These are some of the pros I have used to reach my decision on my future heating needs.
    Will
  11. canyon

    canyon New Member

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    Nick,

    Check out what I call the poor man's masonry heater... the rocket fired mass heater. It is yet another to add to your list of options. Do a search and find the rocket stove site.
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