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Building a house, want a gasser, advice needed

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by WoodWacker, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. WoodWacker

    WoodWacker New Member

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    Although a newbie,

    I've done a little bit of reading and made a few unofficial decisions. I plan to build a 2200 square foot cape or squished cape with attached 2 car in Central Maine in the summer of 2014. I'm leaning towards Tarm Innova, but not set on it. I'm open to all referrals. I've decided to go with stacked 500 gallon propane tanks, I will build and stratofy them myself. For an expansion tank, I was thinking to use a separate 250 gallon tank with a water/nitrogen interface for expansion. Fill both 500 gallon tanks, and fill the 250 about 20%, use only one port for water entrance(the bottom of the tank). Draw a vacuum and add nitrogen to the top of the 250 for compression gas. I'm worried about getting suspended nitrogen in the system somehow. What do you guys think? Will this work?

    Piggy backed with wall mount propane condensing boiler. Probably boiler-mate for DHW.

    This is going to be the house I want to live in forever, so I don't want to skimp hard on things, especially those that my save me money in the long run.

    Is this true that you get more use from your tanks with radiant flooring? I will occupy the house probably all but 2 weeks during the winter. Radiant in the basement, first floor, 2nd floor? Baseboard in the 2nd floor?? Should I heat the garage? This is probably going to be used for actual cars, so I don't really want to heat the hell out of it during the winter, but it might be nice from time to time. A larger offsite garage is in future plans and hope to tap into same system.

    Thanks,
    Woody

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  2. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    I have had personal experience with two separate boilers and Irleh 40 and Velolux 50 as well as doing a lot of research and looking at others. I have determined a few characteristics that are a must for me! First I would only consider models that operated under negative draft meaning all the air is pulled through the boiler until it exits the flue. This cuts down on smoke and dust during cleaning. Second would be the ease of lighting since you want to limit the amount of idle time and run flat out as much as possible. Second I would look at how the unit must be cleaned and how accessible the areas are I know on my first unit ash collected in areas that were near impossible to get to, it was a nightmare. On my current one everything is accessible from the front and easily cleaned with a wire brush that is pushed down through the tubes.
    As far as the open expansion tank it will work but a bladder tank will be better and easier to set up.
    There are many options for DHW and a boiler mate would be a good option.
    I would also recommend a smart circulator with zone valves to feed your zones(this is something I wish I had)
    Most likely banks and insurance companies will require the second system so it is good you already have that in mind. Every room will need some type of heat in it to be counted as living space for appraisal. I love my in floor radiant heat and wish I had it in the second floor as well so in my opinion I would put it everywhere you can, you may be able to get away with more spacing on the second floor since some heat will rise from the first floor. The advantage to radiant heat is that you are able to use a wider temperature range of water from your storage tanks. Hot air exchangers and HWB will require hotter temperatures I would even put full heating coils in the garage even if you do not plan to use it at first; you only have one chance to do it. As far as the future garage you will want to include that in your heat loss calculations so you have enough capacity when you do add it to your system also make sure you have an open zone for it.

    I am so impressed with my vedolux 50 because it is so simple and so easy! The one thing that I must watch is that I do not overheat my tanks since my boiler does not have an idle mode, that being said it is not easy to overheat your storage if you pay a little of attention on how much wood you load. I am getting a feel for how much to load very quickly. My wife operates our boiler without any issues.

    Since you are building new my advice is to PLAN AHEAD and try to accommodate any future plans it will save you time, money, and a headache.
  3. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    I've built several homes and small commercial buildings. I'm in my seventies and the present roof above my head is the last one. BUT!! If I were building now, the dwelling wouldn't need nor be able to use the output of the smallest wood boiler. It would never pay for itself.

    I would take that 10 to 15 thousand bucks and put it into insulation design and engineering and save myself a lifetime of labor, trying to fend off the oil man. That approach also frees you from the next 50 years of maintenance.
  4. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    If you are goig to live in tis house forever the first thing ya do is get a guy who knows what he is doing when it comes to insulation. Not the guy who says R19 batts in the walls are good. There are guys who insulate, and guys that know what they are going. I learned this after 3 houses I did and 32 years of remodeling. It is hard to even explain the difference between house when done right and done to code. After it is insulated correctly then the woodboiler is a cinch cause it takes so little to heat a house. Many people put the cart in front of the horse though. Insulating comes the day the masons are done putting in the basement walls. Eample. My basement walls are R10 all the way down to the footings. From grade down 3' I have r 20 on the north side of the house. I didn't think it was enough so after 8 years I studded up the basement walls and insulated them with R 13 batts. It brought the basement temp up 1-2 degrees. I guess this means the existing insulation was enough. After that make darn sure there is a good line of caulk or glue under the walls just before they are lifted up and nailed to the floor. This is huge, and it's cheap. After that tape walls with good tyvek tape any cracks and but joints in the sheathing in the walls. When putting in windows use foam to insulate them,, not fiberglass. Here is why, eveytime I take a window out it is full of black dust. This means air has been leaking into the house for 30 years. This of the money that could be saved. Just don't over foam. Make sure foam gets way to the back too.This is where air gets in. Then comes the expensive part. Foam the walls with 4" of closed cell foam. Don't go any less. This will be a painfull cost but you are staying in this house for ever. ALso, foam at least 3" in the basement joists and between the rafters. Fill with batt insulation to keep foam from going out past the outside of the walls. Also spray up the roof sheathing a good 4' with foam. This helps insulation value and puts a stop to ice damming. Cellulose insulation in th eatic is good, fiberglass is almost as goo but needs to be R60 min. in a place like Maine. Windows are ussually good these days but I would go with double hungs so you can put storms on them. You need storms more than many think. Many say ya don't need them. You do. I know this is a post on what wood boiler to get. I wrote this cause I see it all the time when building. For some reason noone wants to spend one extra cent on insulation but think nothing of a ten thousand dollar granite top up grade or an extra garage for 10k. The top insulation job on your house will cost an extra 5k compared to a fiberglass insulation ( up to code job) After this go out and guy any gasser your heart derires cause you will hardly need it anyway.
  5. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    Fred61 and ihookem are 100% correct! I made the same mistake trying to get things done on a tight budget now there is no easy way to improve my home. Insulation is the best money spent for heating you home. There are many good options out there so take advantage of one. (Structural insulated panels, concrete filled foam forms, cavity filled closed cell foam, and others)
  6. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    There's been some evidence uncovered as of late that fiberglass looses some insulating capacity over time. The other problem with fiberglass batts is that you have a joint every 14.5 or 22.5 inches. When they're measuring R value they are assuming no joints.

    My target would be to heat the living space by baking a pie in the oven. I also dream of a masonary heater.

    You could look into a building system like Winter Panel in Brattleboro Vermont. There's a whole community of their homes in Keene NH that have been there for more than 20 years.
  7. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    I was going to make an addition to ihookem's great receipe and that is to be sure not to skimp on excavating. Backfilling and raising the footings with good washed crushed stone keeps the water away from the foundation and footings. I've observed over the years that homes built in areas consisting sand and gravel are always much warmer and easier to heat.
  8. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    minimum r-40 walls r60 ceilings. obvious radiant works well with storage.
  9. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    Ya Know Fred61. I never thoght of the stone that way. Also there is something called energy heel trusses that lets ya put in an extra 4" of insulation where the truss meets the top of the wall.
  10. pwschiller

    pwschiller Member

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    Hi Woody,

    I timber framed my house in Freedom, NH about eight years ago. The frame is wrapped with SIPS (structural insulated panels). We have a southern exposure with a high proportion of windows facing south. Most years the heat doesn't even come on until November, because of the solar gain and the the excellent insulation. Still, we need to provide a substantial amount of heat at times to keep things warm; when it's -10 at night and the wind is blowing, our oil boiler needs to make some heat. Including our basement, my wife and I have about 2800 sf of heated space; we use about 520 gallons of oil per year for heat and DHW combined. It wasn't until I decided to build a workshop this past year that I finally decided to install a wood boiler and use the oil boiler only for backup. I've been focused more on completing the workshop building, so I haven't installed the wood boiler yet, but will well before next heating season.

    If you build a very well insulated house and use radiant heat throughout, you may be able to heat it using solar hot water panels. That's something that I never explored, but maybe should have. When it comes to insulating your house vs. whatever source of heat you choose, it makes sense to do a cost/benefit analysis to determine where it is best to spend your money. What I mean is, it may not make sense to put R-60 insulation in the attic if you have R-3 double pane windows; you may be better off spending the extra money on triple pane windows. Or, if you decide to heat with a wood boiler, it may make more sense to not go overboard with extra insulation, triple pane windows, etc, but to save thousands of $ on that and just burn an extra 1/2 cord of wood each year. If you are heating with a fossil fuel or with solar water heat, it may make lots of sense to spend the extra money on insulation either to keep the annual costs down (fossil fuel) or just to make the system feasible (solar).

    I would put radiant heat (PEX) tubing in the slab of my garage floor, even if you don't hook it up right away.

    Pete
  11. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    If I insulated my house " to code" I would use 6 cords instead of 3.5-4 cords. After 25 years that is 50 cords I have to come up with. Just the time lost is worth it plus cost to haul wood. One thing not talked about is the quiet house it gives you. Sometimes I hear the train or the wind. It has to be very windy though.
  12. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Think about potato houses, if you in centeral Maine there may still be some there. When guys build a new one the good farmers have them sprayed on the inside. This is usually the most expensive part of the whole thing. A good farmer will tell you they will heat themselves with some potatos in them, they need to vent out the moisture and some heat with it to keep it at 38F. I built my own home in 2009 100% myself, 3,200 square feet heated. Air tightness is the #1 priority, if you do that with spray foam, or some type of sheet good and pay attention to EVERY detail or posibility for an air leak as has been said you will be worlds ahead. Read about building science (we learned alot in the 70s and 80s when things started to tighten up, and what that does to the building envelope. Think vapor BARRIORS not retarders (hint metal is the only barrior, plastic or any petrolium is only a retarder). Don't let people tell "oh that place will be too tight" or "you need to let it breathe" with proper building science and correctly applied vapor and moisture control it will breathe in the correct way and wind will not affect your heat load. I'd use Roxul over fiberglass any day the 30% upcharge is well worth it, once you ues it, you will dispise any fiberglass insulation. Use blown in cellulose over the Roxul in the attic to fill in all the voids around trusses, and as ihookem said use heel trusses with 16" heels for good ventelation and leaving you plenty of space for that insulation, use some type of rafter-mate so when you blow in you will contain it to the attic and not let it fall to the soffit area.

    Keep in mine that electrical penitrations are one of the biggest air leak areas, spray foam is your friend here. EVERY house I've worked in had had cold air coming in around all the outlets, I avoided this by breaking code and useing shallow boxes and having my wireing in the hidden airspace behind the drywall. For what it's worth think low temp heat emitter and then you can go with some type of solar (thick radiant slab works best as storage and emitter) then a small wood stove to make up the difference or a boiler and storage, but as Fred said it may never pay for itself. Solar orientation is key also, and the best windows you can afford, I have all triple glazed Paridigm out of Portland ME.

    You can spend it now and save for a lifetime, or save now and spend for a lifetime. And a lifetime is a LOT of money.

    TS
  13. pwschiller

    pwschiller Member

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    Every additional $5000 that gets rolled into a 30 year mortgage at 5% interest amounts to roughly an additional $320 in annual payments. Where I live (which is close to where Woody lives), a cord of green, split hardwood delivered is about $160, so two cords is roughly equal to the cost of spending an extra $5000 up front on your house construction. I realize that doesn't take into account the amount of time that you'll spend stacking the extra wood and moving and loading it into your boiler. Not too many people want to do more of that than they have to, but if they dislike doing that so much, then maybe they should be looking at a pellet boiler or solar.

    Does it make sense to spend an extra $5000 up front on construction to save two cords of wood and your extra labor involved? I would say so. Does it make sense to spend an extra $15000 up front to save two cords of wood annually? Each person needs to answer that for themselves.

    My other point was that it makes sense to do a heat loss analysis for the projected house and to plug in different R values to see what the return on your additional investment will get you. If you were to upgrade from R-3 double pane windows to R-8 triple pane windows, how much fuel will you save annually? How much more will the triple pane windows cost you up front? If you increase the attic insulation from R-30 to R-50, how much will it save you annually and how much will it add to your mortgage? You may decide that it makes sense for you to make many insulation upgrades beyond what the building codes call for, but it doesn't hurt to do a little cost benefit analysis first.
    ewdudley likes this.
  14. pwschiller

    pwschiller Member

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    I've seen 0.33 air exchanges per hour as a recommended minimum for a house to be healthy to live in. It's not an exact science I'm sure. It will depend on what you use for building materials (and how much they outgas), how many people and pets live in the house, what type of cooking you do, etc.

    I put a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) in my house when I built it. I keep it running on low year round. It is constantly drawing in fresh air, while extracting approximately 70% of the heat from the outgoing air to heat the incoming air. Even with the HRV running 24/7, we still heat 2800 sf, plus our DHW with about 520 gallons of oil annually, which will translate into about 3-1/2 cords of wood once I get the wood boiler hooked up. I think that the HRV was money well spent.

    Pete
  15. WoodWacker

    WoodWacker New Member

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    Thank you for all the good info. I live on a good charge of land mostly hardwoods, it will be an abundant supply of firewood. I enjoy cutting and splitting also, it's a good healthy hobby. I guess my main focus isn't so much efficiency as it is convenience. I want to be able to load her up in the morning and say goodbye for the rest of the day, and of course come home to a warm house. Also, I like the idea of free DHW during summer months. It sounds like radiant heat is the better option for my application.
  16. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    That's ok. Plenty of folks have lived with that scenario and it works. Just remember that when you get into your seventies as I am all that wood cutting fun starts to hurt alot more. I know it's hard to imagine but it's true. I was once invincible.
    Perhaps the good advice offered above will be of some value to others who read this thread.
    Even my house with the cheapest of the cheap materials, but with annual weatherization projects is now very efficient. At bed time it is 70 in my house, when I rise in the morning it's 70 and without even touching my boiler in the morning and after being gone all day, when I return it's still 70 in the house. Every day no matter what the temperature is. I think that beats "loading er up" in the morning. I can't imagine why anyone would want to bypass that opportunity.
  17. WoodWacker

    WoodWacker New Member

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    Don't get me wrong, that is great information and I will consider it in my plans. My focus is to burn wood to heat the home rather than make the home as efficient as possible to not burn as much wood.
  18. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    He's going to have to get it to comply with the MUBEC... R50 min in the ceiling, R21 in the walls, there's a few different ways to insulate the foundation, but in each case it *has* to be fully insulated, or R38 in the floor There is also a code mandated blower-door test.

    There are also some giant PITA specs regarding windows and window installations have to be inspected.

    first thing the OP is going to have to do, is log off the computer and drive to the codes office.... particularly with intending to modify propane tanks.... I see many headaches to come.
  19. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    [quote="Fred61, post: 1402643, member: 8462"]I've built several homes and small commercial buildings. I'm in my seventies and the present roof above my head is the last one. BUT!! If I were building now, the dwelling wouldn't need nor be able to use the output of the smallest wood boiler. It would never pay for itself.

    I would take that 10 to 15 thousand bucks and put it into insulation design and engineering and save myself a lifetime of labor, trying to fend off the oil man. That approach also frees you from the next 50 years of maintenance.[/quote]

    The voice of experience rings true!!!

    In Europe they are building structure with heat loss down below 4-5 btu/sq ft. When they get to that point they do not use wood because it becomes nearly impossible to keep a wood fueled fire that small without constant attention. They use pellet boilers that can modulate output from only 2 KW up to maybe 6. Pellets have a huge advantage over cordwood when you get into boilers that small because of the ease with which the can modulate.

    If you want to go wood, you simply have to have storage capability if your load is under 10-15KW (30-45,000btu)
  20. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    Woodwacker, us old guys are posting this stuff for good reason. It helps decide what gassifier you need to get. The better insulation the smaller boiler you need. This saves money when buying a boiler. I went with an EKO 25. A small boiler no doubt but that is all I need. It does go hand in hand. Also, if ya got lots of firewood ya can always sell a little left over to help pay for the insulation. I want to say this again. I see people putting bare minimum into insaltion when they should put in max. You can always go a bit cheaper on cabinet, counters, doors and still have a nice house. Carpet wears out and 15 yrs later ya get something better when the kids are done walking on it just after being in the chicken coup like what happened today.. It is very expensive to go min. on ins. and then upgrade. If you don't go with foam I suggest other somewhat good options. PM me someday if ya want. For now a Boiler yoiu are looking at whatever it may be might not be the right size anyway. Remember in Maine R21 in walls with batts is not a true R21, it's about R15. R50 ceiling is still skimping on such a cheap product like cellulose. Mark from AHONA was in Maine last month somewhere by you. He is real good and I think he sells Vgas. He sold me my EKO bu are in financial trouble as of late. Hope this helps.
  21. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    I just want to reinforce the facts that eveyone is pushing. Even though I am young I have remodeled many houses, two of wich were my own. Insulation is important and must be done right the first time. It is not easy to add in the future. Think about it you will be old someday as will I!
  22. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    MUBEC requires R21 as a UL listed system... you can't get there and satisfy *this* code with just 6" batts.
  23. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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  24. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    the code takes into account heat loss through the studs... like I said, you're not getting there with just batts.... the move in this state, under this code is 2x6 walls, batts, and Low-E on the inside face acting as both a reflective barrier and vapor barrier... with or without the air gap.
  25. Rory

    Rory Member

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    The conductive heat loss through the wall studs gets mentioned a lot. Why hasn't simply adding an inch of foam board on either the inside or outside of the studs under the sheet rock or siding become standard? Are there some inherent problems?
    flyingcow and Taylor Sutherland like this.

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