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getting house temps up

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by trguitar, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. Wade A.

    Wade A. Feeling the Heat

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    My $ .02 is that the sunroom is pulling a large amount of heat away from your living space, espeically if it has a northern exposure. Those bricks will suck a ton of warmth out of your living area at night, and the windows (especially if they are single glazed) will have significant thermal transfer as well. If the sunroom has southern exposure, use it to your advantage and leave the window shades up during the day to "load" the thermal mass of the brick floor for nightime radiation. You can cover those windows with heavy drapes to good advantage also. If you do, make sure the drapes either have a cornice on top, or that they "puddle" at the bottom to prevent a chimney effect that will pull cold air up to the top of the windows.

    Aside from those obvious things, you'd probably do well to check for air leakages. Do you have heating vents in the ceiling? If so, pull a register cover and see if the duct work fits snugly to the sheetrock cut on all sides. (I recently found out all of mine had significant gaps, allowing cooled and heated air to just blow back up into my attic space) A can of spray foam can be blasted in those gaps, trimmed flush with a knife after it cures. If you are not going to use your central air at all, look into making some plywood and foam covers, which you can mount to the outside of the ceiling register using rare earth magnets. Those uncovered vents can create a good path for warmed air to wander up out of your living space. How about weather stripping on all exterior doors? Take a close look especially at the bottom. Their should be no daylight over the threshold.

    Foam gaskets to cover air leaks in switch and plug outlets along exterior walls is an easy and cheap thing to do. It makes a bigger difference than you might think.

    If you have large interior temp differentials, use a floor fan to push the colder air towards the stove, which will set up a convection loop. The result can be pretty dramatic.

    Do you have any other ceiling penetrations, such as recessed fixtures or pendant lights? You can seal the trim of your recessed fixtures with caulk from the interior side. Spray foam over holes in junction boxes can be done on attic side. Look for pass-throughs in the ceiling for things like kitchen fan ducts, plumbing chases, etc. Be careful about putting insulation up and over your recessed fixtures though....they need to be rated for that. Remember too: Fiber insulation is not an air barrier, it is only an air filter. Where you see dirty insulation, your pulling or pushing air through it.


    No doubt: verify that you have a block-off plate in place. Trying to heat the universe is a weary and lonely undertaking. :)

    Getting your house to a better level of energy independence...and that does sound like your goal... doesn't just end with getting the stove installed, and burning good wood. It is an ongoing job of incremental improvements. Over time, they will really begin to make a difference.

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  2. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    You might try putting up some insulated curtains and closing them at night. And how cold is that brick floor? If it's cold, you might throw some rugs on it for wintertime.

    The block-off plate may be your answer, and certainly burning 24/7 or at least more than you do now, will help. But it's also really amazing what a difference small fixes, like those curtains, can add up to . Each one individually is pretty minimal, but if you find three or four or half a dozen of those little things, it can add up to a crucial several degrees of improvement. Search around for little air leaks and drafts around windows, doors, where the baseboard meets the floor, etc. I hadn't realized it when I was heating with oil, but my house turned out to have a lot of those, and filling them in, plus the curtains plus closing off an open stairway to the 2nd floor just across from my stove, etc, raised the temperature in the main part of my house a good 5 or 6 degrees under the same conditions.

    You might also look into whether you can put a ceiling fan above that stove. You're almost certainly losing a lot of heat up at the ceiling, and the fan can push it gently back down.

    Oddly enough, my otherwise unheated 2nd floor is actually warmer since I blocked off the stairway because the heat was just flowing out of the stove room and up to the 2nd floor ceiling and not doing a thing to warm up the rooms. With the stairway blocked off and the rooms below warmer, a lot more heat is coming up directly through the floors and making the rooms warmer than they were when it was just rushing up the stairs.
  3. Luv2BWarm

    Luv2BWarm New Member

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    Should all stove setups have this block-off plate?
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    A good block-off plate is most beneficial with an exterior chimney and/or a freestanding stove in the fireplace.
  5. stejus

    stejus Minister of Fire

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    As stated, if you stove pipe/flex pipe goes up a chimney, yes having a block off plate where the pipes goes through the opening of the chimney/smoke shelf. This will keep any radiant heat the stove puts out in your living area as opposed to being sucked up the cold chimney. I ran my stove for two years without one and then this fall I stuffed it full of Roxul and it made a huge difference in performance.
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Just for clarification, we are talking about piping into a fireplace chimney opening at the damper, not a wall thimble going into a dedicated chimney.
  7. trguitar

    trguitar Member

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    Hey Guys!

    Just wanted to post a progress report. It's been a few months, and here's what I've learned.

    Short answer is...things are great! I have the house temps consistently in the 70's now, while I'm awake, and when I get up in the morning temps are in the low-to-mid 60's. Perfect. The main problem was not getting the thermal mass of the house warm enough by only burning in the evening and overnight. This was a new concept for me.

    I do have a block-off plate installed. I took off the top surround, and stuck a mirror in and saw a big stainless steel plate there. There was no insulation, though, so I stuffed that whole cavity between the plate and the top of the stove with a couple battons of rockwool.

    I did start burning 24/7, too. It took me a little while, mentally, to get my head around the concept of having a fire going to keep the house warm when no-one is there for 10 hours during the day. Seemed like I was wasting wood. The way I used to operate the oil, was to set the t-stat at 55* while I was not home, and then crank it up to 68* when I got home, and then back down to 55* when I went to bed.

    Also, I was timid about filling the firebox full. I'm now stuffing the Freedom with 15-18 BioBricks, and getting 10-12 hour burns with great heat output.

    Thanks everyone for the help! I'm feeling much better about heating the house solely with wood now. Just need to repeat this next year (assuming we have a more wintery winter), and my confidence will be high!
  8. trguitar

    trguitar Member

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    Hey Guys,

    I'm resurrecting this thread because something still doesn't feel right. I'm in my second full year of burning now, and am really starting to get to know this stove (and the house). After reading about others' experiences on here with keeping the temperature fairly consistent in the house overnight, and being able to easily get into the 80s, I really am wondering if there isn't a heat loss problem in the house.

    On colder nights (low 20s), I'm losing about 10 degrees overnight in the stove room. I'm getting good overnight burns. Stovetop is 200-250 when I get up in the morning after 8 hours, and I can still get the stove top temp nice and hot (700+) and hold it there for 2 hours or so. Usually when I go to bed at night stove room is low 70's, and upstairs low 60's. I can never get the upstairs hotter than 63 with the stove.

    On a hunch I took my IR thermometer and started taking shots of the walls around the house. Some very interesting findings that I want your opinions about. On most windows I'm seeing a 10 degree temperature difference between the wall and the window. By comparison, I had a nice new Anderson window put in a year ago, and I only see about a 2 degree loss there.

    On a positive note, most of these windows are south facing, and the sunroom is south facing, so on a sunny day (even in the 20s/30s out) without the stove running the house will get into the 70s easily. But, it won't retain the heat after the sun goes down. I have a thermometer upstairs with a high water mark on it, and when I get home from work at 6:00 pm, I'll see the high upstairs was 70, but it's 60 right now. I can never get the upstairs into the 70s with the stove.

    We are not planning on being in this house much longer (less than 5 years, and probably more like 2 or 3), so I don't feel like doing a lot to it. If we were staying here long term, I would probably replace the windows because they are at least 30 years old. Is there something temporarily we can do? Is it worth getting the weather cellophane wrap for the windows?

    Thanks!
  9. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Storm windows? A single pane double hung window in good condition with a good storm window will almost always out-perform a replacement window.

    Short of that, run the furnace to get the upstairs temps up. Many use both systems in tandem.
  10. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Get an energy audit done if you haven't already. Being in Mass you can go through Masssave.com and get it done for free most likely. Then take them up on the free air sealing and consider whatever other insulation they recommend (they pay for up to $2K worth I believe). My bet is that you have air leaking out of the upstairs through cracks in the attic penetrations. Bottom line - have the audit done and see what is recommended as there is nothing to be lost in doing this step (takes a few hours of your time)...
  11. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Feeding frenzy at the federal trough? People used to pay for their own insulation, without government intervention.
  12. gmule

    gmule Feeling the Heat

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    I went from R30 in the attic last winter to R-80 and new exterior doors over the summer. I can already tell that it was money well spent. I am not working the Fireview very hard at all and I am easily able to maintain 75+F temps while letting the stove at cruise at 350. Windows will be next summer.

    I think you are going to need to burn 24 - 7 keep up heat loss.
  13. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    I disagree with that. Everything I've read, heard, and seen has told me they will be nearly as good as a replacement window, but will not outperform one.
  14. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    Can you close off the sunroom during the nights? We also have one and loose a lot of heat through it. We put a simple vinyl sliding door in ($100 and and an evening of work) and noticed an immediate difference. The sunroom gets really cold though during the night so you need to take anything out that is susceptible to low temps.
  15. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Not really - here we pay a surcharge in our utility bill that funds this. Yes, it is in effect another tax, but it is there and done. It seems that very few folks take advantage of it and thus there is sufficient funds available to those who use/need it. I don't really think of it as a feeding frenzy - and it certainly isn't at the federal level. In any case, I'd rather stay out of the political discussion; rather my point is/was that an energy audit could go far and that in MA this is readily available and even if you don't plan to stay in your home for 20 years if can be financially viable.
    rideau likes this.
  16. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Get what done for free? I did the program and the only thing free are the audit, CFLs and air sealing. They off rebates up to 70%/$2000 cap on insulation and they offer financing for window replacements.


    Everything I've read is that a good tight storm and a good tight wood single pane window is good for around R2-R2.5. This IS better than your basic cheap vinyl 2-pane with no fancy fills or coatings, etc.

    The gas filled, triple pane, low E windows can beat a prime/storm combo as there are some as high as R5 or more. Problem is that they cost so much they typically fail before they get to payback on the initial investment, and often are not repairable. Whereas good original wood single pane windows can just be rebuilt and repainted every 20 yr or so and last indefinitely.
    Joful likes this.
  17. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    Hmm... I have more research to do when it comes to my windows.
  18. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I've read both, actually. But the article claiming they were actually better, versus just equal to, was the more detailed article citing more measurements and examples. Whatever the case may be, I'm not sure it matters. We can all agree a single pane double hung without storms is awful, and any window with a storm is better than one without, regardless of pane count. Since the OP is looking to solve a potential energy loss problem without spending mucho dinero, if it's determined the windows are a primary source of the energy loss, storm windows are a decent prescription.
  19. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    That is very good point - and also consider the cost side of things. Although I have not done any research, I'm willing to bet the cost of adding storm windows must be far less than window replacement - not to mention the fact that it is more likely something that can be a DIY job for more average home owners.

    One aspect that I do have first hand experience and knowledge regarding this topic is that the actual installation of any window is critical to achieving the rated benefits. The best possible windows, if not installed to manufacturer's specs, will not give you anywhere near the performance they promise. It is interesting how even though the manufacturer may require air sealing around the window as part of the install our contractor claimed "that is never done" - yeah well, maybe not in his house...
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    We have a lot of glass in our old house due to owner upgrades over the years. I had custom storm windows made for some of the fixed windows, replaced others and am looking into insulated shades next. Each step helps get us a little tighter.

    Interesting note. We were on vacation and set the house thermostat down to 55F while away. When we got back, outside temp was around 37F. It took about a half-day of steady heat blasting out from the stove and supplemented by the heat pump to get the house temp to settle down at 70F. Thermal mass is very important. Don't let the house get too cold or you will have a long uphill climb getting it warm again.
  21. trguitar

    trguitar Member

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    Thanks guys. I did not know about MassSave. I called to setup an energy audit. I'll post the results when that happens.

    In doing some more research about this, I came across this use of bubble wrap as a window insulator. Not sure I like the idea of this on all my windows (I know my wife won't!), but on the skylights it might work. And that's probably where I'm losing the most.

    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Conservation/bubblewrap.htm

    It's been very interesting to study the solar gain with the windows. When I left the house this morning at 9:45, it was about 28 outside, and the temperature of the skylight glass was 95! I wonder what it was later on? I know when I've tested it at night at around the same outside temperature, the skylight glass temp is 45. Yikes.
  22. DianeB

    DianeB Feeling the Heat

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    This is a silly suggestion but try it. Go around your house and check your windows to make sure they are closed and locked. A couple of years back my son was home from college at Thanksgiving and was hot so opened his window from the top!
    We did not notice this until February - the whole season we could not figure out why we could not get the house warm and we had been heating with wood for 20 years
    Joful likes this.
  23. Treacherous

    Treacherous Minister of Fire

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    I know this well. I am usually bringing the cabin up from about 38 degrees. I get a blazing fire going along with a couple oil heaters. It takes a good 3-4 hours to get up to comfort range of about 75.
  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I almost always advise folks shopping for a wood stove for a cabin to go oversized. It takes a lot of btus to bring a place up to temp quickly.
  25. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    I'd really look into airsealing and insulation, I have the same insert, and slightly smaller house, I'm still only learning its habits, but if I load three splits at 11pm, I expect the stove room will be above 70 when I wake. I don't consider my house well insulated. Running on Propane weekdays I expect temps to drop about 8 degrees overnight (11pm to 6am) from 70F when its about freezing.

    TE

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