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Help with deciding on a system

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by blucoondawg, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    I am nearing the end of another heating season with my add on forced air furnace and am being reminded of why I so dislike it, and am wanting to seriously research an alternative wood burner, my carbon monoxide detector has just went off for the 2nd time this year, I cleaned the chimney before firing up for the year, I am thinking it needs it again and I will have to do it tomorrow though I hate climbing up on the snowy icy roof. I have a masonry chimney on the outside of the house and it is in bad shape, cracks etc. I don't really want to replace it.

    I am sick of the mess in the basement and the smoke stink in the house and the risk of fire/carbon monoxide from this stove. For that reason I was leaning towards an OWB. OWB's are the popular alternative around here, but since reading on this forum I see many prefer the gasser models. I know nothing about gassers or heat storage other than they need dry wood to burn properly and they cost a lot more. There is also the indoor gasser option which I could install in the garage I plan to build this year (I already know insurance companies don't like that).

    My first question would be regarding the outdoor boilers, I know they aren't overly efficient but I do know people who go through relatively little wood in theirs with good dry wood, I don't care about smoke as I live in the country. However the problem I have with investing money in these stoves is I have seen so many of them fail in the last 10 years from rusting through the water jacket. Some say the rusting out is from the water being too hard in this area, if it were soft water this wouldn't happen, others say it is from the creosote and ash causing it to rust from the firebox into the waterjacket, either way isn't good. Is there any way to prevent this failure? I don't want to spend thousands on a piece of scrap steel. Also if this can happen so easily with the standard OWB's can't it happen to the indoor and outdoor gassers as well?

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Before giving up on the indoor furnace it would be good to know why the misbehavior. Two thoughts come to mind. One is negative pressure in the basement challenging good draft and the second is partially seasoned wood. Either or both will lead to issues that can make for poor performance and creosote accumulation.
  3. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    If you are sick of the CO smell, see if you can tolerate the CO from an OWB when the damper is closed due to lack of heat demand. My neighbors OWB used to set off my smoke detectors in my attic when idling with a grove of trees and 200 feet between the stove and my place. If the weather conditions are right (overcast no winds), there is a rank odor that settles in for about a 1000 foot radius. I realize that you have no neighbors but you have to put up with it. The few add on hot air furnaces I have seen tend to be welding shop specials designed to be low cost but not particularly well designed as the shop plans to stop making them in a year or two or earlier if they have issues. Unfortunately OWBs have the same rep, build em quick throw a nice looking casing on them and sell them cheap.

    Water should not be an issue, an OWB as well as gaser use closed loop heatin. Once filled they rarely need water unless they are leaking. I would guess the biggest issue with corrosion with an OWB is that OWBs tend to be major creosote creators in shoulder seasons and a combination of poor design and operation can cause corrosive byproducts to form on parts of the boiler causing them to rot out

    Indoor gassers have to be tested and certified, this costs a lot of money and the liability associated with an indoor heating is much higher than with an OWB. Sure there have been some bad gasifiers but the majority are built by companies that are going to be around for awhile.
  4. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    The wood is not partially seasoned wood, I bought 10 Full cord some of which was quite dry already when delivered and this is the second winter I am using wood from that load, looks like I will still have 2-3 cord left for the start of next year. It came from a tree removal company, much of it was dead trees which were removed from people's yards.

    My parents have an OWB and the smoke isn't an issue, his is even quite close to the house. I realize that the OWB has a closed loop but most aren't sealed systems or pressurized so they do evaporate over the course of the year, my parent's have had theirs for 7 years or so now and no problems yet but I am expecting it any time now with the issues I see with other stoves. I have 2 friends with the Central OWBs the Classic models, they have had them for some years now and no problems yet, they go through relatively little wood, it seems to me these stoves have the best reputation in the area for OWBs as far as lasting and I will probably look at them and get some pricing I am just leary of going that route.

    The problem with the gassers is they are so expensive and that's the same with the OWB especially with the OWB known to not last. I may be best off rebuilding my chimney and getting a higher quality add on forced air furnace, the one I have now is a Vogelzang Norseman 2500 and it has been a pita since I bought it, it was cheap and has heated my home for 8 yrs now so it has more than paid for itself, just very poorly designed. They have one at Menards now which is made much heavier and costs more, probaly last far longer.

    My main concern is I would like to put in something which will last a long time and is reliable enough to be my main source of heat as my add on is now, I don' t like my propane furnace to run at all. Everything I read about these gassers seem to have large storage sysetems and build 1 fire a day and let it go out, I am not familiar with that setup at all, I am used to having a fire going 24/7, I assume the gassers being that they burn more cleanly don't clog the chimney as bad either providing you burn dry wood?
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Do your wood and propane furnace have an outside air supply?

    The other issue might be too much cooling down of the flue gases. This can happen if the furnace connection is long (and worse horizontal) or the furnace is run on idle a lot. Please describe the entire chimney and furnace to chimney connection in detail including the chimney ID.

    Have you looked at a clean burning furnace like the Caddy? http://www.sunburst-sales.com/PSGWood.html It probably would be less expensive than installing and plumbing an OWB. http://www.sunburst-sales.com/PSGWood.html

    Also, what are you heating in sq ftg?

    PS: Welcome to hearth.com!
  6. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    I just found the Caddy online a few minutes ago, something like that would probably be more ideal to my situation, a cleaner burning indoor furnace, I do like the indoor furnace in that you claim the excess heat off the unit while it is buring rather than it escaping into the outside air. No my furnace and woodstove do not have an outside air intake, my woodstove is a POS its a Vogelzang Norseman 2500 and the propane furnace is pretty old, it was put in in 1989 I believe and will be replaced soon as well, I don't run it much so I am not in a hurry with that. My chimney is outside of the back of my house, it is a square masonry chimney, 6 or 8" flue, whatever the standard square chimney is. It's in poor condition on the outside, the block is cracking and it needs to be replaced, also I believe it could stand to be a block or 2 taller. I don't believe any of the liners are broken. My woodstove sits right next to the outside wall the pipe comes out the back of the stove and elbows up about 14" then elbows into the foundation wall and straight into the chimney, so it does have 2 90s but is a very short run. My gas furnace is about 10 ft away on the opposite wall of the basement, my hot air ducts are 2 8" runs going from the wood burner to the propane plenum. Wood stove is not plumbed into the cold air return it just has an air box with a filter and 2 blowers and the basement stairwell acts as the cold air return.

    My house is currently between 1000-1100 ft but I am planning on an addition and remodel in the future which will put it 2000-2500 ft so whatever I get now I would like to continue using when I remodel.

    I have been told having the chimney outside like that is hard on them, I don't know how true that is, I have seen others which aren't in the shape mine is.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good info bludawg. Based on what you have posted my guess is that you are fighting a combination of having to run the furnace at too low a pace, ie smoldering and the flue gases are getting cooled off rapidly in the exposed, uninsulated, exterior block chimney.This isn't really the total fault of the VG furnace.

    In the current situation you might be better off with an EPA woodstove in the basement, especially if there is ample opportunity for the heat to get upstairs via a stairway. An even better solution might be having the stove upstairs where you actually want and need the heat (or is the basement used a lot too?) This last option could cut your wood consumption down quite a bit. And you would have a nice fire to look at.
  8. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    Well I don't really want the furnace upstairs and I don't believe the heat would transfer throughout my home from the first floor stand alone fireplace type stove, I also don't want the mess in my living room. I do have another chimney in my living room which is in good shape it is the same size square chimney that was once used for a radiant type wood stove, the front 2/3 of my home is on a slab, it used to be our hunting cabin, when my grandparents retired they added on the back 1/3 of the house which has a full basement under and that is now where I have the add on furnace and they put the chimney on the outiside. I have thought about keeping the 2nd chimney when I remodel and using it for a nice decorative free standing fireplace and may still do that but that will only heat the front 2/3 of the house the back 1/3 and whatever I ad on will need heat from the forced air system, which is why I was wanting to stay with a add on furnace.

    It is true this time of year it isn't so cold and end up dampering it down some, that is a contributing factor for sure, I never have trouble until about now. I just went up and cleaned the chimney, it was damn near totally plugged, that was the problem for sure, got about 8 gallons of crap out of it and it is only a 1 story chimney 2 and a half blocks higher than the peak of my 5/12 roof, so that's a lot of garbage in there, it was so plugged I couldn't see light through it and my cleaner wouldn't drop through, I had to jam a fence post through to break up the clog enough for my cleaner to get through.

    The chimney trouble is definitely not the fault of the Vogelzang stove, but it is a POS in it's own right, I had trouble with it since it was new, the door latch is garbage, it is a bunch of bent pieces of steel screwed together with tiny nuts and bolts, which continually rattle loose so ur latch is always floppy and out of adjustment, it is a continual battle, the second year I had it the little steel hooks which hold the sheet metal door flapper in the loading door rotted off so now I have no flapper which allows more smoke out when you open the door, the ash pan is just stupid, that was the first issue, you shake out the ash and pull out the pan and each time a little ash falls into the pan slot eventually you cannot get the pan back in because the pan has 4 sides like a cake pan rather than only having 3 sides so the back of the pan can slice into the built up ash and help to pull it out, I cut the back of the pan off and it worked fine. Also all the sheet metal screws which hold the plentum together are always rattling loose. The air intake thing on the wood door is a pos it is a knob you can set at off, hi, med, low it has a chain hooked to a little air flap and a piece of spring steel which holds the draft open until it warms then it begins to function, I would rather have a sealed unit with a blower or a manual draft I can open and close as I wish. Don't get me wrong it has more than paid for itself in the years I have had it and I am glad I got it on sale for 750 or 800 bucks because that same stove is well over 1000 now maybe 12 or 1300 last I saw and it is definitely not worth that kind of money, I will likely keep it and put it in the new garage/shop when I get it built and put a new high quality stove in the house.

    Sorry for the lengthy post lol. My rant about the POS is done now. I will have to rebuild the chimney this summer, what do you recommend for the chimeny? It will have to stay outside for now until I ad on then it could be redone again or left as is and incorporated into the addition. I am going to dig down to footing level and build all the way to the current height or maybe a block or 2 higher, as it is now it is sitting midway up the foundation wall and putting pressure on the wall obviously, not good. Are there other gasser type forced air stoves to consider besides the Caddy line? I have a Caddy dealer 30 miles away in my hometown.
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I only meant to put a modern EPA stove upstairs, not the furnace. Something like a Woodstock Keystone would heat the whole place adequately and as long as dry wood was being burned, the creosote issue would most likely end. You might be surprised how well the stove will heat the entire space with a simple fan blowing the cold air, down low from the remote area toward the stove. There are many success reports on the forums using this technique. It's easier to move cold to hot.

    If you do stick with a basement furnace and rebuild the chimney I would replace the chimney with an insulated stainless class A metal chimney. It will last longer and keep the flue gases warmer.
  10. laynes69

    laynes69 Minister of Fire

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    We heated with a furnace identical to yours for 20+ years before we replaced it with a Caddy. For sure, your current furnace is grossly oversized, which is a contributing factor to your creosote. I've swept our 32' chimney a couple times this season, and we've removed a quart or so from the liner each time. I think if you upgrade your furnace, you'll be alot happier. There's many benefits of a EPA furnace over a standard model. A cleaner chimney, less wood, and a longer burns are a few of the benefits. If your chimney is too bad, I would consider removal and replace with a class A chimney. If the liner is bad and the brickwork is solid, an insulated liner would work. Just about everyone with a furnace like yours, has the same complaints. I will say however, they do heat well for those on a budget. Just not that efficient. I forgot to add, another furnace to consider is the Kuuma Vaporfire. It's a furnace that runs off a computer to control combustion. A Caddy would be in the 3,000 dollar range while a Kuuma would be in the 4,000 dollar range. It's alot of money, but the difference in build quality and performance is worth it.
  11. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    A steel chimney outdoors would keep the flue warmer than a masonry chimney? I would have thought the opposite as steel is fast to heat and cool where brick will heat and hold the heat. How would I do that, the pipe exits the foundation under ground level, I don't think I would want to bury the steel pipe, also what is the lifespan of the steel chimneys, I would consider moving the chimney inside and building a chase around it but I don't want to have to tear walls apart to replace the darn pipe if it rusts out or whatever every 5 years. I had always been of the mindset that the masnory chimney is probably a safer chimney than steel as well because if it had a fire it wouldn't transfer the heat to the building as well. Would a masonry chimney with a steel flue be a good idea?
  12. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    Ouch, I could stomach 3k a lot better than 4k also with the added cost of rebuilding or relocating and changing to steel chimney. Though it is still probably half the price of an OWB installation and will probably last longer.
  13. laynes69

    laynes69 Minister of Fire

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    I forgot, there's talk of a more budget friendly EPA furnace coming out that's made by Drolet. More than likely it's not going to have all the bells and whistles of the Caddy. The Caddy is supposed to be a dealer only furnace, where the Drolet will be introduced for diy'ers. There's been talk from Fyrebug, but I haven't heard any more about it. It might be worth the wait.
  14. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    Well I am not in a hurry, I do however want something different before next winter, I at least want to get the chimney issue remedied this summer, if I had to I could use the same stove another year it just has it's annoying issues, it heats fine and I don't go through all that much wood, I got a little over 10 full cord 2 years ago and I still have around 3 left, it would be nice to go through even less though.
  15. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Wow, foe we boiler users, the $4K price of the Kumma sounds pretty good to me! Any boiler install weather it be a "smoke drogon" or a gasser will be more than $4K, waaaay more.

    TS
  16. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    Yes I realize 4k is cheaper than the boiler and installation but it is still a lot of money when compared to the cost of the stove I currently have or even the next step up from that which is still an inefficient woodstove but much better quality. The main thing I don't like about the one for 4k is the computer stuff, I don't know that I trust that kind of thing.
  17. JP11

    JP11 Minister of Fire

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    Does your truck still have "points" or electronic ignition?
    Still have a carb? or fuel injected?
    Do your math on an abacus? or a calculator?

    :)

    Just funning with you. We eventually become comfortable with things changing.. but some of us are 'early adopters" of technology.

    JP
  18. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    Yes, and many "early adopters" also have to deal with stuff breaking down which unfortunately is little more than the growing pains of new technology, I have no use for a broken down furnace in mid winter.
    mikefrommaine likes this.
  19. laynes69

    laynes69 Minister of Fire

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    It looks like the furnace I was telling you about will be hitting the market. No details yet, but looks like something that will plug and play with your old furnace. From the pic, it has a secondary heat exchanger, glass door, its EPA certified and advertised as affordable. It's called the Drolet Tundra. Not a bad looking unit either.
  20. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg New Member

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    Thanks for the info I will check it out. Probably going to head to a home show in town today, it's a small one but they may have something to look at.

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