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Indoor Wood Boiler/Furnace

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by sueheat, Jan 17, 2006.

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  1. sueheat

    sueheat New Member

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    Hi,

    We just purchased a 1500 sq. ft. Cape style home which is only 3 yrs old. We are spending $500.00 per month on baseboard oil to heat the water and rooms of this medium size house. We were considering a wood stove for the basement, but heat has to travel through stairwell to main and upper floor. The previous owner burned 5 cords of wood using large cast iron stove but temps. were 90 degrees in basement and 65-70 in 3rd floor bedrooms. Friends are telling us about wood boilers to attach to the existing oil boiler. Very confused about which is best??? Looked at Tarm, Yukon Eagle, Greenwood, Wiel-McLain and EKO Boilers but not sure how to determine which is most reliable, safe and cost effective for the prices as the pendelum swings wide on pricing. Also the cement floor in unfinished basement has radiant heat which I think is costly and because we can barely afford to keep the thermostat at 55 degrees, the floor is still very cold! :-( Any experts out there on wood boilers would be great! A friend tried to talk us into buying an 8 year old "Marathon" through a local classified paper but it looked like a Texas smoker for bbq. Would love help... Thanks! Sue

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I used to have a Marathon, Sue, and it was a very nice boiler for the money. The guy I sold the house to still heats exclusively with it.

    Hopefully Craig Issod will chime in, but the Tarm is generally acknowledged to be the Cadillac of indoor wood-fired boilers. Even with a modest-size boiler, you will be able to heat a 1,500 square foot with no problem, I believe.

    An old (c. 1980) Tarm just sold on Ebay for $410. I'm surprised it brought less than $500 and it's probably worth more than $1,000 in today's market.

    BTW, I heat an old, 3,000 square foot home in upstate New York exclusively with an indoor wood-fired boiler. No gas bill. That includes all domestic hot water. And yes, I burn a lot of wood to make it happen, but with a newer boiler you should get a more efficient, cleaner burn.
  3. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    You have to make some decisions based on your wood availability. It is my opinion that a wood boiler is best for those who get their wood free or cheap. You don't want to spend 5K for a boiler and then put $150/cord wood into it.....

    So, back to square one....

    I agree with Elk that radiant heat in a basement slab sounds strange! Unless it was installed with some kind of insulation underneath, the heat may soak into the ground. Perhaps you should call the original installation contractor and have them come out and explain the system. Perhaps the basement heat should not be used until the area is finished and insulated.....

    Now to the stoves.....

    First of all, Yukon makes only Hot Air units....you need a hot water unit. Also, I didn't know weil-mclain made wood boilers.

    OK, so you have a number of choices. You can get a wood stove and install it upstairs. This will put a lot of the heat where you need it - of course, room may be a factor. You also need a chimney but perhaps you have a fireplace that can be converted.

    If you choose a wood boiler, there are basically two types...

    1. Older technology - about 50-55% efficient - an older TARM like an MB40 or MB55 is quite a decent boiler. However, all these boilers will need to be run fairly hot in order to not create creosote problems. This means you will only use them in the coldest weather....

    2. Higher Efficiency "gasification" and other more efficient combustion - these are higher efficiency (65-85%) and will cost more - sometimes quite a bit more. The upside is that they should be cleaner to use and less wood.

    Compare costs, warranties, weights and other specs. Perhaps get referalls of folks that have used them for at least one season.

    You'll also need a chimney for the boiler, so I can imagine a 10K total cost for boiler, chimney and install. Again, consider your access to wood.

    You can also decide to spend money on conservation which also pays off..
  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    You can run one of the older boilers hot even in warmer weather, but it takes more attention and sometimes you feel like you're livin' on the edge. I would run my Marathon at 200+ degrees all season and regulate the flow into the radiators with isolation ball valves located at the boiler. The warmer it gets outside, the more you close the valves. No pumps on the system--it was all gravity feed. It never overheated because the draw from the domestic hot water heater and coil was enough to dissipate the excess heat. The Marathon was designed to get secondary burn at high firebox temps and quite often, I think it did. BTW, I was heating a 100 year-old 1,800 square foot uninsulated house in a very cold climate, so the same logic might not apply in a more efficient house in a much warmer environment.

    10K is not a bad estimate for a top-of-the-line system installed. I would take that little 80,000 btu/hour Tarm that just sold on Ebay, install it myself and do the whole job for about $2,000. That's if a new chimney or liner were required.
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    My old Marathon was a 93,000 btu/hour Tarm knock-off and I heated the aforementioned 1,800 sq ft. uninsulated old house exclusively (plus DHW) with about 10 cords per season. But that's in Old Forge, NY, which is one of the coldest places on the planet in the winter. I think the record there was -52, though in 20 years I never saw it get below -45. It can go weeks without getting above zero. So I would say you could do your whole house with a boiler like that with about 7 cords down where you're at.

    Those old Tarms aren't that uncommon on Ebay and they usually go for less than you would think, all things considered. The guy I bought my old Royall from had no idea what he had, he just wanted it out of his basement.

    Love to cross country/backcountry ski. The last winter we lived in Old Forge I logged 750 miles, but I was borderline fanatical about it. I've got about 50 miles on this season so far, and nothing but more rain in the forecast around here.
  6. roac

    roac New Member

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    My mom lives in Colebrook, Pittsburg and Clarksville I think are the only towns north. Pretty up there. Mom said it has been raining lately, they had snow earlier in the year. You will have to come west this year for snow, mountains are generally reporting 50+ inches at the base and more than 100+ at the summit. Lots of great downhill and cross country skiing out here this year. Makes up for the recent bad years.
  7. sueheat

    sueheat New Member

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    Thanks for all your tips on Wood Boilers. I appreciate very much your feedback. We saw the Tarm and the EKO Boiler but they are so large we won't be able to have that 'Family' room we were hoping for in the basement. So, we are opting for a used 'Mansfield' hearthstone. It is one year old and they want 1,800.00. We are going to offer $1,500.00 and see if they would accept it. There is a place on the web called www.discountstoves.com and they offer the Mansfield for a little over $2,000.00 this price includes shipping to your door (if it is easy for the 18 wheeler to get up your driveway) but you do the unloading and carrying into the home.
  8. Sundeep Arole

    Sundeep Arole New Member

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    If you are getting a new stove, all I can say is don't buy it online. Not a good idea. The dealer is the only way to get service on most brands, and if you bought online you'll be stuck if you need any service.
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Boy it really steams me to hear this happening on a new house. What a waste of resources! Sounds like you may end up repeating the previous owner's experiences with a 90 degree basement and cool upstairs. Your money would be better spent figuring out why you are using so much oil to heat a 3 yr. old house. My advise would be to get an energy audit first and fix those issues. They'll pay back no matter how you heat the house.
  10. sueheat

    sueheat New Member

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    Thank you for your concern. We still haven't purchased a stove. I would like to have this Energy Audit done first as you suggested. We have EnergyStar in Vermont and I will call them on Monday morning. Do you know of any other organizations which perform energy audits?
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