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Old Wood Burner, but new to Boilers-Need Advice

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Stihl_WoodBandit, May 28, 2014.

  1. Stihl_WoodBandit

    Stihl_WoodBandit Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    52
    Loc:
    West Central Ohio
    Hello everyone,

    Let me start by saying....I've been a pyro since I was a boy and I've been heating my house with a wood furnace for quite some time.

    We are in the process of closing on a new house but this one is heated with a fuel oil fired boiler and has the hot water baseboard heat and no ductwork.

    Little background on the house: 1 story brick ranch built in 1964 with a walkout basement, located in the flat farmland of western Ohio. The boiler looks to be pretty old and could be original. There is a sticker on the boiler from the HVAC company that has been servicing it and it looks like they've been out a few times every year for the past few years for general inspection and repair. I have good access to wood, a few acres to split, stack and season on and i like the fact that the HW heat may be more efficient and constant.

    So my question is kinda TWO parts...

    1. Besides continuing to read on this site, what kind of setups and what brands should i look at in trying to figure out what type of wood fired boiler would best fit my needs and setup?

    2. Since we dont have duct work and because we want central air conditioning, what are you other guys doing to keep cool in the summer? I was planning on getting a few HVAC companies out, once we have our keys, and seeing what they plan to use for ductwork sizing, location of outside condenser, location of register boots, trunk lines, etc and what would push the air. To save some money, I was going to have my HVAC sub (I work commercial construction) provide the duct branches and trunks and install them myself. A friend can run the copper lineset and charge the system for me too.

    We just dont have $5k to spend on an A/C system and I dont want to rely on fuel oil and OPEC to heat my home.

    Let me know your thoughts for my situation. I'm still learning and trying to understand the terminology (EKO, gassifier, storage, HWBB...)

    Thanks,
    Lance

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  2. bigbobs

    bigbobs Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2008
    Messages:
    43
    Loc:
    Lee, NH
    How do I( keep cool? Open the window, it's 36 IMBY this morning! I use a couple of window AC units for about 2 weeks a summer, usually in July. Other than that, a fan in the window,
  3. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    5,227
    Loc:
    Nova Scotia
    If I wanted to add A/C to my house that had hot water heat, I would put in a mini-split heat pump. Then it could also do some heating for you in shoulder seasons - or maybe even into the winter depending how cold it gets there. I would not get involved in any way with retrofitting ductwork.

    How hot does it get there & how much A/C would you need? Heat pump water heaters can also give some A/C (& dehumidifying) effect, I think around 6000 btus worth.

    EDIT: On the boiler part, I'll have to say keep reading even though you already covered that. Storage is a game changer - I'd start planning my space now (the walk out is a huge bonus for wood burning), and start looking for storage tanks (used propane tanks found perhaps at a large scrap yard). There are so many boiler choices that it's hard to come up with one recommendation - but make sure you look at how easy they are to maintain (clean), that's the thing you will be appreciating most in the years after the initial install. A gassifier plus storage really is the cats a**. [And get your wood supply in order now too. Well seasoned wood is a must].
    Last edited: May 29, 2014
    woodsmaster likes this.
  4. 711mhw

    711mhw Feeling the Heat

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    Dec 7, 2010
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    440
    Loc:
    Western ME
    Mini Split- on my wish list also.
    flyingcow likes this.
  5. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2008
    Messages:
    553
    Loc:
    Nebraska
    The mini splits can also have multiple indoor room units tied to one outdoor unit. No idea on cost but would allow you to heat with them too. If you do add duct work I would recommend an air source heat pump with electric resistance backup instead of just a plain AC unit. That would allow you to cool, heat in the shoulder seasons, or even year round if absolutely necessary. Others here have mentioned old oil boilers leaking or becoming unreliable if not kept hot and the standby consumption is pretty significant from what I've read. Is the domestic hot water heated with oil or electric? Do more research but I believe since you wouldn't want to have to replace the oil boiler someday the electric HP or mini split would be a viable backup to your wood burning and suffice as the "primary" source for insurance or resale purposes.
    As far as wood boilers you have many options but the hwbb will limit the effectiveness of storage since it was probably sized for constant higher temp water. Again more research. You could always add an air to water heat exchanger to the HP air handler for a few hundred bucks that would supplement and work with lower temps too.
  6. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    northern-half of maine
    I've been very happy with the performance/monthly cost of running my air source HP. Throws good heat during the winter. Because of the design of my house when it gets single numbers or below zero Iwill usually run the baseboard heat.
  7. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    2,017
    Loc:
    Northern NH
    You don't mention your budget for the wood boiler but given your location you are better off going with air or a ground source heat pump than installing a wood boiler. Realistically most wood boilers require storage and to cost for boiler and storage is going to end up in the 10 to 15 k range and that doesn't do anything for cooling. Based on my experience in northern NH, an air source heat pump doesn't cover all my heating but makes a big dent in it and my winter design temp is most likely a lot lower than your location.

    One option to consider is put in a few low temp air source heat pumps to save installing any duct work and a net metered solar system. Size it right and you can have a zero heating and cooling bill with the fed picking up 30% of the cost of the solar plus any local incentives. Once you do that you can install a small woodstove on the old oil boiler flue and use it when it get cold or you are in the mood
    Last edited: May 31, 2014
    flyingcow likes this.
  8. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Nebraska
    I should have mentioned to check your electric rates. In Nebraska it's pretty cheap relatively speaking. 12-13 cents in summer but 6.5 in winter once you exceed a minimum amount (ie. you are actually heating with electric). Mine is plain single compressor Lennox but still works down to zero with help from the electric resistance. Not always the best solution but would allow you cool and heat when you can't burn wood.
  9. Stihl_WoodBandit

    Stihl_WoodBandit Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    52
    Loc:
    West Central Ohio
    All good points and things to keep me up at night thinking about :) As far as my budget, I sure as hell was not planning on spending $12k. I thought i could get a good boiler for less than 2500. If it would cost a lot more than that, i would have to look into the outdoor wood boiler type to keep the mess and fire hazard outside. I just dont want the appetite that the OWBs are known to have.
    In a nutshell, can someone explain how the "storage" works? I'm thinking your system will pull from storage tanks, probably well insulated, as the boiler continues to supply it. I just wonder why i see so many signatures with such large volumes of storage. Just trying to better understand things.

    Thanks again for the information!
  10. brant2000

    brant2000 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2011
    Messages:
    258
    Loc:
    Somerset, PA
    I don't have a large volume of storage, like many others here (at the same time my boiler is likely much different than many others). As you'll learn from reading here, storage is highly recommended, but not essential. Having burned wood for a long time, you understand that the key to a clean burn is to burn HOT. By adding storage, you ensure that you always have the ability to burn HOT while having somewhere to put those BTU's. If you don't have storage, the BTU's are going to find somewhere else to go (your house). Storage provides most with the ability to burn a few batches here and there, while their house draws from storage. Not having storage, means that you have to keep feeding more continuously, which likely leads to idling and reduced performance.

    You certainly can keep your eyes open for a decent used boiler (on ebay or craigslist), with prices likely $2-3k; but as mentioned before, a new high performing boiler is pretty spendy ($6k+ just to start).
  11. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Nebraska
    To get a boiler for $2500 it would have to be used even if we are talking the OWB type. Have you done any pricing? Buying used would be taking a big risk since they could be leaking and totally worthless. You would really want to know how it was cared for and it would still be a gamble. Is a wood stove an option? Many here have got the Englander wood stoves on sale and have been pleased with them. You could use the oil baseboard just for backup. The mini split route requiring no ductwork might still be the most cost effective cooling and backup heating.
  12. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    northern-half of maine
    Rereading everything, the best bang for $2500-ish would be a mini split? You'll have heat and A/C from the same investment. You'll have to spend more than $2500, but you won't need to install ductwork and spend the extra money for that. Maybe a wood stove to supplement on the bone chilling days, which is below zero days for me. But how well is the home insulated? You get a alot of wind in the winter?
  13. Stihl_WoodBandit

    Stihl_WoodBandit Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    West Central Ohio
    -When we get moved in, we are going to have some HVAC contractors come out and give us options & estimates and make the decision from there. I would like the idea of an outdoor wood boiler because the risk of fire and mess from the wood are left outside, but have always heard that they are wood hogs.
    -I plan to put our wood furnace down in the basement as a backup. As for the insulation and wind, we havent lived a night in the house yet but i believe it to be fairly well insulated and from the trees lining the fields, i think the winter winds will be OK.
  14. Stihl_WoodBandit

    Stihl_WoodBandit Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    West Central Ohio
    UPDATE....so we are moved in and a lot of other tasks are keeping me from having some HVAC companies come out and give us estimates. I'm really curious on this Central Boiler E-1450. I called the fuel oil supplier and although last winter was pretty cold, the last owner bought on average of 100 gallons of fuel oil each month through the winter. I have good access to wood and i would have to do the financing thru CB on the $11,000 unit. While I continue reading, what are you guys' thoughts of the CB E-Classic models?
  15. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    How many months do you consider winter? 100 gals a month?? So maybe 600 gals yr round?
  16. Stihl_WoodBandit

    Stihl_WoodBandit Member

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    Loc:
    West Central Ohio
    I would call our West Central Ohio winters 5 months and that would be mid November to Mid March. And yes, 100 gallons per winter month is what the previous owner was using for the past few years.
  17. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

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    CB might be the biggest name in OWB but I remember reading about problems with the E classic at least when they came out. Design issues that should have been resolved before they were sold. They might have it all figured out by now but I would never spend 11 grand on one. A garn Jr is in that price range and would last longer than 2 or 3 E classics based on my research. Others may have more current E classic info too.
    flyingcow likes this.
  18. arbutus

    arbutus Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2007
    Messages:
    333
    Loc:
    Michigan UP
    I retrofit ductwork in a previous house. The original ductwork was not installed well, and could have been tightened up to fix the leaks, gaps, rattles and squeaks, but the original owners chain smoked, and 30 years worth of tar had built up on the insides of the ductwork, which proved impossible to clean.

    The retrofit ductwork was installed in a crawlspace. It was a pain. Getting to the second story was not easy in a finished home, and that portion of the ductwork rattled, despite my efforts to secure it. The return ductwork was also noisy. It was well sealed and did deliver fairly even heat however.

    My experience in that home was the primary reason I went with hydronic heat in my current home to replace the electric baseboards rather than forced air. I also do not need ac here in the UP.



    Figure out your heating and cooling loads in BTU/hour.
    Figure out if it is feasable to add insulation to help with the heating and cooling loads.

    Once you have a good estimate on load, develop the total system and operational cost over time.

    Many of the new heat pumps have good low temperature performance, and in Ohio, you might obtain a good amount of heat this way through much of the heating season.
    flyingcow likes this.
  19. Chicken Farmer

    Chicken Farmer Member

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    Loc:
    Wapakoneta, OH
    Ridgewood OWB $2699 for the 2000 model until the end of August.
  20. STIHLY DAN

    STIHLY DAN Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    So NH
    Mini splits are nice but costly. I will be putting some hyper heats in my house this spring. You have one story, duct work should be easy, why not go with a new wood furnace and lose all that ugly baseboard that gets covered by the furniture. crap, you could just heat the basement with the furnace this year and next year run ductwork. break up the price.

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