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Open electric no more

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by hollynlucy, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    Electricity used to be cheap here in the central Kootenay. This is south eastern B.C. Mountain country. We've got a 900 sq. ft. home with hydronic infloor downstairs. We had to shut it down this year because its getting too pricey to run. Looking to add lines to heat the first floor and dom. water and buy the right wood boiler maybe gasifier to do the job. Who has made all the mistakes and wants to see me avoid them?

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  2. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Start reading...it's all here. Top to bottom, left to right. Enjoy! And welcome to the site. It's an invaluable tool...
  3. BoilerBob

    BoilerBob Member

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    http://www.hydro-to-heat-convertor.com/
    Check out the gasification boiler on this site.

    With the small sq ft you have, one of these might be the ticket, if you don't mind firewood in living the space.

    Keep reading and research, there are so many choices out there.
  4. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    Thanks stee6043 and BoilerBob for responding. This site is awesome!
    I've been checking it out from the sidelines for a while... checking out some threads etc. but never caught-on to the "how to" search for specific answers to my questions.
    So I thought I had better sign up. Anyway, I just found the main info articles. That'll keep me busy for a while.

    RE: the indoor fire... I'm inclined to go outdoor fire in a lean-to on the house. I want to take advantage of the no mess, no smoke, year-round use (domestic HW). I'm just looking at my storage options now.
  5. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Go with a quality gasser that you see users on here with, and ask them about it. Varm, EKO, Tarm, Froling, Attack seem to be popular. Read, read read, and read some more as Stee said...... When you say the in-floor was too expensive to run, did you have an electric boiler heating it?

    TS
  6. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    Hi Taylor,
    My in-floor is basement level (oxy pex in the slab) and I have it plumbed-in to an electric hot water tank (open vent) and a circulator on a thermostat. It's isolated and needs a cup of water added annually (loss to evaporation from vent). Pretty archaic, eh?
    We have electric baseboards on the main floor.
    Electricity is up 65% in the past couple of years, so the floor is off and we're living on baseboard heat.
    Regarding the basement slab... I'm wishing I had invested in more insulation. The standard at the time (10 years ago) was 1.5 inches, but 2 - 3 times that would have been worth it, I think. I also neglected to install a thermal break between the slab and footing. (duh) But the slab shrunk a bit, so at least there is a 1/16th inch airspace there.
    How do you like your DPX 45? It's one of the brands available on eBay regularly. So are the EKO's (and New Horizon)
  7. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    You may want to check into th insurance implictions of your lean-to idea. Many times if your boilier isn't inside the house local codes and/or insurance companies are going to require that the boiler be a certain distance away from the house. Around these parts the distance requirement for local codes is quite significant.

    Your chimney height requirement will also be significantly impacted by proximity to the house. SS exterior smoke pipe is pricey!
  8. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Just do a lot of reading here (along with the advertiser sites - they are actually quite helpful), take full stock of what you have now, what you can do with the spaces you have, and try to get your priorities lined up.

    The primary things to decide, are boiler (and wood) inside or outside, and if you can incorporate storage (preferably inside - you should if you have room for it - I think it is the best improvement you can make to a heating system). Nice to have the mess all outside, but also nice to not have to go outside to fire and keep heat loss in the building envelope. These are things you will need to personally evaluate.

    900 sq.ft. is not very big - could you meet your needs just by putting a woodstove in? That might mean abandoning your basement in-floor heat, which would be a shame in a way - but if it wasn't installed the best and loses a lot of heat (as you hinted at), it might not be that big of shame. But then again a wood stove won't heat your DHW. If you go boiler at least a small one should meet your needs.
  9. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    I would agree with some of the other folks here, that if I had a smaller house like yours, I would seriously consider a wood stove as an option. Its lots cheaper, nice to look at, and it works when the power goes out! But I do understand the desire to keep the mess out of the house.

    If you did go with a boiler, make sure to think about storage. You could have one fire every few days and keep your house and DHW plenty warm without too much fuss. Or depending on your exposures and insulation think about hooking up some solar panels to help offset costs there too.

    Keep reading, work up a heat loss calc for your house to get a good idea of boiler size, and start splitting wood! If you start now, you might be able to burn some of it next season... You need DRY wood for most of the new stoves and for gasification boilers.
  10. hobbyheater

    hobbyheater Minister of Fire

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    http://www.woodheating.ca/ This company has sold boilers all over the province. If you were to contact Gord, the owner, he would be more than happy to let you know of units he has sold in your area and would arrange for you to see them.

    IMGP4258 - Copy.JPG

    Here he's delivering a Garn to the remote community of Quatsino.
  11. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    Thanks Guys. This is great. I appreciate your input.
    Hey Stee, I had a chat with the local building inspector's office and our insurance provider too. So far, so good, but I'll go back to them for sure before I move ahead with an install just to be sure. Besides, when I see what equipment "falls in my lap" I'll be more specific with my plans when I talk to them again.
    I checked out your install, Maple. Wow, what an odyssey! I laughed out loud a couple times... first when you said that table-full of fittings was only 1/4 what you needed... and then when you said you stared at your first fire for maybe and hour... I'm still chuckling at that. I reckon most DIYers do.
    So far I'm still committed to heating our basement slab. It's soooo nice. And I just installed a big double-ender bath (I have girls!) so DHW is a motivator too. I found a couple used 500 gal steel fuel tanks in the classifieds today. They're cheap enough but maybe they're too light? I'm leaning towards pressurized storage.
  12. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    Avoid the fuel tanks for pressurized storage. They cant handle the pressures you need for your system. Then if you try to run them un-pressurized, you can run into issues with corrosion and rusting through. Some people have done it, but I wouldnt recommend it. Keep your eyes peeled for old propane tanks or milk bulk tanks from farms going out.
  13. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks - I should update that thread again. I've done a few more things, but was waiting until I got my temp panels up & going. I almost can't believe I did all that work, looking back at it - but we have never been more comfortable in this house and I've never had this easy a time maintaining it.

    So once you decide on storage, then you have to decide on pressurized or non-pressurized. I went pressurized with used propane tanks - another 6 of one half dozen of the other thing. As Clarkbug said, don't go with ordinary fuel tanks. If you pressurize them there will be a very unhappy ending. Pressurized will require more expansion tank room (I used a 110 gallon propane tank), and pressure vessels for the water (used propane tanks, or air compressor tanks) - non-pressurized will require heat exchangers of some sort, and corrosion concerns if using metal tanks (some use plastic lined non-metal tanks). So that choice might also come down to what you can get in your area.

    I would also be reluctant to give up that in-floor heat - with the efficiency of a boiler & storage, you likely won't notice any excessive heat loss it might have from skimpy insulation, with your smallish house. And if you like a lot of nice hot DHW, nothing beats heating that with a boiler & storage.

    Also to add, I'm pretty sure a small 25kw boiler will fit your needs even without doing any heat loss numbers. A house that small would need to have lots of holes in it for a 25kw to not be able to nicely keep it warm.
  14. Armaton

    Armaton Member

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    I hear you on the electricity! My infloor was heated by an electric micro-boiler (Hydroshark). Works great, 1800 sf basement comes up to temp in 12 hours. Never really thought about cost, because it actually took my propane usage down from 1200 gallons a year to 500, and thats with gas DHW and cookstove. However, am getting my EKO on line and haven't used the infloor this year, due to piping delays. My electric usage for Dec was only 742 Kwh,
    $109, compared to last year at 3492 Kwh! Almost 5 times the electric usage. So was just trading propane use to electric use, but oh the comfort of the infloor! I believe some of the boilers come in a 15 Kbtu setup, may just need to get the vendor to order one. Not sure you would save any money on it though, so the smallest boiler they carry may well be cheaper because of having it in stock. Do your heat loss calc, and then crunch the numbers and figure what boiler and storage size will fit your need and budget. When you start to look for a storage tank, don't forget to look at air receivers, such as Clarkbug used. Can find them from 100 gallons to a thousand. Mine is about 870 gallons, give or take, due to the dent in it from the salvage yard.

    Cheers,
  15. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    The HWT I was using originally was N gas and seems to me it was rated 30 maybe 36K BTUs and it was (just) keeping up on the coldest day. Correct me if I am wrong, but I was assuming that I would be safe with double that capacity (say 75K BTUs) to add the first floor and DHW. I haven't looked at the conversion to see how that translates to kw, but all the units I've seen quote the max BTU output at or above 75,000 BTU. So I think I'm safe there. I think I have to be careful not to get into a unit that's too big, rather than too small. I'm committed to storage, so a little oversize won't hurt.
    It is occuring to me that as soon as I buy something, it narrows the field for the remaining parts because in a real sense, it all has to match. So far I'm committed to the house. Now I just have to see what comes my way in the form of a boiler and/or storage options.
    I like what you did there in making your own expansion tank. I'll be following your lead there most likely.
    W.Y.
  16. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    When we first moved to this area 16 years ago, there was a small private power company that sold electricity for 5.5 cents per kwh, if I remember correctly. Now we are on a 2 tier system of 8 cents per kwh for the first 1,367 and 11.77 for the rest. I don't know how that compares with the rest of the world or where you live, but it's taking a little bit for me to get used to. And the forecast (energy futures) look like it is only going to get worse.
    You said that your floor takes about 12 hours to come up to temperature. Mine is about the same, but your comment reminded me of the first time I turned it on... 24 hours went by with no appreciable change in temperature! I thought, "Oh NO!" Fortunately, it was only the initial start up to drive the moisture out of the slab that took so long. Ever since then, I can feel the temperature coming up a couple hours after ignition.
    Tell me about Clarkbug's air receivers. Do you mean air compressor tanks or something else?

    W.Y.
  17. Armaton

    Armaton Member

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    Yes an air compressor tank is a receiver, but I refer to the larger tanks for bulk storage. Clarkbugs are 220 gallons each if I remember correctly. You can find them from 60 gallons to several thousand gallons, and most are ASME, or at least the ones I've looked at are. Found mine at our local salvage yard and took home for $400, 4' diameter, 112" upright with 4 legs, fits vertical in my 10' polebarn with inches to spare. Mine still had the plate on it, so I called Sylvan industries, gave them the serial number,and they emailed me the build sheet on it. Took several months to find, looking on craigslist and ebay. Found several 120 to 240 gallon, ones also. Not sure how large of storage you would need, but I can't see it being overly large with only 900 sf. Just make sure it's large enough to take the heat from an entire load of wood and you should be golden. Of course a 500 gallon propane tank would work fine also. Just giving you another avenue to look into.

    Cheers,
  18. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    If you can find suitable tanks for pressurized storage, I'm pretty well convinced that's the way to go. Used (and sometimes even new) propane tanks aren't too expensive, and that avoids the heat exchanger between storage and the rest of the system. That heat exchanger hurts you twice:

    1. When you're charging storage from the boiler, the amount of heat that you can transfer drops as the tank temperature rises. You'll never get the tank up to boiler outlet temperature. Bigger (more expensive) heat exchanger helps, but it's a real and hard limitation.
    2. When you're heating the house from storage, you can't run storage all the way down to the lowest useful temperature that will still heat the house - there will always be a temperature difference because of the heat exchanger. In your situation (with radiant heat) this may not be as big of an issue.
    Bottom line - the effective heat storage capacity of a pressurized system is greater than an unpressurized system of the same size. That having been said, there are plenty of folks running successfully with unpressurized systems, myself included. Just be aware of the tradeoffs.
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  19. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    Armaton, you are right on the size of the tanks. Mine are actually expansion tanks from Wessels that were used in a high school. They had huge cast iron sectional boilers that got replaced with new condensing boilers. They were suspended horizontally from the rafters above the boilers, and were just going to get scrapped. For the cost of a u-haul they followed me home.

    Hollynlucy,

    The 25kw translates to about 85,000 BTU. When you pick a boiler, remember that the wood boiler rating is probably peak, not average output.

    Lots of good info here!
  20. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Well said and a great point. I get a calculated output of 130,000 btu from mine average. Not the 45kwh or 153,500 btu/hr rated. With radiant heat you will get a great (read ideal) heat out of your storage, due to the largest delta from your system. The ability to use the coolest water to heat the floor. Also consider what you will replace the electric baseboard with, if you size something like cast iron radiators, panel radiators or low temp baseboard, correctly you can get them to heat that space with the same or close temperature you use in your radiant slab. This is what I did for my second floor (first floor is 2,200 square foot heated slab on grade).
    TS
  21. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    On my main floor zone, my plan is to feed a set of radiant loops with the return from the baseboards so that the water going back to storage is as cold as possible.
  22. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Here's a way to take that idea one step further:

    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/...ng-valve-to-control-loop.100419/#post-1285708

    A stratified buffer will maintain a reservoir of 'spent' baseboard water, which makes the radiant load flow to a large extent independent from the baseboard load flows.
  23. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    My basement is unfinished so my plan was to run circuits on the underside of the subfloor with pex and use a bubble-foil insulator to try and direct the energy upward. I welcome your input on that idea. If I go ahead with that, do I need to use the same red, oxy pex that I used in the slab?
  24. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    That's for sure. I really appreciate everyone's input. Now to source out the pieces and start stacking wood.:)
    I'll keep you posted.j
    W.Y.
  25. hollynlucy

    hollynlucy New Member

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    Any takers on this question?

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