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Several noob questions - interested in wood boiler to supplement oil boiler

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by gandalf, Feb 10, 2008.

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  1. gandalf

    gandalf Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Messages:
    13
    Loc:
    Lancaster, PA
    Hi there!

    Our family owns a 1935 2-story brick duplex with a (currently) unfinished basement and walk up attic. Finished square footage is roughly 1000 (slightly more) and with basement and attic (will likely finish), near 2000 square feet. The house is not very well insulated--I no longer first think of the Vietnam War when I hear the word draft.

    The current heating system is an oil boiler with 7 cast-iron hot water radiators. A brick fireplace is in the living room. It appears the oil boiler (in basement) vents through the fireplace chimney.

    I am interested in replacing or supplementing our oil boiler with an indoor wood-fired boiler and would like to hook into the existing hot-water radiator system.

    Where do I start? Should I be talking to a plumber or HVAC specialist...?

    I haven't really done due diligence, but the Greenfire 90 (greenfirefurnaces.com) and the Greenwood 100 (greenwoodfurnace.com) have so far impressed me the most. A problem with the Greenfire; it is slightly wider than the entrance to our basement.

    Are there good sources for used wood boilers? Not sure we're ready to fork over $3000 or more plus installation.
    How the heck do you move a 1-ton+ piece of equipment? It's not like we can put 10-20 guys on it. Our basement entry (accessible by outdoor stairs) isn't that accommodating. Or do these things come with "some assembly required"?

    Any ideas/guesstimates of installation cost? I'm assuming we can use existing chimney though it may need to be lined.

    Sorry about the rambling!

    TIA,

    Gandalf

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  2. Jersey Bill

    Jersey Bill Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2008
    Messages:
    132
    Loc:
    Central NJ
    gandalf,
    your biggest issue will be a new flue, which can cost as much as the boiler. a wood boiler cannot share a flue with any other device. (and your oil burner should not be sharing a flue with your fireplace) I would guess that its not sharing a flue, but there are 2 clay liners in the same chimney.

    All things remaining equal, you would need to run a new metal flue up to the top next to the chimney.

    If you have gas, you can get a gas boiler that doesnt need a flue (direct vent) and use the existing flue for the wood boiler.

    Look on EBAY for used equipment. To get something heavy into your basement contact a moving company. I had my boiler shipped to a local mover, they brought it into my basement, but it fit through the door.
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    5,725
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    I agree with Bill. A lot of your investment is going to go into piping, pumps, etc. to get the wood boiler into your system. If you pick up a good used, older Tarm or something for $500, you can use it for a couple of years and then drop in something better when you want. That's what I did, and it worked out very well. The money I saved on nat. gas over 4 heating seasons more than paid for the new boiler.
  4. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Gandalf, you better hope you are Galdalf the Wizard if you think you are going to get any gassifier for 3G's.
  5. Jersey Bill

    Jersey Bill Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2008
    Messages:
    132
    Loc:
    Central NJ
    I understand where the gandalf is coming from interms of laying out money, and we all do. But everybody has different values, one person might be concerned only in payback, another might want to get away from fossil fuels. Someone who works from home can tend the fire during the day, while someone else can only fire in the evenings. People live in all kinds of climates. Different situations have different solutions, and there is no right answer, for the most part.

    Gandalf, in terms of payback for an alternate energy source (wood specifically) it boils down to:
    1. how much are you paying now in fuel cost per year ?
    2. what fuel/method is right for you? (depends on how much work are you willing to put in) Doing your own logging for cordstock is far harder that getting pellets delivered into an automatic hopper. You can go completely off your existing fuel or just suppliment.
    3. what kind of payback is reasonable to you ?

    With that data you can come up with a concept and cost. Starting out with a used piece of equipment might be a good thing to see if it will work out. When I was growing up, firewood logging was a family event, for the men any way. You might need some help from the family.
  6. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    5,725
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    BTW, welcome to the Boiler Room, Gandalf.

    What kind of radiant heat do you have? I'm guessing cast iron radiators in a house of that vintage. They're an excellent way to heat a house, especially with wood, because the more hot water you flow through them, the less you have to worry about the poor insulation and draft. A house with cast iron radiators was designed to remain comfortable when they had cheap fuel (coal) and inadequate insulation, windows, ect. So basically with a good wood-fired boiler, you're reverting to original design parameters, which should be more than adequate.

    I'm sure if you poke around here a bit, you'll learn all about wood gasification, etc. But briefly, a wood gasification boiler will burn about half as much dry wood as a conventional wood boiler or OWB (outdoor wood boiler), and do it without any smoke or creosote. So you have to weigh that reality against the extra cost of the boiler itself.
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