Boiler/gasifier question for unique home addition

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New Member
Dec 9, 2022
Northern WI
Hi all!

We have a 1968 home that was built upside down (main living areas upstairs with 3 bedrooms and a bath and a walkout "basement/first floor" for storage, two bedrooms and a bath). There is a 78k BTU propane boiler downstairs for hydronic baseboard heat in the 900 square feet upstairs and for about 400 square feet downstairs. When we heated with the propane we used about 400-500 gallons of propane a season (keeping the home around 60 degrees). This year we are trying to heat using a voyager insert upstairs and a VC Aspen in one of the basement rooms. We alternate the two and have kept the home livable (barely) so far. We have 4 cords of C & S wood (not properly seasoned, based on what I've read on here the past month. Dead standing hemlock, aspen and maple were harvested this spring). Now that I know all about solar kilns from this forum, we're going to start building them in the spring.

DH is retired and we're looking for one level living in the future. Therefore, we would like to add about 750 square feet to the first level (great room, eating area and kitchen). We would pour a slab with radiant floor heat. We want to use wood heat (propane can stay as a backup) since we have 71 acres (more than half are woods).

I like the idea of an indoor boiler because I want to capture some of that ambient heat by installing it next to a passive solar attached greenhouse. We'll cover the greenhouse glazing with 2" pink board when it dips below zero. After talking with different boiler manufactures and dealers, I'm leaning toward the DS 3200 or the new Econoburn EBW200 (possibly the Switzer). We have solar, so we want to keep electrical usage to a minimum. I'm guessing that thermal storage should be around 800-1000 gallons. DHW would need to be supplied from the boiler and in the summer, I'm envisioning a heat pump water heater in the greenhouse. Also, a pressurized closed system makes more sense, I think, because of the hydronic baseboard and the longevity of the system.

A friend just suggested putting in a basement (actually 8 feet below grade - what a thought?!), so that I wouldn't need radiant heat for the floor. This could work with the ABC Concept 2 Hydro wood oven and boiler. I'd send the water to storage for the baseboard heat and use the stove for radiant heat (I have a lined brick 24' chimney already in what will be the new kitchen). I'm hesitating for two reasons. First, we prefer American made when at all possible and second, the stove just doesn't seem all that robust. This friend also said that all of the people he knows who put in wood burning boilers (mostly OWB) later took them out because of the huge increase in their electrical costs. I haven't found anyone speak to that on this forum, so maybe he's mistaken?

I'm envisioning a boiler room in the addition with concrete interior walls for thermal storage and a place to bring in the pallets with the tractor forks (maybe 2 cords to start and as the wood is burned bring in another 1/2 cord at a time). The living area would be on one side of this boiler room and the greenhouse on the other. The greenhouse would have it's own thermal water storage and the goal in the winter would be to maintain lows of 45 - 50 degrees in the greenhouse and 60-65 degrees in the rest of the house. We'd open the door or window from the boiler room to the greenhouse if - 30F lows were forecasted.

Yes, I know we need to CSS wood asap. I'm hoping the solar kilns will be enough to get us through next year and we will definitely harvest 2 years worth (at least) next year. We haven't come close to scratching the surface harvesting dead upright trees. As for my ideas, please make suggestions about errors in what we're considering. I'd much rather start over in planning than break ground and find out my plans won't work. As at least a few of the eight people who live here are at home at any given time, keeping an eye on things (and loading wood) is not an issue.
No big power increase for me when i built a boiler building and started heating with an Econoburn 14 years ago.
I am looking at a heat pump for shoulder seasons,then i expect an increase in my power bill
(possibly the Switzer).
This is what I have. It’s a great system for me, and so far I haven’t come across anything else I’d rather have. I don’t have to worry about separate storage, it’s made to be a closed system, etc. It runs great and seems to be quite efficient. Here’s my install:
Some things to consider with it: they are big and heavy. If you do go with one, be prepared for that. It takes a bit of work getting one set up, insulated, etc. You probably won’t have anyone nearby that knows anything about them, but Gary will do all he can to help you over the phone. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about one, IF I know the answer. 🤔
There are definitely other great units out there, also.
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I would not put a wood fired boiler in the basement, for the reason is that you will smell smoke. I have not yet seen a boiler that does not let a bit of smoke into the house when loading. Others on here can chime in about their experience with it.
The Switzer is an induced draft. IF you start the blower before you load, there is no smoke out the door. The inducer fan moves a LOT of air, and it’s pulling it through the fire box so the smoke goes in, not out, the door. The inducer fan motor is a 1/2 horse, 240 volt, three phase (phase converter is built into the control box)motor spinning at 1,725 rpm on a big fan. It is variable speed, if the flue temp gets too hot, it idles down.

But you still could have an “accident” (like power goes off mid burn or something) of some sort and get smoke in your basement., that is true.
I would not put a wood fired boiler in the basement, for the reason is that you will smell smoke. I have not yet seen a boiler that does not let a bit of smoke into the house when loading. Others on here can chime in about their experience with it.
I have a Vedolux in the basement and there is no smoke smell in the boiler room, basement or the rest of the house!
With the wife's help I could do a short video of a loading .
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I would not put a wood fired boiler in the basement, for the reason is that you will smell smoke. I have not yet seen a boiler that does not let a bit of smoke into the house when loading. Others on here can chime in about their experience with it.

Any boiler with induced draft operated correctly should be able to be operated with no smoke intrusion into the house. No issues here with my natural draft boiler (the chimney is the inducer) going into year 11.

Forced draft boilers are another story.
A short video off the Vedolux 450 with the loading door open. There is no smoke into the room.

Man that's a sexy boiler you have there.
You got me thinking about how you clean your boiler and how the draft sucks all the dust up the chimney. This time I ran the draft inducer while cleaning the boiler and all the dust went up the chimney!
Really glad to see you're liking your boiler. These things are the easiest boilers to live with, of all I have seen, read or heard about. A very understated and not widely known thing, it seems.
I will be really looking at those when my existing boiler times out.
I hopefully will be still able to live the wood heating lifestyle by then.Going by their warranty i am about at 1/2 life left.Even though i don't see any reason why it would only last another 15 years.