General questions: Is a wood boiler an option for me

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jase

Member
May 28, 2017
19
Vermont
I am looking to understand what if any are my options in regard to heating with wood.

At present I have an oil burner which I believe is oversized to some extent, and rated at 279 BTU/Hr. The house is about 5000 Sq Ft, and we used 1200 gal of fuel oil last year. . . everything is baseboard heat in this place.

Generally speaking is there a Wood boiler that will meet this demand with storage? I have plenty of room, both in the basement, as well as in an attached garage. The boiler could go ether place, and I almost think the attached garage would be better for a variety of reasons.

Any and all thoughts and perspectives are welcome.. also suggestions on where to continue reading as I try to wrap my head around the topic of wood heat in the modern day.
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,875
Northern Canada
Hi
I am sure that you could build a system that would meet your requirements and be legal.
It will not be cheap,but if you can do your own work that will cut down costs.
I was told that to replace the system i built would have cost over $50K 10 years ago up here.
I don't have fire insurance,and that was the reason to have my heating system in a separate building,plus they guberment has made regualtions here where only Red Seal ticketed technicians can work on residential heating systems.Having it in a separate building gets me around that gift to the heating companies.
 
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Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
2,001
Northern Maine
Only 1200 gals of oil?? You got out cheap IMO.

Can you buy a system? Sure. As noted it ain’t cheap. Mine is in the basement.
I’m into it for 30K with a used boiler. I did some of the work and all of the trucking.
I’m fully insured and the insurance company knows it’s there.
 

jase

Member
May 28, 2017
19
Vermont
Only 1200 gals of oil?? You got out cheap IMO.

Can you buy a system? Sure. As noted it ain’t cheap. Mine is in the basement.
I’m into it for 30K with a used boiler. I did some of the work and all of the trucking.
I’m fully insured and the insurance company knows it’s there.

Yeah, we don't burn much oil all things considered... but I am looking for a longer term solution, and I was hoping that firewood was part of the answer. . .

30K with a used boiler... Or more.. so the new reality with turning wood into heat, is that is often really expensive up front, and the factoring in the splitting, stacking, drying, add to those costs that make the financial return alone prohibitive.

Realistically speaking it sounds like cordwood is almost as expensive as a pellet boiler. Is that accurate?

I just looked up the EPA database, and there are more crib wood boilers listed than the last time I looked a few months ago. Back then I believe there was a handful of OWB on the list, now there are about 20....

I had come to the conclusion that an OWB would be too expensive in terms of the volume of wood shoveled though it... Please let me know if I am mistaken about that.. .
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
2,001
Northern Maine
Yeah, we don't burn much oil all things considered... but I am looking for a longer term solution, and I was hoping that firewood was part of the answer. . .

30K with a used boiler... Or more.. so the new reality with turning wood into heat, is that is often really expensive up front, and the factoring in the splitting, stacking, drying, add to those costs that make the financial return alone prohibitive.

Realistically speaking it sounds like cordwood is almost as expensive as a pellet boiler. Is that accurate?

I just looked up the EPA database, and there are more crib wood boilers listed than the last time I looked a few months ago. Back then I believe there was a handful of OWB on the list, now there are about 20....

I had come to the conclusion that an OWB would be too expensive in terms of the volume of wood shoveled though it... Please let me know if I am mistaken about that.. .
I know nothing about OWB other than I’m not bundling up and trudging thru the blowing snow to load the damn thing.

I look at the work involved as getting me off my donkey, being outside in fresh air and hopefully keep the LP delivery truck rolling to someone else’s house versus my own.

I could have bought a lot of propane for my over 40K investment in tractor stuff, saws and boiler equipment.
 

E Yoder

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2017
598
Floyd, VA
Some factors to consider-
All the OWB style boilers on the EPA list are gasifying models so the wood hogs are a thing mostly of the past in outdoor models. None of this style uses additional storage. They burn very clean.
Many qualify for a 26% tax credit which helps.
There are several that would have the BTU output you need. The database is over a year out of date and I'm aware of several models that aren't listed yet but passed EPA tests for quite a while.
 
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jase

Member
May 28, 2017
19
Vermont
Some factors to consider-
All the OWB style boilers on the EPA list are gasifying models so the wood hogs are a thing mostly of the past in outdoor models. None of this style uses additional storage. They burn very clean.
This is hopeful news that I did not anticipate. I had given up on OWB's because so many are being removed from service and sold, locally, as well as my perception that the indoor wood boiler gets the most heat out of the wood. I do like the idea of having the dirt and dust outside, as well as having the wood pile not being in the basement... will have to do some re-thinking to figure out what-where to put a boiler..
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
7,514
NE Ohio
They burn very clean
I can vouch for that...you can't even tell when dads new HeatMaster G10000 is running, unless the outdoor temp is low enough for some "steam" out the stack...but you could always tell when the old Central Boiler was lit! *cough cough*
 

jase

Member
May 28, 2017
19
Vermont
This may be a dumb question, but I am gonna ask it anyway:

How is it that the indoor wood boiler needs/wants thermal storage, and the OWB can get away without it? Seems as if the OWB would take a hit in terms of efficiency if not running wide open like the batch burn style of heating?
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
7,514
NE Ohio
This may be a dumb question, but I am gonna ask it anyway:

How is it that the indoor wood boiler needs/wants thermal storage, and the OWB can get away without it? Seems as if the OWB would take a hit in terms of efficiency if not running wide open like the batch burn style of heating?
The OWB's have it built in...many of them hold 2-300 gallons...and yes the old school OWB's were particularly inefficient (compared to good indoor stoves/boilers) the post 2020 boilers are MUCH better though (the ones that are EPA certified...not the ones that say they are "coal burners" that can burn wood too...that's true, but they are just using that to skirt that new regs)
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,875
Northern Canada
Some factors to consider-
All the OWB style boilers on the EPA list are gasifying models so the wood hogs are a thing mostly of the past in outdoor models. None of this style uses additional storage. They burn very clean.
Many qualify for a 26% tax credit which helps.
There are several that would have the BTU output you need. The database is over a year out of date and I'm aware of several models that aren't listed yet but passed EPA tests for quite a while.
But storage makes life with a boiler better.For both the boiler and you.
The boiler will be running at maximum performance running wide open till your storage if topped up.
Having storage allows you to dictate when you are building your fires and reloading the boiler.
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,875
Northern Canada
My Econoburn was built as an outdoor unit.It is exactly the same as the indoor unit other than the enclosure and extra insulation.
I put it in a building for a few reasons.
You will always have a warm workshop
wanted to add storage
you can keep a few days of wood inside so if there is any moisture it will dry and bring the wood up to room temperature.
I don't have fire insurance,live in a remote town with a volunteer fire department,insurance companies don't like volunteer fire deaprtments,plus i have a log home.
I have zero issues leaving the house to walk 125 ft to load the boiler.I do it every 2 hours when it's burning.I do my burns at night. Even when it's -40 no big deal. Load the boiler,enjoy a smoke of leagal refreashment,work on a project or go back to the house and watch TV.
 
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cumminstinkerer

Burning Hunk
Feb 2, 2016
191
central iowa
@salecker your schedule and mine are very similar as you know. My boiler is an Econoburn 100, indoor unit, I have it installed in my garage, no there is no fuel or equipment in there, it is for storage, I have 1500 gallons of storage and heat house and DHW, garage is unisulated but storage enclosure is. We have been having some warm temps lately so I am getting 48 hours between firings, poor old house is not very insulated, when it gets colder I will fire everyday after work. Routine is get home about 530, put fire together, lite, leave bypass open, enjoy a beer, add a couple more big pieces, close bypass, have another beer, fill boiler, by this time its about 615, go in house or go work on something, 815 load boiler, go inside, eat supper, tinker around, 1015 load boiler, feed dog(who sleeps in the garage) go in shower, and go to bed, repeat next night. It works great for me. If it is super cold like it is where salecker lives, I will have my mom, who is retired come by and start the fire at like 200 and reload around 430, that extra bit is enough to get the storage charged. I had a homeade boiler before this with no storage and that was a pain in the butt having a full time job away from home, always had to have someone load it at least a couple times during the day and id have to get up in the night once or twice, I wouldn't go back to that for nothing
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,687
Northern NH
OWBs may have storage but not enough of it to do away with their fundamental issues. You have a very large home and I would have expected you used more oil but a solution i not cheap. If you have wood available from your woodlot and like the year round exercise with wood then you may be wood burner but realize youa re looking at 12 cords a year of wood and double that for the first two years to get your inventory up so you have two year old dry wood.

Wood boilers and their associated systems are by nature going to radiate a lot of heat. An IWB is putting heat back into the house why the OWB is heating up the outdoors. IWBs with proper storage (possibly 1000 gallons) burn full bore for as long as the storage is being charged and then go cold until the next day. That is the cleanest most efficient way to burn wood. OWBs are going to idle on occasion and that is dirty burning. In winter they may not idle as often but in shoulder season when the heat is needed in AM until the sun comes out that is lot of idle time. More than a few OWB folks use other fuels for shoulder season and then once it gets real cold switch over. My neighbor was doing that with heating oil but I notice with the recnet run up that he is back to the OWB and I get the idling smell more than I wish. if you have kids around or folks with lung issues stay away from OWBs

If you are not up for wood, and you have the space, a pellet boiler is a nice option. They store pellets instead of heat and only fire when needed. Of course there has to be a reliable bulk supplier of pellets as in a house with your demand I expect the bulk truck will be visiting a couple of times during the winter. MeSys in Bethel Maine are the pros in Northern NH, Berlin NH got a bunch of federal money to subsidize installs and MeSys dis most if not all of them and handle the bulk delivery. IMHO, if you can put in a bulk pellet storage and get bulk deliveries direct to the bulk tank, pellets are nice option. If you cant get bulk I would avoid pellets as you would be having to hustle around a lot of pallets.
 
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Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,997
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
There are other ways to supplement the oil boiler system with wood heat. A wood furnace, even a regular wood stove. Every stick of wood that you burn results in less oil being burned.

I have a hard time making a 30-40k dollar wood boiler system make sense if you have a reasonably good primary system.
 

jase

Member
May 28, 2017
19
Vermont
OWBs may have storage but not enough of it to do away with their fundamental issues. You have a very large home and I would have expected you used more oil but a solution i not cheap.

Wood boilers and their associated systems are by nature going to radiate a lot of heat. An IWB is putting heat back into the house why the OWB is heating up the outdoors. IWBs with proper storage (possibly 1000 gallons) burn full bore for as long as the storage is being charged and then go cold until the next day.

If you are not up for wood, and you have the space, a pellet boiler is a nice option. They store pellets instead of heat and only fire when needed. Of course there has to be a reliable bulk supplier of pellets as in a house with your demand I expect the bulk truck will be visiting a couple of times during the winter. MeSys in Bethel Maine are the pros in Northern NH, Berlin NH got a bunch of federal money to subsidize installs and MeSys dis most if not all of them and handle the bulk delivery. IMHO, if you can put in a bulk pellet storage and get bulk deliveries direct to the bulk tank, pellets are nice option. If you cant get bulk I would avoid pellets as you would be having to hustle around a lot of pallets.

Part of the reason I am looking for a long term solution is that when I am 65 or 75, I will want to be warm in the winter. We keep the thermostat way down, which helps to keep the fuel bill somewhat low, but generally speaking that becomes less agreeable as I go up in years.

I absolutely would prefer an indoor wood boiler (about 250K ) and guessing on 18-2000 gal of storage for a system I will be happy with.
I've got the wood, and enjoy the work, that is not an issue... if I were the only one to consider, but for the cost of the whole system, and realizing that other family members may not be as enthusiastic about feeding the boiler, I probably should investigate a pellet system.. and put in a few wood stoves to supplement, and keep me entertained.

Thanks for all the replies and shared experience. More questions to come at some point, but for now I have to accept that for me, firewood needs to go in a wood stove, not a boiler...