Looking at installing wood furnace, advice needed

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jollygreengiant

New Member
Aug 26, 2022
5
SW Ontario
Hello Everyone,

I've been doing a lot of research into heating methods for our home, including a lot of reading old threads here. But now we've come to decision making time and I'd like to see what other posters here would do in my situation.

First, some background info. Our house is an 1,100 sq ft modular home. It sits on a full basement that we plan to eventually finish and use as living space, but there are a lot of steel beams that may be in the way of potential ducting. The house is currently heated by a oil furnace with the oil tank in the basement. The furnace is a 30 year old Olsen and the tank is a 12 year old 12 guage tank. We haven't had any issues with either the furnace or the tank, but I didn't know the furnace was 30 years old. Our main motivation in moving away from the oil is cost of fuel.

I would like to go to wood as the primary heat source with a backup for the times that we are not there. We are in the middle of SW Ontario Farm country so lots of firewood around. I don't want to switch to propane as the cost savings isn't there. The cost for a new furnace is a lot less but the yearly savings is a lot less also, so the payback is almost 18 years. I also want to get away from fossil fuels because, with the carbon tax we have here, the cost of propane/oil will be going up every year.

I've looked at the Caddy and Drolet heat commander furnaces. I think the heat commander is out because it doesn't appear to be allowed to be installed in a series configuration with my current oil furnace, which is required in Canada. The Caddy can be installed as an add on with my current furnace or as a stand alone unit. Since learning my current furnace is 30 years old I'm leaning towards taking it out and having a Caddy furnace installed as a stand alone unit. The caddy could be equipped with electric or oil add ons for a backup source. I'm leaning towards electric to get away from oil entirely.

I've gotten some quotes back for installs and they are higher than I've thought, which is making me a bit hesitant. The caddy with electric add on, installed, with ductwork, is going to be $13,500 CAD. I also priced an OWB but that was almost $25,000 CAD so that's out. I realize the Caddy CR is supposed to be out next year, but that's assuming I can get even get one next year. Going with propane backup would be a better fit, but I can get my hands on a Caddy right now and probably have it installed towards the end of the year. Downside to the electric add on is that the HVAC guy says it needs a 125A circuit, which means I may need to upgrade the house service. This may not be a big deal since we are in the middle of some renovations that include the hydro supply to the house, but I need to check with my electrician.

So with all that being said, what would you do?
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
7,511
NE Ohio
How reliable is electric there?
I would be hesitant to do electric backup just because if you have a long term outage a fossil fuel burner can run on a small genny, electric takes a big genny.
 

LogCabinFever

New Member
May 24, 2021
59
CT, USA
I also don’t recommend electric backup because of power outage issues.

As I’m sure you know, the Kuuma VaporFire is another excellent option instead of the Caddy or Heat Commander and can be made to order.

However, if your set on Caddy, I think you should entertain waiting for the CR in early 2023. It will be offered with electric combo, but also, as a first, with propane backup as per an SBI representative here on the forums. Though typically more expensive than oil, propane burns cleaner and it offers flexibility to a lot of people who use propane. Very little is known about the unit but it sounds promising and it would be a welcome space savings measure with a small house like yours, with only one furnace needed and no extra ductwork. Of course, electric combo will also still be offered with the CR as well. Not sure how soon you were planning to get it all done though.

I know there’s a big push to go electric, primarily heat pump, but here in New England 1) our electric rates are some of the highest in the US and 2) we lose power often in winter storms. But you would know your area and how reliable and expensive the grid is. Not sure how much your carbon tax is….
 
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jollygreengiant

New Member
Aug 26, 2022
5
SW Ontario
Thanks for all the replies everyone. I think we are going to do what Logcabinfever suggested and wait for the Caddy CR to come out. I know it means swallowing a big oil bill this year but I think going with one furnace with propane backup makes the most sense. We talked about the electric option with our electrician and in order to go that route we would need to upgrade the service to the house. Some have also mentioned what happens when the power goes out, which does happen here sometimes. We have a standby generator but it isn't big enough to run an electric furnace. Our electrician said he might be able to wire in some interlock switches so that the generator could run the furnace at a part load, but doing all of that work just to get a partly functioning furnace in a power outage doesn't make sense to me. And we don't have the $30k to afford a bigger generator right now.
 

Wood1Dennis

Burning Hunk
Jan 17, 2016
168
Eastern Wisconsin
Jolly, why not just get the Caddy now, install it in series with the existing oil furnace. I have to believe that with an 1100 square foot home you will have no problems heating it with the Caddy alone. So even though you have oil as your backup, it will seldom run and you will be pretty much out of burning carbon fuel anyway.
I'm doing something like that here in Wisconsin. Caddy (6 year old model) heating out 1700 square foot home installed in series with a propane furnace using the propane fan. Really the only time the propane furnace burns is when we are not home! I'm not sure what advantage waiting for the CR will get you unless you really are set on integrated electric resitence heat. Propane is a lot cheaper than electric here, but if it is cheaper for you that might be worth waiting for.

PS, and I can run either the wood furnace or the LP backup on my 6500 watt generator.
 
1000 sf is small for a wood fired central heating system, in my opinion.
A wood stove or ducted pellet stove sounds like a more economical option.
 
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1000 sf is small for a wood fired central heating system, in my opinion.
A wood stove or ducted pellet stove sounds like a more economical option.
I have to agree 1100 sq.f is quite small it would be way more cost effective to go just a wood stove route and it would do great heating your house. Before you spend 10k + on a furnace I’d look at getting a company to come out and see the space.
 
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jollygreengiant

New Member
Aug 26, 2022
5
SW Ontario
Just keep in mind that there are no guarantees that the unit will be ready early 2023. Because of many issues, it’s been pushed off several times.

I'm aware of the delays it's had. We have our fingers crossed that it comes out next year but if it doesn't we will re-evaluate then.

Jolly, why not just get the Caddy now, install it in series with the existing oil furnace. I have to believe that with an 1100 square foot home you will have no problems heating it with the Caddy alone. So even though you have oil as your backup, it will seldom run and you will be pretty much out of burning carbon fuel anyway.
I'm doing something like that here in Wisconsin. Caddy (6 year old model) heating out 1700 square foot home installed in series with a propane furnace using the propane fan. Really the only time the propane furnace burns is when we are not home! I'm not sure what advantage waiting for the CR will get you unless you really are set on integrated electric resitence heat. Propane is a lot cheaper than electric here, but if it is cheaper for you that might be worth waiting for.

PS, and I can run either the wood furnace or the LP backup on my 6500 watt generator.

The problem is we discovered our existing oil furnace is 30 years old and our current oil tank is 12 years old. So I'm not really keen to invest in the ductwork required to keep the oil furnace as a backup only to be faced with the possibility of our oil furnace dying in a few years and not being able to find a replacement. And from what I read, our oil tank could become a problem once it it more than 15 years old.

1000 sf is small for a wood fired central heating system, in my opinion.
A wood stove or ducted pellet stove sounds like a more economical option.

I have to agree 1100 sq.f is quite small it would be way more cost effective to go just a wood stove route and it would do great heating your house. Before you spend 10k + on a furnace I’d look at getting a company to come out and see the space.

True. Unless the 1100 doesn’t include the basement that you want to finish and heat.

Logcabinfever guessed it. The 1,100 sq ft is the main level only. We eventually want to heat and finish the basement, which will double the floor space.
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,875
Northern Canada
I'm aware of the delays it's had. We have our fingers crossed that it comes out next year but if it doesn't we will re-evaluate then.



The problem is we discovered our existing oil furnace is 30 years old and our current oil tank is 12 years old. So I'm not really keen to invest in the ductwork required to keep the oil furnace as a backup only to be faced with the possibility of our oil furnace dying in a few years and not being able to find a replacement. And from what I read, our oil tank could become a problem once it it more than 15 years old.







Logcabinfever guessed it. The 1,100 sq ft is the main level only. We eventually want to heat and finish the basement, which will double the floor space.
Oil tanks are only an issue to insurance company's
Mine is from the 60's and leak free.They actually made tanks to last back then.
 

cumminstinkerer

Burning Hunk
Feb 2, 2016
191
central iowa
@salecker is right, and to top things off they really don't rust either, the fuel oil protects them from that, old tractor are a prime example, metal fuel tanks, the diesels will be spotless shiny inside and the gas ones will be all nasty rusty.
 

BoilerHouse

Member
Feb 6, 2012
9
Muskoka
Oil tanks are only an issue to insurance company's
Mine is from the 60's and leak free.They actually made tanks to last back then.

This is very true. In Ontario, Insurance companies declared war on oil appliances. In 1999, I had to replace my old tank or else my insurance company, and its competitors, would not cover me for house insurance. They said there was a possibility the tank could leak, resulting in a huge claim. OK, fair enough. Then in 2010, I had to replace that tank, for the same reason, despite it being in brand new condition. So almost $3000 dollars later, a new tank is installed with all the latest safety bells and whistles. But that is not the end of it. My insurance company has already said that this 2nd "new" tank has to be replaced in 2024. So, if you can avoid oil, do so.
Natural Gas is still the cheapest option, but not available to everyone. The next best source as a back up is probably propane. Just eight years ago, Ontario had the highest electricity rates in North America, but the prices were artificially lowered for political reasons. I wouldn't be surprised to see these prices begin marching upwards again at some point.
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,875
Northern Canada
I find if you can avoid the insurance company
that solves the issue.
Insurance company's will use the best lawyers they have to find the weasel words that absolves them from actually paying out your claim.
I have seen a newer tank leak after they were replaced because of insurance company's.The said insurance would not cover the cost of cleanup or replacement of tank and fuel.
Happend to a friend of mine.
 

jollygreengiant

New Member
Aug 26, 2022
5
SW Ontario
Oil tanks are only an issue to insurance company's
Mine is from the 60's and leak free.They actually made tanks to last back then.

@salecker is right, and to top things off they really don't rust either, the fuel oil protects them from that, old tractor are a prime example, metal fuel tanks, the diesels will be spotless shiny inside and the gas ones will be all nasty rusty.

This is very true. In Ontario, Insurance companies declared war on oil appliances. In 1999, I had to replace my old tank or else my insurance company, and its competitors, would not cover me for house insurance. They said there was a possibility the tank could leak, resulting in a huge claim. OK, fair enough. Then in 2010, I had to replace that tank, for the same reason, despite it being in brand new condition. So almost $3000 dollars later, a new tank is installed with all the latest safety bells and whistles. But that is not the end of it. My insurance company has already said that this 2nd "new" tank has to be replaced in 2024. So, if you can avoid oil, do so.
Natural Gas is still the cheapest option, but not available to everyone. The next best source as a back up is probably propane. Just eight years ago, Ontario had the highest electricity rates in North America, but the prices were artificially lowered for political reasons. I wouldn't be surprised to see these prices begin marching upwards again at some point.

Boiler house pretty well summed it up. My current tank looks spotless, but it won't be long until the insurance company demands I replace it because it has suddenly become unsafe because it's too old. So I don't think it makes a lot of sense for us to invest in a new oil tank with a questionable furnace for a heating source that will be backup only in the future.

I find if you can avoid the insurance company
that solves the issue.
Insurance company's will use the best lawyers they have to find the weasel words that absolves them from actually paying out your claim.
I have seen a newer tank leak after they were replaced because of insurance company's.The said insurance would not cover the cost of cleanup or replacement of tank and fuel.
Happend to a friend of mine.

Unfortunately going without insurance isn't an option for us right now. Maybe someday in the future we can get to the point where we can self insure.
 

jollygreengiant

New Member
Aug 26, 2022
5
SW Ontario
So I know that I said we were going to wait for the new Caddy CR to come out, and I think that is still the best option. But we just had our oil tank filled for the first time this fall and man am I wishing we had an alternative installed.
 
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salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,875
Northern Canada
I deliver heating fuel
last delivery was $1.785 a liter,plus $.1341 Carbon tax a liter plus GST
I know there are people that cannot afford to heat their homes this winter.