OWB versus new indoor furnace

spitfire557

Member
Jan 29, 2019
61
PA
Hello all,

Looking for opinions on a new stove purchase. My current setup is an Englander 28-3500 add on which is 15+ years old and past it's prime. We live in a 1960's rancher with mediocre insulation.

I have nearly unlimited access to firewood and an OWB has been on my wishlist for 2 years now. I've gotten a few quotes from various manufacturers ranging from $7-$12k. I have no neighbors to worry about and keeping the fire outside of our home is a huge plus to my wife and I. I also appreciate that the pre-EPA OWB's can burn unseasoned wood if necessary.

However, after reading around and recently seeing a post about the new Drolet Heat Commander, I'm beginning to wonder if that wouldn't be a better option. I like the fact that the furnace would be capable of long 12 hour burns, and is much more efficient than any OWB on the market. If I went this route, I'd also replace our Class A chimney as it's also nearing the end of it's life. All said and done, I suspect I'd have about $4k into this setup.

So - what's your thoughts on OWB versus modern indoor furnace?
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,013
NE Ohio
Indoor furnace vs old school OWB...no contest, furnace every time....however, the newer Heatmaster OWB's are pretty slick...whole lot more $ though...
 

andym

Feeling the Heat
Feb 6, 2020
363
Hicksville, Ohio
Hello all,

Looking for opinions on a new stove purchase. My current setup is an Englander 28-3500 add on which is 15+ years old and past it's prime. We live in a 1960's rancher with mediocre insulation.

I have nearly unlimited access to firewood and an OWB has been on my wishlist for 2 years now. I've gotten a few quotes from various manufacturers ranging from $7-$12k. I have no neighbors to worry about and keeping the fire outside of our home is a huge plus to my wife and I. I also appreciate that the pre-EPA OWB's can burn unseasoned wood if necessary.

However, after reading around and recently seeing a post about the new Drolet Heat Commander, I'm beginning to wonder if that wouldn't be a better option. I like the fact that the furnace would be capable of long 12 hour burns, and is much more efficient than any OWB on the market. If I went this route, I'd also replace our Class A chimney as it's also nearing the end of it's life. All said and done, I suspect I'd have about $4k into this setup.

So - what's your thoughts on OWB versus modern indoor furnace?
Are you needing heat in any other building? That would be one determining factor. An OWB allows you to set the thermostat and keep a steady temp. Also allows heating your domestic hot water. The new EPA boilers are pretty efficient and will probably handle slightly higher moisture content than a wood furnace. Do you have a central furnace that you can install a heat exchanger in? If you go this route research your underground piping carefully.

An indoor furnace gives you a little better efficiency, but greater swings in temp (not all bad). Indoor means you dont need to dress up to go load it. If you go with a Drolet you get a glass door. Are you set up to handle bringing in fire wood without a lot of work or mess? Is your existing ductwork large enough to handle a new furnace? It really all comes down to preference.
 

Case1030

Feeling the Heat
Dec 12, 2017
328
Manitoba
If your ok with the wood and ash inside with small temperature swings in your house, a wood furnace is the way to go (kumma or drolet HC).

The outdoor down draft wood boilers definitely have some good benefits. I just bought a 1 year old used heatmaster g100 and like it so far. My wood consumption is similar to, if not slightly better than the Drolet tundra2 which is good.

Now if I were to buy a new boiler, I would have bought a Polar G-series boiler. After talking to a few people and looking at the specs I believe it is a better choice all around with many benefits.

To be fair I also looked at the central boiler downdraft boiler and I have heard enough to not want to try it. They might have good warranty/bells and whistles, but the build quality and efficiency is just not there.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,013
NE Ohio
central boiler
IMO, CB was stuck in "old school" mode so long that they were passed up by better designs...the ole "keep up, or get outta the way"
They burnt a lot of bridges when they quit honoring their door warranty too...
 

spitfire557

Member
Jan 29, 2019
61
PA
Are you needing heat in any other building? That would be one determining factor. An OWB allows you to set the thermostat and keep a steady temp. Also allows heating your domestic hot water. The new EPA boilers are pretty efficient and will probably handle slightly higher moisture content than a wood furnace. Do you have a central furnace that you can install a heat exchanger in? If you go this route research your underground piping carefully.

An indoor furnace gives you a little better efficiency, but greater swings in temp (not all bad). Indoor means you dont need to dress up to go load it. If you go with a Drolet you get a glass door. Are you set up to handle bringing in fire wood without a lot of work or mess? Is your existing ductwork large enough to handle a new furnace? It really all comes down to preference.
I have a 1,500 sq ft garage that could *possibly* be heated down the road but no plans for that currently. And if totally necessary, I have a Jotul in storage that I could use to heat the garage.

My current setup includes a central furnace which I could easily add a heat exchanger to. My current setup also includes a wood chute so getting wood into the basement is not an issue. As for the ductwork, I'm really not sure where to begin with that. A lot of our ductwork is flexible insulated duct and I suspect could/should be replaced.
 

spitfire557

Member
Jan 29, 2019
61
PA
If your ok with the wood and ash inside with small temperature swings in your house, a wood furnace is the way to go (kumma or drolet HC).

The outdoor down draft wood boilers definitely have some good benefits. I just bought a 1 year old used heatmaster g100 and like it so far. My wood consumption is similar to, if not slightly better than the Drolet tundra2 which is good.

Now if I were to buy a new boiler, I would have bought a Polar G-series boiler. After talking to a few people and looking at the specs I believe it is a better choice all around with many benefits.

To be fair I also looked at the central boiler downdraft boiler and I have heard enough to not want to try it. They might have good warranty/bells and whistles, but the build quality and efficiency is just not there.
I'm torn. My biggest gripe with the OWB is the 10-15 year lifespan. I feel like if I'm spending $10-12k on something, it should last longer than that. If I could find a one or two year old used model, I'd probably jump right on it, but I've yet to see one posted online.
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,013
NE Ohio
As for the ductwork, I'm really not sure where to begin with that. A lot of our ductwork is flexible insulated duct and I suspect could/should be replaced.
Yup, that's a non starter with wood heat...
 

Case1030

Feeling the Heat
Dec 12, 2017
328
Manitoba
I'm torn. My biggest gripe with the OWB is the 10-15 year lifespan. I feel like if I'm spending $10-12k on something, it should last longer than that. If I could find a one or two year old used model, I'd probably jump right on it, but I've yet to see one posted online.
I agree the upfront cost is an issue. You will have to weigh your options. Price out both boiler and furnace (ducting, chimney, underground piping) installed with addon builds aswell keep in mind pros and cons of fire outside. (Insurance, mess, wood outside, loading in cold temps). You are also able to do infloor in your future or current buildings, DHW, and hot tub/pool.

Both the heatmaster and Polar G series can be installed indoors/garage, some food for thought if you decided to wait before making a decision.
 

E Yoder

Feeling the Heat
Jan 27, 2017
492
Floyd, VA
I could like several comments but I'll say there's a lot of good advice here. It's a comparison of too very different approaches to burning wood.
 

Eureka

Feeling the Heat
Feb 4, 2018
339
NW Wisconsin
I can’t put a price on the peace of mind knowing that if there is a malfunction with my unit, or oversight by me, that my house won’t burn down.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,690
Nova Scotia
I have a 1,500 sq ft garage that could *possibly* be heated down the road but no plans for that currently. And if totally necessary, I have a Jotul in storage that I could use to heat the garage.

My current setup includes a central furnace which I could easily add a heat exchanger to. My current setup also includes a wood chute so getting wood into the basement is not an issue. As for the ductwork, I'm really not sure where to begin with that. A lot of our ductwork is flexible insulated duct and I suspect could/should be replaced.
Another possibility is an indoor boiler in the garage and storage in your basement. But wood fires in 'garages' are quite often an issue with insurance companies.

All kinds of things to consider, no one easy answer.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,013
NE Ohio
I can’t put a price on the peace of mind knowing that if there is a malfunction with my unit, or oversight by me, that my house won’t burn down.
IMO, that's not really a rational fear if you burn dry wood and your install was done per manufacturer recommendations/code/best practice...even if you forget to latch the door, if everything was done right, there maybe damage to stove/chimney, but no house fire.
 
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sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
771
Central Ohio
If money wasn't an object I'd go the OWB route or an indoor boiler with storage. I've had a wood burning furnace for the last 10 years, and dealing with the mess ( ash, bugs, wood chips, etc ) inside of my basement does get a little old by March. The house also seems a lot dustier when I am running the wood furnace too. If money is an object I'd get a HC or a Kuuma. With proper maintenance I'd expect both an OWB and a wood burning furnace to last at least 15 - 20 years. I'm sure @E Yoder has seen properly maintained OWB's older than 10 years old.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,013
NE Ohio
dealing with the mess ( ash, bugs, wood chips, etc ) inside of my basement does get a little old by March. The house also seems a lot dustier when I am running the wood furnace too.
Do you store wood inside? I keep hearing people talk about the mess...I don't keep wood in the house (its in attached garage, which is same level as basement) and I don't have that much mess...there is a bit more dust, not much though, but I'm pretty careful when raking coals, loading, and the ash pan gets emptied in the garage.
With proper maintenance I'd expect both an OWB and a wood burning furnace to last at least 15 - 20 years. I'm sure @E Yoder has seen properly maintained OWB's older than 10 years old.
Kuuma has 25 year warranty, and they claim to be building them to last 30-40 years.
I know my dad's Central Boiler has got to be at least 20 years old...I can't even imagine how much wood that thing has eaten...and the clouds of smoke...it very well may be responsible for 1* of local climate change all by itself! !!!
 
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spitfire557

Member
Jan 29, 2019
61
PA
I appreciate all of the responses! I'm still torn and not quite sure what to do. I may explore the option of indoor furnace in the garage / storage in the basement just to educate myself. Anyone have any links or videos that will explain this setup in simple terms?
 

laynes69

Minister of Fire
Oct 2, 2006
2,556
Ashland OH
I know OWB's have changed, but I know of 2 people (personal friends) that burn a cord of wood a week. One wasnt even heating his hot water, but used it for a small room in his garage and home. I have an indoor woodfurnace and unfortunately I've gone to bed with the door unlatched, or kept the damper propped open and there's never been an issue. As long as you follow all recommended clearances or more, it will be okay. For me it's a no brainers, but I wouldn't be against a batch burner and storage.
 
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Gearhead660

Minister of Fire
Dec 20, 2018
613
Southern WI
Hello all,

Looking for opinions on a new stove purchase. My current setup is an Englander 28-3500 add on which is 15+ years old and past it's prime. We live in a 1960's rancher with mediocre insulation.

I have nearly unlimited access to firewood and an OWB has been on my wishlist for 2 years now. I've gotten a few quotes from various manufacturers ranging from $7-$12k. I have no neighbors to worry about and keeping the fire outside of our home is a huge plus to my wife and I. I also appreciate that the pre-EPA OWB's can burn unseasoned wood if necessary.

However, after reading around and recently seeing a post about the new Drolet Heat Commander, I'm beginning to wonder if that wouldn't be a better option. I like the fact that the furnace would be capable of long 12 hour burns, and is much more efficient than any OWB on the market. If I went this route, I'd also replace our Class A chimney as it's also nearing the end of it's life. All said and done, I suspect I'd have about $4k into this setup.

So - what's your thoughts on OWB versus modern indoor furnace?
One thing I would do is spend a little on more insulation and air sealing. Would pay back for years with the reduced fuel needed to heat the home.
 

sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
771
Central Ohio
Do you store wood inside? I keep hearing people talk about the mess...I don't keep wood in the house (its in attached garage, which is same level as basement) and I don't have that much mess...there is a bit more dust, not much though, but I'm pretty careful when raking coals, loading, and the ash pan gets emptied in the garage.
Yep, I bring my wood in via metal tote.



A few years ago I created this thread about it.

Kuuma has 25 year warranty, and they claim to be building them to last 30-40 years.
I know my dad's Central Boiler has got to be at least 20 years old...I can't even imagine how much wood that thing has eaten...and the clouds of smoke...it very well may be responsible for 1* of local climate change all by itself! !!!
I didn't realize the warranty on the Kuuma was that long. That's good to know when I'm shopping for my next wood furnace. I have a friend who has a Hardy that is about that old too. His Hardy has also contributed immensely to climate change.
 
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salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,309
Northern Canada
I'm torn. My biggest gripe with the OWB is the 10-15 year lifespan. I feel like if I'm spending $10-12k on something, it should last longer than that. If I could find a one or two year old used model, I'd probably jump right on it, but I've yet to see one posted online.
Econoburns have a 25 year warranty on their units.Mine is going on 10 years with no signs of it having any issues
You should do more reading...
Burning unseasoned wood should not even be a consideration when looking at furnaces or boilers.
I found this site when i thought i knew what i was going to buy.
Thankfully i spent a few months reading on this site learning,otherwise i would have spent thousands of dollars for a system that would not have worked like the one i have.I am willing to bet that the water heater i would have bought and the crapy lines would have made my life miserable in the winter.Plus cutting all the extra wood that a crappy system would have used.
Read and ask a lot of questions before you commit.
 

spitfire557

Member
Jan 29, 2019
61
PA
Econoburns have a 25 year warranty on their units.Mine is going on 10 years with no signs of it having any issues
You should do more reading...
Burning unseasoned wood should not even be a consideration when looking at furnaces or boilers.
I found this site when i thought i knew what i was going to buy.
Thankfully i spent a few months reading on this site learning,otherwise i would have spent thousands of dollars for a system that would not have worked like the one i have.I am willing to bet that the water heater i would have bought and the crapy lines would have made my life miserable in the winter.Plus cutting all the extra wood that a crappy system would have used.
Read and ask a lot of questions before you commit.
I don't intend to burn unseasoned wood, but I like the fact that pre-EPA stoves don't require sub 20% splits.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,013
NE Ohio
I don't intend to burn unseasoned wood, but I like the fact that pre-EPA stoves don't require sub 20% splits.
So which is it? Two very different statements there.
And just FYI Kuuma doesn't require sub 20% wood...they claim 18-28% is ideal...although from my personal experience, 20% and down still heats better.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,013
NE Ohio
One thing I would do is spend a little on more insulation and air sealing. Would pay back for years with the reduced fuel needed to heat the home.
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