Pellet stove/furnace in the basement for backup heat - need advice

joecool85

Minister of Fire
We are finally removing our old oil boiler. It is circa 1987 and can't work as a cold start because it leaks when below 120F. We are going to a heat pump dhw tank and pellet stove or furnace for our backup heat. Primary heat is supplied by our 17-VL in the living room. Our home is 1,250 sq ft and the wood stove does a good job until we get below 10F outside, then we would normally have to run the oil to help. Plus overnight the stove would go out and the oil would carry the load. The old boiler only had 42k of baseboard attached, so not a lot of output.

We have looked at a bunch of units and I'm not sure what way to go. The goal is that we could use the pellet source for additional heat on cold days and overnight. My concern is that we do not currently have an air path from the (unfinished) basement to the upstairs. The basement is a typical one in Maine, we have a sump pump so there is no standing water, but it does get somewhat moist when it rains etc. I don't know how I feel about sending "basement air" upstairs - maybe not a problem?

Our options I've come up with are:

We could do a Heatilator CAB50 in the basement and then have a 500CFM fan with 1micron filter blowing into the living room from the basement. We would need a return duct/vent on the other side of the house back into the basement.

We could do a Drolet ECO 65 which has it's own ducting, send that up to the living room. There is no way of attaching a filter to this though, and I'm concerned again about the basement air. Potential mold etc. Maybe this isn't an issue as it would be killed in the pellet stove from the heat?

Last, we could build a tiny addition to the kitchen for a pellet stove to sit in. The downsides here are high cost as well as there would be no additional heat to the basement which I was banking on helping the DHW heat pump out in the winter so it doesn't use the resistance elements.

Our budget is $6,000 installed. I will do the install, but the $6,000 would need to include all bits and pieces to make it work. What do you guys think?
 

joecool85

Minister of Fire
We are finally removing our old oil boiler. It is circa 1987 and can't work as a cold start because it leaks when below 120F. We are going to a heat pump dhw tank and pellet stove or furnace for our backup heat. Primary heat is supplied by our 17-VL in the living room. Our home is 1,250 sq ft and the wood stove does a good job until we get below 10F outside, then we would normally have to run the oil to help. Plus overnight the stove would go out and the oil would carry the load. The old boiler only had 42k of baseboard attached, so not a lot of output.

We have looked at a bunch of units and I'm not sure what way to go. The goal is that we could use the pellet source for additional heat on cold days and overnight. My concern is that we do not currently have an air path from the (unfinished) basement to the upstairs. The basement is a typical one in Maine, we have a sump pump so there is no standing water, but it does get somewhat moist when it rains etc. I don't know how I feel about sending "basement air" upstairs - maybe not a problem?

Our options I've come up with are:

We could do a Heatilator CAB50 in the basement and then have a 500CFM fan with 1micron filter blowing into the living room from the basement. We would need a return duct/vent on the other side of the house back into the basement.

We could do a Drolet ECO 65 which has it's own ducting, send that up to the living room. There is no way of attaching a filter to this though, and I'm concerned again about the basement air. Potential mold etc. Maybe this isn't an issue as it would be killed in the pellet stove from the heat?

Last, we could build a tiny addition to the kitchen for a pellet stove to sit in. The downsides here are high cost as well as there would be no additional heat to the basement which I was banking on helping the DHW heat pump out in the winter so it doesn't use the resistance elements.

Our budget is $6,000 installed. I will do the install, but the $6,000 would need to include all bits and pieces to make it work. What do you guys think?
There is also the PSG Caddy Alterna furnace for $5,799. That may be the best way to go. It is an actual furnace and has a filter and setup for return ducting etc. It is more money than I had hoped for though.
https://www.discountstoves.net/psg-caddy-alterna-pellet-furnace-p/caddyalterna.htm
 

MCPO

Minister of Fire
Spend the money instead on a new boiler (central heat) . Your home would be worth less without a working central heating system and possibly not meet legal home occupancy requirements without it . An inexpensive used pellet stove (a glut of them on Craigslist) could always be added for supplemental heat afterwards.
 

joecool85

Minister of Fire
Spend the money instead on a new boiler (central heat) . Your home would be worth less without a working central heating system and possibly not meet legal home occupancy requirements without it . An inexpensive used pellet stove (a glut of them on Craigslist) could always be added for supplemental heat afterwards.
This would normally be sound advice, but it does not work for us. We are not worried about resale value. If/when we decide to sell, I can always put in a used oil burner at that point in time to increase value. We don't have a lot of space in our 1,250 sq ft home with 4 of us here, so the only reasonable location for a pellet burner is in the basement utilizing the existing flue that currently has the oil boiler on it. It would be expensive to replace the oil boiler with another unit just to simply use it as backup heat and run about 100 gallons a year through it. There are additional savings with losing the oil, we currently pay $360/yr for our service contract which covers all the maintenance on said boiler. If we stick with oil, we stick with the service contract. If we go with pellets, I'm the service guy :)

Plus pellets are more in sync with our environmental outlook on life, local production of the product (they are made just 20 miles from us), etc.

I'm leaning towards doing the ECO 65. Certainly it would be the most efficient and effective way of moving the heat safely upstairs. My only concern with it is air quality. I really wish there was a way to filter it "just in case." Does anyone know if it is possible to filter the "hot" side? I'm guessing no, but have to ask!
 

joecool85

Minister of Fire
I’d slap a p68 pellet stove down there and heat er up.
Do you think the heat would get upstairs alright just going through the floor? No carpets on the first floor and no insulation in the basement ceiling. We don't have any vents from basement to first floor though.
 

zrock

Minister of Fire
Dec 2, 2017
780
bc
Spend the money instead on a new boiler (central heat) . Your home would be worth less without a working central heating system and possibly not meet legal home occupancy requirements without it . An inexpensive used pellet stove (a glut of them on Craigslist) could always be added for supplemental heat afterwards.
I agree check with your local building code first. Allot of places you are not allowed to remove your primary source of heat and not replace it with the same or equivalent so if you pull a furnace out one has to go back in. Also some insurance company's will not insure you or sky rocket your insurance.

Looking at the spec's on your wood stove its a little small for what your trying to heat.. It heats up to 1200sqft so you gotta keep it cooking to do so... So why not upgrade to a better and bigger wood stove that you can load up for the night and still have some heat coming from it in the morning or get our of bed and reload it to keep things nice and toasty. Then move the smaller stove to the basement with that you should be able to cook yourself out of the house easily
 

Overfireinthehole

Minister of Fire
May 5, 2017
629
Miller MO
Do you think the heat would get upstairs alright just going through the floor? No carpets on the first floor and no insulation in the basement ceiling. We don't have any vents from basement to first floor though.
You would probably need some vents or a cold air return although it may rise naturally if the floors aren’t insulated
 

MCPO

Minister of Fire
Do you think the heat would get upstairs alright just going through the floor? No carpets on the first floor and no insulation in the basement ceiling. We don't have any vents from basement to first floor though.
Moving warm air up isn`t ideal especially if you have no return vents. The uninsulated basement concrete will suck up the heat like a sponge anyway so there won`t be much going up the stairway unless you really oversize the heater and that will burn pellets like you won`t believe.
 

Overfireinthehole

Minister of Fire
May 5, 2017
629
Miller MO
Moving warm air up isn`t ideal especially if you have no return vents. The uninsulated basement concrete will suck up the heat like a sponge anyway so there won`t be much going up the stairway unless you really oversize the heater and that will burn pellets like you won`t believe.
I have had mixed experience with this. I have plenty of customers who heat in the entire house with one stove in the basement. Most of them will say that once the concrete heats up after running the stove for a day or two, it stays pretty warm in the basement and very pleasant in the upstairs. I do have a few customers however who say that the stove in the basement just doesn’t keep the Upstairs warm enough. It’s really really hard to determine without doing an air study of the house.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
16,697
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Filtering the basement air with a furnace filter will just remove the big chunks of floating crap. Is the basement air safe? A real pellet furnace has a supply and return duct so you control how much basement air is mixed with house air.

Unfinished basement. Like dirt floor? Slimy walls? Rats and insects? Or maybe just bare concrete?
 

bogieb

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2014
2,773
South Central NH
I have had mixed experience with this. I have plenty of customers who heat in the entire house with one stove in the basement. Most of them will say that once the concrete heats up after running the stove for a day or two, it stays pretty warm in the basement and very pleasant in the upstairs. I do have a few customers however who say that the stove in the basement just doesn’t keep the Upstairs warm enough. It’s really really hard to determine without doing an air study of the house.
This - heat doesn't rise in my house even with vents cut in the floors, register fans and other fans (lots of experimentation), so I ended up with a smaller stove upstairs. Plenty of people say it works for them, but in my case a huge stove with 60+ btu capability couldn't keep my 900 sq/ft upstairs at better than 64 (in the warm spots). It really depends on your specific house and set up.
 

MCPO

Minister of Fire
Spending $5,700 + and not knowing for sure if the basement install will heat the upstairs is definitely not a sound investment. You need to look further into this before parting with that much cash.
 

joecool85

Minister of Fire
Update time!

I have done the calculations, and a regular pellet stove would be terrible. Roughly 40% of the heat would make it to the house, the rest would be lost to the ground and outside. We are going to go with the Drolet Eco 65. Running that, we will be ducting it to the 1st floor and I have estimated 83% of the heat will make it upstairs. This is within spec for us.

I have checked with the codes enforcement officer, he's good with this. Insurance is good with this as well. Most importantly, wife is good with this. The Drolet will cost us just under $3,000 by the time we have it all installed and we should be burning 1-1.5 ton through it a year.

I like the PSG Caddy Alterna II, but at $5,799 for just the unit it would be almost $7,000 installed by the time I do the ducting and line the chimney etc. It would send roughly 95% of it's heat upstairs so it is more efficient. Even assuming 100% of it's heat going upstairs and only 80% for the Drolet, that is 20% less fuel used. Because it is only backup heat, this means we would save about 1/4 ton a year. At $250/ton, this is only $62.50. Round it up to $100/yr savings just to be cautious. Given that it is $4,000 more to install that would take 40 years to pay itself back over the Drolet. What are the odds it would even last that long? So the Drolet makes the most sense.

Of note, at max settings and when it is -25F here (the coldest I've recorded in 11 years), the Drolet will only get the house to a calculated 49F. With the wood stove and Drolet going, it would be technically possible to exceed 130F. So again, the way we will be using it as backup for the stove, we're good. If it was going to be primary or sole heat, the Caddy Alterna II would be a much better choice.

As far as basement goes, it is unfinished but it is clean cement. No insulation or drywall though. Sometimes a small amount of moisture for a day or so if it rains a lot. The sump pump keeps it so there is never any standing water.
 

joecool85

Minister of Fire
Spending $5,700 + and not knowing for sure if the basement install will heat the upstairs is definitely not a sound investment. You need to look further into this before parting with that much cash.
That price was for the sure-fire "it will work" method of using a legit pellet furnace, the Caddy Alterna II - 101,000 BTU of pellet furnace, capable of built in electric backup heat. We are going a different method though and will be spending half this on a Drolet Eco 65. For backup heat use, it should be perfect.
 

Jake86

Burning Hunk
Oct 8, 2015
172
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Spend the money instead on a new boiler (central heat) . Your home would be worth less without a working central heating system and possibly not meet legal home occupancy requirements without it . An inexpensive used pellet stove (a glut of them on Craigslist) could always be added for supplemental heat afterwards.
Very wise advice, Sir.
 

fmsm

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2011
937
South of Boston MA
Look into a mini split system. You will pick up A/C in the summer if you want it, it will de humidify, and there may be some very aggressive rebates! Depending on how many separate rooms you have you can probably do it with one unit and multiple heads giving you incredible freedom to zone your unused/unoccupied rooms. I have a Harman Accentra that heats my in law addition (about 2000 square feet) and use the mini’s as backup in the winter A/C in the summer. I was fortunate when I built my addition that I could plan properly with vaulted/slanted ceilings to “roll” the heat into the side rooms and it naturally shoots up the staircase to my man cave/office.
 

johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
2,486
Eastern Ontario
My whole house is only 2000 sq feet
Move the inlaws out I'm coming to live with you
 

fmsm

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2011
937
South of Boston MA
Whoa. 2000 SF for the inlaws!
I am the in law! Gave the main house to my daughter and her husband. Great having my grandkids 37 feet down the hall....
 
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bogieb

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2014
2,773
South Central NH
My house isn't even that big - me thinks I need to find someone to be an inlaw to ;)