Recommendations on Furnace

chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
Hello everyone! I am new to this forum and need some advice. I recently built a home and had an insulated chimney put in from my basement to outside. It sits near my central air handler. I am using an air forced heat pump with electric coils for backup heat knowing I was eventually going to put in a wood burning furnace to help take the edge off in winter months and even heat the house in colder months. I'm in the northern KY area just south of Cincinnati, OH. My house is a ranch with about 2600 sq ft on the first floor and the finished basement is around 1600 sq feet. The basement is mostly underground and has kids rooms down there. I have a separate thermostat that I want to tie in to the wood burner as well.

Sorry for the all the background but figured it would be helpful

The regulations changed this year and it is taking the options of furnaces down big time. I have read several posts on here about how the FY-C brand is pretty much crap. Can you help me understand what my options are for what I have described above? Thanks in advance
 

3fordasho

Minister of Fire
Jul 20, 2007
942
South Central Minnesota
There is only two options right now worth considering. The Kuuma Vaporfire 100 and the Drolet Heat Commander. The Kuuma is the first furnace to meet the new 2020 EPA regulations and also a proven performer and commands a price to match. The Drolet Heat Commander is a revamped version of Drolet's Tundra and Tundra II. The Tundra had some teething problems but has a proven firebox/heat exchanger design and the problems were solved with the Tundra II. The Heat Commander has more sophisticated controls to meet the 2020 regs but it just became available in the last couple weeks so no first hand owner reviews to be found yet. Do not even consider the Shelter/Firechief offering that can be found at TSC, fleetfarm and possibly Menards, It is Junk.
 

chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
That is what I thought you were going to tell me. I was looking at the Heat Commander but when you look at the recommended heating space it only goes up to 2500 sq ft. Would this be enough for me?

Also after doing some more research can you help me understand the difference between a wood burning furnace and a boiler? Thanks
 
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3fordasho

Minister of Fire
Jul 20, 2007
942
South Central Minnesota
That is what I thought you were going to tell me. I was looking at the Heat Commander but when you look at the recommended heating space it only goes up to 2500 sq ft. Would this be enough for me?

Also after doing some more research can you help me understand the difference between a wood burning furnace and a boiler? Thanks
I'm in Southern MN and the Tundra will heat my 3400 sqft home down to about 10F outside temps or lower on calm days. A south wind on cold days will make in struggle and I need to burn some propane or fire up my Progress Hybrid wood stove. You are further south so heating loads should be lower assuming your insulation and air sealing are up to snuff.

A wood burning furnace heats air in the jacket around the firebox and blows heated air thru duct work. A wood boiler heats water and circulates hot water to various types of hydronic heat emitters (in floor radiant heat, water coil in plenum of existing forced air furnace, hydronic baseboard, radiators, etc) If one desires the wood burning appliance to be outside one's home, the boiler is the route to go as it's much easier to circulate water over a distance and almost impossible to do that with warm air. I have my boiler and storage in an outbuilding about 85ft from the main house, the standby losses keep that building in the 50's all winter as well so the boiler set up can have the advantage of heating multiple buildings. The downside is cost, the boiler itself is more expensive than the best wood furnace and then the storage tanks, fittings, valves, expansion tank, underground lines, heat emitters will easily be the cost of the boiler and if you can't design and install yourself there will be considerable costs there as well.
 

laynes69

Minister of Fire
Oct 2, 2006
2,515
Ashland OH
As long as the home is built well (airsealed and insulated), the heat commander shouldn't be an issue with that square footage. We have a Caddy with the same firebox setup as the commander and we heat 100% wood in our 2500 sqft victorian plus a 1200 sqft basement.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,633
Northern NH
Looks like several of us are responding, here is my take

A wood burning furnace heats air indirectly. Think of it a box in box. The firebox where the wood is burned heats the outside of the inner box. The smoke leaves the inner box and goes up the stack. Return air from the heating system enters the bottom of the outer box and gets heated up by the hot inner box and then goes to the house. It makes sense if you have a hot air system to go with a wood furnace. The down side is the inner box expands and contracts while the fire is burning and the temptation is to make the inner box walls thin to improve heat transfer. That opens up the possibility that the inner box could crack and leak smoke into the house(very bad). A boiler heats water which then is pumped around the house to radiators. Heat is moved by the pound. A pound of air is very large compared to pound of water. So to move heat its going to require a lot more air moving around the house than water.

The other big trade off is that you most likely do not need the full capacity of the wood furnace most of the time. That means you need to run the fire at low load. This can lead to inefficient burning and pollution. The EPA requires new wood burning appliances to pass fairly strict emissions standards. Its not that hard to get them to pass at full load so the temptation is to build a furnace that runs near full load all the time, that can mean that the house is alternatively roasted and freezing. Trying to burn clean at part load is lot harder and you will pay for it.

A wood boiler can suffer the same issue if it does not have thermal storage. Remembering that water is heavier than air, a proper wood boiler system can be designed to heat up a large insulated tank of water. When the house needs heat it pulls it out of the tank while its warm. That means the boiler can be designed to run at full load quite efficiently and cleanly when it needs to reheat the tank. Typically the tank is sized to go one to three days between needing to run the boiler. That means the owner gets to pick a convenient time to run the boiler ever couple of days and then ignore it. Someone with a wood furnace is going to have to light small fires more often to try to keep the house in a range of roasting and freezing.

The big downside to wood boiler with storage is cost. Even if someone has the baseboards and circulating system from a oil boiler, the wood boiler and storage is 15K to 20 K cost. If on the other hand someone has a hot air system in place a wood furnace is lot less. I dont know current pricing but expect the cheap throwaway wood furnaces may be 2K installed with high quality device costing 5K?
 
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chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
all good information. Thanks for explaining the difference on the boiler vs furnace. Makes total sense now. I am going to research the Drolet a little closer. I know Drolet made several models before the EPA changes. Do people think that they will have more units come out?
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,530
NE Ohio
the inner box could crack and leak smoke into the house(very bad).
Pretty unusual for that to happen though...unless you have a crappy chimney system, the firebox should always be under a negative pressure...unlike a gas/oil fired appliance, which are noted for filling the house with CO when they crack.
My Tundra 1 had a crack when I bought it...never did fix it until I sold it...made no difference.
I have read several posts on here about how the FY-C brand is pretty much crap
100%!
I was looking at the Heat Commander but when you look at the recommended heating space it only goes up to 2500 sq ft. Would this be enough for me?
In KY, and since you said you want it to "take the edge off" the heat bill, it will be fine.
Do people think that they will have more units come out?
Yes, its taking some time to get all the models through testing, which is backlogged, and time consuming.
Drolet is a good company and stands behind their stuff...but, just to be clear, the Heat Commander is a new model (based on the old time proven firebox design, but with all new intake controls) it will be interesting to see how they pan out...
 

chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
Pretty unusual for that to happen though...unless you have a crappy chimney system, the firebox should always be under a negative pressure...unlike a gas/oil fired appliance, which are noted for filling the house with CO when they crack.
My Tundra 1 had a crack when I bought it...never did fix it until I sold it...made no difference.

100%!

In KY, and since you said you want it to "take the edge off" the heat bill, it will be fine.

Yes, its taking some time to get all the models through testing, which is backlogged, and time consuming.
Drolet is a good company and stands behind their stuff...but, just to be clear, the Heat Commander is a new model (based on the old time proven firebox design, but with all new intake controls) it will be interesting to see how they pan out...

Yes I would like it to take the edge off but I would also like for it to heat the entire house if possible especially when it gets cold outside so I don't have to run off of my electric backup heat. I just worry that the Heat Commander will not be enough. I would love to jump on one of these for this winter but still wonder if I should wait for something a little bigger to come out.
 

3fordasho

Minister of Fire
Jul 20, 2007
942
South Central Minnesota
Yes I would like it to take the edge off but I would also like for it to heat the entire house if possible especially when it gets cold outside so I don't have to run off of my electric backup heat. I just worry that the Heat Commander will not be enough. I would love to jump on one of these for this winter but still wonder if I should wait for something a little bigger to come out.
The Tundra had a big brother called the Heat pro, 4.8 cubic feet (firebox size) vs 3.6 cubic feet for the Tundra. I don't know if Drolet is working on the EPA certification process for it or not but even if they are I'm guessing we won't see it for this years heating season. The EPA certification for 2020 wood furnace regulations is not only difficult to meet, expensive and also a slow process and has really limited product offerings so far. There is a member here who is an employee of Drolet's parent company, SBI. Look in the Heat Commander thread and maybe PM him for info on the Heat Pro.

Honestly though I don't think you need the bigger furnace over the Heat Commander and I think will create more problems than it will solve. Wood burning is a cycle that works best on about 3 loads a day to keep the furnace hot and efficient, too big and you will fall out of this cycle and need a lot of inefficient cold starts.
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,530
NE Ohio
Honestly though I don't think you need the bigger furnace over the Heat Commander
Agreed.
What's your heat load like chad? (how much does your bill go up during heating season?)
Wood burning is a cycle that works best on about 3 loads a day to keep the furnace hot and efficient, too big and you will fall out of this cycle and need a lot of inefficient cold starts.
Yup, 2 per day is doable, but 3 is ideal. 1 per day gets old after a while...
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,530
NE Ohio
My SIL/BIL live about 1.5 hours NE of Cincinnati (Springfield OH) and it always amazes me how much more mild their weather is than what we have in NEO. Its only ~150 miles between us and them...
 
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chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
The Tundra had a big brother called the Heat pro, 4.8 cubic feet (firebox size) vs 3.6 cubic feet for the Tundra. I don't know if Drolet is working on the EPA certification process for it or not but even if they are I'm guessing we won't see it for this years heating season. The EPA certification for 2020 wood furnace regulations is not only difficult to meet, expensive and also a slow process and has really limited product offerings so far. There is a member here who is an employee of Drolet's parent company, SBI. Look in the Heat Commander thread and maybe PM him for info on the Heat Pro.

Honestly though I don't think you need the bigger furnace over the Heat Commander and I think will create more problems than it will solve. Wood burning is a cycle that works best on about 3 loads a day to keep the furnace hot and efficient, too big and you will fall out of this cycle and need a lot of inefficient cold starts.

Thanks for this info. I think this is what I needed. I am new to wood burning and this is something that I did not think of.
 

chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
Agreed.
What's your heat load like chad? (how much does your bill go up during heating season?)

To be honest I am not sure. I have only been in the house since March. My heat pump is a really efficient unit but I knew rom the beginning that I wanted to go with some extra wood burning heat as heat pump heat is still cooler then gas or wood heat. That is part of the reason I went ahead and put in a insulated Chimney. I also live on 6.5 acres with access to wood here and several other areas



Yup, 2 per day is doable, but 3 is ideal. 1 per day gets old after a while...
 

sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
706
Central Ohio
My SIL/BIL live about 1.5 hours NE of Cincinnati (Springfield OH) and it always amazes me how much more mild their weather is than what we have in NEO. Its only ~150 miles between us and them...
Yep, it's night and day difference. When I lived in SE Ohio they would close school for a few inches of snow. Where I grew up ( Akron ) in NE Ohio it was just another day of winter. In SE Ohio we got more ice than NE Ohio though.
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,530
NE Ohio
My personal opinion, I think I would maybe wait a year to buy...get a winter under your belt so you have an idea what the house is like to heat, and there will very likely be more models available next year too (also, a little better idea how well the Heat Commander works)
 
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chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
I might wait until next year as there will hopefully be more options and competition which will bring some of the pricing down. Thank you everyone for the great advice. This has made my search and decisions much more clear. If I am going to live in this house forever I want to make sure I am doing it right the first time
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,530
NE Ohio
If I am going to live in this house forever I want to make sure I am doing it right the first time
You sound like a good candidate for the Kuuma VF100 and its 25 year warranty then.

As far as prices going down...unlikely...steel prices just keep going up.
I have a co-worker that was saving to pay cash for building a new house...he said they would keep getting quotes every year, and the cost of the house kept going up about the same amount as what they had saved up...after about 10 years of this they bit the bullet and borrowed the rest of the money from her parents, then built...this was about 5 years ago, he said recently they are glad they did it because the pricing has just continued the same trend...and even more so here recently!
 
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chadcj7

New Member
Oct 27, 2020
8
Alexandria, KY
You sound like a good candidate for the Kuuma VF100 and its 25 year warranty then.

As far as prices going down...unlikely...steel prices just keep going up.
I have a co-worker that was saving to pay cash for building a new house...he said they would keep getting quotes every year, and the cost of the house kept going up about the same amount as what they had saved up...after about 10 years of this they bit the bullet and borrowed the rest of the money from her parents, then built...this was about 5 years ago, he said recently they are glad they did it because the pricing has just continued the same trend...and even more so here recently!
I agree with the building house piece. We were in a similar decision when we started building in 2019. Seeing the prices of wood I’m glad we did it when we did.

I have looked at the VF100 but it is expensive. The ROI isn’t seeming to add up. I was initially budgeting around $2k for this but I think I was off a little. The good news is I already have the chimney in place as I know that is a big part of the expense. Is the VF100 really worth the extra money?
 

Wood1Dennis

Burning Hunk
Jan 17, 2016
118
Eastern Wisconsin
Chad, I believe that the PSG Caddy line is up to the current 2020 EPA standard. It is worth a look. Same manufacturer (PSG) as the Drolet. Mine went in in 2016.
We have the Caddy heating 1700 feet plus full basement in Wisconsin. I've been very happy with our Caddy furnace. It in in our central heating system with LP furnace back up. It uses the LP furnace fan. BTW, I like your handle, have a CJ5 that I'll be putting into winter storage any day now!
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,530
NE Ohio
I believe that the PSG Caddy line is up to the current 2020 EPA standard
Not yet...its coming though...but you are close to the price of a Kuuma again too.
Just FYI for those not aware, Caddy is the dealer installed version of the Tundra/Heatmax...and the same firebox design that the Heat Commander is based off of.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,403
Iowa
May as well get after the wood stocking effort in the mean time. Unless you already have? Did you post photo's of the existing chimney setup yet?
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,530
NE Ohio
Is the VF100 really worth the extra money?
A bunch of satified Kuuma owners on here...about the only people that I've heard of not liking theirs had them in a house that had too large of a heat load (not your case I'm sure) or improperly installed.
 

woodey

Burning Hunk
Feb 8, 2018
156
ST. Lawrence Valley N.Y.
Is the VF100 really worth the extra money?
It is for me, if I had to do it all over again I would in a heartbeat. If you wait until next year the VF200 should be available. A smaller unit but able to heat up to 3000 sq. ft. in a properly insulated house. One of the features I like for piece of mind is that the VF comes with an alarm. If your fire box happens get to a certain temp the alarm sounds and the computer shuts off the primary draft and the blower automatically kicks in on high cooling the unit down before it can overheat, and then the computer takes over control of the draft again.
 
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JRHAWK9

Minister of Fire
Jan 8, 2014
1,501
Wisconsin Dells, WI
I have looked at the VF100 but it is expensive. The ROI isn’t seeming to add up.
My Kuuma install and brand new chimney install cost me $10K back in '14. I did the Kuuma install myself, except for the sheet metal work. Seeing I had past records of LP usage and weigh all my wood it gets me in the ball park of what I have been saving in LP a year. The whole install paid for itself as of last winter and now I'm about $1K in the "green". This is with CHEAP LP too, if LP was the price it was from before I put the Kuuma in, it would have paid for itself in about 3 years.

IMO, I would not want to be an owner of anything in it's first year on the market. Give it 2-3 years for them to work all the bugs out at the expense of those who did decide to jump on the band-wagon right away. LOL