Recommendations please for Ontario install

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
Hi All,

Impressive forum you have going here. Can I get advice on my best option for an 1860 Victorian home with no present heat supplied to a second floor.

Presently the house is heat via a condensing propane furnace. We'd like to convert to a renewable fuel. Since we have lots of wooded acres, wood is my preferred option. I have 10 face cord cut and ready for this season. Here is my present thinking:

Option1: Drolet insert (https://www.costco.ca/drolet-escape-1800-wood-insert-trio-with-liner-and-large-faceplate.product.100480177.html). There is an existing flue with an open fireplace that is adjacent to the open stair case to the second floor. Several contractors do not recommend the drolet unit and point to higher end options. A point of confusion for me was that many suggested a 2000degC insulated chimney. The stainless steel option recommended by drolet is rated to 650degC. This is my least preferred option as the existing chimney self-shades a future solar panel roof install and I am not confident this unit will entirely heat the 2nd floor (roughly 1500ft2) which is a must have.

Option2: Outdoor Hydronic Heater (ie. Outdoor Wood Boiler). I won't consider this unless it is a gasification unit. I'd need 100ft of thermopex to reach the house. I have quotes on several brands ranging from $20-28k with taxes and interior hydronics which I find hard to swallow even with an on-going trade war with our friends to the south. IMO these are approaching geothermal prices (horizontal field). I am getting recommended larger units (15-20ft3) but my preference is to run a smaller unit (9ft3) with more than one batch burn per day to avoid the "gas'idler" reputation that these stoves have. If I burn more than 15-18 face cord per year, this is not a long term option. I figure I can air seal/better insulate the house to reduce the heating demand. Their hydronic schematics seem primitive to me (thanks to John Siggy's excellent wood hydronics course). I don't like the idea of an 'always on' pumping configuration or back heating water lines using fossil fuels to avoid freezing if we're away in the future.

Option 3: Interior gasification boiler with water storage. The Attack units look really nice. Having a hard time finding *any* unit that ships to eastern ontario or someone capable of installing these locally (insurance requirement). The only company I can find is in BC (although they seem well informed and capable). The main limitation is a 32" door frame with a steep stair into the basement. Not sure how I'd ever get a 800lb-1400lbs boiler down there safely. Equally, I could install it outside in an open garage or beside the house but the heat loss would defeat the efficiency gains of burning wood inside.

My thought is to go with a hybrid Option 2-3 and morph the install in 1-5 years to include thermal storage (non-pressurized) and remove DHW tanks and replace the furnace with an air-handling unit in the future. However, this does go against the always available or 'lite once' nature of the OWB. I can perform heat loss calculations and model hydronic systems and I'd be happy to instrument this system and share with the community if it makes sense.

My question is: what system would you go with? OR Is there a better configuration that I am over-looking? If I am going to budget almost $30k CAD (!), I want to do this right. Please help!

I am very tempted to wait just one more year to figure this out instead of rushing this years install...
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,549
Nova Scotia
What about adding on a wood burning furnace to utilize your existing duct work?

Well, that might not be completely possible since gas & wood have different duct work material requirements. At least until you get away from the furnace a ways. And don't know how easy or hard it would be for you to run a duct to the second floor.
 
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sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
What about adding on a wood burning furnace to utilize your existing duct work?

Well, that might not be completely possible since gas & wood have different duct work material requirements. At least until you get away from the furnace a ways. And don't know how easy or hard it would be for you to run a duct to the second floor.
Do you mean keeping the propane furnace and splicing in a second furnace onto the supply? Since there is no ducting to the second floor I'd need to run them up beside walls everywhere and frame them in which isn't my preference. I think it is a good use case for hydronics which is what I am actively pursuing.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,549
Nova Scotia
Do you mean keeping the propane furnace and splicing in a second furnace onto the supply? Since there is no ducting to the second floor I'd need to run them up beside walls everywhere and frame them in which isn't my preference. I think it is a good use case for hydronics which is what I am actively pursuing.
Ok, can't see your situation from here. I was mainly thinking just one supply duct to the second floor.
 

E Yoder

Feeling the Heat
Jan 27, 2017
415
Floyd, VA
I'm surprised an outdoor wood gasification boiler is running that high as there are some Canadian manufacturers that might avoid the exchange rate. ? I dunno.
My experience has been that pex piping and water has so many options. Rads, radiant, hydro/forced air, etc.
 
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maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,549
Nova Scotia
I'm surprised an outdoor wood gasification boiler is running that high as there are some Canadian manufacturers that might avoid the exchange rate. ? I dunno.
My experience has been that pex piping and water has so many options. Rads, radiant, hydro/forced air, etc.
No question hot water is more adaptable. But he'd have to balance that with already having forced air (I think), and what would be involved in retrofitting either to his situation.

Then he gets into the furnace part. Two major fundamentals to figure out. I think I decide the distribution part first. And also thinking maybe the OWB might be the way to go. I suspect a good part of that estimate up above is for the interior part, which would still be there even with a different hot water source. Except the underground.
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
No question hot water is more adaptable. But he'd have to balance that with already having forced air (I think), and what would be involved in retrofitting either to his situation.

Then he gets into the furnace part. Two major fundamentals to figure out. I think I decide the distribution part first. And also thinking maybe the OWB might be the way to go. I suspect a good part of that estimate up above is for the interior part, which would still be there even with a different hot water source. Except the underground.
Thanks all. To confirm, the OWB cost ranges (unit only) ranges from 30-40% of the total quote. It's the exterior piping to the house and hydronics that make up for the rest. Lots of upselling on OWB size by distributors (no surprise). My thought is to go with a smaller unit and batch burn into storage rather than idle an oversized unit.

Does anyone on this forum have experience using interior water storage (unpressurized) with an outdoor wood boiler?

I figure I could back circulate water from storage into OWB to keep lines from freezing if we left on vacation. I'd rather not use fossil fuels to keep lines from freezing in cold climate if we're away. Again, happy to instrument and share data if this approach makes sense to everyone here. If it doesn't, please explain so I don't make a mistake!
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,549
Nova Scotia
I have storage with my IWB and there is no 2 ways about it, it is a huge plus and a very important efficiency aspect. Likely the primary one. But if I was going to do an OWB, I'm not so sure I would try to add storage to it. Gasser OWBs have come a long ways, I think they can do pretty good with dry wood & loading for the heat demand. Keeping one warm if away for a few days, by circulating storage, would not save all that much IMO - the storage heat would be used up really quick I think. I think most with OWBs who have to do something there, just run their circs 24/7 and that is enough to keep from freezing. Maybe set an electric heater inside it while gone too. But it is definitely an aspect to fully investigate, and one of the main traditional drawbacks to an OWB - keeping it going all winter to avoid a feeeze up.

What about an IWB and storage in a separate (insulated) outbuilding that the standby heat loss could also be useful for by giving an additional heated workspace? Like one half of a shop building? Maybe also big enough for the winters wood? Or do that and also put some storage in the basement? Could such an outbuilding be placed closer to your house than an OWB?

All kinds of ways to go and things to think about.
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
I have storage with my IWB and there is no 2 ways about it, it is a huge plus and a very important efficiency aspect. Likely the primary one. But if I was going to do an OWB, I'm not so sure I would try to add storage to it. Gasser OWBs have come a long ways, I think they can do pretty good with dry wood & loading for the heat demand. Keeping one warm if away for a few days, by circulating storage, would not save all that much IMO - the storage heat would be used up really quick I think. I think most with OWBs who have to do something there, just run their circs 24/7 and that is enough to keep from freezing. Maybe set an electric heater inside it while gone too. But it is definitely an aspect to fully investigate, and one of the main traditional drawbacks to an OWB - keeping it going all winter to avoid a feeeze up.

What about an IWB and storage in a separate (insulated) outbuilding that the standby heat loss could also be useful for by giving an additional heated workspace? Like one half of a shop building? Maybe also big enough for the winters wood? Or do that and also put some storage in the basement? Could such an outbuilding be placed closer to your house than an OWB?

All kinds of ways to go and things to think about.
My thought is that you can batch burn with an OWB into storage leading into a cold snap. Essentially, the unit could be slightly undersized which drops upfront costs and improves efficiency during combustion (less wood/emissions). Perhaps the benefit comes with over complexity compared to installing a heater on lines as you suggest.

No, there are no insulated outbuildings on-site to house an IWB with interior storage. I'd have to build it.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
17,640
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Do you consider an electric boiler to be “fossil fueled”? Seems like a great backup since they’re cheap, small, safe, dependable, 100% efficient, and you don’t plan to use it often.
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
Do you consider an electric boiler to be “fossil fueled”? Seems like a great backup since they’re cheap, small, safe, dependable, 100% efficient, and you don’t plan to use it often.
~55% of our local utilities come from renewables but they aren't cheap. Rates can vary from 8-14cents/kWh depending on the time of day. As you an others have mentioned, it might be a good use case here as a backup only.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,353
NE Ohio
The Drolet insert you mentioned to start with is a fine unit by the way...Drolet makes good stuff and has good customer service too.
A forced air wood furnace would be a happy medium between a stove and a boiler as far as expense, and how well the heat gets distributed...even if you do not actively heat the second floor, just leaving a stairway open all the time will keep it tolerable...more so than with the LP furnace because wood heat is more constant and doesn't not fluctuate like fossil fuel heat does...plus its easier (cheaper) to keep the house warmer overall with wood heat.
Drolet makes some good wood furnaces, and Lamppa MFG makes the best FA wood furnace you can get right now, the Kuuma VF100.
 
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hobbyheater

Minister of Fire
Nov 14, 2011
1,145
This a Canadian made wood furnace. It's made in Ontario by Ardent Energy. It was made in BC for about 40 years and was known as RSF, but was bought out by the Ontario company about 10 years ago.
This install was done in 2013 and the furnace has exceeded my expectations. The install was done for my mother in law who is now a young 95. She feeds it twice a day in the winter months and once a day in the shoulder season.

IMGP5623.JPG


Myself, I heat with gasification and storage and was skeptical about this furnace when it comes to creosote in the chimney as it was going to idle a lot but following the instructions in the manual and burning very dry softwood ( less than 10% moisture content ), I've been cleaning the chimney twice a year but have found very little to clean. I had considered the Kuma but the load was not going to be enough to keep the Kuma burning briskly.

IMGP5622.JPG
 

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sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
The Drolet insert you mentioned to start with is a fine unit by the way...Drolet makes good stuff and has good customer service too.
A forced air wood furnace would be a happy medium between a stove and a boiler as far as expense, and how well the heat gets distributed...even if you do not actively heat the second floor, just leaving a stairway open all the time will keep it tolerable...more so than with the LP furnace because wood heat is more constant and doesn't not fluctuate like fossil fuel heat does...plus its easier (cheaper) to keep the house warmer overall with wood heat.
Drolet makes some good wood furnaces, and Lamppa MFG makes the best FA wood furnace you can get right now, the Kuuma VF100.
Thanks. I am still pursuing the Drolet as an option. What type of chimney do you have installed on yours? I am told I need a high temperature chimney which seems overkill to me.
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
This a Canadian made wood furnace. It's made in Ontario by Ardent Energy. It was made in BC for about 40 years and was known as RSF, but was bought out by the Ontario company about 10 years ago.
This install was done in 2013 and the furnace has exceeded my expectations. The install was done for my mother in law who is now a young 95. She feeds it twice a day in the winter months and once a day in the shoulder season.

Myself, I heat with gasification and storage and was skeptical about this furnace when it comes to creosote in the chimney as it was going to idle a lot but following the instructions in the manual and burning very dry softwood ( less than 10% moisture content ), I've been cleaning the chimney twice a year but have found very little to clean. I had considered the Kuma but the load was not going to be enough to keep the Kuma burning briskly.
Thanks for the suggestion. I hope I can make it to 95 and still be able to feed a stove twice a day. What a champ!
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,353
NE Ohio
Thanks. I am still pursuing the Drolet as an option. What type of chimney do you have installed on yours? I am told I need a high temperature chimney which seems overkill to me.
I have an insulated stainless steel flex liner in my masonry chimney.
What do you have for a chimney? Or do you need to put one up?
Skimping on the chimney is a bad idea...it is the engine that drives the stove...don't do it properly and you won't be happy...and yes, it needs to be high temp to take a chimney fire and not burn the rest of the house down.
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
I have an insulated stainless steel flex liner in my masonry chimney.
What do you have for a chimney? Or do you need to put one up?
Skimping on the chimney is a bad idea...it is the engine that drives the stove...don't do it properly and you won't be happy...and yes, it needs to be high temp to take a chimney fire and not burn the rest of the house down.
There is an existing chimney (not masonry) but circa 1980s. I'd eat my shirt if it was a high temp one ;) Thanks for the warning.
 

hedge wood

Member
Mar 1, 2009
115
Eastern NE
Before I jumped into spending $30,000 on a wood burning system I would spend money on tightening up the house as much as you can. Eleven years ago I spent around $30,000 to put in a Garn system in at my farm to heat my shop and house and I did all the work my self other than the spray foam. Just last year I had to spend around $3,000 to get a serious crack welded to repair a leak. I burn 10-15 full cord a year of hard wood. As I am getting older messing with that wood is becoming a big job. Burning wood is a life style. I do run mine year around to heat my domestic water too.
 
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maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,549
Nova Scotia
Not sure exactly where you are in Ontario, but I would also not rule out installing a couple of cold climate mini-splits. They might work well with a good wood stove. Plus give summer a/c. For a lot less $ than the OWB number above. One thing an OWB will lock you into for a long time (unless you bail on it along the way) is putting up large amounts of fire wood each year. That is not to be taken lightly as the years go by - from experience. I used to do 8-9 cords/year (with a pig of an IWB). I am down to like 3 with the current boiler + a couple of mini splits. That got to be a huge drag even though I liked getting in the woods & doing it. I just finished putting this winters wood inside the past weekend. A few hours over a couple weekends, vs. a whole lot more hours over a month - yessir.
 
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sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
Before I jumped into spending $30,000 on a wood burning system I would spend money on tightening up the house as much as you can. Eleven years ago I spent around $30,000 to put in a Garn system in at my farm to heat my shop and house and I did all the work my self other than the spray foam. Just last year I had to spend around $3,000 to get a serious crack welded to repair a leak. I burn 10-15 full cord a year of hard wood. As I am getting older messing with that wood is becoming a big job. Burning wood is a life style. I do run mine year around to heat my domestic water too.
Thank you all for the feedback. I ended up committing to a gasification OWB. Going to heat x2 greenhouses with it in the long term and at that time revisit the IWB with storage

Absolutely air-sealing and insulating the house where possible makes sense. We have had government funding for home efficiency programs in the past. I can see that making a come back soon in here in Canada so I am holding off from aggressively doing it. Fingers crossed the boiler manufacturer holds up to its warranty on components/parts. If we can get past 5 years without major repairs it will have paid itself off. Airsealing/insulatinng also makes sense in keeping bugs and animals out. We have lots of visitors in our farm house ;)
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,141
Northern Canada
What OWB did you chose?
You could put storage in your basement.Or build a boiler room that will tie into your greenhouse eventually and put the storage in there.
I built a dedicated boiler building,it is where the boiler and storage live. I use the rest as a warm workshop in the winter.My shop will be getting tied into it with a short breezway and i have a green hose planed for on top of my wood shed which is right beside the boiler building
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
Not sure exactly where you are in Ontario, but I would also not rule out installing a couple of cold climate mini-splits. They might work well with a good wood stove. Plus give summer a/c. For a lot less $ than the OWB number above. One thing an OWB will lock you into for a long time (unless you bail on it along the way) is putting up large amounts of fire wood each year. That is not to be taken lightly as the years go by - from experience. I used to do 8-9 cords/year (with a pig of an IWB). I am down to like 3 with the current boiler + a couple of mini splits. That got to be a huge drag even though I liked getting in the woods & doing it. I just finished putting this winters wood inside the past weekend. A few hours over a couple weekends, vs. a whole lot more hours over a month - yessir.
I did rule these out. They work great if you have an air-tight, well insulated building. My major gripe with them is refrigerant leaks and diminished heating capacity at cold temps. Even a slight leak negates most environmental benefits they have. They are basically expensive electric heaters below -10C. Manufacturers claim you can get COPs>1 up to -20C but unfortunately a heat pump's capacity to supply heat drops-off significantly in colder temperatures requiring electrical assist. It's a bit of a marketing slight-of-hand. Great in the maritimes as your winters tend to be milder. Not so great here if we see -30C lows for ~6 weeks of winter.

If I start to get behind wood, I'll buy a truck load full and process ahead of time. Really appreciate everyone's feedback!
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
What OWB did you chose?
You could put storage in your basement.Or build a boiler room that will tie into your greenhouse eventually and put the storage in there.
I built a dedicated boiler building,it is where the boiler and storage live. I use the rest as a warm workshop in the winter.My shop will be getting tied into it with a short breezway and i have a green hose planed for on top of my wood shed which is right beside the boiler building
Went with the Central Boiler 560HDX. I'd be interested in hearing more as you move forward with your plans. My hope is to do the same so I use waste heat responsibly.
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,141
Northern Canada
My system is in place for 12 years
Have you looked into an Econoburn?
I wouldn't take a CB if you gave it to me.Lots of bad stories around here,plus the dealer is a d1ck head
My next step is looking at solar collection for the shoulder seasons
 

sb99

New Member
Sep 15, 2020
15
Ontario
My system is in place for 12 years
Have you looked into an Econoburn?
I wouldn't take a CB if you gave it to me.Lots of bad stories around here,plus the dealer is a d1ck head
My next step is looking at solar collection for the shoulder seasons
I did. I can't get it in my basement and the city won't let me build infrastructure for a shed without permits.

I've heard similar and did my homework before committing. We have a CB tech in the area that is really good with support with these newer units. I liked HeatMaster as a company but I had concerns regarding their local supplier. Plus HeatMaster's newer units (ie. G4000/G7000) came in with really poor 3rd party testing. I heard these tests can be inconsistent but avg efficiency of 70% vs 83% is a big deal from my perspective. Hopefully CB has turned a corner. Their warranty is more similar to HM now, their technology appears better, controls/monitoring is top notch. I need five years of reliable service and plan on swapping a more efficient IWB w storage unit at that point in an exterior solarium anyways. I'll be back to share my experiences just the same!

For solar thermal, would you go with vacuum tubes or flat panels?