What can I get away with to heat a big house?

stoveboy12345 Posted By stoveboy12345, Jun 26, 2018 at 3:58 PM

  1. stoveboy12345

    stoveboy12345
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    Future Maryland woodburner here, I've read a zillion posts and struggling to find the perfect fit. I have a 3000 sq foot 2 level house and my plan is to house a woodstove in the bottom level fireplace and use that to provide the brunt of the heating for the whole house, albeit with electric furnace backup. Note that the intake for the furnace is ~5 feet away from the fireplace so I hope that if I leave the fan on it will pump wonderful hot air all through the house.

    I'm on a budget and need to prioritize spending (I was hoping the offseason would somehow provide the perfect stove at the perfect price). Ideal steel is the right price, but it's only 65000 BTU and rated for 2200 square ft. My worry is that I'm already trying to get away with so much (housing a stove in a fireplace, attempting to heat multiple levels) that I really should be looking for a monster.

    I'd love your advice on my plan and help grappling with this problem!
     
  2. begreen

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    Sq. Ft.. heated is relative to the house size, climate, fuel quality, stove location and other factors. You're in a mild climate so a 3 cu. ft. insert may cover the majority of the winter heating. Of equal importance will be the quality and dryness of the wood. Modern stoves need fully seasoned wood to burn properly.
     
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  3. xman23

    xman23
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    3000 sq ft of new construction. Best R value doors, windows and insulation you can get. Or something else. It's night and day difference.
     
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  4. Ashful

    Ashful
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    I saw "large house", so I had to click on this one. I really don't think you're going to have any issues, 3000 sq.ft. of new construction is a pretty low heat load, compared to what some here are doing. I'm heating 8100 sq.ft. of late-1700's construction, for a point of comparison, and there have been other members of this forum worse off than me.

    But, since you used the "b" word... here's my basic philosophy on maintaining sanity and marital tranquility, while trying to heat a big home with wood.

    Rule 1: Do not try to heat the entire house 100% with wood. Consider it "supplemental".
    Rule 2: See rule 1.
    Rule 3: Set your thermostats (preferably programmable) to maintain whatever temperature you would like, to be comfortable.
    Rule 4: Just keep feeding that stove on whatever schedule works for your lifestyle. That might be 7am and 7pm, or three times per day on weekends, whatever keeps you sane.
    Rule 5: See rule 1.
    Rule 6: If your spouse is not into the whole, "I can work my ass off to save an effective few pennies per hour of labor" thing, do most of your wood processing when they're not home. Do most of your loading when they're asleep. Don't talk about your new saws or time spent cutting wood.

    If you just keep pumping BTU's into the house, by keeping that stove loaded and chugging, you will see great amounts of money stripped from your central heating bill. Each cord you burn will save you $600, if you're comparing to heating oil, adjust according to your heating system. If you fail to keep up in one zone of the house, no big deal, the thermostat will keep the family happy. Make it your game to stay ahead of them, if you like, but killing yourself to do it 100% with wood saves you only a little more, while having the potential to really take the fun out of it.
     
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  5. jetsam

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    He has a regular house, not an ice castle. He's not going to be using 15 cords to partly heat the place. ;)
     
  6. peakbagger

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    The biggest problem is that the OP needed to decide to heat the house 2 years ago so he would have dry enough wood to burn successfully. First goal is find dry wood as an EPA stove just will not run right with wet wood. Since its going in a fireplace and possibly using an oversized flue, the creosote issues from burning wet wood will be magnified.
     
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  7. Ashful

    Ashful
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    I qualified the conversation, accordingly. But I think my philosophy on this is still worth repeating a few times per year, to save folks from the pain I put myself thru, in those first two years of trying to heat with wood.
     
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  8. stoveboy12345

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    simply amazing. I hadn't considered how valuable it would be to hide my wood chopping addiction like it's a secret 2nd family or something. My house was built in 1978 and can be a little drafty
     
  9. Rickb

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    This isn't entirely true. If he looks only for softer woods or ash he could have it delivered right now and burn it next winter. It wouldn't be the greatest but would work just fine. My first year I split and stacked silver maple in may and burned it all winter. Would definitely stay away from oak unless your just stacking it for 2020 tho. I would hope he uses a liner so there would be no oversized flue.
     
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  10. stoveboy12345

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    I have a few cord of really nice hardwood from a big oak tree that was taken down last year. Hopefully it's dry enough come winter but I heed all of your excellent warnings about burning green wood
     
  11. Ashful

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    Under most average conditions, it won't, but you can can speed it along nicely. Look up some of the threads on firewood kilns by forum regular @Poindexter. He's hitting some scary low MC% numbers inside of a few weeks. Without a kiln, figure 3 summers to get oak down to 20% in open air.

    On the 2nd family thing, that's a hard-learned lesson, here. I was very enthusiastic to start burning again, after a 13 year haitus. I sometimes jump into hobbies with a bit too much gusto for the spousal unit, whether it be houses, cars, boats... or stoves. Marital tranquility was quickly restored when the time and energy expended toward it was reduced (at least in outward appearance). Now she's back to complaining about cars and boats... the way it should be. ;lol
     
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  12. allan5oh

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    I'm surprised nobody has commented about this. It is likely not legal and not a good idea. But I'm not an expert so I suggest consulting with one. It can be a fire hazard.

    Second, because it is a "bottom level fireplace" is this below grade? Some will advise against an outside air kit (OAK) but others have never had an issue with this. I would advise FOR an OAK in all installations but especially newer homes that are tight.

    Third I recommend a good catalytic insert/stove. Not sure what dimensions you're dealing with but going big with a cat stove is no issue. Considering you really don't have any seasoned firewood ready to go likely this winter, you can save up some money and invest it in the biggest Blaze King you can fit in there next year.

    How important is ambience? Cat stoves on low have NO flame and very little radiant heat, it all convects. Radiant heat (bright flames) is actually inefficient burning, the unburned carbon is getting red hot. Convective heat warms the air around the stove, radiant heat warms surfaces outside the ceramic window. The red hot/fast flames are also producing a lot of CO which is chemically inefficient. If you are strictly using this stove for heating, a good cat stove fits the bill. If you need ambience, you might want to go with a secondary burn type stove, but beware these types of stoves usually have about 40% of the burn time of a cat stove of the same size. There are also hybrid type stoves, but I have no experience with those.
     
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  13. BKVP

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    I will at times fun the fan only on my furnace to help out even heat in my home. I know many others that do so.

    However, I'd admonish you to turn off the fan prior to opening the loading door. Highly efficient wood stoves and inserts can have lower stack temps, lower draft and your cold air intake, while running, could cause draft reversal...or at least reduce it. Indoor air quality is vital...and who wants a house that smells like beef jerky?
     
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  14. Ashful

    Ashful
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    This is true, on the lowest settings, way below where a non-cat can run anyway. Turn it up to any level approaching the lowest setting of a non-cat, and you'll have plenty of flame.
     
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  15. Highbeam

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    There are more cat stoves than just blaze kings. The other good brand, Woodstock, makes stone cat stoves designed to heat primarily with radiant heat. They also can’t run quite as low so you get more flames.
     
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  16. kennyp2339

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    Now I know why you post so late in the heating season. ;)
     
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  17. Seasoned Oak

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    Heating with wood is like pleasant hobby but as labor intensive as it is can quickly become a second(low paying) job. Keep it interesting and enjoyable. This is why im a part time wood burner. As a backup heat you have a lot more flexibility. We all get sick ,travel,away at work ect. Cant always babysit the stove.
     
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  18. georgepds

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    You can season cut split wood in one season. I've been doing it since 1984 on the north shore of Massachusetts. Start in April or May, stack in the sun, and you're all set in October

    There's a study that shows it can be done in the open air in Alaska in one season. The only special thing they did was cover the top of the stack, and keep the bottom off the ground

    "Research by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks determined that firewood cut in spring, immediately split, stacked off the ground and covered will become seasoned firewood within six weeks to three months. It’s best to build stacks a couple of inches apart to allow for airflow. Seasoned wood remains cured if protected from rain on top and has plenty of airflow circulating through the stacks. Fall-cut and split firewood did not completely season over winter and had to finish during the warm summer to be seasoned by the following winter. "
     
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  19. Ashful

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    It’s almost certain we have different definitions of “seasoned”, George. I burned five cords of three year oak last year, followed by another four cords of two year oak, and the latter was definitely not a good experience.

    Besides, how are you stacking wood, that sun even matters? Where I live, Sun only tends to hit the stuff on top of the stack, not the twenty or thirty layers below.

    You can season oak in one summer, but likely not in open air. See the @Poindexter kilns.
     
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  20. Cast Iron

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    My math counts 9 (nine) cords of oak in a year ! Great biz for high end sellers.With 20 wood burning things you need all that oak.;em
    For wood burners here in the deep north (deep) , oak is too good to burn all season. Most do stack splits in open piles in the open sun and wind for seasoning. Been done for generations. The high BTU woods like oak and maple are saved for real cold times, like the singles F and below.
    Then again there are no skyscraper neighbors to shade the piles. Some oak if cut, split and stacked in the open will season in a season :p for burning right the following winter IF mixed with lower BTU woods. Prefer at least 2 open drying season for the oaks.
    Stacks here have only 12-15 layers high....never "20-30" !
    In fact, open air seasoning in the sun, wind, and rain works fine. Try it.
     
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  21. Highbeam

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    This is why moisture meters are great for wood burners. I don’t care how long it takes or how tall your stacks are, once that meter gives you something in the teens you’re ready.

    Each drying environment, processing technique, and raw wood supply will require different amounts of time.
     
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  22. Cast Iron

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    Never heard of the moisture meter thing or saw one used by anyone heating with firewood for decades. Only on this site is there that need to check splits for seasoning. The need for apps or devices to play with ?
    on one of the other firewood blogs there is a technique for how to tell when your wood is ready. It is what most of us have done for years without much thought..
    2 spits banged together should sound 'ringing' not a thud.
    Clear cracks in the ends of splits in your woodpile.
    The splits will weather to a gray.
    Check the split weights---remember when you split them green what they weighed then compared to seasoned?
    And....you know the wood ain't ready when it sizzles. Been there.
    You actually have the time to check every split for the right level of moisture ?
     
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  23. georgepds

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    Re "Besides, how are you stacking wood, that sun even matters? Where I live, Sun only tends to hit the stuff on top of the stack, not the twenty or thirty layers below."

    I stack it in top of one another, in parallel, 4' high,with the split axis east to west. In the morning the sun shines on the east side, in the afternoon the sun shines on the west. The sun shines on top all day.

    Its bound on the east by my drive and on the west by my neighbors, with nary a tree in sight, so no shade

    I live in a sunny spot. In the summer the fixed roof panels get 7+ hours of full sun equivalent

    I figure if you want it to dry quickly, you want the sun to dry out the ends. The vascular system is along the axis and this will help speed things up. Think of the other extreme... it is not likely to dry out if you stick an end in a puddle, or, in the intermediate case, in the shade

    As to definition mine is burns well. I just light the large splits directly with a bit of super cedar.
     
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  24. georgepds

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    Now that I think about it , it would probably be better to stack with the axis north south, so one side would be illuminated all day... but then it would be stacked in the sand... and I'm not going back to hauling wood in the sand


    The perfect is the enemy of the good enough
     
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  25. begreen

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    Wind blowing through the stacks is most effective. Orient the stacks so that the prevailing winds can blow through the stacks. In our area that means stacking E/W. In winter the prevailing winds are SW and in the summer they tend to be northerly.
     
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