Home Heating Choices

Discussion in 'General Homesteading & Building' started by KensWife, Jan 17, 2009.

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  1. KensWife

    KensWife Member

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    So, last night made me think.

    It was very cold outside.

    Our propane service said they would be coming to fill our tanks this week - and it looks like they did NOT because we ran out of propane on the coldest night of the winter.

    We are in North Carolina - so it does not normally get this cold, but I am guessing it was around 11 degrees.

    I pulled out two space heaters, that I thought would do the trick - until THE POWER WENT OUT.

    We were stuck using the fireplace, which everyone knows is not energy efficient. Most of the heat went up the chimney... it did help a little... but not much.

    I was told, that our chimney pipe cannot handle a wood burning stove... when it was put in, it was hooked up to propane... I had it switched over so we could burn wood.

    I am tired of dealing with the propane company. What are your experiences with home heating, and what do you suggest?
     
  2. Maybe now you can appreciate why it seems so many babies are born in September and there abouts? Eleven degrees? GREAT cuddling weather!
    Night time, no LPG and no power? Basically, you're rapidly running out of options, I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but there it is. Esssentially, you have two realistic choices, wood or coal although the Irish and Scots seem to have done middling well with peat? Of course, even the most fervent Celt has converted over to gas of some kind now. Of course, I will not mention the fuel of choice for the Plains Indians since I suspect bison are fairly rare in North Carolina? Certainly not in the millions casually dropping little nuggets of fuel where ever they roam.
    Of course, whatever back-up system(s) you adopt will depend on your local resources and capitol but after spending sixteen years in Northern WI heating cabins and a drafty old farm house with nothing but wood, I can assure you that the old adage about wood warming you twice is indeed accurate and if done correctly, can actually warm many more times than only twice! And as a slightly flippant aside here, when the Mister swings an ax all day long, there is the lusty dusty lumberjack mentality that often comes out which seems to me at least to be preferable to the filthy coal miner personality.
    Wait a minute! North Carolina? Maybe you can get access to bales of unsaleable cured and dried tobacco as a fuel? Enough sillinesscity from me.
    Basically, I see only coal or wood to be your logical choices with my personal preference being wood, but I'm stuck in a rut here. There are tons of options for indoor stoves and exterior heating plants if you use hot water to heat your home but certainly, only an inside wood or coal burner will work in a grid down situation unless you have a perfect set up and some clever engineering. Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009

  3. UncleJoe

    UncleJoe Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Rio. We also heat strictly with wood. I removed our oil furnace, put a wood furnace in its place and used the existing block & liner chimney. If you're really serious about a fool proof back up, you could put in a stainless steel chimney although they can get rather $ salty $. Good luck.

    PS It was -5 here last night and we were quite comfy. Wood is a great way to go.
     
  4. endurance

    endurance Well-Known Member

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    My primary is natural gas hot water heat (boiler). I currently have three back ups. First is my kerosun, for which I have 30 gallons of kerosene stored, about enough for 6-14 days, depending on outside temperatures and how much of the house I want to heat. Second is a propane heater with battery operated fan. I have two 20# propane bottles and plan on picking up another one or two one of these days. With two bottles, I'm set for 10-14 days with bedroom, bathroom and kitchen heat. My current fallback, because I haven't had the time to wire it in properly, is running my boiler off of my inverter and 12v deep cycle battery and single 45w panel. No, it wouldn't be enough panel to last long, but I could also charge the battery with my car or the generator I'm storing for a friend currently.
     
  5. KensWife

    KensWife Member

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    I would like to check to see how expensive replacing our existing chimney would cost... I am sure it would be a pretty penny. :rolleyes: However, it could be worth it if we do not have to pay for propane anymore.... we have quite a bit of wood, we even use it in our fireplace - however - like I said before, half of the heat goes right up the chimney.
     
  6. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

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    Mrs. Ken,

    Once your chimney situation is rectified, a wood burning stove insert for your fireplace would do wonders. My wife's aunt uses one and a few sticks of wood would heat most of the house for several hours.

    My in-laws' wood burning stove has made us open windows in 30 degree weather because of excess heat. It's not an insert, but a small free standing stove. It also doubles as a place to heat coffee or hot chocolate. Some times they put a pot of water on it to act as a humidifier.
     
  7. Merlin

    Merlin Seeker of Knowledge

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    my 22 1/2 cents


    Hi check out A kerosene heater 1 will heat 500 square feet easy at 10 outside to 65 inside in a board and batten building with very little insulation This is the cheapest quick fix look them up on the web start them outside and shut them down outside that is when they smoke nearly burn clean not like grand Pas type use them in woods.. next if you have access to denatured alcohol you can use a alcohol heater and stove with or without blowers use the one on the sailboat all the time Boats used to come with them only next if you have a place for another chimney for a wood stove that wood be cheaper than stainless sleeve in you chimney fireplace I would prefer the sleeve and add a steel insert with a heat-a-la-tor with a blower attachment that is 12 volt dc / 110volt ac it will work without the blower and depending on the insert you can get them with a small stove top kinda like a odd shaped 2 burner ah last but not least solar heater make one could be a low cost one like the one I made for a line shack in the forest it is 2 ft x 6 ft glass top and when the sun is out even when nobody is there it puts out heat I used a non low e dual pane window and at 30 outside hopefully warmer inside it will put out 100-190 degree heat with a 2inch x 14 inlet and outlet a small 5 watt fan helps the output but you lose temp rise but hey its cheap heat and the bears have never tore it up yet
     
  8. Merlin

    Merlin Seeker of Knowledge

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    my 22 1/2 cents

    hit send twice
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009
  9. northernontario

    northernontario Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget that with a lot of these options, you need to be careful of CO (carbon monoxide) buildup. Portable propane and kerosene heaters burn the air in the room and release CO into the same space. In a short period of time, the CO% is higher than the air. We used to heat the garage in the winter with a portable propane heater, and then a portable kerosene heater. Yes, it would warm things up on a chilly day when you needed to work on a car, but you also had to be aware of how long it had been running. Laying on the floor (CO is heavier than air), you could start to feel yourself getting light-headed or even feel a headache after the heater had been on too long.

    If you find your wood stove is drawing out a lot of the heat in the room and actually making other rooms colder, you need to:
    -provide a fresh air inlet into the wood stove. If you don't, the burning wood draws air in from other sources, like a drafty window on the other end of the house. Burn cold air, not the warm air thats already in the house.
    -seal up windows to prevent drafts.
    -close off rooms that don't need to be heated.
    -find a way to circulate the air around (not easy when the power is out). No point overheating one room if the others are cold.

    It doesn't help when the power is out and you have no backup power... but you can always consider a heat pump, or a geothermal heating setup. No more reliance on heating oil, propane, natural gas. But, when the power goes out, you won't have any heat.

    It may cost some money, but look at retrofitting the wood stove with a newer stove/fireplace. Find someone who really knows what they're doing. Talk with them about a cold-air intake for the fireplace/stove.

    My father used to run a combo wood furnace/oil furnace. If it got REALLY cold out, or if the wood fire went out during the night (or if you were gone for a weekend), the oil would kick in and keep heating the house. It was all ducted into the forced-air ventilation system in the house. He eventually converted to a heat-pump setup when he wanted A/C and got tired of chopping wood. (Too busy taking care of three kids after his wife... my mother... passed away)

    He still has a wood fireplace in the living room... which he finally lit for the first time in 10+ years during the christmas holidays when the power was out for almost 3 days.

    I know one of the criteria for when my wife and I buy our first home, is that it has a wood stove capable of heating the house. (or we install one)
     
  10. KensWife

    KensWife Member

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    Does anyone have any information about the wood burning units that go outside your home and the heat blows into your home through ducts? A few years ago I remember seeing advertisements for them - but do not know what they are called?
     
  11. UncleJoe

    UncleJoe Well-Known Member

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    It's just called an outdoor furnace. Some burn wood, some coal, and some both. You still have the problem of the circulatory pump if the power is down, and that furnace can run anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000. You can probably have a new chimney put up and buy a decent wood stove for 2k or less. Then you won't have to worry about electric. Our furnace is in the basement and when the grid goes down here, leaving us without a blower, we crack open a window in each of the upstairs rooms and convection takes over. That's the one thing we are completely self sufficient in. We will never freeze as long as I can cut wood.
     
  12. KensWife

    KensWife Member

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    I have a guy that will be coming over to look at our chimney this week... I think that's our best bet. :)
     
  13. pubwvj

    pubwvj Tinker, Tailor...

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    I like wood. It doesn't explode. I don't have to buy it from foreign sources, or anyone for that matter. I can sustainably produce all I want from my own land using minimal labor. Wood stoves are a simple system and easy to build and maintain.

    I couple my like of wood with a high thermal mass house made of stone and concrete. I prefer not living inside a tinder box. :) Same whether burning wood or not.

    Cheers

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    Holly's Pencil Portraits
    NoNAIS.org
     
  14. Jason

    Jason I am a little teapot

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    I have an outdoor wood furnace. I absolutely love the thing. This will be the 3d full winter (but the 4th season) of our using it exclusively to heat our old drafty brick farmhouse. It has some issues like the power going out thing, true, but it's safe, keeps the wood debris out of the house, and we use NO petroleum to heat.

    It uses ALOT of wood and makes ALOT of smoke. Mine is a Hardy, but there are many brands. There are forums like this one dedicated to outdoor wood furnaces. You can use them with forced air or hot water heat.

    As a final note, with the furnace in the yard and all electric apliances, we have NO carbon monoxide emitters in our house. None.
     
  15. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

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    Google "Rocket Mass Stove". They are supposed to be 90% efficient. If you need to, you can build the hole for feeding wood outside your home to keep all of the smoke outside. Some of the examples look kind of strange, but when done tastefully, they look pretty cool. There's a book out by Ianto Evans that I wouldn't mind picking up as a reference. I'm sure there are others.

    Rocket Stoves Rock! » Bioregional Congress
     
  16. WEFW

    WEFW New Member

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    Not if you want anything resembling quality. It cost me over $5k last year to put in a new Harmon woodstove & insulated SS chimney. Still worth every dime. Wood's easy to come by here in the north country, and the stove heats the house so much better than the creaky old furnace.
     
  17. youpock

    youpock Well-Known Member

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    pellets?

    anyone burn processed condensed wood pellets? I don't have much experience with it in more extreme weather situations, it only gets in the 20-30's F here in winter time but growing up it was all my father ever used to keep the entire house warm. About one bag a day keep the house around 75 f and half a bag keeps the house in the 60's; you can get fifty bags for about $250. The only pricey part is the initial stove but i know they show up on craigslist here in the bay area for cheap, I got one recently for a friend for free and needed only to buy a $50 part to fix it.

    The pellets also store nicely and only need a dry place but they come in sealed plastic bags that are actually reasonably thick plastic that can be used for other things pretty easily
     
  18. szabotage

    szabotage New Member

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    maybe a lil off topic but, I've always been a firm believer in wood stoves, my grandmother had one of the most efficient stoves I've ever experienced until the insurance adjuster visited her home recently, turns out her insurance company threatened to drop her unless she changed her stove. the adjuster just so happened to have the number of a company that can help her out with a more 'efficient and safer' model. 3500 bucks later she now has a piece of crap thin gauge steel/glass stove that puts out only a fraction of her all old 'iron pig'. this doesn't sound safer either, tempered glass on not.

    do I smell scam here?
     
  19. youpock

    youpock Well-Known Member

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    sounds like time to switch insurances.. lol
     
  20. UncleJoe

    UncleJoe Well-Known Member

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    I missed this post the first time around.
    Our chimney which is 28' tall, made of 16" square block with an 8" liner was $1200. The Johnson Furnace (not stove) was $500 used. New ones are around $1500.