Long-time blog readers know that we have always heated with wood stoves at the ranch in Montana, and we continued to do so in New Hampshire. Indeed, one of the many wonderful advantages of our new location was having our own woodlot. Last fall we installed a wood stove in the people wing and a wood stove in the dog wing, and an internal wood gasifier boiler to heat the three-level barn building.
We figured we'd learn a lot in our first winter here, and by late December the verdict was in -- the wood boiler did a great job of heating the 7,200 square feet in the barn, but the wood stoves struggled to keep the entire house warm -- especially the part that connected the two wings. The stoves also consumed a lot of wood in the process -- far more than the single boiler in the barn, which was heating a lot more space. (We were going to have wood stoves no matter what, since even if we were heating with other means we'd want a back-up heat source. These wood boilers need a small amount of electricity to operate, so in the event of a power outage we'd still have heat with the wood stoves.)
This house came with two old (25 year-old) and very tired oil-fired boilers in the basement, which provided hot water to baseboard radiators in every room. One thing we knew for sure when we bought the place is that we would not be investing in any new oil-based heating equipment -- we wanted to use a renewable energy source, and preferably our own, and that was wood. But the existing piping and baseboard infrastructure meant that we could tie in a wood boiler to heat the house. So after realizing that the pair of wood stoves weren't fully up to the job, we went ahead and invested in an outdoor wood boiler made by Central Boiler of Minnesota.
That's it in the photo above, and we fired it up today for the first time. This is one of the new generation, or Phase 2 EPA-certified super-efficient "gasifier" models, not the older kind of outdoor boilers that generate a lot of smoke and neighbor complaints. (Not that we have any nearby neighbors in any case.) Four New England states -- Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts -- and Maryland are the only states that regulate outdoor boilers, and this new generation is the only kind you can buy now in those states.
We considered another internal wood boiler like the Froling in the barn, but they generate a lot of residual heat around them -- the Froling has two 400-gallon thermal storage tanks to hold extra hot water for the system -- and we didn't want to heat up the basement in the house, preferring to keep it cool for long-term storage of food and other items.
This boiler heats water in a 'water jacket' that surrounds it, and then pumps it through a pipe underground into the house and then into the existing radiant heat system. It also heats the hot water for the house, eliminating an electric hot water heater from the power bill.
As I post this at 8:45 p.m., it's nice to have the entire house heated ... and not have to go and load two wood stoves one last time for the night!
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The new Shelter Challenge started on Monday, January 10th, and ends at midnight on March 20th. Grand prize in this round is $5,000. There are no second- and third-place prizes this time, but new categories ... please see the Shelter Challenge website for details.
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