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Heating the Homestead

February 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

Greenwood Aspen Wood Furnace

Greenwood Aspen Wood Furnace

With the coldest months upon us, I thought I would touch on how we heat the house.    High fuel and electric prices are making the winter months a challenge to almost every budget but ours.  I am happy to turn on the heat because it not only provides free heat but also free hot water.  Our electric bill will plummet by over 75% during the fall and winter months.

If you are asking how this is possible,  it isn’t a solution for everyone but if you live in an area where you have access to free or cheap firewood, you can save quite a bit on your heating and hot water bills.  Most people do not want the smoke and fire risk of having a wood stove in their home.  Wood stoves are dangerous, risky and can create quite a mess in your home while hauling in wood and hauling out ashes.

An outdoor wood furnace solves all of these issues.  You may have seen these furnaces in backyards.  They look like a small shed with a smoke stack attached.  I had been aware of them but never really understood how they worked so getting the furnace ready for heating season has been an education for me.

The wood furnaces are actually a boiler fueled by wood, wood pellets, corn cobs or coal.  The hot water is heated to around 200 degrees and circulates through pipes into a coil in the house.  A small furnace fan then blows over the heated coil and circulates heat throughout the house.  As an added plus, you can also have a coil in the furnace that supplies hot water to the house. You can see a diagram of how the heaters work here.

The air is warmed as it blows over the hot water pipes and the heat is warm and not dry as a regular furnace.  You get   the benefits of hot water heat and forced air heat.  There is no flame inside the house so the risk of fire is minimal to none.  The fan runs off of 110 and costs pennies to operate per day.

Does it seem like it’s too good to be true?  There are drawbacks.  Someone has to provide wood.  This means either purchasing it or cutting and stacking it.  If you live in the country, this is not a huge problem as firewood is usually available to either purchase or cut.  We are lucky enough to have 10 acres of woods.  There are always downed trees that need to be cut up and hauled out so other than a little hard work and sweat, our primary heat is free.  All we need to do is put wood into the furnace several times a day.  When it’s loaded at night, it will still be hot and burning the next morning.

There is also maintenance on the furnace itself.  Maintenance on a wood furnace is usually cleaning to keep the ash down and the creosote build up out of the tubes.  There are also electrical parts such as the fans and pump that need to be maintained, repaired and replaced eventually however, these are no more expensive than maintaining a normal furnace.

This isn’t a solution for everyone but in our rural area, they are becoming more and more popular as fuel oil costs soar to $400 per month or more.  If you are interested in learning more, the furnace pictured above is a Greenwood Aspen.  You can get more information about it here.  The diagram in the link above is the Free Heat Machine.  There are many brands and models available if you search on Wood Furnace.

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