A wood stove in suburbia

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This topic contains 25 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  74 6 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #8752

    Osito Arelano
    Participant

    Since our house is fairly modern, all of our heat is from a central furnace. No power means no  heat. With the recent cold snap, the reality of what no furnace meant in temps below zero was, umm, enlightening….

    So, I have been evaluating wood stoves.

    Here’s the train of thought…if it’s a short term problem, I have a propane heater. If It’s a long term problem, I have a problem. Hence looking at wood stoves.

    The dilemma is, how much retrofitting can I afford to do. Not much.

    I found that there are several inexpensive (relatively) tiny house stoves that would do in a pinch to at least keep the main living area warm. The downside seems to be these stoves are not “certified”.

    I reallly liked the cubic mini grizzly you can mount on a wall. No need to tear up the floor! Have to cut a hole in the roof or the wall no matter what, so I expect that.

    All the wood stove experts on woodstove forums have a fit about these tiny, uncertified, stoves.

    I don’t know what I don’t know. So I’m sending up a flare. I figure you fine folks might have some ideas.

    How important is it for a wood stove to be “EPA certified”? The EPA certification means nothing to me if it is anything like the certifications handed out for car emmisions.

    The cubic mini looks safe. I mean, it shouldn’t explode or anything. The biggest risk is not properly ventilated, or too close to combustbles. That’s applicable to any wood stove I believe.

    My alternative was the tiniest Jotul I could find. I love the hobbit stove, but they don’t sell in the US.

    Feedback welcome.

  • #8755

    woodsrunner
    Participant

    Have you ever had a wood stove or used one before?  What about wood supply?  I used to use a wood stove for several years but I’m not the one who put it in.  You have to be careful about creosote buildup in the chimney.  And different kinds of wood burn differently.  I used to burn maple and birch mainly.  I know nothing about certification.  Maybe we didn’t have to do it then.

    Some people around here make a stove out of a 55 gallon drum and put sand in the bottom.  I think there is a kit at Lehman’s for it.  I’ve seen some soapstone stoves that were gorgeous but expensive.  Mine was cast iron.  We had a stove board under it and I believe it had asbestos under the metal- don’t even know if you could find that now.   I will leave the technical questions to someone else.

  • #8756

    Osito Arelano
    Participant

    @woodsrunner  Yes i have some experience with wood stoves. We had one in the outbuilding where I grew up. But, it was not modern, and I didn’t do the loading and maintaining of it. So I guess my adult knowledge is purely academic.

    I really was trying to avoid a DIY stove. I do not have the tools or the skills to work with metal.

  • #8760

    Crow Bar
    Keymaster

    The more modern designs have “rebreathers” built into them.

    They re-introduce air into the upper section of the firebox to burn off the unburnt gases, making them more efficient.  Realistically, you want to see no smoke coming out the the chimney.  No smoke means a complete and total burn of all the gases.  Now, that is assuming seasoned wood, proper chimney draw, etc.

    I have two.

    One is a furnace providing heat via HVAC.  BUT!  We have had when the power went out, keeping it going prevented the pipes from freezing, and the first floor warm.

    The second is a stand alone wood stove, no HVAC.  It is small, and hindsight I wish we would of gotten a larger one.  It has a realistic burn time of about 5 hours.  Had we got the next size up, the burn time would of been closer to 8 hours or stock it at 10pm and not have to worry about it till the next morning.

    Additionally, I would look into purpose built wood stoves to cook on.  We had a old cast iron stove that was great, except it had a very small fire box.  But once it was hot, I could make pasta on it easily.

    In short, I would recommend to go one bigger than what you think you need.

  • #8779

    Osito Arelano
    Participant

    @crowbar  Interesting, I have read a lot of recommendations to go smaller than you think you need. Something about if it gets too hot you’re cooking. Having lived in a place with radiator heat where the boiler got stuck running 24/7 I remember opening the windows in January to keep from dying.

    The little grizzly looks virtually smokeless. One reviewer even commented he kept thinking his fire had gone out. So that’s a plus.

    Sometimes too many options is not a good thing. Whatever I settle on will be what I have for a long long time, so I’m trying to not get a lemon.

    Modern catalytic wood burners get mixed reviews. More parts to replace?

  • #8781

    Tolik
    Participant

    If your building a house in a cold climate , you might consider what is called the ” Russian stove ” or ” Finnish heater ” , as well as other names . Its a masonry stove / heater . They are massive , but once up to temperature , they require very little wood , to keep them there . They use all the exhaust to heat , very efficient , much more so than any other variants . In centuries past , the house was literally built around the stove , the stove actually forms some of the interior walls in some designs .

  • #8782

    Crow Bar
    Keymaster

    @Osito Arelano,

    For me, the size was less about the amount of heat it could put out, and more about the burn time.

    Having to get up in the middle of the night to load up the fire box is something of a chore.  Be nice to load it at 10pm and not have to think about it till next morning.  And then still have embers/coal bed to work with to get it going again vs having to restart the fire all over.

    IF I had the money, I would of gone with one of these:  http://www.vermontcastings.com/

  • #8786

    James Mitchner
    Participant

    Its wise to have some means of alternative heat.  We have a woodstove that sits on the fireplace hearth and uses the existing chimney. We only use it if we loose power in the winter or sometimes when we get a patch of frigid temps.  I think the certification may entail a UL listing to satisfy some insurance companies.  Commercially manufactured stoves would have that, I imagine, as opposed to the homemade stoves.  The EPA also got involved with the wood stove industry.  Our’s has a catalytic feature as Crowbar mentioned that is designed to help it burn cleaner.

    Don’t overlook propane heaters or natural gas heaters.  Even if you don’t have a fireplace, ventless heaters can be installed on a wall and supplied by an outside tank.

  • #8788

    Littlesister
    Participant

    It has been  many years since I was even around a wood burning stove and that was also used to cook on. My great uncle lived off grid and that is all he used. I have a fireplace that needs work right now as I am not using it till I get it checked out. It needs some work and I want to fix it to cook in as well. I do know that pine is not good to burn in a wood stove nor a fireplace. You can buy things to burn in the fireplace to help prevent creosote buildup. We use it in the fireplace. It has helped but been awhile since we used it. Our house is heated by baseboard gas heat. But if we loose electric then we have no themistate. So would not be able to maintain temps. Looking at the possibility of putting that on solar but still working on getting the air conditioner replaced. Once that is done and we have the themistate changed over to one to control both heat and air. I want to get that switched to solar to run both heat and air. Not sure how we will do that yet. We have a non vented gas heater in garage for when I am washing clothes. It does not require a vent and works really well.

  • #8808

    Loving Life
    Participant

    I recently built a house in UpState New York (very cold winters). I heat my house almost exclusively with a wood stove (I have electric baseboards as backup).

    Yes, @crowbar I have a Vermont Castings Defiant. I love that stove for many reasons. I can load it at night and it is still going when I wake up. Also, I can cook on it. Cooking on a wood stove is not as easy as it sounds, but with a little practice, you can make the basics.

    Besides the wood stove, you have to look at your wood source. Do you have access to sufficient wood? Burning seasoned hardwood is best.

  • #8816

    John Park
    Participant

    Our woodstove is burning right now.  It is our “back up” heat source as we lose power with some regularity.  In truth, it is the primary heat source Friday night to Monday morning, then it is usually left alone during the week as we are too busy with work to tend it.
    A few thoughts:
    1) A woodstove is wonderful. One with a cooking top is even better.
    In today’s modern/tight homes, you may well need a “cold air intake” in order to get proper draw through the stove – this involves a pipe (double walled is best) from outside of your house, through the wall, and into the back of the stove.  Otherwise the stove tries to pull air into itself to burn, via drawing through any cracks around windows and such.  Modern homes are often too airtight, and so the fire doesn’t burn well.
    2) Firewood really needs to be seasoned – usually until it “checks” (starts cracking at the end).  You want to use hardwood (maple, ash, oak, birch, beech), as softwood (pine, spruce, etc) causes too much creosote to build up.
    3) Firewood is a prep in itself.  You’ll need a shed.  If you’re just worried about a week or so, you won’t need more than a cord.  But if you are thinking EMP prep – you’ll need a bunch of wood (my shed holds 7 cords – it wouldn’t get me through a full winter if it was my only source… unless we restricted ourselves to 1 room).
    Then comes firewood tools – chainsaw (look for a class on how to be safe – like “game of logging”) maul, and again axe and crosscut saw if you’re thinking long term grid down (yes, I’ve gone that far 😉  ).
    4) If you are not going to get a regular woodstove, you might consider a “tent stove”.  These are woodstoves designed to go inside “wall tents”.  Having said that, you still need a hearth to place it on, and probably one behind it.  These are pretty affordable at any stove store.
    5) CAVEAT – there are rules and regulations, I would not dream of using anything other than a professionally installed stove – unless it were a SHTF scenario.  Saving money on heating isn’t worth burning your home down and killing your family.

    I’m not trying to be a downer, but just expressing how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It’s one thing to buy a tent stove and some extra piping, and read up/prep how to run the chimney out a window… and then never use it unless SHTF.
    In any other situation, from regular use, to hurricane power outage, I would have a professional installation.
    If finances are an issue, maybe consider buying the stove in year 1, then in year 2 buy the hearth and backing and chimney, in year 3 get it hooked up and the chimney placed?

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

  • #8819

    Loving Life
    Participant

    Oh my! @johnpark makes it seem so difficult to safely a wood stove.

    @osito. I don’t think it is as hard as @johnpark makes it seem. Poor little old me (single female 50s) heats her house almost exclusively with her wood stove. You can retrofit your house, even a modern house. Financially you may need to do it in steps. I put in my Vermont Castings (with a 25’+ chimney pipe etc for under $10k, the piping and it’s installation was the most expensive). You might do a smaller stove for much less and maybe do in phases with a smaller stove for much less.

    The bigger issue is the wood. Depending upon your wood sources, you can also have wood delivered. Before I moved to UpState NY, I lived outside Philadelphia PA and had wood delivered annually for my wood fireplace. My fireplace was sufficient to keep the living room and a few surrounding rooms heated very nicely. If the SHTF, I could easily have survived one winter.

    Not sure why @johnpark thinks you need a shed to store your wood as no one in my area stores their wood in a shed. I would like to know the reasoning. I season and store my wood in covered stacks. My extended family has done the same for generations. Chainsaw safety isn’t that big a deal. Now climbing a tree etc that is a little more tricky.

    Ok I am really flummoxed about @johnpark needing over 7 cords to heat his house! Oh my! I have to wonder how big his house is to need that much wood. Utilizing my wood stove, I heat my house 90% of the fall/winter/spring using less than 3 cords for the entire year! I also live in Up State NY where it gets really cold. I would suggest that @johnpark check his insulation. For any house, your insulation is an easy fix to help save on energy.

    Good luck with your project. Keep us updated 🙂

  • #8821

    Osito Arelano
    Participant

    Thank you @john park and @Loving Life

    Yes, I’m aware of the risks of just willy nilly installing a wood stove. One reason we don’t have one yet.  🙂

    I agree, keeping wood cut is a lot of work. We used covered wood piles when I was a kid too. But I do also know people that prefer the wood shed.

    @Loving Life I admired the vermont castings stoves. But I don’t have 10k to toss at something that I don’t plan on using every winter.

    If it is a SHTF scenario, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a lot of firewood around here. Too much has been cleared for farmland. But at the same time, in SHTF where you going to get propane for a heater?

    In my mind, a wood stove has more potential for most scenarios. But it’s so expensive.I have also looked at tent stoves, they look about the same as the little Jotul, but I could be wrong.

  • #8832

    namelus
    Participant
    1. You can get coal Inserts for fire places, cheap and easy to store totally anti environment.  When installing wood stoves biggest problems are roof penetration,  using standard stuff is not in your best interest, going to heavier pipe same diameter is way better ie 8 Inch shedual 40 pipe 5/16 thickness. The roof penetration insulate with thermo 12 hard Insulation, or preformed rock wool to pipe diameter size then cover it with a stainless steel jacket. The standard caps and roof crickets will still fit. The pipe can be cut down and welded in  place for ease of install or if you want and have  equipment lowered through hole in roof in one piece.

     

    Why go so heavy? Chimney fires, once you do this you can sleep without care of fires. The pipe will never burn out no matter  how hot you get wood stove or have a cresote fire. The insulation on there should be MIn  1 1/2 thick wall. You can find the lenths you need at Industrial insulation shop. The  binder may smoke first few times but once set the pipe can get 1600 degrees inside and  you can put your hand on the outside jacket. This is how Industrial boilers are vented think steel foundries and aluminum smelter, pulp mills. The piping is more expensive but a one time and forever cost, standard to code stove pipe is so thin if you ever have a fire it can collapse. One of biggest causes of fire is chimney fires, even if past point  that insurance matters, where in shft will you get new piping? Plus with this set up burning greener wood is not an issue as chimney fire  does absolutely  nothing  expecially if onto a metal roof.

     

    We do have hard woods, but mostly burn pine and cedar as easiest to salvage from clear cut piles, plus easier on chainsaws.

    If you really want to cook on it you can find old pio eer stoves made by Amish called pioneer princess, get the extra hot water heaters as hot water is a huge bonus when nothing works all gravity fed just cloth wrap the drain handle or extend it like we  did to avoid scalding your hands. The cooking temp marked are for birch and maple seasoned wood,  baking is a snap has warming  trays to keep food warm or reheat.  We have the grill top so we can do breakfast restaraunt style 2 kg bacon 12 pancakes has browns and dozen eggs  at once. When done there are scrapers and run offs to clean while hot like professional cook top in restaraunt.

    http://www.amishcookstoves.com/pioneer_princess.shtml

    As for amount of wood we store 17 chords a year, it’s used to warm houses, shop, 3 barns and green house,  the barns, greenhouse and shop are with rocket stove mass heaters so no flame once you are gone but still keeps heat for up to 2 days above 0 c in up to-40c. Excellent insulation is must we do most building to r 60 walls and roof. The green house you need to heat rockets stove mass heater everyday as greenhouse has  poor Insulation value.

     

    Also the stainless steel top in the pioneer princess is easier to clean.

     

    To add wood to princess we have a tool for opening the top burners, and stick wood in that way rather than through door on fire box.

    The only problem is in summer as it gets too hot I house, we are building a new outdoor kitchen this summer, will have smokehouse, bbq, wok  wood fired or coal. There is also running water and counter space sinks and propane heaters for canning outside in covered bug netted area.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 2 weeks ago by  namelus.
  • #8834

    John Park
    Participant

    Loving Life, I didn’t mean to sound histrionic, but only to emphasize that there are different levels of firewood prep.
    It’s one thing to have a small emergency supply, as opposed to a full winter’s worth for SHTF.  It’s rather like emergency food I suppose, you can have a few weeks stored up, a few months, or a few years – all depending upon how crazy you want to get about it.
    I live in the mountains if Vermont, I cannot imagine it is much colder than upstate NY, and our house is well insulated, but if I were to require firewood as the only heat source, plus cooking source, from October to May – and tried to keep more than the main room warm, I would need more firewood than I can store just in the woodshed.

    Namelus, your set up sounds amazing!  Do you regularly clean the chimneys due to the use of softwood, or do you just let the chimney fires happen and burn it up?

  • #8842

    Loving Life
    Participant

    @osito. I would suggest you also check your Craigslist and other used ads as I have seen used Vermont Castings wood stoves for sale for as little as $1k. If I didn’t have a huge great room with vaulted ceilings, my cost would have been much lower.

    @namelus. I agree I went with an 8 inch double insulated pipe and the special reinforced jacket, block etc. It was much more expensive, but my contractor highly recommended that route as more efficient and safer.

    @johnpark. I agree keeping a sufficient supply of seasoned wood can be a little tricky.

    At the beginning of each fall, I have about 3 years of wood stacked in various areas around the house. About half of my wood is stacked under the deck (which is kind of a wood shed) and the rest is stacked and tarped. I also have about 8-10 trees that have fallen or been taken down that need to get chopped up. My acreage is self sufficient when it comes to firewood. I even have fallen trees that are going to waste.

    By the way, I may have figured out why we are off. When I am talking about cords of wood, I am talking a full cord, which is 3 face cords. I use about 7 face cords annually to heat my house (about 2300 sq ft). I do have a Vermont Castings, which is Uber efficient. My house also has spray foam insulation and an ICF foundation.

  • #8877

    namelus
    Participant

    We just let the dampers on full open for 5 min  you can see the black cresasote on the walls and doors of combustion chamber, 5 min later a huge amount of heat and your pipes are clean. No scrubbing no chemicals. Can do this once a month  on fireplace to maintain it. We have had flames. Like a after burner blue hot ,  shot 20 feet past the top of the chimney for 10 minute burn,.lots of heat inside the insulated part barely warm to touch and the pipe leaving the top of stove so hot you could not get hand within 2 feet of it without pain  from heat. Zero damage zero warping no fire risk.

     

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 2 weeks ago by  namelus.
  • #8888

    74
    Participant

    Here’s my take on wood stoves. Unless you have a wood lot to cut you own wood buy a coal stove instead. The last 2 years I  bought wood instead of doing my own cutting, the suppliers are all terrible. The wood is poor quality, for every possible reason imaginable, the cords are short. log length is hugely variable. In short they deliver crap.

    When I replace my stove before next season I’m installing a coal stove.

  • #8890

    Loving Life
    Participant

    @74. Sounds like you’ve had a bad experience with your wood stove. I have had great experience with wood delivery in NY and PA. I asked neighbors for recommendations and asked questions from the suppliers.

    If the SHTF where are you planning on getting coal? Have you thought about installing solar or wind and doing a hybrid system with electric baseboards or propane? Just curious.

  • #8907

    namelus
    Participant

    Would say same to 74 you need better supplier of wood, to help us here during good times we get a few log trucks of logs delivered, in this area it’s birch. We cut to size per our stoves size and stack accordingly. You get between 15-17 chords per load, here that is about 1100 per load, or we trade 3 loads for one cut and split they pick up we load into pallet  boxes.

     

    We do have coal, for long term storage we have a mound but also hidden supply under grass hidden in land contours.

    Also look at coal Inserts for your stove you might not have to replace stove just get co brazier, more options that way. With coal make sure you get right kind  and size, it’s not all the same. cokING coal for forge won’t work for heating unless special brazier you can bottom light and feed with o2 from bottom.  The coal dust is a problem with wind, if large piles wet with sprinkler it forms a crust  and still burns well and does not blowl all over the place.

     

    For transport inside  house use a metal heavy duty garbage bin it is easiest to clean  and some come with nice roller bases. Plastic gets super dirty and rubs off, your house companions will not be impressed.

    We have a abandoned  coal mining town near us from 1920 so easy to go there with equipment  and trucks to haul 2 days with 3 guys is 16  dump trucks full. Lucky no scale lol. This is just chunk Anthricite coal burns well even if you just put few pieces in before calling it a night, again thicker chimney stack metal a must due to acidic  sulphur content  regular stuff will disintegrate.

     

     

  • #8909

    74
    Participant

    Namelus and Love,

    I think you are missing my point to Osito If you live in a suburban area you will not have a decent wood supply. The firewood sellers all try to rip you off and there are no wood lots to cut from. Buying logs buy the truck load is  not the best solution in suburbia, as dumping a pile in the front yard and sawing it up tends to attract a lot of attention and mess up the yard.

    Currently for everyday use coal is a better product due to the consistency both in quality and in volume and does not create creosote.  Storing more than 4 cords of wood in a suburban setting becomes a problem due to the space required, neighbor issues and zoning. Plus after shtf your firewood suddenly becomes a desirable commodity that you can’t hide.

    I can store coal inside if I must and not worry about insect infestation and in an emergency a coal stove can burn wood if necessary even though it is not ideal.

    Oak 24 million btu (if perfect and dry) $200. cord; 3757 lbs.

    Coal 19.46 million Btu $217.50  ton

    For anyone interested in btu by wood species: http://worldforestindustries.com/forest-biofuel/firewood/firewood-btu-ratings/

  • #8913

    Crow Bar
    Keymaster

    We tired to burn coal one year.

    It requires constant attention, requires an addition “blower.”  If the electricity goes out, you are screwed.

    And the ash is toxic.

    Wood, IF you have a good wood guy, and buy early in the season, it will be good to go.

    And the ash, you can put on your fields/gardens.

  • #8916

    Loving Life
    Participant

    @74. I am in the process of selling my house in suburbia, in the Greater Philadelphia PA area. In Philadelphia, I have a fireplace, original to the house from 1900. My area has sufficient wood to get me through at least one winter (restricting my sq footage to a minimum) plus the 1-2 cords of wood I keep. I have a dependable wood supplier. I store the wood behind the garage.

    I agree with @crowbar. You can also use the wood ash instead of ice melt. I worry about the toxicity of coal, plus my NY wood stove doesn’t require any electricity. My power goes out routinely in NY. Also, every 2-3 years, the UpState region gets a storm that causes a power outage of 5 days or more. Each of had to prep for our area. For my areas wood makes sense. It might not for your area/region.

  • #8918

    Osito Arelano
    Participant

    ok…..much more research required on my part for my particular situation.

    thank you everyone for your input!

  • #8919

    74
    Participant

    Crow Bar there are coal stoves that do not require a blower. Just as an example:  http://hitzer.com/our-products/stoves-furnaces/model-30-95

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 1 week ago by  74.
    • This reply was modified 6 months, 1 week ago by  74.
  • #8922

    74
    Participant

    Love,

    I have trees that I can cut if I desire and in a shtf there are probably 50 acres behind my house. But that’s not the situation for most suburban homes.

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