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My renewable energy plan for heat, electric and hot water  RSS feed

 
Christopher Robbins
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So my plans have evolved a bit with all the good input of you Veteran wood folk. Here it is:

I will not be buying an exterior burn furnace at this time. After running the numbers with my wife,

at the present and slightly inflated propane prices, it makes better sense to continue using my

existing newer propane gas boiler and solar thermal tank for my in floor heat. But when the gas

boiler needs replacing, or if the price of gas gets too high to stomach anymore, I will likely put a

Coal or Pellet furnace out in the yard, in a small shed, and try to put a holding tank in my basement

somewhere.

1. For my upstairs 1,200 SF, I have sold the old Vermont Castings "dragon" and will buy either a

Vogelzang Ponderosa or Englander NC-30 (whichever best price and can deliver ASAP).

2. For my downstairs 900 SF I am undecided, but leaning towards a Coal Stove or pellet stove. How

much is coal in Colorado? How long does it burn in comparison to wood cord and wood pellet?

One reason why I like the idea of coal is because it can also burn other stuff, from what I gather.

Right? But how flexible is it in desperate times? Can it burn old tires, plastic, etc? Can it burn

peat? Can it burn wood or other stuff cut to appropriate sizes? How is the coal fed...like a pellet

stove?

Another thing I like is how it stores better. It's more durable than pellets and doesn't rot like

wood, or get affected by wetness.

Does anyone have sugestions as to what coal stoves are good, and what I should expect to pay for a new

one?

3. After I get these in place and have basic heat in my home, I want to make a two-barrel wood stove

and have a plumber rig it with copper pipe to assist my solar thermal tube system and propane gas

boiler. presently, my propane water heater is only gas, so I'd like to rig it to be assisted by my

wood stoves. I will build a shed for the wood stove, and later when I upgrade it to a wood or coal

furnace or boiler, I will remove the barrel stove, or put it next to the barrel stove, and be good to

go.

4. After that, I want to build a rocket mass heater on my open patio and vent heat from it into my

lower level of home via ductwork and a blower. Is this feasible? Not sure. I have to research it a

bit more. But having a warm bench on my patio to sit and wait for elk or deer to wander by seems like

a cool idea.

5. I am going to net meter my solar panels I have, possibly add a panel, and possibly add one or two

micro wind turbines. I am getting quotes from the local professionals on that stuff.

Questions:

1. I have an 8" vent pipe that goes straight up in my upstairs area, can I use that for anything, or

is the stove pipe diameter strictly adhered to by the manufacturer?

2. I have a 6" vent pipe in my lower floor, where the Scan 61 now sits. Can that pipe be used for a

coal or pellet stove?
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Christopher Robbins wrote:So my plans have evolved a bit with all the good input of you Veteran wood folk. Here it is:

I will not be buying an exterior burn furnace at this time. After running the numbers with my wife,

at the present and slightly inflated propane prices, it makes better sense to continue using my

existing newer propane gas boiler and solar thermal tank for my in floor heat.



Did you mean deflated prices? My experience is that propane is pretty cheap right now, not inflated. That said, I just ran comparison costs against utility supplied electric, and straight resistive heating wins locally right now. I live in a district in Kentucky (coal power country) with the lowest base residential electric rates in the state. Which might mean in the entire nation, at just a tad below 7.5 cents per Kilowatt-hour. At a last, best propane price of $1.99 per gallon and a 92% efficient furnace; electric wins by a nose. We live in strange times.





2. For my downstairs 900 SF I am undecided, but leaning towards a Coal Stove or pellet stove. How

much is coal in Colorado?




Too much to make it worthwhile. You'd need to be down river from a coal mine, and particularly from an anthracite mine, for it to be a worthwhile move.



How long does it burn in comparison to wood cord and wood pellet?



Oh, a long time. Much longer than cordwood. Hot, too. One has to be careful burning anthracite coal in a regular woodstove. The price generally reflects the higher energy content though. The shipping distance and difficulty of coal is what makes locally harvested cordwood the winner.



One reason why I like the idea of coal is because it can also burn other stuff, from what I gather.



Yes, but not well. Cordwood would be much more efficiently burned in a modern EPA certified woodstove.


Right? But how flexible is it in desperate times? Can it burn old tires, plastic, etc?



Able, yes. But you don't want a trashburner.

Can it burn

peat?



Not well.



Can it burn wood or other stuff cut to appropriate sizes? How is the coal fed...like a pellet

stove?


Some coal furnaces have electric driven augers, like a pellet stove. Electric is required for this type. Nothing else will burn in it, if it's automatic and set up to burn coal pellets. Even wood or corn pellets won't burn well. The oxygen ratio and introduction points are completely different.


Another thing I like is how it stores better. It's more durable than pellets and doesn't rot like

wood, or get affected by wetness.


That's true, but it's also true for propane.

Questions:

1. I have an 8" vent pipe that goes straight up in my upstairs area, can I use that for anything, or

is the stove pipe diameter strictly adhered to by the manufacturer?

2. I have a 6" vent pipe in my lower floor, where the Scan 61 now sits. Can that pipe be used for a

coal or pellet stove?


A modern woodstove can be found to fit either of these flue sizes, but you'd need to make sure it's got the kind of flue for wood. A simple propane flue would never reach the kind of temps that a wood or coal stove could produce. A chimney fire is a bad thing, and if you have the wrong chiminey, the heat from a chimney fire can "jump" from the inside of the flue to the outside where your support joists are, then everything goes sideways fast. The pellet stove can use 6" flue fine as well, but the 8" would probably be too big for a pellet stove; whereas a coal stove can use an 8" flue fine, but a 6" flue for coal wouldn't be but a parlor stove.
 
Creighton Samuiels
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BTW, using coal for home heating is almost always a net loser to natural gas or propane anywhere beyond 250 miles or so from an anthracite mine. The major anthracite mines are all in Pennsylvania. All of the coal in Kentucky is Bitumous coal, which is too dirty to burn in a home, and burns a bit differently in a coal stove anyway. While there are some people in Kentucky who will throw a single block of bitumous coal into their woodstove to 'keep' the burn overnight, no one will burn the stuff as a primary heat fuel. Anthracite coal, however, is different. It burns very clean, like clear smoke clean, and doesn't even have any water content to make white steam "smoke" like even well seasoned cordwood does. Anthracite is damn near pure carbon, and anything other than CO2 up the flue is almost impossible. Every coal furnance I've ever even heard of was designed to use anthracite, and bitumous tends to void warranties. Your wife would hate you for using bitumous coal, and would forbit you from ever doing it again, I promise you. That's if your neighbors don't call the cops first. The stuff is nasty. As far as I know, there are no anthracite mines anywhere near Colorado. That said, I'd caution you to reconsider a coal stove. You're not going to be happy with any other fuel in it besides anthracite coal, and you are about 500 miles beyond a competive shipping range for anthracite coal.

Beyond that, cordwood keeps for close to a decade if kept off the ground and under roof. If long term heat fuel security is a major concern, build a proper woodshed and try to get as much black locust as you can afford. Critters tend to dislike it more than most, and it will keep for a long time and heat well when you need it. And then just cycle through your less durable cordwoods for regular winters.
 
Christopher Robbins
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Ah...that makes sense I think.

Over a beer and walking my dog, I have modified my plan, and it might be less costly and more independent I think. And my wife hated the idea of coal, even though it could be good, however we don't have a

For my upstairs I will install a wood burner stove. Likely a Ponderosa or a Englander NC-30, which seem to have good user reviews for the most part.

For the downstairs, I currently have partially operable in-floor heat (about half or 1/3 of it). I will get a HVAC solar specialist to tune it up/repair.

Then I will install a twin-barrel wood burner into an all metal 20 by 20 (10) greenhouse in my yard, wrap it in copper or steel pipe, apply a force air fan blower, and blow/flow that greenhouse oxygenated air into my bottom floor. I figure between my in-floor heat on both levels, the wood stove on the top, and this outdoor wood furnace on the bottom, I should be fairly toasty and independent.

Thoughts?
 
Creighton Samuiels
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The only suggestion that I'd offer for consideration is to consider a RMH for your shed, and use your barrels as heat bells. Regardless, it's a good plan. If the locals favor wood, burn wood in any capacity that you can. A wood gasifier in your shed with filtered gas running a small engine for DC power charging might be a good consideration as well. wood gas contains carbon monoxide, so you probably don't want that in the house.
 
Christopher Robbins
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:The only suggestion that I'd offer for consideration is to consider a RMH for your shed, and use your barrels as heat bells. Regardless, it's a good plan. If the locals favor wood, burn wood in any capacity that you can. A wood gasifier in your shed with filtered gas running a small engine for DC power charging might be a good consideration as well. Wood gas contains carbon monoxide, so you probably don't want that in the house.


Can I make a RMH and generate thermal heat for water pipes to run back into the house? And can I run a blower into the home? I'd likely use a small solar panel, battery, and possibly micro turbine to power the blower and water valves/pumps. Thanks, c
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Christopher Robbins wrote:
Creighton Samuiels wrote:The only suggestion that I'd offer for consideration is to consider a RMH for your shed, and use your barrels as heat bells. Regardless, it's a good plan. If the locals favor wood, burn wood in any capacity that you can. A wood gasifier in your shed with filtered gas running a small engine for DC power charging might be a good consideration as well. Wood gas contains carbon monoxide, so you probably don't want that in the house.


Can I make a RMH and generate thermal heat for water pipes to run back into the house? And can I run a blower into the home? I'd likely use a small solar panel, battery, and possibly micro turbine to power the blower and water valves/pumps. Thanks, c


Sure, but a RMH isn't a hands off device, so it might not be the best choice for your plans. A RMH is significantly more energy efficient than any other wood burning appliance you can build or buy, for the simple fact that a RMH (done correctly) benefits from the latent heat of the water in the wood. Chimney based woodstoves cant do this because they can't let the exhaust drop below 212 degrees before it's out of the house. By the way that woodstoves are judged, a well built RMH can be an 'over parity' device, as it can return more BTU's per pound of seasoned cordwood than is theoretically possible without the latent heat of water condensing out of the exhaust before it leaves the house. But the conditions for a RMH are tricky and narrow, so read up before you jump.
 
allen lumley
pollinator
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Christopher Robbins : I promise that this is a short version of my let no rocket mass heater R.M.H., be installed where it is unwanted, or UN-prepared for. So much hype has been
made of the performance of the R.M.H. that a cloud has been made that mere daylight will not disperse.
If I were to show you the R.M.H. Feed Tube as a receptacle 7'' by 7'', and tell you that that was all the room that you had to hold 'a charge of wood', tell you that you must dance in
attendance to the needs of the R.M.H. for the first hour, and that it would then need feeding every hour there after, that there was no damper, and a damper could never be used
on this unit. That perhaps several times of the year in order to start a fire in this Unit it was a common practice to build a small fire inside the piping arrangement at a remote spot
where the horizontal chimney changes to the vertical! If I told you that this stove was very finicky on start-up requiring very dry wood finely split and then carefully monitored - !

If you were to compare this stove to any other stove on the market, you would quickly see that the 'Rocket' has the smallest combustion chamber and can only hold a fraction of
the wood of a standard Wood Heater, When you realized the amount of time that was added to your day, and subtracted from your sleep just to get that fire started 1st thing in the
morning, and realized that after the first hour ,or hour and one half you would be turning over attendance to your 'Rocket' to some one whose schedule was ruled by the need for
attendance on the Rocket to provide its magic of producing 20 -25 hrs of heating for 5 -8 hrs of attendance, if it was explained to you in this manner I am sure you would pause to
consider the Appropriate-ness of spending all this time for the benefit conferred !

Actually this is the smallest part of using and learning to feeding habits of a R.M.H.! Your 'Rocket' must be given pride of place, it is best served by a single person whose daily
household duties places themselves within an arms length away (or earshot,as most home owners soon learn to tell how happy their Rocket is by their "Rockets" sound.)

Persons who place their R.M.H. in a remote location soon learn to regret this choice, by placing the rocket stove in a remote location where it is out of sight, out of mind, the R.M.H.
is more often out than running, and instead of a simple task that is shared with the other daily functions around the house tending the R.M.H. becomes a duty and a task, this new
attitude results anR.M.H. in an unhappy home!

This could have been avoided simply by planning the build by realizing that you will be more happy, and get more use out of a rocket mass heater that is always within earshot and
always seems charged with fresh wood all the time, the only chore being the need to bring more wood to feed its stingy appetite !

Later we can talk about the troubles of using rocket stoves to heat water ! For the good of the Craft ! Hope this gives you pause for thought !

Think like fire, flow like a gas, Don't be the Marshmallow ! As always your comments and questions are solicited and Welcome ! PYRO - Logically BIG AL !
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Have I mentioned that you're a bit of a wet blanket, Allen?
 
allen lumley
pollinator
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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et al ; I need to recruit about 7 more, that would make the ratio of Pollyanna's to wet blankets 10 :1, about right ! Seriously, we've promised new people about everything except that it
will cool down jug wine. For the Good of the Craft ! Big AL
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Except I haven't promised anything. I mentioned that it had to be built correctly for it to work, and that it might not be ideal for his greenhouse. I only mention the latent heat of water thing because the RMH videos talk about some people dropping their winter wood needs to one fifth of what it was the year before. The latent heat of water thing is the major factor there, and without talking about it, rational people should think that we're full of crap. I sure did.
 
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