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An interesing idea...or Pure Insanity?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 5
Location: Western NY
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I have a client who I am working through the design phase on what is shaping up to be a very neat house project. She is pretty set on wanting a masonry stove which would be capable of heating the whole house (less than 1500 sq. ft.). However, she wants the ability to travel etc. for periods during the winter and so we will need a secondary heat source. I was thinking grumpily about the redundancy and cost inefficiencies that come with installing two fully functional heating systems in a house when I had what seemed to me a potentially Very Interesting Idea.

Would it be possible to install a thermostat controlled propane burner in a masonry heater, thus making one heat delivery method (the masonry mass) duel fuel and capable of automatic control? Naturally the propane burner would have to have it's own burn chamber, separate from the wood burn chamber, and would want it's own small flue running up the chimney.
What are the problems with this idea? Has this ever been done before that anyone knows of? 


 
Posts: 54
Location: reno, nevada zone7
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wonder if it would work , kind of like a gas fire pit?
the masonry would already be fire proof.
 
garden master
Posts: 1987
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I imagine your idea would work.  Not sure if the authorities would be open to it?

I cat and chicken sat for some friends last Easter for 10 days and it got fairly cold (5F lows).  Their house is only heated with a huge masonry heater.  It has an earthen roof, is buried on 2.5 sides and is modest in size.  They normally light a fire every 2-3 days in the winter.  We weren't expecting this level of cold so I was worried how warm the house would stay.  On the last day it had cooled down to 55F. 

I'm pretty sure that was due to the partially buried aspect of the house.  The heater was probably doing its job for the first 3 days but then the thermal inertia of the surrounding soil kicked in.
 
Posts: 13
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Not insane, I really like your idea and think it would work well. Simple and practical.  I'm envisioning the stove to be interior and not connected to an exterior wall, correct?

A burner like this one:


Will heat very efficiently, more so than a flame.

I spent a lot of nights camping in my uninsulated shed last winter (for fun) and this heater was really nice to have.  I could go about a week on a 20 gallon tank.  
 
gardener
Posts: 2706
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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Sean, a batch rocket, with a propane burner , which can be engaged when she leaves the house, i think is perfectly doable.

I would use this firebox architecture.

http://donkey32.proboards.com/post/16159/thread

http://www.ecologieforum.eu/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4610

A batch firebox, with the door on the side, not on end. With either a normal riser, at the narrow end of the firebox or a sidewinder. Mind you, i personally wouldn't do a sidewinder.

http://batchrocket.eu/en/designs

You put the propane burner in a pocket, opposite the heat riser, and i think you should be fine. May be doing a sort of door on that narrow side too, onto which the burner is attached, and be moved away when the stove is used with wood. And replaced by a plain metallic door. You know, a bit like the door on oil burning boilers.

 
gardener
Posts: 1257
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Shawn;
  I think the issue here is safety.  Your Masonry stove would need to be built to accept a propane burner without compromising the wood portion. Do you know a mason that is confident doing this ?  I don't know if they make a stand alone burner assembly complete with thermostat and safety shutoffs, that is meant to be installed in a remote location.  I suspect that the liability for the burner manufacturer would be horrendous.  As a contractor anything short of a factory unit and a competent mason you might find your liability in question.
I suggest investigating this idea further with a propane guy and a mason to see if it has been or can be safely done.  Otherwise a couple of strategically placed  wall mounted ,vented propane units would keep pipes from freezing and save you any liability from a fire.
 
Satamax Antone
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Another idea, would be to fit the Burnet un thé Bell, at floor level. There shouldnt much risks. Except of shuting off the pilot light. With not enough oxygen.
 
thomas rubino
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If there is a burner assembly available, then Max's idea of going into the bell is a good one.
EDIT)  In retrospect a safe way to seal that bell during wood burning would be an issue. I'm sure there is some way it could be done. But for a customer rather than yourself probably not a good idea.
 
Sean Hyland
Posts: 5
Location: Western NY
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Thanks all for the input and suggestions. Many good thoughts there.
I'm thinking along the lines of having a totally separate firebox for the propane section with it's own fresh air intake and exhaust. Yes, the stove would be freestanding near the center of the house. I like the idea of incorporating the burner at floor leve, below the wood firebox.
I really haven't gotten as far as discussing it with any masons, and had just had the initial brainwave.
I was sort of half expecting that someone somewhere has done it already. (Nothing new under the sun and all that.)
I'm on the same page with some of you on the liability issue. This would have to be a burner which was in some way "legit" for the application seeing as it's for a customer and not for myself. Also, installed and designed with the blessing of the mason executing the work. Nothing janky for customers! Myself, that's another matter...
Caveats aside, the difficulties really don't seem to be insurmountable and seems to have the possibility to be a worthwhile idea to pursue further.
Maybe this will go somewhere in the short term, or it may end up shelved in the mental warehouse for later...
 
Posts: 296
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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Sorry but it seems like you're missing some basics here. Or maybe I'm missing something.
You use a masonry heater because you're trying to capture the excess heat you produce that is lost up the flue. Wood fires can't make just a little heat, nor can they cycle on and off to keep the temperature relatively stable. 
This isn't the case with a modern propane burner. They make just enough heat by design. Very little is wasted.
All you're going to accomplish is to burn a lot more propane than you need to if you use it to heat a thermal mass.
 
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