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First Year Heating With Wood Fiasco

Discussion in 'Firewood, Heating and Wood Burning Equipment' started by CaptainMauw, Mar 6, 2019.

  1. CaptainMauw

    CaptainMauw ArboristSite Lurker

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    Well, it’s been a heck of a winter. Work finally brought me home to the upper Midwest last year, so I bought an old family farm in BFE because people suck and nosey neighbors are terrible. House started as an old single room with cellar and front porch. House was built in 18-something-freaking-old, and has been added on to at least 6 times. Apparently in 19-something someone had the bright idea to attach the cattle feed barn to the back of the house. Then years after the dairy barn was built out across the drive, the old barn and milk room were renovated as part of the house now. Yeah, the fiancé was already “thrilled” about where and how we were living, and now knowing that our kitchen and dining room are in an old cattle barn, well, you can imagine.

    In the house was a circa 1994 Vermont Castings Dutchwest 2462. Given the awful price of propane and that my best friend’s family farm was only an hour away, I decided wood was going to be the primary heat. So I dismantled the stove, redid the door seals, scrubbed the flue and chimney, and fired her up. Was new to wood burning, and followed the owner’s manual a bit too literally. Cue:

    “Oh God, get the bypass closed! It isn’t supposed to be open for long!”

    Quickly discovered that the cat and refractory packaging were bad, and replaced those. Fired her up again and ill-be-darned if the stove didn’t hit 1400F in under an hour and light off the chimney. Learned the response time of the local volunteer fire department that night. Good guys, and the sheriff deputies enjoyed playing with my German shepherd.

    So, called in a pro to look everything over, basically said there was nothing wrong and that any chimney fire would have been minor and simply cleaned out the flue (from burning under temps on the bad cat). Was told to “let her rip,” so in late December I fired her up and kept her warm. Quickly learned that taking the wheelbarrow out to the barn for a load of wood every night is annoying. Also, storing a small amount of wood inside to warm up and fully dry out in the super dry indoor air seems to help the burn.

    Then the true cold hit. There are now straw bales wrapped in plastic all around the entire exterior foundation and infrared space heaters placed in the crawl spaces aimed at pipes. Only took one frozen pipe to dictate this. Then the extreme cold hit (-30+) and I was reloading the stove every 3 hours. Between the stove ripping, the LP furnace going, and the space heaters, we marginally maintained 62F.

    Wood sourcing is no problem for me. I started logging at the farm back east at home for field expansion in November, and will have the equivalent of 40-50 chords stashed in my back barn by April….and im not even halfway thru logging yet. All of this dictated new chainsaws….plural. My little Farm and Ranch ms311 is a beast, but I was running it like a raped ape and felling 36”+ trees with a small saw is neither optimal nor truly “safe.” So, I now own an MS661 and have an MS462 on order (the more I log, the more local farms want me to log their areas, so the saws are truly an investment). In the logging process, I couldn’t bring myself to hack beautiful, straight, hardwoods into firewood, so I bought a partially built sawmill and finished it so that I can mill my own timbers and boards. All of this then necessitated multiple chains, bars, and the purchase of bar oil by the case. Then with the sheer time im putting on the saws, parts galore to keep them running well (my local Stihl dealer loves me). I got a crash course on the new M-tronics as well as tearing a saw down and rebuilding it when the 661 ran into issues….there went money for a new control unit and fuel solenoid. Then, tired of always getting halfway thru a tree then stopping and walking away to get a wedge, I figured it was time for a kit load out to keep everything on me. And, not liking the age of my current plastic hardhat, now in the market for a steel pot. Weeks later, I understand exactly why fellers and loggers use everything they do (tape measure is ridiculous, and loggers tape is a dream!).

    So here I am in March now. Not even really the end of the season, and I’ve already burned 6.5-7 chords for a collective maybe 90-100 days of run time. Clearly this stove is a hungry monster. I have holes burned in the carpet from embers, a mangled tool box in the truck from hauling wood, two saws in the truck that the fiancé does NOT know the true price of, a lawn mower engine powered chainsaw mill in the barn, a new-to-me trailer for hauling trees and timber that the fiancé also does NOT know the price of, and the need for more barn space to store cut and split firewood for drying. The fire department now knows me well, the local chimney sweep is awaiting my call this summer for installation of a new stove that doesn’t eat wood like cookie monster eats cookies, and within a year I need a bigger truck and trailer to haul full 8’-14’ sections of timber for milling from the increased logging work I am now doing. Oh, and given the fiasco of everything, the propane tank has been filled twice now as well, at $800 each time, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place!

    On the up side; selling a few timber sections of cherry and black walnut should offset most costs incurred…..I hope. And by goly is that 661 worth every penny that it costs. I have also managed to get back into the shape I was in late high school at this point by swinging the 661 with 36” bar around and humping out logs on my shoulder to where equipment can get to them. All in all, felling and logging is truly enjoyable work.

    So, does this all sound about right for “first year of wood burning” and cost of such? Also, I would not mind suggestions on a new wood stove for the house to get this old hungry VC out. Currently looking at the Blaze King Ultra models.

    And I am truly grateful for this site. The untold hours of research and reading I have conducted here have helped immensely throughout this winter when I was running into problems and second guessing decisions. So, i want thank you to all and express my gratitude.
     
  2. Marshy

    Marshy 285 Killa

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    "Normal" first year? No, most buy wet wood, dont know the difference and dont even own a saw lol....
    Sounds like you're beyond entry level to me. Welcome to the chaos.

    One thing you should strongly consider about the BK stoves is they are extremely efficient. This is a good thing when it comes to burn times but it also means it has some of the lowest flue gas temperature on the market. If you dont connect a BK to an insulated chimney, either pre-fabbed class A pipe or a stainless insulated liner in you masonry chimney then you will have creosote issues. The masonry/clay lined chimneys suck out the heat and you'll see a tar glaze start to form. Really great stoves, easy to operate, well built but without an insulated chimney then you'll be left cursing it out.

    Also, given that a new free standing stove wont help with your frozen pipes, have you considered a wood furnace? I've tried heating a 1850 sqft ranch house from my basement with a free standing stove and the heat distribution was never what I wanted it to be. I eventually went with a fancy indoor boiler that will take a half of a lifetime for return on investment but as far as heating goes it's like the Cadillac of systems. Maybe a boiler or furnace would solve world hunger for you. Better distribution and keeps the pipes from freezing.

    Welcome to the madness.
     
  3. CaptainMauw

    CaptainMauw ArboristSite Lurker

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    Yeah I don’t expect any wood stove to keep the pipes from freezing. That problem is purely due to the poor foundation that is under/around the addition that is the old feed barn and milk room which, coincidentally, is where all the pipes are (yeaaaaa). The main cellar is cement and holds a true 50-60F even when very cold and no cellar furnace running. The main issue with the pipes is wind intrusion, which is a big problem since I am in the plains, and the wind comes whipping out of Illinois constantly. Heck, in the crawl space under the bathroom, you can see daylight…..All of that will dictate the necessity for foundation work to fix, which I plan on this summer already. Once buttoned up, all should be well (I hope) otherwise the space heaters work well.


    I have been told by more than one to look into an outside boiler system, but that will cost an arm, a leg, and sacrificial offering once I factor in heat exchanger for water heater, piping, etc. Not really financially in a place do make that move for a while, as I am trying to also stand up this farm with cattle and grain as well as overhaul barns and eventually add onto the house. I also don’t want to replace the LP furnace as it is my heating insurance should the fiancé not feel comfortable loading a wood burner etc (fire scares her) and in the event that anything happens, we always have a backup heat source. Plus, this is listed at the “primary” heat to keep the home insurance low.


    So that leaves me back at the wood stove route. The way the house is setup is actually very efficient for the wood stove (small house), and even the far reaches of the house don’t differ in temps too much from the main room (circa-centrally located stove). And, cold air return for the main furnace fan is located 6” from the stove, so that helps a lot. I have double wall insulated 10” SS chimney pipe from the ceiling up thru the roof and black pipe from the ceiling down. Low exhaust gases do make me think deeply, given the chimney/flue issues I have had thus far (which may just be attributed to current stove and 500F cat lite-off temp). Even with ~5’ of exposed insulated SS pipe on the roof, will subzero temps cause excessive buildup? Stage 3 creosote is a bear. The flue does pull a strong draft though.


    My current main complaint is that I haven’t slept through the night now since November. I load the VC stove at 9-9:30 in the evening and then have to stoke and reload by 2-3:30am and wait for the cat to relight before then throttling air intake and going back to bed. Then reloading at 5:30am before leaving for work, and the stove it totally out by 4-5pm when I return home. Not a true problem, but anything with longer burn times would be greatly appreciated. Plus, the sheer amount of wood I'm going through with this thing....
     
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  4. Woodchuck71

    Woodchuck71 ArboristSite Member

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    Funniest story yet.Love the history on the old dairy farm!!
     
  5. Highbeam

    Highbeam ArboristSite Operative

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    You can add a wood boiler but keep your propane domestic hot water, wood stove, even your propane furnace.

    I have a BK ultra and it's great for me but those things are 3500-4000 bucks.
     
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  6. Marshy

    Marshy 285 Killa

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    Well it sounds like you meet the requirement for the stove pipe. However, why the hell do you have 10" pipe? Shouldnt your stove only need 6"? A larger pipe will slow down the velocity of the gases and give it time to cool off. That could explain why you are having creosote or deposits still. Either that or your wood is wet. Which is an important topic about having a BK, you need seasoned wood less than 25% moisture. Ideally, moisture content should be 20% or less. If you can afford it, I would suggest you consider the King model or a Princess. The beauty about them are you have the ability to turn them right down low and extend your burn time. I had a King and running it on max output it still lasted 8-9 hours. The King and Pincess have almost the same heat output on high, the king just has more fuel in it so it will go longer.
     
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  7. NSMaple1

    NSMaple1 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I was going to ask about that before I saw you did.

    I am thinking he has to be talking outside diameter?
     
  8. NSMaple1

    NSMaple1 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    OP, are there any efficiency programs in your state? I would really check that out fully. You might be able to get lots of help with improving your house, heat loss wise.
     
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  9. CaptainMauw

    CaptainMauw ArboristSite Lurker

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    Whoops! Typo; flue is 8" not 10

    All the wood I'm currently burning is a mix of well seasoned and dead-standing/dead-fall that I hauled out in august-november. I'm sure some isn't optimally <20% moisture, but it's farrrr from wet wood. This is where storing a good sized stock in the entry way for a few days prior to burn has helped a lot. The super dry interior air has dried the wood out really well prior to burn. The minimal time here has dictated all this; wasn't time to properly cut and season wood for this first season. Next winters wood is already cut and seasoning and going forth, everything will be well seasoned for multiple years prior to burn.

    The main problem leading to the chimney fire and deposites was due to a few days of burning under-temp from the bad cat initially. I was on the roof 4 weeks ago checking the pipe and there is no additional buildup, and the stage 3 from that time is slowly drying out and flaking back down.

    I may dig back into the boiler option and research it a bit deeper. If I go that route, I will GO that route though. I have a tendancy to over-do things the first time around so that its more than i need and will last forever. Professional/contractor grade tools vs store bought, 1 ton axles on a 1/2 ton truck, etc etc.

    I suppose if I can put some more cherry and walnut on the deck I could finance anything I need to. Course, the fiance won't be thrilled on additional time there with an upcoming wedding, but it is what it is.
     
  10. lknchoppers

    lknchoppers ArboristSite Operative

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    I would figure out a way to insulate better and make sure what ever stove you get, it has the biggest firebox you can get. Forget about half ton trucks for serious hauling and towing, get a skid steer the fiancé doesn't know the cost of too !!! .. LOL
     
  11. trains

    trains Firewood hack

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    Yep, sounds about right :) :) :)
    You missed the bit about buying a tractor with front end loader to move your wood and what type of log splitter you got :)
     
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  12. Antarctica

    Antarctica ArboristSite Member

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    Stoves: I like simple. No EPA crap. No cat. Just shove in wood. Light, keep shoving in wood. I'm more interested in heat than I am in efficiency. Old Fisher or knock off. You can probably find one for $250 on craigs right about now, or in the spring or summer. Someone will be upgrading to a new, expensive 'efficient' stove, wanting to get rid of the old ugly one.... until they wish they hadn't.
     
  13. jimdeere

    jimdeere ArboristSite Lurker

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    You should write a book.
    Oh, wait...you just did.:)
     
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  14. CaptainMauw

    CaptainMauw ArboristSite Lurker

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    Yeah a 1 ton dually, 25-30' gooseneck, and tractor are all on the short list. Right now I am using the Deere 700J dozer, the 240 Excavator, and our tracked skid steer at the farm back east for load-out and cleanup after felling, limbing, and bucking. Plan is to get my own equipment soon enough.

    All I want in a stove is minimum 8-12 hour burn that heats well. Anything more is nothing but a good thing. I like what I see in the BK not only in firebox size, but in depth....because the fiance isn't too thrilled about the singed carpet right now. Depth should prevent most if not all cracking and falling embers from causing any more damage. But then again, carpet damage only supports my stance for hardwood floors! As far as size, I will get the biggest I can and expect to grow into it with time.
     
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  15. Marley5

    Marley5 ArboristSite Operative

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    Oboy, never had a winter like that in 5 different houses burning wood exclusively.....keep cutting.
     
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  16. lknchoppers

    lknchoppers ArboristSite Operative

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    I have an older (1986) Suburban Woodchief I bought for $100 off craigslist, you can put 24" + logs in it, stuff it full and it will last for 12+ hours. The ash pan is below in a separate compartment, no burning embers anywhere ever, the firebox is separate. No fire to see but it does the job better than most I have seen and setup for friends. Ashley makes a similar unit. Below is what it looks like, loads from the side and has a thermostat controlling the fresh air coming in.

    29060767_814973672021599_4239968290153777271_o.jpg
     
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  17. Saiso

    Saiso Mountain Ranger

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    Man, what a great read!! I thank you!

    You’ll have very fond memories for ever. Sounds like a beautiful experience
     
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  18. nwmo_aggie

    nwmo_aggie ArboristSite Operative

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    Just a couple different thoughts...if you're having water pipe issues that you're fixing with space heaters, and have issues with embers on the carpet and have a big heat load, what if you reconsider the outdoor stove option?

    More heat capacity.

    Replumb water lines to allow for those lines to have circulation and heat your domestic water with the boiler also. Fixes both the heating and the waterline freezing issues.

    Just a thought.
     
  19. NSMaple1

    NSMaple1 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    An outdoor boiler is a waaay big expense though. Too big for some, not too big for others.

    My first target would be improve & tighten up the house.
     
  20. CaptainMauw

    CaptainMauw ArboristSite Lurker

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    Oh, believe me, this house is in process. Lord knows the time and money I have spent thus far remodeling and fixing over a century of "quick" farmer "fixes." I currently have an entry way and bathroom that are sinking.....because no one bothered to pour a footer, or rather, any foundation, during those construction expansions. Pretty sure it went something like:

    "Just set the cross braces on rocks and we'll be good. Insulation? Never heard of it! It'll all be fine, theres a coal burner in the cellar"

    Within 3 years the entry way will be ripped up and a new living room space added on, and within 10 years the bathroom will be demolished and an all new 2 story expansion built in its place. Just need to stabilize for now. I plan to dig out and bury insulation from 12" deep to the bottom of the siding all the way around the outside of the bathroom addition and old barn expanse. Then ill put some foam board along the inside crawl space walls as well. Should seal out the wind and weather and prevent pipe issues.

    The straw at the foundation isn't an issue for me either. The neighbor (whose mother-in-law conveniently lived here before us) bales it and lets me pick from the pile at 2-3 bucks a bale depending. I am a firm believer in functionality over form, the fiance thinks a tad different though, and finds it an eyesore. But, she wakes up warm in the morning because of it.

    I am all for an outdoor boiler system, the problem is the short term house plan and price. With the end goal being a second story and 6 bedrooms total (currently 2), I would need a good sized system, which will not be cheap, and likely well out of my price range currently. If I buy a small system, then ill be replacing it within a decade for a bigger system, and thats rough. Its hard to get a ROI on a boiler system in its lifetime, let alone <10 years. This is why I am leaning more toward the stove route since it would be a simple replacement of whats currently here, and what is here does the job well, just not efficiently on fuel and burn time.

    Also, there is all original Cherry hardwood floors from like 1900 under this carpet. The carpet is temporary until I can jack the floor back to level and sand and refinish it, so carpet burns are mehhh to me really. Just funny at this point
     

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