Sunday, December 13, 2009

Heating Problem

The new stove is heating great. I start the fire between four and five in the evening let it burn hot for a while then load it up between six and seven, damper it slightly and have good heat until around two in the morning. At two I throw a few more logs in the stove, damper it down a little more and have it smolders until six when I open the dampers toss a couple small logs on and let the fire roar as it warms the house. Plus the hot fire burns off the creosote from the night before. It burns down about nine after getting the house to the upper 70s. The sun takes over around ten. On very cold days or if the wind is particularly fierce I burn the stove through the day. I did this from mid November until just a couple of days ago. I like the house really warm during the day.

Here is the problem. I am burning through a cord of wood every two weeks. Now the temperatures here have been cold since late November but nothing outstanding. Running 20 to 30 degrees in the day and dropping to around 0 at night this is fairly typical. January may have some spells of slightly colder nights. Fortunately with the days starting to get longer in January the sun will be able to pick up more of the daily heating.

The cabin is located on the north side of the ridge. I am sheltered from the more wicked winds but this time of year the sun can only be counted on to give me good heat from ten to around two thirty. Most days are brilliant sunshine but do to the ridge and trees behind the house I am in shadows a good portion of the day.

I had planned on seven cords of wood based on last years usage. The new stove and fact that last February and March were on the warm side has thrown my planning off. With wood running about $150 a cord now if I have to buy it this becomes a costly mistake.

So here is the plan. I will top out three trees behind the house that are stealing the most sun. This should increase the solar gain in the house especially in the mornings. Shove some more insulation in the ceiling and fill in some of the more drafty cracks. Finally cut back on the wood I am burning and adjust when I fill the stove to let the logs burn out around six in the morning rather than nine. I just have to keep the house cooler at night and not burn any wood during the day.

My wood usage needs to be down around one cord per month on the coldest months.  I will let you know how this works out


Mayberry said...

Even down here in Texas, keeping the house comfortable, around 70, with the central electric heat on, uses up a lot of wood. And like you said, this winter has been colder than last year (must be Gorebal Warming). My wood pile is diminishing rapidly, and I haven't even had fires as much as I'd like to.

One good thing I've found is tossing a good sized log or two on the fire right before bed. Six to eight inch diameter stuff, not split. They don't put off much flame, but they burn throughout the night, throwing off a lot of heat. Like charcoal. Many times they'll still be burning eight hours or more after I tossed them on. I'm talking hard wood, like mesquite and oak.....

michael said...

Do you have anything to use as thermal mass around the stove? At the prior location of my shop, I stacked a bunch of red bricks in an L shape around the stove. They reall helped the comfort level. That heat absorbed is heat that doesn't just go up the flue, and radiates out well after the stove cools. Water can be a good way to hold onto some heat. Plenty of rock around you if bricks are not handy. Fixing the leaks is a priority, but not the only way to hold onto the heat.

BigBear said...

michael I am looking into either water in a 30 gallon barrel or bricks but I need to reinforce the floor before adding that much mass.

Michael said...

I heard (or read) somewhere that water was no very good compared to masonry for thermal mass. Definitely beef up the floor before adding more weight... but any opportunity of adding more masonry inside especially in places where the sun hits it the better. The insulation and air leakage work you're planning is right on but the more heatsink you can add the better for increasing the passive solar qualities.

Not sure how the interior space is configured but the less you have to heat the better. One of the most obvious advantages of the smallest homes is the lower cost to heat and cool. Since you're not using central heat/air closing off rooms you don't use will help lower the consumption.

Good luck!

BigBear said...

Michael total square that needs heated is 560 all one big room. I have divided that off in the deep cold with thermal blankets so I only heated 360. The bed is tucked back in behind the wood stove so staying warm is not a problem.

HermitJim said...

I hope you get the heating problem figured out pretty soon. That's a lot of wood to burn, for sure!

Anonymous said...

One comment I read on Les Stroud's book comes to mind. He tells them to cut what they think a night wood will take. Once they are done, he tells them to triple the amount they have now. He says often enough, that doesn't cut it either.

Hardwood or soft? That makes a big difference as well, as Mayberry mentioned above. Also, isn't there some type of heat accumulator you can wrap around the stovepipe to gain heat from that as well?

I hope you find a solution.

Anonymous said...

Shipping pallets can be had free, and are often made of dense hard wood. One cut hardwood pallet will last about one day of heating.

michael said...

Yes, the weight issue crossed my mind. Another possibility might be something I read about quite some time ago. It was a setup that involved 55 gal drums sunken into a pit. The drums contained rocks of size that would leave a fair amount of unfilled space allowing an amount of water to circulate. Some copper plumbing around the stove and a small pump and you could plumb in a radiator wherever you want. If the buried storage is not practical, perhaps an under floor grid of pipe might be an option.

pekar said...

A little late here with my reply, but if you used double wall pipe inside, change it to single, so you get the heat thrown off by the pipe as well. A lot of heat goes up the chimney otherwise.
The tradeoff is increased creosote accumulation, due to having a cooler chimney. I'd imagine cleaning the chimney a couple times over the winter wouldn't be a huge deal.
Other ideas include heat fins off the stovepipe, or a fan blowing across the stove can really keep the heat from going up the chimney.
there are expensive but functional fans that run off heat, such as the Ecofan Airplus.
You could also experiment with adding a second vent inside(towards the top, look at Hearthstone stoves for an example) to more efficiently combust the wood. Supposedly the modern stoves are 30% more efficient than the old ones. That's less wood, pardner.
If you're adding mass, look for soapstone, holds more heat. I'd try a stone yard or countertop installer, might get some scrap cheap or free.
Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Your problem is the insulation not the wood heat. Also your stove may be too big. Sure a bigger stove heats faster and can hold a lot of wood to keep going longer but it will also put more heat up the chimney. I heat with wood in a cold climate and t 1/2 - 3 cords max for a winter. My stove is small, if you split a 10"-12" round into quarters it would fill the stove and last for four hours. I was offered a big stove for free; it was so big I could have put 4-6 of those same unsplit rounds in it and had room for more. Even free it was a bad deal. Insulate, especially your windows. Forget solar gain, your windows will lose more then they can allow in from the sun.

Anonymous said...

To March 2010 anonymous,
He has mentioned that the south windows are covered at night. I hope that makes them worth it.