The last few pages of any magazine are chock full of advertisements that sound too good to be true, and Popular Science is no exception. For example, I recently covered Edenpure and Sunheat Infrared heaters. Both of these heaters (they're nearly identical) had advertisements in the back of Popular Science that promised to slash home heating bills. If you see my posts, you will see that I think both of these heaters are slightly misleading about their optimistic claims.
But I actually have some hope for one of the home heating methods that I recently saw in a Popular Science ad: Central Boiler.
The premise is very simple:
- Use firewood, a renewable resource as long as it is managed sustainably, to burn in a boiler
- The boiler heats water that is transferred in underground pipes to the house
- The water can be used for home water heating and home air heating
A more detailed description of how the Central Boiler works can be found here. Since the heater heats water first and uses that hot water to heat your home's air, it can also use that hot water in the hot water heater!
Using wood as a heating fuel is a great option if you live in a heavily wooded area and can find a lot of down trees and branches or if you know the wood is being sources sustainably. Unlike natural gas, heating oil, or electricity, you know that no fossil fuel is being used to heat your home. This is one of the best options I can think of if you plan to live off-grid and need to heat your home in the winter.
Another nice thing about outdoor wood burning furnaces is that they are eligible for a tax credit for 30% of the purchase price up to $1500. From the IRS notice for energy purchases that are eligible for the tax credit:
A stove that uses the burning of biomass fuel to heat a dwelling unit or to heat water for use in such a dwelling unit, and that has a thermal efficiency rating of at least 75 percent as measured using a lower heating value.
Central boiler isn't the only option for an outdoor wood furnace. Heatmor makes stainless steel wood furnaces but their website wasn't as informative. I found a great forum discussing some of the advantages of each of these biomass heating options at Forestry Forum.
The best configuration of a biomass off-grid heat system would be a wood furnace combined with a solar thermal system. In the summer you wouldn't need to heat your home, but you still might like hot water for showers and laundry and you could rely on the solar thermal system for this. In winter, you would still get a little heat from the solar thermal system but would rely more on the wood furnace. This system would be more complicated and more expensive, but may be good for locations that don't have as much access to sustainable wood.
In any scenario, a wood furnace is another great option to free yourself from the chains of fossil fuels!
Does anyone have wood furnace and if so, what have your experiences been?