When we bought the farmhouse one of the “selling features” that might have only been a selling feature to the guy who installed it was a wood boiler in the back yard. Essentially, it looks like an aluminum shed but when you open the door there is a fire box inside. There are double walls and between the walls there is a water jacket. The fire heats the water and depending on the temperature of the water jacket, an aquastat opens and closes the damper so air is let in to heat it up or closed off to make it die down.
The water then is circulated by a pump through pipes that run underground into the basement and into a heat exchanger. That heat exchanger interfaces with both our hot water system and forced air furnace and provides heat to our home.
This is a great system if you never want to leave your house for more than 12 hours after the temperature outside drops below freezing. If the fire goes out and the water jacket freezes, the pipes burst and you have ruined the system and perhaps flooded your house. You can put glycol into the system to lower the freezing temperature, but, it’s special hydroponic glycol that is a million dollars an ounce. You could also drain the system and run off oil but if the person before you put an unknown type and quantity of anti-freeze into the system, you can’t just pour the water into the ground because it’s poisonous and you can’t put it down the drain because it will ruin your septic system. So, you’ll have to pay someone to come and pump it out and dispose of it. Great.
So, for this year, we felt we were going to have to use the boiler. The next issue is wood. The boiler can take up to a 4 foot log but you ideally have nice dry hardwood that’s been season. We moved in in November and there was no wood. Nobody sells seasoned wood (although they’ll tell you it is) in November. We started cobbling together wood we found on the property, a load from a saw mill and we also started asking everyone we knew about where to get wood. Enter Perry, our saviour. A colleague at work put me in touch with his father’s wood guy and we had a beautiful load of straight Ash delivered. It wasn’t totally seasoned but it was reasonably dry. We at least knew we would have wood for next year.
So, now, Ben is out chainsawing and splitting every weekend. We now own a hydraulic splitter for the tractor and a Stihl chainsaw and this past weekend I also learned how to saw so we can work together. I guess I know where my strength workouts are coming from! (And yes, chainsaw hair is sexy)
What will we do next year? Hard to say. Right now our biggest problem is that our chimney seems to have creosote buildup so we’re trying to figure out how to clean it with minimal down time. Oh the things you learn through necessity!