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TOPIC: wood heat augmentation?

wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 11:35 #24710

  • Mike
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Since we were talking heat I thought I'd add this discussion.I stayed at a 20 unit motel when I was working my theatre. I complained about my oil bill and he says.... I heat this place for 4.00 a day. He had a stand alone wood furnace about 100 ft from the motel. Buried insulated pipes connect to his hot water boiler system and it provides all the heat and the hw for his units in Northern Maine. Has anyone used these? Here's a link to a discussion group.
http://www.woodheat.org/technology/outboiler.htm

One of my theatres could probably use this. 10,000.00 oil bill this year!



Michael Hurley
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 13:07 #24711

  • jimor
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The major thing one should understand in figuring the efficiency and cost of heating, is mainly the price of fuel. If the guy in Mike's example is getting his wood 'dirt cheap' then the fact that his wood furnace may not be the most efficient may not matter. For most people, it is the cost of the fuel over the long run that is the determing factor. Thus, though some fuels are much more energy dense per unit of transport cost, the final price of the fuel usually rules. Fuel oil may be the most energy dense, but the cost of transport is high; natural gas is less energy dense, but cost of transport over existing street piping is less; coal is cheaper in some areas, but transport cost and furnace cleaning make it more expensive, pollution concerns aside. Electic heat is the most expensive in most areas, but there is no transport cost and the efficiency is nearly 100%, so one must consider these factors in addition to the amortized cost of heating equipment and afterwards costs such as cinder removal in the case of coal, and the odor factor of oil, for example.

If we could ingore installation costs, then only fuel factors would matter, but few have that luxury. When we add in the pros and cons of various heat delivery systems as opposed to merely converting the fuel to heat, then we have other factors to consider: radiators are efficient, but who wants to sit next to one? Hot air can be evenly dispersed, but it is almost always very dry, and that causes many problems. Humidification may help that, but it is difficult to control on a large scale and is another expense, especially as regards maintenance in view of minerals build up and consequent clogging of the works, not to mention bacterial and fungal contamination. Then there is the matter of noise and vibration from fan units, as well as steam traps on steam systems. Who ever said that heating a theatre was easy??!
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 14:27 #24712

  • outaframe
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Unless you have access to "free" or very inexpensive wood sources, buying cord wood is NOT a viable alternative... And, at best, you become locked into tending the fire much as your grandparents did... Also, emulating Abe Lincoln may be good for your bod, but is a pain (literally) and not very time/cost efficient...

My favorite supplemental heating source is SOLAR... Even with the extensive cloud cover in my part of the country, simple low cost air transfer solar heat works quite well, and will pay for itself very quickly... I have built 4 of these systems over the years, and the results were quite good... Of course, you must have all the right circumstances in place to even consider solar, and unless the sun is visable you won't have any heat source, but on those days when conditions are right, solar rocks!... You can completely heat a relatively large well insulated building on a below zero day (especially with snow on the ground) with a small well designed solar collector (until sunset)...

That said, I heat my garage/shop at home with a two barrel stove burning paper, cardboard, scrap wood, and tree limbs/twigs... Solar isn't doable there, so the barrel stove is the next best way to go, but IS very labor intensive and not used every day...

You COULD heat a theater with solar during the daylight hours IF everything was ideal, but nothing about mine is, so I never even attempted it... However, if you have the right situation, it would be something to seriously consider!...
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 14:35 #24713

  • Mike
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The advantages for me in this case is that wood in Maine is relatively cheap. But my manager already said he would not want to be responsible for it so you now need a person to make sure it works well. Cost benefits will need a calc. The other thing is that in reading up it appears they smoke a lot. If you are near others or in a downtown.it's not a good choice.

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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 17:19 #24714

  • rodeojack
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The above responses are great! We have a skating rink in our area that augments their heating system with a wood furnace. It very definitely does the job, but as has been mentioned above, the owner becomes a slave to the furnace, both as to fuel supply and operation.

For many of us in the NorthWest, fuel supply isn't a major issue. It can be a real chore to cut, split, haul, store, though...
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 18:51 #24715

  • Ken Layton
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The Elma Theater in Elma, Washington is heated by a wood furnace.
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 19:25 #24716

  • Mike
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Did I mention that these super efficient furnaces are fed 1 x a day to maximum 2 x a day? Some mfgs claim that you only feed them every 48-36 hours.
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 22:52 #24717

  • outaframe
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That's a step in the right direction, but still far short of all that's involved with maintaining a wood burning heating system... By the way, the "hot" heating system in rural areas of the midwest at the moment is the corn burner... This is sort of like a stoker designed to automatically feed shelled corn into a specially designed furnace... It's claimed to be very cost efficient, especially for those who grow this crop as a part of their normal activities...
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 22 Dec 2004 23:23 #24718

  • RoxyVaudeville
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While I was reading through all these posts, I kept thinking to myself CORN... what about CORN! And low and behold didn't outaframe in fact bring up corn.

This is something that I had looked into to a small degree last year when I was forced to replace my gas burner. I ended up putting in an oil burner which last season saved me $4,500 over the previous heating season. I spent about $3,500 converting the system to oil, so I still had a $1,000 savings that season. However, last year I paid $1.05 for oil and this year I'm averaging $1.70 thus far (last delivery came back down to $1.57)so given that price this heating season, should it use the same number of gallons of oil, will cost me $11,500, exactly what the gas did two years ago. Savings gone.


When I was looking into corn burners I could only find small units designed for residential use. They were fed with a stoker just like coal, but burn completely and therefore have no ash. Corn is relatively cheap. As a matter of fact since there are 3 farms in our family I could buy corn from one of them really cheap. I could pay them more for the corm then what they can get from the co-op, but much less then I would have to pay for it from the co-op. It would be a win win situation for both of us.

So outaframe, or anyone, are you familiar with a corn burner that can heat a commercial building the size of a 600 seat theatre?
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Re: wood heat augmentation? 23 Dec 2004 00:43 #24719

  • outaframe
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HELLO ROXY <> What I actually know about corn burners would get lost in a thimbel, but after you asked, I did a quick search on Google and the third item that came up is a list of manufacturers who make these for commercial applications... They make units in the 100K to 500K BTU range, so that oughta fill the bill for you... I believe the list was supplied by the University of Pennsylvania, so that might be a good place to look for information, as well... If this works out for you, please let us know...
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