Embracing Warmth: Six alt-fuel heaters worth a look
Published on Mon, 08/28/2017 - 7:00am
At AcreageLife, we love the idea of using natural resources for our comfort, especially if there are economic and environmentally-sound reasons for doing so. Take alternative-fuel heating systems, for example. Not only do woodstoves let you life off the grid—and out of the customer lists of gas, propane, and electric companies—but they typically use resources that are both abundant and renewable.
On the renewable-and-abundant side of the equation, you have fuel sources like wood, corn, and wheat-straw. While not renewable (but certainly abundant in certain areas) the once-common coal has all but disappeared from home heating. However, some solid 21st Century engineering has made it a more worthwhile and carefree heat source. Depending on your needs, look for either indoor or outdoor models.
More than a fire place
If you are intrigued by the idea of creating your own heat, let’s start with the difference between some of the categories (at least as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—EPA— sees them).
Woodstoves are usually made of cast iron or steel and burn split logs (called cordwood) to provide heat. The EPA’s updates limit the amount of harmful particle pollution, also known as particulate matter (PM), from two types of newly manufactured woodstoves: adjustable burn-rate woodstoves; and single burn-rate woodstoves.
Adjustable burn-rate woodstoves (already subject to EPA requirements) are designed to allow the owner to adjust the airflow to change the rate at which wood burns. Single burn-rate stoves do not allow for adjustment. The EPA estimates that nearly 86,000 adjustable burn-rate stoves will be will be sold this year, with and nearly 27,000 single burn-rate stoves to be sold.
Pellet stoves are similar in external appearance to woodstoves but burn a fuel made of ground, dried wood and other biomass wastes that are compressed to form pellets. Owners pour pellets into a hopper, which feeds the pellets automatically into the stove. Unlike woodstoves, most pellet stoves need electricity to operate. EPA estimates that about 88,000 pellet stoves will be sold this year.
Kuuma (which means “hot” in Finnish) wood-burning gasification furnaces are claimed to burn almost 10 times cleaner than the current standards set by the EPA for low-emission wood-burning furnaces. (Their New Vapor-Fire 100's for larger installations have just been certified to exceed the new 2020 standard.) These indoor, electrically-powered wood furnaces use a 24-volt computer to control combustion, with the Vapor-fire 200 providing up to nine hours’ burn per load of cordwood. Wood up to 16 inches long can be used.The firebox is lined with stainless steel and firebrick for a long, reliable service life. It heats approximately 3,000 square feet.
The Central Boiler E-Classic model is an EPA-Certified clean-burning outdoor furnace. The Xtract Heat Exchanger pulls the most BTUs from your source, while the FireStar II Electronic Controller optimizes gasification for a cleaner and more efficient burn. Central Boiler’s unique design has fire burn down through the combustor, resulting in extremely high temperatures that aid in complete combustion, resulting in high efficiency, and extremely low emissions. Optional gas-fired wood ignition kit also means no manual fire starting is required.
Central Boiler, Inc.
WoodMaster's EPA-certified CleanFire boiler uses a dry fire chamber to provide hotter, more efficient heat that requires minimal effort to maintain. The primary boiler is a true low-pressure ASME H stamped boiler that keeps oxygen out of the system, preventing corrosion to the water vessel. ASME certification ensures a boiler life expectancy of 40 or 50 years. For efficiency, heat often lost up the chimney is recovered in a heat exchanger before release.The exclusive WoodMaster control board monitors more than 300 settings to read water temperature in and out, and adjust the boiler automatically to satisfy the heat load.
Northwest Manufacturing Inc.
Red Lake Falls, Minn.
Designed for radiant floor, forced air, or traditional hot water radiators, Econoburn wood-fueled boilers can save considerable money over existing heating equipment. With models ranging from 100,000-500,000 BTUs, Econoburn’s line of patented, closed system wood gasification boilers feature low-maintenance operation year after year. Made of quarter-inch ASME Grade SA-36 carbon steel construction, these boilers integrate seamlessly with existing heating systems.
Do you have more than one structure to heat? Here’s the answer. The largest unit manufactured by HeatMaster, the multiple-fuel-burning MF 20,000e has four sets of feeds on the back to distribute heat where you needed. A rugged outdoor multi-fuel furnace, Headmaster makes this double-pass exhaust furnace from 409 stainless steel—titanium enhanced—for long life. A unique deep, rounded firebox works well for either coal or wood burning. Heavy-duty insulation keeps the heat where you want it, even on the coldest days.
Winkler, Man., Canada
This new furnace, the KB125, is Hardy’s next generation “Klean Burn Gasification Heater,” designed to the 2015 emission standard. Gasification burns cordwood gases then transfers heat to water through multiple heat recovery chambers Stainless steel construction eliminates the need for costly annual water treatments. Can be located 10 to 100 feet from your home. The 120,000 BTU KB125 ships standard with a stainless steel pump, refractory grates, and combustion blower. It connects to most existing heating systems including hydronic systems.
Hardy Manufacturing Company, Inc.