Wednesday, October 29, 2014
That Time of Year Again
Looks as if the wood burning season is finally going to start off for the Small-Hold once again this year. Suppose to see a low in the 20's by Friday and my guess is there is no way I am going to able to ignore the wife's fire demands any longer.
For the last couple of years I have heated the house exclusively with wood using a commercial model 350 Bryan outside furnace. I also have an inside wood cookstove I can use as well that doesn't require an electrical input to run safely like the furnace does but so far I haven't had to switch to the backup yet.
While the furnace will do it's job, often times too well to be honest, it also has some limitations I am not completely happy with.
For one thing I have never been able to achieve the burn times per load the manufacturer claims is possible. I have gotten close but it requires a very specific mix of ideally cured hardwoods with the proper bed of coals going in. The system boasted 12 hour burn times per load and I usually only manage to hit about half that.
I would blame operator error on this fault if there was in fact some way I could actually adjust how I did things but the system is designed so that there is really nothing the operator does except lay the fire out and start it up. Manually adjusting the air flow and all that jazz is taken away by the automatic controls. When I try and over ride the systems automatic controls it just resets itself and tells me to go to hell.
Another limitation is the fact that the unit must have an active electrical line running to it or it will shut itself down. This is a safety measure designed to keep the system from burning itself up in case of a power outage so I guess it isn't a flaw but it does mean I have to have a backup system for it to be useable in a grid down situation. Currently I can run the system off my solar battery bank for four days before needing to fully recharge the batteries.
The most annoying drawback to this furnace however is it's internal thermostat control. Whether you have the system connected to a remote inside thermostat or not does not effect the blower coming on unless the thermostat inside the furnace registers as hot enough. Most of the time this isn't a problem until it gets down into the low teens or less outside with high winds. When that happens this furnace becomes almost useless.
Under those brutal circumstances I can fill the burn chamber and start a fire directly on top of the unit as well and the blower will not kick on automatically for nothing. The air intake control wants to shut the air flow off from the box temperature long before the blower thermostat thinks it is hot enough to kick the blower on. The only thing you can do under those conditions is switch the blower to manual and keep feeding it wood. The wind hitting the side of the unit cools the inside air down before it can enter the blower chamber.
I suppose I shouldn't complain because this little problem never showed itself until last Winter when the temps were so bad. Normally our prevailing winds here are out of the West and I have the unit placed on the East side of the house but last Winter all the bad cold came almost directly out of the North which only aggravated the problem. I easily tripled my wood use last Winter if not more.
Still I guess it was better than being on a waiting list and paying four times the amount for propane some of my neighbors were dealing with last Winter. I used all my wood reserves I had been accumulating for years in one season though and was really stressing the fact it looked as if I was going to run out a couple of times. Had the snow or wet ground kept me out of the fields I easily could have run out of firewood last year by late January or February. At this point last year I easily had what I considered a two and half years supply and by late January I was almost out completely.
I hope this year is a bit more on the mild side.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!