Monday, January 26, 2009

A home heating contemplation

I’ve been thinking more about the work that I have to do on the house this year. There are a lot of details to be ironed out and a lot of work to be done. I enjoy trying to creatively approach some of the challenges of the building process, and it’s great fun trying to come up with ideas for providing some basic services in efficient and low energy input forms.

We heat with wood. We have a nice wood cook stove that is also designed to heat a home. It works well. Perhaps the biggest drawback of a wood stove has to do with distribution of heat. It’s warmest near the stove. That’s not all bad, of course, especially when you come in from outside and want to warm up. The challenge is to circulate that heat through the rest of the house in an efficient and low energy usage manner. Fans help, but they also move a lot of dust and contribute excess noise to the home environment.

So, I’ve been toying with ideas to distribute the heat from the stove into the various rooms and corners of the house, specifically the house we’re building (I don’t want to spend the time retrofitting and building a system for this old mobile home we currently live in). I toyed with the idea of an outdoor wood furnace. There are some nice things about those, primarily that the mess of burning wood stays outside. However, there are some drawbacks. They are expensive to purchase, and building one may require skills I don’t yet have. They can also consume a lot more wood than we currently burn. Additionally, most of them are connected to some kind of furnace-blower system inside, something that requires an amount of energy I don’t want to support. I want some system that will not consume very much energy so that it can be powered in the event of electrical service disruption.

I’m already planning on installing a domestic hot water system that will utilize heat from the wood stove in the winter when we’re using it and that will also have solar collectors for the summer months. We can buy a hot water coil that fits onto our stove which uses the heat in the firebox to heat our domestic hot water. The heated water naturally flows into a tank via thermo-convection, drawing cooler water from the tank back through the coil. It’s a nice system that can produce some very hot water with no extra expense.

So, tonight I got to thinking about how to draw upon this hot water source to spread the heat of the wood stove throughout the house. My idea involves radiant heating tubes installed in the floors (probably only the first floor). However, water directly from the hot water tank would oftentimes be too hot for such an application. So, I envision another tank to supply the radiant heating system. Here’s a diagram of my idea (hopefully, it’s clear enough to understand – you can see a larger version by clicking on it):

water heating system diagram

Does this look like it would work? Any ideas, thoughts, suggestions, improvements? I envision the low-wattage pumps being small enough to be run off of solar power. I would have to determine what thermostatic controls are available and that would work with this system.

I solicit all input. I’m curious about the feasibility and workability of this idea. Someone else may have had a similar one and may have developed it, I don’t know. This is just the product of my thinking this evening.



I think Don Roth has some kind of heating system for his house like this. (I don't know anything about how it works, just that he heats with wood and has heat in the floor) I'll have to ask Jeff because he's talked to him about it. If it's similar, we can get you in touch with him. I'm sure he would be more than happy to share his thoughts with you.

Building Materials Supplies

A home heating contemplation

Thanks for sharing

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