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Wood fired steam heat

Ken_40 Member Posts: 1,320
doesn't mean nobody makes one. I have seen wood chip and sawdust firing boilers, but they were large commercial units where demand was pretty constant and the basic system was HP, reduced to vapor via pressure reducing stations.

The boiler is a small fraction of the problem. Three things need to be checked BEFORE spending $$$ on a new boiler: 1) insulation. 2) insulation and 3) insulation.

If you already have storm windows - and they are not both up with the screen down, rendering them useless; and, you have minimally 9" of insulation in the attic floor and at least R-11 in the walls, the boiler will do a lot. Not all. To do all, you must approach the system as a whole; e.g., are the steam mains all well insulated? Are the air vents all working properly (mains and rads)? Does the boiler need a drink more than once a month in fall and spring - and not more than once every two weeks in the dead of winter?

When's the last time the boile was cleaned on both fire and water sides? How about the burner? When's the last time someone threw instruments on that burner and dialed that bad-boy in for optimum efficiency?

Switching fuels is NOT the answer. Everything mentioned above... is.

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  • Larry Kocen
    Larry Kocen Member Posts: 1
    Wood fired steam heat

    I have a three flat that has a gas fired steam boiler. The natural gas bills are a killer in the winter. I have been looking for alternatives for heating during the winter and have come across dual fueled boilers (gas and wood), but these are for hydronic systems. Since early steam systems were coal fired and produced steam all day or until the fuel ran out I would imagine that a wood fired system would be feasible. As I said, I have found dual fired hydronic boilers, but no steam producing. Is there such an animal? TIA for your responses.
  • Perry_3
    Perry_3 Member Posts: 498
    They used to exist...

    There were really several styles of those old fashioned furnaces and boilers long ago.

    One version burned either wood or coal. So Wood burning steam boilers used to exist. The problem was that with wood you had to tend them multiple times a day (about three times as often as coal) - which made for a lot of labor. These burned large chunk coal as well (but not the smaller stoker coal).

    Coal had the advantage that it could be stoker fed - and the stoker put on automatic controls.

    I have no idea where you would find one of these today; nor if you would want the humungous thing in your basement if you found one.

    Many people arround here have wood hot water boilers. I'm not yet convinced that they have any cost advantage over oil or gas - unless you have an awful lot of time on your hands. Pre-split wood is not cheap, wood pellets are more expensive yet. I have a brother who is on government "permanent" disability who harvest wood to heat his house. He loves speding the time in the woods, splitting wood, and tending the boiler.... Yet, he has spent a lot of $$$$ on the necessary equipment too... (and last year got hurt in the woods).

    Wood fired furnaces and boilers also tend to be horibly polluting as well as the vast majority of the home equipment was never designed for proper combustion in the first place. it can have a serious effect on anyone with asthma downwind. How much does that cost in medical care (I know - not your problem...)

    Just my $2.00

  • Rich Kontny_5
    Rich Kontny_5 Member Posts: 116

    Ken is 100% right look at the other alternatives. Wood works for steam only if you would have a boiler tender there to add the wood to maintain the required heat to produce steam. The active equipment and storage area required for waste wood or pellets would require a great deal of space and would not be cost effective for a residence.

    We have installed numerous commercial, institutional and industrial steam wood boilers over the years not a single strictly wood fired residential steam boiler.

    As the gents on this site say, look at the building envelope first (insulation,doors, windows etc..) then individual room controls if possible.

    A consultation by a reputable contractor would be a great place to start. If you want, ask for someone on this site to contact you. Some of the best steamers in the business
    work this site.

    Rich K.

    Make peace your passion!
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