Our $100 Wood-Burning Furnace Saves Us $1,200 a Year

David Bleed shares how he and his family are able to save $1,200 a year using their $100 wood-burning furnace to heat their homestead farmhouse.

| November/December 1975

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    Essentially, our new heater is nothing but a jacketed woodburner set into the cold-air-return ducting for the old LP furnace's forced-air system.
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    Our wood-burner's main smoke escape is a firebox-wide slot approximately 3 inches high that runs across the lower edge of the back of the combustion chamber.

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During the summer of 1973 I quit a plumbing job in Minneapolis and my wife, Merle, stopped work as a secretary. Then, together with our four children, we made the big break: to a 310-acre farm (which cost nearly every penny we had) in southeastern Minnesota's Zumbro Valley.

None of us would trade our new country living for anything . . . although we have had ups and downs out here on the farm. Our tight budget, for instance, was almost busted right up its seams when we received our first liquefied petroleum gas bill. Why, it was costing us $200 a month just to heat our seven-room house! At that rate, the expense for gas alone could quickly make the difference between independence on the land or going back to work for a boss somewhere. We had to cut those fuel bills and cut them fast.

Why We Chose a Wood-Burning Furnace

Now I didn't have time to mess around with exotic (solar and the like) heating ideas back in the early winter of '73. We needed cheap heat and we needed it then. So with the help of my brother-in-law — Harvey Melcher, a welder in Hammond, Minnesota — I combined two assets we already had on hand (150 acres of woods and that greedy LP-gas forced-air furnace). The result is a wood-burning furnace which:

[1] Keeps my family warm while saving $1,200 a year.

[2] Sits in the basement, thereby adding no dirt or mess to the house.

[3] Has a big, off-center door which takes pieces of wood up to 30 inches long and 10 inches in diameter. This eliminates almost all need to split the chunks of fuel and makes stoking the fire a twice-a-day job.

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