Wood-Burning Furnace

What do you do when your annual heating bill runs to four figures and you're sitting on 114 partially wooded acres? Simple: Build yourself a wood-burning furance.

| January/February 1979

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    The forced-draft fan provides air to the firebox for near-complete combustion.  
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    Allan shows us how he plumbed his heavily insulated hot water storage tank to the wood-burning furnace.
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    Circulating pumps send water to the three zones of the house.
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    The "heart" of the system is the furnace itself, which has an incredible 80% efficiency.

  • 055 wood burning furnace 01.jpg
  • 055 wood burning furnace 03.jpg
  • 055 wood burning furnace 04.jpg
  • 055 wood burning furnace 02.jpg

"Raising our family in a huge 130-year-old farmhouse in northern New England is great," says Allan M. Brown of Lincoln Center, Maine, "but the fuel bills were driving us straight to the poorhouse." So, Allan went to his drawing board, and—after combining a little ingenuity with a lot of hard work—he came up with a wood-burning furnace that not only heats well, but does so at minimal expense! 

Of course, being an engineer by profession—and living on 114 partially wooded acres—made Allan's "victory" over the utility companies all the sweeter. But, even if you don't have Al's "advantages," this sophisticated wood burner is well worth looking into.

Now, Mr. Brown is quick to point out that his design is a furnace, not just a stove, and is capable of heating an entire house on even the bitterest of winter days. Furthermore, he has eliminated all the problems that normally go with wood heat: smoke and dust in the house, uneven distribution of thermal energy, and the old bugaboo of lugging great armloads of logs into the house at every turn.

Before he ever picked up a tool, though, Allan sat down and listed exactly what he wanted to accomplish. When the furnace was completed, he had succeeded on all counts:

[1] The house's existing hot water baseboard system distributes the heat throughout the building.
[2] The existing oil burner kicks in automatically if the wood fire should happen to go out.
[3] The wood furnace is located on the ground floor outside of the main house to assure convenience and cleanliness.
[4] A high combustion efficiency is achieved, which reduces wood consumption and minimizes creosote buildup in the chimney.
[5] The firebox is large enough to make frequent fillings unnecessary.
[6] The entire system (with the exception of loading the wood) is fully automatic.
[7] The unit is completely safe.

The "heart" of Allan's system is, of course, the furnace, which heats with a vengeance because it [1] utilizes a large (22 1/2" X 27" X 32") firebox which is [2] part of a forced-air-fed primary combustion chamber which [3] feeds into a normally ventilated secondary combustion chamber, and on into [4] a two-part heating chamber that uses two recycled steam radiators as heat exchangers.

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