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Gadget Freak Case #249: The Heatilator Helper

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Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Not pretty but looks like it does the job
Ann R. Thryft   12/6/2013 11:20:30 AM
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Well, it isn't beautiful but it sure looks functional. Preserving heat is a big topic right now where I live--we're having record lows at night. I've got an excellent woodstove as our main heat source so I don't need this gadget, but many people here in the mountains have installed inserts in fireplaces as an alternative to a woodstove. They could definitely use this.



78RPM
User Rank
Gold
Load on the motor
78RPM   12/6/2013 1:22:37 PM
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Ann, like you, we heat with wood using an outdoor wood furnace. I do feel a little guilty about smoke and CO2 I'm adding to the forest mountain air and would like a way to capture it.

I have a couple of suggestions for Dick. You could have used a MOSFET for Q4 to be more efficient than an NPN transistor. I notice you use a tight hysteresis of 0.4V. The valve flap somewhat restricts air flow and produces load on the fan. How about using some louvers that just snap open and closed using two small solenoids that are only active during the transition second between open and closed?  This would completely open the air path and reduce load on the fan.

Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Re: Load on the motor
Ann R. Thryft   12/6/2013 1:31:35 PM
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So you're another woodburner, 78RPM! But I'm curious--you say it's an outdoor wood furnace. What is that and how does heat get transferred inside efficiently where you need it?

armorris
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Platinum
Nice project
armorris   12/6/2013 2:30:40 PM
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Nice project. I never knew there was ever such a thing as a "heatilator". Definitely old-school technology. You don't see PUTs (programmable unijunction transistiors) much anymore.

An outdoor woodstove is a wood furnace in an outdoor building. It has a heat exchanger inside it that heats water that is piped underground to radiators in the house. All of my relatives in West Virginia have them. They very efficiently burn the wood that is very cheap there. The Forestry Service marks trees that residents can cut down for free. The only cost is the labor to cut down the trees, and you are asked not leave a mess behind. The Forestry Service gets the forests thinned to minimize fire risk without having to hire it done. Everybody wins.

78RPM
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Gold
Re: Load on the motor
78RPM   12/6/2013 2:47:11 PM
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Ann, yes, I feed my Empyre outdoor furnace twice a day for a 2800 sq. ft. house. It has a 400 gallon water jacket. When the water temperature falls to 160 degrees, a damper fans the flames. The damper stops at 172 degrees and the fire smoulders. The hot water is piped under the house through a heat exchanger. A second water circuit circulates under the floor in five zones plus the garage. If the outside water in the exchanger falls to 109 degrees (like if I forgot to feed the furnace), then electric heating of the floor circuit takes over. It's quiet and comfortable with warm floors.

I have 64 acres of forest land so I have sustainable supply using dead trees, crooked trees, and growth that needs to be thinned for a healthy forest. I just wish I had a way to capture the smoke and creosote to reduce my carbon footprint.

Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Re: Load on the motor
Ann R. Thryft   12/6/2013 3:15:00 PM
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Thanks for the explanations, guys. I'd heard of heatilators way back when but not outdoor wood furnaces. Sounds like an excellent system.
Free wood? Wow, wish we had that here in the Northern California mountains. One cord of good-quality, dry, burnable oak and madrone for my EPA-approved stove now costs $400 here. I usually burn 2-3 per winter. A chunk of forest acreage would be nice, too. This winter we're excited because the local electric company trimmed a great big madrone and we got about 1/2 cord from it, saving us about $200 next winter.



Habib Tariq
User Rank
Iron
Heatilator helper, an interesting approach
Habib Tariq   12/7/2013 4:19:37 AM
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A very simple and interesting solution to the problem of insulation. The only problem is that fireplaces are not very common anymore, at least not in the cities. But yes for people who can relate to this problem, it does provide a very simple solution to the problem of heat loss through chimneys. 

jayprab
User Rank
Bronze
Re: Load on the motor
jayprab   12/9/2013 9:21:37 AM
I have a problem with the general belief that burning wood is, somehow, better than obtaining energy from any other form of carbon-based fuels... Wood is mostly cellulose, C6H10O5. The 6 Cs in there are sequestered carbon, that gets released back into the atmosphere when the wood is burned... In addition, as 78RPM laments, there is really no real way to capture and clean the wood-fire flue gases, which have a LOT more "stuff" in them (creosote, for instance) than do gases generated from burning (refined) propane (C3H8) or natural gas or even oil.... Modern furnaces are much more efficient and can be tuned to run as clean as the state-of-the-art will allow. Not perfect, but it is the best we have... Besides, how many people are lucky enough to have 64 wooded acres (or even 1) to sustain their heating needs? And how many have the time to go through said woods to forage, cut, bring back, chop, stack the wood???!! These less fortunate (and in my opinion, equally misguided) folk simply BUY the wood from someone, who goes into a forest and cuts down trees to meet this demand... Sustainable? Hard wood forests take a LONG time to grow back... So more and more forest area is being cultivated now and we are disrupting animal habitats in the process... I could go on, but you get the picture... So is it THAT much different from pulling oil or gas out of the ground?

Dangela
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Bronze
Re: Load on the motor
Dangela   12/9/2013 9:27:01 AM
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I get a load of slab wood for about $300 here in upstate NY. It's all hardwoods and is about 9 face cords or about 3 cords. It's from a local company that makes shipping skids. I go through that and about half a tank of fuel oil each winter. I have 10 acres of woods but can't be bothered cutting and splitting all that wood each year. I bolted a thermal switch onto the back of the stove and use it to control the fan that blows air through the stove. It closes at 160 and opens at 140 degrees.  It makes it so it's not blowing unless the stove is hot. It also lets me know if the stove needs more wood in the middle of the night if I don't hear the fan blowing.

Digerati Ohm
User Rank
Silver
Re: Nice project
Digerati Ohm   12/9/2013 9:46:50 AM
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I have to agree.  A good thing this wasn't submitted earlier as the GF of the Year competition was difficult enough to decide on.  I'm anxiously awaiting to see how this design turns out next year!

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