[Market-farming] outdoor wood furnaces
afhg at ctsmail.net
Sat Dec 27 11:59:20 EST 2008
We've been using an outdoor wood furnace to heat 10,000 sq. ft of greenhouses for 5 years. The gutter connect house utilizes a boiler and runs heated water through the floor. The hoophouses are just forced air. They can all be supplemented with forced air furnaces fueled by natural gas. We grow hydroponic tomatoes and salad greens, so we heat through the winter months. We did the instillation ourselves and it was fairly easy to do, but we also have friends who do that kind of work and we got lots of information from them so maybe that's why it seemed easy.
The upside for us is about a 40% reduction in natural gas use. We were able to place the furnace on the cement of a feed lot that we no longer use, so it makes for a relatively clean, and flat place to work. I think having the cement makes it much easier to do the necessary work...loading the stove, unloading wagons of wood, splitting, etc. Can't imagine trying to do it in the mud. Snow is bad enough. Ice is not fun at all. We also have barn space right next to it so we can work under cover if necessary, and store some wood there as well. The barn close by is not so close as to be a fire hazard...my husband is the township fire chief so that would be embarrassing.
We have several wood lots on the farm, as well as fencerows that are always in need of cleaning. From the woodlots we take the tops of trees that have been logged, downed trees, and those that have been marked by a forester to be removed. In addition, we have several businesses in the area who need to get rid of pallets, so we get a lot of those to burn.
The down side is that we spend the winter stoking the furnace and cutting wood. We hire 2 or 3 college age guys to help cut, split and stack, so there is labor expense. We can't do it all ourselves. We start cutting and stacking in the summer if there is time and continue stockpiling during the fall. Since we have 4 or 5 neighbors who also burn wood to heat their homes, several times each season the guys make a day of cutting wood together and sharing it. They think it's big fun!
It is also difficult to be away for any length of time since the furnace needs to be checked several times a day. We are lucky to have good employees who will come back after hours if we need to be away, and a couple of neighbors who also are willing. It's worse than when we had dairy cows and finishing hogs because we have to go out every night before we go to bed and we didn't do that with the livestock.
Another issue that is surfacing in our area has to do with zoning laws. Some communities are prohibiting outside wood burning stoves. Our township is still very rural, by SW Michigan standards, and one wouldn't expect it to be an issue, but a prohibition has been discussed by our planning commission. Townships on the west side of our county already have ordinances prohibiting them, however those townships are more densely populated. I don't know how things work in Vermont, but I think it would be a good thing to check on before buying a furnace.
All in all the wood furnace is a good thing, but it's not all fun and games...
Avalon Farms Homegrown
Share of the Farm
----- Original Message -----
From: SUE WELLS
To: 'Market Farming'
Sent: Saturday, December 27, 2008 9:10 AM
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] outdoor wood furnaces
Is anyone heating their greenhouses with an outdoor wood furnace? What are the pros and cons of this?
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