Monday, January 28, 2008

I installed a Quadra Fire wood pellet stove to heat the barn for the winter and to provide supplemental heat once the in-floor system is completed. Having no experience with wood pellet heating, I was skeptically hopeful about how this would work. Conceptually, it seems ideal- sawdust (in this case, a waste product from the wood products manufacturing industry) is formed into pellets by a relatively simple extrusion and drying process, then sold as fuel. It's natural, renewable, locally-produced, and inexpensive- Sustainable, Carbon Neutral heating at its finest! The whole idea still seems too good to be true.... So, after looking at several different pellet burners, we settled on the Quadra-Fire model for a variety of reasons- it had the lowest emmissions, highest efficiency, is American-made, and it has the rustic, aesthetic appeal we wanted in the barn. I set it in place, wired in a programmable thermostat, and installed the exhaust venting and air-intake systems through the wall (not too excited about ventpipes poking out the side of the barn, but this was about as low-profile as I could hope for). The little stove is loaded with pellets, then self-regulates the heat output by controlling the feed rate into the burner. Having insulated the roofs with spray foam, I was excited with the thought of finally working inside a warm, dry environment for the rest of the winter. So far, I love the stove- it burns and burns, requiring very little maintenance or attention. On the downside, the flame is not as "real" as a traditional wood-burning stove. But then, I won't have to spend a couple weeks of my year cutting, splitting, and hauling firewood. Unfortately, after running the little pellet burner all day with no appreciable temperature increase, I realized the laws of thermodynamics are working hard against me. The outside temp has been well below freezing for weeks (many days are below 0F lately), so the barn and its concrete slab floor are likely hanging at around 15 degrees inside. A quick calculation showed that it would take well over 750,000 BTUs of heat to raise the building temp up to 70 degrees, not including the heat loss through the walls (probably another 15,000BTUs/hour right now). The pellet stove kicks out a max of 30,000 BTUs/hour. Do the math- it isn't pretty. Once the building is insulated and heated up to room temp, the stove will be more than adequate to keep it toasty warm on a -40F morning, but right now it is like trying to melt a skating rink with a butane lighter while the A/C in running on high! Not. Gonna. Happen. Guess I'll be working in the cold for another few weeks :(

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting entry and I like the looks of the pellet stove. Hope it warms up a tad so you aren't out there freezing. Maybe those Christmas socks will help. I really like the picture of the snow falling and the lights on in the barn. Very, very pretty!!! Good Work as usual.

Mom Jo