Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

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sjdavis's picture
sjdavis
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Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

Hi all,

While I'd love to be off-grid with all preparedness bases covered, we don't have the money to do it all.  I've been on the site for a while and have some basics down - vegetable garden, csa, pm's, investment accounts setup for quick transfer, cash on hand, etc.  Our next steps are to prioritize a couple of larger projects - any help and suggestions are most appreciated.

From what I gather, the most cost effective and energy efficient projects relate to heat - wood stoves and solar hot water.  Is that a correct statement?  If so, what are the steps to get going,?  We run natural gas, which for now is cheap and fairly green, but a woodstove is a good investment.  Any suggestions on wood burning models?  Where do you find a reputable dealer/installer?

Likewise, where do you start looking for solar hot water systems and installers?  I read a bunch of sites online, but I'm sure some people here have experience with these systems.

Apologies for the redundancy - I'm sure these topics are well covered throughout the forums.

Tycer's picture
Tycer
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

What type of home are you heating? How big, number of floors, etc.

I had great luck for four years heating a fairly tight 2400 sq ft two story with a Jotul Castine. I did have to open vents in between a couple of rooms to get the heat to circulate and I used small electric heaters in two of the bathrooms.

I'm now in a 1700 sq ft ranch style and heated this spring with a Morsø 7648. My wood was not nearly dry enough to be efficient so I can't comment on whether this cool little stove will do it alone. I think it will, but on the single digit nights a late night stoke will be necessary due to the tiny firebox.

I read yesterday that it takes a managed 10 acres to continuously provide the 4+ cords I need to use each year! I might find that 1700 sq ft is too big if I have to rely on my 3/4 acre to provide wood.Smile

EndGamePlayer's picture
EndGamePlayer
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

Hi sjdavis-

I love our wood stoves and here are a few little tips-

  • We had a central heating unit and it cost us $ in electric fans running the heat all the time so we installed smaller area heat units and only heat the area we are in when we are in it. Our wood use went from 5 cords to 2.8 cords. The con was - the wood makes a mess everywhere in the house. I wouldn't mind turning the old central unit into a hydronic water heater for winter though and running it once/twice a week.
  • We don't heat all of the house in the middle of winter. We close off the bedrooms and heat the beds up with electric blankets before jumping in. Needless to say - good blankets are needed but we found we hardly get sick when living like this.
  • If you are burning wet wood - set the pile next to the stove to dry extra. This helps burn cleaner and less chance of a chimney fire (we also throw in the anti-chimney fire mix which is the only thing we know of that can put out a chimney fire).
  • We spent about $29 last year heating the house via gas spent to cut, wood splitter and haul. Plus we got a good workout and fresh air. Wood heats you twice- once when you cut it and once when you burn it.
  • Plant more trees than you cut and only cut bad-looking trees to improve the health of your wood lot.

Get the biggest woodstove you can afford - one that burns all night for your climate is ideal. Don't get a cheap surround for it as coals drop out of every fire box and when it comes to the chimney - the better it is - the safer you are. Put in fresh air vents so it doesn't suck air from the house and make it drafty and put dampers on all chimneys.

Most towns have wood and gas fireplace installers so just call around and get written bids detailing what the bid includes. But first check local ordinances to make sure you can install one.

Thinking winter . . . . EGP

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Damnthematrix
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation
sjdavis wrote:

Hi all,

While I'd love to be off-grid with all preparedness bases covered, we don't have the money to do it all.  I've been on the site for a while and have some basics down - vegetable garden, csa, pm's, investment accounts setup for quick transfer, cash on hand, etc.  Our next steps are to prioritize a couple of larger projects - any help and suggestions are most appreciated. <SNIP>

Why hold PMs if you can't afford the things you really need to do?

PMs are strictly for storing excess wealth IMHO..  I just cannot understand the fascination with having PMs if you don't have all the essentials for survival in hand FIRST!

Mike

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jturbo68
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation
sjdavis wrote:

From what I gather, the most cost effective and energy efficient projects relate to heat - wood stoves and solar hot water.  Is that a correct statement?  If so, what are the steps to get going,?  We run natural gas, which for now is cheap and fairly green, but a woodstove is a good investment.  Any suggestions on wood burning models?  Where do you find a reputable dealer/installer?

 

I am a big fan of soapstone woodstoves when heating mostly with wood.  My experience is that soapstone heats more evenly and holds coals longer than Iron and steel stoves.  Very helpful when heating over night.   Also My preference is for non catalytic combustor stoves as I feel the catalytic converters may be unavailable in the future and they must be replaced every few years for the stove to run at best efficiency.

I am partial to Woodstock Soapstone stoves or Hearthstone stoves and have owned both.

 

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jturbo68
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation
sjdavis wrote:

From what I gather, the most cost effective and energy efficient projects relate to heat - wood stoves and solar hot water.  Is that a correct statement?  If so, what are the steps to get going,?  We run natural gas, which for now is cheap and fairly green, but a woodstove is a good investment.  Any suggestions on wood burning models?  Where do you find a reputable dealer/installer?

 

I am a big fan of soapstone woodstoves when heating mostly with wood.  My experience is that soapstone heats more evenly and holds coals longer than Iron and steel stoves.  Very helpful when heating over night.   Also My preference is for non catalytic combustor stoves as I feel the catalytic converters may be unavailable in the future and they must be replaced every few years for the stove to run at best efficiency.

I am partial to Woodstock Soapstone stoves or Hearthstone stoves and have owned both.

 

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osb272646
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

Heating with wood will help a lot with getting off grid.  If you are able to gather your own wood and process it into fuel yourself, you can make great strides to self-sufficient, off grid living. 

A few things to consider as you develop your plans: 

First off, make sure your community allows wood burning.  I'm aware of some towns in Colorado that don't allow it, due to smoke pollution.  Secondly, make sure your insurance company will continue to cover your house with a wood burning stove.  Some companies won't, and some will, but they charge an extra fee.

There are three types of wood heaters that are fairly popular.  The conventional convection wood burner, the forced air add-on, and the backyard remote.  I've used the convection wood burner for my heating for 10 years, and like it a lot.  I have also used the forced air add-on, but didn't care for it.  I have never used the backyard remote system, but a lot of my neighbors use it and are very happy with it.  I have also tried to heat with a fireplace, and would not reccomend that, unless it has an insert designed for space heating.  Most fireplaces do nothing but suck the warm air out of a house and send it up the chimney.  Although intriguing, I have no experience with the old fashioned cooking stoves that served duty for cooking, space heating and water heating, although I've seen some manufacturer's websites for those products.

The convection burner is a stand alone steel, or cast iron box with a chimney pipe going out the roof and a door for loading the wood.  It sits in some part of the house and heats the air around it.  The warm air circulates via convection, and is often assisted by ceiling fans to attain better heat distribution.  They work best in smaller houses with open floor plans.  A larger house, or one with lots of rooms, or a two story house, would be more difficult to heat with one of these, because the warm air has difficulty circulating into all the rooms.  Imagine trying to heat your house with a very large space heater and nothing else.  If you think that would work in your house, then the stand alone wood burner might be the way to go.   Modern wood burning stoves, EPA approved, are very efficient and produce very little smoke out the chimney.  They recirculate and burn their own smoke before letting the gases go up the chimney.  Building codes usually call for double wall chimney pipe, which is safer than the old single wall stove pipe.  On a cold nite, I have to stoke it once, around 3:00am, but that doesn't really bother me.  Our house is 800 sq. ft, and the wood burner we have does a nice job of keeping it warm even on -35 degree nites.  We have electric baseboard heat for back up, but only turn it on when we'll be gone overnite.  Take a look at the websites for Jotul and Lopi to get more familiar with these kinds of stoves.  There are lots of good manufacturers of stand alone stoves out there.  They come in different prices and sizes.  Be aware there have been a lot of improvements in these stoves in the past 15 or so years, in terms of efficiency and pollution.  You have to be on your toes if you're planning to buy used.

The forced air add-on is a stove that burns wood and feeds the warmed air through the plenum and ducting of a conventional gas, oil or electric ducted heating system.   Using this system, the bulk of your heating needs can be satisfied with wood burning on all but the coldest days.   The LP, oil or electric system is your back-up, for when you let the wood fire go out, or if it gets really cold outside.  I found this system to be bothersome because the wood burner had to be co-located by the regular main furnace.  In my case that was in the basement, which made for a long trek at 2:00am to go stoke it.   Additionally a fair amount of heat was lost into the basement rather than going into the ducting, making it a rather inefficient propositon for heating the living area of the house.  The benefit of this system is that because you're using the heating ducts, you can heat a larger house or even a two story house.  If you're going off the electircal grid, this may not be the system for you, because of the fans required to move the heated air through the ducting.

The remote (outdoor) wood burner is an oversized wood burner that is placed outside, some distance from the house.  The heat is moved into the house through heated water moving through underground tubes into either a forced air circulating system or radiators inside the house.  The remote burner has some significant advantages.  They accept large pieces of wood so cutting and splitting is reduced, and generally only need to be stoked every 12 or sometimes 24 hours.  They can be used to provide your hot water as well as household heating.  Danger of a chimney fire or other fire is reduced because the burning takes place outside, away from the house.   These systems are often thermostatically controlled so that the temperature in the house stays constant.  Downside would be the off-grid power requrements, although I understand the pump used to move the heated water from the burner to the house is not that big, so may not be an issue for you.  My neighbors who use this system generally have homes in the 1200 - 1600 foot range.  They're hard core wood burners that are looking for maximum all around safety and efficiency, including wood processing, stoking, and consumption rates for their fuel.  The systems are costly to install, but offset that by reducing consumption of LP, oil or electricity.

A concern that comes with burning wood is the fire risk.  Creosote will build up in the chimney, and can ignite, in what's known as a chimney fire.  A chimney fire can develop into an extremely hot fire that is difficult to put out.  It can spread into the roof structure of your house and do a lot of damage.  Periodic cleaning of the chimney is important.  Properly cured wood is also an imperative to reduce the amount of creosote that gets into the chimney in the first place.  In the years that I've been heating with wood, I've never had a chimney fire, but having been on the volunteer fire department, I've been to a few.  In one case, the entire house was lost.  In another case, the fire went out before we got there, and the lady of the house only had to put up with a bunch of guys tromping through her house with muddy boots on, as they looked for hot spots in the chimney and surrounding walls.  A good friend of mine, a logger who had access to all the heating wood he ever wanted, had been heating with wood for many years.  Then he had a chimney fire.  Even though the fire did no damage to his house, it scared him so bad he took the wood burner out and switched to LP gas.  I'm not trying to frighten you from heating with wood, all I'm trying to say is that if you're new to this, take the time to learn how all the pieces fit together and treat this with respect.  With our modern day conveniences, our society has forgotten in a few decades the knowledge that our predecessors had accumulated over generations about heating safely with wood.

LG's picture
LG
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

There are a number of quality wood burning stoves. I prefer the Federal by Vermont Castings. It is a double wall solid cast iron stove. Comes in three sizes. It's also an attractive stove with a flat top that can be used for cooking. Please have a reputable dealer install any wood burning stove. They produce a lot of heat and can be dangerous. Do your research.

LG

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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

Great question and fabulous posts.  We live in Central California and have been heating with wood about 4 years.  After lots of research, we got a Country wood stove.  Very happy with this stove.  We are surrounded by commercial orchards (almond. walnut and peach), and have agreements with local farmers regarding the removal of prunings and downed trees.  We go through about 3 cords / year - I like 80 degrees in the winter (a real cold-weather wimp).  I am happy with the stove (2-3 loadings/day), but my wife hates the very fine ash that gets all over.  It would be much cleaner to have a remote stove, but I assume some electric is needed for this.  Speaking of electric.....

While a wood stove is afordable for most budgets, back-up electric is unbelievably expensive. I simply don't know how to deal with this.  At a minumun, we need to keep our freezer and refrigerator going.  We also need our well water pump.  I think Chris's approach is to have enough electric to provide the bare basics.

Any other thoughts on generating your own electric?

Nate

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earthwise
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

sjdavis

Perhaps you should contact burntfingers who started the thread HEATING WITH WOOD shortly after you started this one. He indicates he is a professional in the area of wood stoves and has generously volunteered his expertise.

Good luck.

sjdavis's picture
sjdavis
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

Excellent information - thanks to everyone for taking the time.  It's all very helpful.  To detail a bit further, we have an 1100 sq. ft bungalow.  Small rooms with a not-so-open floor plan.  Small urban lot - no acreage or hardwood trees of my own.

Mike, while I know where you're coming from, there are assumptions in your post.  PMs can be used for storing excess wealth, or as currency insurance.  If all the best data and analysis convinces one that a collapse of faith in currency is the reasonable outcome, then it's responsible to hold a small allocation of PMs.  Besides, preparation has to start somewhere and converting some dollars into hard assets is a simple way to get moving in the right direction.  We're not talking going all-in for team gold bug.

I could easily say people get fascinated with survivalism and end up spending unnecessarily.  That's why I'm talking priorities and allocation.  You said "why hold PMs if you can't afford the things you really need..."  What are those things?  Is it geothermal hvac?  Biodiesel car?  A solar array?  Acres of land?  

That said, your question is a good one.  As Chris often says, everybody is at a different point of understanding and action with the material.  Putting all the pieces together can be consuming.  But acting on any piece of the puzzle is a step away from the matrix.  We all get there different ways I suppose

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

 I do not buy solar panels  because of such a threat of nuke attack  and solar flares .  Windgenerator sounds more of an investment we will make eventually . Right now we have gas generator but somewhere I watched a you tube on a diesel generator hooked up to battery bank .   Going to do much more studying  soon.

  Husband is looking how to ground our house .   diesil will store better and we would be able to make veg oil.   He studied some and is liking the wood gasification .

 We certainly will not have to worry about over population if we are without electricity for very long .  Way too many reasons we might be down .

 For now I study how to get by without electricity altogether .  We can get water but I have three huge freezers  and refrigrators that I do not want to have to can up in a hurry .

FM

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Wendy S. Delmater
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

Since burtfingers is handling the homefires, I will answer your question on hot water. We've had a solar hot water heater on the roof since the 80s; well, my new husband has one  and i just moved here a year ago. He just replaced the dome on one of the two units. It makes very hot water in the spring summer and fall. We use backup electric in the winter (South Carolina does go down to the 20s in the winter, if only for 2 months.

I should think cooling would be an issue in CA - that's a warm climate. We added a solar-powered attic fan and it cut our electric bills by 1/3.

Water should be a priority. We installed a well and added leaders and gutters and rain barrels, and have water purification stuff available. There is a definitive water thread: check it out.

But that does not answer your general question. What I did was take the book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" and make a spreadsheet of  it: one sheet per chapter. I made a prep list from that, modified by our location, preferences and the monies available to us. We raided our 401K and took a 38% hit in taxes and penalties to make it happen. We decided that FOOD, SHELTER, WATER, and DEFENSE were our largest priorities. And we are STILL not done, but at least we have a checklist and are on our way to doing as much as we can.

 Safewrite

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Full Moon
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Re: Preparation Priorities and Cost Allocation

Electronic Armageddon    today 19th ,     7 pm central time, National Geographic Channel .

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