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Wood Stoves: Building vs. Purchasing

A lot of people are reverting to burning wood these days, and as long as you have the saws, splitter, truck, and a good back it can pay off. They typically sell for between $5-8,000 and are the free standing outdoor units. Of course you also need a good source for wood and the time involved to make it pay off. If you live in rural America it can be well worth doing. If you live in town, well, that’s a whole different ball game given the current regulatory environment.

Seven years ago, even though we do live in town, I decided to jump to the wood stove market and see what I could come up with. The existing gas boiler system still had the original cast iron radiators and was going to need replaced In the near future. So I did some research and went shopping.

The stove needed to have a small foot print and would have to heat over 2500 sq ft of living area and that complicated things somewhat, but wasn’t really a game changer in the long run. A company by the name of Harman had just what I was looking for, and I bought one of there SF-160 units. The stove is only 2′ square and stands 46″ high. Just what I was looking for.

I poured a slab on the existing concrete for it to sit on and then plumbed it into the loop along side the gas unit which would be used as a reserve unit. I sweated in some additional valves and copper and it made for a very nice setup. The existing chimney (27′ out) was in good shape but I still put a pipe liner in it to be on the safe side of things. I also mounted an 80mm equipment fan in the draft bay and an additional process meter along side the Johnson controls.It amounted to a pretty good chunk of change by the time I bought the Stihl saws and got a splitter built.

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Now lets take a look at the choice to just build something from scratch. Over the years I’ve seen some pretty wild stuff. From 55 gal. drums welded together to well, you name it. On occasion however you run across somebody that does have the skill and expertise to actually put a nice working system in place. We’ll take a look at one of them.

The stove was hand crafted from the ground up and is quite impressive to say the least. It’s a boiler system also and an outdoor unit built with high quality materials with all the bells and whistles. The door alone is made out of 1/2″ steel and latches around a roller bearing, it has both draft and flu controls, and a blower in the system also. All are controlled by individual process controllers which provides for ultimate control of the system. It’s padded with boiler insulation and will have aluminum skin on top of that. Trust me, this guy has just enough engineer in him to make stuff happen, and not enough to muck things up like some do by over engineering. This is quality workmanship from the ground up and it was a blast helping him out on the electrical side of the project.

As to the total cost, well, excluding labor, it was nowhere near what you’d pay for a manufactured stove. So if you’ve got the time and skills it is something to consider.

Nice job E, we’ll give her a  shake down cruise this weekend…

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