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options to wood heat

oldhand's picture

I need some suggestions for heating my parent's home. They have happily heated with 2 stoves, one in the basement 1 upstairs

for many years but   it's getting to be too physical for them. Other family members want to stick in an unvented propane burner

upstairs and down.  Yikes! There is currently no central anything so no ducting exists but it would be relatively easy [full open basement]

to have ducting. I'm currently thinking a propane furnace but don't know much about them [ no natural gas available] and haven't

seen any installed without forced air/ducting since the end of the paleo era.

Thoughtful suggestions and questions encouraged I just got blindsided with this problem and it isn't something I know much

about. Thanks in advance.


If you have a basement, I'd (post #213670, reply #1 of 6)

If you have a basement, I'd suggest a furnace and ductwork.  That would also help with resale value, if that will ever be a factor.

No way would I put in unvented heaters. Really bad idea.  Especially for the elderly.  If your siblings insist on propane heaters, I'd suggest trying to steer them towards vented ones.


Good luck with the situation.  I know all too well that trying to help parents and work with siblings can be problematic.

yeah... (post #213670, reply #2 of 6)

That' s exactly my thinking.  I'm just making sure I'm not missing anything and getting my  facts together. I've got to sell this or some other idea besides the unvented thing. 

I can't find the info but I thought unvented propane was never recommended for primary heat, like anywhere?

Thanks! l


If they're currently heating (post #213670, reply #3 of 6)

If they're currently heating with wood then they have chimneys.  It's hazardous to vent a propane space heater directly into a masonry chimney designed for wood, but the chimneys can be "lined" to make them reasonably safe for propane use.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

well... (post #213670, reply #6 of 6)

Repurposing the wood stove flues probably ain't going to happen. Best sell on this job is a gradual shift. I figure if we wind up with propane space heaters [heaven forbid] that new gas appliance flues wouldn't be a big deal.  


Before doing anything, get a (post #213670, reply #4 of 6)

Before doing anything, get a heat loss calculation. Check insulation and how much sealing the house needs. 

Most wood stoves need a lot of combustion air, either through open windows, or air leaking into the house. The new high effeiciency furnaces will use a direct vent system for combustion air and exhaust.   A leaky house with the new furnaces is just "tossing money out the window". 

Sealing up a house can be a bit of work, but it does not cost a lot of money if you DIY.


Do not use the unvented heaters as a primary heat source.


A hydronic baseboard system is an easy retrofit.  A small hi-effeciecy modulating boiler, circulating pump, some copper pipe, and baseboard heaters will get a basic system up and running.    Simple balancing valves can be used to control heat distribution, or zone control valves and thermostats can be added to seperate the main floor from the basement

thanks (post #213670, reply #5 of 6)

The link to the GB advisor unvented article is info I needed for my argument against the unvented idea. I've yet to hear any one advocate them as a primary heat source, that's nuts to me.

As a liscensed contractor I was "energy certified" in 2012  so I have a clue about heat loss. I may be able to con my hvac buddy into heat loss calcs but it doesn't take a weatherman to see some low hanging fruit regarding improvements. I will have to sell the job [meaning come up with the figures] or just do it myself. Now there's another idea you've fostered.....


Also I had not 3even considered the hydronic baseboard idea. I will look into that I'm sure they would enjoy the comfort of that over a forced air system That's one thing about wood heat it will spoil you for comfort.