Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Third Quarter Finished!

Our last update on the basement had one of the two walls in the third quarter of the basement insulated.  It looked like this here...

I've been able to make some pretty good progress the past two weekends.  The wall you see above is now fully framed.  The rack you see to the right in this picture is four foot wide, and full of canning supplies and canned goods...and there is another one to the right of it, just as loaded.  Those have been moved to the wall above, making way for me to dive into the other wall.  Man, am I glad we had the foresight to buy wheeled shelving.

I had to tackle more than just the framing on the second wall.  First, since I would be working by the boiler pipes and I was tired of burning my arm on them, I bought enough pipe insulation to cover all of the boiler pipes.  I also covered the main line coming in from the well, because in the summer with the humidity up this pipe would sweat and drip water on the floor.  Problem solved!

Boiler feed and return lines on the left.  Well pump supply line on the right.
Ever since getting the boiler we've had a problem with our bedroom above the boiler pipes being too warm.  That's especially true this time of year, when the weather is warming up and the house remains naturally warmer at night.  The water coming in from the wood fired boiler is an average 170 degrees, and with the majority of the horizontal lines running along the basement ceiling directly under our bedroom, that heat was radiating up through the floor and making it just a bit too toasty.  In addition to the pipes you see in the picture, all of the pipes running horizontally across the ceiling are now also wrapped.  The difference has been immediately noticeable.

I also had to remove and cap a water line running to an outdoor spigot.  As I've mentioned previously, I'll be running new hot and cold lines to a new hot/cold outdoor faucet.  Seriously...I am way too stoked about having a faucet with hot water outside.  :)  As you can see in the pic above, by this point I also had the wall fully insulated.

With all of the above done, there was nothing left to do but start on the framing.  I started on it and finished it today.  :)  Check it out.

The boiler and water pipes will run along the outside of the drywall.  I'll be making a small bulkhead/closet in that corner, to cover the pipes and still give access to the main well pump shutoff valve.  I really had to play with the spacing of the studs, to maintain 16" on center and still have them fall where the pipes weren't.

I had considered running all new lines to contain them within the wall.  That thought was very milliseconds.    Seriously, those lines represent our heat and our water supply.  With me, plumbing projects always end up taking far longer than anticipated, and costing far more than budgeted.  We'd have been freezing, thirsty, stinky, and broke if I hadn't opted for the bulkhead/closet.  ;)

The PVC waste pipe and cleanout you see on the right in the lower picture will be in a yet-to-be-built good sized closet.  We thought about just enclosing that and some other existing plumbing in that area in a bulkhead, but we could really use the storage space.  So, a closet it is!

The next section I'll be framing is far and away the most difficult.  I'll have several large obstacles to deal a washer, a dryer, a chest freezer, a sink, a circuit panel, and more plumbing and electric attached to the walls.  All of this is why I chose to do this section last.  I'm going to need everything I've learned so far to keep me from completely mucking it up.

It sure does feel good to be making some progress!  :)

Until next time...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Three Year Boiler Follow up

As we're winding down on our third season with our wood fired boiler I thought I would share some observations with you all.  First, if you're wondering "What's a wood fired boiler?" here is a blog post that gives the down and dirty details on our boiler.  How It Works: Wood Boiler Edition

We had our boiler installed in November of 2011 after researching several options. If you would like to see the options we looked at and why we chose the wood fired boiler, check out this post...A Heated Topic.  We had some money from the sale of our home in Ohio, and we were looking to make as large of an impact as possible with it.  Looking at the costs of heating with LP, we knew that addressing the heating system was a good place to target.  We had just paid to have our thousand gallon LP tank filled...THUD!

Our expectation at the time, based on the cost of running our existing LP boiler vs. the anticipated operating costs of the wood boiler, was that we would see a return on our investment within 4 years.  That first season we were able to burn mostly dead fall off of our property.  The next two seasons we've burned delivered pulp hardwood.

Each load of pulp wood is ten cord of 8' hardwood logs, and we're finding that we're burning five-six cord per season.  With adding some dead fall from the property, we're using just half of each ten cord load of pulp wood per season.  A load costs us $800, so we're spending only $400 per heating season for fuel.  Something to keep in mind, our heating season up here is six months long and temps get down below zero when we're deep into winter.  On the generous side for other costs, add in about $100 for gas for the chainsaw, annual door gasket replacement, etc...and we're looking at just $500 in operating cost for the six month long heating season.  That doesn't sound too bad, does it?  Here is where it really starts to sound good.  Depending on the cost of LP, we could have been spending anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 per season.

The boiler and installation cost us roughly $12,000...with another $1,200 for the carport/wood shed.  Some simple math told us that we stood a very good shot at our estimated four year return on investment.  One thing we didn't expect were the HUGE jumps in LP costs this year.  With this year's price of LP factored in, we hit our ROI before the end of this...our third season.  Here's another cool thing.  The boiler has a 25 year warranty.  That means that it has paid for itself 22 years before the warranty will expire.  WINNING!  I can't think of any appliance that provides this speedy of a ROI with this length of a warranty.

There is a price to be paid to achieve these savings...and it's all in labor.  All of that wood has to be cut, split, and stacked.  Every day the boiler has to be stoked twice per day...once first thing in the morning, and again just at bedtime.  Every two weeks the ash in the fire box needs to be emptied.  Twice a season the water must be tested...similarly to testing pool chemicals.  Once per season the door gasket has to be changed.  At the end of the season any creosote build up has to be removed from the inside of the fire box, the walls of the fire box oiled, and the chimney swept and capped.

However, our labor to run the wood boiler has realized a savings of over $12,000 in three years.  Cutting and stacking the wood?  That's a few weekends of work, and we could use the exercise.  Stoking the boiler?  We have to let the dog out anyway.  The rest of it is just a day or two of work.  I'd say that we are being paid extremely well for our effort.  :)

Until next time!