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Community and Q&A

Selecting a back-up heat source for a wood stove

user-957077 | Posted in Mechanicals on

We’re planning on building a super-insulated, tight house (hopefully starting construction this fall). There will be about 2000 square feet of living space, all heated by a small wood stove. Between the passive solar we have designed and the available wood on our land, we expect this to be a very low-cost way of keeping warm. But, of course, the bank requires a thermostatically controlled source of heat. We expect this secondary heat to be used very rarely– it’s really just there to satisfy the bank– so we’d like it to be as inexpensive and unobtrusive as possible. As great as mini-splits are, I’d like to avoid anything visible like that. Radiant floor heat is invisible but more than we want to spend. One contractor we spoke with suggested that perhaps an electric heater could be installed in supply duct of the HRV, which seemed like an interesting idea, but I haven’t heard of it being done. Is there a precedent for that? Anyone have another idea?

Thanks, Randy George (Vermont)

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  1. jklingel | | #1

    Randy: I am sure you will get a few different opinions on this. I'd first look at the cost of fuels in your area, and take your best guess as to which will be the cheapest for the next 20-30 yrs. Get an appliance that fires that fuel and will heat the whole house. Wood is great, of course, but what happens when Vermont gets a nasty cold spell and the whole family is dormant with the flu, or you're on vacation for 2 weeks?

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    I live in Vermont in a house like yours. My backup heater is a propane-fired wall-mounted space heater with through-the-wall venting. Simple and affordable. It keeps the house warm when we go away during the winter.

    Another option is electric baseboard heat, which is inexpensive to install (although costly to operate).

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