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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chatter Creek's Outdoor Furnace

In heating Vertebrae lodge, the Chatter Creek partners wanted no open fire in the lodge and no chimneys that might be damaged by the heavy snow load that the roof could collect. They chose to heat the 9300 sq.ft lodge with a "Homesteader" outdoor furnace supplied by "Heat Innovations" of Winkler, Manitoba. Here is the furnace as first installed in 2003.

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In the summer of 2004, the Chatter Creek partners constucted Solitude Lodge, a 9200 sq.ft sleeping annex to Vertebrae Lodge. The new lodge was heated mainly be extending the glycol hot water loop from the original outdoor furnace. This was a stop-gap measure due to inadequate time and funds. Like Vertebrae Lodge, Solitude Lodge was built in one short summer. Finishing of many details had to be left to the summer of 2005.

To ensure adequate heat for Solitude's first winter of operation, a propane booster was added to the heating system. This was needed in times of cool weather. In 2005 the partners will expand the woodshed and install a second outdoor furnace to replace the propane unit and to provide even more heat for the lodges and the hot tubs.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Low Tech and High Tech

Heat exchangers, circulating pumps, water purifiers, heat sinks, storage tanks, pressure tanks and endless tubing and valves. The crawl space of Vertebrae lodge has it all. High tech in low tech surroundings. A simple wood heat system? Scroll down to find out.

Heat transfer by Glycol Loop

Heat is transferred from the outdoor furnace via a buried glycol loop. The 200ft. of 2 in welded steel pipe has a circulating pump that forces the heated glycol/water mixture through a heat exchanger that provides all of the hot water and heat for the building. The glycol loop will be extended in 2004 to supply a second heat exchanger in the crawl space of Solitude Lodge.

The Outdoor Furnace in it's Snowy Location

Newly installed, the outdoor furnace was immediately brought into service to help heat and dry out the brand new lodge. There was no time to build a proper wood shed so, for the first winter staff wrestled with frozen, snow-buried firewood. In the first year of operation, during very cold periods, the building was cooler than some guests preferred. However, as the building gradually dried out, it has also warmed up. Now, even during periods of extreme cold, Vertebrae lodge is quite comfortable. The drying process will take years.

Hot Water Generation

The tiny heat exchanger suspended in the background and shown in the inset is the heart of the system. This transfers heat from the underground glycol loop to the internal hot water system.

This fuzzy shot shows a distribution manifold and some of the circulating pumps in the hot water system. Heated by the outdoor furnace, the hot water system, heats the building and supplies all hot water needs, including hot tubs, laundry, showers and the kitchen.

Scroll down for views of the heat distrubution system in the new Solitude Lodge sleeping annex.

Hot Air Generation

The hot water generated by the glycol to hot-water heat exchanger is pumped to five air heaters, four of which heat re-cycled crawl-space air while the fifth, shown here, heats outside air which it forces into the crawlspace. This hot water to air heat exchanger creates pressure in the crawl space that forces a flow of warm air through floor gratings into the upper floors of the lodge.

Two forms of heat exchanger, circulating pumps and lots and lots of plumbing. More like a ship than a backcountry ski lodge! The hot water exchanger can be seen on the right hand edge of the photo, with the glycol loop connection, and hot air exchanger can be seen in the background.

Heat Sink for Constant Temperature.

For the second year of operation, a 1000 gallon tank was introduced into the hot-water loop for the building and hot water heating. The tank was insulated and half-buried in the dirt floor of the crawl space. This acts as a heat sink and helps maintain a constant temperature while the outdoor furnace burns high or low. In the absense of any stoking of the furnace, this heat sink is sufficient to maintain a fairly constant temperature in the lodge over a period of two days, under late-autumn weather conditions.

The tank and the glycol loop circulating pumps are shown above. Other circulating pumps are used in the hot water system.

Temperature Control for Bedrooms

To provide guests good temperature control in the bedrooms, the hot air convection heating is augmented by small electric baseboard heaters. These, together with opening casement windows, permit guests to adjust room temperature to meet their individual preference.

For the second year, the outdoor furnace and the woodpile were covered by an open-sided shed. No longer would the staff have to dig out the wood and pry apart frozen logs. The fuel supply literally surrounds the furnace.

The new woodshed with a load of firewood waiting to be split and piled. The outdoor furnace can just be seen behind the pile of "rounds".

The outdoor furnace in it's woodshed home. No longer is the firewood covered with snow and frozen together. Operation is more efficient and less moisture results in the flue.

In the fall, the hydraulic wood splitter has lots to do.

Mountain Lodge Construction at Chatter Creek
From the air, the completed Vertebrae Lodge as it appeared in the winter of 2004, it's second year of operation. The woodshed with the outdoor furnace and its wood supply is at the rear of the lodge.

Solitude Lodge Construction at Chatter Creek
The outdoor furnace will also heat the Solitude lodge bedroom annex, built by the end of 2004. The glycol loop will be extended, and a separate hot water loop will be established. Hot water/air heat exchangers will be used to provide hot air heating by convection. The hot water loop will also supply bedroom showers and a new hot tub. A propane-fired booster heater will be used in the first year until the effectiveness of the system is proven. If necessary, a second ourdoor furnace will be added in the future.

In 2004, Solitude Lodge doubled the total floor space to about 18,000 sq ft. and the load on the heating system at least doubled. The new building will be hard to heat until it dries out. When the temperature of the glycol loop drops, the propane boiler operates to bring it back to normal operating range.

The plywood structure to the right of the Homesteader furnace houses the propane boiler installed to ensure the system adequately heats the lodge.

The heat distribution manifold in Solitude Lodge. The heavy black pipe is the extended glycol loop heated by the outdoor furnace. The circulating pumps distribute the hot glycol mixture to heat exchanges that provide hot air for convection heating and hot water for showers and the hot tub.