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default Taking the low tech option - Rayburn and Trees

Post by Zoe on 13th March 2010, 2:19 pm

When the heating oil ran out at the beginning of 2005 I decided I could not afford it anymore and I did not want to be using oil anyway. I looked at the many different options.

The easiest one was install a 14kW Jotul wood burner in place of the massive open fire. This was our main heat source until end December 2009.

We continued to look at other options:
Underground heat exchange heating but didn’t like the high cost out lay and the general techno fix approach.

Wind energy using EDF France as a massive “battery” by buying and selling to them. This would rely on them continuing to buy at a higher price then at which they sell.

Solar, but we still needed a heat store which was an unsolvable problem.

A various selection of the above was also considered but that would mean an even larger capital out lay.

So when I saw that Rayburn was modifying the ranges to take wood only I investigated the option of a Rayburn 345W. This was reinforced by the fact that we have a lot of trees. Many are coppiced hazel, coppiced field maple, pollarded oak and poplar. We get a lot of off cuts from my OH wood working and benefit from the habit in France of tree felling at 50/50. The person that fells the tree gets 50% of the wood. We have also planted or allow saplings to grow for thousands of trees. The first harvest from the trees I have planted will be the osier willows that will be pollarded next year.

So we took the plunge and invested the last of my money in a Rayburn 345W. Speced at 35,000 Btu/h designed to heat a water cylinder of 190litres - 40 gallons.

So far the Rayburn is plumbed into two gravity fed radiators on the upper floor of the house. We are looking at extending this system with a pump and further gravity feed in the spring. This will take in another 4 radiators. One day if it can cope we will consider a hot water cylinder potentially for summer use, but at present that is on the “wait for it to wrinkle out” pile of projects! The gravity feed is working very well and was appreciated when there was no electricity supply recently and more importantly it is silent running!

We are finding it very easy to keep the system hot with a few lumps of oak 20cm long and it bank very well over night. To boil a kettle it takes a few hazel or poplar sticks. To cook on the top plate it's several hazel sticks or any off cuts. To get the oven up to bake it’s a couple of field maple lumps and some thin oak off cuts and any other smalls bit for a hot burn.

It is easy to bake bread as the bread is rising as the oven is coming up to heat. The oven stays hot easily for a couple of hours or more. Everything does cook better in the oven as it is a "non drying" heat.

We haven't use the electric emersion heater in the kitchen since we have had the rayburn as we just heat up hot water on the hot plate. And never the electric oven - so big savings!

The natural healing powers of a gentle warmth is well worth adding into the equation. Warming a sore back or shoulder, tummy, or fingers... sitting by it with your toes curled onto the ash pan door!

The Rayburn weighs in a 380kg this is a lot of mass. The actual thermal storage of the cast iron parts keeps our kitchen warm over night even without the fire running.

The great thing about cooking with the wood Rayburn is you have to think! It is not just turn it on and stuff the food in! You do have to use your brain...and like everything "use it or loose it"! I personally like thinking - I feel alive - not part of a consumerist boring thread mill!

We are thoroughly enjoying our new member of our family! And what is more the trees and the Rayburn have a life expectancy greater than mine! treeswing
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default Re: Taking the low tech option - Rayburn and Trees

Post by Wilhelm Von Rhomboid on 13th March 2010, 3:09 pm

How many acres or hectares of land would you say it was necessary to own to make this viable Zoe?

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default Re: Taking the low tech option - Rayburn and Trees

Post by Zoe on 14th March 2010, 2:48 pm

From our experiences so far we think 2ha would keep things ticking over. We are talking quite a large volume of house (heated to 4 layers of clothing in winter...accept when the Rayburn has been used very hot for a long time - like today a mosquito has just landed on my face so it must be hot in the appex of the roof!)

We are actually planting 3ha and we have a lot more other trees. OH (WoodTroll) has just felled and pollarded a mature hedge row of 100m and pulled out 30 cubic meters of good wood for burning plus several oak beams.
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default Re: Taking the low tech option - Rayburn and Trees

Post by Zoe on 16th March 2010, 8:06 pm

Wood Troll pointed out that it may not be clear that this includes a very hungry 14kW Jotul that chomps through oak merrily. We need a minimum of 6 cubic meters of good wood preferably oak, for the cold months to feed the Jotul plus small stuff to get it up to oak burning temperature.

In contrast the Rayburn is better on "lighter" stuff and only has oak to slumber with.
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default Re: Taking the low tech option - Rayburn and Trees

Post by Adrian on 16th March 2010, 8:42 pm

wow, I think you actually burn more wood than us

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Post by Compostwoman on 16th March 2010, 8:49 pm

I am puzzled by this as we keep our woodburner in all winter, OK it is heating rather than cooking but we use about 10 felled trees? or maybe less? which sees us through the colder weather?

We do use a bit of oil from the boiler as back up radiator heat BUT even so it seems like you use a lot in comparison to us?

We have 3 acres of woodland..and we fell a few standards every year, and a fair bit of coppice to burn in the (old, inefficient, soon to be replaced) woodburner....

Maybe its because our house is ( now!) quite well insulated?


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Post by Adrian on 16th March 2010, 8:57 pm

ah, yes, good point CW. Our house is foam insulated in the basement (soybean oil and summat else, and beautifully insulated in the walls and attic, so we do need to burn less than we have previously. In fact I think we have saved about 3 cords of wood this year, which is a nice bonus and they can sit int he barn drying out even more.

Still, jealous of the Rayburn, can't get them out here..

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Post by Compostwoman on 16th March 2010, 10:12 pm

yes despite the coldest winter etc...we have used less oil and burnt less wood than normally?

So its a good feeling to know insulation really does have a huge effect......

wood burning Rayburn is next on the list, to replace the Aga.....
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Post by Zoe on 17th March 2010, 11:59 am

Aye you have it there really. Well it is the construction and size. We are primarily living in a cow barn that existed in 1600 and possible before 1370 (the beams and the rock and something definitely was here...) Renovated in the 1970. The actual house was knocked down as it was derelict.

The windows are not double glazed and there is a high air flow. The walls are massive 75cm thick and the roof exposed beams. We want to "sark" the roof with insulation. I'm waiting for the technology to provide affordable thinnish insulation but it will be a huge job. The floor is on the ground.

From March to October its not a problem it just the rest of the time! Put it this way the Jotul - 14kW of power can not heat the area we live in to a comfortable temperature. The Rayburn back ground heat has made all the difference.

I was also being conservative with my estimation as it very easy to forget how much brash and bits from the workshop we burn. It was based on if "I had to buy a wood what size of wood would I buy?"
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Post by Compostwoman on 17th March 2010, 12:59 pm

One of the downsides we need to add to that thread on "the harsh realities of rural life"?

Barn conversions over here done in the 80's seem often to be really inefficient...
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Post by theabsinthefairy on 21st January 2011, 1:04 pm

We too run a Rayburn for our main heating. We have an old stone farmhouse, and our Rayburn provides heating for the kitchen, two radiators in the bedrooms, all the cooking and all of our hot water in conjunction with a solar vacuum tube panel.

In addition we have a living room fire that we have rigged up with a heat exchange coil that runs two radiators and a heated towel rail in the bathroom. the installation of that fire is here

We burn on an average winter about 15m3 of wood, mainly seasoned oak, in addition we coppice our own birch and ash. Smaller bits for hotter fires and huge lumps of oak to keep the fire in overnight, on occasion our local supplier has some coal so we may get a couple of bags of coal and use that in the Rayburn for overnight too.

We transported our Rayburn from the UK ourselves and moving it around was a real nightmare even with the trolley that my OH built specifically for it so we could push it around to install it and get it on and off the lorry we moved with.

my rayburn

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Post by enjoyeverymoment on 16th February 2011, 5:41 am

So much great information. Thanks!
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