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Outdoor Furnace Heats Seven Buildings
"It keeps the fire outside and that's number one as far as I'm concerned," says Orville Rach, about his giant hot water furnace. He's used it for three years to heat two homes, two shops, a calf barn, a milking barn and parlor, and a garage.
Rach's furnace has a 36-in. wide by 60-in. long by 42-in. high firebox made of 3/16-in. steel. It's surrounded by a larger, 4-ft. wide by 8-ft. long, 51/2-ft. high box of 1/ 8-in. steel. The chamber between the two is filled with 800 to 900 gal. of water. Even the door on the firebox is double and water-filled, keeping it cool enough to touch and preventing it from warping. Rach wire-welds everything carefully so it's leakproof.
Water pumps at the back of the furnace pump water that comes off the top of the stove through 3/4-in. copper pipes that are insulated and run underground to the buildings. Inside the buildings, water runs through radiators then back through a pipe that returns it to the bottom of the furnace. "We have five water pumps pumping water to our seven buildings. One pump pumps water through 900 ft. of pipe to a trailer house and back," says Rach.
His furnace also features openings in the bottom for grates and an ash compartment below for easy cleaning. Four 4-in. flues over the firebox draw smoke up the chimney.
A forced draft regulates the heat. It's operated by a thermostat set at 180?. "When the water temperature goes down, the forced draft starts. I just have to tend to the fire itself. I've added a second draft that puts more air on top of the fire to give it oxygen to burn the gases off the wood."
Inside the buildings Rach turned ordinary used car and truck radiators into effective heaters. "Truck radiators work best," Rach says. "You get more heat off them, but car radiators work too."
Each building has a heat set-up to match the need. In the house an automobile radiator is fitted into the plenum of the oil furnace. The fan in the furnace distributes the hot air. In one of the shops, two auto radiators are boxed in with a large squirrel cage fan. In the. calf barn, a car radiator simply hangs from the ceiling with a 20-in. house fan behind it. Heat in some of the buildings is controlled thermostatically while others are operated manually.
Rach feeds the wood fire two or three times a day. The 5-ft. long firebox with a 32-in. opening accommodates most any size log.
Rach says the cost to heat the 7 buildings is about equal to heating his house-alone with electric heat. Even though the water pumps run constantly, they use little electricity. "I put a meter on the water pumps and they each cost only $4 a month to operate."
The furnace is so well insulated, snow piles up on the steel roof of the enclosure that surrounds the furnace. Rach has built and sold several of the furnaces to neighbors.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Orville Rach, Rt. 1, Verndale, Minn. 56481 (ph 218 924-2711).
Story and photos reprinted courtesy The Land Magazine, Mankato, Minn.

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1988 - Volume #12, Issue #1