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AquaTherm's gasifier

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by jklingel, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. jklingel

    jklingel Feeling the Heat

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    Do any of you have any inside info on AquaTherm's upcoming gasifier? I could not get any specs or anything out of the company; only that it is in the final stages of field testing and will be out for the '08-'09 heating season. Just curious. My neighbor has one of their non-gasifiers and really likes it (2 yrs now) and said a friend has had one for 15 yrs.

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  2. rsnider

    rsnider New Member

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    i also could not find much info on the omega he from aquatherm. i did see a dealer on the net selling for 9000. other than that no idea what the internals look like. i've seen the original aqua therms and do like them. it seems all the owb companies will be coming out with a gasifier model like empyre now has the ecb gassifier and central boiler has the e-classic which is tested but not going to be on the market for awhile. if you can come up with any more info on the aqua therm please post.
  3. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    I installed an Aquatherm Omega 20 HE in the fall of "06". I am heating an uninsulated 1 1/2 story 3300 sf. brick house. I have eleven zones each with its own thermostat 7 of the zones are radiant in floor heating, four zones are cast iron radiators as well as heating our domestic hot water. I invested approx. 25k into the system doing most of the work myself using my employees, with the boiler itself costing $8,400.00. The boiler is 220 feet from the house with the styrofoam insulated 1" water lines buried 6' underground in sd35 (the green sewer pipe).

    Before I installed the system I used close to 2000 gal of oil to heat per year. I have only used 100 gal. in the past two years. I get all the wood for free delivered to right in front of the boiler by a few tree removal companies I have contacted. I would guess I have 150 cords of various types in various stages of being processed/cut, split and stacked. It takes about one solid week for two of us to get the twenty - twenty-five cords ready for the winter which is approx. the amount that I have been burning. I have a 35 ton 11hp splitter and use my skidloader to feed the splitter with the big pieces of wood.

    The house temp. is usually kept at 72+ degrees sometimes if my wife is cold up to 76 degrees. I usually turn it down at night because it is more healthy as well as keep a second floor window open all winter just to help with the dry air.
    The boiler has not had a problem keeping up with the demand with the exception of when it gets down close to 0.

    I love the Omega, BUT, a month or two after I put it into use it cracked in all four corners, if you can actually say it has corners. Aquatherm paid to have it repaired/welded but it cracked again within a month right next to the repairs. I understand that the wrong type of stainless was used for the faceplate thus the cracking. I was also told that mine has cracked worse than any of the other units they sold.

    They sent me a replacement boiler (the new Eco-One), which I have not installed and will be returning it to the dealer as soon as I get time. They suggested that I try the Eco-One and I agreed to check it out but the company could not or would not give me any specs on it they just shipped it to me. The Eco-One is not, in my opinion, a "gasification" unit, it is just a rework of a model which they were already offering and by adding an additional blower to the front of the unit Aqua-therm is qualifying it as a gasification unit, the sales guys said it will not smoke and I have been asking to see one installed before I would consider accepting it as a replacement. I love the Omega's big firebox opening cause I already have alot of big pieces of wood and would have to split most of them in half in order to get them into the smaller opening of the Eco-One.

    The smoke could be a big issue as we live in a densely populated urban neighborhood on a small 5 acre farmette, we have eleven neighbors that are directly against our property. I picked the Omega 20 because of the extremely high operating temps 1800-2000 degrees, which ignites the smoke with a loud puff so within twenty minutes of starting, even from a completely cold state using the right kind of wood, it will burn perfectly clean. The Omega is much more clean-burning than the wood stove I used to keep going inside to try to cut back on the oil usage.

    I am asking them to give me my money back and if they do I would then buy a used Omega somewhere for a few hundred dollars cause I love the Omega even in its cracked state. If I have to pay someone to reweld it once a year I would still say it far outperforms the Greenwood. The sales reps offered me a Greenwood as a replacement for the Omega but Greenwood doesn't offer a sheltered unit and everytime I visit their store the their Greenwood is smoking like a big smoking chimney. I also don't like the Greenwood because of the ceramic issue and the potential of cracking. I can throw huge pieces of wood into the Omega in any old direction and with as much force as I want and don't have to worry about damaging it.

    I hope this info helps and I would love to answer any questions cause I love my Omega. I did hear that they were going to come out with an upgraded model sometime in the near future so I am also thinking of holding out till then.
  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Welcome to the Boiler Room, John. Thanks for the insight and information.
  5. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    So . . . you throw your wood into your furnace . . . then you wonder why you have to weld it every year??

    And yes, the GreenWood refractory definitly cracks . . . my WAG is that it's from thermal shock . . . as in, heat the refractory to 1500*, then put 200# of 0* red oak against the refractory. I'll definitly concede that as a GW problem. But when you say your salespersons GW smokes. . .trust me, it's the operator, not the hydronic unit. Every wood-fired hydronic mentioned on this Forum will smoke when operated improperly.

    LOL, I am not defendin the GW, but hearin you take pleasure with your ability to throw wood into your furnace, then wanting the manufacturer to replace it when it cracks. . . TFF
  6. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Isee,

    I think he is saying that the stainless steel boiler itself cracked! This, IMHO, is evidence of shoddy design and/or workmanship. I suspect some of each. We tend to think that boilers are simple machines, but they are not. The stresses in various parts and the quality of welding, etc. is really important. Many of the early OWB rusted through and leaked....and so they tried to solve it by going to stainless in some. But that is a brute force approach in many cases. After all, boilers made of good steel have been known to last for up to 50 years, so why would one leak after 1-5?

    The lack of standards in terms of the building and designing of these things has resulted in a very low bar for entry. I'm sure some of the experts here are familiar with ASME and other such regs- ISO stuff also. This requires hundreds of steps, each of which have to be documented all the way back to the maker of the steel and the welding rods.

    Not dumping on anyone in particular, just making the point that boiler failure is rarely the fault of the consumer or user...at least in my experience. If I were buying a boiler, I would look carefully at exactly who welded it, and their experience with pressure vessels....even if non-pressurized.

    Imagine if everyone started making cars or wheel bearing. But they forgot to use the proper alloys. That somewhat describes what happened with the first generations of OWB....and for all I know, may still be happening today with some makers.
  7. brad068

    brad068 Feeling the Heat

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    Its the stainless steel. 304 ss has excellent corrsion resistance but terrible thermal shock properties. Thats why titanium enhanced 409 ss (magnetic) is popular with owb manufacturers. It will still corrode but way slower than the rate of carbon steel. 409 is the ss that new autos exhaust systems are made of. How often do you hear of exhaust systems being replaced these days. Good carbon steel is all you need to build a good boiler and some ceramic/firebrick. Also carbon steel has like 5 times the thermal transfer of ss.
  8. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    So . . . you throw your wood into your furnace . . . then you wonder why you have to weld it every year??

    And yes, the GreenWood refractory definitly cracks . . . my WAG is that it’s from thermal shock . . . as in, heat the refractory to 1500*, then put 200# of 0* red oak against the refractory. I’ll definitly concede that as a GW problem. But when you say your salespersons GW smokes. . .trust me, it’s the operator, not the hydronic unit. Every wood-fired hydronic mentioned on this Forum will smoke when operated improperly.

    LOL, I am not defendin the GW, but hearin you take pleasure with your ability to throw wood into your furnace, then wanting the manufacturer to replace it when it cracks. . . TFF



    I guess my point in how to properly load the boiler is this, how can you gently lay an 80-100 lb hunk of black locust into a 1000 degree bed of coals? I pretty much hoist it up and heave it in. If there is a better way let me know.

    Also the Omega operating manual does not express any concern about gently loading it, however, it does suggest that the bigger the pieces the longer it will last. The rep did comment when he came out to look @ the situation that "you certainly are burning alot of locust". I of course asked him if I had missed something in the manual about not using locust, he said no you can burn what every kind of wood in it you want, the dryer the better.

    The problem with the Omega's cracking on my unit has nothing to do with how it is loaded cause it is not cracked in the "bed of hot coal" or "where you load the wood" area but around the faceplate which holds the whole thing together. I understand from my sales rep. and also from my professional full time welder that the wrong type of steel was used for the face plate. The faceplate holds the main wood holding/burning chamber apart from the exhaust/flue area and the 78 gal water area.

    I understand that the GW is using the mass of the refractory to hold the heat, which is a good idea, but I think they would do better if the main wood holding/burning area was a cast iron with a grate, and the main burn chamber , kind of like the Omega, had the refractory area underneath in the area where the main hot burn takes place.

    I check the boiler basically twice a day but as a general contractor with an home office who has a hard time sitting still for 10 hours @ my computer so I usually check it several times a day.

    Just wondering if you have ever seen an Omega in person? I am not an engineer but I like to think I have alot of common sense and common sense tells me that you can throw wood against metal no problem but you should be careful if throwing it against anytime of refractory.

    I have talked to the rep about how he is operating the GW and he explicitly told me several times that if I were to get one I would have to be careful about loading it. I also don't like the ash removal system with a GW.

    I have installed other OWB for customers and have been studying and reading up on owb for the past 15 years. The Omega is an awesome idea and it works very well other than the cracking. If you want I can post some pictures of the unit as well as the cracks.

    BTW, I have the approx. of two & a-half 55 gal drums full of clean powdery ash from 25 cords of wood.
  9. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    The Omega is all stainless and if Aqua-therm could improve on the quality of the steel I think it would hold up for a long time.
    It cracked between the exhaust/flue chamber not in the water chamber. It does not leak water but I suppose in time it would.
  10. brad068

    brad068 Feeling the Heat

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    I bet there is some refractory or ceramic in the Omega. If theres not I can't see how it can reach 1800-2000* and maintain it without falling apart. It will but won't do it for long. I know boilers in side and out and my money is on the Garn design. When the omegas make 20 years without any structural failure consistently then I'll agree you got one hell of a boiler there. I would like to see some pic if you could.

    Also, with the GW and Seton refractory design, once the refractory cracks, the stress is relieved. Its not like you cracked the steel water jacket and water leakage starts. The GW would work the same if they were stacked with individual ceramic firebricks. The cracks aren't pretty, but they really don't affect the operation of the boiler.
  11. rsnider

    rsnider New Member

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    if you have a omega why would they send you a eco one as a replacement? i would demand a new omega not a whole diff boiler. thats like buying a truck and then replacing it with a car. did you buy the omega off of a aqua therm dealer or a diff company making the omega?
  12. rsnider

    rsnider New Member

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    oops forgot post some pics inside and out of boiler. thanks
  13. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    Yes there is refractory (fire brick) in the main burn area of the Omega. It is a downdraft design and the firebrick is is the lower area below the wood holding area.
    I am not an expert in boiler design by any means and I would totaly agree with you Garnification, the Omega will fall apart eventually at those extreme temps, it has warped quite a bit around the downdraft grates and the 1/4" stainless shield plate hanging from the door. I think the design is the shield plate will warp so the door wouldn't. Aqua-therm gave a 6 year 100% money back guarantee with the unit so I guess I am not two worried about it failing at this point cause I still have four years left. Would cast iron hold up at those temps?

    rsnider, I have no idea why aqua-therm sent me the eco-one as a replacement, I guess they are trying to keep from giving me my money back? I will post some pictures in the next day or so.
  14. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    I have been doing an internet search every few weeks for the last couple of years looking for anyone with info about the omega and wanting to see if others had the same problem I have had, and always come up with nothing. Yesterday this website came up, with only one post about the Omega. It looks like you all really know your boilers and I think I will learn alot.
    Thanks!
  15. brad068

    brad068 Feeling the Heat

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    Honestly I think you are the only one to have one. I hear from other wood boiler manufacturers and they told me that the Omega had some design flaws and were going to scrap the boiler because of all the money invested in the state-of-art manufacturing facility. I have seen a general pic of this boiler on their website and it looks like a neat unit. But they have a learning curve to grasp before they start pushing them out reliable. There is a downdraft gasifying owb called E 3400 manufactured by wdheat.com.
  16. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Well, the GW manual tells you to set the round on the steel at the base of the load door, then roll it onto the coals. And that actually works quite well. BTW, I'm no expert on black locust, because I have none available to me. But I will tell you this. The GW100 maxes at 18". For the hell of it, I weighed a couple of pieces of red oak rounds that seemed to me to be the heaviest I had carried this past gathering season. The max I got was 55#. And I'd approximate they were about 14" rounds. So seriously, If you find 100# 18" black locust rounds, take a pic of that for us!

    I got'z no trouble admitting I am no engineer. Never operated an OWB, nor seen an Omega up close and personal. But I do have common sense, and common sense tells me to find a way to load wood into an expensive device without hurting my body, nor the device. Rolling 100# rounds makes more sense on both fronts to me than throwing, but thats just my thought.

    Yep, the cracking refractory is - as far as I can see - the single biggest problem with the unit. Customer service is the biggest problem with the company. :smirk: But the lack of a grate - I bitched about that too. Then I got the whole routine down, and, take it for what it's worth from a GW user, ash removal is a non-issue. Yesterday, when it warmed up to 34*, I stopped loading at the typical 8-hour intervals. Instead, I carefully rake the coals toward the back of the box, in my case with a spade. Repeating this proceedure about 4 times, each time digging down into the coal bed deeper until finally scraping all the way to the refractory. This leaves so little ash that I simply spread it evenly on the bottom of the refractory. The only "ash removal" was 3 baseball-sized clumps of compressed ash. This was easily removed with the same spade. While this might sound like an extended process, it only needs to be done every 4-6 weeks, and can be scheduled on a day when I am home and it warms up outside.

    Jimbo
  17. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Garnification is right about the level of experience a company has. Only looking BACK after many years in the field can a design be confirmed as sound.

    Every time someone says "anyone have experience with this NEW boiler"....sort of makes me shudder because I don't want to be part of the learning curve. Having been to Tarm a couple times and also to other boiler manufacturers in the states....I have concluded that it takes a lot more than cutting and welding skills to make one which will last.
  18. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Which was the reason I had so much trouble making the decision on the GW. I had actually sent a deposit to TARM . . . but when I got the manual which warned of overheating!!! I freaked out and went back to GW. Looking back, the Tarm would probably have worked fine. But since my wood is larger rounds with higher than ideal MC, I bet that my GW does better WITH MY SPECIFIC SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES than the Tarm would have. Honestly, I've never heard bad about Tarm anywhere.

    My guess would be that some of us users here would/will be part of a 'new' design in the future.
  19. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    I really am not very good on the computer - I can't figure out how to post pictures on here. I took several and if someone could give me a hint I will post them.
  20. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Go into EDIT mode in the post above, then hit the BROWSE button and select a pic to upload. If it gives you an error message (after a long wait), then the pic is too big and needs to be resized to no more than 1,000 x 1,000 pixels. If you're using a program like Photoshop to size your pictures, a 5 x 7 pic at 72 dpi will work. When uploading more than one pic, hit PREVIEW after selecting each one. Then hit UPDATE POST when you're done.
  21. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    I don't have Photoshop & my cannon camera software doesn't seem to be able to resize the pixels. I will ask a friend to help me and post them in a day or so.
    I will say that the Omega 20 firebox is 40" long with a 32 1/2" diameter. The door opening is 19 1/2" x 25 " so as long as I can pick up the pieces of wood I put them in. I have not actually weighed any of the wood but I carry 80 lb bags of mortar mix so that is what I have been comparing them with. I am 38 yrs old so still have some strength left and don't think I hurt my body to much while lugging wood around.
  22. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I'm 50 and I cut, haul, split (by hand) and stack about 20 cords of 24-inch wood every summer. And my dad, who's 76, cuts a lot more wood than I do. So I don't want to hear any more complaining from you young studs in the Boiler Room about how hard it is.
  23. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Damn old coots!!! Was that you I passed doin' 25 on Rte28 earlier today??? :roll:
  24. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Yeah, and I had my blinker on, too.
  25. Jonthebuilder

    Jonthebuilder New Member

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    I am not sure where Rt. 28 is, I don't get out much cause I am so busy stacking firewood ;-)

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