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Considering a Windhager Pellet boiler

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by mkhopper, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. mkhopper

    mkhopper Member

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    I read Windhager is offering installation and maintenance classes with the purchase of a pellet boiler, this is right up my alley. Anyone here have a Windhager pellet boiler, and if so what do you think of it?

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  2. PassionForFire&Water

    PassionForFire&Water Minister of Fire

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    PM me and I email you some references in Maine.
  3. Downeast Farmer

    Downeast Farmer New Member

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    Marc--
    I'd be interested in Maine references as well.
  4. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    I am thoroughly impressed with the Model 210 Exclusive I am burning.
    The last 5-6 weeks have been cold around here. More than a few nights below 0 and we got above freezing for the first time in about 23 days just last week. 21 and snowing as we speak here today.

    During that time period my natural gas fired Viessmann would down between $280-$330 of fuel according to my records. Our gas totals out to right around $.85 per therm and the local price of wood pellets puts them just above that cost per btu so I was really curious whether there would be any savings with pellets at all.
    I had a hunch there would be some advantage because the Windhager has the ability to modulate down to only 30% firing rate. This turned out to be a larger factor than I anticipated. In terms of fuel $$ spent the cost of operation for the Windhager through that time period was $211.68 for 56 bags of pellets. (Locally $3.78/bag-$189/ton)
    All other things being equal I would have to say that the BioWin operates at an honest 15-20% cheaper than natural gas does. This of course will vary with the local prices for each fuel. I would say it is safe to assume a savings of 40-50% compared to LP gas and 60%+ for fuel oil.

    The boiler ramps up and down beautifully to meet changing loads in the house and will sit there and burn clean at minimum output all day long. There is no expensive Lambda sensor involved because the fuel is so consistent it is not needed. The engineering dept. seems to have the algorithm nailed as far as working good at all firing rates between 30-100% as I never see more than a couple percentage points difference in efficiency on the combustion analyzer. There is a trace of smoke occasionally at startup and that is it. There is no smoke at all while in operation and once in a while some steam seen when atmospheric and temperature conditions are right.

    The burn setup they use is a true primary/secondary air mix with primary air coming in right on the fuel pile and secondary air coming in on top of the fire for a very clean burn. I took the ash container out to check it this week because I thought it would need to be emptied after burning 1-1/4 tons of pellets. I was wrong. There was a total of maybe 3 quarts of ashes accumulated in the container. Virtually nothing is left after combustion.

    A person could not ask for a more convenient and easy way to use an alternative fuel. If it takes me more than 3-4 minutes per week to "operate/load" the boiler that would be a stretch. The Windhager makes a very compelling case for pellets rather than cord wood if you are looking for minimal time invested or don't have access to "free" wood.

    EDIT: Flue gas temperature is a good baseline indicator of efficiency for any appliance and I have to mention what I see with the BioWin. I would not have believed it without seeing and measuring it with my own eyes. At 100% firing rate and water temp of 170-180* range the flue temp will max out at 235-240*. That's maximum. At firing rates of 30-60% the flue gas will drop down to within 15-25* of the water temperature and just stay there. I have seen it run all day without getting the flue gas temp above 200-210*. Efficiency measured on the analyzer has shown a minimum of 83% and a maximum of 89%.
  5. foamit up

    foamit up Member

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    Marc, Do you have a show room in Billerica, ma. i get down that way often. Would like to come see.
    I'd be interested in Maine references as well. Is there a dealer in Maine? Foamit Up
  6. harttj

    harttj Member

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    How many years for the payback, 10+? Seems like staying with natural gas would be the way to go.

    Tim
  7. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Absolutely agree. I'm doing some testing on this unit so payback is not in the equation.
    If a person has natural gas under a buck a therm, you basically have the world by the tail when it comes to heating. I could not justify installing a basic wood stove and chimney for economic reasons.
  8. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    2012 2013 643 (1024x680).jpg
    Just got a notice from the utility company today that natural gas for the next year will be roughly 15% less than it was this year.
    I swear that a nationwide build out effort for natural gas pipelines would be the best economic stimulus program that could be done. It would leave more jingle in everyone's pocket at the end of the month and the construction of all the pipelines running to small towns everywhere would provide countless jobs for a very long time. The environmental benefits would undoubtedly be significant.
    Probably makes too much sense for our politicians though.

    One another note though, back to the OP's topic, here's a picture of the Windhager I am burning as we speak. I think you'll be able to make out the water temperature (right hand gauge @ 176*) and the digital display showing the flue gas temp (195*). The output (firing rate) at the time of the picture was 43% or about 32,000 btu. This is extremely low for a flue gas temp and would cause major issues in a cordwood fired boiler. After running this thing for the last 6-8 weeks I would have a very hard time convincing myself that cordwood was worth the extra time and effort involved in my case.
    velvetfoot likes this.
  9. harttj

    harttj Member

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    Do these direct vent or pull natural draft? The chimney issue was one big turn off for me for an inside unit plus I wanted to be able to burn corn which I did for the first 3 years.

    Tim
  10. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Chimney vented with Class A pipe (to eliminate any possibility of corrosion). Windhager wants to see a negative .02-.04 wc" draft on it. The primary reason is to be able to vent any CO if there should be a power outage or the like. This is of course something that is not talked about much by many manufacturers and/or installers but needless to say is a very important consideration. If the boiler shuts down for any reason, whatever reason, where are the combustion gases going to go if they can't vent outside naturally?

    As for burning corn is concerned........I think we can all forget about corn as fuel unless we have the land to grow our own and can afford to forgo selling it for $7.00 or so a bushel. If you are rich enough to be able to burn corn at that price why would would a person use alternative fuel in the first place?
  11. Willman

    Willman Minister of Fire

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    Looks like the legal department got first shot at the sticker placement.
    heaterman likes this.
  12. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Yah. lol I mentioned that to the company. All the warnings make it look like you're playing with a bomb or something like that. :) They have a tiny little Windhager decal waaaaay down on the bottom of the door.
  13. Karl_northwind

    Karl_northwind Member

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  14. Karl_northwind

    Karl_northwind Member

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    what's your heat distribution system look like? how fast is the modulation and or shutdown?
  15. pdf27

    pdf27 Member

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    It's also worth noting that US natural gas prices are significantly below world prices. Give it a few more years and the infrastructure to export it will arrive, pulling prices up to match those elsewhere. I currently pay equivalent to $1.90/therm for natural gas in the UK.
  16. mkhopper

    mkhopper Member

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    Thanks for the pic Heaterman, would like to see one of the other side. I'm talking with marc about installing one here in maine, we need to iron out the piping (installed in parralel with wood boiler) and I need to line my masonry chimney with stainless because of condensation.
  17. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    My existing heat is a gas boiler supplying heat to a constant circ distribution system. The radiant floor has a mixing station that varies water temp based on outdoor air temp and the rads are all controlled with TRV's. It's a perfect match for the Windhager because of the constant demand. It can simply modulate to match what's going on in the house.
    As far as modulation goes, it's almost instantaneous as far as I can tell. I watch the water temp pretty closely and it never changes more than a few degrees. The firing rate on the Windhager will ramp up and down all the time to maintain that set point.
    Start up is about a 3-4 minute process of loading, ignition, flame stabilization and then normal run. Shut down is about the same length of time.

    What do you mean by the other side? Other side of the Windhager or how it connects to my gas boiler?

    Basically, you can see a low water cut off to the left of the water temp gauge and an air vent on the back of the Windhager. Other than the circulator moving the water down to the manifold on the gas boiler, that's about all that is on the back of it.
    The supply from the pellet boiler ties in between the gas boiler and the circulating pump that serves my house. When my house system (the trv's) is calling for heat most of the flow will go that way. When there is little demand from the house the water circulates through the gas boiler and back to the return manifold where the pellet boiler return is connected.
    Basically the pellet boiler circ just moves the water down to the gas boiler manifold and the existing system decides what to do with it. Not complicated at all as far as tying it into the existing system.

    Just remember the immortal words of Gil Carlson who headed up B&G's tech department for years. "What goes into a tee, must come out of a tee".
  18. Karl_northwind

    Karl_northwind Member

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    He's a guy I would have liked to meet. old school wet-head.
  19. mkhopper

    mkhopper Member

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    Heaterman, I meant the rear with all its connections. So, it's connected in series with the gas boiler to keep it up to temp ?
  20. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    pellet connection 008.JPG
    pellet connection 005.JPG pellet connection 002.JPG

    Parallel basically.

    Visualize the supply coming out of my gas boiler...middle picture......it goes out the back and toward the wall, makes a 90 to the left and then goes about 2 feet before turning up toward the system pump. In between that 90 and the turn upward, I have a tee that the pellet boiler supply dumps into. The line coming from the pellet boiler is flowing about 6gpm. As my system demands more or less flow, the water from the pellet boiler "splits" at that tee with some going out to the radiators and some going into the gas boiler. Some times 2 gpm will be going to the system with the other 4 going to the gas boiler and sometimes it will be the other way around.
    The return functions the same way. I simply brought the pellet boiler return into the return pipe going back to the gas boiler. It will always "see" the same flow as the supply side with some going to the gas boiler and some going back up to the pellet boiler.

    The water temp in the gas boiler is always within a few degrees of the pellet boiler supply.........I'll see if I can get any pictures that would help explain.

    In the first picture you can see the orange 1" pex going into the return manifold of the gas boiler. This is the return that goes back to the pellet boiler.

    The middle picture shows the supply coming from the pellet boiler t'd into the supply coming from the gas boiler. The pipe directly below the supply is the gas boiler return.

    The last picture is the supply coming off the back of the pellet boiler heading to the gas boiler. Direction of flow is down from the pump.
  21. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Is your chimney inside the house or on the exterior?
  22. mkhopper

    mkhopper Member

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    My chimney is a twin flue inside chimney approx 30 feet, they are recommending a stainless liner due to condensation. Thanks for the pics. I'll be working on a drawing for the piping and controls to get it set up in parallel with my wood boiler, the oil boiler is coming out or at least shut down in place for now.
  23. harttj

    harttj Member

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    Never say never. Corn has been slowly declining and now $3.84 bu here cash. This is $138 per ton. I like having alternatives.

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