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EKO vs TARM vs ECONOBURN (Alternative Fuel Systems Boiler)

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by goathill, Dec 2, 2008.

  1. goathill

    goathill New Member

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    Does anyone have any feedback positive or negative on the gassification boilers produced by Alternative Fuel Systems? How do they compare with Tarm or EKO? I see many of the readers have systems by EKO, is it the preferred system out there currently? I am definitely making a purchase on a system and am leaning towards the Alternative Fuel Systems product, but want to put my feelers out there for any constructive input before I purchase. I will be purchasing a 200,000 btu unit, having a shop attached to my house and want to install a heat exchanger in my house's current hot air system as well as install two hydronic heating units in my shop and a heat exchanger for my domestic hot water. Thanks to all.

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    If you're talking about "Alternative Fuel Boilers," then it's the EconoBurn (bottom banner). Plenty of people here have them and seem happy with their performance.

    There's also a company called "Alternative Heating Systems," which makes a boiler called the Wood Gun.

    If it's neither of these, please post a link so we can see what you're talking about.

    And welcome to the Boiler Room!
  3. goathill

    goathill New Member

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    Thank you for the WARM welcome! Yes, I am referring to the Econoburn, you guessed correctly. I have not come across anyone who has had direct experience with one as of yet, their product looks rugged and well built, but I don't know how their control system compares with others. I currently have unlimited access to free fuel (yes, I know how fortunate I am...) and need to jump on the wagon with a good proven system. My house is currently heated with propane and at the recent ridiculous prices would probably go through $4,000-$5,000 worth of propane this winter. Who can do that?!?! Thanks for your response and I would appreciate any further input.
  4. WoodNotOil

    WoodNotOil Minister of Fire

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    Northern, Vermont
    Just stick "econoburn" in the forum search and you will come across plenty of users you can contact directly and a great deal of information. I haven't heard a bad thing about any of the three brands you mentioned. I may have gone with Econoburn (because it's domestic) if they had been around when I purchased mine. I do love my Tarm though!
  5. goathill

    goathill New Member

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    Loc:
    Central New Jersey
    Thank you both very much for your input. It makes me feel more comfortable with my first inclination. I'm sure that I will be looking for some installation advice, as all of the components and the boiler will be here within a couple of weeks.
  6. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

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    Goathill,

    I installed a 200,000 BTU Econoburn in my home just a few weeks ago, and I am absolutely satisfied with it's performance. The controls are very simple to operate, and seem relatively durable. Set the digital aquastat control to the low temperature setting, and the mechanical aquastat to the high limit, and your done... the forced draft blower will modulate between high fire, low fire, and off depending on the "information" being sent to the controls regarding water temperature.

    At this point, I am not using any thermal storage with this boiler, and it is drastically oversized for my application without it. Even though, I have never had a problem with overheating. Hopefully before winter is over, I will have 1000 gallons of pressurized thermal storage up and running.

    If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

    cheers
  7. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    I have an Econoburn 150 and although "the rest of life" has delayed my actual completion of install beyond what I'd originally hoped, I am really impressed with the design and build quality, and also with the _exceptional_ technical support I've gotten on any and all questions I have posed by phone or e-mail. Their VP has spent time on the phone with me to answer some tech questions when their tech staff was off at a conference - talk about customer support!

    Their control system is designed and built around "off the shelf" industrial control parts, so none of it is single-source, which is something I like for a product that I hope will have a many-decades life span (seen too many cases where a major appliance's microprocessor controls go zorch at about the 5 year mark and the only repair option is something that has become scarce or exhorbitantly priced).

    that, and you get to support the endangered species of on-shore manufacturing.

    what's not to like :) ? (even though I see nothing particularly wrong with the other makes you mention)
  8. kgryder

    kgryder Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    NC
    I have just built my 2nd fire in my Econoburn so I'm far from an expert but I have been very impressed with quality of the boiler.
    My biggest concern was the extended delivery. I placed my order at the end of July and was told 4-5 weeks for delivery. It took about 9 weeks before I got the unit and I know the got tired of hearing from me asking for a ship date.
    The system has preformed flawlessly so far and I expect many years of service. Building the fire and getting the gasification going was far easier then I expected after reading some of the post hear.
    I think they could but a little more into the manual. It is adequate for startup and operation but is not what you would expect with a quality built system. There are correction that have been made with Whiteout and a ink pen!
  9. wantstoburnwood

    wantstoburnwood Member

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    I agree kgryder . I have an econoburn 150 and the most exaspirating thing was counting the weeks from when I was promised my boiler to the day I might get it . Amy at the head office got to know my voice when I called and asked for Hank. It only gets better with each fire. It took a good 6-8 fires to get the refactory dried out and up to heat. I am just enjoying the kinda free heat with wood. I am getting used to the house at 22 c . A big difference from 17-18 with oil. I think econoburn is a good boiler with great expertise in the build and quality.
  10. VtRv

    VtRv New Member

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    Morrisville, Vt
    This spring I was going through the same decision making process as you are now and looking at the same three you asked about. After much research here on the forum, calling sales people and speaking with friends and acquaintances that have wood boilers I chose the Tarm Solo Plus 30. I've had it up and running for a couple of weeks now and so far I'm happy with my decision. The reason I went with Tarm was for the longevity of the company in the US and the rave reviews about their customer service and the anticipated availability of any parts if needed down the road. When I started thinking about a wood boiler a couple of years ago HS Tarm was one of the only names I knew of and being in Real Estate I see old Tarms that have been around for quite some time that people are still using and happy with.

    My only complaint is that I did all the research, my brother and I both purchased the same exact boiler from the same place at the same time, I picked them both up and delivered them, and his had a gallon of maple syrup in it when he opened his and mine didn't! Go figure......
  11. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    The Econoburn manual definitely still has room for improvement. The sense that I get (reading between the lines of my interactions with the company) is that they prefer to keep it general enough that anyone who can't figure things out will go find someone who is qualified to do the install.

    Again, their support when I have called them with questions while planning my install has just been terrific

    I'd ordered my EBW-150 in late June and got it in August; I get the sense that just like all the other companies in this field, even though they were expecting a boost in business, the $4+ heating oil this summer suddenly sent demand way beyond anything anyone could've foreseen or instantaneously responded to (you hear the same things about the waits on the Garns)

    now I just need to complete my install! as seems the case with most big projects, other facets of life sometimes make it harder to find as much time or as quickly as I'd hoped, and then tasks take longer than hoped, & etc.
  12. goathill

    goathill New Member

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    Loc:
    Central New Jersey
    Thank you one and all for your continued input. I plan to get the 200k btu unit and install it in an attached 35' x 75' steel building alongside my house. With the 2250 s.f. attached shop, I have an additional 3200 s.f. of three story house to heat. I will probably get the unit running with a heat exchanger in my current forced air propane central air system, and have purchased a brazed-plate heat exchanger to get my DHW. I also purchased on EBAY two (2) Reznor hydronic forced air heaters to heat my shop. Would anyone be able to point me to an appropriate system schematic utilizing all of the components I just described? I also will need to invest into some storage for my DHW, since I currently have a propane fired on demand unit which does not have any storage. This is the beginning of a real wild ride, I can feel it!

    Some related questions: 1.- Are expansion tanks required in the circuit? 2.-Has anyone successfully installed a "Side Arm", or "Brazed Plate" heat exchanger to supply DHW into an insulated tank such as an 80 gal elect hot water heater tank and are you satisfied with the output?
  13. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

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    expansion tank is required. An extrol 60 should do you.

    I tend to gravitate towards sidearm units over the brazed plates. They are not as efficient as the plates exchangers, but at least you can easily plumb them with a provision for cleaning them out. If you have hard water at all, that is something to think about. Depending on how much water you use, you might not get all your hot water needs met with just one gravity fed sidearm. I like to cycle the water from the dhw tank through the sidearm with a circulator controlled by an aquastat. That usually does the trick for most people.

    It's a good idea, if not a necessity, to put a mixing valve on the "out" side of your dhw tank.

    cheers
  14. goathill

    goathill New Member

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    Piker, thanks for the response. O.K. going to show my beginners status....the purpose of the mixing valve is? Could you recommend an appropriate one?
  15. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

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    goathill,

    We generally bring the water in your DHW tank up to about the same temp as the water in the boiler system. To prevent getting your skin melted off when you turn on the tap, you will use a thermostatic mixing valve which mixes some cold water with the hot going out of the tank and keeps it at a relatively constant temp. So if your boiler is 180, then your DHW tank will be 180, but the water that goes to your tap will be mixed to 120 or so. Doing DHW this way increases the usable amount of hot water in any given hot water tank.

    As far as recommendations on brand etc are concerned, stick with a reputable company name, and you should be safe.

    cheers
  16. Chainsaw

    Chainsaw New Member

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    Loc:
    Central CT
    I just joined today after reading for weeks not about various gassers. I have the same set of questions, Econoburn, vs EKO, vs Wood Gun.

    I like the Econoburn - built in the US, but found a thread with a bunch of unhappy Econoburn users, and that is a group I dont want to be in. The EKO is probably next choice, I like the lower price, and I am Polish as well, I just need to verify homeowners insurance coverage on the unit. The Wood Gun looks like a battleship. Do they still have the problem with the fan motor bearings burning up since they are on the exhaust side?

    Here are my detials on the install - Dad died in September and still cleaning out the house. Will gut it down to the studs, expand kitchen, master bedroom over garage, and the addition to the back of the garage (where the boiler will go). All new insulation, windows, doors, etc, should be fairly efficient. Existing gas boiler and gas DHW heater in basement, but wood boiler will go at ground level in garage addition and tie in. Not much roon in the basment for storage due to the chimney off center and the existing boiler stuffed into a 6x6 corner. The garage wraps around the back of the house, where the boiler will be, so it is not in the same space as vehicles and gasoline. Will add a SS chimney up the side of the garage upstairs addition for the wood boiler. Distribution today is hydronic, but that will all come out as it is 50 yars old (along with all the wiring, etc). Dual air handlers (one for each level) for AC will be installed, so to keep costs down I thought to use heat exchangers. Dual zones because I dont want a duct chase, I am pulling closets out already. The house is about 2200sqft today and adding another 700 to heat and cool.

    So Econoburn EBW-150 or EKO 40 or Wood Gun E140??? We have burned 4-5 cords a year in our Quadrafire insert for 7 or 8 years now, so we have "experience" in burning wood, as well as cutting, splitting, stacking, etc.

    I realize this is a pretty open ended/opinionated question, and I have read tons of stuff (good and bad) on all 3 models already.....
  17. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

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    618
    Most of the negative threads on any of the boilers you mentioned are probably either rare cases, installation errors, or operator error (ie trying to burn wood that is much to high in moisture content, etc.) If you follow the threads to the end, most of them have been resolved.

    Remember, anytime anyone has a problem, it generally gets highlighted in the forums. People are more apt to bring up discussion of problems and how to solve them rather than to just talk about how much they love their boiler... though the latter does occur quite a bit here at Hearth. You will find a wealth of knowledge here, and plenty of passionate folks who are more than happy to offer up their assistance.

    Also remember that a gasser is only as good as it's installation. A boiler that produces the required amount of heat, but without an adequate and efficient method to move that heat where it's needed, is basically useless.

    One last thing... there is a little bit of an art to burning wood... and that's not different when using a gasifier. Like anything, gassers require the user to become familiar with certain aspects of the wood burning process in order to reap the maximum benefit.

    It looks like you have a good plan of attack for installing your heating and cooling system. An EBW-150 "sounds" like it would be the right choice for you, given the size of your structure, but you will know better once you get a heat loss calculation done.

    cheers
  18. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    I am happy as the proverbial clam with my Econoburn 150.

    I did a lot of homework before I bought- and spoke to one of the individuals in question who was a loudly unhappy customer with his Econoburn. It did not take long to figure out that he'd disregarded just about every 'good practice' as to how to install a gasification wood boiler, and was expecting impossible results from even a good installation- let alone a botched one.

    The only devices that I've seen that are as or more robustly over-designed and over-built than my Econoburn are things that were made for the miltary.

    And, as regards efficiency, I've heated in part with wood, with various combustion devices, for much of the last 20 years. I've never before gotten so much heat from so little wood as with my Econoburn- and that's with wood that I got out of the woods later than I should've. I've burned essentially zero oil to heat the house since I turned the valves and threw the breaker to "go live" with my Econoburn on 1-15-09, and have been more comfortable (in a big old farmhouse in a cold part of VT) than ever before.

    Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with the EKOs or whatever-- although in my estimation, the Econoburn is the one most likely to readily clear the finish line on the newly-enhanced tax credit that goes with the "stimulus package" [OK, and for those who think that tax credits are often bogus, I won't argue with you- but if it's out there, it's self-defeating to ignore]
  19. Needshave

    Needshave Member

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    Loc:
    Western Massachusetts
    I just joined this Forum. Found this group while looking up wood boilers for a house we plan to build in 2011. Before reading this thread I was looking into the Tarm. This thread was good reading. The first time I was linked to Alternative Fuel Boilers.
    I'll be lurking around with plenty of questions.
  20. wantstoburnwood

    wantstoburnwood Member

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    Keep them coming Jeff lots of great info and knowledge onthis forum
  21. NNYorker

    NNYorker Member

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    This is the place for info!! You can't go wrong with any of the three --Econoburn, EKO, or Tarm. I really paid for it and got " burned" by "saving " some money on a cheaply built and poorly designed unit. I thought I had did my homework but I ended up getting taken by a con artist extraordinaire who is still at this moment ripping people off. I'm happy with my current Econoburn and see it being around for a long time.

    It's ideal you are building a new home as you can integrate instead of retrofit. Read and look at as many installs as you can. NOW is the time to get your wood and get it drying. Good luck and welcome aboard!!
  22. Needshave

    Needshave Member

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    The lot we bought is wooded 1.4 acres. We plan on leaving some trees standing. I figure clearing it is going to give us about 2 years supply of firewood. I calculate anywhere from 6 to 12 cord a year for heat and DHW year round. It's a wide range but seems like something you don't know until a full year goes by. The house is going to be two levels about 2,000 square feet. We're planning to burn the wood in an out building. I'd like to be out of the weather when tending it. I currently own two pieces of property. The size of the outbuilding that we can afford will depend on me selling both properties before construction. I like the idea of thermal storage and letting the fire burn hot instead of turning on and off as the house calls for heat. I don't want a smoke machine that the kids are going to breath in as the boiler idles. It would be nice to have coals left after 12 hours. So we have some decisions to make. What make and size of boiler? What style outbuilding does it go in? How much thermal storage? What type of backup heat? What type of radiators? The list goes on.
  23. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

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    Hi Jeff-

    I believe in MA code requires an ASME certification for solid fuel boilers in a closed pressurized system. Econoburn and Wood Gun can both be had with ASME for extra $. I don't think any other gassification boilers can.

    Probably a good subject for a meeting with your building inspector once you know where and how you will install the boiler.
    We are currently on our third inspector in the last year and I received vary different stories from the previous two on this subject.

    Are you building the house yourself?

    Good luck,
    Noah

    Edit: A room by room heat loss calculation is the best place to start. You could do this yourself with pen and paper or software or hire it out IF you have plans for the house.
  24. Needshave

    Needshave Member

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    We plan on hiring a general contractor to build the house. This is going to have to happen fast when started because we're going to be renting between houses. I'm working 55-60 hours a week and have little time left over after that. Getting more information on local codes would be a smart thing to do. The next town over is a dealer who sells Greenwood and Tarm products. I would assume both systems can be built to local codes.

    Regards,



  25. RobC

    RobC Minister of Fire

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    Great to see new members.
    There is all sorts of wonderful info on this forum that you can search for too. Storage pressurized & non pressurized, Mixing valves, Loading valves ( for boiler protection ) Primary and Secondary piping, and on and on. Just about anything you can think of you can pull up info on.
    If you haven't found them yet there is some good basic info at the top of the Boiler Room page in the yellow tabs referred to as "stickies".
    One thing that has been mentioned is availability of Boilers. Whatever boiler you choose get you order in early. I found this to be true 2 years ago. With the unfortunate situation in the Gulf we could be looking at oil price spikes again = big demand on Boilers.
    While you waiting for boiler to arrive you can start planning your system.
    Needshave, You have a bit of good fortune finding this site before you build. There are many members that have practical experience with most aspects of building and well as a couple of members, professional heating, that are doing some wonderful wood w/ back up installs. For example one focus with new construction would be to minimize power consumption in you heating system.
    Jeff where do you call home ?
    Welcome all, Rob

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