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FEED IT WOOD AND WALK AWAY

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by LOKO, Apr 1, 2009.

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  1. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    New kid on the block - The "Boiler Room" is a great place to hear peoples experiences, learn a few tricks about how to optimize one's particular Wood Fired Boiler (WFB), and read opinions on Pro's and Con's of heating with wood. The magnitude of information can be overwhelming however - and can make one a little "LOKO" when trying to decide which System/Manufacturer might be best for their particular application. We will (hopefully) have a gasification wood fired boiler up and operating for our 1895 farm house and parts of the barn for use in winter 2009/10 - and it will probably be one of the following: GARN; WOOD GUN; ECONOBURN; EKO; or SOLO-PLUS. It may/may not have water storage, but that is not the real question for me. We currently have a base board hot water system and domestic hot water which is heated with a three year old 145 kBTU oil fired boiler - oil useage approx 2,000 gallon per year (2007 and 2008). We also have a Woodstock Soapstone stove and burn 3-4 cords of wood per year. We have 12-14 acres of a mix of 80% hardwood - 20% Pine. Upstairs windows (sleeping rooms) have old single pane 12 over 12 wavy windows - so those rooms are "cool" - but some fresh air is not all that bad - but that is another and separate issue to deal with as well. The masonry chimney (double flue) is currently being used by the oil fired boiler and the Woodstock free standing wood stove. I was sort of "set on" an EKO, but after reading all of the comments in a Boiler Room: thread entitled "Fine Tuning EKO" - I am not sure that this is the best choice for our application - it was a little "scarey' thinking that one has to be constantly adjusting fan speed, primary settings, secondary tube alignment, secondary screws, fan inlet, blue/orange flame, etc etc - I began tom wonder if the EKO is the right boiler for us - or are these sorts of "fine tuning" applicable to all gasification wood fired boilers??? I ask this question because I am frequently "on the road" - some times for extended periods and it will be the "Ladies of the house' who will have the duty of "keeping the home fires burning" during my absence. And so although I could (maybe) sort out most of these fine tuning issues when I am around - what I am really interested in is which of the above systems can best be categorized as "Open the door - put in the wood - close the door - set a timer - repeat as necessary. We intend to retain the oil fired boiler as a backup, but would like to use the wood fired boiler "year round" as primary source of heat and warm domestic water. Protected indoor space is not an issue for any of the above stystems (including the GARN). I probably need something on order of 200KBTU for a system with water storage - or perhaps something smaller without the water storage. The downside of system without water storage seems to be year round use for Spring/Fall and domestic water (my understanding). If one believes what they read - this (external water storage) may noy not be the case for GARN or WOOD GUN ???

    Biggest and probably deciding factor will be however - which system best satisfies the "Open the door - put in the wood - close the door - set a timer - repeat as necessary" criteria.

    Thanks in advance for your helpful thoughts

    Best regards - "Confused LOKO"

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  2. muleman51

    muleman51 Member

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    IMO, I would go with a Garn. It contains the storage, its outside the house, and pretty much feed and walk away. I say this because my system is a pain in the --- and al least I do't worry about splitting wood or bridging issues. My brother in law has a Garn and likes it, seems to be fairly trouble free. And you will definitely have as much money in another system as you will in a Garn before you are done. Hind sight is wonderful, I sure wish I had put in the Garn.
  3. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    muleman51 from confused LOKO - thank you - will keep forum posted on our decision - yes "Hind sight" is a greta teacher
  4. WoodNotOil

    WoodNotOil Minister of Fire

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    I agree with the Garn as a good option for you. However, do not shy away from the other brands of gasifiers. We are obsessed with tweaking these things for optimum efficiency and that is what the threads you see are. These can be setup and all you do is keeping filling them. When storage is involved, the fire is often allowed to go out while storage takes over and then a new fire has to be lit. The down draft ones can smoke a little when reloading, and the ones that have the fan on the exhaust don't smoke. These vary a lot from company to company, so look carefully.

    The Garn has self contained storage and has the fan on the exhaust. The least expensive (and most time consuming) options are to get a gasifier and build your own storage doing all the plumbing and system design yourself. Most of us here that chose that option did it to save money. If you have to go commercial for everything, then the Garn is a great option.

    All I do with my Tarm with homemade storage is build a couple fires a day and the rest takes care of itself at this point. So once fully setup correctly, these are more effortless than the posts sometimes make them seem. I hope that helps some.
  5. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    1 Apr WoodNotOil - I like your forum name and that is my goal - thankls for your encouraging note - will keep you posted : confused LOKO
  6. WoodNotOil

    WoodNotOil Minister of Fire

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    I have not burned a drop of oil since installing my storage last summer and plan to keep it that way! :)
  7. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

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    Just remember that if you use a system with storage, you will need to make sure you have enough radiation in the house to be able to use lower water temps. The lower the better. Alot of folks get all excited about storage, but it doesn't really do you much good if you don't have radiation to match. Radiant floor is probably the best type of heat transfer for storage systems.

    cheers
  8. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    i spend less than 10 minutes a day tending mine, now that I'm used to it. I slit the kindlin', put paper on top of it, light, leave the door cracked a little(per manual),go get my wood, put it in front of boiler, put wood in, shut door. Fill firebox about 3/4 full this week. Hopefully less next week.
  9. sweetheat

    sweetheat Member

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    need not be confused loko, as little as 5 minutes of your time each day even in the coldest months, I spend more time bring in the wood than tending the boiler. Clean it, feed it, light it, and walk away. storage, radiant heat, well insulated building, now I can go 3 days between fires. sweetheat :)
  10. timberr

    timberr Member

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    Loko.

    I am a happy Eko owner, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed reading all the info here in the Boiler Room. Once I set my Primary, Secondaries and Fan opening I tweaked them once and haven't touched them in Two months. I do fool with the fan speed but that is less then 30 sec. This is a nice feature to have, slowing the fan down once you have a good fire helps prolong the burn time. I run my boiler two times a day. Burning wood is more work the Fossil Fuel but I sur eis more satisfying!

    I bought my Eko from a great guy in Greenfield, NH he offers great support or will install.

    Good Luck on your decision.
  11. DaveBP

    DaveBP Minister of Fire

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    Realize that if this was a "rock pile forum" we same guys would be rearranging and tweaking our piles every few days just to report on the new center of gravity and shape of the shadows. Just because some guys ( and yes, it is almost entirely men ) have to keep fiddling with their boiler rigs doesn't mean a properly installed system can't just be loaded and fired and walked away from.

    One of the greatest values of this forum is that it is helping to define what "properly" installed systems are. More than one way to do it right. And lots of ways to do it better. When you get to where it's good enough for you, just develop a personal routine and live with it.

    And enjoy watching the rest of us fiddling with our rockpiles.

    Again.
  12. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    2 April - Good morning to all the forum members (muleman1, WoodNotOil, Piker, timberr, sweetheart, flyingcow, and DaveBP) who were kind enough to take the time to labor through my initial post - and then take the time to provide infomative posts on my pending installation.

    For Piker and timberr - your comments regarding the Forum thread "Fine Tuning EKO" were reassuring, and I'll keep it on my list of boilers.

    NEW ISSUE
    Regarding the he post from Piker :
    "Just remember that if you use a system with storage, you will need to make sure you have enough radiation in the house to be able to use lower water temps. The lower the better. Alot of folks get all excited about storage, but it doesn’t really do you much good if you don’t have radiation to match. Radiant floor is probably the best type of heat transfer for storage systems.

    cheers"

    This comment from Piker raises another question for "confused LOKO" regarding pros and cons of storage - particularly for our application where we already have baseboard hot water installed. What I am hearing is that:

    1. In general if one wants to be able to use the wood fired boiler throughout the year for domestic hot water and for heating the house Winter, Spring, and Fall - then storage is almost a "must" for most or (all??) boilers.

    2. If I choose a system with water storage - then I necessarily need to have enough radiation in the house to be able to use lower water temperatures.

    So please help "confused LOKO" under following assumption/conditions:

    1. We do want to become almost free of using oil - unless of course we are away for some days in dead of winter
    2. We will retain the baseboard heating - could that be perhaps added to or somehow modified to utilize the lower temperatures indicated by Piker

    QUESTIONS:
    1. Why is there a "lower" temperature when using storage?? and is this true for all boiler/storage systems??
    2. In my case - perhaps it is better to go without storage - but this could defeat our desire to use the boiler for domestic hot water throughout the year and heating during the so called "shoulder seasons - Spring and Fall.
    3. Should/could "open" (non pressurized) water storage tank be an option or consideration to deal with the low temperature/sufficient radiation issue??

    Bottom line for the moment: If (1) I believe what I read in manufacturers web sites - and (2) water storage is not the best choice for me due to low temperature/sufficient radiation consideration, and (3) considering my "FEED IT WOOD AND WALK AWAY" Philosophy - maybe a WOOD GUN wiithout water storage is a not bad choice????

    Grateful for any comments and feedback re questions - Many thanks - some things are more clear then before, some new questions have been brought to light - and I remain "confusedLOKO"
  13. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Good morning LOKO. I am going through the same process you are right now and experiencing similar periods of question and enlightenment thanks to the kind folks here. This is my current thinking given what I have learned here:

    Regardless of brand, all of the wood boilers are most efficient when running wide open. This is fine if you have a place to immediately use the heat, not so great when your house gets to temperature and the boiler starts to idle. The storage systems allow the boiler to run wide open longer, then keep your house at temperature longer without a fire going.

    The limitations are the practical top end storage temperature and the minimum temperature your distribution system requires. The useful capacity is then the difference between the two times the # of gallons. As I am starting with a completely gutted house, I am installing bigger storage and radiant floors to maximize this useful capacity. I have no idea what your house looks like or what other factors affect your plan. However, it may not be that hard for you to install tubing underneath the first floor without tearing your house apart. This would make storage much more effective and your boiler more efficient.

    The cost of storage is non-trivial especially if building it yourself is not practical. Given my bigger project, I don't have the time it would take to devote to it. However, you can greatly reduce the cost of the commercially available systems by not oversizing your boiler as a big part of the storage cost is the heat exchangers.

    Depending on your site's southern exposure, you may also want to consider solar DHW for the non-heating season. I found that a year round solar DHW did not make sense for me because of the additional cost of dealing with freeze protection and the relatively limited solar radiation in the winter. However, a much smaller simpler solar system will satisfy our needs during the summer, then use the boiler the rest of the year when I am burning anyway.

    Good luck with your project...Eric
  14. VtRv

    VtRv New Member

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    Confused - This is my first winter with my Tarm and 500 gal. of storage. I must say I couldn't be happier. I have baseboard in my house with NO radiant floor heat. This time of year when it gets down in the 30's at night and 40's to 50's during the day I'm building one fire at night before I got to bed. This seems to be plenty to get me through the night and the following day.

    During the rest of the winter I would build a fire when I got home from work about 6:00 PM and and fill it again before bed which would get my tank up to the 180- 190 degree mark. Again that was plenty to get me through the following day. Only during the coldest of days -0 would I either add wood in the morning or start the fire a little earlier in the day to get my tank up to temp.

    I was concerned about starting fires all the time prior to using my boiler. Now that it's in service I'm finding it isn't an issue for me, it only takes a couple of minutes to get the fire going and walk away. Of course for the first month or so I was so fascinated with the system that I was practically camping out in the basement watching the temp of the boiler and storage and playing with it. Not because I needed to but because I just wanted to.

    My brother has the same unit I do without storage and he is happy with it but says he wishes the wood box was bigger so that he could get a longer burn time. I think he's going to look into storage.

    I'm interested to see how the summer goes using the boiler and storage for DHW. I plan to give it a try until I get sick of it.

    Good luck with your selection. I was in your place last year. The one thing I'm finding here on the forum and from other friends that have both inside and OWB's is that most everyone is happy with what they end up with as long as it is plumbed correctly.
  15. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Ditto on all the comments about compulsive tinkering. I just spent a chunk of time analyzing different mathematical algorithms for closed loop control of variable duty cycle heating zones (Adaptive outdoor reset control performs about the same as adaptive PI control, but is more sensitive to errors in assumptions about the thermal mass of the heated structure). This is NOT a typical group of wood heat users.

    I'm running with 880 gallons of storage and baseboards, not radiant. I'm planning to add a radiant zone, but it's not necessary by any means. It just extends the effective capacity of storage.

    I also ran for a year without storage. It was less convenient, but it worked fine.

    There's an important distinction between pressurized and unpressurized storage. If you have an indoor boiler, it's designed to run as part of a pressurized heating system. If you can get used proane tanks or other suitable pressure vessels, you can pumb in your stirage as part of that pressurized system. That eliminates the cost and performance limitations of having a heat exchanger between your storage and the rest of your system. HIGHLY recommended in my never-so-humble opinion.
  16. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    So, only 1 exchanger for the boiler and then I assume 1 in the water heater tank? If you never intend to use the boiler and solar DHW simultaneously, can you get away with just using the exchanger in the water heater tank and shut off valves to isolate them?
  17. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    With pressurized storage, you don't need any heat exchanger for the boiler (unless it's an unpressurized boiler).

    There are a lot of different approaches to domestic hot water. If you use pressurized storage, it's difficult to do any kind of preheat exchanger for cold water going into the DHW tank. Best approach is to get a DHW tank with an internal HX coil. There are a few brands - SuperStor is one. With this, you can heat the DHW from the boiler or from storage. That's what I have in my system.

    Someone also makes a DHW tank intended for use with solar systems that has two HX coils in it.

    You can also use a regular electric tank with external heat exchangers - sidearms work great, and you could probably use a sidearm to charge it from a solar panel. Sidearms don't transfer much heat per minute, so they aren't good for rapid recovery. You can also use a flat plate HX with a small potable water circulator to get heat into and electric DHW tank more quickly. The benefit of electric tanks is that they're cheap and have a backup heat source built in.
  18. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    I assume your solar collectors are connected to your storage tank not the superstor? I like the superstor approach as it effectively increases the storage of the overall system and my demand for hot water is at the opposite end of the house from my solar collectors.
  19. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    Hi Eric - believe I have my arms around the rationale for using storage - and I see your point re necessity for a larger boiler (more $$) and the added cost for water storage system and associated plumbing if one chooses a system with storage. What is not clear is why a system with storage may not be appropriate for an already installed baseboard hot water system (please see earlier post from "PIKER".

    Re installing radiant floor on first floor of our farm house - it is feasible (I suspect) - but not something I would like to take on right now - but I will think about that as an alternative.

    Thank you - LOKO
  20. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    It gets back to the limitations of storage. From what I have read here, maximum storage temperatures seem to be generally in the 190 degree range, with some achieving a little higher and others not being able to maintain quite that high. So, if your current baseboards require 180 degrees to function properly, the small difference between the maximum temperature of your tank and the temperature required means there is not a lot of useful heat in the tank and the boiler will have to be fired anyway. Whereas, if your first floor had tubes that worked at 120 degrees, there would be 7 times as much usable heat in your tank.

    Again, I don't know what temperature your baseboards require nor what storage temperatures you could eventually achieve, but this is the general idea.
  21. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    Hi "PIKER" - thank you for your post - it did however add another element to my already "confused LOKO" state on choosing a system that is best suited for our application. I recognize that you are an Econoburn user, but wondered if your comment re water storage ("it doesn't really do you much good if you don't have radiation to match"), also applies to a GARN.??

    Re matching the storage to the radiation - short of putting in radiant floor (not likely to happen) - how else could I increase my current baseboard radiation to match a boiler system with water storage - add more baseboard?? or ???.. More baseboard is not practical in most rooms - any other thoughts?

    Do you or any other readrers have an opinion of using the WOOD GUN without water storage and could it be used for year round DHW and Winter/Spring/Fall heating. This could be an attractive alternative and in addition potentially eliminates need for a long flue and rooftop chimney.

    I really do not want to do this more then once (in this lifetime) and appreciate everyone's helpful posts.
    Be well - confused LOKO
  22. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    I have an 1800sq/ft/2 story house with baseboard. Since the building of the house I installed staple up radiant flr to my kitchen area. This was done a few years ago, while still burning oil, mainly because of the cold floor feeling. But my main heat source is baseboard. I started using wood boiler in mid jan, temps run -15 to as much as -38 below. My system kept up well, even while I still was learning the curve of making this perform on the least amount of wood. You should have no problem with trying to run this with baseboard. BUT....do a heat study or whatever it's called. You need to know what your system is doing now. My baseboard was set up on about 160 degree temps. Some may set up on 145 or even as much as 175, big difference. I suspect this is what Piker is talking about. I got lucky and things worked well, I didn't do my homework. I have a basic idea of what would work, and it did. It can be a very expensive guess, if you don't do your homework.

    Big note, of not already stated, find dry wood now!!!! Today!! I don't care what type of system your doing. You have to gather wood, do it now. Split and pile so as to dry as quickly as possible. This is as imprtant as anything you're doing for figures.
  23. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    flyingcow - have about 12 cords of recently felled hardwood cut and split - hope that it will be OK for use in the fall?? I have heard that a "TEEPEE" pile will dry more quickly than the traditional method of stacking??
    Thank you - LOKO
  24. LOKO

    LOKO New Member

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    SolarandWood - presently out of country - will check next week on current baseboard system to determine operating temperature requirement. Will continue to keep installation of radiant floor as an alternative, but right now not my first choice.
    Thank you - LOKO
  25. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Correct, although I'd heat my DHW tank directly if it were high enough for thermosiphoning to work AND it had a second coil. The problem with heating storage is that the solar panels produce 170 degree water that gets diluted to 120 or 130 in the big storage tank - barely hot enough to be useful. It does provide 100% of my DHW for most of the summer, but performance would be better if I heated the DHW tank directly, then dumped any leftover heat into storage.

    On my system, the incoming 55 degree well water is preheated via another coil in the storage tank before going into the DHW tank. This has the effect of prolonging the life of a tank of DHW, but it also creates the problem that I sometimes have hundreds of gallons of warm water but no hot water.

    For LOKO: I use stored heat in my baseboards all the way down to 120 degrees. They don't put out a lot of heat at that temp, but it does make a difference. I'm eventually adding a radiant zone to the main floor to get better performance.
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