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Garn Boiler Feedback Please

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by woodlady, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    Hi,

    I am seriously contemplating getting a Garn Boiler, does anyone have feedback about them?

    Thanks!!

    Woodlady

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  2. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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    I've seen several in Alaska and they worked really well. They burned clean and seemed to do exactly what they advertised. What impressed me the most was the lack of smoke when operating compared to the other OWB's I've seen.

    I believe I have some pictures I took of them in Alaska I'll see if I can dig them up.
  3. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    Hi Tmonter,
    Thanks much, would love to see the photos, those garns are quite the "big boys". Do you remember how large the homes are that were heated by them? My house is large, sprawly and not well insulated....
  4. Burn-1

    Burn-1 Feeling the Heat

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    Woodlady,

    There is a nice ~10 minute or so video featuring a Garn installation in northern Minnesota on Youtube.

    Garn Wood heating system

    They look nice but the need to be around for two hours while firing it doesn't really excite me.
  5. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    oh, I was not aware that one needs to "hang out" and moniter for 2 hours of the 4 hour burn, hmmm, haven't seen the video, need to check that out. Thhe 2 hour babysit will not work for me at all times, .... next??
  6. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    I don't believe you have to "hang out" with the garn for two hours. In fact I would say of the clean burning wood boilers they are one of the easier to operate as they do not have as many levers, i.e no bypass lever no primary secondary air controls. Get the fire started and it burns all out until the wood supply is exhausted, in the video they re-stoked the fire after two hours. The video was filmed in Minnesota and the garn was heating a 5,000 square foot house. In other words it had a large demand on it, in a smaller house or warmer climate it may not have been necessary to add more wood to the fire. That being said my biggest problem with them is their size. You would need to a 10' by 6' space inside a shed or some other protected space, this doesn't include space for working around the unit. I also wonder about the efficiency of the the tank, even though it is well insulated it will radiate out heat. That heat is going to be wasted if the garn is located in an area that is not desired to be heated. Personally I feel a smaller boiler located outside the house with heat storage located inside the house is a better solution, the wood mess stays outside the house, the heat goes inside the house. The flexibility of moving a small wood boiler around is also appealing to me as I never know when I may move, remodel, whatever. The smallest unit weighs 3,550#'s empty and 15,400#' full! My only other concern would be they are made of relatively thin 3/16" carbon steel. Most wood boilers tarm, eko etc are made of 1/4", the best AHS use 1/4" 304 stainless. I think the garn unit would be ok because it only runs hot and doesn't cycle, apparently cycling is what will kill a carbon steel boiler. I have never heard of anyone complaining about early failures or short life spans but I also do not know anyone who owns one.
  7. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I think the biggest danger to carbon steel boilers is low temp return water corrosion. Garn says that because their tank is so big, it can be welded from the inside, which apparently results in a better weld. I don't know if that's true, but that's what I've heard.

    I really think, woodlady, that you should do a little more research with an eye towards upgrading your insulation. Insulation is a lot cheaper than boiler plate.

    If I were you, I'd hire a heating professional to do what's called a heat loss calculation on your house, combined with an analysis of where you could add insulation to make it more efficient. Then you'll know how big your boiler needs to be. I seriously doubt that you will wind up needing anything more than an EKO 60 or a Tarm Solo 60, but nobody knows that until you do that heat loss calc. The size of your existing gas or oil boiler (I think you mentioned in your PM that it's a 285K btu Buderus) is probably irrelevant. Most boiler installations tend to be way oversized for a variety of reasons. And I also doubt that you will be faced with loading whatever you decide to buy every 4 or 5 hours. I think 8-12 is probably a more realistic estimate.

    My approach has always been to compensate for a lack of insulation in the houses I've owned by heating with wood, which I get for cheap or free. However, I always insulate what I can, because over the long run, it's a lot cheaper and easier than burning a lot of wood. But old houses can be hard to insulate completely, so wood is the way to go, IMO.
  8. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    I would second Erics opinion about insulation. It will cut down on the amount of work you will have to do cutting wood or the amount of money you spend on oil/gas. Also the comfort level in the house will be greatly improved with even temperatures in the house. I grew up in an uninsulated house that was originally intended to be a summer only house, no matter how much heat you threw into that house there were cold spots and when the wind blew the drafts were terrible.
  9. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    I think the biggest danger to carbon steel boilers is low temp return water corrosion. Garn says that because their tank is so big, it can be welded from the inside, which apparently results in a better weld. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what I’ve heard.

    When I spoke to tarm they talked about the cold water returns causing problems, which is why they require the termovar valve which keeps the return water temps up. Eko has a similar valve with a different name. When I spoke to AHS they said any carbon steel boiler that cycles will fail it is just a matter of time. When the boiler is in the off cycle acidic gases condense on the boiler walls and eat away at them, this is why they switched to stainless. I was told they inspected one of their boilers that was in use for 15 years and it still had slag from the welds and showed absolutely no wear. I also heard from a tarm owner whose fire box failed after only 6 years use, he did not use heat storage and the boiler cylced a lot.
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    A mixing valve is the most common way to protect the boiler, but I went with simpler approach, which involves pumping water from the top of the boiler to the return so that it mixes with the return water and keeps the temps above 120, which is where you start to have the condensation problems you described so well, clarkharms. Cycling also tends to produce more creosote in the firebox, which my manual says will hurt the boiler if you don't clean it off periodically.

    Saying that it's just a matter of time before a boiler fails is a pretty meaningless statement. It's something AHS should know all about--since that design failed on a regular basis when it was made of carbon steel. The stainless firebox is nice and the thing is built like a tank, but for around $11,000 for a 120K btu boiler and no guarantees on the suspect design, I'd rather spend $6,000 on a proven design like the Tarm and set it up like they suggest. Then you get a 20-year warranty.

    With a Garn you've got 1,500 gallons of onboard hot water storage. After you get it up to temp, I doubt that the water at the return tapping ever gets down to 120, so it may not be an issue. Also, it pays to remember that the Garn is non-pressurized, so you're talking water treatment chemicals and a big heat exchanger if you have a regular pressurized system in your house.
  11. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    Does anyone know the ball park figure for a garn unit? I have heard they are in the $15k range, including delivery and set up, if so that would be a major factor to consider.
  12. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    The one I saw retails for $12,000, I believe. Not sure if that includes shipping, but that's gotta cost some bucks, too. Definitely no set-up at that price. Plus, then you have to basically build a building around it. I'm not knocking it--just making a comparison to some of the more familiar alternatives.
  13. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    I would also wonder about the potential for the boiler water freezing if the owner went away. Granted it would take a while to freeze 1200 or so gallons of water in the boiler but probably not so long to freeze the lines running to the house, even if buried below the frost level the lines would need to go from the unit to below the ground and would likely freeze there first. I plan on using anti freeze in my wood boiler so I can travel and not worry about such things. I believe an eko 40 holds 25 gallons of water another 10 for the line set and heat exchanger= 35 gallons at 50% mix is about 18 gallons of anti freeze 6 bucks a gallon = $108 for piece of mind. 600 or so gallons of anti freeze for a garn unit = too much. I travel a lot and for months at a time so this would be a concern for me. I also am not trying to put down a good unit just trying to expose some of the designs weekness's.
  14. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I ran glycol in my old system and it worked well, except that I had to use a heat exchanger to get the heat into my gas boiler and zones, so that complicated things and cut into the response time. It takes a few times through the heat exchanger to match a direct connection, heat transfer-wise. But the peace of mind is worth a lot. My current setup is a direct connection to the gas boiler, so it's all water. I have a strategy for keeping the wood boiler and lines from freezing when I'm not around to fire it. Basically, that involves constant circulation and allowing a small amount of hot water from the gas-fired boiler to flow into the wood side of the equation. That and lots of good insulation.

    The EKO is pretty well insulated. I'd guess it would take a couple of days for it to cool off enough for ice to become a problem. But like you say, it's the lines that you need to worry about. I also thought about running a piece of heat tape inside the pipe enclosure, along with the insulation. I don't think it will be necessary, but it's worth considering.

    Finally, if you go with glycol, make sure you fill your system with water for the first couple of weeks so that you can pressure test it, make sure everything vents properly and locate any leaks in the piping. They can take a couple of heating cycles to appear. You don't want to be draining the glycol mix and trying to get it back in. Trust me on that.
  15. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    Thanks everyone, Yes, I am going to do as much insulating of my home as I can. The Garn unit does have to be in an insulated space and it sits on a piece of blueboard insulation on top of the cement pad. I have been speaking with the owner of the company, he is very informative. The price quote I got was around $9000, shipping is an additional $850. What's appealing to me is that it has a horizontal direct vent chimney which will save me big$$ not having to install 30 feet of double insulated pipe in my home.... The price I got for the Tarm with the 800+ gallon storage tank was $14,000 (wow!) I had been quoted thousands less three years ago. If we had bought shares/futures in copper we'd be sitting pretty right now....
    I did speak with a rep at EKO, he offered me an allinone outdoor unit for $14,000 that they had been using for demo. Apparently it is good to go, doesn't need a shed, had water storage, I believe only 120 gallons, sounds as though it is close to the size of the Garn. So for me, the Garn is the best bet financially. I too, am concerned with a freezeup although due to work and child I'm not going anywhere in the winter. If we have a power outage, we do have a generator. Garn's delivery at this point is 8 weeks so I think I will wait until the spring for this "big boy". I tried to look up a unit called "Black Bear" which is new and was tested by a laboratory along with Garn and had very low emmission numbers - but, their website will not come up, hmm...
    You guys are all very handy with your alternatives for heat storage and the likes, I am not in your league and need to get a system that is a package/manufacturer deal...
  16. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That sounds like a good price. As you point out, the chimney is another plus with the Garn. You might want to get an estimate from a heating specialist for what it will cost to connect the Garn to your house hydronics. I'm guessing around $3,000 parts and labor, but maybe more when you factor in the heat exchanger. I'd be interesting in hearing what the actual quote is.
  17. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    I would be getting the "smallest" unit - 350,000 Btus (yikes) I have a good friend who is a plumber who will do the job for me. We will be dumping the water from the Garn into my Buderus, running about 30' underground to get there. I have to apply for a variance to even be able to put the Garn next to my house, which is going to be a whole process. I live in Woodstock,NY and my neighbors are real control freaks...
  18. carbon neutral

    carbon neutral Feeling the Heat

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    That is a good price. I don't know why tarms and ekos have gotten so expensive I first started looking at tarms in 2003 and they must have gone up at least 20% since then. One other question about the garn. Did they give you guidelines for wood moisture content and size?
  19. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I think it's the exchange rate and the price of steel. The EKO 60 has gone up about $1,000 over the past 8 months. Bet it's the same story with the Tarm. The Garn is built in the U.S., so they see some benefit.
  20. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    the moisture content of the wood must be low, I believe 15-20% One has to have a years' supply of wood ready a year in advance. I believe the log length is 30" but I'm not sure of that(could be longer) maximum diameter of wood in order for it to burn properly is 8".
    The price of steel and copper has gone sky high since Katrina and the boom in China.... The steel used in the Garn is domestic. Some of the steel in China is mixed with radioactive steel from old munitions factories. There was actually a recall from Lazy Boy chairs, the springs in them were from the tainted steel from China and customers were getting ill.
  21. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Do you have a reference for this recall? I can't find anything about it. If it's true, it would be amazing. In order for people to get enough of a radiation dose to get sick, the springs would have to be 'hot' enough to almost glow in the dark.

    Part of the reason I ask is that we tend to get freaked out about radiation, and perhaps make some poor choices as a result. There's a lot we don't understand.

    This reference to contaminated steel sounds like a parallel to another story. They had a big scandal in Taiwan years ago when they built apartment buildings from contaminated steel. People lived in them for 20 years before anyone discovered that radiation levels inside the buildings were WAY above what was considered safe. A long-term study of people who lived there showed a dramatic reduction in birth defects and cancer rates compared to the general population.

    Maybe I should buy one of those La-Z-Boy chairs....
  22. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    I read about the steel issue years ago, I believe in the Nation or Mother Jones plus I saw something in our health food store many years back. You can do a search on google if you check for "radioactive steel from China" or such. It is happening and it is out there, and here. I remember my husband making a joke about using a geiger counter to check cookware before buying.... unfortunately the world is in a sad state - money, power and profits seem to be the motivating forces with many governments and corporations.
  23. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    I recall something I read a few years back about the US decommissioning one of our old nuclear facilities. The story went on to say that they were going to sell the old reactor parts for scrap and blend them in with regular steel scrap so as not to waste the hundreds of tons of steel. I don't know of how it eventually got distributed but I am pretty sure its all over the place as well though in vastly watered down quantity. I have never seen any raidoactive steel coming into the US from Canada but one load that set off our alarms a couple weeks ago. You would be amazed at how much radiation is in loads of stone and especailly grinding wheels and abrasive materials. That stuff is loaded with it . Good reason to check your basement for radon gas intrusion. I like the way the Chinese article states that there is no more and in fact less cancer risk posed to the residents of those buildings. The Chinese can eat lead paint too and it won't bother them one bit....................Keep dreamin.
  24. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Getting pretty far afield from Garn boiler feedback, but I just can't let go.

    If you don't have an open mind, stop here and don't waste any more of your time. Otherwise, ask yourself what it would take to make you question what you think you know. If you can accept that what you know might be wrong, let me suggest that there are lots of things we don't understand yet.

    Our understanding of the world takes a step forward whenever someone discovers something that everyone knows 'just ain't so". Every major breakthrough fits this pattern. We all know that radiation and toxic chemicals are bad for us at any dosage....right?

    Here's an interesting article that discusses the issue and research in a very readable way. The study I referenced a couple of posts back was Taiwan, not China, and the results are as far as I can tell, unquestionable. It's somewhat heavy reading, but fascinating.

    Here's a link to a list of studies from all around the world that raise the same questions., with complete footnotes and references. I've read many of them.

    As you would expect, there are still lots of people who still know that it 'just ain't so'. Read the studies - read the counter-arguments - make up your own mind.
  25. woodlady

    woodlady New Member

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    Well, I started it.... read the article about homesis, no surprise to me, along the lines of what I think is out there, we are just scratching the surface when it comes to science, nature and the world we live in. The biggest obstacle is closed minds... Plus the drug industry that ignores or trys to shut down what it con't control/make money off of... I believe that radiation at too high a level can be a mutagen, lower, well, what about the sun?

    For me, I am clinging to the last rays of evening sun and our newfound warmer falls and dreading the winter when all doors Must be closed and I'm wearing layers to keep warm. I can't even get my Garn this year, need the wood now for next year, by the way, wood is getting Hard to find here - is life Ever easy?? With a name Hearth and Home, well golly, that's really the crux of our existence so to be discussing homesis is par for the course!!

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