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Geothermal is out! Need advice on the boiler route

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by denvershepherd, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. woodsmaster

    woodsmaster Minister of Fire

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    With storage glycol adds a lot of money to the system and it don't transfer heat as well. Your better off to spend the money on a battery or generator backup IMO. I don't Know the formula to figure the temps you need to run in your floor but maybe someone else will chime in.
    There are a few ways to handle your DHW. You can add a side arm to your electric water heater. You can use a flat plate and flow switch for an on demand type set up, you can have a coil in your boiler or storage tank, or you can get an indirect water heater. the boiler water will always be the same water and never touch your DHW.

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  2. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    Neil,

    I have been reading this post with interest. How much experience do you have heating with wood? Cutting/Splitting/Stacking C/S/S wood? Take note. It is a lot of work and can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. I am often concerned for people who are just getting into heating with wood. There is a lot to it. One thing that has got to make you feel good is that you can get a nice boiler with thermal storage tank(s) and the whole system installed for under 20Gs. That is a far cry from that other option you were looking at. But make no mistake about it. Heating with wood is a lot of work if you are going to cut all your own wood. It is a ton of work. And I love it. Love heating with wood. You also have the option of buying your wood cut/split and delivered. Or cut some of your own and buy some c/s and delivered. Sometimes you can get a good deal if you hunt around. Sometimes you can get it for free if you scrounge. Like some guys on this site do. I do a little bit of everything. Looking around for good deals on wood. If I can buy it cheap, real cheap. I will. If I can't, I cut mine. I also have access to free wood. Besides the work of course. Keep asking questions. Lots of good folks in the boiler room. Check out the other forums as well. The wood shed can guide you through a lot of your wood processing, scrounging, c/s/s etc. Hope to see your progress on hearth.com. Welcome.
  3. 711mhw

    711mhw Feeling the Heat

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    Here's my .02 cents on the wood gun, completely un-scientific and only an impression of what I've read here. The WG is a very, very simple boiler. All of the electrical controls can be had at most any plumbing/heating supply house, or for sure at your local Graingers and I would bet that most boiler/hvac guys carry them on their truck! I would think that all of the electrical parts could be replaced locally for under $500-$800. Now it may not be as absolutly efficient as some of the others, but it is sure in the close running. I do have one and am not running with storage, but I do believe that cost me some slight efficiencie, but only slight. We operate our WG more like a wood stove, (just keep some wood in it, and stuff it for the overnite) I do fully understand what I am missing without storage and when a tank falls in my lap, by God I'll prolly have storage too! But I don't think the WG really cares. The down side (in my situation) is that the house will get hot in the "shoulder" seasons without storage, and that will "push" us to shutting down earlier than if we had storage. You've had 25 or so excelent responces, keep reading and doing your home work. I encourage you to check out every last boiler there is, but from what I've read about some of the "other" boilers, is that they can get very sophisticated with sensors, computers etc. that are not going to be down the street and on a shelf. Some thing to consider in the middle of Jan. I also might be completely wrong about the availability of parts in a day or 2, I'm thinking that I may have kicked a hornets nest here and hopefully some one with actual experience with these said parts will chime in. Welcome here, your in the right place!
  4. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    This "load the boiler" statement is one that I'm struggling to understand. I know it means load wood into the boiler to burn, but how often this has to happen is something that I'm not getting a consistent read on. This may be due to the fact that there IS no consistent answer ;) With good "storage" (which I plan to have from reading how important it seems) how often will wood have to be loaded? Hard question to answer I know considering all the variables that go into it, but assuming for example it averages 10 degrees a day for a 30 day period. Would you be loading the wood every 6 hours? I'm gone to work for around 10 hours a day including travel time so would I be coming home to a cold house without some sort of fail over system like a propane backup? I plan to have a propane backup regardless for the weekends we are away but in terms of day to day loading I was just curious.

    Neil
  5. 711mhw

    711mhw Feeling the Heat

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    Another thing, I can give the WG the weekly cleaning in 10min. in between burn cycles, things are hot and you need to use care, but I don't need to let it cool down for the complete cleaning. I'm not sure about the other makes, how about you other guys? I guess with storage, you'd have a cold boiler often, nevermind!
  6. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    You read my mind Mike. My next question was going to be be can I start splitting wood before I know what unit I'm going to buy? It would appear that I should wait till I know the unit size of the firebox. I'm glad you told me that. I'm trying to read the how to's on preparing wood on this site. I had no idea how important it was to get the wood prepared for the system to work correctly.

    These battery packs you mentioned are something I didn't think existed and sound like a definite must have. Do you know how long they last? Power outage is rare here but if it were to say go out for a 24 hour period do you think they would last that long?

    Neil
  7. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I think most any good gassifying system with properly sized storage should be able to go with two loads per day on the coldest days. At the other end of the spectrum, when it is not heating season (ie. summer), you could build & burn one fire maybe every 5-7 days (or so, depending on system) that would do all your domestic hot water for that time - saying so long to fossil fuel & electricly heated water in the process.

    EDIT: Also, if the system is configured properly for it, it could operate very well for heating during a power outage with gravity/thermosiphoning flow.
  8. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    Hi Gasifier,

    To answer your question on the experience .....Zero. :(

    I do have some neighbors that heat with wood and I know from listening to them that it IS a lot of work. How much work I guess one really doesn't know till they start doing it. When you mention the word "dangerous" can you point out some specific things that might bite me, other than the chainsaw, that I might not be thinking about? The wood shed is a great resource by the way... thanks



    Neil
  9. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    A tree falling on you wouldn't feel too good.

    But I think even if you bought all your firewood already cut & split, you'd still be ahead of the game (depending on local market that is, and assuming nto too extreme).
  10. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    Good points on parts availability. It's something I'm trying to research on the different units.

    Your statement "The down side (in my situation) is that the house will get hot in the "shoulder" seasons without storage, and that will "push" us to shutting down earlier than if we had storage." has me confused. I'm assuming "shoulder" means all seasons besides winter? Why would the house get hot if the thermostat is not calling for heat? Or do you mean if you are using the unit to heat your DHW they will still radiate heat just from the fact they have a fire burning inside them?

    Neil
  11. R Mannino

    R Mannino Member

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    Ok, Natural gas isn't available, how about propane? A high efficiency gas boiler like a mod/con can do very well even if the propane is a little pricey. It would cost a fraction of geothermal system. I'm not saying don't do anything with wood, but use it to augment your central heating.
  12. 711mhw

    711mhw Feeling the Heat

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    "shoulder seasons" early and late heating season when the demands are not that of deep winter, or warm days with cold nights. The WG ( or any boiler) will maintain it's temps even when no zones are calling for heat and the unit itself puts out a lot heat and often enough to fool (satisfy) the thermostats and the radiant stays off. With an well insulated storage tank of 500-1000 gal of pre heated water inside, I would be able to fire every other day or so and presuming that I could insulate the tank much better than the WG is insulated, the heat or all those btu's would remain unused as storage instead of escaping when I don't need them. I don't heat dhw with it in the summer, it would drive me out of the house! And to me, using the WG for summer dhw would be like using a sledge hammer to drive a tack for just the 2 of us. Hope this helps.
  13. Paver56

    Paver56 Member

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    Welcome to Hearth. I do not have the knowledge of most of the memebers here but I can share my personal experience. We built our house 3 years ago. We heat about 4000sf-all radiant. I love the radiant heat. It is very comfortable. We put in a HC propane boiler. We then put in a New Yorker wood/coal boiler which I was not happy with. This past year, after finding Hearth, I decided to install a gassifier. I also have an unlimited supply of wood so that is what made me choose wood over coal. I looked at several different boilers including effecta and varmabaronen but in the end I decided to go with a Froling. I also install 1500 gallons of unpressurized storage with 4 heat exchangers. 3 are for the boiler and heating system and the 4th is for DHW.
    It has been about 2 months since I got it up and running. I have been amazed as the efficiency and ease of operation. It has been mild here in PA. When it was in the 20's and 30's, I was burning the Froling every 24-36 hrs. Last week, using on DHW I went a full week between burns. We have 3 kids and my wife has a hair salon in our home.
    We still have the propane boiler for a backup but I have not burned it since the Froling went on line. The Froling along with some of the other boilers mentioned use a Lambda sensor. I personally would recommend spending the money for this feature. It only takes about 5 minutes to load the boiler, light it, and then let it get up and burning and then I walk away and go about my day. Having a boiler that I do not have to tend to throughout the burn is priceless.
    Good luck with your decision!
  14. hobbyheater

    hobbyheater Minister of Fire

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    [quote="

    Your statement "The down side (in my situation) is that the house will get hot in the "shoulder" seasons without storage, and that will "push" us to shutting down earlier than if we had storage." has me confused. I'm assuming "shoulder" means all seasons besides winter? Why would the house get hot if the thermostat is not calling for heat? Or do you mean if you are using the unit to heat your DHW they will still radiate heat just from the fact they have a fire burning inside them?

    Neil[/quote]

    We have a well insulated 1,000 gallon storage tank , and in the summer months can go as many as 14 days between firings, the room that the boiler and storage are located is below grade and towards day 14 that room can get down 45 - 50 degrees . Our boiler is old and uninsulated and can put temperatures in the boiler room up to 110 when firing , the newer boilers that I have seen are well insulated and put very little heat into the room.

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  15. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    I haven't done my research on the propane side of things yet but I plan to have a propane system in place that will automatically take over (hope this is possible) if the storage water is not hot enough and I've not loaded wood into the boiler... ie. if I've gone away for a few days.
  16. dogwood

    dogwood Minister of Fire

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    Neil, you mentioned the size of that utility room would not be able to fit both a Garn and storage. The Garn unit is so big because it is its own storage and boiler in one. Simplifies the plumbing if nothing else. The Garn takes big hunks of wood too. I have a Tarm Solo Innova, as the Garn was too pricey and at the time I was unable to obtain a Froling. Using your auto analogy, the Froling is like a Mercedes (It's made in Austria, close to Gernany) and the Garn might be a HumVee (an expensive, all purpose vehicle). The Rolls Royce might be one of the Veissman models, still only available in Europe. Frolings (like Effectas, Vigas and others maybe) have Lambda devices which regulate oxygen intake automatically. It is to be easy to use for that and various other reasons. Call Chris Hoskins (1.800.782.9927) up at Tarm Biomass. He could explain the Frolings features much better than I. Many people on this site do drool over them. Their upside and downside both are their computerized sophistication. Use the search function on this site to get some info on them and the Garns, as well as all the other brands (Just thought of another brand, Varmebaronen). All have their up sides, be it cost, design, ease of use and installation, quality of build and manufacture, induced draft, ease of maintenance, longevity, warranty.

    You also need to check for UL listings if required by your local Building Department. I know my Tarm Solo Innova, Frolings, Wood Guns, and Econoburns have that listing, which I had to have to do my installation, both to satisfy the Building Dept. and my insurance company. If needed it does narrow your choices some.

    Mike
  17. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    Thanks Paver. I'll do some research on the Froling. What is the purpose of this Lambda sensor you mentioned? I noticed you mentioned "unpressurized" on your storage unit. What is the purpose of having a pressurized vs unpressurized storage tank?

    Neil
  18. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    Love your analogies comparing the different boilers. I'm putting together spread sheet to compare the pros and cons of the different products to help me with my decision. It's starting to get overwhelming. lol. I never even thought about the insurance side of things. Is it possible that certain wood boilers can cause my insurance company not to insure my home?
  19. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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    The Froling looks like a beautiful unit Paver. Can I ask what model you purchased and what the age of your home is? Anything you don't like about it? I don't know if it's appropriate to ask what you paid for the Froling, but what did you pay for your unit? ;) How does that cleaning unit they have built in work for you?

    Neil
  20. Paver56

    Paver56 Member

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    The lambda sensor basically monitors your exhaust gas and automatically controls your air intake. Without it you have to manually adjust the primary and secondary air dampers. If that does not make sense, I am sure someone on here can explain it better that I can.
    A lambda controlled boiler is constantly adjusting the dampers to maintain maximum efficiency.
    My 1500 gallon UP tank is basically an 8' round by about 60" high tank of water. My heat exchangers are copper coils. The water in the tank is simply used as a battery. The water in my tank never enters the system. My boiler heats the tank thru the heat exchangers. When my house is calling for heat, it uses the same heat exchangers to draw heat from the tank. My DHW is heated by running water from my well, thru the HE, and out my faucets.
    I was going to go with 1000 gal of pressurized storage using used propane tanks but was forced to go with unpressurized because of my situation. Our home is considered a commercial building here in PA so I was told I couldn't use the propane tanks.
    I am very happy so far. Some things to consider are the cost-these tanks are very expensive, unless you make your own. Also, you cannot heat the tanks as hot as you can with a propane tank.
  21. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Mercedes, HumVee and Rolls ... hmmm. The difficulty with metaphors is that I would not want to own any of these, but I would (almost) drool over some of the boilers you mentioned. I would, however, trade any of those ego machines for an ego boiler and start saving $$$ rather than spending it. :cool:
    woodsmaster likes this.
  22. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    I would recommend you start your search with the people listed below. They can give you some straight advice about what will work, and what won't work for your house and system along with accurate information on wood fired equipment and heat storage. I'm sure they can handle a heat loss for your house (which is absolutely the first place to start) as well as looking at the whole picture rather than just what kind of boiler to install.
    They may be of some additional help on geothermal but I think you are going to be looking at BIG $$$$ because of the need for vertical boring in your area.

    Jim Heil @
    Energy Delivery Systems,LLC
    1508 Courtyard Heights
    Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906
    719-375-0328 office
    719-330-0400 cell
    energydeliverysystems@gmail.com
  23. denvershepherd

    denvershepherd Member

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  24. huffdawg

    huffdawg Minister of Fire

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    Those ego machines don't pack much wood either
  25. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Jim Heil and Bruce Randall are the principals at that business and what you are contemplating is their stock and trade. They don't shortcut anything and would get you set up with a system that is right for you and right for your house.
    They have not done any work for me (I'm in the same biz myself) but I'm sure they can provide references in the Colorado area. I know both of them through business relationship.

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