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Help deciding on Gassifier wood boiler

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Den69RS96, Nov 15, 2011.

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  1. Den69RS96

    Den69RS96 Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Central MA
    I recently joined the site, but I've been reading the forum for a while. With oil prices getting out of control I'm looking to heat with wood. My wife is strictly against adding a wood or pellet stove inside the house, so I need something outdoors. My home was built in 2005, its a 2025 sq ft colonial. We have hydro air (2 zones) and a very efficient oil furnance around 87% and and my wife likes to keep the heat low for some reason, so we use approximately 800-850 gallons of oil a year. With our second baby here, I expect the oil usage to go up to 850-900 gallons of oil year. When we built our house, oil was around $2.00 a gallon so it wasn't that big of deal. Well this year we locked in at $3.99 a gallon. I don't see it getting any cheaper, only more expensive so this is why I'm considering a OWB. At the current trend, I'll be paying $5 dollars a gallon in 3 years which is crazy.

    I live in a very wooded area so alot of the wood I could get would be free, however initially I would probably buy the wood until I get set up (wood shed and splitter). Right now whatever I cut up, I give away. I do plan to use my oil furnance to heat the water in the warmer months, so I would basically heat my house and water from Nov through April with the wood boiler. I figure 5-6 cords of seasoned wood per year would be a good estimate.

    In MA, the current owb are legal for sale:

    Central boiler E classic 1400,2300,2400,3200
    Garn 1500 (indoor boiler certified for outdoors)
    Portage and Main Optimizier 250
    Heatmore 2000 SSR II
    Emprye Pro 200 and 400
    Wood doctor HE8000

    I don't have room for the Garn in my basement and I don't want to build another shed for the boiler so I pretty much eliminated that one. I'm leaning towards the Eclassic 1400. The dealer told me that I may need to step up to the 2400 if I decide to heat my 24x24 garage which i plan to insulate in the near future. The Portage and main boiler and Emprye pro 200 are also both boilers I'm considering as well, but I have no idea how much they cost. I really don't know to much about the wood doctor or heatmore boilers. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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  2. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

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    You might be paying $5 a gallon much sooner than 3 years. Be real careful about going the OWB route. I was leaning toward a Central Boiler Classic before I found this site. The E-Classic seems to have many problems the manufacturer doesn't want to deal with and is leaving the dealers high and dry with warranty claims as noted by one of the pros here. Not saying it could not work but you are probably looking at 10 grand for this boiler, and they appear to do their R & D after the produce and sell the product from my observation. I worked for a company like that once. Once they moved on to the next thing, they left everybody high & dry unless they got sued. The dealers took the brunt of it with many customers going to more reliable brands. Read up on all you can before you make your choice.
  3. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    You have to build a shed? If so, have you considered build it big enough to store an indoor boiler? A "fireproof" addition that is well insulated may be more efficient than something standing out in the elements?

    My wife was against an indoor unit too....too messy, what about bugs, smoke in the house, etc etc. I finally convinced her to give it a try and if after the 1st year she was unhappy(which would make all of us unhappy!) then I would do something outdoors.
    2+ years later and she loves it. I keep the area very clean(sweep up after most loadings). It seems I hardly ever have to bring wood indoors as she seems to enjoy that task. Now that w are past the learning curve there is almost no smoke leakage in the basement and we benefit from the boilers heat loss up into the living area. We also were using 800-850 gallons of oil a year and now we burn around 3 1/2 to 4 cords per year.

    If you are fairly certain you'll be burning wood soon you might want to stop giving it away and let it season.
  4. Den69RS96

    Den69RS96 Member

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    I finished off half of my basement, so room in my basement is at a premium. The remaining half of the basement contains the furnance and oil tank. About 1/4 of the unfinished side is used for storage and the rest is my workshop. I'm not to keen on keeping a wood burning furnance within 25ft of my 275 gallon oil tank so I would definitely prefer the unit outside. I suppose I could build a little shed around an indoor unit after i check with my insurance co. Are indoor units that much cheaper than an outdoor gassifier?
  5. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    I'm not sure on the pricing, but if I had to go outdoors in bad weather I would like to have some shelter while loading up the boiler. At the very least to have an extended roof over you on those rainy days. If I were to build a shed I would try to have enough room for several days worth of wood in it. Don't forget a hook on the back of the door to hang your coat, it'll be warm in there!

    I understand your concern about the boiler and the oil tank, I have 2 oil tanks within 15' of my boiler. Was concerned at first but now that I see how safe the unit is I'm no longer bothered...but I should take 1 tank out as I'll hopefully never use it again!
  6. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    For me, the easier basement install coupled with being able to maintain the fire all winter in a robe & slippers (if I wanted to) trumped the very much added cost & work of an outdoor install. There are some catches though, of course, like needing two flues, and room for wood. Distance to oil tank is a non-issue (as long as there isn't an oil leak that hot coals can land on), I think mine is around 12ft from my current firebox. There is likely a code or insurance spacing requirement though. If it has to be outside, I would definitely get it and the wood in a shed or building of some kind. But then there is storage to consider too, which you may be able to better avoid or live without with a OWB - likely not a clear cut answer here, a lot is situation dependant.
  7. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    I think an indoor boiler(gasser) is what $4500 to $7000. Depends on brand. Or get a Froling' for what $13,000? High end stuff there.

    An E-Classic is pushing $12,000ish? Figure for every 100 gals of oil, you'll burn 1 cord of seasoned wood in the E-Classic.

    A gasser with well seasoned wood....A cord of wood equals 150 gals, sometimes 175 gals of oil. I was burning 1000 gals of oil a year round. replaced it with 6.5 cords of wood. Pushing 7.5 because we keep the house a lot warmer.

    The installation costs are lower( I think) with the OWB. basically just Tee into system.

    My boiler is next door in my garage, I mean wood storage facility. For me, works well out there. I have my storage in my basement. And i'm really spoiled, as my wood is stacked on pallets right off of the splitter. Got a tractor to FEL the wood into the building.
    bhanks55 likes this.
  8. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Others here, especially the pros, will correct me where I'm wrong, but I think hydro-air will require hotter water temps than radient. This may impact the usefulness of storage.

    Sounds like you are dead set on doing the fire outside. I will concur with everyone else that you will want whatever unit you go with to be out of the weather will a MINIMUM of a week's worth of wood.

    Since you don't sound like you have recent experience burning wood, I think you will want to minimize the possibilities for problems. The pregnant bride will NOT be happy if this doesn't go smoothly!! :grrr:

    My recomendation is to make a spreadsheet of all the possible boilers, classified by type, strength and weakness. Someone around here used to have a database of all the users on the forumn showing which unit they run.

    There are many more designs/adaptations available today then just say a couple of years ago. Sometimes, as you know, a new design needs to work the bugs out. But at the same time, all designs were new at some point.

    Become a sponge and read everything you can around here. It's prolly the closest you'll ever get to a pyrolitic engineering degree!
  9. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    Building a shelter around the boiler is ideal but not always in the immediate future especially with another young one on the way. Just basic raising of children calls for pay for the unexpected up front. Now for my point. In my experience with a gasifier stored in an unheated building you will find that the wood needs to be heated. Most OWB's will take whatever you throw into them Gassers have to have dried wood. Cold dried wood is a moisture condensator and will chill the gasser dramatically. Having the wood in a heated (by the gasser) shed will reduce thermal shock to the gasser. At -10*f a gasser will heat the air which is laden with moisture and that moisture will then condense on the -10 wood. There is little means for the moisture to leave the combustion chamber and the condensed moisture that does evaporate can again re-condense on the cold/cooler wood. Two hours of pampering a tempermental gasser situation at 2 a.m. and a frustrated wife with a tempermenatl baby is not a sitution that you want this unit to get you in to. Save your firewood and read the postings in this forum HARD. Of the units you have listed the Portage and Main and Empyer garner most of my attention with Portage leading the way. The reason I say that is the Portage seems to be over loaded with heat exchanger tubes but it is because of the extra tubes you can probably burn a little less than optimum wood (that is... cold and not moisture content) and get a speedy recovery. Portage has a 350 out now too but I have trouble with the 250 msrp and know I would choke on the 350. If you want to build a fire proof heated wood /boiler shed look into Roxul insulation.
  10. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    Hey. Welcome to Hearth.com, and the boiler room. You said you plan on insulating the 24x24 garage. Do you have any room in the garage to put the boiler in there? Is it attached to your house? The reason I ask is if you plan on insulating the garage, which means you will probably heat it, even if you only heat it to 40 or 50 degrees, the heat radiating of the boiler could heat it for you. Insurance company wise, you would probably have to have a seperate room walled off, in the back of the garage maybe, and built to code. You would have to look into that building code. But, you would not have to build a seperate building, your garage would be heated by your boiler's heat. My boiler is in my basement, but you said that is not good for you. I heat my garage, my house, and my domestic hot water (DHW) with my boiler. I like the fact that the heat coming off of my boiler is heating something that I want heated. But the garage install would all depend if you wanted to lose that space in the garage or not. Something else for you to consider. Have a good one.
  11. Den69RS96

    Den69RS96 Member

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    Loc:
    Central MA
    Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortnately the list of boilers in my original post are the only ones that are legal for sale in MA since 2008. As appealing as it is to have one downstairs, it just isn't an option. Same for the garage. My garage is attached to the house. I just finished restoring my 69 camaro and my wife parks on the otherside. Between all my tools, both cars, and my tractor my garage is pretty much full.

    I didn't consider keeping the wood warm with an owb only dry and seasoned for at least a year. Thanks for the tip.

    I've been reading and doing searches for a while now, however, I learn something new all the time. I really don't have a lot of wood burning experience and I realize there will be a learning curve so I'm preping myself now. Right now I'm still in the research phase. 10-12K is a lot of coin to put down on a secondary furnance when I have a pretty efficient oil burner, but its something I'm will to do within the coming years. We have a propane fireplace and we already pay over $5 for that. They say the price is determined by useage which i think is complete bs. I believe the oil companies around here and starting to hike prices because they can. I don't enjoy having someone just reach into my wallet and take out whatever they feel they want. I'm not one to shy away from something unknown. I look forward to heating with wood and saving alot of $$$ always puts a smile on my face.
  12. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    One thing I did notice about your list is that several of them seem to have a lot of BTU output for your application. With a pretty new house(2005) I bet your insulation is fairly good. Include your garage and you are at 2601 sq. ft. Do you think that some of them may be to big for your situation? I just took a quick look at them and started wondering about it. Several of them just seem like a lot of BTUs for your situation. I know those are max. output ratings. Just thinking out loud.

    Central boiler E classic 1400 (209,000btus), 2400 (250,000BTU), 3200 (306,000BTU)

    Garn 1500 (indoor boiler certified for outdoors) (250,000 BTU)

    Portage and Main Optimizier 250 up to 300,000BTUs (up to 5000sq.ft.)

    Heatmore 2000 SSR II didn't see BTU output rating (up to 5000 sq. ft.)

    Emprye Pro 200 and 400 230,000BTU and 330,000BTU (2000-4000 sq. ft.)

    Wood doctor HE8000 up to 250,000BTUs (up to 8000sq.ft., in warmer winter climates?)
  13. willworkforwood

    willworkforwood Feeling the Heat

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    It sounds like you might be thinking about next year, which would be fine because it's good not to rush this decision. By doing further research, and waiting until next year to purchase, you would give yourself the opportunity to accomplish 2 important things. First, assuming that everything works out, you can acquire a full year's supply of (reasonably) seasoned wood, if you start on it now. Second, and even more important, you will find out if you really want to move ahead with this. You mention buying a splitter, but you can get to work using whatever maul or axe you currently have. Or, maybe get a big pile of rounds and rent/borrow a splitter to see how that goes. The important thing is that you need to find out if you really can commit your time to this year after year. The folks who post on this forum are "all in" on wood burning. Getting a good supply of seasoned wood becomes a high-priority activity. And you will have to process "free" wood in order to save alot of $$$, as you said above. But it also needs to fit in with everything else we do, and not cause major sacrifices, especially family activities. If you start doing this, and notice that you start to resent the amount of time it's taking, or just simply can't find the time, then perhaps you might need to reconsider your plan. This actually happened to someone I work with. He had intended to add a wood furnace, and started to process firewood. But he quickly found the time commitment to be just to much - family time just didn't have any wiggle room, and he (correctly) abandoned the furnace idea. Hopefully this works out for you, but if not, you can find out without spending anything other than your time!
  14. Den69RS96

    Den69RS96 Member

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    Loc:
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    Guys thanks for the advice.

    I'm definitely not rushing into this thats for sure. All my neighbors heat with wood and I have a few friends and family members that do as well. I know a good amount of my time is going to be spent bucking/splitting/stacking, probably more time than I think. Some years I might have to buy most of my firewood as my kids are more involved in afterschool activities. Bottom line they come first. If that means buying some of the wood, then thats the route I'll go. I'm kind of leaving that open right now and thats something I'll figure out as I go. I most likely will also buy a few cords already split as well. Even if I buy 5-6 cords of wood a year, I'll still save almost $1500-$2000 grand in oil at current prices once the OWB is paid off. I'm sure in the future the savings will increase.

    Gasifier,

    I was just listing all of the available OWB legal for sale in MA. Most of those are way to much for my needs.

    I went to various sites and plugged in my oil useage etc and all of them said I should be fine with their smallest units.
  15. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    FWIW- My wood is stored in an unheated garage. No problems with burning. Biggest thing is it should be kept dry out of the elements. I season my wood outside at least a year(uncovered), Than stack the pallets in garage before snowfall.
  16. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    Storing wood outside and moving it inside to burn is alot different than having the gasifier outside and storing the wood outside too. The unit I have is an EKO40 and the wood was 3 years old split and stored inside for two. So I guess the type of boiler could easily make a difference.
    As far as splitters you might want to look at the newer rack and pinion gear models like Super Slpitter. Hydraulics have been the norm when muscle power was too tedious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V95e-sMQTL8&feature=pyv&ad=5975540770&kw=wood splitters looks like it will save some time.
  17. Northernliving

    Northernliving Member

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    The indoor dual fuel gassers that I've looked at from Tarm and Wood Gun at $13-$15k delivered.
  18. EffectaBoilerUser (USA)

    EffectaBoilerUser (USA) Member

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    I would really think twice about having the gasifier in a remote boiler room if at all possible.

    I have an effecta lambda 35 boiler and 1,000 gallons of storage in an insulated lean-to that I added to the rear of my garage. By having it in the same "room" as my garage I am able to keep my 24 x 40 insulated garage at 55-65F depending on the outside air temps (when its below zero outside my garage is at 55 and when its 20-30F outside my garage is at 65F). Keep in mind that this is done without any type of heating devices in my garage (my well insulatged garage is kept warm using the heat from the boiler/chimney during a 5 hour burn and the heat that leaks through the insulatged water storage tanks). In addition, I did not have to use any expensive underground, insulated tubing.

    I know of another person who has an effecta lambda 35 boiler with 1,000 gallons of storage in his basement and is heating a 5,000 sq. ft. house.

    Prior to my effecta lambda 35 boiler I had an EKO 40 and I would never recommend that anyone put one of these in your house. These boilers leak smoke around the upper door gasket (and a very sticky smoke at that). In addition, when the door is opened the smoke also escapes out of the primary chamber.

    With my effecta lambda 35 having a negative draft system (fan at the rear of the boiler) and a special smoke evacuation port directly above the upper, primary chamber door the smoke that escapes out the door is very, very little.

    Hope this helps you in your decission making process.

    Brian
  19. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    I would never recommend anyone put a boiler outside their house. To each his own I guess?

    It must be magic that allows my EKO 40 to operate smoke free in my basement. I never knew I had such a rare EKO!
  20. It's interesting that effecta boiler 'user' always manages to say something negative about other boilers in most of his posts. Makes you wonder if he is actually an effecta boiler 'salesman'?
  21. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    So I'm not the only one that noticed this trend? I was guessing he gets paid by the number of times he types "effecta lambda 35".
  22. EffectaBoilerUser (USA)

    EffectaBoilerUser (USA) Member

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    Yes, I 100% agree that the boiler should NOT be placed outside. By being outside you loose all the radiant heat coming off the boiler and chimney to ambient. In addition, you are required to bundle up before going out in sub zero weather to fill the boiler with wood.

    This is why I built a lean-to off the back of my garage and placed the boiler and storage in this room.

    Regarding the smoke issue, I operated my EKO for 3 years before selling it and purchasing my effecta lambda 35 boiler. Thus, I am speaking from experience when I mentioned the smoke issues I had with my EKO. On many occasions the smoke in my 28 x 40 garage got pretty bad and really stunk.

    When I first purchased my EKO from Cozy Heat and was having problems with it, someone recommended this website and thus after hours of blogging and posting I quickly learned that the smoking issue was common for the EKO. There were many posting s regarding the smoke issue and the updated silicon gasket on the EKO boilers. If you go to the "fine tuning your EKO" thread you will see many discussions about this common problem.

    A few years back they came up with a silicon dipped, fiberglass rope seal to help reduce this problem.

    I purchased one of these seals and it reduced the smoke issue. However, if the top, primary door of the EKO was opened during the middle of a burn the smoke would still roll out of the front of the boiler. After 3 years of operating my EKO boiler I will agree that it did keep my house, hot water and hot tub warm. However, it took a lot of my time and great attention to detail when making fires and when/when not to open the upper, primary chamber door.

    I now have almost 2,000 hours of operation on my effecta lambda 35 boiler (this boiler keeps track of, and displays, the total operating time of the boiler in addition to the amount of time since the last cleaning occurred-when I clean the boiler I answer "yes" when the control panel asks if the boiler was cleaned) and I have never touched the door gaskets on it and it does not smoke.

    In addition, it requires a maximum of 5 minutes/day of my time.


    Hope this helps clear up any confusion from my previous post.

    Brian
  23. Noggah

    Noggah New Member

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    Hey Den,

    Welcome. I have to greatly disagree with huskers about the e classic. That may have been accurate about previous models. I really don't know, but I am truly happy with my 2400. It is very clean. Very little maintenance and does the job very nicely. I get 12-14 hour burns when it stays in the teens and 24 hour burns when it is mid 20s or higher. I have not attempted to use the warranty, but have read others accounts where they had no problem. You will certainly want a structure of some sort to store your wood in that is close to or attached to the boiler. I have not noticed any problem with the wood being stored outside at ambient temp. This is my first year with my classic and just used a 10x20 framed tarp, which is working so far. I will be building a pole barn this year that will hold two years worth of wood. I just came in from cutting some timber that will be milled into the frame. I do have 13k in my boiler, but with free wood expect a 3-4 year payback. it is quite a commitment, but at least the fuel company does not have me by the short hairs. Keep reading and make an informed decision that will work for your situation.
  24. Como

    Como Minister of Fire

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    I think it was the 2300 that had the problems, but the one I know has had none.

    Remember long burn times = partial combustion with the loss of inefficiency and other issues that entails.
  25. Noggah

    Noggah New Member

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    The stove buttons itself up pretty tight when idle, between burns. I am using very dry hard wood and have not had any problems with creosote. I am only filling it half to two-thirds. If if does not need wood in the morning I don't put any in. I personally don't believe that my long burn times are showing a loss of efficiency. When the coals get small enough to fall into the secondary gasification chamber they are burned to ash, which is very thorough combustion. The only maintenance that is usually need is to check the air inputs (cleaned them out once this season, but scrape them daily with wood hoe for good measure) and remove ash once every two or three weeks. I think this stove is very well built. The controls are impressive and far beyond what I had expected. Set point, differntial and a timer that adds air to the firebox at your set interval and duration to keep the fire from going out if the stove idles too long. Digital read outs for the water temp, which you set and gasification air temp. I have seen this get as high as 1200 df. Just observations I have made while operating this season so far.

    Sorry, I'm a little passionate about my stove.
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