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How would you advise this guy........

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by heaterman, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    I spoke with gentleman a couple days ago who is replacing a failed outdoor corn burner and wants to continue the use of wood/bio-mass of some kind for heating his 6,400 sq ft load. He is looking at a Garn and a pellet boiler along with slight consideration of a high efficiency LP boiler.

    His first preference is the Garn but he asked me what I thought given his age (60ish). He is very active and in excellent health .
    He does not have his own wood supply and although he could augment his yearly consumption with a few face cords off his property, most of the fuel would have to be purchased. So basically he is looking at either buying wood or buying pellets.

    Fuel costs per million btu's would be roughly $31.50 for LP, $13.70 for pellets and cut split cordwood is about $8.65 based on local prices for these fuels. (LP @ 96%, pellets <85% and wood 85%)

    My concern, and his, is that given his age, handling cordwood may get to be a problem in 10 years or so. On the other hand, he does not like the added complexity of the pellet boiler and being tied to a fuel he can't produce himself.

    If you were in his shoes, what would you be thinking?

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  2. JP11

    JP11 Minister of Fire

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    The only near "fixed" cost fuel would be wood from his lot. Worst case, he hires a logger in to get him ahead a bunch, then goes at his own pace.

    Any neighbor kids around? A high school kid could be hired to feed the garn with his supervision.

    Just a couple thoughts. All other forms of heat are world market dependent. His wood, on HIS land isn't going anywhere.

    JP
  3. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Well he's got his shoes and I've got mine.

    But finding myself in a very similar situation I took the price of Garn in a Garn Barn and went ahead and bought a solid inexpensive gasification boiler, a Keystoker rice coal boiler, and three tractor-trailer loads of bagged coal on pallets, enough to last fifteen or twenty years, and stacked it inside out of the sunlight.

    Don't know if I'll ever burn any of the coal, but it's cheap insurance against rising fuel prices and/or loss of ability to process cord-wood.

    --ewd
  4. dogwood

    dogwood Minister of Fire

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    Heaterman, ask him what he wants to deal with. I just hit sixty this month and will be splitting some cherry wood this weekend. I plan on staying active, and dealing with wood should be a good way to to do just that, well into retirement. He could always buy split wood if all else fails, instead of tandem loads of logs to cut up himself.

    Seems like the Garn takes some fairly large pieces of wood so the amount of splitting would be less than for other boilers. Part of my overall plan is to start aging backwards from here on in, so maybe he needs to be more realistic in planning what he might be able to do. Maybe there are some seventy year olds on the site who might give you a better handle on what advice to give. I'd be curious to hear what he decides to do.

    Mike
  5. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    My thoughts: go modular as much as you can.

    Do separate storage & gassifying boiler (i.e. not a Garn - although I don't know their full capabilities). Pick a gasser that a pellet head is available for. Keep expansion/add on options as open as possible - who knows what the near future will bring in changing tech & energy prices. That way if storage is in place and every thing else is set up, you could add on almost anything or swap appliances as future needs dictate. I'm thinking if he goes Garn, he is pretty well confined to wood burning for as long as he keeps it?
  6. 711mhw

    711mhw Feeling the Heat

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    I would be wondering if I wanted to keep 6400sf heated at 65 or 70 years old and beyond. (that is unless it's a workshop!)
  7. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    It's his workshop and I gotta tell you I would probably kill for one like it. He's into restoring antique machinery and engines of all types and runs a specialty saw blade business out of it also. Full compliment of machine tools, mechanic's tools etc. It's awesome.
  8. leaddog

    leaddog Minister of Fire

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    I'd say go with the garn. I'ts easy to feed and he could hire a kid to stack some wood if his health took a turn for the worse. With him heating the shed I'd think he would be out there alot any way. I'm hitting the big 70 myself and as long as I can get around I'll be using cord wood.
    Pellets are more compact but you still have to pour them in, stack them in a dry place, and the price is still dependant on fossil fuel.
    leaddog
  9. goosegunner

    goosegunner Minister of Fire

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    I like the idea of a gasifier with a pellet head. With my work schedule I have thought many times it would be nice for my wife if I could switch to pellets on the days I am away from home.

    You could also stock up on pellets just in case wood supply ran short or wasn't ready. Several pallets of pellets when price is low would make a nice emergency supply if ever sick or injured.

    gg
  10. huffdawg

    huffdawg Minister of Fire

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    I know a 75 year old man that cuts and sells firewood for a living . He is still in great shape. How bout cutting wood till he cant anymore or doesn't feel like it then switch to pellets. I thought pellet boilers were a fairly hands free type of operation?

    Huff
  11. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    10 years is a lifetime at any age, but I hope the fellow is not planning cold storage already! Given a failed outdoor corn burner, what are his current emitters? what best interfaces with the existing hot water system? Since he is interested in bio-mass, why not give the local firewood-stovewood suppliers and their families a piece of the action rather than shipping his money elsewhere? That way his money will do double duty good.

    Deep Portage installed a Froling FHG L-50 last fall with 4000 gal pressurized storage to serve a 6000 sq ft residential and classroom building, including DHW, and the install was in a separate 10' x 15' building. Two water-air hx coils in the plenums of the two existing LP hot air furnaces, plus some baseboard, and a plate hx to keep the electric hot water heater filled with hot water. I don't think LP came on once this winter and the breaker on the electric for the hot water heater stayed "off." The FHG was fueled both by male and female staff. Near effort-less.

    One real plus for the FHG L-50 is that the controller can be easily set to full output (50kw) for the real cold part of winter, and then spring/fall set to 40kw or 30kw output. This is three boilers in one, flexible and meets a whole variety of needs.
  12. huffdawg

    huffdawg Minister of Fire

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    Hi Jim , If you have 4000 gals. of storage what advantage is there to having the three output settings ? Do you ever set the boiler onto the lower settings.

    Thanx Huff
  13. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    Some people are old at 60, others are old at 70, etc. In my case, despite many health issues, I feel young at 70.
    If I had a couple log loads sitting in the yard, I would dive into them after my morning coffee and stick with it all day.
    The only thing that slows me down is that I have to keep stopping to hike up my trousers because my belt doesn't do it's
    job since I developed a big belly and lost some ass.
  14. skfire

    skfire Feeling the Heat

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    My "retired" farmer friend, is 78, swings a an ancient 24lb:eek: sledge to pound posts in the ground, hoists deer up in the barn by hand
    and splits 3-4 cords by hand!
    He is a model to look up to and a reminder of "days past". ..
    (sidenote for Steve: Btw, he also gets the same Rye loaf and goes through it like "Lee went through Richmond!!!")

    So arguably this is not for everyone, but something we should maybe aspire to.

    To Steve's OP, I must concur with Jim on the following:
    a)the "localized approach", even if it means hiring a couple of young bucks to shred some wood.
    b)a good gasser(I maybe partial to Froling, but the ease of operation and quality is ridiculous), the price tag was not as steep as most think,
    especially when one adds up all the intangibles and inclusions.

    and/or

    c)If he has low emitters....things get a lot easier..especially with room for Garn in the shop
    d) I think a dependence on pellets creates a secondary problem, even though the convenience is undeniable, but again see the farmer "model" above.

    In the end to each his own, but the way this world is going, a more collective effort and responsibility seems a feasible solution.

    Scott
  15. skfire

    skfire Feeling the Heat

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    In my case, for summer DHW only usage, I isolate the one tank, so now I am running a single 400gal tank, so I can ratchet the boiler output setting down.

    Scott
  16. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Good point. The advantage, however, is that at lower output settings flue temp goes down some and therefor efficiency goes up some. Probably not a big deal in DP's case, but for anyone with more limited storage, the ability to change output could be quite useful during periods of lower demand.
  17. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    To answer Jim's very pertinent question on emitters......The heating system is 6,400 feet of thick slab radiant floor in a very well insulated building. 8" wall cavity filled with wet blown cellulose and 16" in the attic. Heat loss is only 118,000 @ -15* outside and 65* inside. Normal winter temps bring that number down to about 65,000.There is also a fair amount of solar gain during the day in the south work area due to short eave overhang and nice windows and everything else about the building is just plain done right. No corners cut on construction......like I said, I would probably kill for a place like this......
    There is already a plate heat exchanger in place along with all zone controls for the 3 main areas in the building.
    I would be hard pressed to come up with a more ideal application for a Garn given that the building will heat with water as low as 105* for the vast majority of the winter. The original installer of the system (not the OWB company) did an excellent job on the piping and controls, using an injection pump design to dump boiler temperature into the floor loops via Tekmar input.
  18. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    sidenote for Steve: Btw, he also gets the same Rye loaf and goes through it like "Lee went through Richmond!!!")....or Patton going through Europe......


    Scott!!! I am nearly in mourning over the fact that the loaf of bread you sent is gone. My better half asked, "what did you say this guy does?" and then commented that you may have missed your true calling in life. That loaf forever changed my definition of the word bread.

    Thanks again!!
  19. 711mhw

    711mhw Feeling the Heat

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    LOL! - I rely heavily on suspenders or bib overalls!
  20. Willman

    Willman Minister of Fire

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    He could fab up a small rolling lift to load the wood right in. The Garn could be sold down the road if needed, Whoever buys the shop would need to heat it. I say get it and buy wood CSD and he can hire it stacked. Forget about LP IMHO.
  21. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

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    A Garn does sound ideal for that setup. Maybe set him up with an electric or LP backup to cover those situations like illness, injury, or out of town. I would think those options wouldn't cost that much to add and not cost that much more than pellets given that heat load plus it's automatic. He sounds like the type that would be in the workshop as long as he can get around. He could stockpile wood years in advance and use a pallet fork on a tractor like others have mentioned to bring wood from the pile next to the boiler. Should he ever be physically not capable of firing the Garn once a day, but still able to live on his own, that would be something pretty easily for a family member, retired friend, etc. to do. I like the idea of supporting the local guys too when you can no longer to the work yourself.
  22. skfire

    skfire Feeling the Heat

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    Hey Steve, very kind of you and thank you..
    maybe I will build an oven an a trailer and get to NoLo Michigan for some weekend baking...LOL
    Glad you enjoyed it.....here is what they looked like out of the oven...

    Btw, tell this nice gentleman to build an oven in that shop right next to the Garn...he'll have the Ultimate set up!

    Scott BREAD 075.JPG
  23. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    HM, In 9 months I am that guy. As appealing as the Garn is to me now that I'm more boiler savy, the ability to upgrade to a Froling or the next best lambda thing in a few years really appeals to me. But you're a Garn guy so that's not what you asked. But my response as a healthy 59 YO, is my wife and I both love running our boiler and due to my work demands I can't process all of what we use. But even buying 50% of our usage, and I mean having it split, delivered, and stacked where I want it, I'm WAY ahead financially vs what is now our backup. I split when I want and can, and bring home a bunch of pallets from the shop every year. I'd much rather carry a couple of spits vs dealing with bags of anything. I find carrying bags of corn around for the deer a pain! Keeping my eyes open for the next generation nuclear, self-igniting, wood gasser that will plug and play where my BioMass is now..... Maybe in 5 years.... just because I find this stuff so fun (or maybe a Garn). Tell him heck yeah.
  24. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    My earlier suggestion of modularity, and a unit that will fit a pellet head was with the thinking of accomodating possible future bulk pellet deliveries - big truck backs up to basement window, runs his delivery hose thru the window into the big bulk bin in the basement, and fills. Auger from bin to pellet head takes care of the rest. I'm hoping the future will maybe bring that kind of thing my way in 20 years or so - my crystal ball doesn't work very good though. I guess my main thought is try not to restrict future options, now, and keep as many open as possible.
  25. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    Could one create an "alternative firing door" that would go on the front of a Garn and allow it to utilize a pellet burner head (or for that matter, a propane or oil burner head)? There's certainly a lot of heat exchange surface area in the Garn. Maybe even do it with the alternative head on a rolling cart (maybe with attached medium size moving pellet bin on the cart) and some sort of clamps to the mouth of the Garn's firing chamber, so that it could be quickly rolled up to or away from the Garn?

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