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I hat this @#$% EKO

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by deerefanatic, Jan 7, 2011.

  1. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    676
    Loc:
    Ladysmith, WI
    So. for 3 years, I've been chasing this whole wood burning thing. Spent well over $20k when you figure underground lines with insulation, slab & outshed, EKO, several different iterations of heat storage systems, pumps, plumbing, A Nofossil control system (which I will throw out there that Nofossil is great in what he does, nothing against him), and on and on and on.. And this is what I get for it:

    1: Never, and I mean NEVER have I acheived a smokeless burn. I've tweaked until my head spins and never gotten it "right"

    2: I consume at least 20 cords (Not face, the 4x4x8 foot kind) of hard wood every year. Because of this, and because I'm always chasing my tail in a vain attempt to get "dry" wood I spend every spare minute of my spring, summer and fall cutting & stacking wood. This fall is the first time that I stock piled what I thought was "enough" before the snow flew..

    3: I am CONSTANTLY tending this thing, In this cold weather, I'm out there filling it at least 4 times a day with a fire nearly 24/7.. The 1200 gallon heat storage tank is to ride the house through the night when it goes out for a couple hours between 4am & 7 am..

    Now, currently, my boiler is smoking harder than my neighbor's Heatmor OWB, WONT acheive a coal bed no matter what I try, and is barely keeping my house warm. The shop is getting colder and colder, and my heat storage tank is now down to 100 degrees.. It gets colder every day and the only thing its doing for me is preheat my DHW. And, Since monday, I've consumed over half of a 48x40" pallet stacked 7 foot high.. This is insane.. I cut open a couple blocks and used my moisture tester on em, 27%. Not the greatest, but actually drier than some wood I've burned in this.

    Now, I will add that the house is drafty, BUT, the previous owners had a conventional wood furnace in the basement, kept the house warmer than me, and said they only used about 8-10 cord (once again, full cord) per winter.. The first winter, I only heated the house with my Homemade gassifier (which actually worked just about as well as this expensive EKO, just that it fell apart on me) and used 13. Last year, 20 with the shop added.. This year I stock piled 18 cords of hardwood blocks from a sawmill. It's over half gone.

    Am I the only one who wishes I'd just bought an OWB? At least I could just hack the logs into luggable pieces and push it in and forget about it until 12 hrs later...

    Well, that's my gassification boiler UN-success story.

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  2. taxidermist

    taxidermist Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,031
    Loc:
    Fowlerville MI
    Matt,

    Shoot us some settings

    Fan shutter%

    Fan speed

    Primaries

    Secondaries

    Pump launch

    wood type

    Send me a pm if you want to call me

    Rob
  3. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Loc:
    Addison County, Vermont
    So.... sounds like we need a hearth.com road trip. It IS possible to get good clean efficient burns, and I suspect that a couple of hours and a couple of beers would solve the problem. Just a bit too far for me, though.....
  4. Chris Hoskin

    Chris Hoskin TarmSalesGuy

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2008
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    445
    Loc:
    Lyme, NH
    sorry to hear you've had so much trouble Matt. I know you don't want to hear it, but drier wood would help a lot. Smaller splits and longer dry times. Cutting wood in the Spring and Summer is too late for the same year's heating season. Your burning a lot of wood to turn water to vapor and send it up your chimney. Do yourself a favor and buy a load of biobricks - I would be willing to bet that you get that smokeless burn you have been searching for.

    It also sounds like you have a tremendous heat load. Assuming your boiler and storage are plumbed properly, your next energy dollars may be better spent on insulation and caulking instead of a flat plate, etc. Is it possible that you have a lot of heat loss in your underground pipes?

    I'm glad you expressed your frustration here. This is a generous community of some pretty clever folks. Hang in there and I am sure we can help you get your problems licked.

    Chris
  5. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Dang. That sucks. I'd be mad too. Do youknow your actual heat load? If it's 100,000btu/hr maybe 20 cord isn't unreasonable??
  6. Danno77

    Danno77 Minister of Fire

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    I think I found part of your problem, unless you mean that this fall is the first time that you have stock piled what you think is enough hardwood for the 2013-2014 winter.
  7. Hunderliggur

    Hunderliggur Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Lothian, MD
    I have struggled some too. I know a lot of my issues are from wood not dry enough and I know what I have to do about it. In the interim, I am getting about 80KBTUH when burning regularly with less than perfect wood (instead of about 120K). I am going to tweak my settings a little this weekend to fine tune for the "better than last year" wood I am using ;-) On the plus side, I am regularly offsetting about 40KBTUH 24x7 on my radiant, which runs on propane otherwise. That is a savings for about $1.50 to $2.00/hour I have heat available to use from storage. That is about $1000 to $1500/month compared to propane. At that rate I should pay for the system is 3 to 4 years.

    My wood supply has been 24 foot mixed hardwood logs from clearing about 2 acres in June 2007. They are drier than fresh cut but not 20%. To compensate for less than perfect wood, I split smaller (smaller than a 4x4, bigger than a 2x4) and have to poke the fire a bit more because of bridging (which is why I am going to tweak a little). My 15 year old son is doing a pretty good job feeding the fire while I am at work. Last year I found that following the fine tuning an Eko sticky actually did work to improve my burns. I think I am getting too much air in the lower chamber resulting in fly ash up the chimney and getting stuck on the cap screen. Tomorrow I am going to process some of the "branches" from the logs (3 to 6 inch diamater) and split them to see what they are like. I have MANY cords of these in 6 foot lengths.

    Don't give up. There are a lot of us who have worked though this and are still learning. Take a breath, have a beer, and let us all pitch in to give you a hand.
  8. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Ladysmith, WI
    Oh no.. I meant 2010-11 winter....

    I CANT get ahead of it.. Do you realize 20 cord is 2 Tractor/trailer loads? That's alot!

    Ok, at Rob:

    Fan shutter - 50% - Varied this all over.
    Fan Speed - 70% - Been there all winter
    Secondaries - Tried lots of things, doesn't seem to make much difference. Right now - 3.5 turns open
    Primaries - Been a while since I messed with em.. Thinking like 1/2 - 5/8 inch open
    Pump - Its a Primary Secondary system. The pump runs whenever the boiler is over 160F. If return is less than 140, all loads are shut down and boiler water is ciculated until return is over 145F

    Nofossil: You've been more help than you know! I'd have given up long ago if it hadn't been for you. You are an invaluable asset to this forum!



    Wood is all hardwood from a sawmill this year. It's in the form of square blocks approx 4x6" and anywhere from 3 to 20 inches long.. I cut open a few today, and they're about 27%.. Not great, but should be able to be livable..


    Chris:

    The house was "supposedly" re-insulated and weatherized by the state of WI weatherization program. They blew bale after bale of blown insulation into this house. Personally, they made a huge mess, and it seems like my upstairs is actually much colder and more miserable than it was before they messed with things. I've used more tubes of caulk than I can think of...

    I'm not loosing my heat in my underground lines. They are 5 feet down and in a 8" thick column of corbond. I've measured them several times and my heat loss is less than 1 degree F.

    Where would one get those Biobricks you speak of? Maybe it'd help things out.. Or just cost me alot more money.. :(

    I've been buying those hardwood blocks for about $65/full cord.. It's actually cheaper than logs and alot less work..

    Thanks for the help! You guys might keep me for setting a match to that boiler shed yet.. :(
  9. Hunderliggur

    Hunderliggur Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Lothian, MD
    "The pump runs whenever the boiler is over 160F. If return is less than 140, all loads are shut down and boiler water is ciculated until return is over 145F"

    Do you have a mixing valve on the boiler return? The Eko (Paxo) and any gassification boiler works best with return temp protection PREVENTING less than 140F water entering the boiler. You should have a T on the boiler output which recircultes the HOT out with the return via some sort of mixing valve so the boiler is always seeing at least 140F. I have read on the forum of apparent increased efficiency as boiler input approaches 160F and I think I have seen that also. The simplest... sticky has the diagram. Do you have a system diagram you can post here?
  10. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    Ohh..... I could make up a diagram and get up here. But not tonight... I don't have a loop around. It was a bunch of plumbing I didn't want to mess with. I am using bang-bang control.

    I've had the system set up this way from the beginning... I know it works better hotter... Maybe need to raise the protection value on my NFCS? Usually I have hotter temps from the boiler anyway... It's just not burning well. :(
  11. Hunderliggur

    Hunderliggur Minister of Fire

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    Warmer boiler input temp results in more efficient boiler operation. Not sure what your NFCS return temp is set at but 150 would not be out of line.
  12. willworkforwood

    willworkforwood Feeling the Heat

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    Central Ma
    As others have already said, I think the wood is working against you bigtime. Have you checked your heat tubes for creosote? Poorly seasoned wood can send large amounts of creosote into the tubes, which would in turn cause poor performance. If the tubes are ok, you might try an experiment to simulate burning with seasoned wood. Get some dry pallets and hack them into pieces. Fill the boiler in a ratio something like 2-1 (twice the volume of pallets to your wood), and load the pallets first. A couple of loads like that should give you much better results and confirm that the wood is your primary issue. If not, then it will take the hydronics gurus to figure it out. All of us feel your pain. We all know how much work this whole thing is, and to not be getting good results is the pits. Hang in there and whatever the problem is, it will get fixed.
  13. dirttracker

    dirttracker Member

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    Just a thought for what it's worth....try getting a bag of charcoal and get a good bed of coals going under your wood with that.

    I've been close to your situation, first year I had the tarm I was cutting standing dead trees hand to mouth all winter. I had spent all my wood cutting time putting up the shed and setting up the boiler and piping. I got a bunch of not very dry wood and keeping a fire going was a real PITA. More than once I wished I had just gotten another OWB. Since I was cutting dead trees I could use the upper branches to get a good fire going, this saved my sanity once I figured it out. With your sawmill logs you don't have that type of wood available - hence my charcoal suggestion.

    Unless your shop is a real pig to heat it sounds like whomever did the "weatherization" found a way to open up some new holes for you. 20 cords is a whole bunch of wood. I thought I had it bad when I had to cut and process 10 cords/year when I had the OWB. I understand how you can't get ahead burning 20 a year.

    By all means raise your return protection to be as high as you think you can stand it. If you are burning high moisture wood having extra heat in the boiler may help a bit. I noticed this from my experiences.
  14. mwk1000

    mwk1000 Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Southern MI

    Degrees/BTU-HR
    15 59137
    20 53761
    25 48385

    My house is about 55000 , maybe 60K in January I use 8 full cords with an eko 60. I could probably use less but I always seem to run into wet wood late in the season and I get the same lousy burns, not as bad as described here but I am at about 24%MC

    I have had smokeless burns and hot fully charged tanks , now it is worse I burn two loads for a 3/4 charged tank but still not anywhere near as frustrating as 20 full cords would be. If that is the case I might consider not burning for a year to get ahead since 20 full cords will be 12 when it is actually dry ( or something like that ) sitting it out for dry wood will make sense - far less work. I don't like getting 8 /year if it was wet I would need 11-12. I learned this the first year stuffing the boiler full and fighting to get heat I wen into the woods and cut up an old long dead oak with 6 inches of snow on top of it. Into the boiler and it burned at 185-190 taking all the cold water my tank can deliver. I was stunned but happy to see that and -- no stirring every 2 hours.
  15. Kemer

    Kemer Member

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    Loc:
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    This is why I sold my eko 60 and bought a garn.I just knew I would be chasing my tail.My brother sold his too and bought a portage and main and he is also happier
  16. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    Ouch! Ouch! Just for testing purposes (instead of buying a pallet of bio bricks for now) lug in about 75 or 100 # of charcoal from your local hardware or megachain store. Make sure your boiler exhaust and chimney is clean before your burn. Start a 10 or 15 # amount of charcoal. I used "matchlight" when things got tough. That should gasify rather quickly. Note: if your chimney is dirty youw will still get smoke. If your wood is wet you will get smoke. The efficiency drop you are quoting and the smoke tell s me there is an obstruction in the exhaust or your primaries are way too high and or your secondaries are pumping in too much air. Over active secodaries will actually cool my EKO40. But a semi plugged exhaust channel will blow good gasification out of reach.
  17. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
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    Add to that

    Wood moisture content

    When it last had the flue tubes cleaned.

    Calculated heating load
  18. RobC

    RobC Minister of Fire

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    Foxboro MA
    I would a agree with good, all around cleaning. Check fan blades for fine dust or debris. My Tarm fan had fly ash on them that you couldn't see until I had fan removed from stove and had fan in hand.
    4 X 6 blocks try cutting in half. Can you move a week or more resplit wood into a place where it's warm before you burn, to help dry ?

    I had an OWB way back that I fought with for almost 10 years. There was no internet forum's back then ( no public internet ). If I had this resource I could have made a quick plumbing change, added a zone priority function and I would have had myself 90% squared away. Then I could have had time to put up a proper wood supply.

    What I am getting at is, this is an incredible resource with many generous folks. I see better days ahead.
  19. taxidermist

    taxidermist Minister of Fire

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    Fowlerville MI
    Well Matt I would guess with a combo of wetter wood(still will work) and no return protection your never running hot enough to heat your storage to useable temps. Your system is always playing catch up. Your settings look ok for a 60 running both fans. If you look @ the manual the wetter the wood the more air you add. I bet your pump is cycling like mad. The return protection and protection loop gently allow cooler water into your boiler heating your storage slow. Once your storage is charged your next fire is just to put btu back in the tank for later use. Kinda like charging a marine batt. Even know you still have juice in the batt after use you still want to top it off for next time.


    Rob
  20. Sawyer

    Sawyer Minister of Fire

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    Wish I could help you out of this problem Matt.

    Your advice on insulating my underground piping was "spot on". I can't measure a temperature drop in 200 feet.

    Hang in there, lots of good advice above.
  21. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    OK. Lots of comments here... Let me address them one at a time... I'll try not to leave anything out.

    1. Sitting it out for a year is not possible... I'd have to shut the house down. Litterally. If I had to heat with propane, I'd go broke just trying to keep it 50F in the house.. It's BAD... :(

    I'll try jacking up the return temp. This setup "usually" works fine. It would cycle the boiler protection about 3 or 4 times until it got really cookin', then it'd settle out and run good for the duration of the fire. Seemed like once I got a coal bed, it'd stop cycling.

    I'll also check the chimney. I cant get to the top of the chimney, it's higher than anything I have to stand on.. So I'll have to find a brush and clean it from below.

    My EKO has the turbulators with the cleaning handle.. I cycle that handle 4 or 5 times EVERY time I load wood..

    I too wish I'd gone with a Garn... A lot less drama and mess overall.. But more $$$. I had to borrow money as it was for my EKO.

    As it stands, I guess this is where I'm at: I'm ALWAYS going to be burning somewhat wet wood, 2 yrs out is never going to happen. So I'm either going to have to live with it, or get something different.. That's where it's at frankly. It's impossible to store up enough to get ahead.. I was stacking wood every spare minute this spring, summer, and fall and still looks like I may run out. And this wood I didn't have to cut or split, just stack. The logs I had in a pile, I hired cut and split by a guy with a processor. That's $100/cord wood now. :(

    I'm gonna call the local wood pellet plant and see what bulk delivered pellets would cost. I have a grain bin right next to my boiler shed...
  22. Hunderliggur

    Hunderliggur Minister of Fire

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    See if you can scrounge some wood PALLETS from anywhere. I can get enough from feed stores, small harware stores, independent auto parts, pool supply, etc. If you see a stack of them, go inside and ask. Then a Sawzall (or chainsaw - watch for nails) will give you a LOT of hot wood to start fires and make a good bed of coals for gassification, and then drying your wood in the boiler will be easier. Don't worry about the nails in the Eko, just in the ash. You may want to get one of those nail pickup magnets from the big box store.

    What size are your splits? If you hired a processor, they are probably 2 to 3 times the size you want for wetter wood. Get an axe or maul and split them some more before you put them in the boiler and while you are waiting for those pallet pieces to get going good (15 to 30 minutes). I sold some of my wood to a wood stove friend and he asked for my next delivery to be a bit bigger splits (and I did not send him my smaller stuff). The wetter the wood, the smaller the split.

    There is a lot of advice and experience here that can probably get you through this season. When you process wood this spring, set up a simple hoop house (20' rebar or pvc works), cover with cheap poly film, and make yourself a simple kiln. I know someone in VA who did that for the wood he processed to buil his house. Worked great and would probably reduce your moisture by a measurable amount. Leave the ends open for ventilation.
  23. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    Pallets up here are a sellable commodity. Everyone wants em to burn. LOL.

    I'll give the charcoal method a try. Right now, I'm planning for next season. And if possible, next season won't include chunk wood.

    I know the processed stuff isn't small enough. I plan to still run it through the splitter again.. But I just didn't have time.

    I'm doing the math, and it looks like my next cheapest option is coal.. Followed closely by pellets. Either will be alot less work than wood, more uniform, no moisture content woes, and actually ready to burn when I need it.

    As a side note, can anybody venture a wild guess of what my efficiency % is with burning this wet wood and smoking? It'd be good to know so I can get a good cost comparison between what this wood is costing me and what other options will cost me.

    But, if I do end up stuck with chunk wood, the hoop house and poly sounds like a good idea.
  24. Hunderliggur

    Hunderliggur Minister of Fire

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    I think if you split what you have again, you won't have to spend the time gathering fresh wood. Give it a try.
  25. Seyiwmz

    Seyiwmz Member

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    I just read this string of posts and have determined the solution to your woe's would be to either build a new house or build a nuclear reactor to keep your inefficient house up to temp.

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