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Is Woodstock going to Automated Computer Controls?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Huntindog1, Jul 12, 2013.

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  1. Huntindog1

    Huntindog1 Minister of Fire

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    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Technology can turn plain old wood stoves into a high-tech heating option

    [​IMG]
    The Union Hybrid stove being tested, with standard combustion in the bottom portion and the "gasification" combustion happening above.
    If there’s any technology that is old hat, it’s got to be the log-burning wood stove.
    Left behind by its sexier cousin, the pellet stove, it has been reduced to living-room decoration and grubby basement backup, something that would be right at home in Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting cabin. Right?
    Wrong! It turns out that wood stoves are the subject of considerable tinkering and R&D, like so much of the technology around us.
    “When we started, stoves were basically six-sided boxes, and you put a fire in it. Now we’re making equipment, with a lot of moving parts. The technology is much better and increasing rapidly,” said Tom Morrissey, owner of Woodstock Soapstone Co. in West Lebanon, which has been building cordwood-burning stoves for 35 years.
    I talked to Morrissey because his company is one of 14 finalists in the Wood Stove Design Challenge, a national contest by an industry group called Alliance for Green Heat. They’re the only New Hampshire finalist amid of host of other wood stove companies, as well as some independent inventors and university engineering students.
    “We are essentially making a gasification stove,” he said, referring to a form of combustion that doesn’t really use combustion. “If you look at this thing when it’s burning, the fire does not look like what you would think of as a wood fire. The whole top of firebox is like an inverted gas burner; there are 120 holes with a tube of flame coming out of each one.”
    The challenge will end in a Wood Stove Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in November. Winners will be judged not just on efficiency – how many British thermal units do they produce from a set amount of wood – but also on the cleanliness of their emissions.
    That point is important because old-timey wood stoves (like the one in my basement, I admit) are pretty dirty. Their smoke is full of soot or particulate matter – tiny bits of unburned or semi-burned wood, sometimes called “black carbon” – that is unhealthy when inhaled and has an outsized effect on global warming.
    Airborne soot from wood stoves is a big reason why the Keene area has relatively unhealthy air in the winter, and why the American Lung Associations’ buy-back program, which offers money if you swap your old wood stove for a new, cleaner one, concentrates on Cheshire County.
    Pollution, rather than efficiency, is also the driver for all this technology. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has new rules that reduce the amount of allowable airborne fine-particle matter from 15 micrograms to 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
    This means just sticking a catalytic converter into the stovepipe isn’t going to be good enough any more.
    “That’s kind of the stick,” said Morrissey. “There has been a lot of time and effort and money put into R&D in the last five years.”
    Woodstock Soapstone Co., so named because it uses soapstone as a design element in stoves, has 30 employees and annual sales in the $4 million to $6 million range, so it’s a niche player but not a minor one.
    Its contest entry, the Union Hybrid, uses both secondary combustion – a second burn of the “gasification” type that happens when the firebox is hot, which consumes more of the pollution – and a catalytic converter when on “low burn.”
    The devil’s in the details of coordinating these two; Morrissey says the company uses oxygen sensors developed for the automotive industry and is developing thermocouples, which use heat to generate electricity from two different metals in close contact, to move air.
    Combine that with software to give customers more control, and you can have a big boost in efficiency and reduction in pollution.
    “Ten years ago, you could never imagine having a little computer on the stove. If you were in a small industry like ours, you couldn’t dream of having a graphic-user- interface, but now it’s available and affordable,” Morrissey said.
    Affordable is key: Woodstock Soapstone is looking at keeping prices below $2,000, which gives them an advantage over similar-output pellet stoves.
    Pellet stoves, of course, have a huge advantage over firewood stoves: The uniform size and shape of their fuel means they can be automatically fed by thermostat-controlled augers, making them a viable replacement for oil- and gas-fired furnaces. This has made biomass heat – e.g., burning wood – rebound as a minor but important energy option in the Northeast.
    But cordwood stoves have advantages of their own: They work even when the power is out, and if a tree falls in your yard, you can turn it into free fuel. Try doing that with pellets!
    If cordwood stoves can be made more efficient and cleaner, then we’ve got ourselves a technology race.
    Tablets vs. smartphones – ho-hum! It’s cordwood stoves vs. pellet stoves, and may the best technology win.
    Granite Geek appears Mondays in the Telegraph, and online at www.granitegeek.org. David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com.
    charly likes this.

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  2. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Subscribing to this thread. Look out BK.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  3. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    OMG - don't want to get rid of my PH (which looks better, too), but.....maybe I have to build that accessory building......and finally complete part of a thirty eight year dream.

    I'm subscribing, too.

    Wonder if they'll have a guinea pig price again.

    I'm sure they'll have at least a repeat customer price....would be my third Woodstock.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  4. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Still much work to be done.
  5. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    If it works out I wonder if they will incorporate it into their other stoves? I think they were looking into this when they were designing the PH.
  6. Augie

    Augie Feeling the Heat

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    I have actually thought about adding a temp sensor to the secondary burn area of my stove to run a servo that would automatically adjust the primary air supply based on temp. All with the goal of keeping the top of the firebox burning secondary for as long as possible.
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I am waiting on the Englander Smartstove that is under development.
    n3pro and northwinds like this.
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I'm still waiting for the automatic split feeder.
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  9. charly

    charly Guest

    I was over there today and Jamie was saying they might put the PH guts into the Fireview down the road...that would clean the stove up even more...
  10. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    People complain about maintaining a cat stove. This gives you a cat stove, wideband o2 sensors, thermocouples and computer controls that can and will fail.

    I work in a technology field and think this tech. is great, it's surely going to add some complexity to a simple wood stove. The non cat guys are going to have a hard time climbing on board. ;lol
  11. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    The one thing you can e sure of is that if Woodstock builds it, they will build it to be easily and inexpensively serviced and repaired.
  12. Cornelis

    Cornelis Member

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    Is there any news about this stove.Will it come out before the burning season
  13. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    No news that I have heard.
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  14. charly

    charly Guest

    Last I heard about November... but Woodstock could also surprise everyone with an earlier release as well.. you just never can tell... Jamie and I were talking yesterday while looking at the software hooked up to the Union.. He was saying how amazing simple it was to monitor everything about the stove as it burns with the advances in software.....I'm thinking you might just see some kind of a probe that monitors the stove for a super clean burn...He did say their goal is to basically burn much cleaner then the present requirements,, thus keeping them way head of the clean air standards.. I saw a ton of Fireviews already built and quite a few PH's built and being built, so my thinking is they might be getting the Progress run finished so they can begin the Union run soon... What a big stove that is ! They'll be no doubt the Union will be be able to tackle the biggest of heat requirements.. Be nice to load that big box up full and have the load automatically regulated thru out the burn.. I think you might see Blaze King burn times and beyond... Knowing Woodstock, they're not just going to build another stove without some major innovation...
    BrianK and Backwoods Savage like this.
  15. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    Just curious where the computer controls would be.
    Heat is the enemy when it comes to computers.
    n3pro, Trilifter7 and sticks like this.
  16. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Surely one who remembers wax on jelly is older than 38?

    This was a prototype for the design competition, right? Maybe a while before its rolled into production.
  17. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    "..and finally complete part of a 38 year old dream.." refers to my complete envisioned home, which was fully envisioned 38 years ago. We started with framing, closing in and roofing over, and completing the kitchens and fixtures and cabinetry in the bathrooms so we'd have the home to use while the children were growing .... we spent weekends and holidays and summers there for a good number of years before getting the wood milled for floors and trim. Our friends thought it was great they could read eastern European history by reaching up and grabbing a book stored on the stud braces while having a bath in the first floor bathroom....For about ten years our stud bracing throughout the home served as our library. We got wind surfers and canoes, rowboats and kayaks and paddle boats for the kids, so they could use the lake, before we did further major work on the home. Ten years after initial construction we bought a small (15'6") Boston Whaler, and had the wood milled for our floors, stairs (we'd been living with temporary 2x12 Doug Fir stairs), window and baseboard trim...all wide board Teak, White Oak, Cherry, and Maple. Had the sheetrock put up, stairs, floors and trim installed, some trim designed to cope with various issues (for instance the boys throwing a door handle through 3/4" sheetrock wall during construction resulted in the design of elegant doorstops running between two studs immediately behind every door handle in the home so we would have no damage to the walls from door handles). Had exterior doors custom made from the extra teak we had after the bathrooms were finished. Still have exterior entrances to the basement, no interior entrance (actually has worked out very well). Wings on either end of the home are envisioned: to the East a summer kitchen wing at an angle to the house, and on the West a winter mud entrance, library and modified greenhouse (glassroom with storage for solar heat and ability to shutter glass at night), with reconstruction of current bilko entrance to a more appropriate interior entrance to the basement. The original interior was completed in the late 80's, the roof redone in the late 90's.

    So yes...I'm older than 38, but I didn't dream about my home as a child or very young adult.

    And I was introduced to jelly making as a very young child, and was still using wax on my own jelly jars in the 1970's and 1980's. Still have my jelly jars and wax (some of which was repurposed for firestarter construction), and might use them again so my grandchildren can learn how to preserve this way. Meanwhile the new small jelly mason jars are quicker and easier...no wax melting necessary. And, when given as gifts, the recipient isn't uncomfortable using the product. Give a jelly jar with wax top to friends today, and they aren't familiar with the product or comfortable that the product is safe to use. :)
    Joful likes this.
  18. Trilifter7

    Trilifter7 Feeling the Heat

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    Here's my subscription! That is very interesting! The only thing that kept me from getting one of there stoves was the side load only option. With this new front load door and cleaner burn technology... I'm loving it!! I work on commercial kitchen equipment and we service a lot of ovens with thermocouples. They are actually very reliable. I would say we see more issues with the older tech thermopiles that are controlled by a pressurized gas rather than the thermocouples milivolt generation. And thermocouples can be replaced very cheaply. As for the O2 sensors... Those can be more pricy but then again look at how long they typically last in a car operating under what I would say sees a much harsher environment given the constant vibration and temp changes. I'm excited to hear more as this technology progresses!
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  19. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    Fireview-sized stove would be good in our small house. Union would be overkill for sure. May be a while for any of this stuff, and longer yet for a stove in my size. I'm not looking to spend more money on stoves right now anyway, but I do love burning long and clean.... >>
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  20. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    What you will see with the Union is not what they were looking at then. Some newer ideas to come out of this if all works out right.
  21. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    You are correct Joful. A finished stove has not yet been built and we don't yet have a date as to when this will happen. Yes, it will take some time to get this into productions. Hopefully suppliers will get on the ball this time and not hold things up as they did with the Progress. Hard to build a stove without all the parts.
  22. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Yea, from talks with them this is not going to be a 2013 stove, more like a 2014 stove and maybe in the first quarter.

    I am sure if they win the green alliance competition that would further encourage them to throw some more man hours at it to get it out faster and correct.

    I want one bad but just like Windows I will probably wait for the bugs to be worked out. The PH is now in SP1 if you ask me and is ready to use.
  23. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Still waiting on Windows to work out the bugs? Since 1995, I assume?
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  24. charly

    charly Guest

    They could be mounted off the back of the stove with a heat shield separating the controller.. Maybe even a longer cable so you can wall mount or better yet ......wireless like a TV remote... You just never know... I figure they have to be coming out with some very cool features on the Union after just introducing the PH... The Union could be the next stove that everyone wants according to it's features.. Only time will tell...
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  25. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    This should definitely be interesting.
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