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Man I am liking the pellet boiler!

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by heaterman, May 10, 2013.

  1. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Outdoor temp stands at 39 with a stiff north wind right now and the WAF of the temperature in the house was dropping in a corresponding manner.
    So........rather than putting the control on the gas boiler back into heating mode, I just went to the pellet boiler, hit the button and walked away.
    No muss no fuss, no kindling a fire, no loading, no anything. An hour later and the house is back up to 72*. WAF is climbing with the temp.:)

    Yes. It's too easy.==c
    Yes. I am lazy.==c
    No. I do not care.;)
    iceguy4 likes this.

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  2. DexterDay

    DexterDay Guest

    I LOVE pellets!!

    I don't have a Pellet boiler, but have a Pellet furnace and Freestanding stove.

    Automation is nice. Set it..... Forget it :)
  3. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Today going to start accumulating my 6-8 chords. So I've been following your pellet experience HM. I'm guessing your pellet boiler is a gasser?

    Then I noticed Dexter's # of posts! Wow! 9,000 post!?! Anyway... As I get older pellets will look more and more attractive.
  4. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Tennman......sounds like you are implying that I am getting "on in years" or have one foot in the grave..........trying to decide whether to get all huffy about that...;)
    I don't have a woods to cut my own in nor do I have the time to process what it would take to heat this old house. Any time I spend with the Husky in my hands each year is spent helping one of my 4 wood burning sons put up their wood.

    Concerning the "gasser" part of the equation..... the Windhager has a pretty unique design for the firepot. It's for lack of a better term, a double wall construction.
    Primary air comes through a tube in the bottom of the fire pot and exits right on the pellets through a little ceramic "ball". The pellets are fed right on top of the ball. Secondary air goes into the space between the inner and outer wall of the firepot via a second air tube.
    This of course preheats the secondary air to a high temperature before it even gets into the burn chamber. It enters the top of the firepot through a ring of air inlet holes around the top and mixes with the gases and smoke coming off the pellets. The secondary burn happens up there. Very simple, very functional.
  5. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    LOL!!!

    Dear HM, I do not casually insult people whom I'm fairly certain I'll need either their money or knowledge.... And in the case of my wife certain other skills.

    Where the heck are those funny faces.....

    BUT... Recently becoming a hexagenarian has impacted virtually all my plans for the future. ;) ..... Especially touching a piece of wood 5-6 times before it gets in my boiler! Happy Mom day to all! You too Dexter!
    heaterman and DexterDay like this.
  6. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    These are big parts of the wood burning equation. I have the woods, time and physical ability at age 66 to do this, which I have done for 23 years. I expect as the years move on my sons will take over parts or all of this, but if not, current market in our area makes it very economical to buy truckload quantity of firewood ($70-80/cord) and cut/split myself or to pay to have cut, split, delivered with at least one season of drying for about $175/cord. These prices still are far better than all other energy alternatives where I live. I think wood burning will remain for us for many years to come.

    The 1000 gal of pressurized storage and the need to burn the Tarm for the shop only once every other day during the coldest part of winter also is a big assist in staying with wood burning. Wood burning can get quite easy, although I doubt it will ever get to the easy chair stage. Everything is a trade-off. Spend more money on pellets and less time handling wood means less money but more time for something else. We all make our choices, and thinking them through with the necessary compromises is the stuff of good living with wisdom.
  7. Deering

    Deering Member

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    heaterman, you have a Windhager? How long have you had it for?

    I saw them at the Heating the Northeast With Biomass conference in Saratoga Springs, NY and was really impressed by the boiler...and the price. But Marc never responded to my emails asking for more info. I think there'd be a big market for them up here in Alaska.
  8. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Was at the NE forest products expo today (3 hours each way) and spoke with Marc for quite a bit, very nice boiler, and great guy! He said they have several "pilot" boilers out to see what, if any, problems show up so they can be remidied. I do like the burn pot in these, and the fact that there is no lambda sensor, but instead a type K thermocouple that reads the actual flame temp and adjusts primary and secondary air accordingly. Should be much more reliable and maint. free as there is no sensor exposed to exhaust to foul with fly ash. Now, I need to find someone with a good heating load, then I can get my hands on one of these and have some real world data of my own! Very impressed!

    TS
  9. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    What's your take on using thermal storage with a pellet Boiler. Tarm's recent blog post contains an analysis of the benefits of having thermal storage and states that a number of the leading pellet boiler mfrs recommend thermal storage. The volume is not large, in the order of 100-400 gallons, which I think more properly might be labeled buffer tanks. In short, the benefit is to reduce the on-off cycling, thus increasing the efficiency of the boilers.

    Pellet Boiler Thermal Storage
  10. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    I would say that thermal storage with this particular pellet boiler would be useful in some circumstances but certainly not most.
    I can't speak for other brands I have no experience with.

    For example, the only time I would consider some storage mandatory with the Windhager would be if it was serving a system with instant on/off heat demand only such as a coil in the plenum of a furnace.
    I could see a need for a small buffer tank if it were connected to a baseboard system with heating loads under maybe 10K per zone also.

    My particular heating system is about a perfect match for what this boiler will do because it always has some "load" present...... TRV's on panel rads + radiant floor with constant circulation.

    Another option to a buffer tank, given the way this boiler modulates would be to install a small "constant zone" like a single adequately sized radiator of some type with a TRV and just let it run. Then, even if your main load was on/off the boiler would cycle very little. The one I'm running wound up with a total of 1289 hours of operation on it and only 298 stop/start cycles so burn times were running an average of over 4 hours per cycle. I should note that as a safety feature the Windhager shuts down for a cool off cycle every 6 hours automatically to eliminate any chance of heat soak into the auger area so a high percentage of those starts were due to that.
    I ran the Windhager right through to outdoor temps in the upper 50 to low 60* range and noted no problems with severe temperature overshoot.
  11. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I hear what you're saying is that through a constant load you are controlling the heating system, which along with the boiler modulation control, has done a good job in minimizing on-off cycles. Your point on having a constant load (control the heating system) is what the article is talking about when the article indicates that thermal storage likely is not needed. Control of the heating system + boiler modulation does not seem too much related to the brand of the boiler, so long as the boiler itself can modulate in a 30% or so to 100% range. Of course there likely are other brand-specific features which may be more or less attractive in a particular application or by buyer preference.

    You have done an excellent job is designing your system and achieved a very satisfactory result. It is easy to see why you are so pleased with your system.
  12. Deering

    Deering Member

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    As long as you have a zone that's tolerant of fluctuating temps, perhaps a large storage area, shop, or water tank, then the constant zone would work fine. But it would have to be able to absorb adequate heat to keep the boiler at minimum operating load. The question to be asked is, would I be dumping heat to that zone merely to eliminate restarts, and is that costing me more energy than simply allowing the boiler to cycle? What's the fuel penalty paid per pellet boiler cycle?
  13. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Details details. The devil is in the details as always.>>

    First a little more about my heating system. I have an above the subfloor type radiant system (Viega Climate Panel) that is about 540 sq ft., 6 steel panel rads on the main floor and one zone of BB for the second floor which has a Taco 571 zone valve controlled by an ancient T87 thermostat. It is the only on/off load in the heating system. There is no dedicated heat in the basement.
    As originally installed with the gas boiler, the system water temp is determined by outdoor air temp. There is a separate mixing station that runs the radiant floor temp also based on what is going on outside but it is set to a different heating curve than the main water temp.
    There is only one circ for the "high temp" loads which are the BB and panel rads. The mixing station has its own circ for the radiant floor. Both heating circuits are constant circulation and controlled only by outdoor temp for shutdown.
    The boiler control shuts down both heating circuits when there is a call for domestic hot water from the 60 gallon indirect and a dedicated pump runs that load.
    During a typical heating season I'll see main system temps run from 120 up to about 170*. The radiant floor runs from 85* up to about 125* water temp. It is transferring heat through 3/4 solid wood flooring so I keep actual floor temps at 85* or less.

    I wired up the Windhager for constant demand and simply tee'd it into the supply between the boiler and the heating pumps and ran the return back from the main system return piping. Took about 20 minutes to make the connection in the basement. (extra tee's with valves under them make for easy experimenting) :)
    I played with the setpoint on the Windhager and wound up leaving it at 158* after beginning at max temp. When it was mild outside, (temp above 25-30*) I would routinely see the water temp creep up past the setpoint even with the boiler modulated down to 30%. The highest temp I observed was about 175* for any duration of time. If it stayed there for more than 15 minutes or so the burner would simply cycle off while the pump on it continued to bring heat into the system.

    Installed on a system like this I can see absolutely no need for a buffer tank or storage of any kind.

    As noted above though, the devil himself lives in the details and if you connected the same boiler to an on/off load, you would probably enjoy some benefit by the use of a buffer tank. Something as small at 40-50 gallons would be sufficient because of the modulation and the fairly quick shut down start up time frame.

    A better way in my book, assuming a solid heat load calc has been done, woud be to size the boiler appropriately and then use a panel or cast rion rad with a TRV on it in a basement. Any heat from a rad in a space like that is not "lost" and it would serve the same purpose of limiting the number of on/off cycles.
    If a person were running a 21KW (71,000btu) BioWIN for example, a "load" of only 10,000 would prevent the boiler from cycling off in all but the most mild temps. If I have the boiler yet next winter I will be putting a CI rad in the basement to see how that affects operation.

    In the case of a heating design that is truly all or nothing such as a forced air (yuck) system a person has two options. Install a small buffer tank or adding a small "constant" load. In most cases I would recommend adding a small rad to dissipate a little heat while not actually wasting it. This would be far simpler and less expensive in terms of up front cost and it would also reduce the on/off cycles. IIRC, in talking with the Windhager people they recommended shooting for a cycle/hours run ratio of no less than 2:1 so a person would have to consider a number of variables when designing the system layout.

    Hope that clarifies things a bit.
  14. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    I have a 260 that was fired up the beginning of February this winter. What info did you need?
  15. Deering

    Deering Member

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    Well, I was looking for basic install & owner's manuals for one thing. Trying to understand the thermocouple control scheme a little better too.

    Marc quoted me some prices that were pretty attractive. I'd consider dropping one into my place. Requested a quote from Marc but never heard back.

    Your constant demand arrangement sounds intriguing. I currently have high-temp baseboard - if I converted to radiant panels I could control the whole shebang on outdoor temperature? You say you set the Windhager setpoint at 158*...I'm not quite clear how it's modulating then. Is 158* the highest it runs up to? Or is that the boiler temp it's endeavoring to maintain? How does the 158* setpoint get feedback from the outside temp?

    Apologies for being dense here. I know I'm making something simple complicated. A specialty of mine.
  16. Deering

    Deering Member

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    Just ship to Seattle barge line - I'll take it from there.

    6700 W Marginal Way SW
    Seattle, WA 98106
  17. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    This weather is nuts. Installing A/C last week and looks like I'm going to have to fire up again tonight. Frost predicted for next 2 nights. ...Oh well, not to tough to just hit the switch I guess. ;)
  18. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Well, I was looking for basic install & owner's manuals for one thing.
    Not available on line yet as far as i know.

    Trying to understand the thermocouple control scheme a little better too.
    The Windhager folks seem to have nailed an algorithm that looks for a specific temperature at the thermocouple location. It runs the draft inducer at a level that will hit that temp while also looking at actual water temperature vs boiler temp setpoint. In actual practice it makes for a simple system but the engineering behind it was pretty sophisticated. Nice bit of engineering to make it run that well without an O2 sensor.

    Marc quoted me some prices that were pretty attractive. I'd consider dropping one into my place. Requested a quote from Marc but never heard back.
    I would guess there would be no problem with that.

    Your constant demand arrangement sounds intriguing. I currently have high-temp baseboard - if I converted to radiant panels I could control the whole shebang on outdoor temperature?
    Maybe, maybe not. It depends on a number of things. A motorized mix valve is pretty easy to add to any system. Check out Taco's I-Valve series of 3-way valves. They work well and not to costly as mixing devices go.

    You say you set the Windhager setpoint at 158*...I'm not quite clear how it's modulating then.
    It modulates firing rate, not water temp.

    Is 158* the highest it runs up to? Or is that the boiler temp it's endeavoring to maintain?
    158* is the target temp I found sufficient to heat my house. Anyone else may find their temp requirement to be different.

    How does the 158* setpoint get feedback from the outside temp?
    It doesn't. The outdoor control is part of my gas boiler system which actually is the brains in the whole shebang.
    The Windhager I have just looks for that single temp and the control on the gas boiler figures out what to do with it.

    Apologies for being dense here. I know I'm making something simple complicated. A specialty of mine.

    Hey......I resemble that remark.==c
  19. iceguy4

    iceguy4 Minister of Fire

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    I was a wood burner for YEARS...I also "turned my nose up" at pellet burners.... .thought it was ...geez cant figure what I felt but they were definitely below us "wood burners" on some silly scale I have in my "man land". I even slept on the couch ALL winter for years to not have to go up and down stairs to stoke it...and LOVED it too....
    That said, now I find myself with a pellet boiler...I I freck-in love it. Harman PB 105 with th 1500 lb hopper that automatically fills the boilers hopper!!:). I can and have left it un-attended for 4 or 5 days and feel I will extend that to a 7 day deal ...Meaning I figure I can cork on my stove on a weekend on MY schedule. Yes, I have some $$$ invested. I heated my WHOLE house this year(first time in years) to OVER 70 (first time in even more years) for a fraction of the cost of oil.... wife-ie happy ,I'm happy:p
    DexterDay likes this.
  20. Karl_northwind

    Karl_northwind Member

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    I have a Windhager 26 Sitting in my shop right now, and am impressed as hell with the build quality and design features integrated into it. I can't wait to get it in somewhere and running.

    on the buffer tank topic, as I understand it they recommend using a delay on shutting off the circulators to the distribution system even after the heat call is done on on/off distribution systems. keep moving heat out of the boiler till the fluid temp drops, indicating that the fire is out.

    I have lots of woods, and am young, so I will keep heating with cordwood for the forseeable future, but if I was in a different situation I'd put in a windhager. trying to sell this one to the neighbors who spent $7000 on oil this winter.

    HM, if I'm thru your area, can I stop in and check out your setup?

    thanks
    karl
  21. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Sure can Karl. Just be aware that my boiler room looks like the test lab that it is. Should really repipe it someday so it's not such a Rube Goldberg looking mess..... :)
  22. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    What is the point of keeping the wife warm if you have to sleep on the couch anyways? :p
  23. Karl_northwind

    Karl_northwind Member

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    my utility room is a rube goldberg too. solar thermal, 160Kbtu condensing water heater, infloor system, and PV system all together. I don't even bother telling people what all that stuff is anymore, I just point and say "That's my test lab"

    karl
  24. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    OMG - $7000 on oil for one winter.

    I really feel bad for those who can't do anything about their oil situation for whatever reason - and very fortunate to be able to.

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