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Need advice on wood gassers... Newbie here

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Phil.B, Mar 11, 2013.

  1. Phil.B

    Phil.B New Member

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    OK.... I thought I knew what I wanted in a wood furnace until I found this website....now I am thoroughly confused:rolleyes:! As I have read these forums I realize that your members have a wealth of knowledge and seem glad to share it with those of us who desire to do things right. I live in North Alabama in a house that is about 25 years old...fairly well insulated by "southern standards". When I started my research on furnaces what I thought I wanted was an OWB to keep the mess out of the house. I currently have a fairly large open fireplace that we use for ambience. It LOVES wood. It will actually get the house warm but is extremely inefficent...I certainly don't have to tell you guys that. We really don't use it to "heat' with. So.. here is where I am currently.

    Have considered a Portage & Main OWB gasser...seems to be well constructed. The information I'm reading in the posts is that even the gassers in the OWB are not as efficent as the indoor models. So another option I am considering is a Wood Gun and building an outbuilding attached to my detached garage about 60 feet from the house which I currently heat with a heat pump. I want to heat about 3500 sf and DHW. Should I consider storage? What is the difference between "pressurized" and "open" systems? I have 2 -1000gal propane tanks in my "collection" down in the field but feel that even one of them would be too much for our mild winters. Do open systems corrode faster? I read somewhere that the ph had to be just right for a SS water jacket like the Wood Gun? Also read that you shouldn't use too much oak. Oak is about 95% of what I burn... that and a little Black Locust.

    Thoughts?

    Other things that shoud be considered in the equation. (from things I've read on posts)
    Black Oak primary firewood
    Well water has Iron & Manganese

    Any advice will be greatly appreciated.:)

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  2. Coal Reaper

    Coal Reaper Minister of Fire

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    i have been researching for almost a year so for whats its worth:
    IF i was to get a OWB it would be a P&M. they are expensive but well made and easy to clean.
    IF i was to put the boiler in the house it would probably have been a WG.
    CURRENTLY i am installing a vedulux 37 in an insulated room inside a pole barn 120' from house with 1000 gallons storage. i have not come across a gasification boiler that looks easier to clean than this unit. they are light compared to others, but this lets you start pumping hot water to storage faster. this project expense should be close to the price of just the P&M gasser. but now i will have a warm cave in the barn and not be loading the boiler outside.
    storage will let you go longer between fires. tanks need to be insulated. general consensus is that oak is OK so long as it is seasoned to 20%MC, should take about 3 years.
  3. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    If I had the room to install storage I would have from day#1. Maybe some time down the road I will get around to movng my oil tank to accomodate storage.
    Since you will have the space needed I don't see any downside to it. Many people in very cold climates wish they had more than 1000 gallons but in you area I think it would be great esp. if it's very well insulated(as it should be!). Burning oak and locust...man, what a bummer :)
  4. tmudd

    tmudd Member

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    Phil B.
    I too wanted an outside wood boiler to confine the wood mess after having a wood furnace inside for 30 years and pushing wood through a wood chute hole. Just could not bear to buy a new boiler of any type and set it out in the elements. So I did what you are proposing, but I bought a used boiler and put it in a small outbuilding with extended roof for dry wood storage. After the first year I traded out of the used gassification boiler and added storage to a new boiler. The used gassifier I bought just did not meet the expectations of efficiency that I had after reading everyone else's set up on this site. In fact it was pitiful. It held 17 cu ft of firewood. I had to burn two loads just to get the water in the boiler up to 180.The other problem I had was it smoked me out even with a 120 cfm exhaust fan!
    After much research on this site, my short list was Woodgun, Tarm, Frohling. The cost were all real close in price.
    the wood gun stainless offering did not sway me because stainless has it's own issues in boler application. I have read all the happy testamonials from Woodgun owner on this site.They seem solid. The tarm I had seen in action from a friend who had one and was a good performer and had a great track record. The Frohling had the most high tech set up., with lambda controls and totally digitized control board. I'm not a techno geek by any means but after reading post about finetuning your draft fans, and tweaking every thing on some boilers I chose the Frohling.General parmaeters are set at the factory for optimal performance and can be changed by phone with a customer rep if any tweaking is needed. It automatically controls primary and secondary dampers. I combined the second installation with used 1000 gallon pressurized storage and a loading unit. The boiler unit is made in Austria and is of the highest quality. This choice is one of the best long range decisions I ever made. Great capacity to heat the water fast from 120 degrees at boiler start to 180 degrees delivering to the house in twenty minutes. I would highly recommend storage and a loading valve of some type. No smoke when door is open - ever, unique automatic by pass sytem routes smoke up the chimney when door is open. Dont forget under roof storage to keep wood dry. Just my two cents
    TLM
  5. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    tmudd, what did you have for the used gassifier before you got the Frohling? Sounds like a monster holding 17 cu.ft. - I measured my firebox & came up with 3 cu.ft., it specs 5 I think. Maybe I should measure it again...
  6. skfire

    skfire Feeling the Heat

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    +1 on the Froling, bested my expectations

    Scott
  7. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    I have to believe getting any kind of return on investment with a gasser in Alabama is going to be nearly impossible.

    Any idea what your heat load is? If you can heat your house with three 100W light bulbs 11 months out of the year I'd consider getting a wood stove or pellet setup instead of dropping big money into a gasifer. My two cents only...
  8. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Phil, I'm going to go out on a limb here... but to the best of my knowledge/experience from this website, I think I'm the only gasification boiler operator in the NA/Southern Tenn area. I visit here pretty often since I've become facinated with the process and in an odd way it's become a hobby. So you're application is pretty much what I have working today. I'll be adding storage this summer. Just about everything I've learned about boiler selection, system design, subsystem, and operations has come from the guys here. I was where you are now about 5 years ago thinking the only happy outside boiler operators owned Hardy's and there are a lot of them in our area. My engineering background has me conditioned to not assume what the crowd's doing is the best, so I found this site, just like you I had my limited boiler world happily turned upside down. You're welcome to come see my system which will really help you visualize what's discussed here. I'm now convinced after my 4th season that adding storage is even more essential for us in the lower latitudes that all the guys here up North. Send me a PM and if you'd like to see my system we can schedule when I'll be around. You will still want to do extensive research here to select the boiler and system design you like because you have to live with it. When you're going thru that first painful season with a new system, like that first year of marriage, you don't want to be blaming anyone but yourself when things get sticky. So read here and start to build a spreadsheet of credible gasification boiler pros/cons. You'll find basically there is roughly 3 levels in gasification boilers; good, better, best which as you would expect is linked to price. Have fun and PM me if you'd like.
  9. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Stee.... not if you live in the sticks down here and are dependent on propane or electricity alone. My propane bill before the BioMass was 800-900/month to keep our home at 62F! From T-day to about now is our peak. In fact since I don't have storage yet, I turned on the propane for the last few days when the day temp now is in the low 70's. But there are many folks here in the country supplementing with wood, it's just about all that's known here is Hardy.
  10. Phil.B

    Phil.B New Member

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    Coal,
    What features made you decide on a vedulux over a WG? You obviously could have put a WG in an insulated building but chose the vedulux instead. Also, what issues are you aware of with SS units? I read somewhere that iron content in your water could cause pitting? Any idea if that's a concern? I have also had the impression that HEAVIER is BETTER, not forgoing construction but that the more metal the longer lasting. Thoughts?
    Mun
    Thanks. One of my concerns on the 1000 gal storage is the cycle of my furnace. Being in a moderate climate will I heat up the storage and then the unit shut down for such a long period that it will have to be restarted? I don't want to have to go buid a fire ever other day. Do you yankees ever insulate and bury your storage tanks? Or does the ground never thaw enough to dig a hole?
    TLM,
    Your's is, I think, the first post that had a gasser that smoked really bad. What brand was it? As for the Frohling ...
    I tend to stay away from lots of bells & whistles. Not saying that they aren't reliable but I think I want something simpler. However, I will go to the Frohling website an check it out. Thanks for mudding up the water just a little more.

    stee,
    You're dead wrong! It takes four 150 watt bulbs for 3 months. The reason I am looking into gassers is because of their efficencity ( is there "spell checker" on here somewhere? I can't find it). I live in an area where Black Oaks (Red Oak family) get diseased an die when they are about 12-24 in in diameter. They stay standing for 2-4 years and the bark falls off.....hence, standing, seasoned, wood. When you cut it MC is <20%. Now if someone can tell me an easy way to get it to the barn that would be great. Only drawback is that it is pretty hard on a chisel chain. So.... I have an abundance of wood. No need to but any fuel. Heat Load??? what is that...and how do you figure it?


    Tenn,
    Glad to have you respond. I have read dozens of your responses and have been impressed with your knowledge. Thanks for all the precautionary advice.

    This forum is awsome. My wife says I'm obcessed with this thing but I feel like once I get all the facts and make a decision then it will be just for troubleshooting.... which I'm sure will be plenty.

    BioMass60 huh. So tell me how you arrived at that. I am interested in hearing from boilermakers who have had their units long enough to find out if they REALLY like them. Seems like 1-2 years isn't long enough to know for sure. I would love to see your set up. Where in Volunteer country are you? I'll PM you if I can figure it out.

    Phil B
  11. Paver56

    Paver56 Member

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    I have been using my Froling 40/50 for a little over a yr now. I am blown away by the amount of heat this thing makes. I think it was worth every penny.
    BTW is have 1500 gal of UP storage. Lots of information here to help you with your boiler and storage decisions. For what its worth, I am not a techy guy either but love the controls on the Froling. I can load it, light it and walk away in a matter of minutes-and then not worry about it until the next firing.
  12. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    Phil. I also said that I would never want to build a fire everyday but it truly is so easy with the vedolux modelsI can have my boiler cleaned a cranking heat in 5-10 mins easy with no concerns at all
  13. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    get your wood cut/split/'stacked asap. Needs to be seasoned for at least ayear, two if it's oak.

    I build a fire every day in the winter. No biggie, as arngnick says, 5 to 10 mins tops. In the summer 1 medium sized wheelbarrow of wood gives me 4 to 5 days of DHW for a family of 5. Thats with 820 gals of unpressurized storage.
  14. Coal Reaper

    Coal Reaper Minister of Fire

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    i really liked the WG simple controls. no computers. the vedo i tihnk is just as simple if not more so. no damper motor. all electronics easy to diagnose with a meter and replace with crimps. there is a timer to start the fan. after 30 minutes the stack temp takes over controlling the fan and it shuts off when stack temp falls below set temperature at the end of the burn. and there is an overheat relay that shuts the fan off at a certain water temp. and with the natural draft versions there is none of that. i did not want to have the required length of chimney for natural draft sticking up out of my barn. also, if one plans to run storage with the WG i feel that negates the whole selling point of it. you can get away with a less expensive boiler if you plan to run storage from the beginning. however, you do need to factor in cost for storage tanks and insulation and expansion tanks. vedo can also attach a pellet head just in case wood processing because daunting or impossible for whatever reason.
    i was not sold on the SS. theres plenty of non-SS boilers that are 30+ years old. if you are pressurized and have air elimination in place then it shouldnt rust from the water jacket side. if you feed good wood then it will be happy in the box. more metal takes longer to heat up, longer to start gasifying, longer to start pumping hot water.
    as far as starting a fire every day (this can be longer depending on heat load and amount of storage) i personally would rather that instead of a fire blazing through the night or when i am away at work. a 4 hour burn with good hard wood in vedolux37 puts off almost half a million btus and you just light another fire when that is used up. starting a new fire is stupid easy in these. as is cleaning.
  15. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Phil, MANY others here are far more knowledgeable than me. There's a proverb in the bible "Even a fool appears wise when he holds his tongue."

    FWIW, I'm in my forth year operating the BioMass. I think New Horizons came out with the BioMass ~2 years before I purchased, but I definitely took a chance since it didn't have the long reliability history of the EKO when I bought it. And I had my mind made up when I went to New Horizons to come home with an EKO. So far 4 years in I'm happy with my decision. This will be my first year to replace the ceramic nozzle and one ceramic in the lower chamber that cracked... that's it after 4 years and saving many thousands in propane and a far warmer house. Look forward to you dropping in and helping in your decision process which must be yours.... When your getting the kinks out of your system I don't want your missus cursing me!
  16. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    Phil, I'm guessing that your heating season is similar to our "sholder season" meaning the nights aren't really cold(may get to 30 or so for a low) and daytime is 40+. I've read that many owners of 1000+ gallons storage during this time of year can go several days without starting a new fire...of course, it depends on your heat/dhw demand but I don't think it's unrealistic to expect at least 2 days totally relying on storage.
    flyingcow likes this.
  17. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Yep, your on the money Bob.... mean winter temp of 38F. Can't believe how slow I was to coming around to the benefits of storage for our latitude. Really just a symptom of how much debugging/learning I needed to do. I shouldn't even count my disastrous first year... ugh. BTW... last nite ~28-30F right now 50-55F and going to 60. Frost in the morning to shirtless by noon.
  18. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    We are just now enerting the start of the sholder season although I see a few nights this week will be close to 20 overnight.This is when I wish I had storage just like when it gets warm I'll wish I had a bike again!
  19. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    I would think that storage is a must with that kind of temperature swing! I would say the learning curve is very quick on most boilers. I know my wife loads and lights ours without even thinking. I would say with ANY gasser you NEED to limit your idle time to get the best and cleanest performace.
  20. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Well, I don't have storage...but I got a bike!!

    and arn yer right.
  21. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    I hope I do not sound so pushy but it was not long ago that I was saying the same things about storage and batch burning as was my wife. We both said there is no way we would do that until I saw how easy it was to start a fire and how much flexibility the storage offers. There is no way I would burn wood any other way now. Plus the storage allows me to easily burn wood during the shoulder season.
  22. Phil.B

    Phil.B New Member

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    All,
    Thanks for all the input. I still have lots of questions but I'm sure I can get the answers here. I certainly won't rush into this even though this is the best time of year to buy...I'd rather drop a few more bucks and take the time to make an informed decision.

    Went to see Tennman's set up this afternoon...like it! Everthing is contained in his barn 100+ feet from the house...wood, dust, soot, cats, dogs, it's all out there. Thanks Tennman for your time.

    Phil
  23. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Sure wish I could train those cats and dogs to split wood. Enjoyed the visit.
  24. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    my gasser's in seperate building. I li ke it, also able to move my wood in on pallets with tractor. Stack wood off of splitter onto pallets and done with the manual handling.
  25. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    I REALLY like your idea of palletized wood FC. Often I end up handling a split 4-5 times by the time I get it from the woods into the boiler. My wood is stored conveniently under shed roof cover near the boiler, but this year I took notice of how many steps I was making bringing in, laying the split on the boiler barn floor and eventually loading. My next tractor will have a fork lift/loader attachment so I can do what your doing. That will allow me to have 1-2 weeks of energy right next to the boiler in the barn. Yeah.... I can split in the woods where the tree's down, load the split into a pallet there and the next time I touch it will be to put it in the boiler. Or, I some times buy wood when my schedule prevents work in the woods, I can just take the pallets on the trailer for a wood pickup and fill there...... yeah, Pretty smooth. Good idea.

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