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Pellet boiler availability

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by muncybob, Jun 26, 2008.

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  1. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    Up until last night I was sure we would be picking up a wood boiler soon. Had a chimney guy come out and he is going to give us a quote on lining our 26' chimney for the inside wood boiler. He then stated how available wood pellets are now in this area...and even Sams Club is(or was) selling them...but he then said that he heard Harman products are so backlogged don't expect to see anything until at least January. It seems there are only a handful of pellet boiler manufacturers?

    Is the backlog on orders really that bad? Are these boilers easier to use than wood boilers? I know I would not have to cut/split wood but some of the info I've read makes it look as though you can load them once a day and basically forget about them? Do they require a lined chimney such as the traditional wood boiler? Any idea on how many tons of pellets we would use if we use an average of 800 gallons oil/yr?

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  2. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    I'm going to give the quick answers as I understand them...

    There are several pellet boiler manufactures. I've never looked into them, but I'm sure others can give the names. I think you're looking at $5k up to $as much as $14k depending on what you're looking for. Harman is pretty much spoken for through the end of this year, at least with most of their pellet stoves. My GUESS is that that also applies to their pellet boiler(s), but check on that. Pellet burners are generally a little more complicated in their design than wood boilers, but yes, they are much easier to use. Most pellet boilers can be loaded and forgotten about for more than a day. Pellet burners typically use a special double wall flue and which can be run inside your existing chimney, or be even direct vented. 800 gal of oil is roughly about 6.5 tons in pellets.

    All your answers can pretty much be found here... do some reading and then call your local dealers. :)
  3. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    There is a backlog on the Harmon PB105 pellet boiler. However, the Pinnacle/Traeger PB150 is available. I went with the Pinnacle/Traeger due to the fact that IS their business. The PB150 has been around for 16 years with a proven track record, unlike the Harmon PB105 which has only been around for a couple of years. Just to be fair, Tarm makes a pellet boiler too. The Harmon and Pinnacle/Traeger are around $7k, the Tarm is more.

    All pellet boilers will allow you to load it up for a day, two, or more, depending on the weather and your heating needs. There are even bin and auger systems where you would never have to feed the boiler. Put a couple tons in every few months and thats it.

    However, there is more involvement in cleaning a pellet boiler (and more often) then a wood boiler, but it is still easier then cutting, splitting, and stacking wood.

    I do not know about the chimney liner for the Harmon, the Tarm you would need one. I only have one flue and am keeping my existing oil burner connected to that. I will be venting my Pinnacle/Traeger PB150 using pellet 4" flue piping, out my basement and up 20'. It will cost $800.

    I have been using about 800 gallons of oil per year and calculated that would equate to 6 tons. However, that could be less depending on how you configure things, especially in regards to dhw. Remember, you burn about 200 gallons of oil throughout the course of a year just to keep your dhw warm.

    Hope this helps!
    ~Jeff
  4. MaineEnergySystems

    MaineEnergySystems Member

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    Our pellet boilers are still available and will be available all year for installation for this heating season. -> maineenergysystems.com

    Our system is estimated to cost $12.5k to buy/install/train. It will be more expensive for you because we will have to ship a boiler out there and make sure the installation is done properly from afar.

    We can do this because Bosch and Janfire have the production capacity to make more boilers than we could install. In fact, Bosch boilers are available in Germany in similar abundance to oil boilers in the US.

    If you call, we might be able to work something out for this heating season. Our primary market is Maine, and we intended to only sell to Maine, but if you want a system without having the infrastructure to deliver pneumatically (and the associated ease-of-use) we can work something out.

    Our offering is our Bosch/MEsys boiler with a Janfire NH burner unit, a pneumatic delivery system, and a 7'x7'x7' indoor 4 ton bin. Our system, with all its basic components, requires you to have a pneumatic truck deliver twice a heating season. If you're across the country, we're working on a method to have traditional bulk pellet deliveries go right into the bin. There is no manual filling of the hopper, etc, and cleaning and service is done on an annual basis. The only thing you have to do is take out the ash twice a year.

    You'll need about 6 tons of pellets for an equivalent BTU (once it's burned) to 800 gallons of oil.
  5. Sting

    Sting Feeling the Heat

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    At first -- you don't simply load and forget about a pellet boiler -- there is a learning/stumble curve. Unless your well enough set to buy and correctly install an HS Tarm - and I mention Tarm because of its proven years of track record. (just as Traeger but the only similarities in appliances are they both burn pellets.)

    The system that the salesman is extolling the benefits of above, is one of the first attempts to make pellet fuel as simple as oil, but you see you pay for that. If your handy you can save thousands and thousands on installation and "training". I submit you don't need complicated "air" movement systems. WE have chatted for years about moving tons of material with a simple dime store vacuum cleaner. You can build massive or proportional storage bins with a couple pieces of plywood in an afternoon - many plans available.

    If you got the cash for a "system" - save a lot of up front cash and buy a traditional fueled hi end boiler and enjoy it. If you want a pellet boiler - build the infrastructure yourself to get a return on investment. Do a search for bulk feed systems - mine is made from salvaged farm augers and bins - I never touch my fuel till its ash, and I spent about 400 bucks.

    And don't believe these sales stories how you only clean once a season. Or ANY claims of hi efficiency. All Salesman lie. Do "your own" heat loss calculation with free software available on the web to determine what you really need ---and then take the factory figures from the appliances listed above - and cut them by 30%

    When these two figures match - you have a possible appliance target to install to. If your heat calculation of load is larger than 70% of appliance claim - you will be cold or like me you will add energy from the traditional fuel backup boiler.
  6. MaineEnergySystems

    MaineEnergySystems Member

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    Well, I can concede a few of your points, but we're not going to get anywhere calling each other liars. I'd also appreciate it if you didn't imply our systems were faulty or new - I'd wager there's more installed units exactly like ours running right now in Europe than Tarm has manufactured. Janfire has been in the business over 20 years with 30,000 installed units identical to our system in operation right now, so let's not get into Tarm vs Bosch/Janfire. It's just ugly for everyone.

    For example, I can call you a liar because our systems DO just get loaded up and forgotten. I'd submit you didn't read my post when I said we delivered pneumatically, not that our bin system worked pneumatically. There's a computer-controlled auger from the bin to the burner, and the burner calls for exactly the amount of pellets you need to burn.

    Additionally, there are some people out there who don't want to deal with the hassle and unreliability of a homemade solution. Our bins have been designed to cut down on the amount of fines produced, as are our augers. There's no warranty on scavenged augers and plywood, but there is on our bin. Granted, our bin is going to cost more (a little over $1k more), but people who want a system usually aren't converting from a previous pellet boiler and its associated need to be loaded. I'd also wager that your plywood and scavenged auger system isn't UL/ASME certified, and that your home insurance company would probably like to know about it (so they can cancel your policy). I also wouldn't recommend scavenging augers - augers have a set life due to wear on the gearbox and motor, and an old auger is probably near the end of that.

    It really comes down to: how much do you value your time? If time isn't a huge issue for you, go with a hopper-equipped boiler, but be aware you have to manually load it frequently.

    We do our own heat calculations, constantly, with the computer on the burner. The burner calculates the amount of heat the house is losing, and puts that amount in the house. This way, you don't have to burn at 100%, 0%, 100%, 0%, etc. If your house is losing 70 kBTU/hr, you have more problems on your hands than getting a new boiler, probably something along the lines of a missing side of your house.

    Look, Les Otten hasn't cleaned his boiler yet and it was installed in late March. It's still running near peak efficiency, and there's very little buildup on the heat exchanging element in the boiler. He doesn't exactly have a tiny house, either, so he has the boiler with the higher heat capacity and a higher pellet burn rate.
  7. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    But customers lie too - having been in the business for 30+ years - I've heard more exaggerations from customers than I have from dealers and manufacturers! It's called the "$800 turkey" syndrome (my name for it) and the theory holds that whatever a particular customer buys.....even if it is a piece of junk (the India and Taiwan Dutchwest stoves were the first example), they LOVE it and tell all their friends to get one.

    It is important to make the point that the American made units are probably not tested to efficiency with any "standard" standard, while in Europe this is often a requirement. The heating trade and customers in general - and regulations - assure this.

    As to the 30% cut, are you saying that if a pellet boiler is advertised to be 80% efficient, that the customer should figure it to be 50% or 56%? At that efficiency, would it even be worth burning pellets?

    I think we have to be careful here about boiler envy....or the "turkey" syndrome. Harman is the largest selling Pellet unit, but often double the price of other units - and I don't see a lot of complaints there. Tarm is also the top-end and very few are sorry they go for that. These European units are most definitely well engineered and I think (and hope) they will set a new standard for future American and European units which come in.

    I must say - having seen Maine Energys Site calculations - that they are being very accurate and conservative - and I have not seen ANY other manufacturer be that honest about the expected savings. It is actually a breath of fresh air compared to other - more fuzzy - claims of savings. No doubt that folks have to do their homework......but we should welcome folks who are in this to do it right.

    My opinion, anyway.
  8. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Great debate, guys. I think you both make some excellent points.

    I saw a ton of pellet-fueled boilers at the World Bioenergy Conference last month in Sweden, including one made by EKO. What they had on display looks like proven technology to me. I'd love to get my mitts on one of those chip-burning gasifiers, however. Pellet mills pay about $50 a ton now for clean, specially-sized chips that these things are designed to burn. As pellet costs continue to rise, I think chips and chip burners are going to be pretty competitive.

    Here's a pellet boiler setup I'd like to check out. The back half of the shed is a hopper, with the pellets augered in through the wall.

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  9. Sting

    Sting Feeling the Heat

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    Wow

    Eric -- I though you would come down on me like an old dead elm tree for suggesting (again) that some whom post here have their own interest and bottom line in mind

    not sort of approve!
    [​IMG]
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I think salesmen are fair game, and I never object to you guys calling them out. But I don't mind when somebody with something to sell is upfront about it and offers good information in a reasonable manner.

    Plus, this isn't my forum--I'm just a civilian here.
  11. Sting

    Sting Feeling the Heat

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    No Sir --- that is not the interpretation I wish to paint.

    More is the fact that MFG web pages list the potential of their units and the efficiency's are buried in the fine print

    More sales gimmicks - Advertising -- buy me -- I am this big -- dee ta dee

    For instance threads of the past where one salesman said his unit (that I burn hard) would produce the advertised BTU

    but it doesn't

    None of them do -- then they claim -- oh we are 80% efficient or 75 or 85 -- BULL -- I have yet to run across a poster here or on other pages -- a lucid poster not one with the Essex syndrome that gets 80 out of an appliance like mine.

    I do not try to influence folks to buy a particular boiler -- I think I have gone out of my way to say how difficult some models are to maintain at best efficiency. And having folks PM and interact regarding EVERY pellet boiler in use today on these pages like these, tells me I am not wrong.

    Is it worth burning pellets

    Only by a small margin if you have NG today. And it is not at all worth it if the degree day load is less than 30.
  12. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    OK, from what I have read appears pellets are convenient but way more costly than wood, well at least here. I can get a triax load of wood which would be around 8 full cords for apprx $700....I guess add another $100 for chainsaw/splitter fuel, etc. and a fair amount of manual labor= $800 and a lot of my time(which I can spare). I'm assuming the 8 cords will last the heating season if I may a wise boiler purchase. Compare this with apprx. 6 tons pellets @ $200/ton(last year's pricing...not sure what it is right now) = $1200 which would be spending $400 more now that I could have used toward next year's wood if I order another truck load. Cutting my own wood will be another cost saver. I really do like the convenience of loading pellets once per day(or maybe less) but not at this cost difference over the next few years. So I guess a wood boiler outside or in an outside insulated shed is going to be my choice...I wish I could convince my wife a wood boiler in the basement is the way to go be she's a hard headed German/Polander and it's a lost cause!
  13. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Maybe she'll soften up when you tell her that the EKO is made in Poland.
  14. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    8 cords of wood - seasoned hardwood - burned in an efficient wood boiler - would create vastly more heat than 6 tons of pellets......

    Keeping in mind a close efficiency (both are about 80% steady state), 6 tons of pellets weighs 6 tons
    8 cords of wood - that weighs about 14 tons! Even taking a couple tons off for the difference in moisture content, you will see that the wood is vastly more.

    In your case, I would say that 4 cords of that wood would provide the same heat as 6 tons of pellets....so the math is even better than you are getting at.

    ------------as to the larger part about "selling" - well, almost every single person here has an axe to grind...and I would not want it any other way. The only real question is whether people are here to answer others questions and help them out. We have lots of dealers, distributors, installers, chimney sweeps and manufacturers participating here - all that I ask is that such people represent themselves accurately as to what their interest is.....
  15. Sting

    Sting Feeling the Heat

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    if your in central PA????


    Why ain't you-ALL -- burning coal?
  16. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    We are more north central PA...coal is available but a bit more in price that farther south. With the land I have around me the access to almost free wood is appealing.
  17. MaineEnergySystems

    MaineEnergySystems Member

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    But our system ISN'T like yours...and our system takes that inefficiency into account, so it will burn more in order to have a consistent BTU output.

    It's a smart little machine. :)
  18. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Notice I said "steady-state" efficiency, which I think a gasifier boiler and well-tuned pellet stove or boiler can easily achieve. This is not total system efficiency......although the standards are somewhat muddled, I see it this way:

    Steady-state - when the unit is running along and a test of the efficiency at the moment is taken.
    AFUE - lower than steady state - takes into account other factors, such as jacket heat loss, cycling of the boiler and others...
    Energuide or True (other) system efficiency - the actual delivered heat to the house based on what was actually in the fuel in the first place, taking MOST other factors into play, including storage, delivery, cold climates, air leakage (excess air) etc.

    To be even more clear - a well tuned Pellet stove or boiler should have almost complete combustion efficiency - somewhere from 96-98% in the real world. The second part of the equation is the heat transfer of the heat produced to the room or water. After that you have all kind of other "drags" on the system, including the jacket heat loss, piping heat loss, etc.

    Joe (Brownie) tested one pellet boiler (Traeger) with HVAC instruments and assured us that the steady state was well over 80% when set up right. I expect that other heating pros who take their combustion analyzers to well-tuned pellet boilers will find the same.

    Keep in mind that oil boilers also are subject to many of the system heat losses and other factors - such as consuming indoor air, etc. - so the delivered efficiency is reduced just like with Pellet boilers.

    All in all, my point is this - my guess is that a NEW pellet boiler, properly built, tuned and set up - is equiv. in efficiency to most EXISTING oil boilers in the field - and also similar to a high efficiency gasifier with storage. While each situation differs, most pellet and wood boilers are being compared against an existing system with an average age of 12-25 years, as opposed to the latest and greatest.
  19. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Hey MES--I get through Bethel on business occasionally. Do you have a showroom or other place where I could stop and take a look?
  20. Sting

    Sting Feeling the Heat

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    I like stupid machines that do their job with out question.

    When they fail - and everything does - on Saturday night - in a storm - when its cold - a stupid guy like me can rig something to get by until Monday!
  21. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Good think you ain't an airline mechanic!

    I guess this thread is about tapped out. We know each person has the best unit for them, and that no other unit will do. That is a given........over the years we can look back and see which systems are the most efficient and reliable.

    I'm gonna close this one...
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