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Pellet Boiler Options

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by arngnick, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    OK...I have read alotofthe older forums but I have not found all the up to dat information that I was looking for.
    I have an Uncle that lives in Derry, New Hampshire and he is tired of paying the oil man. He has considered adding a pellet insert and a new cat woodstove to supplement his oil. I suggested he just a good pellet boiler to cut his costs and use his hot water system.
    He currently uses an old oil boiler that tests at about 80% efficient. The current oil boiler that he has is 140KBTU and his home is about 2500SQFT. He is concerned about getting such units serviced and little maintenance and ease of use is important to him. He also currently supplements heat with an older wood stove in his kitchen/living room. What are your suggestions as well as well as practical costs that he should expect.
    I am trying to research and contact people about the following boilers. Which am I missing?
    Varmebaronen PelletMax UB, MESys, Windhanger, Harmon PB105, Viadrus.

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  2. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    How solid is his oil boiler? Would adding a pellet head to it be an option? That way if something doesn't work out with pellets he could put his oil burner back on.
  3. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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  4. foamit up

    foamit up Member

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    I installed a BioWin 260 in place of another pellet boiler that did not work. The BioWin is wonderful. It has burned 1100 pounds of pellets since OCT 5, with no problems. I keep checking it and it is always working perfect. Last yr in Oct i burned 1 1/2 ton with the old boiler. It has a big heat load. I estimated to burn 15-16 tons but with the Bio WIN it could be a lot less. I can not wait till it is January to see how it handles the load then. It is all automatic, set it and forget it. Foamit UP.
    timberframe likes this.
  5. Chris Hoskin

    Chris Hoskin TarmSalesGuy

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    Fröling P4, Pellergy and Kedel should also be considered. Keep in mind that NH offers a generous incentive if he installs an automatic, high efficiency pellet boiler with a bulk storage bin of at least three tons (30% of total system cost up to $6000.00).
  6. DZL_Damon

    DZL_Damon Member

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    You lucky dogs in NH and MA!!!! All your sweet incentives to put in a nice central pellet or wood heating system BEYOND the savings from the oil man. Maine gets nothin!

    I would certainly encourage him to get a central pellet system over the pellet stove if he can afford it. The incentives are very appealing and then the system just keeps paying for itself.

    I decided to go with the Kedel myself. The Frolings and MESys (Okofen) looks AWESOME, but they are a bit more expensive. I started hearing about the BioWINS after I purchased my Kedel and they sound like they are quite nice as well and would have seriously considered them if I heard about them before my purchase..

    I almost bought a Harman PB105 but went with Kedel since it was the same price with lots more efficiency with o2 control, self cleaning features along with remote monitoring/control.

    Kedel advertises estimated installed prices for all their units including bulk storage options with a transfer system to your "day" hopper. Your installers price might vary depending on complexity just like it would for any brand.

    Harman advertises MSRP on the PB105 at $7200 on their website for the boiler alone. All the other companies required a phone call if I remember correctly from when I was doing my research as well.

    I think the 140kbtu boiler in that 2500ft2 house is a little over sized unless you have no insulation. My house is about 2300ft2 with scrawny 2x4 walls with only R11 insulation. I have 2 garage doors on the house, 2 entry doors about 280ft2 of glass, and r50 to r60 in my attic. My heat balance calculation for 70*F inside the whole house (which will never happen since it's a raised ranch and we live upstairs) is about 65,000btu/hr with -10*F outside temperature and an estimated 1 air exchange/hr (which is being overly cautious). My house has a 100kbtu Pensotti oil boiler originally with a DHW tank with no issues.

    I bought a 102k btu Kedel boiler, but I also ran underground lines to another 1000ft2 of shop space. I could have easily settled with the 68k btu boiler with no issue, and even the 54k btu boiler for 98% of the time. The only thing that would happen with a slightly smaller boiler is the entire house would not maintain 70*F at max fire on a design degree day (-10*F in my area). This would not be an issue if some of the space is garage like half of mine is... it's fine at 40*F while I'm not working in there.
    timberframe likes this.
  7. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    We have been nothing but absolutely impressed with the Windhagers we have installed. As far as I can see they are the yardstick in terms of value and performance. Great combustion control without the use of an O2 sensor is a plus in my book.
    timberframe and arngnick like this.
  8. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    Maple...I did not think of that but it would be a good idea. I think that type of setup would require more tinkering and cleaning than he would like to do. As well as the boiler is quite old.

    We would not consider an outdoor unit. We are looking for something that will sit inside so the central boiler is out. I have been in contact with Marc in mass about the Windhanger and the system looks nice, the price is on the upper end so we are hesitant to go that route unless it is clear that it is a superior unit. After talking to Mark from AHONA this will be a system that will likely make it through to the final line-up in the desicion process, I would like to know if anyone has any expirience or thoughts on the Viadrus Hurcules Eco. I also just started looking at the other options that were suggested and I am quite impressed with the Frolling but I am sure the price tag is also be impressive. Still alot to look at before making a desicion. Thanks for all the useful coments so far.
  9. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Maine Energy Systems has been installing all sort of pellet boilers up in Berlin NH. http://www.maineenergysystems.com/OkoFEN_AutoPellet_Boilers.htm. There are some special incentives for the area in addition to the NH incentive. They sell manual fill boilers but most get the bulk fed units that get bulk deliveries. The system reliability is at the point where banks do not require backup fuel. Of course bulk fed systesm are only worth buying if there is a local supplier but its worth looking. MES has some sort of pellet price protection in place. These systems are not inexpensive
  10. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    We are trying to look at the MESys if we can get a call back from them...
  11. Tim04757

    Tim04757 New Member

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    I purchased a Kedel for my 2100 sq. ft. home which had a VERY old wood boiler and an oil boiler which tested out much the same as the one you have. The Kedel should not be overlooked as an option. I am very happy, it should fit right into your existing heating system and the ease of operation is great. If you are helping your uncle with this project you'll like the Kedel in that you can view it's operation and change it's settings via the web. I know other units have this as an option ($$$) but it is included with the Kedel. There are a variety of storage solutions ranging from 320 lb hopper up to as many tons as you have room for with a vacuum feed option. Take a look at them all and make your own choice like we all did. But don't overlook the Kedel. They are more reasonably priced than other units and have most of the same options. I have blogged about my experience installing and using the Kedel, if you are interested here is the link. Good luck in your search. http://kedelproject.blogspot.com/
    timberframe and arngnick like this.
  12. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    Beware! Some comments are from people who may have a stake in the pellet boiler business.

    It is unwise to rip out the old oil boiler! While most of these unit seem remarkable, they are not time tested in the US. There is a difference between the European models and the US models due to the 50 Hz versus our 60 Hz. If something were to happen to the new pellet boiler, he would be without heat. Also, most insurance companies require that the old oil boiler stay in place for that reason, in case the pellet boiler is not operating the oil boiler would fire up and keep pipes from freezing.

    ALL pellet boilers will require maintenance and upkeep ~ even the new fancier ones. Some are more than others, but infinitely more than an oil boiler.

    Another model to look at is the Pinnacle PB-150 Biomass Boiler (I have one). This unit also provides DHW, which not all of them do (though some can, with additional costs). Pinnacle has had a biomass boiler out longer than any other manufacturer in North America.

    http://www.evergreenheat.com/our-home-heating-products/traeger-pinnacle-biomass-boilers/

    I am not going to lie, I have had issues, just like everyone else. However, my seller (which would be your uncle's in NH), has always been there to help and assist. He will also service the unit if your uncle wishes.
    Dana B likes this.
  13. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    good advice! banks will not write a loan on a house without conventional heat (gas, oil, electric) which will become an issue when it is time to sell. It also is written into most mortage contracts up here, that you keep a conventional heat system.
  14. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    Yup! But some companies *ahem* ***Kedel (for one)*** say to go ahead and rip them out ~ bad advice in my opinion.
  15. DZL_Damon

    DZL_Damon Member

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    Yes, they asked me if I was to do the same but I had no intention of ripping out a reliable, proven, paid for... yet expensive to operate oil boiler. The space it was in was not useful for me for anything else, and I could not put the Kedel in it's spot as easy since a spot for a hopper was not as convienient. I luckily had a 2nd woodstove downstairs on it's own flue, so I hooked up there instead and ran pipe into the original boiler room. An aquastat in the Kedel will allow the oil boiler to run if:

    A.) There is a call for heat (end switch goes to TT on the oil boiler)
    B.) The pellet boiler is below 100*F for 10 minutes AFTER that call has come in (ran out of pellets, won't fire, etc)

    For the price of 1 additional aquastat and sourcing an old timer from work, that additional security was worth it. As a former sailor, I like to have my contingency plan in place with a back up always ready.

    I think Interphase has a common owner with Revision Energy which is a renewable energy company in Portland that does lots of solar hook ups.... their motto is something like "the journey off oil". They even have a Chevy Volt for a company vehicle, so I guess you can see where they are coming from and their mindset.

    If this Kedel pans out like I'm hoping it will, I will most likely not purchase a back up oil boiler when I build a new house, just a pellet boiler and maybe emergency electric back up heat.

    I for one do NOT have anything to gain from others buying a Kedel over any other manufacturer... I think like most folk I am proud of the model I chose and tend to discuss it a little more since I'm more familiar with mine. I think those ones that go in your living room look REAL nice, along with the BioWINs. I too had a hard time getting MESys to return my phone calls... I was AMAZED at that! I left 2 or 3 messages and emails, took a week or so to hear from someone and they didn't sound too interested in selling a boiler to me as my own contractor. Froling was awesome, but the price tag was a major turn off.

    However, to the original poster Look into the fine lines on those NH rebates. I believe the system MIGHT require bulk delivery to qualify. I was considering selling my house recently and the appraiser saw the work I was doing downstairs. He said if I did not have a 3 ton hopper, he would not be able to get a loan for a new buyer unless an oil boiler was there as back up. Just look into those details before you plan. Best of luck!
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
    arngnick likes this.
  16. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    From what I have seen of them, I think there are a number of very good reasons that Windhager is number one in Europe. As much as I would like to brag on a US made boiler and sell them, they are not even in the same league.
  17. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    Thanks for the heads up...wind hanger dealer said just that! Get rid of the oil. I am not convinced to go any direction yet. Rebate program seems to be a huge hassle. Plus it requires a 3 ton bin which my uncle does not nessasarily need the extra cost if the bin would wash out most any savings.
  18. EcoHeat

    EcoHeat Member

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    You are missing EcoBoiler pellet boilers from your list.

    Any of the boilers mentioned will probably be better than choice than continuing to heat with oil. Pellets are much cheaper than oil, and readily available throughout New Hampshire. If your uncle decides to invest in a pellet boiler, then the next big question becomes "what size pellet storage makes sense". The NH PUC grant program is very generous, so it's worthwhile to consider bulk storage along with the bag-fill options.

    Do you know what the oil consumption over the heating season is at your uncle's home? And is he heating hot water with the oil boiler? If so, with a "tankless coil" or an "indirect" tank heater? The answers to these questions will help you narrow down the size of pellet boiler that he will want, and possibly what other components of the heating system may need to be updated.
  19. Chris Hoskin

    Chris Hoskin TarmSalesGuy

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    In addition to the very real concerns about insurance coverage / mortgage requirements, there is the practical reality that the contractor who pulls up to the house to deal with a 2am no-heat call is very unlikely to have the right parts on the van like he would if he were there to service a generic oil or gas boiler. Leave the back-up boiler in place if at all possible.

    I would say that a three or four ton bin would be well worth the $6000.00 rebate and, also means that your uncle will not have to handle the fuel. Seems like a big advantage to me.

    Chris
  20. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Re: code issues and "backup" equipment.....

    I've had several discussions with both insurance people and code officials centered around the phrase "automatically fired" heating appliance. That is the term used in the code books and with the advent of top notch pellet boilers, that term is causing some stress as far as exact definition is concerned.
    Here's a couple cases to illustrate.
    We installed a pellet boiler that was not self cleaning and had controls that had to be manually adjusted for on-off, burn rate etc. It was capable of lighting itself after the user provided "input" in the words of the insurance guy.
    It did not qualify as automatically fired in their book and the owner had to install an additional piece of heating equipment.

    On a recent installation of a Windhager BioWin, the owner wanted to take out the ancient LP gas fired boiler and discard it. The insurance company told him he would have to have another one installed before they approved so the owner told the agent to get in touch with me for details. I explained how the only user input required would be to fill the hopper every 2-4 days and how the boiler cycled on the same thermostat used for the LP gas boiler and he gave it a green light. I also explained that the boiler as delivered was capable of feeding itself from a bulk storage bin if the owner chose to do so.

    The key seemed to be when I told him that as long as the boiler had fuel supplied to it (same as any other heating appliance) it would start, stop, and even modulate up and down the same as any gas or oil fired boiler. After that he realized that he did not have a leg to stand on in his argument that the Windhager required "user input". It was obvious that his frame of reference was a typical pellet stove and that I had to do some "educating" to help him understand that he was looking at a completely different type of equipment.

    So, I think the insurance and code people are starting to see that they are behind the curve of what is going on in the biomass/pellet industry. They need to update their knowledge base regarding what some, but not all, of these pellet boilers will do.
  21. DZL_Damon

    DZL_Damon Member

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    My experience was very similar. My insurance company gave me a questionnaire for a pellet stove. I told her she really should be giving me a questionnaire for a normal boiler to prove I tested the remote shut off, LWCO, overheat thermal protection, etc. She said our insurance company did not recognize automated pellet boilers yet, but had spoke with the people at the office (my company is Patrons). They said if it came on/off by itself with no user intervention, all I would have to do is prove I was on an automated delivery schedule. They did not SAY 3 tons, but for my area at this time 3 tons is the minimum delivery amount. Since I opted to keep my oil boiler, my insurance record still shows my oil boiler as the primary heat source, and the pellet boiler as secondary. Not a big deal, but I would not be able to remove the oil boiler unless I was on an automatic delivery schedule.

    Eitherway, I gave her a lot of information on the boiler and asked her to speak with the insurance companies they represent since automated pellet boilers seem to be making a larger appearance in the Northeast and they will be seeing a lot of them. I suggested they add clearances more similar to a boiler, not a stove along with LWCO, overheat protection, remote shutoff switches, themal cut out switch above the boiler, UL listings, etc. They certainly did seem behind the curve.

    As to the original poster: Up to $6,000 for FREE to have a 3 ton bulk bag set up or bigger seems like a great deal! Lucky New Hampshirites...
  22. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    I would say that he burns around 1000 gal a year. He heats his DHW with a tankless coil. What is the going price of the EcoBoilers?
  23. arngnick

    arngnick Member

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    I guess if you were going to spend $20000.00 on a boiler then you would be eligible for $6000.00 There are some very competive units that are MUCH less. I think this project can easily be done for under 10K (maybe closer to 8K). I think alot of the boiler companies have taken advantage of the rebate program and priced their units at a premium and make their customers feel like they are getting a great deal. It is hard to justify a $20K when you could install a new oil boiler for $3500 at most. That could buy alot of oil and you don't ever have to handle any ash.

    Does anyone know if a stick built pellet bin would qualify for the rebate?
  24. Tim04757

    Tim04757 New Member

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    Some of the manufacturers have storage solutions that will utilize a vacuum system to automatically fill the boiler's hopper from a bulk storage bin when the pellet level gets low. This could allow you to use almost any method of storing the pellets. I am familiar with Kedel's system as I considered it with my install and can't speak to the others. I did not go that route because bulk pellets are more expensive than by the pallet in my area. One of the NH guys would have to tell you if the vacuum system would qualify.
  25. Paste

    Paste New Member

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    When I spoke with Barb, the woman in charge of the NH rebate program, she told me you can build the bin. She was very friendly and helpful with the rebate process. And, yes, the vacuum systems do qualify.
    arngnick likes this.

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