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Seton W100 Boiler coal/ash and burn time issues

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by byrddogwi, Feb 26, 2008.

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  1. byrddogwi

    byrddogwi New Member

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    I have problems with the boiler getting a lot of ash/coals which fill up the fire box in 2-3 days. Once it gets up to the draft holes it smolders and creates a lot of creosote and does not heat above 120 degree water temperature. It also does not make it 12 hours between fill ups during a below zero day which it what I need since it is at least 12 hours from the time I leave in the morning and the time I return at night.

    I have a Seton W100 boiler in an outside 8'x10' insulated building. The exhaust is connected to a 8" diameter 16" double wall stove pipe (with a draft inducer which died) , connected to a stove pipe adapter to a 1'-8” double wall insulated chimney section going through the wall to a double wall insulated 8” T on the outside of the building. From there I have 7-3' long 8" double wall insulated chimney sections going up for a total of 21' of chimney with no chimney cap. I have a 2500 sq ft home with radiant heat in the slab and staple up under the second floor.

    I the draft set for about 185-190 degrees with a 5 degree diff. I set the diff lower because it would drop the water temp down to 120-130 degrees if the house was calling for heat when the draft re-opened. If I keep the diff set lower it only drops to 140-160 degrees.

    I have spoken to Fred and he says that I should not be having the problems that I am. This is the first heating season that I have used it (it was brand new from Fred) and it has not been working very well the whole season. I have had a couple of days that it works OK but it still creates a lot of ash and coals that I need to empty every 2-4 days. Fred says that some people do not empty the ashes out all season. I just can’t believe it after seeing mine. I have also doused the tubes with charcoal lighter fluid which burned out my draft inducer. It did seem to work a little better after that but now it seems to be back to normal (which is not very good) but it does provide enough heat during days down to -10 degrees below zero. I have a couple of electric heaters in the house to supplement the wood heat.

    I burn hardwoods, red and white oak, shagbark hickory, maple and elm. Most are in the 8-14" diameter in size with some smaller pieces. I did have a little better luck with some oak that was drying for a year or so but I still had to empty ashes out in 4 days. I just cut down some dead elm and black cherry and it only lasted 2 days before the ashes and coals where up to the draft holes.

    My questions are:

    Is there anyone having good luck with a Seton boiler?
    What kind of wood are you using and how long has the wood been drying?
    How much chimney do you have?
    How often do you empty out ashes?
    Can you make it 12 hours between fill ups?

    If there is someone that has a Seton boiler working well in the WI/MN/IA area can I come see your setup? I live in SE MN. It would be nice to talk to someone who has one working and see what is needed to make these work properly.

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Welcome to the Boiler Room, Byrddog. We have several members with Seton W-100s. I bet you'll get all kinds of help here.
  3. slowzuki

    slowzuki Feeling the Heat

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    I know someone will ask, what is your chimneys draft? The Seton types are sensitive to this. With you draft inducer turned off, is it blocking the draft?
  4. steam man

    steam man Minister of Fire

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    I don't have a Seton Boiler but will be looking at a clone in a few hours.

    My thoughts: Based on your aged oak burning somewhat better should be a tell tale sign that your wood is too wet. Up to 14" wet rounds are hard to reduce to complete ash since they won't put out heat fast enough due to the surface area. I always get my fire up to temp first with small dry wood, stacked so the air can penetrate the stack of wood and really draft. The fire should roar like hell. With the boiler up to temp then you can put in big pieces for a longer burn. Don't overload it with wet stuff. I would also suggest if the wood is wet is to just start splitting it as you use it. Surface area makes a big difference and again, stack so the air can get to all the surfaces. Packing the stack tighter will give longer burn times but my experience with wet wood ended up like yours. I would also suggest to look at the tubes in the boiler to see how dirty they they are. It may well be clogged and restricting the draft flow. Check the whole chimney to be sure it is open. I know this sounds like the obvious but my first year of burning was trial and error also. The Seton design is tried and true.

    Go to go look at a boiler.......
  5. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    I burn in a GreenWood 100, which is very similar.

    #1 - what is the measured draft?

    #2 - Are you saying that you get your Seton up to temp where the damper closes, you fill it with large hardwood rounds, then it will not go 12 hours when below zero?

    In case you answer 'Yes' to #2 . . . um, you are not going to get 12 hours out of any properly sized unit when it's below zero.

    Frustrating the first year can be . . .
  6. byrddogwi

    byrddogwi New Member

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    I don't have a manometer so I do not have a way to measure the draft. Where do you buy a manometer or where can one be borrowed? According to Fred around 18' of 8" chimney is usually enough and I added an extra 3' to get to 21'. Even when I used the darft inducer I had the same problem of having to empty ash out of the boiler every 2-4 days.

    I do have a good fire going when I put in the wood most of the time. If the water temp is down below 120 then it takes a little longer to get back up to 180. When I add wood when it is hot and I close the door it roars pretty good. I have taken some of the screws that hold the back on and squirted charcoal fluid down there and it burned pretty hard. In fact the double wall stove pipe turned red and burned out my draft inducer. I may have to take the whole back off and see if I can get to the tubes and do a good cleaning. I dread doing this because I will need to take apart all of the plumbing. It is strange that it never worked good from day 1. I had 18' of chimney then and only used it for a couple of days and added 3' to get a total of 21'.

    Sounds as if these boilers are a lot pickier than I thought. My brothers and my dad have the regular outside wood stoves, the kind you see everywhere around here, and have very few problems with them. I have inhaled so much smoke that people think I am a smoker (my clothes, hair and scalp smell like creasote and smoke which does not come off even after a couple of washes) and I cough so bad that I sometimes throw up when I fill it, especially when I have to empty the ashes out. I am not ready to give up on the Seton yet but some days am awful close.

    Every couple of days I probably shovel out 5-10 gallons of ash and coals to get it below the draft holes even though the inside of the door and the refractory is completely white. One time the coals where up to the bottom of the door, when the wood turns to coals the boiler is useless. When it warms up here I will may just bite the bullet and remove the stove pipe with the dead draft inducer and replace it to see if that helps and possibly remove the back.

    Has anyone just cut part of the back out so they could clean the tubes?

    To reply to ISeeDeadBTUs:

    #2-Yes, when the draft closes around 180 degrees I can add 12" oaks and some smaller filler wood and it won't make it 12 hours. I guess I need a larger boiler if that is the case. I am gone for at least 12 hours during the day and cannot fill it up in between. The house temp can drop and it takes a lot more wood to bring it back up. I may fire it 6:30pm and then put some more in at 10 or 11pm to make it through until 6:30am.
  7. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    What is your heat loss calc?

    Because I seriously doubt that any gassifier is going to provide productive heat for 12 hours when it's below zero out. Sounds like what you wanted was something with a very large firebox that you could load very rarely. That's an OWB. How does the amount you put in a load compare to you father or brothers loads?

    So . . . are you saying it actually burns fine once up to temp and loaded? (aka, 190*, then a full load, then leave the door shut till the water temps drop below 180*)

    If you are leaving the door shut until the water drops below 180*, there should be very few coals and ashes left. Are you carefully raking the coals, then pushing them back below the air inlets?

    Jimbo
  8. antknee2

    antknee2 New Member

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    Wood fried boilers are very tricky to master , just when you thing things are ok , some unforeseen variable bug's you . At the beginning of the heating season I tried burning very wet big oak logs , seemed ok they created allot of ash . In January I tapped into well seasoned oak smaller rounds some slits and I cant believe the difference in ash buildup , maybe it's travails out the flue pipe with the exhaust 70% less approximately. Their is a major design flaw in the Seton type boiler's , their is no way to clean the vertical tube in back . I had to do something , cut the side panel and cut a small section of the insulation to gain access to the tubes then running a 4' long brush through middle of of the tubes. After proper reassembly the Seton was like running a different boiler had to change some habits mainly using about 40% less wood . Sounds like you have a great setup and great wood . Do you have a adequate supply of make up air in the shed , Setons need massive amounts air to burn cleanly ?? Pics of your installation would be great. Just for the fun of it try splitting one your big round logs an immediately check the moisture content , you will not believe your eyes . Hope this helps Anthony

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  9. byrddogwi

    byrddogwi New Member

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    My heat loss estimates were approximately 40K BTU/HR.

    If I remember correct my brothers is rated around 300K. I think my dads is around 250-300K also and he heats an old 2 story house and his garage (no insulation) when he needs to work in the shop. They are a lot larger in firebox size (maybe 2x-3x) so they will last longer. I know they use some dried and some green wood.

    Yes, it usually burns good once it is up to temp and loaded. I usually check the water temp in the bathroom (our heat comes in to the bathroom/utility room) every hour or so to see if the water is up above 160 degrees. If it is lower I am either out of wood or the ashes/coals are getting above the draft holes.

    I never have the door open unless I am adding wood or cleaning out the ashes. The water temp is usually around 180-190 degrees down to a low of around 160 degrees. Now that it is warmer, 20-30 degrees during the day, it usually is still up to around 180 degrees when I get home and when I leave in the morning. I use a garden rake and a poker to level out the coals and then put in some wood. The best luck I have had was with a dead aspen tree that was light as paper. I used a couple pieces of it on the bottom and then used some oak rounds that were about 1.5 years old on top. That combination kept 12 hours but it only got down to maybe -5 below zero and then got up to the 20s during the day. Even then I had to empty out the boiler in about 4-5 days, maybe six.
  10. byrddogwi

    byrddogwi New Member

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    Anthony D

    Thanks for the info. The shed is not that tight but I do have a 2 inch PVC pipe going outside next to the expansion tank but I don't know if that is enough air other than what leaks in from the door and any other not so tight spots.

    I don't have a moisture meter either, maybe I need to buy one of those and a manometer. I don't know if I am ready to cut a hole in the side since I may be trading up for a larger W-130. I will call Fred to see if that it OK and won't affect how much he will give me toward the larger W-130. I am just wondering if I want to stay with the Seton boiler or if I should cut my losses and try a Tarm or some other gasification boiler. Do they all have issues/special needs? I guess I was going on what Fred said that it could burn green wood, dried wood or anything in between. Maybe I misunderstood him.

    How often do you empty out the ashes in your W-130? What size split oak rounds are you using that work good for you? I like your idea of cutting a hole in the side and using a brush to clean out the tubes. I still think I may have some buildup there. Have your tried squirting and lighting the tubes with charcoal lighter or do you think elbow grease and a brush works better? Do you think it is better using heat storage also? Does that give you more time between fills? Is there still heat left in the boiler when you fill it up? How long is it between fill ups?
  11. Willman

    Willman Minister of Fire

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    Anthony, Does the pressure vessel tubing stay cleaner with well seasoned wood ?

    Will
  12. antknee2

    antknee2 New Member

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    I think it helps . If you make the boiler as air tight as possible , damper closed cycles tend put the wood in suspended animatinon mode , no smoke in the fire box just gray logs , very freaky . I think smolder fires or leaky seals cause nasty build up on the HX tubes hidden in back of refractory wall . You cant judge what it looks like back there by the whiteness of the refractory walls , bummer . Anthony
  13. sparke

    sparke Minister of Fire

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    It is a bummer to hear all the bad things about Setons, Gw, and Adobe. I don't have any problems except getting rid of all the heat. Believe it or not an 80* house is getting tiresome :) Even before the draft inducer with .03 to .04 it was running well. Does Seton, have a grate on the bottom of the boiler emptying into the ashpan? I wonder if the slight design differences are that important... I do have problems burning very dry split wood. It does not burn clean (explained in another thread). Green 8" to 12" Oak burns excellent. I dont know how dry rounds burn yet because I don't have any. Hopefully I will have my tank up and running soon so I will have a place to put the excess heat.
  14. antknee2

    antknee2 New Member

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    The w- 130 is a beast it has 29 hx tubes , over 3000 pounds , can fit wood 27'' long by 16'' dia through the door , 15 cu ft fire box . That should keep you warm. Before you spend any money talk to Fred and really consider taking off entire side skin , only cut a small section of high density insulation to gain access to the tubes . After cleaning an proper reassembly you may not need a bigger boiler . This season I emptied the ash draw about five times , it's a big ash draw. Im afraid of the lighter fluid method . Heat storage is the only way for me with the W-130 ,the heat loads are to small a to random , other wise the w-130 would idle 90% of the time . With the beast and the storage system we fill the fire box once around 6:30 then before bedtime two big oak rounds, back breakers , I let the fire go out during the day.
    PS check out a cool no smoke in the face trick . Garage door is open for-just a minute

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  15. sparke

    sparke Minister of Fire

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    Oh ya, once the entire heating system has cooled down. The system takes a while to catch up. You are re-heating the refractory,and the water in the system. The vessel is small (about 10 gallons I think). So when that 10 gallons heats up to 180* the circ pump kicks in BUT it immediately puts cold water into the vessel dropping the temp down to 140* or so. My point is you can watch the temp gauge go to 180* then drop to 140* several times until all the water in the oil boiler and piping heat up. My oil gun is off so the water does not stay up to temp...
  16. Willman

    Willman Minister of Fire

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    Did you have a thread awhile back on upgrading the gaskets on your Seton ? Also you mention an ash drawer. Does the Seton have one, and what is on the bottom of the burn chamber to keep logs above drawer ?
    Will
  17. antknee2

    antknee2 New Member

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    The ash pan is 4 long by 16'' wide by 4'' deep . At the bottom close to the loading door is passage way cast into the refractory which is open to the ash pan . You have to leave enough ash in the boiler to refill the passage way after emptying pan . Makes a great fire proof seal. It's only a 4'' by 8'' rectangle , no problem with logs . Anthony
    I found the thread
    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/11830/
    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/11100/

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  18. DKerley

    DKerley New Member

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    Hello All,

    Not to hijack the thread but can anyone answer the question regarding water storage and the Seton/Greenwood style boilers. I run a GW200 which may be a little bit oversized when it is warm out. I wondering how well does water storage work when you are running (and want to run) 24/7 and you need to place the heat somewhere?

    Doug Kerley
    GW200
    Whitehorse, Yukon
    Canada
  19. Kemer

    Kemer Member

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    Hello Everybody
    New member here.Im from NE Pa. My brother and I are about to buy a seton type boiler each and are fowlling this thread closley.Anothey you seem to be very knowlegable on seatons.Would you buy one again? We both have the perfect set up for burrning wood but we don't want to make it any harder then it has to be and to be honost we are getting confused with all the opinions out there.We both want to heat 3500-5000 sqft.
  20. steam man

    steam man Minister of Fire

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    I looked at a Seton clone and 200K output yesterday. It was burning last fall cut big rounds while somewhat warm out and it was a creosote making monster. I believe it was oversized anyway. It could have used a good tube cleaning. There was no storage so the thing basically idled. The recovery rate will be affected by the dirty tubes. Given the proper sizing, right flow rate, clean tubes, proper air supply, heat storage, and some kind of boiler return protection to keep things hot, this style boiler should be a great design. It has been around for quite a while. I am seriously considering one.
  21. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    If you are not committed to storage, my opinion would be to slightly undersize ANY wood fired hydronic. Especially if you have a backup. Though the GW can close the damper and hold the wood for a long time, that will tend to create creosote.

    But back to the thread . . . .

    It sounds like most everything is working correctly with your Seton except . . . . the ash build up. Honestly, my first year with the GW I was constantly bitchin about the lack of grate and constantly having to remove ashes. Well, if you store them somplace, then take a look at the accumulation at the end of the heating season, you will be amazed at how much charcoal you are removing along with the ash. Seriously, once a month is plenty for removing ash. Some things you may find helpful:

    1)Wet punky wood, especially if placed directly on the coals, will accelerate ash build up.
    2) Any time the outside temps get above 25, let the coals burn down. This may seem scary, especially without storage, but you MUST get comfortable letting the coals burn down.
    3)A poker is for moving wood. DO NOT STIR ashes into the coals. Instead, use a spade (sod shovel). With the back of the blade, lightly rake the top layer of coals from the front to the back. Never rake the coals up over the air inlets.
    4)Repeat this procedure to continue peeling back a new layer of coals, moving them to the back where they will use the incoming air to continue to produce heat. (Coals left in the front of the box will not produce heat, will burn out prematurly and cause build-up.
    5) When burning down like this, do not add new wood until the coals are well below the bottom of the air inlets.
    6)Now, to remove ash,rake the coals toward the front of the box. With the same shovel, push down through the ash bed right underneath the air inlets all the way to the bottom of the box. This will loosen up a gallon or so of ash. Some of it will come out in clumps. I believe this is from compressing wet wood and ash.
    7)After remove the ash, you will now have a gully at the back of the box, under the air inlets, Carefully rake live hot coals from the front of the box to the back, filling in this gully.
    8)Level the remaining coal bed.
    9)Load new wood. Put small dry wood directly on the coals, then typical rounds on top.
    10)Close door and walk away.

    If someone had told me that last year, I would not have believed them. Of course, I burned Bass, pine, Aspen, andsuch last year. No question in my mind Oak is the way to go. It rarely gets punky.

    Wind chills 'sposed to be below zero for about 36 hours . . . now's not a good time to be having problems with your unit . . .
  22. byrddogwi

    byrddogwi New Member

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    I hear you there. Quite a few times I had problems when it was below zero for days. Does not give you that warm fuzzy feeling at all. It would not get up above 140 degrees and I had to keep emptying coals and ash out every other day.

    Thanks for the tips, I need to cut a hole in the side and see what the back tubes look like. Gotta go, work is calling. Thanks for the tips everyone has given me so far, maybe this thing can work as good as advertised. I will need to investigate the heat storage this year before the next heating season.
  23. antknee2

    antknee2 New Member

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    With my limited one season experience with a Seton with thermal storage from day one and proper maintenance of the hx tubes , I feel very happy that on the coldest days the system can easily keep up with all my heat loads , without wiping out all my fire wood . The main selling point in my opinion is , reduced splitting , forgiving on wood moisture content , no noise , low wood usage if maintained , stays warm for days . Even with all the good things said if you have good dry wood split and well seasoned a real gasification boiler like a Orlan EKO would be a amazing machine to run , especially if you have neighbors . Hope this helps , let us know what you decide . Anthony
  24. antknee2

    antknee2 New Member

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    Hi Doug If you like the way the boiler runs now I guarantee you will be blown away by the benefits of a properly setup thermal storage system , especially with GW200 . Anthony
  25. DKerley

    DKerley New Member

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    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for the reply. So far I am happy with the GW200. Unfortunately, I am oversized when it is around freezing. I want to run 24/7 from the start of the season until the end of the season. Initially, I thought I would be able to start the fire mid September and shut it down the beginning of May. Now with the experience that I have had during a warm spell, it looks like it will shorten my season by a month on both sides (total 2 months less). I was wondering if storage would allow the earlier start-up and later shut-down. Additionally, I am considering adding solar DHW for the summer months if I were to go the storage route. Any thoughts?

    Doug
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