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sharing a gasification boiler

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by nhjohn, Apr 9, 2008.

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  1. nhjohn

    nhjohn New Member

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    I discussed getting a gasifier with few people in my town. They all like the idea and are contemplating doing same - gasifier and tank. Is it feasible for all of us to get large tanks and share the gasifier? I mean: we place it on a trailer and drive it to each other's house every couple of days to recharge our tanks. Is it simply a matter of hooking up to the tank?

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  2. DenaliChuck

    DenaliChuck Member

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    I'd say sure, its possible. Practical? Not for me. I love the idea of saving the money, but the time spent messing around with the thing will get "expensive" fast. And negotiating who gets it next ("my tank is at 100*, but my tank is at 95*...). I think it was Master of Sparks who suggested that someone could go into business driving around and charging people's tanks with heat. I think that's a great idea so long as they stay in business!
  3. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Theory is interesting, but consider:
    * Heat loss in tanker trailer - would need a very well insulated, and expensive, trailer
    * # of recharge's available - a tank trailer would hold about 5000 gal, only be able to fill maybe 5 storage tanks and then have to return to reload.
    * Purchase/lease cost of semi-tractor; plus fuel, maintenance, insurance, DOT requirements, etc.
    * Operator's wages and benefits
    * Size of gasifier and primary storage needed to service customers; my Tarm easily can maintain a 1000 gal tank, but what would be needed to heat a 20,000 gal primary tank from cold water, enough to serve maybe 20 customers every day or every other day?
    * Proximity of primary storage to customers, cost of primary tank, boiler, etc.

    It might make a lot more sense for individual homeowners to buy their own gasifiers and hire a service person to supply fuel, load, and maintain each gasifier on a daily basis. This would overcome a major obstacle for people who don't want to think about how or where their heat comes from.

    It also may make sense for a small group (2-4 ?) of homeowners who live close to each other to install one gasifier and plumb to serve the group, like a small central heating district - may work especially well in a new development, with the homeowner's assoc operating the heating plant. Easements for plumbing would be required, as well as an operating agreement.

    A major cost in any product sales business is transportation to point of sale, and this cost is likely to continue to rise greatly as petroleum peaks out and economical replacement fuel remains illusory. That's one reason why a small central heating district with piping rather than motor vehicle transportation for distribution would make lots of sense.
  4. nhjohn

    nhjohn New Member

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    appreciate the replies, but what I had in mind was putting the gasifier on a trailer and we each have our own tanks. I'm envisioning pulling up in the driveway, connecting a line from the gasifier to my tank and recharging the tank, the next day I drop it off at someone else's house. I know we would need large tanks (2000G) for this to be at all practical.
  5. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    Possible? Yes.

    Practical? Probably not, with the cost of diesel.

    If the houses were all very high efficiency (ie, extremely low heat loss), and heated with low-temperature radiation (a high-performance radiant system), the tank size would be small enough that you could practically recharge the tank every few days. In more typical construction, the heat loss in this area during the dead of winter would require an awfully-large storage tank to last several days between recharges. The cost of a large tank would eat up anything you would save by only buying one boiler (especially considering the added cost of a trailer and such). Unless you can get by with a smaller tank, there's no way it would be practical.

    You'd also be limited in which boilers you could use, because very few are well-built enough to take the vibration and bumping of driving around.

    If the houses are close enough, they can be connected with underground piping to a central heating plant. We can even do btu metering at each house, so the homes each get billed for only the heat they actually use.

    Joe
  6. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I think for what you'd save, driving the boiler around, hooking it up, etc. etc. would quickly get to be a major PIA for everyone involved. What if you need heat and you can't locate the boiler?

    I don't even think they do that in Socialist countries. But I do know neighbors who share OWBs.
  7. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Yet another benefit of cluster development . . . am I the only one here that went to a two-room schoolhouse -VT naturally, not NY - where they heated with a wood stove? I would love to cut my school taxes in half by volunteering time to cut/split/haul firewood to a school with some sort of massive, automated GARN unit :)
  8. wdc1160

    wdc1160 New Member

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    It becomes more possible as the (home)tanks become larger. Consider how often people reload their LP tanks. I actually almost shared a static (unmovable) tank and gasifier setup with a neighboor. But, the city really didn't want us running underground pipes across property lines. Due to where I live I didn't think they would let it go.
  9. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Not feasible by any stretch of the imagination. Assuming all the neighbors have a 2-3,000 gallon hot water storage tank and assuming it would carry them for one day (24 hrs). Just consider this one question and it should show you why.

    How long will it take to recharge each tank? Let's say it's 2,500 gallons and you bring it from 130* to 200*?

    That equates to 1,457,750 btu's. Your design conditions are much the same as ours here in Michigan so 1.5 milliion may hold about 75% of the houses in town for a day. Some would run out and need more. If you want to charge each person's tank in an hour you need to be able to generate and dump that much heat from the boiler into their storage. So you're talking about a massive boiler, probably 2MMbtu's+ along with the appropriately sized piping and circulator (220V?), time for making connections to their tank from the boiler, dealing with air problems caused by making the connections......... You'd be doing good to get 4 houses done in an 8 hour period.
    If the houses are all in somewhat the same proximity, (within 1/4 mile) you could conceivably engineer and install a district heating system. Who knows, you may even be able to get some kind of an energy grant for something like that.

    I know that there is a campus in Minnesota covering 40 acres in size that has been served by 4 Garns for over 10 years and it works great. Lot's of engineering went into that job. 4" mains underground IIRC.
  10. wdc1160

    wdc1160 New Member

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    I went to a college that still uses a coal boiler to provide heat to all of the campus. Distrubuting heat via pipes undergroud is a staple on this board for a reason. Heater my thoughts on heat storage stem from books and sites that use examples from homes that typically use passive solar or geothermal along with man made and naturally occuring heat storage mediums.

    I don't think that anywhere near 3000 gallons would suffice for the practice we are talking about. However, it must also be sized for the heating needs of the house. Many of the passive solar designs use several mechanisms to heat the stored water or prevent from needing as much heat.

    Several of our posters suppliment their boilers with solar water heating techniques. Combining the roving boiler with a solar mechnism may be a approach that wouldn't require an as obcene storage tank size.

    Solar books often discuss tanks of water that have 28000 gallons with 3 ft of insulation surrounding it. Of course they don't have roving boilers to charge them. And, they are located it cold remote areas.
  11. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    Indeed. I'd love to do some developments which were installed with the intended purpose of being heated by a central plant. It's such a good idea, and it's not hard to do in a new development, especially, since the pipes can be put in prior to the road installation. For a small development, it's even practical to put in a service tunnel that carries heating, water, sewer, power, and communications lines parallel to the road, branching to each house. No overhead wires. No need to plan for a large mechanical room in each house (we can fit zone controls into a small closet). No chimneys or powerventers to deal with.

    As I said, I'd love to find some developers with an eye towards the future who are willing to make the initial investment in this sort of technology. The eventual owners of the houses would be sitting pretty as energy prices soar...

    A lot of schools are getting on the biomass bandwagon. Chip burners are popular. Pellets are next, followed by cordwood (simply a matter of man-hours of labor, and insurance risks, versus fuel cost).

    I know a school district in southern Maine that burns over a quarter million gallons of oil each year. Talk about room for savings...

    Joe
  12. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That's a million taxpayer bucks a year--or close to it.
  13. Bob Rohr

    Bob Rohr Minister of Fire

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    District energy will be making a comeback, I predict. A friend visited a few towns In Denmark last year, as part of an alternate energy tour. They use district heat from garbage burning incinerator.

    Then again an engineer friend is replacing the district heat system at a SUNY project with small mod con systems in every building. The underground district system is just is too old and costly to maintain. Maybe underground insulated PE tube is the answer to longevity issues?

    If this pic sticks it show apartment buildings in Italy with large solar piped via tunnels as Joe mentioned to various buildings. a couple large Viessmann condensing boilers as back up.

    This Canadian projects hopes to heat a subdivision with energy captured by thermal solar panels and stored in bore holes.

    www.dlsc.ca/

    hr
  14. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Just like in a business partnership this probably won't work just because of human nature.

    With the price of all home heating going sky high you would have to hire an armed guard for the trailer.
  15. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    Yup. Now imagine what even halving that could do for a budget. This is a relatively-small town, as well. Larger districts burn even more. Few folks even look at that number.

    Probably an old steam system, I'd guess. Hot water is more initial cost, but tends to be much more reliable, as long as the water quality is properly cared-for, and the efficiency is a lot higher.

    For a large system, we'd probably use steel pipe for the mains, and PEX for the branches. When you're pushing a few million btuh, you're talking pipe sizing in the 4, 5, 6" range (and larger) and flow rates in the hundreds of gallons per minute, in some cases. Trying to do that with PEX isn't really practical. It's just a matter of paying attention to the quality of the materials that you use, and to your system design. For example, if you do a row of houses, you put the heating plant tangential to the middle of the row, not at one end. That lets you do the houses as two small loops, rather than one large loop.

    If I had the capital to build a development, that's exactly what I'd do. Make a nice "U" road with houses on each side of it, and a heating plant right in the middle. The piping would end up looking like four L's (each L actually being a supply and return), making a general H shape with the heating plant at the center of the horizontal bar.

    Very do-able and, while an initial investment, it would be a huge selling feature. Each home's branch would have a btu meter, and they would get a monthly heating bill, just like they might from the gas company or somesuch. Probably for a non-profit to run the heating operation, controlled by the homeowners, to eliminate any concern over price-gouging.

    Could also put in a couple commercial buildings on the main road that it connects to, and use the lease revenue to help offset the costs even further.

    Anyone know a developer? :)

    Joe
  16. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    But 'its for the kids' Eric, how dare you even think of cutting back on school spending!

    What a joke. I grew up in an old uninsultaed farmhouse that used two wood stoves exclusivly for heat. Single pane windows that occasionally had frost on the inside of them in the morning. But in the morning, I went to a school building with high ceilings, single pane windows, probably a 30% ratio of interior hallways (What good is an interior hallway that is only used for two minutes out of 45?) I have no idea what the heat cost, but I bet our school taxes were more than what we spent getting 20 cord of wood a year. And that was nearly 30 years ago!!

    Maybe those frosty mornings are why I don't know a 1.6 Mil house from a 250k house today . . .
  17. EricV

    EricV Feeling the Heat

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    The first bump would trash the ceramics.
  18. Tony H

    Tony H New Member

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    Maybe the idea should use a large stationary boiler and several insulated tank trailers you connect them at the house with quick connect fire hose type connectors and shutoff valves along with a temp sensor wire connection to show / alarm when the tank temp drops too low. You have connections for several trailers at the boiler site and the home owner just pulls the trailer to the site hooks it up and tows a hot trailer home. Each home only has a 500 gal tank in the house for backup / solar and exchanges the trailer every couple of days to provide the main hot water supply.
    Plus due to the weight of the trailers you may have to have a truck or tractor to haul them around and that would be a great excuse to get the wife to sign off on the F350 I want.
  19. Grover59

    Grover59 Member

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    I can't believe someone has asked this same questiion that I have been pondering here in the last few days. I was thinking the same thing for my daughter's house I would put another tank in her house and set up the main living area with radiant floor heat, then shuttle the boiler back and forth from her house to mine or my step daughters house. What is funny is I have seen this boiler when they where demonstrating it on a trailer and running as they went down the raod, they used a car radiator to get rid of the heat for demo purposes. I think that Joe is correct and where I live house are very close together, and it is very feasable to heat 2 places with one boiler, if I could get across the street I would be doing that now with my step daughter, she is not more then 250 feet away.

    Steve
  20. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    The issue with moving the tank is the size of the tank.

    If the houses are small, extremely well-insulated, and use low-water-temperature heating systems, then the tank can be of reasonable size to handle that sort of use.

    If the houses are more typical of actual houses that were not purpose-designed for such use, then the tank size quickly becomes unreasonable, or the number of trips you have to make adds costs (diesel/gasoline, wear on vehicles) that exceed the cost of a separate boiler.

    Joe
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