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Tarm Boilers Review from Users

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by downeast, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. downeast

    downeast Guest

    A friend and neighbor is finally going to go to wood----making a statement, he says, "for Global Warming". They already have made a partial move by buying a Rais stove ( very big $$$$ and not the best heater ), now it's to be a Tarm boiler. He says that the total cost will be close to $25,000. Sound about right ? The wood shed is being built next to the Tarm, insulated and heated ! Nice.
    What has your experience with the Tarm boilers been ? Efficient ? Clean ? Durable over multiple winters ? User friendly ? Any downsides besides cost ?
    Comparison to OWB's and wood stoves and other gasification boilers such as EKO ?

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  2. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    If your neighbor is paying for the install and the shed I'd say $25k is in the right ballpark. You can cut $10k out of that easily by installing it inside and doing the work yourself.

    I'm an EKO user but I'm sure you'll find lots of folks on this site with Tarm experience. I believe they are a well built unit and a search of this site will likely support that statement.
  3. lawandorder

    lawandorder Member

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    First season with TARM Solo 40. $25K seems a bit high but depends on setup etc.. Ive found it to be very user friendly even for the wife. My learning curve has shortened up a bit but still learning. Its much different than using a wood stove. Last year I went through 15 face cords and 1000 gals of heating oil with an older woodstove. This year no heating oil and 9-10 face cords used to date with the house at 72 all around. House is 3200 sq ft with DHW and heated basement zone. Biggest thing I have found is dry seasoned wood is very important and has been a problem of mine for this season. I have marginial wood with 20-24 % moisture plus using 16 inch wood in a 20 inch boiler so my burn times are down. I have 500 gals of pressurized storage whcih usually gives me 6 hrs of heat at 15 degrees outside temps We had - 20degree weather last week and oil burner still never came on. House was still 70 degrees in AM and coals still in the firebox this was after I loaded up at 1130 the night before so far thats been the hardest test to date and I was satisfied. Tarm has a great reputation and cust. service is always there. Chris from Tarm is on this site regularly and has posted several times. Hope this helps.
  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Tarm is a solid gasifier, as are the other, similar designs such as EconoBurn, EKO, Biomass, Wood Gun, etc. There are a few new brands starting to show up on to the US market, such as Atmos and Attack DP, which have been around in Europe for some time and I believe to be similar to the others mentioned. They burn clean (no smoke to speak of) and efficiently.

    IMO, it's hard to beat a downdraft gasifier, all things considered.
  5. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Feeling the Heat

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    Which Tarm is he looking at? I installed a Excel 2000 with 1200 gallons of storage and spent around $14,000. Thats doing allthe install my self and fabricating my own tank and coils. So if he's buying off the shelf and having someone else do the install thats in the ball park.
    Last year I burned 1100 gallons to heat a 3000 ft3 house and DHW. So far this year (since Now 1st) I've burned zero oil and 3 cords. I hope to finsih the season on the remaining 2.5. In April I hope to switch to solar for DHW.
  6. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    Just got my tarm innova up and running. Really impressed. Very quick/simple start time(under 10 minutes, including splitting kindlin').Very little/ no smoke to speak of when opening door. I just lit it off at 345pm and went down stairs to check supply temp coming into basement-180+.Only 45 minutes!! The boiler was cooled off to about 85 when i lit it. I ahd made a post "innova 30 w/square tank " a few pages ago. It shows my first time firing temps.
  7. Rory

    Rory Member

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    I'm just finishing my second week with a Tarm Solo 30 with homemade 670 gallon storage tank with DHW coil, hooked to my existing oil furnace as a backup. Other than building the tank, I have hired all the plumbing. I haven't gotten the final bill from the plumber yet, but I'm hoping to be south of $16,000 by a good chunk when it's all tallied up.

    Though I haven't burned a drop of oil since firing it up, I wasn't getting the performance I was hoping for in terms of time between fires. I studied the piping diagram from my vendor and discovered that the plumber had missed an intersection that allows the hot water to bypass the oil boiler. He came over last night and made the change. For some mysterious reason, the water is still going through the oil furnace to an extent (two expensive valves should be preventing that, as I understand it), but I think we really increased the circulation and improved the performance of the system with the tweak.

    When I left for work this morning, the boiler was up to 185 for the first time, and almost 11 hours later, the top of my tank is at 170 and the bottom at 146 - about as good as I've had it yet.

    We have been comfortable through one of the worst cold spells in years, according to the temps, though, mercifully, the wind hasn't been too bad.
  8. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    My second season of experience with the Tarm, and I rate myself 95-98% well satisfied, and rare for me to be that satisfied with anything. Since the friend/neighbor is hiring everything out, I think the most important factors will be service and support from the Tarm dealer and the same from the installer. As mentioned above, the various brands all perform well.
  9. rcollman

    rcollman Member

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    Our Solo40 was installed ground floor indoors and replaced an existing wood boiler. We were charged $14K. The chimney sweep replaced our cement chimney with an insulated metal one with cap ect for $2k.

    This included some other plumbing, the hot water coil and a tempering value. Plus removal of the SunRay. We already had the cement pad for the Solo and it was not much different in size than the SunRay.

    That is Northern NH. Can't say, not knowing about an outside install.
  10. downeast

    downeast Guest

    Appreciate the responses. I don't know the Tarm model they're installing, but they are definately not DIY.
    The gasification boilers you all have seem very high tech, complex, and not inexpensive for this wood stove luddite. What do you figure a BTU to BTU payback will be for your average $15 K boiler systems ?

    Our only experience is wood stoves. Our place was built and designed by us to heat with two stoves in two separate parts of the house. It's not a big deal to keep them fired up 24/7 in this colder than usual late fall and winter. Slightly under 2000 FT², reasonably well-insulated with a southern exposure, we're well into the third cord so far. When home all day, the stoves are loaded about 3X with the outdoors in the low teens or below. So, a delta of ~ +/- 60 F.

    The only major decision before building was the choice of wood stoves or a Masonry/Russian Fireplace for the only heat source. The Masonry Fireplace seemed at the time to not be cost effective: initial cost, increase in house size and foundation, and our lack of familiarity with the technology. After seeing some new construction and how they work over a winter with the Masonry Firecplace/Stoves, I've changed my mind.....too late.
  11. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Gasification boilers are expensive and high tech on the engineering side, but not difficult to understand, operate or install. As a practical matter, mine is no harder to run than a conventional wood-fired boiler. In a way it's easier, as it produces more heat with less wood and generates no creosote in the stack.
  12. Rory

    Rory Member

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    Payback is a tricky issue, given the volatility of fuel prices nowadays. When heating oil hit $4.69 a gallon last summer, I felt I had to do something. On the other hand, if you really dread firewood chores and tending a fire, you probably wouldn't save enough at $10 a gallon to make it "worth it".

    My father is 80 and still cutting his own firewood, which heats his modest 1700s cape comfortably from a woodstove. A stove wasn't an option for me, and the gasifier was a workable solution.
  13. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    For most of us it's a bit of a hobby, too. One of the few that pays you back.

    People from warmer climates must find our obsession with home heating amusing, but as this winter reminds us, it's a pretty big deal in many places, both in terms of comfort and expense.
  14. sweetheat

    sweetheat Member

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    my 1st fire was 1/31/08, install was by my heating/plumbing guy Randy, as I know only how to build houses and not how to solder copper. delta t was a new word for me. I purchased my Tarm solo plus 40 for our new shop and radiant floor pex tubing I'd been hearing all along I needed storage and then factored that part into the equation too. Also using 806 gal ssts storage. So your numbers are about right. Try to do most of the grunt work and setup this can save. A very efficient machine, once you understand how to operate it properly. I do believe by next winter I'll be able to burn less then 3 cord of wood to heat a shop 28X42=1176, X 2nd floor=2352 square feet. Heat loss and a tight build help. If you wish to see my setup, PM me and we can arraign a meeting. sweetheat
  15. downeast

    downeast Guest

    So what about amortization or payback. The gas boilers seem expensive compared to say wood stoves where the payback time comparing BTU's of fossils is fairly short--2-3 years for us. Then, our DHW is a tankless propane Rinnai which can be $$$.
    What maintenance costs are there for the gas boilers and associated tanks, pumps and plumbing ? Are they finicky except for wood moisture ?
  16. rcollman

    rcollman Member

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    I don't think we can answer payback without knowing install cost. I will run this down with an example in case others want to consider it. Got to be a thread which does it better but anyway here it goes.

    The KISS (simple) formula is: Payback= Cost of Install divided by anticipated yearly savings. Yearly savings calculation could be= ( current method's yearly fuel costs + yearly maintenance + amortization + personal value on time spent + bad feeling value) less (proposed method's yearly fuel costs + yearly maintenance + amortization+ personal value on time spent - feel good value). A little humor there in the yearly savings calcs, but you can make it simple and say yearly savings is the difference between the fuel costs and amortization costs.

    www.eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/heatcalc.xls

    The US DOE site has a nice spreadsheet which you can plug in different fuel costs and efficiencies. One of the columns calculates out the cost per Million BTUs after efficiencies. If you are really trying to do an analysis, you should come up with an estimate of BTUs your house needs to stay warm over a heating season. You said 3 cords so far, so you or your math buddy :) can figure that out.

    I think I got a handle on it by going to degreedays.net and figuring out the number of Heating Degree days for a 45 day period of time, how much wood I used in that period (in full cords). You know the time you started burning your 3 cords. I estimated 22 million BTUs per cord for me (White Ash, Maple and Birch mix). The math told me how many parts of a cord for a HDD or more importantly in this case, how many BTUs I used per HDD (11,000). Then I downloaded 3 years of daily HDDs from degreeday.net and figured out number of HDD in my "average" heating season. In my case my season has 8,000 HDDs time 11,000 BTUs each which equals 88 million BTUs.

    Thus crudely speaking, here costs for a hypothetical Solo40. US DOE says at $200 a cord, my cost of delivered BTUs are $11 per million times 88 or $968. Lets say I amortize this system at $1,000 per year and allow $200 for maintenance/sweeping. I am going to ignore all other costs like electricity to run pumps and the fan. Total yearly is $2168.

    In this example I have an existing propane hot water boiler. DOE says that at $2.63 (was 3.23 in May) per gallon with my Burnham unit, my BTU cost is $37 per million or $3256. While cheaper to buy up front, it will not last as long and it will need yearly inspection and replacement of parts over its life. Figure $1000 amortization and a $200 yearly budget for Maintenance. Total yearly cost is $4,456.

    The payback= Install/difference in yearly costs. Or $10,000 for a Solo40 install divided by $2,288 ($4456-2168) which is 4.37 years payback Hypothetically speaking of course.

    Obviously your numbers will be different. Frankly, if you are happy with your wood stoves, the numbers are going to favor the status quo. Unless of course you want to figure in the resale value of your house, perhaps a change in insurance or some mainie-ack (sic) government regulation that adds costs down the road.

    Guess that is 82% effic. So the handy US DOE heat calc says at propane at $2.63 a gal is $35.12 per mil BTUs. So how much hot water do you use, what do you need to heat it up from? Say 100 gals of HW per day, adding 55 degrees of heat per gallon, that is about 17 mil BTUs per year. 17 times $35 is about $600 per year. Figure 2/3 of BTUs will be supplied by the Solo40 above, you will save $272 per year in fuel. I bet the tankless has a much higher yearly maint and amort cost than the Solo40 Hot water.


    First blush, more than a woodstove :) But creosote in chimney might even that out.

    No more finicky than your wood stoves, with all the little tricks you use and don't even think about. But it is true you can't cook on them in a pinch.

    Sorry for the long post but you asked a lot of questions. Hope this helps.
  17. NHFarmer

    NHFarmer Feeling the Heat

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    I really love my Tarm and I have to say that the best payback is the satisfaction of sitting in the house at 70* and knowing that I am using a renewable energy source that was produced by me,out of my own managed woodlot,can't beat it.
  18. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    I'll second that! Supposed to be 35 below tonite and I'll sleep good not hearing the oil furnace pounding away. Storage is up to 158/168/175.

    thoughts on the woodlot--- I'm expecting hardwood to drop down on price and I might have to pick up a wheeler load, for the right price. When its mid march the weather will be better for cutting/splitting. Versus summertime.
  19. 8nrider

    8nrider New Member

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    new hampshire
    can'nt wait to get my used tarm mb 55 hooked up. hopefully next year. started cutting for it in oct. when we rolled it into the basement. i heard copper has dropped so i don't know about the black pipe scene. the sweetness is going to be the warmth.i'll be happy with this old house being 65. if its in the 70's i might have to take off the thermals, and that will not be pretty. thank you all in advance for your knowledge in this venture.
  20. Hansson

    Hansson Feeling the Heat

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    I have a Tarm Solo Innova running for 5 years and I don't have anything bad ta say about the boiler.
    The ceramics look almost like new.Easy cleaning.Easy to start.
    No woodgas puffing or fine tuning.It works from day one.
    At last its build to burn wood.Many east european boilers are build for coal
  21. downeast

    downeast Guest

    Well thought out, great response. Just what was ordered. Thx.
  22. rcollman

    rcollman Member

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    Tarm Solo 40 plus 4 years later. Still like it. Has cut wood use almost in half from our previous old non air tight wood boiler and produces way less ash. Today that is about $800 a year savings. Another big savings is with the hot water coil. We turned off our propane hot water tank. That is saving us at least $1,000 in propane and in theory costing us $200 in wood a year.

    I had someone cut down the useless (it is too soft) long log poker that came with my Tarm. It is now about 40 inches long and has an small ash catcher on the end. I use that just about every major heating day. Plus my old short handled, coal shovel with the square front and high sides is great. It will just fit inside the ash removal door and can sort of hook itself under the ash door and the front ledge. I use these two tools and dump the ashes into the metal box. Rarely do any ashes drop to the metal covered floor.

    The only complaint I had was about the install. The boiler installer learned things on the install and did not coordinate with the chimney folks. BioHeat was very helpful to me and the installer. I did have to tell the installer to remove the "handy" drain valve he placed on the front and put back the plug. Both the previous boiler and chimney insert were different and this created a lot of variables. Moral of the story, the general contractor (me) should have had the chimney people around before the water pipes were hooked up. The other issue about the install is the plumbing set up for the tempering valve. It is "tender" and has a minor weep in the summer that maybe produces 1 drop every 12 hours. Not a good idea to bump it. But nothing is broke and everything works.

    Revisited this great site when I was thinking about trying pressed wood bricks (big pellets). Other threads helped me determine that bricks cost twice as much as cord wood per burned BTU, but are half the cost of propane in my area. I burn about 6 cords a year and have an 8 cord pile. On the other hand, my season heat could be stored in an volume of 1.8 stacked cord wood by using bricks.

    Hope this helps someone. Chris
  23. Hansson

    Hansson Feeling the Heat

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    Still happy whit my innova.
    Here's a vid of it runing.

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