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To Garn or Not to Garn

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by stihlgoin, Mar 13, 2008.

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  1. stihlgoin

    stihlgoin New Member

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    Hello everyone, and thank you for all the info I've gleaned as a lurker up to this point. My wife and I are ready to get a wood boiler to heat our 4-year old (well insulated), 2,800 sq. ft home. With my inlaws living in a poorly insulated (almost left the "A" out of insulated :)) home about 250 feet from us, we are trying to select a boiler to heat both houses and provide dhw to both year-round. Now that we have a local Garn dealer, we were almost set to start serious talks with them to design a sytem around the Garn 2000, but reading the Switzers thread, I have decided to wait and potentially call Gary this friday to discuss the options with him. It sounds as though he can integrate a few more features into his designs, which may come in handy as we heat with radiant floor/oil boiler, and my inlaws use hot water baseboard/oil boiler (higher temps as I understand). Without doing a heat loss, it sounds like the Garn 2000 can heat 5,000 sq ft with ease, but is it a good choice for year-round domestic hot water? I don't want to burn too often fom May to Sept. just to have a hot shower, but between the two houses, dhw thru that time period can use over $1200 in oil -mainly to keep the boiler cores warm. We do not have natural gas access, and a propane water heater isn't terribly attractive to me as we have 30+ acres of yet unmanaged wood on our property to take advantage of. Thanks in advance.


    -Looking forward to spring,

    Chris

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  2. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell Minister of Fire

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    chris, with either boiler you could supply "days" of domestic hw on 1 firing, I have a garn 1900, 1906gal , heating a pool, hot tub and dwh through a indirect fired water heater during the off season, a 2800 sqft house, 500 sqft shop and hot tub during the winter. with a switzer you get a dhw coil, boiler insulation, being pressureized , a higher water temp, no hx. in my opinion they are both capable of doing what you want, i would strongly recomend calculating your heat loss,a little more storage is a good thing, too little is a cramp.
  3. EForest

    EForest Member

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    You're only @ 1 1/2 hrs from Gary. He's the kind of guy that will make the trip to help you resolve any issues you might have after installation. I'm waiting for my insurance company to give me the green light to install his boiler as my primary heat source (with the oil gun) and then the check will be in the mail. He can and will customize a boiler/heating system to your needs. Then he will personally deliver it to your house and install it if needed.
    This is sounding like I've fallen for a sales pitch but after you speak to Gary and someone that owns one you'll believe the hype.
    there's nothing like the personal service of a small business owner.
    Oh ya, and his boiler is as good if not better than a Garn for less money.

    Best of luck in your wood boiler quest!
  4. stihlgoin

    stihlgoin New Member

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    Thanks. As with any product, I was pretty sure both parties would "sell" me on what they had to offer, so real-world experience helps tremendously. The only potential hang-up at this point may be with the fact that I'd be heating someone else's property. I'll just check with the local code guy, and call Gary on friday. A trip to his shop would allow me to stop at a couple wineries nearby as well as visit the breeder of our Great Pyrenees (just down the road from Dundee). -I'll keep updates coming.

    Chris
  5. brad068

    brad068 Feeling the Heat

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    Does anyone have pics of Gary's boilers? I would like to see if he is using any ceramics/firebrick. You know my philosophy on not using refractory!
  6. EForest

    EForest Member

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    Gary uses no firebrick/ceramic. Although he agrees that ceramics give a cleaner burn and hotter temps he thinks they're not necessary in his boilers.
    Call him, he'd love to talk to you. I have a video i will post after i upload to youtube. I've never used youtube so it might be a few days before that happens.
  7. loggie

    loggie New Member

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    I had a long talk with Gary the other night and after looking at gasifiers for almost 3 years I am impressed with what he had to say.I have not received his video yet nor have I seen one yet but it sounds like exactly what I'm looking for and I'm only 2 hrs from his shop so I will be able to see one up close.I would be interested to know what the insurance company has to say about it.
  8. stihlgoin

    stihlgoin New Member

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    His advertisement does say his boilers are UL listed. So, I think insurance should only be an issue due to specific company policies. I haven't called him yet today, -I'm barely awake- but going in to this win-win (Garn-Switzer) scenario, my only concern is the simplicity of the Garn's horizontal flue vs. power venting out a chimney with the Switzer (at least that was in another thread). I'll have to get the facts and go on from there. I'm somewhat of a minimalist, so I like less moving/breakable parts in a design. -We'll have to see how things stack up. I am, however, extremely excited to start managing my woodlot and stop wasting our money on oil, no matter which boiler ends up in a yet-to-be-built energy-center. After that, maybe a grid-tie solar setup while NYS is still throwing out huge rebates........

    -I'll do some heat loss on my in-laws place, call Gary, and hit the chain saw dealer. Then I'll follow up.
  9. EForest

    EForest Member

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    My insurance agent just called to give me the green light. I just called Gary to place my order.
    I'm going with the 1050 plus 2/1000 gal propane tanks for additional storage (all pressurized!).
    The system will incorporate numerous DHW coils for heat transfer to other buildings, hot tub, snow melt, and DHW.

    stihlgoin,
    both use forced draft blowers and both can use a chimney or not.
    Switzer's boiler has a two speed fan and recommends a chimney for natural draft in case of power failure.
    I will be installing the Switzer in place of my existing ailing oil guzzler and will use existing flue.
    i'm gonna hafta insulate the B'Jesus out of those two propane tanks or the basement will be hotter than hell.
    The UL listing is from 1986 and was done by Automated Test Labs Inc from Philly.

    Best of luck!
  10. verne

    verne Member

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    how can I get info on switzers boiler ? thanks. edit- sorry I just read the other post
  11. stihlgoin

    stihlgoin New Member

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    Loc:
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    I left a message with Gary. I have no idea where I'd store even one 1,000 gallon propane tank, as I doubt it would "squeeze" thru my Bilcos into the basement :). I could put one or two into the outbuilding I've not yet built, but I already pay $7k in property taxes, so I would like to keep the size to a minimum. If he can do a properly sized all-in-one unit, I'll compare apples to apples and see who wins. I calculated sq ft of my inlaws' home and it's about 2500. So, between the two homes, 5300 sq.ft. and we have yet to build a garage/greenhouse. Should be a fun process.
    Chris
  12. EForest

    EForest Member

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    Switzer's Custom Woodburning System Inc.
    1557 Ellis Rd
    Dundee, NY 14837
    1-607-243-8689
  13. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell Minister of Fire

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    stihlgoing, by far the garn has fewer moving parts with regards to the minimalist thing. I am finding out through testing of induced draft speed, ie combustion temps and flue temps that except for controllable puffing, i did install a turbulator in the lastpass of the hx tube thus lowering flue temp , that the garn is probabaly about 90% of the best it can be stock, with only 2 moving parts!
  14. stihlgoin

    stihlgoin New Member

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    I'm pretty much gonna go with the Garn WHS 2000. Simple, non-pressurized and has ceramic. Now I'd better start felling some trees.

    Thanks for all the input.

    Chris
  15. brad068

    brad068 Feeling the Heat

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    Hey Tom,

    How did the turbulator workout? I tried a new setup in my unit but didn't really see any difference. I made a make shift tubular grate that ran from the bottom air inlet to the start of the ceramic secondary. I was thinking that the tubular setup would preheat well and then inject it right into the secondary. Maybe we're tryin' to "push a rope" here.
  16. loggie

    loggie New Member

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    Are you putting the garn in your basement,because I spoke to someone at garn last week who will remain nameless and he told me not to put it in my basement and did not see how I could get it down there,I told him I have a walkout with double doors and 9' ceilings I can back a truck up to and he still insisted that I couldnt get It down there.I told him I move large heavy equipment regularly and I assured him I COULD GET IT IN THERE.He then said he still did not recommend it in the basement,He told me to buy a shipping container and put the garn in that next to the house,and I said I really don't feel that would be complimentary to my custom log home and he said that's how they do it in Alaska,then he started to tell me how to get firewood I said I have enough on my land Ive been burning wood for 20 years and he continued to tell me how to get wood!he was short on any technical info and was the biggest MORON I have spoken to in the gasifier marketplace!Well I'm sure the garn is a fine unit and it is indeed simpler but it is 1/3 more in cost plus shipping another 1k+.The switzer seems to have a lot going for it and I can pick it up myself,and I got to thinking all large commercial boilers are pressurized,I've worked around some the size of boxcars with 200hp draft blowers they must have reasons for this.Garn says they sell about 100 boilers a year switzer less than half that but if he had a website he would sell a ton more.I will be taking a ride to see the switzer the controls don't look too complicated to me, but I guess you see where I'm probably putting my money,and buy the way when I asked Gary about putting it in the basement he said SURE mines in my basement~~~
  17. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell Minister of Fire

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    garnification, the short story is that a 9' turbulator in the last pass creates too much back pressure and cools the flue gas too much, the 4.5' turbulator seems a much better balance, however i am adding 1' increments to see if it will do better, i will post results tomorrow. loggie, either way you get a good boiler, and with a switzer you get service after the sale!
  18. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell Minister of Fire

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    garnification, how does the secondary air plenum work?
  19. EForest

    EForest Member

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    loggie,
    my switzer will be installed in the basement with an additional 2000 gal of pressurized storage.
    As soon as i can reformat the video Gary sent I will post on youtube.
  20. brad068

    brad068 Feeling the Heat

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    loggie,

    just from what I've seen with my unit, I would also recommend not putting in the basement. If or when it boils over, it can create a cloud of steam like an old Roman bathhouse. One of the downfalls of non pressurization. So Gary's setup would be well suited for basement install. Garages or dedicated out building is definitely the way to go with a Garn.
  21. stihlgoin

    stihlgoin New Member

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    End of story, right? -Nope. I left a 2nd message with Gary just to let him know that in consideration of his valuable time, I had pretty much made my mind up. He called anyway. -Gave me names of several locals that have his boilers, talked a bit about the features he incorporates, and is mailing me info. I really like the feedback loop he utilizes to make the boiler "self-modulating (my term)" in regards to the optimal airflow involved with the burn. It seemingly adapts to the individual fire/firewood just utilizing temp readings at various stages. -I don't know his educational background (engineering, etc.), but he seems to have been given a large amount of common sense. So, now I'm going to check out a local install or two and see how the pendulum swings. I also like buying local when possible, so he now has my interest.

    Also, it's not going in my basement. I will be putting up a custom "woodshed" depending on what model we end up with. I have a superior walls foundation with only a narrow stairway to enter it from outside. He'd have to fabricate a boiler on site........
  22. loggie

    loggie New Member

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    I received the info on the switzer yesterday and like stihlgoin said it has the ability to modulate according to wood quality and moisture content and save the coals for the next fire seemingly automatically being able to burn any type of wood and still generate the same burn temps.This is the downfall I think of the downdraft boilers as if your wood loads are not the same every fire will produce a different outcome.Gasifierwannabe did you calculate your btu load yourself and with 3kgal of storage what is your goal for burn intervals?I was thinking of garys 1050 model and will get him to give me a price on an additional 1k or so storage tank with expansion.this way if I could take the other tank out of the loop I could cut down the charge time maybe on a night I get home from work late and won't have to wait 6hrs to bring the whole thing up to temp,what do you guys think about this idea?I am shooting fo 24hr burn intervals in winter.Garnification I looked at pictures of the boiler you built and it's really impressive,If I had the ability to construct a unit like that I think I would enter the market myself.Thanks to you and Tcaldwell for your input in my decision process. I will be planning to go see the switzer maybe the weekend after easter.Another thing to consider is why build a separate building to house a boiler thus heating another space and all the heatloss and the underground lines and expence (if you don't have an outbuilding your already heating)thus keeping the heat inth space I want to heat if only for not bringing wood dirt in the house?
  23. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell Minister of Fire

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    loggie, the beauty of these boilers is that there is no need to isolate your storage, your charging ability , firing rate is at least 2 times your worst heat loss per hour. even with 2000 gal at 150deg you still have plenty of time to fire/recharge your storage and supply your heat loads, at the same time. I dont know what test garnification performed to get his garn to boil over, they have a overflow tube that dumps out of the front of the boiler that will condense steam and drain the water/condensate onto the floor, i have a drain underneath the overflow piped outside if it was to happen. you would have to fire the boiler already at 185deg or better with a stout load of wood to "stimulate" this.
  24. brad068

    brad068 Feeling the Heat

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    Tom,


    I was stress testing it. I don't have a good lid on the man-way access just 4" of styrofoam. I to have an over flow with 1" radiator hose that dumps into a pail. If I fire mine at 155* or above it will boil over. I usually don't fire until @140* I know, I could fire with less wood, but I think it burns better with a firebox full not half full.

    Tom, do you mean the secondary air inlet (top inlet) or the air collar?
  25. EForest

    EForest Member

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    Loggie,
    I downloaded the SLANTFIN heat loss calculator program from their website www.slantfin.com
    Although i must admit i only did a couple of rooms and finished my calcs on the back of a napkin.
    My goal is to burn once a day at coldest time of year and much less in mild season.
    I will be burning year round for DHW and outdoor hot tub.

    I will be installing my system in the basement instead of the barn but will heat both buildings w/ the Switzer.
    I like the idea of feeding the beast during a blizzard in my slippers :coolsmirk:
    It also increases the chances of the wife learning what to do if I'm out of town.
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