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Trying to choose a gasification boiler

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by MaverickM23, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. MaverickM23

    MaverickM23 New Member

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    Ok new to this forum but have been reading alot on here now i'm looking for some more input. I recently bought a newer 2003 ranch home, 1950 square feet on the main floor with an 1885 square foot unfinished basement/ 2 car garage that you enter at ground level. The house has HWBB heat in four zones, 2 upstairs and 2 downstairs using an oil fired boiler with domestic hot water included in it. In two months I used 223 gallons of oil keeping the house at 58 except for one zone that is on a programmable thermostat where my bedroom is and it gets up to 71. I have access to wood, lots of it and now realize I need to get a wood boiler. The house is surrounded by asphalt so I plan to put it inside as of right now. I am a school teacher so I want to be able to load it when I leave in the morning 7.30, have it run all day and load it when I return at 6.00. For that reason I feel like I should be looking at a gasification boiler. Im not set up to have any type of storage system and Im the only one living at the house so I can't break the bank with the new boiler.

    Im looking for suggestions and prices, Im having trouble finding prices for some, ones I have looked at include:
    AHS woodgun
    Orlan EKO
    Attack
    Biomass
    Greenwood
    Empyre Elite
    Econoburn
    Vigas

    Im just looking to hear experiences or suggestions from you guys that might have a setup similar to mine so I could maybe narrow my choices down. I live in central PA

    Thanks in advance

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  2. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to Hearth!

    Step #1, before you figure out what kind of boiler you want, is to start getting wood. Seriously. Start getting it cut, split, and stacked somewhere that it can dry now, because you will need dry wood. If you eventually decide you dont put in the boiler, then at least you can have an awesome time around a fire pit this summer, or sell it to get some beer money.

    There are a lot of other factors that could go into your choice as far as boiler selection, plus the availability of a chimney inside your house, if you are planning to install yourself or to have someone else do it, if you do want to add storage, etc.

    In central PA you might be near AHS/Woodgun and you could be near SmokeLess Heat (Varmebaronen). AHONA is in NY (I think) and that might not be too far to go to check out their units. You could also consider a Tarm/Froiling, as they have been in the wood boiler game a long time. My advice is to pick a dealer you are comfortable with, and then ask other questions from there. Everyone has things they like and dont like about their setup, so you will get a lot of opinions.
  3. Tennman

    Tennman Minister of Fire

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    Excellent list there so kudos to step one of your research. Do the pricing research so you can establish your budget. 5 years ago I did not know if my wife and I could live with the wood boiler lifestyle so I selected a gasser from the inexpensive end of your list. You'll see your price list will be much like buying a new car as far as pricing strata. There are lots of happy EKO and BioMass users here and the same for those who purchased the higher end systems. We've run our BioMass without storage for 4 years because most of the time my wife is home. Gonna be tough to keep your house at a consistent temp for 10-12 hrs without storage. I can only do it when the temps are pretty mild and my boiler's able to idle some. Idling is when the boiler output well exceeds the heating demands. My schedule is much like yours and without my wife adding maybe once a day, I'd be coming home often to a cool house. I will have storage for next year (our 5th heating season). I installed the boiler myself in an outbuilding which adds cost but take the boiler cost and mulitiply by 1.5-2 if you do it yourself, I'd guess somewhat more if you contract it out. Welcome and take your time. Realistically you have until next heating season to select and install. I wouldn't recommend rushing the decision for this heating season.
  4. MaverickM23

    MaverickM23 New Member

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    In the basement I have access to a chimney because there is an open stone fire place that I was planning on tapping into up above and place the flue. I recently saw an Empyre and the sales man told me he owns one and fills it twice a day keeping his house at temperature all day. The other thing is I have wood now, my parents have a wood shed that I built and help fill, they run two wood stoves in their house all winter so I could get wood and be running right away. I got a price on the woodgun and it kind of scared me. Again I am on a budget but at the same time I definitetly do not want to go cheap, I want to do it right the first time.
  5. hobbyheater

    hobbyheater Minister of Fire

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  6. 711mhw

    711mhw Feeling the Heat

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    Another good place to start is an accurate heat load calc. for your house. There are on line ways to do this that some one might recomend. Another is working your existing boiler fuel use backwards to find it. I do have a Wood Gun with no storage, and I am very happy with it but it's also all I know, no other wood boiler experiance. The feeding schedule is dependant on your load (weather temp). It's been very warm here and it was over 24 hrs since I fully loaded the boiler, we went away overnight & I just threw a few splits on a few minutes ago. This is not going to happen when it's colder, but I think that most days, every 12 hrs will be "doable". I bought mine at the end of summer during a "discount" period or "pre winter" sale, whatever, but it was about 3-4 years ago and I thought, a bargain at about $5500 with the hood fan & delivery. Good luck.
    One other thing, no matter how your heating, some attention to your home's insulation should allways be one of the first prioraties on your list. Money well spent!
  7. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Agree with 711. First determine load. Second determine what can reasonably be done to lower the load. Then go boiler shopping. Most here will recommend a gasser due to the eff. gains & decreased pollution. Most will recommend storage & there are more than a few threads speaking to the benefits of storage. Once you have a load # for the building, you will have narrowed it down quite a bit just based on size. If you can swing it include DHW with an indirect heater as DHW will involve a large # of btu's for the average family of say 4 or more & an unlimited amount if 3 of those 4 are female.;) Dont ask me how I know that.
  8. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Are you absolutely sure you can't do storage? Is it a space limitation?

    EDIT: I'll also add, that IMO, there is more to be gained by incorporating storage, than there is in going from a decent non-gasser to a gasser. My parents have a Kerr fire tube wood boiler - after experiencing storage for 3 months myself, I'm sure they could drastically improve their wood burning & heating situation just by adding storage to that old thing.
    mikefrommaine likes this.
  9. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    One thing to consider, is if you are able to do the install yourself. You mentioned storage, and that means you have been reading....... If you do go with storage you can incorporate a DHW coil in it and delete the cost of buying an indirect. There may be some members on here near you and I'll bet they'd be more than happy to show off their setups, and tell you what they'd do differently if they had it to do again. There are alot of opinions, and options, and ways to skin the cat. All must be weighed and accounted for, well for we non-gov't anyway.

    TS
  10. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    My EKO 60 right now needs loaded every 10 hours running without storage... But, I have a drafty milkhouse, drafty 2 story farmhouse, and 2000 sq ft shop with infloor running off it. I'm going over to a coal burner here soon.. But, I have no complaints with my EKO. I just don't have time to take care of 16-20 cords a year of wood and run my business. Where are you located? My system is still hooked up, so you could see it run (and it's for sale too. LOL.. ) I agree storage is the way to go. My 1250 gallon storage tank only takes up a space 4ft wide and 9 ft long and 6ft tall. And I had a copper coil in it for DHW and it worked well. Very well. (50ft of 1/2 inch)

    I'm in Northern Wisconsin FYI..
  11. MaverickM23

    MaverickM23 New Member

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    If I am connecting into my oil burner with the new boiler would I still need an indirect heater for DHW? I plan on looking towards a water heater in the summer, either electric or propane, there is a propane generator hooked to the house so I have a large tank. The reason I haven't considered storage right now is the added cost and space, for now I just want to be able to burn wood. I started looking at load calculators on here but haven't gotten very far. Again I'm in central Pennsylvania. I was reading about controls and how some guys prefer one to the other because of auto dampening? Which models have that setup or what controls should I be looking for if I am going to be away most of the time it is running.
  12. You'll probably still want the indirect. Propane for hot water most likely won't be any cheaper than oil.

    As far as storage goes I don't think anyone who has storage has said it wasn't worth it. You could probably buy storage tanks and an attack, eko or biomass for less than the cost of some of the other boilers alone. I can't think of many people who have bought a boiler of any color and been unhappy with how it works. So it mostly comes down to what color you like and the price/dealer you are comfortable with.

    I'm not sure what you mean by auto dampening? All the boilers have a way to idle, slumber or turn 'off' when necessary.
  13. And you can always install a boiler now and add storage later.
  14. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    If you're in Pennsylvania, I can't imagine why you would want to mess with wood when you can get Anthracite Coal cheap.... I'd kill for that stuff reasonably priced......
    Taylor Sutherland and 711mhw like this.
  15. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    So much for "carbon footprint" LOL couldn't resist........

    TS
  16. MaverickM23

    MaverickM23 New Member

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    I live on a farm where we have access to lots of wood so we never even consider coal. Im a little confused on the DHW and an indirect heater. Wouldn't my DHW stay the same way it is now because the wood boiler will be circulating through the oil boiler? Storage does sound like the way to go and I will probably look into it later on, do the holding tanks have to be something special? I found some at smokeless heat and they were rather spendy.
  17. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    The thing about oil boilers with DHW coils in them is that it is about the least inefficient & most expensive way to heat DHW that there is in the non-heating seasons. That is why the recommendation is there for the indirect tank. However, that would also likely require that you have a cold start oil boiler to work right - what kind of oil boiler do you have now? In my case I had an oil/wood combo boiler with a coil in it. I had to keep it hot all year round for DHW - it would run in the middle of summer when there was no call for hot water. I got rid of it & replaced with a new gassifying boiler, an electric boiler for backup heat, and an electric hot water heater (with sidearm heat exchanger added so I can heat DWH with storage) for hot water. Got completely off the oil. That is not the thing to do for everybody (another factor in the decision making = how much would backup heat be used in the winter?), but there are a ton of things to consider with everyones different situation. You might be better off to keep your oil boiler for backup heat, and put in a new electric hot water heater for summer DHW & shut the oil boiler down in the off-heating season.

    Used propane tanks are widely used for storage - did you see those on the Smokeless site? I think they have some with fittings welded on & ready to plumb in. I found mine at a local scrap yard & had fittings welded on. They come in different sizes & several could be plumbed together to fit a space better.
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  18. hobbyheater

    hobbyheater Minister of Fire

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    The boiler that I posted a picture above , required 300,000 Btu's per to maintain the standby water temperature necessary for DHW supply. I burn soft wood so this would represent about 45 lbs of wood a day.
  19. MaverickM23

    MaverickM23 New Member

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    Not sure what type of boiler it is specifically but the brand is EFM I'll look tonite. I want to keep the oil as backup since it is still new, 2003. I have thought about an electric heater, in the summer would it also be connected to the indirect tank? i know it wouldn't run in the heating season and if would be nice to be off of oil.
  20. Here are some diagrams of different ways you can hook up a wood boiler to your existing system

    http://www.woodboilers.com/images/stories/documents/woodboilerplumbingschematic1211.pdf

    Do you currently have an indirect water heater? Or do you have a low limit oil boiler with an internal hot water coil?
    If you don't already have an indirect you might consider an electric tank with a sidearm heat exchanger. That way you can heat your hot water with wood or electric.
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  21. MaverickM23

    MaverickM23 New Member

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    I looked last nite and it is an EFM VT 1000E and it has the DHW coil in it. If I went with an electric with a sidearm would I have to remove the coil out of the oil boiler or not? Im thinking that I definitely want to change the DHW water in the summer to either electric or propane and get away from oil.
  22. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    You can leave the coil in. And just plumb with valves to direct the water either thru the boiler coil, or the electric tank, depending on which is used. Or, you could likely also just plumb the incoming water in series, through the oil coil first, then into the electric tank.

    EDIT: I'm not familiar with that boiler - some don't take too well to being shut down in the off season (leaks can appear). Hence the earlier question about whether it was a cold start boiler - although even if it isn't, I think I'd still try it.
  23. MaverickM23

    MaverickM23 New Member

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    The man who serviced my boiler said that it wasn't good to shut this type of boiler down and just walk away from it for the season he said it could leak. Maybe what I need to do is buy an electric water tank and during the winter have the wood boiler heat the tank with a sidearm, then during the summer I could also have the oil boiler connected to it and run it once in a while. Does this sound like a good idea and with a electric water heater should I still go with an indirect tank to gain with the wood boiler in the winter?
  24. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    An electric with sidearm is basically an indirect, it just costs less and has electric elements in it for backup. Oh, and it's de-scaleable unlike some indirects.

    TS
  25. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Those of us who work for the ole 8-5 typically benefit the most from thermal storage.

    Instead of planning to have your fire burning while you're at work you would be able to plan on having your fire burn only while you're home.

    I have a similarly sized home with an EKO 40 and 1,000 gallons of storage. I lit my fire off at 630pm last night, tossed some wood in at 830pm and loaded it 100% full at 1030pm. It was 13 degrees or so this morning and will not get above 22 today I do believe. Plenty of heat in the tanks to go all day when I left this morning for work.

    I'll also recommend an Orlan EKO to anyone. It's a great, simple, efficient, reliable boiler.
    deerefanatic likes this.

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