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Wood Gasification Boilers -- Are they 'too expensive,' or are they 'free'?

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by cguida, Jan 10, 2009.

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  1. solarguy

    solarguy New Member

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    You are going to spend 15K heating a home in a period of 5 years or so & all you've got to show for it is a bunch of receipts from your oil man. If you set a gasifier up with the right heating system, storage & control system, a cord of wood will buy you 200-300 gallons of fuel. IMHO, this sure beats a draw full of receipts....

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  2. ken999

    ken999 New Member

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    Southern Adirondacks
    Luckly for me we don't have any HOA locally, nor will we ever with the way our road is set-up. Our road runs pretty much N-S, so prevailing west winds SHOULD keep most of my smoke away from the couple of neighbors I have.

    Lot's of intersting views...that's for sure. I have to conceed and agreed with Smee...none of the wood is free. I'm already paying 5 grand a year in taxes on it, buying oil and spending more money makes no sense at all.


    I'm still on the fence though. The good thing is I really don't think either type of stove would be a poor decision for me with my situation.
  3. markpee

    markpee New Member

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    Loc:
    Huson Valley New York
    To me, the gassifier is the only way to go. I have two small kids, and smoke is not their friend. I also have a wonderful indoor fireplace - Xtrodinaire 44 series - this too is clean, but believe it or not, the kids and wife and I have seen no ear infections this year, compared with one every other week in past years - I suppose thats what you get for 85 degrees from a fireplace.

    Anyway - for me, I have 7 acres, and lots of wood. All of it so far has been wood from trees that needed to come down to make room for stuff - I also have lots on the ground from age and storms. I also ask people to keep me in mind when they need or have trees down - so I scavenge. To me it was a no-brainer. I have free wood, and the exercise I get from sawing and splitting saves me from having to join a gym.

    My wife and I sold a bunch of stuff of ebay that we didn't need and took that money to buy the EKO 40, so it was also no money out of our "operating" budget.

    Everyone's situation is unique, so it really depends on you.
  4. 88rxn/a

    88rxn/a Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    northeast PA

    thats how my "fund" in my signature is growing!!
  5. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    2,301
    Loc:
    Adamant, VT 05640
    no- the most 8 expensive words are, definitely, from my experience:

    "while I'm at it, I might as well..."

    tools justify projects, and then projects justify tools, and repeat.

    at some point, remember that you are doing things that others can't and building skills, having fun, and learning things along the way, and hopefully helping pioneer new alternatives.

    blaze a trail so that others may follow

    as tuition costs go, it's not bad!

    :)
  6. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Falmouth, Michigan
    What's too expensive is not doing things the right way and taking shortcuts for the sake of initial cost. Burning wood in a unit that emits gobs of pollution, ruins the reputation of wood burning in general, operates with horrible efficiency and annoys your neighbors is just plain wrong and shortsighted to boot. Gasification burning is the only way anyone should go IMHO. Thinking short term and only about only the personal ramifications of a purchase are two of the things wrong with the prevailing wisdom here in the USA. It should be painfully obvious that any devices, machinery or equipment we buy must be as efficient as we can get due to the first of many upcoming oil shocks we experienced this past year.

    The soapbox is now open.
  7. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    As Ruskin supposedly said in what's been called the Common Law of Business Balance:

    "It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money -- that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot -- it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better."

    In other words, plan your end game, and do your best to arrive there in one fell swoop.

    The costs of backing up and re-doing, or of ending up with something dissatisfying then that you can't afford to change out, will quickly outstrip the differential between the cheap option and the good option.
  8. NNYorker

    NNYorker Member

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    Loc:
    Upstate N.Y.

    Well said, Step 1- Buy an Adobe from Phillip Dougherty which proceeds to rust enough in three months of use to blow smoke like a chain smoker. Step 2- Replace junk with quality made product. If I had initially spent double for what I paid for the A-Crap-e and bought a Tarm with storage--End result --Way ahead of the game.....
  9. 91220da

    91220da Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2008
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    145
    Loc:
    Pocono's Pennsylvania
    Do it once, Do it right
    I don't trust the future.
    I like to be independent.
    The only "Change" we are going to see is the one we bring on ourselves.
    Every time I look out the window and see only clear heat waves or a little steam exiting the stack I appreciate the gasification process.
  10. rcollman

    rcollman Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Northern NH
    Somebody has to have invented that wheel :D. There are so many variables! Planning that spreadsheet for all of them, so a stranger could understand it, would be a task. I have two spreadsheets I built, one pre and the other one post install of the Solo40.

    The first's goal was to figure out all the variables an compute a payback (no time value of money). I had no idea of how to figure out a breakdown of how many BTUs I needed for my house's heat, water and cooking. So I made a bunch of estimates and then tried to match that up with some bills. I figured payback would be 5.6 years. We said that was good enough in May 08 and placed the order.

    The next spreadsheets goal was to figure out how much wood I am using based upon the HDDs. I have recently used that data and recalculated the payback. Of course the install now reflected the real amount and I am still playing with the BTUs. Current payback of upgrading our system is about 6.3 years. If our propane was the only source along with a hot water heater, our install would have a payback of 4.06 years.

    But these calcs are fine tuned for my house and the spreadsheet is designed by me and for me, not even my spouse wants to look at it. I am wondering how much of my install dealt with plumbing issues not related to the boiler and of course if I overpaid (So far no leaks, no calls and it was done in a couple of days in late Nov). Yeah I know I can feel good looking at no smoke going out of my chimney. But I have not (yet) calculated in the cost of a generator my friends downstate would say is a must :)

    Here is the link to the DOE spreadsheet. Add some worksheets, update their information with yours and have fun!
    www.eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/heatcalc.xls
  11. shoeboxlen

    shoeboxlen Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2008
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    189
    Loc:
    Schoharie County NY
    we bought our eko 25 no storage system this fall and began running it in november purchase and install of our system ran us about 9k. we purchased a truck load of log length firewood for $500 6- 8 cords on a truck load which we cut and split ourselves. If I figure right with 4k fuel oil bills a year the eko should pay for itself in 3 - 4 years. We have been extremely happy with our eko so far and we still have our 2 wood stoves in case of catastrophic emergency. no power and the generator also goes down or something like that. I know the initial outlay of $ is a tough nut to bite and I was extremely sceptical of the plan at first but I am glad we went ahead with the install if anyone were on the fence I would tell them to deffinitly pull the trigger they wont be sorry.
  12. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Addison County, Vermont
    My oil boiler is at end-of-life. I've replaced it with the EKO and a tankless propane heater. My total cost for EKO, storage, and the tankless was about $8K. Replacing the oil boiler would have been about $3K (I do the work myself in both cases).

    My additional investment of $5K (above the cost of replacing the oil boiler) should return about $2K per year for the next 20 years.

    Someone made a comment about issues with wood storage. For sure, I'd have a very hard time dealing with the amount of wood that it would take to heat my house with a conventional boiler. With the EKO, a year's worth of firewood fits under the deck right next to the boiler room window.
  13. rickh1001

    rickh1001 New Member

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    Loc:
    upstate NY
    Smee,

    I think I know what you are looking for, which is are some realistic total installation cost numbers from various members on the group, so you can get a little better handle on the expected benefit/cost ratio of your various options. Or at least, that is what I went through all of last winter when I was planning my installation (and financing!) when I went ahead last summer with the purchase and install. Here is my setup, and what it cost me (roughly) when I got done.

    First, here is the setup I put in. I have a large system, with two homes to heat, replacing 3 hot air oil furnaces. Our total oil consumption over the past several years was 1,700 - 2,000 gal/year. I needed an EKO60 to handle the load.

    In round numbers, it cost:

    EKO60 - $8K
    500 gal storage with two HX coils - one for DHW, and extra for solar input - $1.2K (should have done 1,000 gal tank!)
    underground PEX plus trench work $1K
    8" stainless chimney, 24' $1.2K

    Installation - $4K for materials, including 3 hot air HX

    So, my total costs were right around $15K.

    I did all my own installation work. If I had hired someone, it would have run around $3-4K more than the above materials. For comparison, I had gotten a package quote on an Econoburn last year, which was an even $20K for a full installation, including everything except the underground piping.

    So for my fairly large, somewhat complex installation, I ended up at about $15K doing it myself, and it would have been $20K if I just wrote a check and let some else do all the work.

    In comparison, an EClassic outdoor gassifier would be about $12K (I don't know their current prices exactly), and I would have saved the costs of storage and an indoor chimney, but would have spent more on underground piping, so when I ran the numbers, it came out fairly close in the total costs.

    An outdoor conventional boiler (non gasifier) was a poor choice when I thought it through. The unit itself was cheaper, but all the other costs of underground piping, etc. were the same. I would be burning 30-40% more wood, and the lifetime of the units is not that great, due to their poor design. Plus the only viable location I had was directly upwind of the house, and I was about to suffocate my family, forget the environment.

    I wasn't happy about spending so much on a new heating system, but especially last summer, there really was no other rational choice. If oil were at $4-5/gal as predicted, I would be spending over half as much in oil each year as I spent on the entire new system. Now, I can burn wood from our property, or buy additional as needed, and still pay the system off in a few years.

    In the end, even though oil is cheap for now, there is no future in it. Maybe it will be $2/gal next year, or maybe it will be $6/gal. Whoever expected it to drop so much since the summer? - and what goes down, can also go up. It is a commodity that is demand, and I just don't want to be dependent up on it anymore - for both financial and environmental reasons. So then the choice is simply between which alternate energy system do you go with? I am planning on adding solar this coming summer, and will keep insulating and improving the heat efficiency of our homes. Over the years, I will keep building a system that can supply our energy needs, without fossil fuel. I can't wait for one of the kids to want to move back, so I can help them build a totally energy independent house using solar and biomass, along with a micro-hydroelectric and windmill. I have the site on the farm already picked out!

    Finally, given the experience of some with some poorly performing gasifiers, I personally decided to go with a company with a history and a known track record, and with a local dealer who would support me. To me, that meant Econoburn, Tarm, Eko or Greenwood, although this is not a comprehensive list. The Garn was too large for me, and I suppose the WoodGun would another proven unit. The worst fear I had was to spend this much money, and wind up with a problem unit, where I was serving as a guinea pig for their R&D;. I have been extremely happy with the EKO, as have others with their other brands.

    Good luck. It is a major investment of time and money, but it is worth it, and whatever the particular spreadsheets say about payback time, etc., there just is no future with oil that I can see. One side benefit of the EKO project, has been to get me educated in the alternate energy field. The first step is the hardest, but now, I am comfortable with the technology, and can't wait to keep learning and doing more!
  14. Birdman

    Birdman New Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    278
    Loc:
    NH
    Bought Tarm 40 in May for 6700. Had good plumber install it in series with oil boiler that I already had. Cost 5 grand for install. Everything done.... very nice work. So... 11,700. I now create my own destiny. At current rates of oil... 2.20 a gallon.... I used 1000- 1300 gallons a year. So my payback is at most 5-6 years? Cripes... it an easy decision. We own our own land... have always burned wood. Easy choice. Clean, efficient, heats the whole house evenly... easy to control... the benefits go on and on. Tarm has been around a long time. If its European.... its prob better than what we have. They must laugh at us for using those smoggy inefficient OWB. ( except the Classic... I hear it is good stuff... it would have been my other choice)
  15. freeman on the land

    freeman on the land New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    1
    Loc:
    canada
    I freely admit I,m dumb as wood on some things,
    gasifier boiler??? fancy phrase for wood boiler?
    Like stimulas package = worlds largest fraud :)

    thanks guys
  16. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Loc:
    Addison County, Vermont
    Gasification boilers are a more sophisticated design that burns wood in two stages - a primary stage that generates flammable wood gas, and a secondary stage that burns the wood gas at very high temperatures. They are far more efficient than conventional boilers, and have virtually no smoke or creosote.
  17. ezoffshore

    ezoffshore New Member

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    Dec 4, 2008
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    14
    Loc:
    Newaygo, MI
    I installed an e-classic set up to heat 2 buildings and supply alll my DHW fro both buildings. Total install was roughly 17K. My average propane usage going back 5 years was about 1800 galons a year. This years price of 2.79 a gallon puts me at about a 3 1/2 year payoff. With the added bonus of heating the second building which I could have never done if I had to do it with propane. For me it was woth the cost!!! Just as a final note, I still have gas range and clothes dryer but my tank guage has not moved since October when I fired up my E-Classic.
  18. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    618
    In my experience so far as a gasser dealer, I can tell you that most of the people who buy these boilers are pretty financially savvy... I have yet to have a customer finance an installation. They have all written checks for as much as 20k. Now, I can see someone who is financing an installation not having a clue as to what and when their payback is going to be... but the people writing checks? No way... these people know exactly what they are getting into, and it makes sense to them.

    One word about firewood prices... from what most of my customers who have switched from OWB's to gassers have told me, they are using half or less than half of what they used before in firewood. Some of that has to do with the fact that we replaced hack job piping with more efficient... there are some instances where people are only using about 30 or 40% less... some of that is due to the fact that they can keep their house 75* as opposed to 68 now and still burn less wood. All things being equal, my experience shows the average wood usage is about half... once people start replacing some of their newer and slightly more efficient OWB's, that number will probably go down. At any rate, as people switch to the more efficient gassers, you could theoretically increase the population of people burning wood by X2 and keep the price of firewood right where it's at (relative to other energy prices of course, and assuming EVERYONE switched to gasification) going strictly by the laws of supply and demand. Add to the fact that people who previously couldn't support their OWB habit of using enormous quantities of firewood will be digging up scraps all over the place and getting alot of their wood from what would normally be waste. As an example, I have a commercial customer who will be heating a semi truck paint booth with a 500,000 BTU Econoburn using only scraps of pallets and crates that they normally have to pay to send to a landfill.

    More simply put... gasifiers help keep the price of wood down... OWB's do not.

    As a dealer, I keep thinking I would like to add a line of OWB to what I currently sell to open up the market for me... but I find it difficult to market both gassers and OWB's at the same time simply because the OWB's just don't make any sense to me. Just my opinion.

    cheers
  19. mwk1000

    mwk1000 Member

    Joined:
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    152
    Loc:
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    My case was pretty simple to figure financially, I have a large home with 2 forced air furnaces, I used between 2000 and 2200 gal of propane a year. We pre-buy and I was locked in at 2.19 a gal for a lovely 4800 for one year. It was 1400 a year when we moved in to the home. Given the craziness in fuel costs I fully expected them to be over 2.50 a gallon when we were looking to lock in. I was getting 2.40 quotes -- it was obscene and laughable , I did some rough BTU math and figured I was pretty close to being able to heat my house with electric space heaters for the same cost. I think that alone angered me enough get off the couch and drop the money on the gasifier.

    I purchased an eko 60, 500' pex-al-pex, 3 pumps, 1 flat plate & 2 20x20 air HX and the basic startup kit and fittings from cozy spent about 10K with them.

    Spent another 500 in making my own 1500 gal tank ( cinder block & edpm )

    Spent 700 in chimney and the rest in blackpipe and copper for a total of 12k.

    I have a nice little fireplace that I have been feeding 22 face cords of wood I cut split and stack each year ( On top of the propane heat mind you ).

    So : 12k/4800 = 2.5 years Even with the price drop in propane I am still less than 4.

    Added labor = None. I will be able to heat my home completely on the same wood I sent up the flue of my fireplace. It can go back to what it was supposed to be. Something pretty to look at on occasion. My wood is free, my labor only at least.

    It is zero outside right now. I have 58% in my 1000 Gal Propane tank from my first fill. I had 60% on Dec 1 when I started the EKO for the first time. I am looking forward to my refund from the propane company. It's always nice to get thousands back. Better still is the meter in my head that says the gallon an hour I was burning is stopped. $2.19 an hour back in my pocket. HAAA! --- Sorry venting again :)
  20. atlarge54

    atlarge54 New Member

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    Is that 22 face cords in the fireplace a misprint?
  21. DaveBP

    DaveBP Minister of Fire

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    I just paid $4.26/gallon here in S. Maine; bulk delivered. Glad I only heat water and cook with it.
  22. atlarge54

    atlarge54 New Member

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    On the NYMEX Feb. propane is $0.72/gal right now. Looks like gouging to me.
  23. mwk1000

    mwk1000 Member

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    Nope , 22 face on average each year ( unless im wrong on a face, 4x4x18" ? ) . Every 4-5 hours load the stove all winter long. I figured I had to be close to the amount of labor already. The stack is about 26' long and the logs are 20/24 wide since my fireplace takes 32" logs it worked well. Each year I rebuild the pile to 7-8 feet high and 5 rows.

    I actually think the EKO may take less once I get the hang of it. I spent most of my time this fall putting it in so I will run short this year ( and wet ). But next year I will be feeling pretty confident with that much put away dry.

    Sorry I meant 4x8x18"
  24. atlarge54

    atlarge54 New Member

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    Are you burning with an insert or open fireplace? I expect to see a VERY happy report on your new system, since you've already been handling a fair amount of firewood already. I've got an old "junkyard" homemade system, last night I put two big hunks of hardwood on a nice bed of coals and 20 hours later I'm just starting to rebuild the fire with mostly single digit temps. You've got a honkin' big stove and lots of storage, bet you'll love it. I suppose you've got a big generator for electric backup, boilers don't like blackouts.
  25. mwk1000

    mwk1000 Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
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    I have a nice Fireplace extraordinare 44 like another mentioned it is a wood burning furnace made to look like a fireplace. AKA a grand daddy insert. But I had to keep it going full tilt to keep 1/2 the house warm due to the shape -- and the output still did not cut it. I am already in awe of the EKO, once a day I fire it up, refill after 3-4 hours and let it go till it dies. I actually get to sleep at night. I have a chart I made up for the house based on my heat load telling me how many degrees an hour the tank will drop at the current outside temp. I have been planning the burns around our schedule. First thing in the morning if its really cold and usually 6-7 at night and a refill after 3-4 hours before bed.

    The whole house is 68-69 and the bedrooms are 70 for the first time ever between 5-11pm. Feels like Florida to us. We drop it down to 66 at night since we have always slept better with a little cool in the air.

    As for the wood, It's hard to say since I am into damp wood now , I just dialed back the blower to 60% , 10mm on primary and 2 turns and the wood consumption is much slower now. I was at 100%, 4 turns, damp wood and always bridging with low temps. With all that said I don't think I would be halfway through my normal stack yet.
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