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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. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    I will have a very well insulated 2200 sq. ft. ranch and at 15-18k for a woodgun 100 it will never pay for itself. I can heat this house for 1,500 dollars a year. At 15k I can make 300 dollars @2% interest and pay for Februarys heat bill. By the time I save 15k on my gas bill the woodgun will be worn out. I might do it anyway because my wife claims 73 degrees is cold and can feel a draft. A Woodgun 100 with hydronic heat will fix the problem, the floor will be 80 degrees instead of 50 degrees. I might just go with the Woodgun with forced air. This will save 4k? Any comments about the Woodgun 100?

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  2. cguida

    cguida New Member

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    Well, I'm glad somebody realizes that there are circumstances where a 15 thousand dollar installation might NEVER pay for itself.

    I made up a (very crude) spreadsheet wherein I could plug various prices and install costs, and get back a payback time in years. With each downward tick in heating oil prices, the payback got longer and longer. At around $1.25/gallon for heating oil (and an admittedly high price for wood), the payback time suddenly went nagative (!), indicating a payback period of FOREVER.

    1600 gallons of oil at 1.25 vs 10 cord of wood at 200/cord returns a payback period (according to my 'shakey' function) 900+ years.
    1600 gallons of oil at 1.24 vs 10 cord of wood at 200/cord returns a payback period of Negative, i.e. FOREVER, as the yearly cost of wood-plus-boiler exceeds the cost of oil.

    Now, I wouldn't be the farm on these calculations, but the point is that a 15 thousand dollar wood gas system is no guarentee of a positive return. And the scenarios for the FOREVER payback period are not all that far fetched.

    If MuncyBob (King of the Financial Spreadsheet!) will allow me to quote from a PM:
    Historical Heating Oil Prices
    1999: $0.872
    2000: $1.177
    2001: $0.982
    2002: $1.04
    2003:$1.17
    2004:$1.57
    2005: $2.01
    2006 $2.12
    2007: $2.96
    2008 $3.27

    Now ask yourself: what was crude oil before the Iraq war? Answer: about 30 bucks a barrel -- little less. Crude oil is about 40 now. Meanwhile prices of other major assests are all back to pre-2003 levels -- e.g. stocks, houses, etc. So I think that maybe $1.24 or less heating oil next year is not at all un-reasonable.

    My point: No guarentee of a positive return on a 15 thousand dollar gasification investment. (Ane we haven't even begun to consider labor time yet.)

    So here's the question: Why am I spending time in the basement measuring footprint and chimney connection for an EKO-Orlanski 60 (Two-Foot Wood!)? Not entirely rational, but it does seem like a great idea for a not-unreasonable-price.

    And there are other options. We can't do much about the price of oil, or the price of wood (except to cut it ourselves). But we can do something about the price of boilers -- E.G 2.Beans and Jesse with their home-made Seton boilers. And then there's the example of good old fashioned self-reliance and Russian Enginuity -- the masonry boiler. These last two could change the balance dramatically in favor or wood.

    Stay tuned!
  3. gorsuchmill

    gorsuchmill New Member

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    Smee - Are those delivered oil prices or Nymex? If the latter, you may need to revise your model a bit. Interesting analysis regardless.

    For what it's worth, I burned aprox. 1350 gallons of oil per year for 12 years and switched to a Tarm this past Fall. I'm very pleased with my decision as I'm staying in great shape, the woods are getting cleared of lots of downed wood (thanks to my son) and I don't mind keeping the house warmer. I know burning wood, like oil, has a cost, but there is a different perspective when you can toss a few more logs in the boiler instead of simply watching the oil tank gauge drop.
  4. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Looking into the future, I see millions of people in India and China with cars. The price of oil is down now due to a very temporary drop in demand. The supply is limited, and as soon as the world economy picks up you can expect oil to return to $4 per gallon or more. Iraq has very little to do with it. Supply and demand has everything to do with it.

    Wood on the other hand is self-replenishing. In my case, I could never burn all the wood that needs to be harvested just to keep my forest healthy.

    Making financial decisions based on the idea that oil will be under $2 a gallon is likely pretty short-sighted.
  5. Hansson

    Hansson Feeling the Heat

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    The oil price have not drop overe here.We still pay 11-12 SEK /Liter :-(
  6. tom in maine

    tom in maine Minister of Fire

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    Interesting analysis. My take on it is this: people piss away money on a lot of stupid stuff(Mongo SUV.s, home theatres, two dishwashers in the kitchen, etc.) , so if someone invests $12K in a Froling boiler and then perhaps another 12K on the balance of the system, they are spending their money on something that is environmentally sound, they are not adding to the carbon load by burning fossil fuels and they are spending their money in the local economy.

    If a DIY solution works for someone, that is fine, but there is a lot to say for customer support, too.
  7. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

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    I completely agree with this. I'm in a similar situation with more wooded land than I can keep up with. I like the fixed heating cost-my labor. I understand this is not an option for a lot of folks but I would sooner buy wood locally, from someone I know, than support the big boys any more than I have to. U.S. peak oil was very real. Global peak seems inevitable to me.

    Personally, I cant wait to get a gasifier-Infloor radiant and DHW with wood from our land. I'm not really looking at payback as much as comfort and efficiency. Its hard to put a price that, as its hard to put a price on oil 2,5, or 10 years from now.

    Noah
  8. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    As mentioned, each person's financial scenario will differ depending on their market prices for both fossil fuel and for wood. It seems to me that I will not see oil prices low enough in my lifetime not to justify financially the purchase of a wood boiler. I personally will go with the wood boiler even if it takes me much longer than I would like to just break even. I know with the wood available to me by both taking delivery from somebody or even cutting my own that I probably will keep my house a bit warmer than I do now burning oil and I know I'm not supporting our dependance on foreign oil as much as I used to! The psychological factor of becoming a bit more self sufficient will be icing on the cake for me. I truly believe we are entering unprecendented times and are about to enter unchartered waters...regardless of how things work out in the near future I want to be sure I will be warm in the winter without breaking the bank!
  9. DaveBP

    DaveBP Minister of Fire

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    That's about $5 US per gallon or a little more!
  10. Mushroom Man

    Mushroom Man Member

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    We burn 3500 liters per year now with a thermostat never above 64 and at night around 58. Believe me, you get accustomized to it.
    The house has a heavy heat load due to high ceilings (11 ft.) in the basement and we sit atop a very windy hill which is the main reason for the heavy load.

    Next winter our heat load will increase 59% due to expansion of the mushroom growing area. So, assuming this years price of oil @ 1/ liter (yes we pay more here in Canada, even though we export much of it to the USA); I'll pay my rig off in 2.6 years of oil savings. If oil goes to last summer's rate of 1.40 / liter, I'll pay it off from 1.86 years oil savings.

    Naturally, there is a cost to pick up the wood and prepare it. I estimate $30 per year for chainsaw and splitter gas and $30 bucks for diesel for the tractor. The wood otherwise is free and there is more falling naturally than I need.

    Some people pay for a place to exercise. Processing wood is healthful and not terribly unpleasant. I prefer it to a treadmill.

    Like others here I care about my carbon footprint, hence a gasifier rather than conventional wood burning.

    I also subscribe to the opinion that oil is going much higher in price due to demand from emerging economies and shrinking supply attributable to fewer and fewer new discoveries of economically viable reserves, (the widely held PEAK Oil argument). If that argument is wrong, then my payback analysis will entail a longer period before I payback from oil savings; but it will still pay back faster than most other investments than I have ever made.

    For me, the gasser decision was a slam dunk. We might even turn up the thermostat...though we like it cool.
  11. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

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    I think what we have to realize is that different people see the labor involved in firwood gathering and processing from very different perspectives. To those whose free time is plentiful, the time spent gathering is not even a factor. To those whose time is of utmost value to them, it's almost heresy to NOT consider every minute spent in the wood heating process.

    The bottom line is... it doesn't really matter. This is why the market can support such a wide variety of products. Diversity makes the world go 'round.

    cheers
  12. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    Real good points guys. One thing is not mentioned much is the importance of insulation. It seems that almost every house can use more insulation. I see it all the time. We can cut our heat usage by a ton, 20% seems reasonable especially in the inner city. Even new houses should raise the codes a bunch. It just became r-45 or 50 in Wisconsin. Why not go straight to 60 and r-20 in the walls? If you don't have r-50 plus in your attic you need more. If you have fiberglass in the attic, especially bats you need to blow in cellulose to fill the cracks. (personal but semi pro thought ) Blown in fiberglass just seems so light the draft blows through it. Drapes are huge, caulking your window panes, door weatherstripping, storm windows all make a huge difference.
  13. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    I have also noticed a lot of deals on almost every woodburner stove. My plumber said to me "Yah, oils 1.45 now. Good point, I think they are way too much if the avr. monkey wrench on this sight can make one almost as good as the 6k ones. I hope they go down. I've seen some pretty good deals on firewood too, maybe it's not selling like last year? If oil goes up, so will wood though. Also, like I said a few posts back, my wife is terribly romantic when she's toasty warm, and with forced air heat that ain't often. The neighbor girl down the road has floor heat and a Kozyburn? owb and told my wife she loooooves it becuse her feet are warm. Even if it never pays for itself I am sure I will at least break out even money wise, and a warm house after a days work in the middle of winter like today makes life a whole lot nicer.
  14. tom in maine

    tom in maine Minister of Fire

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    As great as gasifiers are and I do make a living selling storage systems, one must think seriously about superinsulation.

    We live in 1200 square foot house on the coast of Maine. Tonight the wind is whipping and it is cold(about 15F). We heat mostly with a Jotul 100QT, which is their smallest
    stove. I was concerned about overheating the house since the walls and roof are R-65 foam. Most nights, we hit 74 and that lingers all night.
    We wake up with it being 74 on the second floor after the fire has been out for 8 hours in the winter. The first floor, which has a lot of windows and doors is usually 68 in the morning.

    Foam insulation is where money is very well spent.

    My problem (believe it or not!) is that the overheating is pushing me to installing a thermal storage system.
    I will sneak in a 300 gallon tank in the basement and probably build a small wood gasifier boiler to feed it. Am planning on a solar thermal system for most of the heating, but this is Maine and the sun only shines 40% of the days in December.

    BTW, we are through a half cord of wood this winter and I filled the tank with 100 gallons of #2 in September.
    I like giving the money to people I know (the wood cutter) instead of sending it overseas. The oil is for heat and hot water which comes from a Toyotomi (OM148) oil fired
    hot water heater that does double duty for heat and hot water.

    Probably could've done it a lot easier with a small gas stove that looked like a wood stove, but our DHW load is more than the heating load and LPG is not cheap.
    And it ain't wood!
  15. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    Tom in Maine, do you think r65 in a wall helps ? I have heard that after r-20 in the wall it doesn't do anything, and after r-60 in the attic it is a waste. I am asking because I'm getting 3 1/2 " of closed cell foam in my wll next week and I hve 5 1/2 in walls. For a thousand dollars more I can have another 1" of foam put in.
  16. tom in maine

    tom in maine Minister of Fire

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    It does help. There are limiting returns, but as fuel costs go up, higher insulation values make sense.

    If you plot out heat loss versus R value, I think the point of change is at about R-60. Beyond that there is so little change that there is no merit in
    going any further. Newer codes are starting to reflect this.

    It is always a an issue of trying to get the insulation into a cavity. Walls are harder to deal with than attics. And there is more buoyancy driven heat loss into the attic, so
    this does make a difference.

    The beauty of foam is that it is airtight and cuts infiltration while insulating and it is not subject to wind washing.

    R-20 in your area, (and mine) and I believe in most other areas of this country, is too little.

    That being said, install as much as you can. Use high density foam and fill the cavity.

    If you can only get that into a wall cavity, it will still be a lot better than fiberglassing it!
  17. sweetheat

    sweetheat Member

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    well it's day 2 with no fire in my boiler. I will go tonight and build a fire in the A.M. Top storage tank temps are 153 degrees F. R 15 blue styrofoam 3 inch board behind 2X6 spruce T&G;boards, roof and side walls with cedar shingles, Marvin 1/2' IG/w/argon, and 1/8 glass storm panels. Insulated wood doors/shop built, eastern white cedar shingles = R7 + 2X6 spruce T&G;= R 11 +, blue styrofoam = R15, + 1/2 inch dead air space = R4 = total of R36, to date I've used 2.75 cords of dry hardwood. Thermostat is at 64 degrees 24/7. With wood consumption this low I think their free. swee :) theat
  18. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    It's been a lot of years since I ran the numbers, but I seem to remeber that at around R-40 int the walls, 90% of my heat loss was through the windows, doors, and infiltration. Doubling the insulation in the walls and ceiling would reduce heat loss by only 5%. For sure, closing the blinds has an enormous effect in my house (Double pane / argon / low-e windows).
  19. tom in maine

    tom in maine Minister of Fire

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    You are right, the windows are a big one when you get to that point. And any insulation, including simply closing the shades will give a pretty big bump when you are
    dealing with an R-2 or 3 window.

    The numbers keep moving around as fuel costs change. Insulation is a one time buy, while fuel is every year.

    I am of the persuasion that any wood handling over a cord is work. A cord or under is a hobby.
    At least for me.
  20. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    Agreed that as much insulation as you can achieve, and as much air-sealing as you can achieve, is good- and that fiberglass is a dud at stopping air infiltration--

    but dense-pack cellulose insulates and stops air movement _very_ well, and has the added advantage of being made from a recycled produce, and having less embedded energy/ petrochemical feedstocks than foam. I'm not saying that foam is bad, just that cellulose deserves serious consideration (each have their place/ best applications) and cellulose can be added into existing construction
  21. tom in maine

    tom in maine Minister of Fire

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    Cellulose is a great material. If you can get enough of it in place. It certainly has a place in flat attic ceilings.

    AND, if you do a hybrid installation of foam on the outside of the building with cellulose in the walls, you have minimal infiltration
    and minimal thermal bridging from your framing and the much lower costs and environmental impacts that cellulose offers.

    We used factory second foam insulation in our home (our other business--we use firsts in tanks), so the costs were mitigated and we
    put it to a better use.
  22. sweetheat

    sweetheat Member

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    only drawback for cellulose is you can't get it wet during the build. If I could fine a cellulose product that would withstand the rigors of construction I'd use it. Until then it's the blue dow styrofoam. Not to highjack this thread but a good gasifier and plenty of insulation, good windows and doors and you'd be on your way to a free heating system. sweetheat ;-)
  23. bupalos

    bupalos Member

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    Not unreasonable, no. But it might be just as worthwhile to ask why most other commodities are NOW at (actually generally below) pre-2003 levels while oil isn't. Everyone notices the higher peaks, but no one notices the higher valleys. To me, the fact that oil is not really crashing quite the way it usually does--despite an absolutely historic downturn in everything else-- may suggest we really are seeing peak oil. If this is a cyclical floor for oil, it's about twice as high as the crash floors we have seen in the past. Has OPEC become more effective? Or are they perhaps beginning to run up against some physical limits?

    Personally I think energy prices were the major part of the cause of this crash.
  24. ihookem

    ihookem Minister of Fire

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    Dupalos, I agree that if oil would hve stayed 60 bucks a barrel we would be seeing better days. I had 5" of blown in cellulose in my last house with 2x6 studs. I'm building the same house and useing 3 1/2 " of cloed cell foam. I'm sure the foam will be better but the cullulose in the walls is way under rated. I went all over the house the first year and put my hand up to the outside outlets and I never felt a draft coming through so it's got to be good stuff.
  25. karri0n

    karri0n New Member

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    This is a great thread. I've been quite interested in Gasifier boilers for quite some time now, but it will be many years before it's something I can look in to. By that time, I'm thinking their technology will have improved even further, and price may have come down. Thanks to all who were willing to share their(somewhat personal) information in this thread.
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