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Wood Gasification Recommendations

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by ivars, Oct 22, 2012.

  1. ivars

    ivars New Member

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    Hello everyone:

    I would appreciate thoughts on a wood gasification system to off-set propance costs.

    I bought a house in Sunderland Vermont. It's 4700 square feet- 1st and 2nd floors- 1750 sq ft each, Basement- 1150 finished, 600 unfinished.

    The home was built in 2005, 2x6 construction, well insulated. The home is heated by a propane furnace through 3- zone forced air. The DHW is also heated by propane through a tankless water heater. The mechanicals are located in an unfinished area of the basement, which are feed by a underground, 1000 gallon propane tank.

    I would like to keep the current system as back-up and have a wood gasification boiler installed with water storage as the primary. I have access to an unlimited amount of wood and have no problem doing the work of cutting, splitting and stacking.

    I would like to keep the current system in case i'm away from the house for a period of time, to keep the house at 55 degrees, as recommended by my propane supplier.

    Propance costs me approximately $5,500 to $6,000 per year.

    If anyone has any ideas please let me know- boiler brand, sizing, water storage, installers, etc.

    Thanks in advance. Tim

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  2. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I think all you need to know to make a decision is at hand in all the posts here - it'll just take a long time to get through all the reading. But it will be worth it. You would likely get various recommendations on specific units mainly due to peoples personal preferences with what they have. So even though I am quite partial to my unit, despite not having it up & running for very long - I would rather recommend immerse yourself in all the quality threads on here, and all the advertiser sites by clicking on their banners. Everyone has slightly different preferences & priorities used in selecting what they will ultimately get - otherwise we'd all have the same thing. For myself, simplicity & ability to easily function with loss of power (and use of less power under normal operation) were key.

    But one thing is for sure - if I was spending that much on propane for heat (that's a lot!), I'd be definitely doing what you're doing & investigating something else. And a wood gasser would be the first thing I'd be checking out.

    You're in the right place - prepare to lose countless hours to it. ==c
  3. ivars

    ivars New Member

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    Thanks for taking the time replying to my post.

    I have been reading posts from this web site for some months now. It's the reason that I joined yesterday. There are some very smart folks here. I'm learning a lot.

    I wanted to put out specific information about my house to get some ideas about sizing and hopes of finding an installer.

    Thanks again. Tim
  4. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    Tim,

    Whatever unit you decide on, put storage in, if you can afford it. If you can not, plan on it in the future with your plumbing and space. It is a huge benefit. If you don't want to spend so much money, look into plenty of storage and maybe finding a nice used gassification boilers. However, I would certainly recommend buying a new boiler from a reputable dealer in your area if you can afford that. That piece of mind is worth it for any problems you may have. But people sometimes buy gassers, and other wood burning appliances, and then decide they do not want the work associated with wood heating. Or they need a larger or smaller one. Several possible reasons. Anywho, I know two guys in the area that have recently bought used gassers. For one buy, he bought a very reputable gasser with the full chimney, some copper pipe, a circ. pump, and a boiler protection valve for $5000! Don't forget boiler protection valve. Keep us posted on what you decide and good luck to ya man.
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    My only suggestion is that you start cutting wood now, because you're going to need very dry wood to run a gasifier correctly. Other than that, hot water storage will give you a lot more flexibility in the way of boiler sizing and operational strategies. If you can bring your propane costs down to near zero, which I think is a reasonable expectation with any good, properly sized gasifier burning dry wood, a nice setup will pay for itself in two to three years. Maybe sooner.
    fahmahbob likes this.
  6. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    Oh ya. Good call Eric. And you will want to do a couple of heat loss calculations and try to be certain you get the right size unit.
  7. dogwood

    dogwood Minister of Fire

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    What kind of budget are you working with? That's a lot of space you'll be heating.
  8. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    As far as installers go, where are you located? Some members may be near you and could recommend someone.... Search Craigslist, I was one of the people Maple was talking about, I bought my boiler, and a bunch of supplies, all from a guy who was going to do the install, and became ill, had to sell everything. Boiler never fired everything 100% new, sold the rest of the supplies (chimney, expansion tank, pex, fill valve, etc.) Some supplies went with my old (3 years old) boiler which I sold on CL as well. Look for deals, and as has been said, read, read, read. Welcome, and we look forward to aiding a new soon to be addict! LOL

    TS
  9. willyswagon

    willyswagon Burning Hunk

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    I couldn't agree more! As sooon as I started to seriously think about a gasser, I ordered 12 cord of wood. I'm hoping that will be enough for 2 yrs. I did not want to get caught burning less than dry wood.
    I think if you start out by knowing your wood will be ready when you are, it allows you to focus on the other system issues( Boiler, storage, circ pumps......)
    If you cut it at 18" it should be suitable for any system you buy, or be of a good size to sell later if you decide that burning wood is not for you. For instance I bought my wood for $90/cord before I even had my boiler knowing if I decided not to go ahead with it that I could sell it for $170/cord CSS in my yard this time of year.

    Also if you cut your wood ahead of time it is a very easy, and cheap way to find out if the work of burning wood is for you. I know a few people that have installed a system, bought wood and not realized how much work it is to stack wood little own carry it in feed a fire etc
  10. infinitymike

    infinitymike Minister of Fire

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    Welcome aboard brother.

    The are so many possibilities, options and extras you can do. I know dry wood is extremely important but I waited until I knew which unit I was getting so I could have my wood the exact size I needed.

    I really like the Wood Gun. I mean why wouldn't I, it's the first unit I ever bought to heat my house with wood so I have nothing else to compare it to.:)

    A house that size you might need an E140 or even an E180.

    What sold me about the Wood Gun is the manufactures claim that I "don't need" storage. If you hang around here a little bit you"ll understand why I italicized that.
    It also takes splits up to 26" and has a 60 gallons of water moving around it.
    And lets not forget the most important feature...IT DOESN'T IDLE:cool: another topic that will be disputed here but us WG owners know the truth first hand.

    Most importantly take your time and do your homework. After my experience I wouldn't recommend trying to rush and get it installed before this season.

    Stick around, more will be revealed.
  11. nrcrash

    nrcrash Member

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    Ya, the Wood Gun doesn't idle, instead comes with little elves that will relight the wood when it goes out if your not using storage. Really nice feature! I went with the vigas because it come with Santa Claus, so I don't need to do any Christmas shopping. He'll just take care of it for me!!
    Taylor Sutherland likes this.
  12. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    You may be able to narrow your focus quickly if you look at what water temperature you will need to supply the heat (btu's) required for the comfort you want. You will be adding a water-to-air heat exchanger (wahx) in the plenum and you will be sizing this for those btu's. Design will be based on your propane furnace blower cfm through the additional wahx, air temperature in, air temperature out, temperature of hot water in, and gallons per minute (gpm) of hot water flow at that temperature. I suggest planning a wahx size to use the lowest possible water temperature. Many are spec'd at 180 or 200F. If you could use 160F or even 140F water you would gain much flexibility in your gasification boiler choice and design options. If you end up needing 180F water minimum, storage will not be much of a factor in providing heat between burn periods of your boiler, as most gasification boilers have a maximum output not much over 180F, and you may need to burn nearly continuously to supply hot water at the needed temperature.

    Hot water heat from whatever heat source excels when the heat emitters can operate at low hot water temperatures and still provide the heat you need. Probably the best in this regard is in floor radiant which often can operate well at water temps down to 100F.
    Taylor Sutherland and bioman like this.
  13. ivars

    ivars New Member

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    Regarding the cost of the equipment and installation; I'm trying to stay around the $25,000.00 mark. However, I can go higher if necessary. I'm looking for quality and I know you have to pay for it.

    I won't know what I'm getting into exactly, until I have an installer out to take a look. My basement is ground level on one side and there is sliding door access. Whatever I decide has to fit through the sliding door and through another doorway into the unfinished area of my basement.

    My current propane furnance vents outside by PVC, which runs to the ceiling, then takes a right angle and runs outside from there. I don't know if they can tie the boiler into that, or a chimney will have to be installed.

    My wife and I really liked the house. We bought it last year. We live in California and will be moving into the house (Sunderland, Vermont) in about 8 months. I have a caretaker watching over it. I was told to keep the thermostat at 55 to protect the house. It cost me $4,500.00 last year to heat that vacant house. This winter it may be more, as I was told the last winter was mild. Due to that cost, the first thing I'm going to have done, is to have a gasification system installed.

    The person I bought the home from, paid between $5,000- $6,000 per year for propane. Obviously the increase is due to the temperature setting, because he was living in the house, coupled with the fact that there were four people using hot water.

    I am very happy to be a member of this site. Most of my research led me here. There are some very smart and kind folks on this site. I'm trying to absorb all the information that I can. I hope to support one of the site sponsors when I make the purchase.

    Thanks. Tim
  14. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    With a $25k budget you probably have many choices. The size of the entry door was also something we had to contend with since I did not want to have to rip anything out so that baically narrowed the field down for us. Getting dry wood may be a bit tricky for you since you won't actually be there for another 8 months, but if there is somebody that can start on this for you I would make it happen....you don't want to spend that kind of $$ on a heating system only to be disappointed in performance due to wet wood.
  15. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    The wood supply has been covered already (start as soon as possible, even before you start doing any boiler related work). The second issue I would say is chimney, you will need one (cannot direct vent) - sounds like you don't have one? That should be the main infrastructure requirement - might require the most planning ahead depending on the house layout & potential locations for one.

    You should be able to get a nice setup in for less than you have budgeted.
  16. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    Just curious, someone have a rough conversion of propane to wood using a gasser?

    For instance, I was burning 1000 gals of heating oil. Someone on this site supplied these numbers- For every 150gals of oil figure a cord of well seasoned wood. And was told once i got used to running the Innova, could push 175 gals to wood ratio. This was spot on.

    This would give ivars a rough number for needed wood storage, and usage. These figures helped me figure my ROI, and what to expect.

    Also, jebatty put some very good thoughts on your system. Water hx's will suck up some btu's. just like my hotwater baseboard does.
  17. ivars

    ivars New Member

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    Thanks Jim:

    This is the reason I joined this site. Great information! Your reply also lets me know- I have a lot to learn.
    My goal is to get some ideas on the best equipment and set-up, i..e. boiler type, size, water storage. After that, I'm going to have to rely on whoever I choose to install the equipment, because most of this is beyond my technical knowledge.

    Thanks. Tim
    "The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have."
  18. ivars

    ivars New Member

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    Thanks.

    You answered two of my questions, regarding chimney and price.

    Tim
  19. ivars

    ivars New Member

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    Thanks for the advice.

    I realize that I won't have time to cut and dry the wood properly before the first winter. I will have to buy the wood the first season, but i'm okay with that. I learned a long time ago that it's not a perfect world.

    My brother is a licensed HVAC contractor in Albany, New York, but I don't want to bother him. He has his own family to tend to, and it's a 90 minute drive from his house to Sunderland Vermont. I hope to find a good local installer. From what I have learned, the installer is as or more important than the equipment he installs.

    Thanks. Tim
  20. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    I didn't pour through all of the above so I apologize if this has already been mentioned/suggested.

    If I was in your situation I do belive I'd consider no boiler other than a Garn. It may not have the latest and greatest gadgetry, sensors and/or displays but it has something few other boilers have - uber simplicity. Self contained storage, direct vent capability and it is very cost competitive if you have the room for it.
  21. ivars

    ivars New Member

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    Thanks for the recommendation:

    I really like the Garn also. But, having done some reading, I don't see how I could get it into the space where I need it. It would have to go through a sliding door, then through a doorway. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Thanks. Tim
  22. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    A Garn can be direct vented? It wouldn't need a chimney? I hadn't heard that one before - that's a plus if so.
  23. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    With your budget you could easily remove and replace a few walls. Are your basement ceilings tall enough? If so, I'd reach out to a local contractor and get a quote on the construction required. Might be a lot cheaper and easier than you may think. Great excuse to replace that slider with something bigger and more "grand". ha.
  24. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    www.garn.com

    And for the record I don't own one. But it's what I'd buy if I had room....
  25. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    OK - it requires a 6in. insulated flue that can go out or up. I don't think that's a 'typical' direct vent (wouldn't be able to use existing propane direct vent?) - but it's not a typical chimney either.

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