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Wood or pellet boiler recommendation

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Flem, Jul 6, 2013.

  1. Flem

    Flem Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Messages:
    131
    Loc:
    Western MD
    Fellars,
    Getting ready to can the oil-fired boiler for good. It's only 10 years old but I refuse to buy more oil. Which would be the more reliable stand alone system to use with hot water baseboard and a domestic coil? A pellet boiler or wood gasification boiler? I have a pellet fireplace insert I can use as a backup. Keeps the downstairs toasty and the upstairs at least 60 on cold days but no heat to basement. I am considering the Harmon Hydroflex 60 which I can get for around $5,000 but if a wood gasification system is more reliable I would consider that as well. Watcha say?

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  2. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2008
    Messages:
    421
    Loc:
    Southwestern VA
    Howdy,

    Do you have access to unlimited cord wood at no cost? (except your time of course) If you have to buy your fuel either way then pellets start to look pretty good as they will require less of your time but will cost more than cut/spit/delivered.

    How many gallons of oil do you burn to keep your house comfortable?

    I live on 70+ acres of mostly hardwood so my decision was made for me. My local fuel has a lot less potential cost fluctuations than pellets and I am all about my gasser+storage.

    Now going back to the starting point, are there any efficiency upgrades your house has been needing? If so this is the first place spend your money.

    Then comes a heat loss calculation unless you trust your oil boiler was sized correctly(not likely). Then you can really compare your options and costs for different fuels.

    Good luck with the decision,

    Noah
  3. Flem

    Flem Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Messages:
    131
    Loc:
    Western MD
    I built this house 10 years ago and it is well insulated. Use between 2 or 3 tons of pellets plus 2 tanks (550 gallons) of oil. The oil supplements any heat we need on our second floor (pellet stove helps a good bit), plus our basement and domestic hot water. I was thinking I could put in a pellet boiler and a tankless water heater and save between $1,500 - $2,000 per year, giving me about a 3 year payback on the switch over. Plus I love the comfort of using that hot water baseboard.
  4. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2012
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Vermont
    I have a Harman HF60 and have been pretty happy with it. The other issue to consider is your chimney access. The low cost direct vent was part of my HF60 decision. Depending on your existing Oil Boiler type and it's access, and condition, you might find a Pellergy Pellet Burner Conversion to be a reasonable option for you. Good Luck and hope you share your learning with the forum.

    VT_Bubba
  5. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2012
    Messages:
    1,571
    Loc:
    Northern Maine
    What is your heatloss? This is a good place to start.

    TS
  6. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2007
    Messages:
    3,039
    Loc:
    Falmouth, Michigan
    After running a Windhager pellet boiler last winter I can say one of those would be as reliable as your oil boiler. You just put in the pellets every 3 days or so and let it do its thing. You can also use is as self feeding if you have space for bulk storage of pellets.
    Cleans itself every day, compacts the ashes into an onboard container, requires manual cleaning about every 1000 hours of operation and you'll never have any smoke issues with neighbors. Very robust construction and good design without a lot of extra fancy combustion controls. I saw consistent efficiency numbers (85-87%) that would rival the best oil boilers on the market.
    Karl_northwind likes this.
  7. EcoHeat

    EcoHeat Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2008
    Messages:
    23
    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    With a pellet boiler, a good size hopper and good quality pellets you will probably attend to your system once a week at most. I figure you're using the equivalent of about 7-8 tons of pellets per year. That works out to an average of about 2½ to 3 bags of pellets per day during the month of January. If you were to get 1,000 lbs of pellet storage capacity you should be set with more than a week of pellets even for the coldest week of the year.

    It would be worthwhile to switch to something other than a domestic coil if you're referring to a tankless coil for your hot water. Those coils require high temperatures to be maintained in the boiler, which translates to wasted energy and loss of efficiency. You would be better off with a standard indirect hot water heater, or a "solar" indirect hot water heater. The solar designation usually refers to an electric element in the tank that you can use to heat your hot water in the summertime. That makes it possible to shut down your boiler when you only have a need for domestic hot water. Of course, you don't need one of the two-coil tanks if you don't have solar hot water panels.

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