Garn disaster

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mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
Hi everyone. I am a long time lurker and first time poster. I moved from Tennessee to the upper Peninsula of Michigan one year ago to a home heated with a GarnerHi everyone. I am a long time lurker and first time poster. I moved from Tennessee to the upper Peninsula of Michigan one year ago to a home heated with a Garn 2000. I am new to this whole heating with wood thing and when I moved in at the end of September the prior owner had carded off all 10 cords of wood that was supposed to go with the house. Little did I know, that would be the least of my problems. My first clue as to future fun word that the room that the boiler is in was completely coated in soot and the floor in front of the tank was wet. When I fired it up for the first time, smoke in Sparks blue out of the motor mount. Mind you, the unit was installed in 2014 so it's only six years old at the time. I was able to contact the local rep who, although being retired, came out and helped me change all the gaskets. The motor gasket was completely burned up. I made it through most of the heating season without too much difficulty, but the floor remained wet and I had to add fill water every couple weeks. With about a month left to go in the heating season, early last April, I noticed a small jet of water coming from the back of the tank about 3 inches above the bottom. After weighing my options, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to temporary plug this area of obvious rust through. Thankfully, a tube of water weld plastered against the hole got me through the rest of the season. This summer has been an Odyssey of diagnosing the problems and getting it fixed. Once I drained the tank and got inside, I found 3 5 gallon buckets full of sludge in the bottom. I spent a day cleaning that out and hosing and brushing the entire tank. I could then get a good luck. What I found was three areas of rust through, one at the back and two on the bottom of the tank where the sludge was. I suspect that the sludge had kept the tank from completely draining. There was also heavy pitting in the steel in a large area both at the front and back of the tanks, also where the sludge was sitting. I also found that both anode rods were completely dissolved. I had many detailed conversations with Martin Lunde at Garner, and he was incredibly helpful. He custom made five plates of steel to completely cover the areas of pitting and rust through. I ended up having two 3 ft.² plates welded front and back on the bottom and a crescent shaped piece welded at the bottom of the back wall. I was very fortunate to find an excellent welder just up the road who spent 10 hours in the tank cleaning, grinding, and welding. It looks beautiful now. I am in the process of painting the Raw steel and then will give it another good wash out before filling. Given the level of maintenance, or lack there of, of the unit in general, my strong suspicion is that the water was never tested after its initial fill. This is also consistent with a lot of other signs of poor maintenance in the home I purchased. As part of the rehab, I have also replaced the fire brick which was completely disintegrated, the door gasket, the lid gasket, and will be replacing the water sensor and installing a bypass filter. All the soot has been cleaned up and the building repainted. It looks good! Given the extent of the damage to the tank, and the relative ease of getting in and servicing it, I am thinking of draining and inspecting every year or two as a routine. I never want to go through this again.

I do have a question for all you experts out there. The whole anode/electrical isolation thing has me a bit confused. I spent many years as a boater and I am very familiar with the importance of sacrificial anodes when to dissimilar metals are connected by electrolyte. Despite all the talk of electrical isolation, which will address stray current, I still have copper and steel in the system in contact with the same water. Thus, galvanic corrosion will always be an issue. I know that anode rods are no longer available from Garn, but hot water tank and odds are readily available for many suppliers. I am thinking about installing those in place of the worn out and out. What do you all think about this? I can't see any downside and any protection that they provide will be cheap insurance. As I said, I plan on inspecting every year or two as a routine.
Overall, I really like the Garn system, and it does an amazing job of healing by 3500 square-foot house, attached garage, driveway apron, 1200 square-foot shop, and greenhouse during the shoulder seasons. It was my sole source of heat last winter (I do have propane back up for the house) and I only burned about seven cords of well seasoned hardwood all winter (the house is exceptionally well insulated). I am also very impressed with the support that Garn has provided. Their advice has been priceless.

Thanks for reading my long post and I am interested in any feedback or advice you all might have for me. And if there are any other Garn owners in the UP, I'd love to share stories
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,556
NE Ohio
Wow...did you have any home warranty...or a way to go after a home inspector, anything?!
If you are a long time lurker then you have probably already seen this thread https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/garn-leaking-water-again.185037/
As far as an anode...yeah I think I'd just find one that will fit/work and use it...but from what I understand if you want to drain and inspect the Garn every year that can get expensive with having to replace 1000 (2000?) gallons of water/treatment every year...my experience (through my brother/dad and their CB) is that if you keep the firebox clean/dry through the summer and stay on top of the water chemistry every year, you'll be fine...pretty much how the gas fired (650K BTU) boiler had been treated at work since 1969...still runs every day, and has only been re-tubed once...welders that did it said it was a waste of time, tubes looked perfect (insurance carrier wanted it done due to age)
How's you wood supply? If you can get a 3 year supply built, (cut, split, stacked) at that point you know you are always burning good dry wood and burning efficiently...its takes most people some time to get to that point though...feels good to only have to replentish it 1 year at a time once you have it! Takes the monkey off your back if you have a year where you can't make wood (time, or injury maybe) as long as you can catch back up the next year then.
Sounds like you lucked out with having a good welder nearby and getting help from the dealer/ factory too!
Have pics of any of the repair work?
 
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E Yoder

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2017
595
Floyd, VA
HeatMaster told me the anode rods drop sludge in the bottom of the tank, causing issues. The water treatment we use reduces the conductivity in the water eliminating electrolysis.
I'd treat it with correct water treatment and forget the anodes.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,840
Iowa
What a story! Believe I'd start that unit up early and keep the patching material on hand. As mentioned above, getting a proper wood supply routine going is a common issue for new wood burners. 3 years on hand seasoning so that you only need to source one years wood at a time to replenish is the standard to shoot for. Wish you the best of luck. Probably ought to post a few pics of your humble abode;) Sounds like a impressive place.
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
What a story! Believe I'd start that unit up early and keep the patching material on hand. As mentioned above, getting a proper wood supply routine going is a common issue for new wood burners. 3 years on hand seasoning so that you only need to source one years wood at a time to replenish is the standard to shoot for. Wish you the best of luck. Probably ought to post a few pics of your humble abode;) Sounds like a impressive place.
yes, i am a little behind on putting wood up. I have about 6 cords on the log that was cut in spring 2020 that i just started working on. I burned several cords of that last year. I have another 13 cords of logs cut this year that will help me get a little ahead. I will post some pics!
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
HeatMaster told me the anode rods drop sludge in the bottom of the tank, causing issues. The water treatment we use reduces the conductivity in the water eliminating electrolysis.
I'd treat it with correct water treatment and forget the anodes.
Thus it shall be! I spoke to Martin Lunde from Garn today and he said the same thing. With the side bypass filter the water should be clear enough to inspect the bottom casually. Funny, though, before this mess i was afraid to even look inside. Now having spent many hours inside of it, my fear is gone. The beast is mine!
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
Wow...did you have any home warranty...or a way to go after a home inspector, anything?!
If you are a long time lurker then you have probably already seen this thread https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/garn-leaking-water-again.185037/
As far as an anode...yeah I think I'd just find one that will fit/work and use it...but from what I understand if you want to drain and inspect the Garn every year that can get expensive with having to replace 1000 (2000?) gallons of water/treatment every year...my experience (through my brother/dad and their CB) is that if you keep the firebox clean/dry through the summer and stay on top of the water chemistry every year, you'll be fine...pretty much how the gas fired (650K BTU) boiler had been treated at work since 1969...still runs every day, and has only been re-tubed once...welders that did it said it was a waste of time, tubes looked perfect (insurance carrier wanted it done due to age)
How's you wood supply? If you can get a 3 year supply built, (cut, split, stacked) at that point you know you are always burning good dry wood and burning efficiently...its takes most people some time to get to that point though...feels good to only have to replentish it 1 year at a time once you have it! Takes the monkey off your back if you have a year where you can't make wood (time, or injury maybe) as long as you can catch back up the next year then.
Sounds like you lucked out with having a good welder nearby and getting help from the dealer/ factory too!
Have pics of any of the repair work?
nope - no warranty. I paid less that half what the house cost to build, so i am still way ahead. Yes - VERY lucky on the welder. It was just a coincidence. A neighbor who i hadnt met yet Heard that I was cutting my own hay and stop by to see if I would be interested in cutting his. I didn't really have the time but to be neighborly I said yes. It turns out the welder is his son-in-law. So it worked out very well. And the haying went well too. It's hard to believe that less than a year ago I was a suburban girl!
 
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mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
Here are the pictures of what I found inside of the tank. The first picture is the hole on the back wall of the tank an inch or so above the bottom.. The next picture shows the heavy pitting there was under the sludge at the front of the tank. There was similar pitting at the back of the tank as well. The last two pictures show the bonus holes that I found

5857A095-2E2A-4807-A53B-504214A3B10C.jpeg B3FF00BD-15CF-4560-A76F-442940A7840D.jpeg 05CD08A2-13B3-4DC4-B0CE-7D7C2A2CEED0.jpeg BE609CB3-CBAC-4E35-9C31-3201078C69A1.jpeg
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,259
Downeast Maine
Cutting your own hay must be a nice feeling. I'm hoping to reach that point myself some day. That's a nice neighbor you have to lead you to the welder.
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
Cutting your own hay must be a nice feeling. I'm hoping to reach that point myself some day. That's a nice neighbor you have to lead you to the welder.
It was definitely an experience – going back-and-forth between enjoyable, stressful, and nerve-racking. I guess that’s what you get when you have to compete with the weather and finicky machinery. The best feeling is having the winters worth of hair It was definitely an experience – going back-and-forth between enjoyable, stressful, and nerve-racking. I guess that’s what you get when you have to compete with the weather and finicky machinery. The best feeling is having the winters worth of hay in the barn!
 

hedge wood

Burning Hunk
Mar 1, 2009
221
Eastern NE
mynx Welcome to the forum. Glad to hear you have the Garn back up and going. I am sure you read all the problems I have had with my Garn 2000. I have been back up and running about four months since my last repair was completed. I burn year around as I heat my domestic water with my Garn. I hope we all have a leak free winter. I will have my propane tank full this fall just in case. I don't want to have to buy high priced propane like I did last winter when my temp fix gave up and I had to shut down the Garn and go back to propane.
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
mynx Welcome to the forum. Glad to hear you have the Garn back up and going. I am sure you read all the problems I have had with my Garn 2000. I have been back up and running about four months since my last repair was completed. I burn year around as I heat my domestic water with my Garn. I hope we all have a leak free winter. I will have my propane tank full this fall just in case. I don't want to have to buy high priced propane like I did last winter when my temp fix gave up and I had to shut down the Garn and go back to propane.
I did read your horror story - what an awful experience! I hope you remain leak-free. I filled and did the chemical wasn. No leaks so far, but i am a bit paranoid now. I keep finding myself on the floor with a flashlight looking for water. It was nerve-racking to fill it with cold water and see all the condensation water!
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
Update: Things are coming along nicely. I had a bypass filter loop installed, did the chemical cleaning, drain the system and vacuumed out the crud and then refilled with the magic chemicals.
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
Update: Things are coming along nicely. I had a bypass filter loop installed, did the chemical cleaning, drain the system and vacuumed out the crud and then refilled with the magic chemicals.
No leaks so far. The only minor glitch is that the pump on my filter loop seems to be air locked and there is no purge valve. I’ll get the plumber out to add one. This has been quite the odyssey! Keeping my fingers crossed that this takes care of things for the for seeable future. You can bet that I will be religious about water testing
 

hedge wood

Burning Hunk
Mar 1, 2009
221
Eastern NE
No leaks so far. The only minor glitch is that the pump on my filter loop seems to be air locked and there is no purge valve. I’ll get the plumber out to add one. This has been quite the odyssey! Keeping my fingers crossed that this takes care of things for the for seeable future. You can bet that I will be religious about water testing
Another thing you might want to add to your filter loop is to have a gauge ahead of the filter and a gauge after the filter so you can see when the filter needs changed. I have a purge valve located on mine were the loop goes back into the Garn so I can bleed the air out of the filter loop when I change the filter. I also bought a stainless steel filter housing as I didn't trust the plastic with the hot water. I hope we both have a leak free winter.
 

mynx

New Member
Sep 7, 2021
13
Chatham, MI (UP)
Another thing you might want to add to your filter loop is to have a gauge ahead of the filter and a gauge after the filter so you can see when the filter needs changed. I have a purge valve located on mine were the loop goes back into the Garn so I can bleed the air out of the filter loop when I change the filter. I also bought a stainless steel filter housing as I didn't trust the plastic with the hot water. I hope we both have a leak free winter.
Yes, the plastic filter housing seems a little bit light duty. We’ll see how it goes. I do have a pressure gauge between the pump and the filter. I don’t have a purge valve so I’m gonna have the plumber come back and put that in. Yes, here’s hoping for a leak free winter
 

mike van

Feeling the Heat
Apr 24, 2013
367
Kent Ct
I'm on my 9th year with a Garn Mynx - I have to disagree with the other posters about having 3 years of wood - I put mine up in the winter, stacked on 1/2 cord pallets & covered on top. The summer wind blows through it, and by October it's good to go. Spring & fall i'm using pine, hemlock, tulip, by December I go to oaks, locust, hard maple. All dried the same way. I use a 1/2 cord every 10 to 14 days.