Getting ready to upgrade

UPmqt Posted By UPmqt, Oct 8, 2018 at 11:28 AM

  1. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    Hello all,

    We moved into our home 3 years ago and have been heating with a woodmaster 4400hd. First winter didn't know what we were doing, bought 20 full cord of maple.. burned it all. Second winter bought 30 cord, 20 of oak 10 maple. Burned 26 cord between the fireplace and the boiler. We didn't use the fireplace the first winter. This year purchased 30 cord again, beech and maple. (I also understand I'm burning green wood and that doesn't help but I'm cutting 30 cord solo and it makes it hard to get ahead)
    We are heating our home which is 4400 sq ft and our DHW. We start burning in September and burn usually until May. We have a backup propane boiler/ furnace. This winter I am doing everything I can to get things insulated and make things more efficient. Right now with everything being the way it is I can't keep my little ones bedrooms at temp. We have slant fin baseboard heaters. I have considered changing a few of them out for runtal heaters to try getting more heat in their rooms. In the meantime we know that we want a boiler that is more efficient.
    So if we are looking at upgrading we need something that will heat 8000 sq ft of home (we are going to finish our basement in the future) and possibly a 40x60 garage. The garage isn't necessary we could heat that with propane if we had to. We would like to stay in our home for the next 30 - 40 years if possible. Which means I need to use as little wood as possible. I have been looking at 2 boilers but was curious what everyone would think a good option would be for me. I have read through the previous 3 years of posts on this site and feel there are some people on here that will give me honest answers, and maybe some ideas I didn't know existed.
    I would also like to use my existing plumbing on the inside of my home if possible. If my setup is horrible then I'm open to changing things if it can easily be done but I'm not tearing open walls to change lines type of fix.

    So very rambling long story made short
    1) needs to be more efficient
    2) needs to heat my home
    3) needs to be something I can manage into my golden years
    4) needs to not need 30 full cord a winter...i cannot stress that last one enough... seriously it sucks

    Sorry the post is a mess but it's been a long week already.

    Any help would be appreciated, I want to do this right the first time so I need to get my ducks in a row, hoping to do the upgrade in spring of 2020. Thought having a year to prep and get things in order would be enough time. Hopefully maybe be able to find the best time of year to purchase also...I don't know if prices fluctuate with the seasons.
     
  2. BoiledOver

    BoiledOver
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    Apr 14, 2013
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    Hello in Marquette. Very good of you to due some serious planning.

    Questions you will need to answer for others to give solid suggestions, and for your benefit in decision making:
    1. Where the heating unit will be placed
    2. Home heat loss analysis
    3. Thermal envelope considerations
    4. Soil conditions if trenching will be required
    5. Firewood processing procedures and firewood acquisition
    6. Installation (self or paid professional)
    7. Time available to commit to running and maintenance
    8. Combined unit or separate thermal storage tanks
    There are other issues for sure but these are my first thoughts, others may have input shortly. Your requirements will include a rather large up front cost for your described heating needs. To minimize firewood usage, a gasification boiler will be best in your situation. The first two manufacturers that came to my mind are Garn-link and Lopper-link, there are many others but these two build hefty units that will last decades if maintained. The Garn units have self contained thermal storage and the Loppers need separate storage units. The following cannot be stressed enough (gasification boilers need seasoned firewood, less than 20% moisture content).

    Best of luck in your planning and decision processes.
     
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  3. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    Here a couple quick responses, I'm going to try doing the analysis real quick and get those numbers back.

    1) boiler would have to be outside, I don't want to deal with the wife yelling about a mess. Outside she is a bit more lenient

    Im not sure what you mean about thermal envelope

    2) trenching won't be an issue I will just get a back hoe

    3) my firewood processing procedure is go out with a chainsaw and cut till the pile is gone. I split the rounds that are too big to lift into the boiler by hand, lost a finger tip learning that lesson. I purchase from a timber company, after spring thaw and the restrictions are off there are plenty of options to shop around with.

    4) depending on how much of the inside system i could use i think i could do most of the install myself as long as it came with detailed directions, if it's like getting something from IKEA then i would hire professional help.

    5) I've been managing the 4400 loading twice a day, on top of cutting all the wood so as long as whatever I go to equals less than that I should be ok.

    6) as to the storage im open to suggestions, I'm sure there are pros and cons to both, but I feel im a little behind in information to make a informed decision.

    As to the upfront cost we are aware it will be steep, we are anticipating 20 - 50 k total... hopefully much less.

    I do have a plan to get dry wood, but just isn't possible until we start process, I know first winter will be cutting close...
     
  4. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    Ok so I'm not 100 percent sure I did this right, but I measured every room length x width x height and entered in doors and windows and external walls into the calculator that I found. It also asked for ambient temp I set at 20 and internal temp I set at 72 then tallied the totals from every room. (I know it can get a lot colder than that but i would say that 20 is a decent average.) It gave me a heat loss of 40k.
     
  5. maple1

    maple1
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    Sep 15, 2011
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    40k? 8000 sq.ft.? 30 cords? Something not adding up there.

    What exactly do you have for underground piping?
     
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  6. gfirkus

    gfirkus
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    Nov 28, 2014
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    Build a detached garage to install boiler in. With that budget you could go unpressurized and get a garn, or pressurized and get a Switzer boiler. Gary Switzer has, if I remember right, a 2000 or 2500 gallon boiler he built to heat his shops. That thing was huge. He is very knowledgeable and worth a call. My planning process took 3 years from start to finish.
     
  7. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    We are currently heating just the 4400 sqft. My underground piping is pex lines in 4 in corrugated pipe wrapped in some kind of insulation ... it looks like foam with a little bit of foil. I would guess maybe 60 ft total underground before it comes into my garage. The other thing I forgot too is that during winter the system I have also runs me about 150 in electric a month, extra from what i normally pay per month in the summer. I agree none of this smells right...i have no idea what I'm missing but none of this adds to what it should.
     
  8. maple1

    maple1
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    You are losing a lot of heat to the ground, I bet, with that piping.
     
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  9. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    I tried to get the best temp I could with a laser and im 165 at boiler end of pipe and the other end at the heat exchanger... boiler temp set at 170. Without peeling apart all my insulation to get a perfect read I'd say it's relatively accurate. Im also not 100 percent sure how accurate my controller is to where it monitors the temp at.
     
  10. E Yoder

    E Yoder
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    Jan 27, 2017
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    There are several brands of gassers out there now that can be a plug and play option to your existing lines. Central Boiler Classic Edge, Heatmaster GS or G series, Crown Royal Pristine, Polar, maybe some more.
    I install the Heatmaster units, we've seen reductions in wood consumption of 30-50%.
    It would be worth checking out which of these have local dealers and looking at one in person.
    If some rooms are warm and some cold that's possibly a balance problem either from low flow or undersized emitters.
    My thoughts anyway.
     
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  11. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell
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    Oct 26, 2007
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    I’d hate to guess but with a current boiler efficiency below 40 pct, suspect underground insulated pex and wet wood, your really only keeping yourself in shape.
    I’m a indoor gasifier and indoor wood guy with a dedicated outbuilding for the above. If you decide on a outdoor boiler as suggested by others remember frozen wood won’t gasify!
     
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  12. jebatty

    jebatty
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    What is the BtuH rating of this boiler/furnace - BtuH input and output? Does it adequately heat to meet your needs?
    What size pex is in the 4" corrugated buried lines?
     
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  13. maple1

    maple1
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    The basics you will need to cover to significantly reduce your wood consumption are good underground piping (Thermopex or the like), a gasifying boiler, and dry wood.

    Replacing the piping should be straightforward. Perhaps difficult depending on obstacles.

    A different boiler would lead you to a set of decision making. Some good suggestions above. My preference, if the boiler could not be in the house, would be an indoor boiler in an outbuilding along with my entire winters wood. Then you get into deciding on storage or not - and if so, divorced or built into boiler? Pressurized or not? If it needed to be an OWB, I would first look at Heatmaster G series - what is available locally might come into play. I think they can be installed in a building also?

    But, dry wood - that is the main thing that will hold you back. You just can't get much heat out of green wood no matter what else you do. So, if you can get the first 2 covered, I would do whatever I could to get ahead with dry wood. Actually, I would do this first and foremost no matter what else happens. Even if you have to hire someone to come in & process your wood for you until you get all sorted and ahead, it will pay off in the long run. I would guess that if this is the only thing you change, you will cut your consumption by 1/4-1/3.

    BTW, 26 cords of green wood over half a year ballparks to around 90,000 btu/hr. If that wood was dry, that goes to 120,000 btu/hr.
     
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  14. Dutchie84

    Dutchie84
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    Jun 15, 2016
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    I'm no pro but

    By Thermal Envelope he means, What do your walls, ceiling, and floors consist of as far as insulation and air barriers go? ex. For my house 4000sq foot house I have R24 fiberglass batts, in the walls with 2'' of foam on the outside for an total of R32, with a poly vapor barrier on the inside, Ceiling is R60 worth of blown in fiberglass. Basement concrete walls are R 20 of spray foam, and basement floor is R10 ridged foam under the slab.
     
  15. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    I am currently aware that my situation isn't working at peak efficiency. I am unable to do anything about the buried lines or the wood at this time. On the exterior of the system I will not be re-using any of the existing setup, I'm going to do new pex lines and re-insulate them with the trench lines/ spray foam, possibly moving the location of everything. My current setup doesn't allow for me to make changes to my wood situation. Paying to have the wood processed defeats the purpose of burning wood to begin with. I understand these are all valid points and concerns, but at this time I have to use the system as is.
    If I burned dry wood and it still leaves me with burning 20 cord I don't consider that a help either. Im hoping to find a setup that will allow me to burn 15 or less. I don't know if that is realistic but that is my hope. If I start from scratch on the exterior than I'm hoping that I can reach that goal.
    If re-doing my entire system with all the factors in place still leaves me burning 20 plus cord then I don't think this is worth doing. We can just look at making propane work. I also understand everyone is just trying to help and I don't want this to sound like I'm yelling or complaining nothing could be farther from the truth I appreciate that people are willing to take time out of their lives to help. Having said that there isn't any way to say im not looking to fix my current setup on the outside. If my manifold and plumbing on the inside is a poor setup then I will fix that at the time of changing out the boiler.
    I know there are a ton of variables that without knowing it's a guess... but do I have a chance at burning less than 15 cord a winter if I could change the boiler or should I scrap the idea because it's unrealistic.
     
  16. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    As for insulation I don't know, I didn't build the house... don't know who built the house... in the limited amount of space I have access to in the attic there is a ton of blown in. The walls have fiberglass bats but I don't know how much. Im working on insulation, we had a squirrel problem so I know it's got issues.
     
  17. Dutchie84

    Dutchie84
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    Jun 15, 2016
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    Again not a pro but

    Typically you design your system for almost the coldest temperature that your house would see. Which you should be able to find the average online. If you are designing for a heat source for your whole house then no need to go room by room. But if you are doing emitters then you need to know each room. Did you include a value for air changes in your calculation?(This could have a big effect) How tight is your house? How old is it?
     
  18. brenndatomu

    brenndatomu
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    Aug 21, 2013
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    5* heat loss is a lot just from the boiler to the house!
    I'd bet the ditch is flooded and the pipe is totally soaked = no insulation value.
    I know someone that had that very issue, they dug a sump and installed a sump pump on the low end just to see the difference it made (or not) and it made a huge difference!
     
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  19. maple1

    maple1
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    IMO yes, you can burn less than 15 cords. But it will require a new boiler, new (PROPER) underground, and dry wood.

    Green wood is your main killer in this case (along with underground). So if you can't change that at all you might as well just go fossil. But I know that in my situation, even if I had to buy all my wood already cut & split, I would still be way ahead of paying to heat with oil.

    A lot of this comes down to personal preferences - you will need to be the judge of all that.
     
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  20. salecker

    salecker
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    Your underground lines suck.They are going to make you cut a bunch of wood for no reason.
    You should count on abondoning them and putting in new lines sprayed in place with underground rated spray foam.
     
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  21. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    Ok I think there are a few misunderstandings with this... both ends of my underground lines read 165. The 170 temp is strictly what my boiler says, I have no idea where that reads from, I do not think I have water in my lines. Second im not trying to save my system, i want to change out the entire boiler and underground lines, I would just like to salvage whatever I can of the interior system if possible. If it's a poor design I'm willing to do whatever I need to short of tearing open walls. I have been slowly working on insulating all of the pex in the system it's slow going but I am trying. I do not want to keep this boiler, I want to switch to gasification, I know I need dry wood, I understand im losing energy but it doesn't explain why I can't keep one room warm.. when it is 40 degrees everything works great, when it gets cold enough for snow I can't keep my zones at temp. I know I'm low on efficiency but even if I had perfect wood im still not going to be overly efficient with the boiler I have.

    My home was built in 2006. It was properly insulated at the time.. we have good windows.. but one wall of our house has 4 8x8 French doors, cathedral ceiling and 4 windows above those. We also had squirrels in the house that nobody bothered to deal with so im not sure how many tunnels they made. I have solved the problem of them getting in, but am working on fixing the damage.
     
  22. maple1

    maple1
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    I suspect simply that the green wood is hampering your boilers ability to get & stay hot enough.

    Have you tried upping your boiler temp to 180? You also wouldn't exactly need to have water in your lines to lose heat - that stuff is questionable from the get-go. Usually it will go damp-ish after not much time in the ground which soaks heat away.

    There could be issues with your system but we don't know much at all about it. Yes it's slant-fin but is it sized correctly for the heat load? What is the temp of the water leaving the house back to boiler? Both leaving the house & entering the boiler?

    I might also be leery about the temp measuring or accuracy of it. How is that being done? Accuracy in temp measuring is pretty important to trouble shooting & dialing things in.
     
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  23. BoiledOver

    BoiledOver
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    Hey @UPmaqt, At this point you may be a bit overwhelmed from this thread but fear not, you can get to where you want to go.

    This is just my opinion but I think you should first do a thorough heat loss calculation of all the space that you intend to heat. It is time consuming to get it right but the result will open your eyes to exactly what you will need to address your heating issue. If you were to hire out the design, build, and install, the contractor would begin with the heat loss calculation. Here is a link to an online calculator. I had to run through the linked calculator several times to get things accurate, seems that I misunderstood a few things in the beginning.

    Numbers are numbers and accurate math gives you a clear picture in what is needed. Btu's are btu's and one pound of wood is equal among all species at the same moisture content. It can all be figured out prior to any purchase. First thing though is the heat loss results. Here is a snip from a chart that will give you heating degree days and winter design temperature for your area, needed in the heat loss calcs. The lower case letter D indicates the information was developed from office locations in an urban area, not from airport observations.
    01.JPG
     
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  24. UPmqt

    UPmqt
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    Oct 8, 2018
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    https://www.omnicalculator.com/construction/heat-loss

    This is the one I used. Is this functional for what I need or should I use something else. The only thing I did was set outside to 20 instead of -8. But if this calculator works I can easily re-run the numbers. I was looking at the calculator you listed and I would just be guessing on all the values anyway because I don't know what I have for insulation. Add to being frustrated this doesn't bother me at all...I need to get everything right so when I do it i can be happy in the long run.
     
  25. maple1

    maple1
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    Sep 15, 2011
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    Something else to consider - if you have slant fin now, it's usually pretty cheap & easy to just add in more. Depending on your room and baseboard layout. Don't think it would hurt to oversize it. If you do say oversize zones, try to keep the places you need the heat the most at the start of your zones & places you might not need as much heat at the ends of the zones. Generally speaking. Or load up the ends of the zones with fins. I've done it a couple times at my place, just added more in where people were complaining that it wasn't warm enough. When mine was first installed, they usually ran the housing & pipe the full length of a wall but only put the fins where the design said. Which left quite a bit of housing & pipe with no fins. Slant fin can heat good if you have enough of it.
     
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