Second Season Windhager Experience

Tennman Posted By Tennman, May 31, 2017 at 2:11 PM

  1. Tennman

    Tennman
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 4, 2009
    970
    128
    Loc:
    Southern Tenn
    Everything's working so smoothly I drop in once in a while to see what's happening here and how everyone's doing. Just wanted to share several lessons learned from startup to finish of our second season with the Windhager for new or prospective users.

    1) During system startup in Nov '16 the pellet feed auger sounded stalled at first startup and made an ugly racket for a while. It seems that in our humid climate the pellets and/or dust absorbed enough moisture to somewhat bond to the auger wall for the pellet feeder. The feed auger was laboring and working to bust that stuff loose. Last Saturday I completed a 3 hour, post season cleaning and commanded the auger to completely empty the boiler hopper and feed tube. The level sensors, hopper, and auger tube were cleaned and emptied of all dust and pellets.
    2) The sloping sides or our Bulk hopper are too shallow and when the pellet level gets low, gravity won't feed the pellets to the vacuum pickup. Summer project to redo the hopper side walls.
    3) Emptied the ash hopper mid season rather than wait to end just to reduce the load on the ash transfer augers. At that point in time I'd estimate burning thru about 2.5-3 tons of pellets. I'd estimate the weight of ash in the hopper was 40-50 lbs put into two garbage bags for disposal. End of season ash was probably 20-30 lbs for 2 tons used for the remainder of the season. This efficiency vs ash waste from the BioMass stick boiler is amazing and I'm burning 3 year seasoned/under cover wood now since about 80% of our season's heat comes from pellets. Rest from splits.
    4) Totally clean operation except some fine pellet dust escaping from the bulk hopper. Lid needs a better seal.
    5) Several times needed to manually shut down the Windhager because it was waking up at the same time the BioMass was about to start feeding storage. I wanted to avoid supply flow colliding going into the top of storage. Not a big deal.
    6) Windhager operation continued to be 100% reliable. Except for checking the bulk hopper every few days, it was like using propane totally autonomous.

    This is the perfect combination for me. I still enjoy running the BioMass and faint wood burning scent during my Christmas vacation and weekends. I drop in on the Windhager far more often than necessary just to admire it and for something to do. I hope it will be easy for me to handle 40# bags of pellets to refill the bulk hopper for many years. The physical demand of pellets vs splits is shocking.

    Hope everyone here that helped me back in the beginning of this journey, freeing us from propane dependence, is doing well. Special thanks to Heaterman for introducing me to the Windhager. Except for any really major health issues, I'm confident I can operate this by myself for many years to come.

    Blessings to all you long timers here that helped keep my family warm back in the day.
     
    heaterman likes this.
  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam
    Minister of Fire 2.
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    Dec 28, 2006
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    Loc:
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    Do you mean that pellets are more or less physically demanding than you had thought? I know hoisting a single 40# bag is harder than a 5# split but there are ways to make it easier.
     
  3. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell
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    Oct 26, 2007
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    Loc:
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    I think he means you don't have to cut/split a bag of pellets a year ahead
     
  4. Tennman

    Tennman
    Minister of Fire 2.
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    Mar 4, 2009
    970
    128
    Loc:
    Southern Tenn
    Yes, TC's correct. My wording was unclear. From woods to boiler I was touching a split 7-8 times from tree in woods to split into boiler. Fetching, splitting, stacking, seasoning, and feeding thousands of splits a season by myself became joyless when my son left home. Two years ago, as approaching my mid-60's, it became clear I needed a solution other than propane as I saw the big "seven-oh" approaching. Now with equipment, I'm able to place 50 bags of pellets (1 ton) adjacent to my bulk hopper. The only time my hands touch pellets is moving a bag 2-3 feet from the pallet to the bin. God willin' I'll be able to do that when I'm 80. All for equal or less cost wise than purchasing split wood (which was becoming the norm). The total time and physical energy difference pellets vs splits is no comparison. And the Windhager was far less than buying a used bass boat (my mental financial justification.... which I really didn't need). The BioMass was about a 2 year payback based on propane prices in '09. The Windhager will be longer, but I'm now older, financially healthier, and by God I've earned it. Cheers!
     
    Highbeam and sloeffle like this.
  5. foamit up

    foamit up
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Apr 9, 2010
    93
    9
    Loc:
    Central, Maine
    Great to hear from you about the XL60. I am installing one now to run when i can't load the Vigas with splits, I want to start traveling more. What size storage did you install? The pellet dust in the hopper is true so you must have a lid. I found that a 60 degree angle got the pellets to feed nice in a self made hopper. Make sure you vacuum the ash auger out good when cleaning as i got moisture there and it hardened the ash, so auger would not turn. Cleaned that out and it worked fine. Hope the XL60 works as good as the BioWin 260. Cheers
     
  6. Tennman

    Tennman
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 4, 2009
    970
    128
    Loc:
    Southern Tenn
    Been a long time since I uploaded a pic of our boiler barn. Back in '08 the barn was designed/built assuming a BioMass without storage would be it. As you can see the system just kept growing to the right! A few things would have changed slightly If I'd been able to see 8 years into the future. But regardless, it's just about ideal.

    IMG_2641.JPG

    I'm using the 1000 gals of storage installed for the BioMass back in '14. I have a thermocouple attached to the mid-tank balancing manifold for the Windhager on/off temp controller. Since the Windhager is not like the BioMass, in the sense that you must have a place to dump all btus from a burn, I see no advantage of trying to top off storage with 180*F top to bottom like when trying to minimize burns. I believe there is greater boiler efficiency when there is at least a 30-40* delta between boiler supply and return. So... I have the Windhager come on at ~135*F and bring mid-tank up to 155*F. This provides ~185*F top and ~150*F bottom. But the cool thing I've seen is if the weather's reasonably mild and the house is not calling for hot water frequently, the bottom temp actually goes up due to natural water movement in the tanks. With the energy output capacity of the Windhager, 1000 gals is not a disadvantage at all and a huge advantage when I run the BioMass. All energy to the house comes from storage and the tanks happily accept energy from either source. I'm using an Ag chemical hopper as our bulk storage. It's maybe 250 gal??? or ~4'x4'x4'. Since we rarely travel for long periods during the winter and by habit I'm frequently dropping in just to check on stuff, I typically just keep it about half full. My original plan was to take 4-6 hoppers to the pellet mill and buy pellets in bulk, not bags. I've found handling the 1 ton pallets with bags to be much easier and the pellets remain in air tight packaging not subject to humidity. I assembled the XL with some extra muscle when needed. Hired out the plumbing and pipe insulation. It just bolts all together and you'll get to touch lots of amazing, very high quality parts. You will be so amazed how well everything is thought out and designed. If I can be of any help let me know. I love this stuff and almost miss the cold weather..... almost.
     
  7. Tennman

    Tennman
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 4, 2009
    970
    128
    Loc:
    Southern Tenn
    Yes, I did learn about pellet dust hardening in the auger tube over the summer last Fall. Last weekend for the post season cleaning, I manually ran the pellet auger until the hopper and pellet auger tube was completely clean. I've learned over a burn season lots of pellet dust accumulates in the bulk and boiler hoppers. I'm sure it burns, but the dust finds ways to escape and may bind up the auger over time. For post season cleaning, I bought the top of the line, big stainless Shop Vac with the big internal, disposable bags. This is almost a must for a boiler of this capacity. A very thorough post season cleaning takes about 3 hours.
     

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