Propane Tanks converted for hot water storage.
icture this: You have a gallon of fuel, a generator, and you need to produce electricity to power your home. You could run your generator at an idle all day long, but your gallon of fuel won’t go very far doing that. However, if you run the generator at a more efficient speed and use that power to charge a battery bank, later you can draw power as needed and the generator only needs to run to charge the battery bank again. How frugal you are with your stored energy will determine how long you can go on a charge.
Now picture that same generator as your new gasification boiler hooked to a set of storage tanks designed to store the BTUs produced when the boiler is fired up. Basically, the storage tanks become your battery bank.
What are the benefits, you ask? Lots! Once you’ve experienced this method of heating, you will wonder why you ever did it any other way. By hooking your boiler to a set of storage tanks, you won’t have to run the boiler all the time and, if the weather is mild, those storage tanks stay hotter longer and you pull less BTUs from them. In extreme cold you may have to fire the boiler every other day, but if your weather doesn’t hit sub-zero temperatures all that often, the tank’s temperature may only drop below its trigger point once a week (which will cause a flashing light to notify you that it’s time to fire up the boiler).
A wood boiler ‘s combustion is controlled via a computer, the best and most efficient of which employ Lambda technology to monitor the CO output. Ultimately, this means that for every pound of wood you feed into the boiler, you get back over 90% of it in useable BTUs. So less wood hauled, split, stacked, and seasoned; if you’re purchasing your firewood, that adds up. Fast.
Letting any solid fuel boiler idle for days is not an efficient use of your wood- even a high-efficiency gasification boiler does not retain that efficiency at idle. All boilers burn best at high temperatures because unlike heat from gas or oil, you cannot shut the fire down once it’s started. Once the wood is lit, it may take a while to achieve good combustion temperatures, and it is not good to stop or interrupt the process once it has begun as re-lighting burnt wood requires more energy. It is best to let your boiler burn hot, and store its energy in as large of tanks as you need to achieve the BTUs necessary for your installation. Plus, if you install your tank inside a basement, all those BTUs that inevitably bleed off are now inside the structure that you’re heating- resulting in less overall heat loss.
Speaking of energy, it’s best to do an energy audit to find out the BTU load you will need in the worst of weather and from there, you’ll be able to figure out how many BTUs you will need in more mild weather. We once had a customer that was a professional truck driver who was home every other week, and he loved that he could go nine days in the coldest of weather before having to fire his boiler. No hassle while he was gone, nothing to mess with before leaving. Just simple, easy to manage energy, all due to having water storage tanks.
So, how do you choose a good gasification boiler? Our friends over at Hearth.com saw the writing on the wall years ago and began importing the HS Tarm boiler line, a cutting-edge system that had very few competitors ten years ago. Today, however, you have all kinds of great options: Polish imports like EKO and BoiMass offer big bang for your buck, the Swedish-made Effecta boiler utilizes Lambda technology, and the Vigas boiler has been popular on the east coast for years. However, if you want to stay with a North American brand, the Pro-Fab Empyre Elite series has great value for a good price. As does the Woodmaster Flex Fuel Boiler, which is a state-of-the-art US/German venture that also makes use of Lambda.
Whatever you decide, water storage or no, choose your dealer wisely. You’ll find great deals online, sure, but if you run into problems down the road you want whoever you purchased from to be there for you. If a dealer isn’t known for their customer support, you might do well to pass on them, and the same goes for whoever you hire to install the boiler. Boilers are not something to play with unless you know exactly what you’re doing. But once you find a good dealer and installer, we can assure you, you’ll never look at any other heating method again.
– Obadiah’s Woodstoves & Alternative Energy