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are all wood boilers bad?

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:30 am
by mayormike
I am wondering if all wood boilers are bad. Are some: please do not mention any names better than others. Is it a zero sum product as in no wood boilers are any good? If you have one is there such a thing as a water washing stack or something like that?

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:57 pm
by Wilberforce

One thing is known about smoke effluent, it does condense (actually desublimate) on to cold surfaces.
On a microscopic scale, the airborne nanoparticles collide with the cold solid/liquid, and thus rapidly
lose kinetic energy. Random (Brownian) motion/ K.E. is necessary to maintain buoyancy of the
colloidal heavier-than-air particle. The colder the air molecules, the less air-induced buoyancy.

Of course, the tiniest airborne particles exhibit elastic collisions with gas molecules, therefore do
not tend to get removed from the air, until they actually can collide with, therefore deposit, on to a
solid/liquid surface. On a macro scale, this is similar to a bouncing rubber ball. The ball will eventually
come to rest on the surface, stripped of all of its kinetic energy. It thusly 'deposits' itself on the floor.

I hope this short discussion of particle physics can help explain the deposition of airborne particles.
Perhaps this principle can prove to be an efficient method of removal from chimney effluent.

That being said, if a long smoke stack could be constructed horizontally (rather than vertically) and
routed through a large body of cold water, such as a swimming pool-sized vessel, I do believe that
much of the effluent may be removed from the airstream. Also, the pipe's surrounding water jacket
could recover much heat from the otherwise-wasted hot combustion byproducts.

I wish I had the time to devote to construction of such a device. If there are any interested enterprising
mechanical engineers out there, perhaps they may expand upon this unusual idea, and even apply for
a U.S. patent for their invention.

The government would love to have a way of greatly reducing/eliminating poisonous emissions from
these devices. In the existing design, the OWB is intended to belch smoke. Are you reading this,

Thank you, Mike, for not advertising nor specifically promoting.


thanks for the patient answer

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 4:43 pm
by mayormike
as a person new to this question, but not to forums, I thank you for your patient response.

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:37 am
by Wilberforce
A large swimming pool-sized vessel of cooling water, might actually be a converted swimming pool.
Or the pipe could be routed underground. Or under a nearby body of water (lake, river, etc.)

Why not a system where water is drawn from a pond, then circulated through a small water jacket
surrounding the effluent tube(s) and discharged back into the pond, similiar to the technique used by
nuclear power plants? I say tubes (plural) since a split-into-many-smaller-pipes (manifold) results in
larger cold surface area, resulting in greater efficiency. I forgot to mention, a fan draws the effluent at
the exit end of the pipe.

Are there any engineers and inventers up to the task? Is this apparatus at all feasible? Or is this idea
simply too strange? Comments?

What do you do with the toxic effluent?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 4:57 pm
by pm2.5mary
You still end up with all the wood toxins and the combustion toxins. ?

Woodnyet put up the toxicity of the ash in a previous post.

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 5:20 pm
by Wilberforce

All things considered: the toxicity of the ash, the need to do monthly (weekly?) 'roto-rootings' of the
pipes, toxic-waste disposal (the tubing deposits can be considered to be such), not to mention the
potential for chimney fire (the deposits are very flammable) and finally the expense of all of this
complicated apparatus, perhaps let us consider this whole idea to be non-feasible.

If this is the case, considering the poor design of the OWB in total, it may be best to just avoid
buying one altogether. It is kind of like diesel-powered vehicles; one may be as bad as the other.

Let the buyer choose his poison.


PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 7:27 am
by woodburner
In the existing design, the OWB is intended to belch smoke. Are you reading this,

I don't think that was a concern in the design. In many areas where they are used it isn't a concern for anyone. When the thermostat is satisfied the unit automatically chokes the fire down so as to not waste fuel. I think they work as designed and can be very useful to heat large buildings, and even multiple buildings.

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 10:41 am
by Wilberforce

These are typical photos taken of OWBs, probably from Michigan, since it is the state
infested with the highest numbers of these malevolent devices. After viewing the
pictures, please tell me if you don't think the smoke looks angry and menacing. ... 2274_7.pdf

Notice the flagpole in the center photo. A good, flag-flying patriotic American; an American
who obviously thinks nothing of atmospheric hazardous-waste dumping. I wonder if this
individual dumps his used motor oil into the stream which runs on his land. I wonder how
he might feel if some chemical company were to dump toxic waste on to his private property.

Solid, liquid, or gas, poison is poison. A real patriot would not pollute like this!

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:41 pm
by woodburner
Doesn't look like there's anybody being bothered by it.

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:48 pm
by Wilberforce

If there were people in the photos acting normally, I might agree.
But we don't see any people - perhaps all of them passed out and choked to death?

Maybe the photographer, while wearing a three-stage gas mask, cleared out all of
the corpses, in order to avoid a macabre-looking picture?

Those people operating these volcanoes may very well be tobacco addicts?
They might save a lot of money on coffin nails, if they just went outside and smoked
their OWB stacks. Perhaps the pipe could be run right into the house, so they don't
have to shiver out in the cold, while getting their fix (oops I forgot the nicotine)

All joking aside, do you really believe that this extent of air pollution is acceptable?
Does this morbid, unwholesome concentration of toxic waste appear normal to you?

I have seen photos of World War I poison-gas clouds which did not even appear to
be as shocking as these are. Granted, the WWI gases were far more poisonous,
but this is what these photos make me think of when I view them.

OWB emissions and woodburning laws.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:22 am
by Ernest Grolimund
Mr. Mayors and all politicians. Thank you for studying this problem. Your help is needed to solve the problem on the local and state and even federal level.

The state of Maine struggled with this question: Are all OWB's bad? Their opinion was that all old OWb's had the potential to be bad but laws could seperate the good from the bad. Hence their historic OWB bill. They identified problem OWB's from complaints and the DEP was supposed to inspect and investigate them with an eye for remediation. But after months, not one problem OWB was fixed or stopped. The smoke rules were hard to enforce because inspectors could not get there, winds were changing, people shut boilers down when they saw the inspectors and people switched to burning at night when the smoke could not be seen. So, I asked the Governor to intervene and just do a simple ban as the DEP recommended a long time ago. But the Governor and the legislature refused to listen to the advice of the DEP and the scientists at NESCAUM and me. He put the issue before the legislature again and they gave the DEP emergency power to buy a problem OWB but the complainers had to prove that the OWB could be a threat to life or health. The DEP inspectors then said, yes we were given the power, but that does not mean we will use it because the threat of a $270,000 law suit from the boiler owners or manufacturers still exists. I interpreted this to mean that the DEP was going to be very reluctant to do anything because of the money. They tried to change the rules to make new OWB's meet standards for stoves and for the small house sized boilers there was a 90% reduction in pollution when the boiler was new and clean and operated properly on ave over a 24 hour time period. But the big school boilers were not modeled or checked against ambient air standards, only NSPS stack standards which were not changed when the ambient air standards changed. My engineering calculations show they are polluting and environmental lawyers agree in phone conversations but won't write anything or do anything. So, my opinion is that most old OWB's are a recognized threat to life and health and so are many of the laws written by unscientific legislators. Many new OWB's are problematic because the emission rules were phased in, so bad OWB's can be sold. Large new wood boilers for schools and businesses are many times as bad and require cyclone particulate removal systems. But the standards themselves that they are designed to meet are bad, so the boilers are bad for particulates and nothing exists off the shelf to reduce toxic gases except higher temperatures and drier fuel but lawyers say there are bad smells indicating toxic gases and limited tests show this. Modelling also shows pm problems. To make things worse, pollution is twice as bad in inversions and engineers do not design for inversions. Also, designed choking of the air causes momentary smoldering for minutes creating pm up to thousands of micg according to NESCAUM. And lack of cleaning can cause increased pm and toxic gases many times. At best, they are about 50 - 100 times more polluting than oil burners and we can't even handle the pollution from the good oil burners because of pollution from cars and many other sources. So, in my opinion, there really are no good boilers, but we might be able to tolerate some small pellet stoves and boilers. I emphasize might. This is so complicated that the best thing to do is avoid them and add more insulation and insulate windows with thermal shutters and shades and bubble plastic for the poor. Radiant space heaters could also be used to cut heat bills 50% with zone heating. Wood burning laws are necessary to at least control or ban the old equipment. EPA approved stoves are better when new and clean but even they have problems. Permits could be used if proof of cleaning reciepts can be presented.

Good new indoor wood pellet boilers with forced air

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:25 pm
by Ernest Grolimund
Recently, a good indoor wood boiler has been introduced to Maine. It is a Swedish pellet boiler that uses forced air to improve pm pollution so much that it is close to an oil burner as far as pollution. It is 1/10th as polluting as a pellet stove; 1/200th as polluting as an old owb. It uses forced air for better combustion of pm and toxic gases and no pm reduction system for a small house size. The Maine DEP is high on it as is the Governor and it sounds good to me, someone who is leery of smoke after being smoked out. Maine Energy Systems, Bethel Maine. Area code 207. $12,500 and cost to heat about 1/2 the cost of oil or $20/mmbtu.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 12:19 pm
by woodburner

Umm good luck with that. What's different from this and any other pellet boiler? You can get a good coal boiler for under $3,000 and get more btu/$ too.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 4:06 pm
by MPA
People will spend $10-$12K without batting an eye to install an OWB, so why not actually spend the money responsibly and not smoke out your neighbors?

Poor people don't buy OWBs, I know because I am in that category, I couldn't afford to buy anything for $10K.

People who have money are the ones who buy OWBs and then cry boohoo when they find out they made a stupid investment.........

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:50 am
by woodburner
The cost of the unit is usually around $6,000. Installation is pretty simple. Only the biggest ones meant for heating several buildings cost $10K or more. One of the main reasons that people are willing to spend $6,000 or even more on an OWB is that they get free firewood. In that case, it will pay for itself very quickly. With the pellet boiler, you still have to buy pellets every year. That being said, I don't think that heating with pellets is bad, I just don't see what's so special about this one making it cost waaaaay more than any of the other pellet devices. Also you can get multi-fuel outdoor boilers that will burn corn/pellets in addition to wood.