This blog is dedicated to developing a wood chip boiler because with it I can heat my home for 1/10th of the cost of oil. There are plenty of pellet boilers but these boilers will not support wood chips. Pellets are great, consistent, easy to feed and half the price of oil. But wood chips in my area are five times cheaper than pellets. This makes developing a wood chip boiler my kind of savings.
I started this project because there is no unit on the market that meets all my requirements, I want low, low cost. I want low, low labor. Lastly I want the ability to leave for a weekend and not worry about the house, or if needed leave for an extended period of time and not leave family members with a burden.
I have friends who heat their homes with firewood for “free”. Even if you get your wood for free it is really not free. There is the cost of chainsaw gas and oil and movement of the wood. Not to mention the time it takes to handle the wood usually 4-5 times before it is finally burned and of course you really can’t leave for the weekend. So traditional firewood wood is out.
Pellets are great but too expensive and likely to track the cost of oil since there is diesel involved in the delivery and of course as the price of oil rises so does the profit potential of pellets. Half price heat is a bargain no need to assume the industry will try to do better than that.
Corn or sawdust, hey I want a unit that will burn those fuels as well if I ever get a source for them I will be happy to use them.
As of November 2012 the unit is being rebuilt and I know it to work based on last winters results. At this point I am refining the design and making improvements. I have built a CNC plasma cutter and am going to offer kits so others can build their own units if there is some demand. Moderate to beginner welding ability will be required. You will need to take some time and carefully jig and align parts. If you get into tasks like changing the ball joints on your truck this would not be beyond your ability.
Even building a CNC plasma cutter and buying the steel and all the parts I don’t have the money that I would have had to shell out to buy a commercial pellet boiler. Ultimately I would like to provide enough documentation on this site for free so that you can build your own chip boiler. I want to provide parts using my CNC cutter as a sideline business to help support my family and myself. These blog entries are my documentation of that experience. The Homemade boiler tab takes you to the posts that apply to the building of the boiler.
The controller is based on an Arduino microcomputer. This microcomputer is open source, meaning there are great forums to get and receive support on your projects. It’s fascinating to see the number and range of projects people are passionate about working toward completion with an Arduino as it’s core microcomputer. With some experience with a pellet stove I realized how simple the control system could be to run a wood fired boiler using chips or pellets. So I decided on using an Arduino as the core controller to build the prototype and the subsequent beta version. The Arduino tab takes you to the posts dealing with the Arduino. Of course I can supply the control box with the software loaded and ready to plug in to your unit if you would like.
As part of the project I built a CNC Plasma cutter. The motors and driver box I purchased from Xylotex, and the plasma cutter is a Hypertherm 45. I built the CNC originally to improve my own quality of parts and ease the pressure on my manual skills. I got pretty good at filling in gaps with the Mig welder. Rather than continue to be frustrated with a product that I was unhappy with, I “bit the bullet” and built a CNC machine. I have been quite pleased with the cuts, they are consistent and the ability to quickly program parts has led to improved designs. The best parts not only function as designed but align themselves for ease of quality and consistency. The parts also become more versatile as the cost of adding an extra hole or series of holes that may be used later becomes quite easy and of extremely little cost. Holes align perfectly and of course all the gaps are perfect to weld.
One of my interests is getting off the hamster wheel of making a living. I want to support myself and my family by building a frugal sustainable lifestyle and enjoy the results. In this society we live in the confluence of cheap electronics and great microcomputer power combined with rising energy and food costs so it is my goal to come up with creative solutions to cheaply and sustainably heat my property and grow my own food enjoyably.