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Self Feed System Wood Fuel System

 
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When I lived on the ocean (Pacific Beach, Wash.), I found humor in the pellet stoves sitting in front of beach houses with free signs on them.  A couple were, very obviously, new.  The stoves were place out front shortly after a lengthy power outage caused by a storm, and which was a common occurrence a few times a year.  They must not have worked well without power to drive the augers and blowers required to run them.

My sister, who lives somewhere in the south now, had the same complaint.  This got me thinking on solutions.

As I stared at the clock on the wall, it occurred to me I needed to pull the chain, to "recharge it," if you would. The two thoughts ran together and it dawned on me the solution would not be that difficult to work out.  One could use the same principal applied to cuckoo and similarly powered clocks to run the auger. Instead of the relatively light weights used on the cuckoo clocks, one could use a five gallon bucket of concrete.

The heavy bucket could be raised by a child by simply using a block and tackle to raise it.  

Because the pellet stove auger only has to turn an RPM or two [or three], it's probable raising the bucket would provide a significant run time.

It would all be dependent on gear ratios and the weight used. For example, one or two buckets of concrete.

I forget the name I looked up, but it's the mechanism used in clocks to control the movement of a gear running the cuckoo clocks could be incorporated.

In the end, it would make pellet stoves quite usable. Too, it would offer a means of feeding rocket stoves/heaters so they didn't have to be constantly tended.

Any clock repair men or women yet out there who could chime in on this solution.



 
Rocket Scientist
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Hi Kelly;
Great idea on keeping the auger turning.
But what about the blower? They draw a fair amount of electricity.
Having an inverter generator to use during outages is a good backup plan.
 
Kelly Craig
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I'd thought of that and I believe a couple pillow blocks, a small shaft with a pulley and a fan, on opposite ends could be ran off the concrete weights too, though the fan may need a larger pulley  all ran off step up or gearing  would take care of it.


I have everything from low CFM computer fans and small squirrel cages to furnace blowers. Even the latter only take a few amps, but are WAY overkill. In fact, the small squire cage I have that thinks it could be a leaf blower eats less than an amp at 120VAC.

These things aside, a person could make a generator using the same gearing concept. A fifty-five gallon drum filled with concrete, suspended by strong cables (I'd go the redundant route) could be lifted via a block and tackle too and could, probably, be used to generate enough power to keep a fridge cool, run a computer, turn on a bunch of lights or what have you.

I figure if I get the ideas out there, some more knowledgeable than me and wanting comfortable, fuel-less independence without compromising all things electric will take off with it.
 
pollinator
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Pellet stoves are interesting, from a "why would you burn wood *this* way?" perspective ... I'd be hard-pressed to justify an expensive device (pellet stove), expensive wood (bags of pellets), and expensive operations (augers, electricity). If I did purchase one, the family would quickly make the feeding of it be yet another "boy job", as in "Oh, pellet boy! ... (fingers snapping in the background) ... another 40-pound bag, please."

A plain woodstove fits better with my inner "firestarter", and acres of woods helps further, but possibly this isn't on everyone's radar ...

To get back on subject, it would be very easy to have a backup to the electrical system in the form of an emergency power system (scales to any need), vs a "Rube Goldberg" solution that "powers" the pellet stove. The RG solution could be made to be kinetically pleasing, but that is the bailiwick of artists ... my attempts at artistry, unfortunately, involve lots of duct tape and bailing wire ... when I'm done the pellet stove would look like it was on its last legs.

A solar generator, a ryobi-like tool battery/inverter ... just about anything can power a pellet stove in an emergency (depending on the power requirements of course).

I think some (many?) on-grid folks don't consider continuity solutions during a power outage ... they just endure it, and the longer it is, the more complex the endurance response. Up to and including kicking the pellet stove to the curb?

 
Kelly Craig
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I have friends with solar and wind.  It seems break downs or other failures are a "when" versus an "if" thing.  Then there is the cost, which includes prop destruction where I live.  You have to spend more for a unit that brakes when the winds get wild.

I can understand why people like pellets. A trip to the store versus crawling around the woods, cutting logs, splitting logs, etc.  A couple pallets of pellets and you're good to go, until. . . .

My pendulum idea was to solve a problem for a lot of people who only experience power outages once in a while, or who are hard pressed to find electrons at any given time.


For me, the perfect pellet system would be in the category of a Rocket Stove.  With a properly set up unit, one might be able to cut back from two pallets to just one.  Better yet, all those scraps I give to the neighbors for their fire pits and stoves would get run through one of the saws an extra time or two and become bastard pellets.  Heck, in a pinch, I could burn the fanciest "pellets" in town.



Jt Lamb wrote:Pellet stoves are interesting, from a "why would you burn wood *this* way?" perspective ... I'd be hard-pressed to justify an expensive device (pellet stove), expensive wood (bags of pellets), and expensive operations (augers, electricity). If I did purchase one, the family would quickly make the feeding of it be yet another "boy job", as in "Oh, pellet boy! ... (fingers snapping in the background) ... another 40-pound bag, please."

A plain woodstove fits better with my inner "firestarter", and acres of woods helps further, but possibly this isn't on everyone's radar ...

To get back on subject, it would be very easy to have a backup to the electrical system in the form of an emergency power system (scales to any need), vs a "Rube Goldberg" solution that "powers" the pellet stove. The RG solution could be made to be kinetically pleasing, but that is the bailiwick of artists ... my attempts at artistry, unfortunately, involve lots of duct tape and bailing wire ... when I'm done the pellet stove would look like it was on its last legs.

A solar generator, a ryobi-like tool battery/inverter ... just about anything can power a pellet stove in an emergency (depending on the power requirements of course).

I think some (many?) on-grid folks don't consider continuity solutions during a power outage ... they just endure it, and the longer it is, the more complex the endurance response. Up to and including kicking the pellet stove to the curb?

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pollinator
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Jt Lamb wrote:Pellet stoves are interesting, from a "why would you burn wood *this* way?" perspective ... I'd be hard-pressed to justify an expensive device (pellet stove), expensive wood (bags of pellets), and expensive operations (augers, electricity). If I did purchase one, the family would quickly make the feeding of it be yet another "boy job", as in "Oh, pellet boy! ... (fingers snapping in the background) ... another 40-pound bag, please."

A plain woodstove fits better with my inner "firestarter", and acres of woods helps further, but possibly this isn't on everyone's radar ...

To get back on subject, it would be very easy to have a backup to the electrical system in the form of an emergency power system (scales to any need), vs a "Rube Goldberg" solution that "powers" the pellet stove. The RG solution could be made to be kinetically pleasing, but that is the bailiwick of artists ... my attempts at artistry, unfortunately, involve lots of duct tape and bailing wire ... when I'm done the pellet stove would look like it was on its last legs.

A solar generator, a ryobi-like tool battery/inverter ... just about anything can power a pellet stove in an emergency (depending on the power requirements of course).

I think some (many?) on-grid folks don't consider continuity solutions during a power outage ... they just endure it, and the longer it is, the more complex the endurance response. Up to and including kicking the pellet stove to the curb?



I can give you some "whys" to having a pellet stove.

Far cheaper than LP or electric
Pellet stoves are very clean burning
The pellet stove cost less than our wood stoves
Easy to install.  It took me less than an hour from unboxing to heating the house
Uses a waste product that is 100% wood
Far less labor involved than using firewood and a wood stove
Most importantly, in milder weather, you can fill the hopper and it's good for 24 hours.  On the coldest days, which here can be -40F, you fill it every 12 hours.  Contrast to a wood stove.
 
Kelly Craig
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Add one critical point:  Pellet forest are everywhere. The ones you get logs and split wood from, not so much.  
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pollinator
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My suggestion for making these self-powered would be to start with something manually powered (i.e.: pulley and weights, crank and springs, etc) for the first hour, but have peltier circuits in place that would kick in when the stove gets hot enough. Peltier circuits convert heat into electricity. Once it reaches the required temperature, it should be able to keep itself running as long as the fuel holds out.

And as for the advantage of pellet stoves, one big advantage is that most of them can also burn dry corn instead of pellets. If a person is in an area with few trees but lots of growing space, it would be possible to grow all the fuel needed. This would also be an option for people who have trouble cutting wood for medical reasons. Corn is easier to pick than logs.
 
pollinator
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Reason to have a pellet burner rather than wood, the pellet furnace can run for a week without attention, the best wood ones can only do 8 hours.  it turns itself on and off depending on the water temperature, it is more efficient than a wood furnace. You don't need to stop it to clean it, and put new fuel in.
Downsides are that pellets cost more than wood, But you can set them up to burn grain or any small reasonably uniform combustible item.


To the OP. do your augers run constantly at a slow speed? Mine doesn't it does a couple of turns and then stops, 10-15 seconds later it turns again. how often it turns depends on how hard the furnace is working If we're heating the entire house form cold the furnace will be running at 30KW and it will turn every 5-10 seconds, when everything is up to temeperature it's only running at 30% power and it will only feed fuel in every 20-30 seconds.
 
Trace Oswald
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Mine doesn't it does a couple of turns and then stops, 10-15 seconds later it turns again. how often it turns depends on how hard the furnace is working If we're heating the entire house form cold the furnace will be running at 30KW and it will turn every 5-10 seconds, when everything is up to temeperature it's only running at 30% power and it will only feed fuel in every 20-30 seconds.



That's how ours works as well.
 
Jt Lamb
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I like to keep an eye on all technologies, as you never know when something in any given category will turn into a solution for a long-running problem on a homestead.

Wind energy? I have also avoided wind systems due to their complexity and failure-prone characteristics ... too many moving parts, towers, etc.

Wood heat? A wood stove is fairly simple ... a pellet stove, not so simple?

For any category ... operations, power/fuel outages, fuel-movement, breakdowns ... all come into play on the homestead.

It's been awhile since I looked into pellet stoves, but ... a quick spot check of TractorSupply yielded nothing under a $1000 for a pellet stove ... this may not be the best place to see how inexpensive the market is for pellet stoves, but TS's are mostly everywhere.

Does a solution scale, in either direction? Is there a model of pellet stove that is like the old pot-belly or similar room stove? Small, inexpensive, and ubiquitous?

OTOH, if you need a 24-hour burn (or even 12), this may indeed be one of the few options. And if there are no trees ...

More research is (always) needed, to stay on top of all technologies and costs. After all that, there's then choices & tradeoffs ...
 
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This fall the guys who build the Liberator pellet-fed rocket heater brought a 4" model to Wheaton Labs to set up in the shop. It uses a gravity feed for the pellets from what I saw and a standard insulated heat riser to naturally create the draft, so no electricity is needed and it uses pellets. Here's a tread where Sky posted which includes a video: https://permies.com/t/170234/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Jamboree-Updates

Bigelow Brook Farm set up a pellet fed RMH for their greenhouse: https://permies.com/t/74765/alternative-sticks#622052 so maybe that is an option to consider.
 
pollinator
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Any clock repair men or women yet out there who could chime in on this solution.


Clock repair...chime in?  Pun-tastic!

That's not me, but here's a commercial off the shelf, gravity-fed, electricity free system in the $1700 range, with no expensive moving parts (allegedly).  Picture is courtesy of the Wiseway Pellet Stove website; US Stove Company.



Now, if the concern is "how can I make good use of a standard, new/used, electric pellet stove in a grid-down situation?"  According to this website, you're looking at needing 130w for usual operations, plus 500w during ignition.  Pellet stove ignition is amazingly convenient...press a button, and a few moments later *poof!* warm and romantic fire by your side.  The site says it comes out to 1kwh a day for 8 hours of use.  But they also quote the EPA saying they average 100kwh per month.  So there could be a microgrid battery system involved there.

Just for fun, let's see how high that kid would have to lift the bucket every day for a gravity-powered pellet system assuming that same energy usage.  

1 kWh per day = 3.6 million Joules

If you wanted to get your power from lifting that 5 gallon bucket of concrete, which weighs 100 lbs, or ~45kg, the formula for potential energy is...

PE=m*g*h

PE_in_Joules = mass_in_kg * gravity_acceleration * height_in_meters

3.6 million Joules = 45kg * (9.8 m / s^2) * [height to lift the bucket every day, in meters]

Solve for height...

Every day, your kid would have to lift that 5 gal bucket of concrete to 8,163 meters of height.
 
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These things aside, a person could make a generator using the same gearing concept. A fifty-five gallon drum filled with concrete, suspended by strong cables (I'd go the redundant route) could be lifted via a block and tackle too and could, probably, be used to generate enough power to keep a fridge cool, run a computer, turn on a bunch of lights or what have you.

I figure if I get the ideas out there, some more knowledgeable than me and wanting comfortable, fuel-less independence without compromising all things electric will take off with it.



Yes, this is correct, but it is actually very old technology. Weights and clockwork springs were once used for things like playing music and turning rotisseries. Leonardo da Vinci's famous machines were drawn powered by such, since nothing better existed at the time.

For each horsepower, or 746 watts of power needed, a weight of 33,000 pounds will need one foot of travel per minute of use. Your 55 gallon drum of concrete would weigh 1100 pounds, so would need thirty feet of travel per minute.
 
Kelly Craig
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I did play marine electrician and electronics tech for the feds back several thousand days ago. I am not qualified to offer solid arguments on anything physics. These things said, I'm hard pressed to believe I need 15 tons of weight to turn gears to run an auger moving a few pellets, or a small shaft to generate lighting.  

My little water wheel relies on a few pounds of water in a few of the many paddles to turn a shaft that, on a larger scale, could turn HUGE stones to grind wheat, which, of course, was a done thing.

From there, we can look at the use of a simple squirrel cage dropped in a stream and, with a motor on it, generating enough power to fire a few light bulbs with relative ease.

My life is full with things like a woodworking shop, books on various topics, copper plating, tending the home base and so on. It leaves little time to study and understand gears and ratios, but they have long fascinated me. When other guys were adding horse to their rigs, and making larger the whirlpools in their gas tanks, I was playing with gears. I could tow what my buddy's 454 could, I just did it slower with my six popper and eight forward gears running off 413 rear end.  

As a kid, I learned how much of a difference two little teeth made on my primary sprocket of my little CB 160 Honda. I could wind it out to sixty in second. Passed a 305 Superhawk and shifted for fourth as I did. He was with the dust at that point.  However, at that point, my beast started slowing down, because the larger primary needed more than the stock motor could put out.  I knew a huge back sprocket would allow a Trail 90 to climb trees, but limited the top to around 30 MPH. I hadn't a clue, to that point, what a change a small change would make on the front end.

In short, there is more to this story than a simple telling of it suggests.


Jordan Holland wrote:


These things aside, a person could make a generator using the same gearing concept. A fifty-five gallon drum filled with concrete, suspended by strong cables (I'd go the redundant route) could be lifted via a block and tackle too and could, probably, be used to generate enough power to keep a fridge cool, run a computer, turn on a bunch of lights or what have you.

I figure if I get the ideas out there, some more knowledgeable than me and wanting comfortable, fuel-less independence without compromising all things electric will take off with it.



Yes, this is correct, but it is actually very old technology. Weights and clockwork springs were once used for things like playing music and turning rotisseries. Leonardo da Vinci's famous machines were drawn powered by such, since nothing better existed at the time.

For each horsepower, or 746 watts of power needed, a weight of 33,000 pounds will need one foot of travel per minute of use. Your 55 gallon drum of concrete would weigh 1100 pounds, so would need thirty feet of travel per minute.

 
Kelly Craig
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I was looking at these a couple months back. They look like they have potential for solving heat problems in emergencies.  As I remember, one of the complaints was, clean outs.  

On those that use little stainless inserts to burn pellets, I noted several complained about the trays burning out far too fast.  For an efficient (hot burning) unit, that makes sense.


George Yacus wrote:



That's not me, but here's a commercial off the shelf, gravity-fed, electricity free system in the $1700 range, with no expensive moving parts (allegedly).  Picture is courtesy of the Wiseway Pellet Stove website; US Stove Company.


 
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Two things occure to me.
First, a pellet stove could use mass to extend time between refills, even if it isn't a rocket stove.
Second,  if you have a kid, no need for complex machinery,  just add a hand crank for the pellets and a treadle for the fan.
That should keep them busy and out of trouble.
 
Kelly Craig
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I had a wood burner in the daylight basement. On a whim, I stacked regular bricks on it to serve as a heat flywheel. Obviously, with enough bricks on and around the stove, the flywheel effect worked.

Actually, the whole basement was a heat flywheel. The concrete floor and walls took about three days to come up to steam, but, once they did, it took that long for everything to wind back down, with the fire out.
 
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