I have been thinking about building a gasifier for a couple years now, but my head is swimming with all the info here and I just don’t know which way to go or where to start.
I live off grid, and have two houses and a green house that I need to heat, plus a barn which doesn’t need heat but power. I am at a high elevation, with short growing season and long cold winters. I run my generator twice a week in the winter to charge my system, and pump the well. My cook stove, dryer, and water heater also run off propane. I had been thinking about getting a central boiler for heat and water thinking that it could be converted somehow to power the generator also, but the sales Rep says no. We have quadrafires in both houses and burn 8 to 10 cords of wood for heat.
Any advice on where to start? I figured I could build a small one first for the barn, because it is not close enough to run off my solar, and it would be good practice, then for the big one? Thanks in advance to anyone who is willing to chime in!
Best is to speak to Matt Ryder he builds and sells stand alone turn key units.
Or do you want the challenge and satisfaction of building and playing with your own unit?
You need lots of time and patients.
if you intend to build your own gasifier there is a lot of welding and parts collecting to do to get a better idea what is involved there are more than 30 youtube videos showing every detail of wayne building one of his in the premium membership area,you would have to buy his book for a 6 month membership to use that area. there is a lot of info including an area that deals with small engines that might be used for a( 5 to 20 hp) small generator. good luck!
I believe the Small Engine Users Corner in the forums is open to everyone… you may want to take a look there as a place to start small.
Ditto what Arvid said.
ALL of it will depend on the magnitude of your source of biomass and your ability/willingness to convert it into a useable gasifier fuel medium (i.e. cut, haul, split, chunk, sort, dry, store, transport, etc.)
I would strongly recommend at least trying Gary Gilmore’s Simple Fire charcoal unit, which you can access without the premium membership. even if you don’t end up using it for power generation, you will still be able to use it for running a wood splitter, which is what Gary does. The charcoaling process creates a lot of “waste” heat which, it sounds like, you could probably put to good productive use most of the year.
Once you get your feet wet and your hands black, you can see better what the next step should be. One thing’s for sure, your in the right place to find out all you need to know. The experience and wisdom you will find here, you will not find very many other places. Good people, too!
Thanks for all the replies! Does anybody here live of grid? We burn a lot of wood here. I live 45 minutes from town, and last year my parents moved up to our mountain. They live right next door, and we are attempting to run a small farm, goats, chickens, and soon a couple of yaks. I want to be self sufficient, and ready to get back to basics if something bad happens!
I plan on building a second wood shed to start preparing fuel in the spring, and am hoping to buy all supplies right away, and then study to death and build in the next winter. According to the guy at Central boiler, it would take 10 chords of wood to run a boiler for all my heating needs, which is more than I thought. But that is going to give me hot water, and heat for the green house, which I don’t have now. If i could get fuel for my genny at the same time, life would be grand! I use a Kohler 12RES right now.
I do not know how to weld, my husband had done some, and my brother went to a class on it, but he is 7 hours away. I think my husband and I could do it, we are both pretty crafty. A book would be nice. I’ll have to look for that!
Laurie: I don’t think he’s 100% off the grid, but I believe Steve Unruh is fairly close to it. He’s also in a similar mountain terrain, though in Southern Washington State.
The book in question which contains the plans/how-tos for Wayne’s system, “Wayne Kieth: Have Wood, Will Travel” is only available from this website/Admin Chris Saenz, as far as I know.
Okay! The type of gasifier that I would need to build, would be similar to one made for a truck anyway right???
I live in North Idaho, so we are not that far away.
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Welcome to the DOW Laurie Hunt
If you are seriously looking at a woodfired central heating system look at the GARN to contrast to the Central Boiler System:
This is the one used in Alaska and is preferred as being true 4 foot long cord wood fueled capable. Saves on the wood fuel prepping. Better efficiency also.
Even then you are commiting to a mutiple cords per year usage. But at least then most all in only ONE, twice a day fire to maintain. No wood boiler system is motor fuel gas capable.
Here on the DOW cursor over the “Forum” button at the top, or low down on the LH side bar. Click OPEN up this actual Forum button to see the available forums for you at your memebership level.
The Small Engine Users Corner and the Charcoal Gasifiers sub-forums ARE available to ALL by request of myself and Gary Gillmore.
AlexT’s advice is excellent. With your interest/skill level do build up first a Gilmore SimpleFire charcoal fueled system and adapt over to your gen-set or a woodsplitter first. He made this to be able to put together in a weekend. You could bias operate your excellant Quadafires to make enough charcoal for trialing by wettish wood partial buring and air shutting off to cool down, char saving.
Nothing inspires more that hearing a once gasoline engine sucking beast now powering on your own grown wood.
You will then see the real life engine power compromises and additional maintence duties you’ll have to make when powering with wood. And the hands on tangible wood consumption requirements. Talks cheap. Splinters, pitch and spiders make you callous hard and real.
Then you can either up your game with better charcoal making and engine power enhansment with waste motor oil or waste vegitable oils supplementing into the charcoal gasifier.
Or, much more elaborate to fab build up an actual raw wood fueled gasifier.
Or, buy a commercially made one.
The current WK book and Pemium side discussions, as good as they are, will not give you these experences.
They are EXCELLANT for ANY intending to actual vehicle woodgas fuel. Even with other systems than a WK for the real world challenges being live back and forth discussed by the actual woodgas driving fellows.
I’d hoped, and still hope for some to downsize the WK system into small engine useages.
A few working toward this direction. Still experemintal - dimentions and details still in flux.
The full sized WK system operators have now found they can for a few hours time easily woodgas fuel supply a small loaded engine from a previously large vehicle engine warmed up full size WK system. So not the pressing need for downsizing the current WK to be developed.
Won’t be me doing this. I already have a small, now very expensive all stainless steel “Imbert” based system capable of fueling my Miller/Kohler welder-gen-set. Ha! And it fits through the greenhouse door. Yes - us 44 degree plus latitude folks do need winter growing light supplemeing in addition to heat, eh?
The smaller you make these raw wood fueled gasifier the more stringent and PITA the wood fuel prepping needed. Make up a couple of 5 gallon buckets of rough chunked up 2 inch by 2 inch by 2 inch wooden chunks. Sawn log discs, then hand hatcheted the easiest first. Then try this with fine 2 inch by 2 inch stove wood splits now sawn into 2 inch chunks. Lastly 2 inch long chunked/sawn-up limb wood chunks.
Now imagine making up 3-4 CORDS worth of these to annually fuel a system for your gen-set.
At the best gasifier system conversion ratios on a small system figure 20-25 pounds if these wood chunks for each US gallon of gasoline or propane you want to replace. And that engine will only produce ~40-60% of the shaft power ( meaning electric output) on wood or charcoal fuel gas.
If you like the Whys of it, and just a little more precise Maths to it, read member Dutch John here:
His Micro Gasifiers section, it is in english.
Very good you are stepping up to the woodgas plate.
We need more active female menbership input here.
Need to balance out the drifting to, too much male testosterone rah-rah’ing.
Not the woman can’t go overboard also. Otherwise I’d have an nice big black box excellant QuaraFire instead of this less efficient “beautiful in my living room” cream enameled, too expensive!! Isle Royal I had to compromise into shown in my avatar picture.
Quad’s are nice because they are the only ones I’ve found that I can actually clean burn winter wet picked up fuel woods in, if ever needs must. Nobodys going to steal or stong arm me out of the wet wood one all of the dry wood is gone.
Gasifiers demand no higher than 20% moisture content wood. Or, as an enclosed system they moisture to steaming; temperature thermal crash internally into creasote and tars outputs. 20% moisture wood is much easier for you in Northern Idaho. Very, very hard here on the Pacific wetside to get enough dried fuel wood annualy feeding both wood heating and a wood gobbling gasifer beast for any engine.
I have to say Steve, your stove is gorgeous!! I needed the biggest model for my heat requirements, and they don’t come in enamel finishes. As much as I like my stove, at below zero here, like it was this week at night, it isn’t cutting it. Half the house is toasty, but the upstairs (my bedroom) and kitchen is really uncomfortable! And I have it going full blast. I probably load it every 3 or 4 hours. It’s not usually like this though, most of the time it is fine.
I was hoping for an all in one system like an outdoor wood boiler, that could heat my house with radiant heat, and make gas.
In the summer time I have enough solar to do whatever I want, but the winter is hard here. My well is deep and draws a lot of power. Everything is on phantom load switches, and the well only pumps when the generator runs. From what my solar guy tells me, it is better for my batteries to be depleted and then fully charged, so charging them little by little wouldn’t be the best option for them.
I have a duramax diesel truck, and a 360 that I was going to put in something one of these days, maybe a jeep?
I hate to sound paranoid, but in the event of an EMP or something else, hot water and pumping my well would be my biggest
I just got the estimate for a central boiler. The boiler is only 12,000 which I thought I could afford, but not including piping the house and install everything else came to 31,000!!! Wow! I need a new plan.
Alex Taylor, may I ask what kind of puppy that is in your picture?
Well LaurieH maybe you should then do join up on the Premium side.
Diesel conversions are not recommended or supported here. You can read the why’s there.
4.0L(244 CID) to 360 CID(5.9L) gasoline engine in a pickup chassis are the most favored used. Smaller - are under powered vehicles for todays traffic needs. Larger - the gasifer systems sides are overheating feeding the bigger engines when under actual pulling loads.
Yeah Calgary Canada weather can go back home to Calgery. Had my nice Quad overfired and hopping, trying to 4F heat though. Downsizing on these for early Fall and late Spring is easy. Just slap in another layer of $3.00 USD side and back thermal bricks.
Laurie many fear, many obsure things like sharks, falling stock markets and alien attacks and such. Yours and mine realistic Lions, Tigers and Bears are: 1) spewing volcanoes; 2) the big 9.0 Cascadia fault adjustment that HAS, and will come every 400 years or so we are overdue for; 3) the meteorological fact that ANY pissed off asian piss-ant to the east of us can float from halfway accross the globe a high altitude “gift package” as proved well by the 900+ 1943/44 Japanese fire ballons attacks onto North America. No rockets. No bombers. No inspected containers. Just one fishing trawler, high altitude very hard to detect ballon carried EMP Nuke and the lights go out for the whole of western NA. And most of the unshielded “modern” digetal electronics POOF gone in the flash. WHY I REFUSE to let my woodgasifier system go electronics dependent. By my standards you are not paranoid, but practical.
When I would use my well I have to pump from 170 feet. The old AC pump now burnout. I am project switching to an above ground sucker rod system capable of up to 330 feet with a jack pump. ANY above ground 1/2-3/4 shaft horsepower source then. Baker Monitor IS the name in jack pumps.
Small engine gasifier systems are MUCH easier to set up and operate in 2-4 hours of batch cycle outputs as bulk wood fuelers.
Pictures of the real.
Looking through my bid again, I noticed a 12,000 dollar part, so I called the guy and he accidentally put another boiler on there. Lol! That makes it a lot more understandable. But still a lot of money.
Wow! That’s a view!
No diesel then, but the 360 would work. I use a really old Allis Chalmers to plow, so that couldn’t be converted either?
I have been researching well pumps for a bit. My well is over 300 feet deep, so a lot of them won’t work, but a hand pump with a teeter totter built in would be fun for the kids, and less work for me!
Great pictures Steve!
HI Back LaurieH
I was speaking about today road worthy vehicle engines. You can read on the Premium side that 1990’s fuel injected medium sized V-8’s are the now most prefered for on the road converting.
Tractors a whole different story. Read here about Ron Lemlers 1978 International 574 woodgas tractor conversion:
Word is RonL and his wife use a lot of kid power also.
An NZ vineyard fellow did a woodgas tractor conversion also. Sweed Johan Liddel a diesel to spark converted David Brown 3 cylinder wood gas tractor conversion to use on his and his wifes potato farm. Matt Ryder here now doing a Farmall "M’’ woodgas conversion for a customer.
My Baker jack pump is a now discontinued “Jr” model good for the 330 feet. At this 170 feet I could even pressurize pump into a ~25 PSI pressure tank.
The full sized still available Monitors were good for as I recall 600-700 feet. Deeper, the less gallons per hour possible. Presuurizing then NOT possible. You pump then up to a gravity flow tank. Or add a second above ground pressurizing pump.
Left out one grumbling nieghbor - Mt Hood. He complained. Best not to anger our niegbors with disrespect.
Remember any of these belch and bellow they are 80% of the time gassing/spewing coming your way.
Just chant, “It’s only a bit’o elemental mineral ash. Good for the soil.” Same as with all good wood ash.
Your property looks like a dream! Is that an orchard. Can you see all of these mountains from your place? That is truly breathtaking!
Fantastic views you have there Steve!
As for well pumps, get a grundfos sqflex. They will run on solar or any ac/dc 30 to 300 volts. They are pricey but built for remote Installations. I have several. I am completely off grid. Just not burning wood…yet.
Thanks! I’ll look into that! What are you going to try and run of wood? Do you have any plans to start something?