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Complete system

My latest complete heating system

(Click to enlarge photo)

This is my latest system to heat my remote Pennine farmhouse in Yorkshire UK. There were about six previous incarnations of the system to reach this level of sophistication but I don't think there is much merit in talking about the others as all of the important features are embodied in this one. It is fully automatic, computer controlled and will continue to run for as long as there is fuel. Excluding my time, the parts (mostly scrap) to build it cost around 100 pounds sterling. Wherever possible I recycle things that were intended for other purposes and don't understand why our political decision-makers can't insist that we make better use of such resources.

Starting from left to right, the silver box in the lower left is the gearbox to drive the fuel auger and just behind it is the motor. On previous systems I had used an old conveyor gearbox but decided that this installation deserved something better, (this is where most of the money went!) The vertical container on the left is the fuel hopper and, if using wood-pellets, will last for around twelve hours. For longer periods of operation an extension hopper can sit on the top or another auger used to bring in fuel from a large tank just out of shot to the left. The burner is just to the right of the fuel hopper where the air fan hangs over the back and is mostly out of view. The large, silver, horizontal container to the right of the burner is the first section of the boiler. This is made from scrap gas cylinders (please see my section Safety and disclaimer) where there are another two smaller ones inside joined end-to-end to make a water-jacket. The small hole at the front and to the left is where a light sensor is located to watch the flames and, for some reason when this photo was taken, I had removed it but you can see it sitting on top of one of the boxes on the wall behind with a cable attached. The similar but vertical silver unit on the right is a second heat-exchanger that removes as much of the remaining heat from the combustion as possible before the gases leave through the flue above. This brings the flue temperature to the point where it is almost condensing but not quite as acid liquid running back into the boiler must always be avoided at all costs.

On the wall behind you can see various units but mostly these are just electrical connections to motors and fans etc. There is a cut-out thermostat, where the bulb sits in a tube in the water-jacket just above where the burner enters the boiler, and the main control-box of course. There is no need whatever to use a computer to control the boiler and I made do with a laughably simple (two relays and two capacitors) controller for several years. The advantage of using a computer (actually a micro-controller chip) is that it gives enormous flexibility and allows lots of 'tweaking' to get things just right. Over several months I just spent the mornings adjusting the software and reprogramming the chip, and then the afternoons testing the changes as the system heated the house and hot water. All of the water in my system is vented to the atmosphere and there is a header-tank just out of view above.

I cannot stress safety enough in all aspects of this sort of work so, if you are intending to do something similar, please always take advice on anything that you are unsure about beforehand. I have made lots of new friends through this sort of work and have always found everyone very willing to share their knowledge.


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