Harry “Dutch” Dresser, Ed.D.
Maine Energy Systems
A number of times recently, I’ve heard people refer to the most sophisticated products in the wood pellet boiler marketplace as those with “bells and whistles.” “Bells and whistles” makes me think of my childhood bicycle that had a bell on the handlebars and playing cards in the spokes to make it noisy…my substitute for a whistle, I guess.
During a break in a meeting recently, I had a conversation with a man who was heating his house with a pellet boiler. He wanted to know how he could get better pellets in his region; his boiler was failing repeatedly with the pellets he was receiving from his fuel supplier because of fines. As it turned out, I had recent information about some mill pellet quality and delivered pellet quality in his region, so I shared what I knew. I went on to tell him that a good pellet boiler shouldn’t have difficulty with pellets at the fines levels I’d seen in recent pellet tests from his area. He told me about his old, faithful boiler and a bit about his troubles keeping it running.
Later in the day, as the meeting resumed, this same fellow commented on boiler equipment pricing in his region and noted that some boilers, MESys boilers in particular, would probably be out of reach of some of his neighbors because of the price of the “bells and whistles” that were included with it.
The juxtaposition of those two conversations was fascinating to me as was the whole idea that our pellet boilers have “bells and whistles,” which I take to mean unnecessary frills. I have watched MESys pellet boilers routinely consume pellets with more than twice the fines levels I saw in the reports for the region from which this man came.
The MESys pellet boiler system has an underfed burner that gives it tolerance to fuel quality and doesn’t require shutdowns to dump ash or clean itself. Is that design for burner tolerance to varying fuel quality a “bell” or a “whistle?”
The MESys pellet boiler system has auger feed or vacuum feed connected storage that is designed expressly so fuel feed for the system can be trouble-free. Is that design for fuel feed reliability a “bell” or a “whistle?”
The MESys pellet boiler system has automatic de-ashing of the heat exchanger tubes to maintain continuous peak thermal efficiency. Is that design for continuous system efficiency a “bell” or a “whistle?”
The MESys pellet boiler system removes the ash from its own firebox allowing you to leave the boiler unattended for many weeks at a time. Is that design for sustained unattended operation a “bell” or a “whistle?”
I finally had to conclude that what this man really meant was that some of his neighbors might be willing to buy pellet boiler products that weren’t truly automatic. That statement would have cast the competing product categories in a more honest light.
Dutch Dresser is the Managing Director of Maine Energy Systems, manufacturers and distributors of MESys/OkoFEN boilers.