|Heating Systems: Semi-Automated Fuel Handling|
The semi-automated system is typically installed in an on-grade slab building that includes both a boiler room and chip storage (a chip pile on the slab floor). The system also includes a day bin fuel hopper of sufficient capacity to supply the boiler automatically for one-to-two days without reloading. In the fully automated system, fuel is delivered to the boiler with augers and conveyors. The day bin of a semi-automated woodchip system is loaded by an operator using a small tractor with a front end bucket or skid steer. Semi-automated systems have automated controls to manage fuel supply and combustion air, although the controls are simpler than those in a fully automated system. Semi-automated systems can range in capacity from 0.5 MMBtu/hour to 2.0 MMBtu/hour.
The attraction of a semi-automated system is that both the building that houses the system and the vendor equipment are less expensive than a fully automated system. The system takes the operator an estimated additional 30-minutes per day over the typical operation and maintenance time required for a fully automated system; this additional time is for loading the day bin. The semi-automated woodchip system is a good match for a smaller rural school or office building where the additional time in fuel handling is not a significant burden to maintenance staff.
Vendor supplied equipment includes the day bin and the automated fuel-handling system from the day bin to the boiler, the boiler and combustion chamber with combustion air fans, connection from the boiler to the chimney, and controls. No emission controls are needed for these small-scale systems.