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Hydronic-Based Biomass Heating Systems


Instructor: John Siegenthaler

Subjects: Renewable HVAC: Hydronic Heating, Renewable HVAC: Biomass

Length: 10 modules

Student Rating

9.3 out of 10 (view ratings)
60 students have taken this course


Learn advanced techniques and strategies for designing and installing biomass heating systems with industry legend John Siegenthaler. This comprehensive, ten-week online course is designed for engineers, installers, designers, and professionals looking to take their skills to the next level. Developed in partnership with the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC), this is a unique opportunity learn directly from an industry expert.

During the course, you will learn:

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Preview the Course Material

Check out a free preview of the course by clicking the button below. This is a live assignment from the course and will give you a good sense for what the course will be like.

Free Preview - Week 2 - Part B - Boiler Protection Considerations
Hands On Learning, Limited Seating

You'll get deep into the numbers with John Siegenthaler and know for sure that you're designing the best systems possible.

Flexible Online Training for Industry Professionals

This online course is self-paced. You can begin instantly upon enrollment.

Access Information and Build Your Training Library

After enrolling, the course materials will remain in your account and be accessible 12 months (1 year) after enrollment. Access can be extended beyond 1 year with a monthly membership. Rewatch videos and review assignments as many times as you want. View updates the instructor makes to the course as the industry advances. Return to your course anytime with online access from anywhere in the world.

Earn A Certificate of Completion

When you complete this course you are eligible for a certificate of completion from HeatSpring. You can download your certificate as soon as you have completed all of the course requirements. Students can easily share their verified certificates on their LinkedIn profiles using our LinkedIn integration.

Earn Continuing Education Credits

Approved for: 23 Professional Development Contact Hours, 11.5 BPI CEUs.

Thank you for offering and facilitating such a rich course. This was an excellent, very informative and educational course; I loved the fact that it provided flexible hours accommodating our work schedule and commitments nowadays. My feedback reflects your excellence and I would recommend this to anyone not only in the biomass heating industry, but also to anyone interested in hydronics even if it is servicing cooling systems. Simply, many of the concepts are very beneficial to projects where a fluid is going in a pipe or tank, it is that simple.

- Khaled Yousef, Pyramid Energy Engineering Services

I thought this is a great course that effectively combined biomass and hydronics. I have a strong background in hydronic systems and mainly took the course for the biomass aspects. This course held my attention throughout and provided some insight into things I will take into future designs. It was a perfect mix of theoretical and practical information. John delivered the course very well and I would recommend it to anyone interested in hydronics, biomass systems, or even just as a refresher of both.

- Nicholas Rowe, Clean Energy Consulting

I had only limited knowledge of biomass boilers prior to taking this course. Now I feel like I have what it takes to design great residential biomass heating systems. Thanks to HeatSpring and John Siegenthaler!

- Vincent Montambault, ÉcoFlamme Énergie

+ Read more student ratings and reviews for this course


John Siegenthaler

P.E., Appropriate Designs

John Siegenthaler, P.E., is a mechanical engineer and graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a licensed professional engineer, and Professor Emeritus of Engineering Technology at Mohawk Valley Community College. “Siggy” has over 32 years of experience in designing modern hydronic heating systems. He is a hall-of-fame member of the Radiant Professionals Alliance...[more]

Free Preview - Week 2 - Part B - Boiler Protection Considerations

Course Outline

Welcome - Orientation Materials

This course is self-paced, so you don’t need to be logged in at any specific time. You can get started immediately after you enroll and the course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year) after enrollment.

  • Introduction to HeatSpring (Video - 01:25 minutes) Preview
  • Set up email notifications and your student profile (Text)
  • Important Note on Continuing Education Credits (Text)
  • Introduce yourself on the discussion board (Text)
Module 1 - Introduction and Course Overview - Why Wood and Why Hydronics?

Topics Include: Instructor introduction, course structure, overview of wood-based fuel options, overview of wood fueled heat sources, Thermal energy in wood, Cost of wood-based fuels relative to other options, environmental benefits of wood-based heating, realistic expectations.

  • Week 1 - Part A - Introduction (Video - 01:17:03 hours)
  • Week 1 - Part B - Fuel Cost Comparisons (Video - 01:17:59 hours)
  • Slides: Week 1 slides (Download .pdf)
  • Assignment (Text)
  • PDF: Week 1 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 1 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 2 - Wood Gasification Boilers (Operating Characteristics & Design Details)

Topics Include: High efficiency attained at high rates of heat production, typical operating cycle, why thermal storage is critical, why boilers require protection from low water temperatures, overheat protection options, how to provide that protection, how to size a wood gasification boiler, boiler maintenance requirements, European hydronic wood stoves, overview of an example system.

  • Week 2 - Part A - Introduction and Background on Wood Gasification Boilers (Video - 30:03 minutes)
  • Week 2 - Part B - Boiler Protection Considerations (Video - 58:28 minutes) Preview
  • Week 2 - Part C - Thermal Storage and Sizing (Video - 28:30 minutes)
  • Week 2 - Part D - Example Systems (Video - 26:09 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 2 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 2 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 2 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 3 - Pellet-Fueled Boilers (Operating Characteristics, Fuel Conveyance, and Design Details)

Topics Include: Time to initiate heat production, ability to modulate output, why storage is important, why pellet-fired boilers require protection from low water temperatures, how to provide that protection, automatic cleaning systems (pneumatic and mechanical scrapers), bulk pellet storage and conveyance options, maintenance requirements, how to size a pellet-fired boiler, auxiliary boiler integration, multiple boiler systems, overview of an example system.

  • Week 3 - Part A - Pellet-Fueled Boilers (Video - 43:15 minutes)
  • Week 3 - Part B - Venting Pellet-Fueled Boilers (Video - 21:16 minutes)
  • Week 3 - Part C - Boiler Protection Considerations (Video - 15:33 minutes)
  • Week 3 - Part D - Integrating an Auxiliary Boiler (Video - 31:06 minutes)
  • Week 3 - Part E - Sizing a Pellet-Fueled Boiler (Video - 34:12 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 3 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 3 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 3 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 4 - Wood Chip Boilers (Operating Characteristics, Fuel Conveyance, and Design Details)

Topics Include: fuel characteristics and specification, time to initiate heat production, ability to modulate output, when and where should wood chip boilers be considered, wood chip conveyance systems, why wood chip boilers require protection from low water temperatures, how to provide that protection, Automatic cleaning systems (pneumatic and mechanical scrapers), maintenance requirements, how to size a wood-chip boiler, small scale systems, auxiliary boiler integration, multiple boiler systems, overview of an example system.

  • Week 4 - Part A - Introduction (Video - 27:57 minutes)
  • Week 4 - Part B - Wood Chips (Video - 18:05 minutes)
  • Week 4 - Part C - Wood Chip Storage and Conveyance (Video - 14:14 minutes)
  • Week 4 - Part D - Large Wood Chip Boilers (Video - 13:06 minutes)
  • Week 4 - Part E - Wood Chip Fired Boiler Systems (Video - 21:41 minutes)
  • Week 4 - Part F - Sizing a Wood Chip-Fueled Boiler (Video - 18:19 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 4 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 4 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 4 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 5 - Thermal Storage Options & Sizing

Topics include: Pressurized versus unpressurized storage, code requirements, space considerations, volume calculations, piping connections to tank, determining storage size for wood gasification boiler systems, determining storage size for pellet-fired boiler systems, stratification & temperature stacking, heat scavenging, standby heat loss, examples of available hardware, maintenance requirements.

  • Week 5 - Part A1 - Introduction and Unpressurized Tanks (Video - 32:31 minutes)
  • Week 5 - Part A2 - Benefits of External Heat Exchangers (Video - 24:47 minutes)
  • Week 5 - Part B - Pressurized Storage Tanks (Video - 40:41 minutes)
  • Week 5 - Part C - Heat Loss from Thermal Storage Tanks (Video - 12:55 minutes)
  • Week 5 - Part D - Temperature Stacking in Thermal Storage Tanks (Video - 32:43 minutes)
  • Week 5 - Part E - Heat Scavenging from Storage (Video - 23:33 minutes)
  • Week 5 - Part F - Sizing Thermal Storage (Video - 22:11 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 5 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 5 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 5 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 6 - Low-Temperature Heat Emitter Options & Distribution Systems

Topics include: Low temperature radiant panel options for floor, wall, and ceilings, panel radiators, fan-assisted panel radiators, low temperature fin-tube convectors, homerun distribution systems, parallel distribution systems.

  • Week 6 - Part A1 - Introduction and Slab-on-Grade Floor Heating (Video - 23:53 minutes)
  • Week 6 - Part A2 - Other Hydronic Radiant Floor Panels (Video - 22:57 minutes)
  • Week 6 - Part B - Alternatives to Radiant Floor Heating (Video - 28:53 minutes)
  • Week 6 - Part C - Panel Radiators (Video - 35:52 minutes)
  • Week 6 - Part D - Distribution Systems (Video - 26:24 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 6 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 6 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 6 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 7 - Building Blocks for Modern Systems (Part 1)

Topics include: High efficiency circulators, distribution efficiency, air & dirt separation, hydraulic separation, auxiliary boiler integration, expansion tanks.

  • Week 7 - Part A1 - Introduction and Common Piping (Video - 29:02 minutes) Preview
  • Week 7 - Part A2 - Hydraulic Separation (Video - 29:11 minutes)
  • Week 7 - Part B - Distribution Efficiency (Video - 36:43 minutes)
  • Week 7 - Part C - Circulators (Video - 33:12 minutes)
  • Week 7 - Part D - Expansion Tank Selection and Sizing (Video - 36:04 minutes)
  • Week 7 - Part E - Expansion Tank Placement (Video - 19:03 minutes)
  • Week 7 - Part F - Air and Dirt Separation (Video - 35:09 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 7 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 7 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 7 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 8 - Building Blocks for Modern Systems (Part 2)

Topics include: Outdoor reset control, staging, mixing options, on-demand domestic water heating sub-assembly.

  • Week 8 - Part A - Introduction and Outdoor Reset Control Theory (Video - 44:23 minutes)
  • Week 8 - Part B - Mixing Options for Biomass Boiler Applications (Video - 23:37 minutes)
  • Week 8 - Part C - Instantaneous DHW Subassembly (Video - 39:36 minutes)
  • Week 8 - Part D - Introduction to Heat Metering (Video - 32:14 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 8 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 8 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 8 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 9 - Example Systems (Residential Applications)

Topics include: Piping design, control design, descriptions of operation. Examples include: 1) A combisystem using a wood gasification boiler, auxiliary boiler, unpressurized storage, floor heating. 2) A combisystem using pellet-fired boiler, mod/con auxiliary boiler, pressurized storage, radiant ceiling heating. 3) A combisystem using a European hydronic wood stove, pressurized storage, panel radiators

  • Week 9 - Part A - Introduction and Example Combisystem #1 (Video - 47:38 minutes)
  • Week 9 - Part B - Example Combisystem #2 (Video - 23:37 minutes)
  • Week 9 - Part C - Example Combisystem #3 (Video - 35:31 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 9 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 9 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 9 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
Module 10 - Example Systems (Commercial / Municipal Applications) and Course Summary

Topics include: Piping design, control design, descriptions of operation, course summary. Examples include: 1) Small-scale wood-chip boiler system, floor heating. 2) Multiple pellet-fired boiler system, low temperature convectors. 3) Pellet-fired boiler, mod/con auxiliary boiler, floor heating.

  • Week 10 - Part A - Introduction and Example Systems (Video - 48:33 minutes)
  • Week 10 - Part B - Pellet-Fueled Boiler Supplying Space Heating for Town Highway Garage (Video - 43:13 minutes)
  • Week 10 - Part C - Large Capacity Wood Chip Boiler System (Video - 04:53 minutes)
  • Week 10 - Part D - Mini-District Heating Systems (Video - 09:45 minutes)
  • Week 10 - Part E - What's Wrong With This System? (Video - 23:54 minutes)
  • Slides: Week 10 slides (Download .pdf)
  • PDF: Week 10 homework questions (Download .pdf)
  • Answer Key: Week 10 homework answer key (Download .pdf)
  • Final Quiz (you must pass to complete the course) (Quiz)
Feedback and Additional Resources

This is our last module but you still have access to the all of course materials for 12 months (1 year), so keep working and you'll be able to complete the course at your own pace. After your year of access expires you can optionally extend access with a HeatSpring Membership. Enjoy the course and keep in touch!

  • LinkedIn: Join the Hydronic-Based Biomass Heating Professionals LinkedIn Group (Resource)
  • 1 Year of Access to Course Materials (Text)
  • Feedback: 2-minute Exit Survey (Survey)
  • Consider Joining as a HeatSpring Member (Resource)
  • Certificate of Completion: Request a Certificate (Certificate)
Free Preview - Week 2 - Part B - Boiler Protection Considerations

Free Courses on Renewable HVAC, Hydronic Heating, Biomass

Temperature Stacking in Thermal Storage for Biomass Heating Systems

This free lecture describes a unique method of managing the operation of biomass-fueled as well as auxiliary boilers for optimum system performance.

Hydronics for High Efficiency Biomass Boilers - Sponsored by NYSERDA

This workshop fulfills contractor training requirements to participate in NYSERDA's 'Renewable Heat NY' program. The course examines best practices for combining modern, high efficiency wood-fired boilers with hydronic distribution systems.

The Importance of Low-Temperature Distribution Systems

In this lecture, hydronics expert John Siegenthaler explains the importance of low water temperature heat emitters and distribution designs in modern hydronic systems.

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