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Thread: To R.O. or not to R.O. that is the question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Southern Ohio
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    1,098

    Default To R.O. or not to R.O. that is the question

    I have watched and read so many threads on the use, running and building of R.O. units. What I was wondering is how everyone makes that decision to use an R.O.

    What is your rationalization and requirements.

    Is the primary reason that, I want to reduce boiling time?

    I want to be more efficient, my boiling time is limited and I can run the R.O. while working or doing other things.

    What other justifications are there? To me it seems that the primary rational is time, is that right? Also, I can see you can use smaller evaporators, but I think this is a wash when you add the cost of a R.O. to your operation you could buy a bigger unit with that money.

    I have wondered if I can justify an R.O.? Here are my yay and nays to getting an R.O.

    A.) My evaporator can run 15-17 GPH at peak efficiency, but averages 13-14 on most days. both yay and nay

    B.) I have 130 taps and big runs can turn into 12-14 hr days or more. yay ( these overwhelming runs happen maybe two to three days a year)

    C.) I am retired and have the time, but long days get old. yay and Nay

    D.) I really am a hobby producer and try to keep expenses low. Nay

    E.) An R.O. would be the second most expensive thing in my shack and my time is cheap. Nay (expense is probably the no. 1 nay)

    F.) More work maintaining the R.O. in an unheated shack and operational maintenance. Nay (this would be my second ranked nay)

    G.) BY the time I wait on an R.O. to get enough sap run to start up I could have been cooking for a couple hrs. Nay

    So at the end of the day I have decided to not use an R.O. and probably won't. Am I missing something? Just curious what went into others decision making processes.
    125-150 taps
    Smokey Lakes Full pint Hybrid pan
    Modified half pint arch
    Air over fire
    All 3/16 tubing
    Southern Ohio

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    N.E.Ohio
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    140

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    I will say that once you boil with an RO you will never go back. The amount of fuel, wood or oil, saved is incredible. Even with your retired time, turning a 12 hour boil in just 2 or 3 hours makes it more exciting and fulfilling. We went with an ro because there isnt enough time in a day between work, kids and life.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Brockport, NY
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    251

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    Yeah, well, in my opinion you might just be slightly overthinking it. You've weighed all the pros and cons, which is what I did too. I think, (can't and wouldn't try to speak for you!) that WITH an RO you'd have so much more joy in your life over the maple season that you would truly wonder why you didn't do it before. Practically its for all the quantifiable reasons, but all that added up means a happier dude, at least for me.
    I'd let you borrow all my RO stuff if you were close by to me (well, for a week or so anyways, lol...) Is there somebody near you that'd borrow you one for a short time to see if you'd like it?
    Just a suggestion, take care, Mark

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Connecticut
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    I'm a small time back yarder with a barrel stove and pan without dividers. I like to do the entire process from lighting the stove to bottling the syrup in one day. A 40 to 50 gallon boil takes an entire day and then some for me. If I can turn 50 gallons in to 25 gallons or 100 in to 50, I can turn that day in to twice as much syrup instead of twice as much boiling. I own a cabinet shop and set up my RO in there so I can work while it's working. Then instead of hauling 50 gallons of sap home, I'm hauling 25.
    So, I guess #2 would be my reason for making the leap.
    "I want to be more efficient, my boiling time is limited and I can run the R.O. while working or doing other things."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Lanark, ON
    Posts
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    At your size there is definitely a debate whether an RO is a benefit or do you buy a bigger and more efficient evaporator to get a better boil rate. A bigger evaporator means more time cutting and splitting wood (in the off-season) that could be spent doing other things. For those of us with day jobs we simply can't spend more hours boiling. With our bigger RO and 3rd tower this past spring I was able to start the RO at lunch and have a concentrate tank of 18 Brix sap ready to boil by the time I was done work. I'd boil for 3 or 4 hours, shut down and be in bed at a normal time.

    The other thing to consider is being energy efficient. The electricity cost (and GHG emissions) to run an RO is much less than the cost of the wood or the furnace oil. Before our RO we made 20 gallons of syrup on a full chord of wood. We went to a single RO tower and that went to close to 70 gallons per chord. 2 towers and we were at 100-125 gallons per chord. Now that we're at 3 towers we made 225 gallons per chord of wood and our days boiling are cut in half. I like boiling but not enough to watch a pan and feed the fire for 12 hours a day anymore!

    Every producer I know that I've talked to about whether to get an RO or not has the same concerns and questions. After the first season boiling concentrate I ask if they're going to get rid of the RO and go back to boiling raw sap - and they laugh at me!
    4,600 Taps on vacuum
    9,400 gallons storage
    3 tower CDL RO
    3.5'x14' Lapierre Force 5
    Twitter & Instagram: @ennismaple
    www.ennismaple.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Southern Ohio
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    Good replys guys. I guess it really comes down to I am an old tightwad and not skilled enough to build my own. As for wood, that's not even a concern. I cut literally tons of firewood all year. What I burn sugaring is the smallest consumer of my wood. I sell wood and burn it as primary heat. I have Over a thousand acres of family land and all the free wood I could ever want. I usually have two to three years worth cut ahead.

    One more question, do you process most of your sap before you start boiling or just enough to start without running the head tank low and then keep processing while your boiling. I was thinking that a R.O. that had concentrate output about what my boil rate is would be the proper size and I'd boil soon as I had a couple hrs worth of concentrate in the head tank and keep right on processing raw sap as I boiled.
    125-150 taps
    Smokey Lakes Full pint Hybrid pan
    Modified half pint arch
    Air over fire
    All 3/16 tubing
    Southern Ohio

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Brockport, NY
    Posts
    251

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    We usually process most of the sap into concentrate before firing up the evaporator. Yes, less efficient with time. But, is much less hectic, and still saves tons of time and everything else.
    As far as size, obviously you'd get a relatively small RO, but one that would give you enough permeate to rinse your RO (cold, warm, cold) after each days/runs usage to keep the membranes in great shape.
    take care
    Mark

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Williston, VT
    Posts
    271

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    Buckeye,

    You think too much like a banker or something.

    You need to restate your analysis with more thoughtful questions:

    - Is an RO a big, shiny, technical piece of equipment? Yes indeed. I could show it off to my friends and they'd be very impressed.
    - Does it take a lot of power to turn the HIGH PRESSURE PUMP? Hell yes!
    - Could I blow it up with one stupid little mistake? Yea, but you can't be afraid.
    - Would it look cool in my sugarhouse? Yes, and all that plumbing and valves are awesome!
    - Will an RO mean that I need to expand my sugarhouse? Hmmm - I love building!
    - Should I plan to expand my sugarbush to justify an RO? Yes, that makes sense!

    Let me know if you need any more help. I know a lot about this type of rationalization.

    Cheers!

    Ken
    Ken & Sherry
    Williston, VT

    2017 - 13 gallons on 65 taps (12 buckets, rest 3/16), 2x4 flat bottom, modified cargo box sugarhouse
    2018 - 90 gallons on 418 taps (gravity lines), Leader 30"x10' Vortex Arch & Max Raised Flue with Rev Syrup Pan, New Sugarhouse
    2019 - Burned through alot more money: heated kitchen, 2x2,000 and 375 gal ss sap tanks, CDL1200 RO, Bauch Vac Pump, More taps, etc., etc., etc.
    https://www.facebook.com/pumpkinhillmaple/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Southern Ohio
    Posts
    1,098

    Default

    TapTapTap,

    That's funny, my wife is a banker, but she's retiring December 31st so she's about to become a sugaring momma.
    125-150 taps
    Smokey Lakes Full pint Hybrid pan
    Modified half pint arch
    Air over fire
    All 3/16 tubing
    Southern Ohio

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Williston, VT
    Posts
    271

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by buckeye gold View Post
    TapTapTap,

    That's funny, my wife is a banker, but she's retiring December 31st so she's about to become a sugaring momma.

    You tell her she can't be thinking like a banker anymore, especially for sugaring. It's not about the profit ya know.. LOL.
    Ken & Sherry
    Williston, VT

    2017 - 13 gallons on 65 taps (12 buckets, rest 3/16), 2x4 flat bottom, modified cargo box sugarhouse
    2018 - 90 gallons on 418 taps (gravity lines), Leader 30"x10' Vortex Arch & Max Raised Flue with Rev Syrup Pan, New Sugarhouse
    2019 - Burned through alot more money: heated kitchen, 2x2,000 and 375 gal ss sap tanks, CDL1200 RO, Bauch Vac Pump, More taps, etc., etc., etc.
    https://www.facebook.com/pumpkinhillmaple/

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