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The color of soot

TR
TR Member Posts: 40
OK everyone I think it is clear that a well trained tech with the latest testing equipment is what I need. So help us homeowners understand how to get this accomplished.

Will this service and the efficiency/performance settings last a full heating season? If not how long should it last before readjustment is required?

What is the ball park cost of the annual service done properly? Don't be shy... $100, $200, $300? :-)

I have a service contract with my fuel oil company that includes a preseason cleaning and adjustment and 24/7 service. Obviously the oil company techs are not the experts you guys are so what do I do? Just buy oil form them and 24/7 service from you?

Until I bought a house with a steam heating system the basement was for "storing junk" and I paid little attention to how the house stayed warm. With oil at $2.40 a gallon and pollution now on many people's minds everything has changed. I'd like to know the best way to stay warm, minimize pollution and spend my money wisely.

Thanks,

TR

Comments

  • TR
    TR Member Posts: 40
    The color of soot

    This was the first heating season for my new steam boiler and thanks to Dan's books, your help and a heating pro like yourselves, the systems has been running great. A "rumbling" noise at shutdown started about February so I called the service company where I have an annual contract.

    The tech took a look at the flame and guessed that I had a "ball of coke" on the retention head of the burner (Carlin EZ1). When he removed the head it was indeed a clogged mess. He scraped it clean, put in a new nozzel and adjusted the flame by eye. He said that in a few weeks the very black soot visible through the damper would be replaced by light brown soot.

    Is soot color a good indicator that the burner is adjusted and running at peak efficiency?

    When the tech tuned my systemd at the start of the season he got an efficiency of 86%. Did he tweak it too high?

    Thanks,

    TR
  • wsdave
    wsdave Member Posts: 97
    Oh My!

    Anyone who says that they can adjust a burner "by eye" should be SHOT!!

    A properly adjusted burner REQUIRES a combustion analyzer and a pro who knows how to use it.

    Fire your "tech" (read knucklehead) and get a pro in there ASAP to test the burner! Your life and other family members may be a stake here IF the burner is not adjusted properly.

    Dave
  • The Wire Nut
    The Wire Nut Member Posts: 420
    Ditto on the Cmbustion Analyzer

    You simply don't know unless you test.

    Other things to look for: clean filters, proper draft (adjust barometric damper as needed), proper air pressure while firing, CO2, soot, pump pressure, etc. In other words, there is a long list of things one should check and your description mentions few if any of them.

    I'd get a second opinion.
    "Let me control you"

    Lost in SOHO NYC and Balmy Whites Valley PA
  • John_159
    John_159 Member Posts: 1
    burner adjustment

    Please.... let's stop all the nonsense talk that " Your life and your family members may be at stake if the burner is not adjusted properly" Unless the burner tech that was there has no clue about what he was doing, thousands of burners are adjusted each year without instruments by trained techs without causing death or injury to people. does it make it right,,, no . Let's not be alarmist.

    Poor TR won't be able to sleep at night.
  • mtfallsmikey
    mtfallsmikey Member Posts: 765
    I used to

    adjust by eye, before the era of flame retention type burners. Not anymore!
  • Bob Harper
    Bob Harper Member Posts: 1,030
    combustion testing oil equipment?

    There was a debate over this over on HVAC-Talk.com in the Tricks of the Trade section.

    Short version: The Standard of Care now exists that you use combustion analysis equipment when setting up or servicing oil fired heaters. Therefore, not using it in accordance with prescribed procedures may constitute negligence. Do you have an NIST Certificate of calibration for each eye?

    on the other hand, you cannot make alarmist statements that failure to perform such a test WILL injure residents or even put them at risk unless you are prepared to show definitively how they are in danger. Even if a burner is way off pumping tons on CO up the stack, where is the direct danger to the homeowner as long as the chimney is venting properly? Trust me, you have a lot more to worry about the integrity, layout, and performance of the venting system than you do the burner. A spot combustion analysis is a snapshot in time. Without a Worst Case Depressurization test, you truly don't know how that system will perform under the most adverse of conditions such as with the air handler and clothes dryers going.

    Let's raise the bar and test but put it into perspective. What are you testing for? To optimize the operation and efficiency of the unit so you get maximun benefit without overfiring and premature failure of components or are you talking about safety issues? Two totally distinct different situations.
  • TR
    TR Member Posts: 40
    So what went wrong?

    The first tech did use combustion analysis equipment (that hour-glass looking thing and something inserted in the stack) and I think he was thurough. It was a brand new boiler/burner so I do not know if he did every item that could have been done. But even though he used all this equipment the retention head was so caked up with carbon it was about to stop firing (according to the second tech).

    I am puzzled that setting up the burner with the fancy equipment only got me 4 months of operation. Is there newer/better test equipment that would have prevented this from happening? Did the initial tech make some mistake the "coked up" the burner? Is the heating oil a possible cause?

    TR
  • lee_7
    lee_7 Member Posts: 458


    John,
    You must be nuts. Any true tech will use an analyzer. There is no possible way to "set up by eye" on newer equipment. You have no idea how the unit is working and what kind of co that is being produced. You stating that an analyzer is not needed is not only wrong, but could be very dangerous if someone gets hurt or god forbid killed by your lack of professionalism.
  • lee_7
    lee_7 Member Posts: 458


    That is an olderstyle test equipment that, just my personal opinion, should be retired and replaced with a computerized analyzier. There is no way to test for co with the older tester you discribed. Get a Pro with a newer tester and have retested.
  • Todd_24
    Todd_24 Member Posts: 9
    What went wrong

    A dirty or clogged fuel system could have caused this problem. The first tech may have adjusted this perfectly with a "wet kit" and it wouldn't have made any difference if the nozzle issue came as a result of something that happened after the test was done. Regardless of what type of kit used, a wet kit in the hands of an expert can be better than an electronic kit in the hands of a novice. At least they did test it to begin with, often no test is ever done!
  • John@Reliable_14
    John@Reliable_14 Member Posts: 171
    Nothing wrong with \"wet kit\"

    I have four testers and sometimes only trust "old reliable", yes the wet kit. In the right hands it works fine.Granted it will do less but I never question its readings.
  • D107
    D107 Member Posts: 1,849
    ditto on possible fuel supply

    ho here; had a soot/carbon problem a month ago. new boiler, burner, tank, chimney liner. Based on burner manufacturer recommendations, burner pump pressure was raised and tiger loop de-aerator installed. Works fine now. Sometimes there's issues with tank suction assembly, etc. Have to look at the whole picture.

    David
  • Norm Harvey
    Norm Harvey Member Posts: 684


    To try and get off the combustion analyzer tanget, I do believe that the color of soot are clues you can use in your troubleshooting.

    Per Riello training:
    If there IS any soot on the turbulator, a black or brown color can give you a clue about your need to move the turbulator either slightly forward or slightly back.

    White ash, this tells me that there is perhaps too much excess air set for this burner. Complete combustion is good, but the white ash usually means I will find a zero smoke fire with a high stack temperature.

    Of course I always use my Testo 330, but there is something to be said for the clues my father picked up along the way while he was ruining his knees and eyes that I still respect.

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    "We see the world as WE are, not as IT is, because it is the "I" behind the EYE that does the seeing"
  • wsdave
    wsdave Member Posts: 97
    Never said

    NEVER said WILL - I said *may*

    Re-read the post!

    You need to test with the proper equipment. No ifs ands or buts. I stand by my statement that ANYONE who sets a burner "by eye" is a FOOL!

    Alarmist? maybe - I've seen too many installations that were set up "by eye" that were pumping out copious amounts of CO. Too many people die as a result of this.
    I agree proper venting is an issue but what if it isn't vented properly? What if there is a leak into the basement and the equipment isn't tested?

    I just don't suffer fools who place others at risk.

    Dave
  • realolman
    realolman Member Posts: 513
    Sometimes even new

    stuff is no good. Sometimes new nozzles are no good.

    I think I used to set the flame in my boiler leaner by eye than I do with the analyzer. I believe I set it hotter with the analyzer.

    I don't know that eyeballers should be shot, though... how about just boogerin em up good so it's hard for them to get around?
  • wsdave
    wsdave Member Posts: 97
    Maybe shot too strong

    LOL

    OK - I'll relent. Shooting them isn't good.

    Dave
  • Norm Harvey
    Norm Harvey Member Posts: 684


    That's the foundation of my business. I provide the professional service, and the homeowner can buy the oil from whoever they wish.

    Currently I charge $120 for an annual service, but I have been trying to decide if I should charge more. I inherited the business from my "eyeballer" father and offsetting the costs of equipment, training etc, I am finding out now (at the end of my first year being in charge of the administrative end of things) that I may need to sit down with my accountant and re-evaluate my business plan.

    This is in the South shore of Boston area

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    "We see the world as WE are, not as IT is, because it is the "I" behind the EYE that does the seeing"
  • lee_7
    lee_7 Member Posts: 458


    depends where you live. It is Around $125.00 around here give or take. It should last a year unless something changes beyond tech's control.
  • TR
    TR Member Posts: 40


    I like the idea of separating the oil supplier from the boiler tuning/maintenance...unless it will get me in the middle of a finger pointing session with one company blaming the other for some problem. I always wonder if the oil company really wants my boiler at peak efficiency and therefore burning less oil? There is some comfort in knowing that if I am going to continue buying oil from them they have an extra incentive to get here quickly if/when the heating system has trouble.

    I live in Rhode Island and I think the going price for a 24/7 service contract with a reputable oil company ranges from $120-$200 (that includes the annual tune-up). I do not ever recall seeing an advertisment in the local paper that pitches something like "buy the oil from anyone you choose but leave the service to the experts because that is all we do...."

    This coming Fall I will take a look around and see what is available here. There is one "Find a Pro" in RI so I will give him a call.

    Thanks,

    TR
  • Bob Harper
    Bob Harper Member Posts: 1,030
    local price annual oil service?

    There is no national standard on what an annual service should be comprised of. This can work for you. Give them a really thorough service checking and testing the hell out of it then charge $250+. Personally, if I was presented with one at $125 and another at $250 and the higher guy listed a whole lot of things not included by cheap Charlie then I'm going with the more thorough one. A lot of homeowners feel the same way. You just aren't marketing yourselves properly.

    Tell you what, those willing to share, please post a list of what you include in an "annual service", what is not included and your base fee. Please include what region of the country you are located in. I don't service oil so I'm not trying to fix prices but I am shocked at how much you guys are killing yourselves.
    Thx,
  • Norm Harvey
    Norm Harvey Member Posts: 684


    my website http://www.indoil.com has a "service" page that needs to be updated, but I do all that and then some. Soon I will update it with the "then some" stuff.

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    "We see the world as WE are, not as IT is, because it is the "I" behind the EYE that does the seeing"
  • Leo
    Leo Member Posts: 770
    It takes Me

    It takes me from an hour and a half to two hours if the boiler is in good shape. Longer if not. A nozzle, filter, and pump strainer is standard additional parts if needed and priced accordingly. I find a lot of bad or weak transformers and replace them to reduce future call backs. The unit is vacumned, flue pipe removed, other things checked and I finish with a combustion test. This is just a quick run down. I do work for an oil company and it is the third one I have worked for. NEVER EVER have I been instructed to tune a unit to run at below peak efficiency. I always take that as an insult. It matters not where a GOOD TECH works. I have seen good and bad work from both oil companies and non oil companies.
    Norm's web site lists what should!! be done.

    Leo
  • realolman
    realolman Member Posts: 513
    Yer a

    good man..wsdave.
  • Glenn Sossin_2
    Glenn Sossin_2 Member Posts: 592
    Maybe just

    cheap?? Get what ya pay for
This discussion has been closed.