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Burnham 2A Nat Gas tune up

TR
TR Member Posts: 40
FYI - one company I called here in RI that specializes in gas heating appliances said that it was expensive to test the efficiency and not worth the money. They explained that there is not the same amount of burner adjustment I was used to on oil burners.

Looking at the burner tubes there is dust on and in each tube. A finger "swipe" reveals the the shiny metal inside the tube. The pilot flame is cranking along and the boiler has been at 140 degrees despite no call for heat in the past week. Does the boiler maintain a min temp or is the pilot keeping it warm?

Comments

  • TR
    TR Member Posts: 40
    tune up

    I sure miss the brand new steam boiler everyone helped me fine tune last year but moving to a different house gave my wife a 5 min commute vs an hour. Anyway, I now have a 16 yr old Burnham 2A (nat gas) and HW baseboards. Finding a heating system pro to give it a complete tune-up has not been easy. The closest HeatingHelp "Find A Pro" is 50 miles away so I have a local company coming on Friday.

    Many people have said "it's gas which burns really clean so don't waste $ on a tune up". My guess is that it has not been tuned-up in a long time. Is there a detailed punch list or other info that will help my service tech cover all the bases? Burnham was no help and the manual just suggests a regular tune up...
  • The person who

    is coming should be a certifed and qualified gas combustion expert who has attended some training program on gas combustion testing. You will be able to tell if that is the case when you ask him to do a combustion analysis and tune up to bring your boiler to its maximum firing rate with the best combustion analysis. Then ask him or her what is the maximum CO reading my boiler should have, if he does not know how to do a test or says anything over 100 PPM CO then I would start looking for someone else.

    Truth a gas fired anything should have a combustion test done every year, that includes the heating system, water heater, gas range and dryer, etc.. All heating contractors should be more than willing to do all of those tests or get someone else who will.
  • J.C.A._3
    J.C.A._3 Member Posts: 2,981
    Tim,

    I won't go into detail...but you would have hit the roof if you heard what I heard, tonight !

    (I lambasted the guy...let's see if it's said again!)

    If they ain't testing...they're guessing! Take Timmie's advice. Chris
  • TR I am in RI

    and I am sure I can hook you up with someone who can give you a very complete test and tune up. Give me a call at 401-437-0557.

    As for the 140 degrees it sounds like your boiler is maintaining a low limit temp perhaps from a time when the boiler was giving domestic hot water.

    Give me a call and we will get you the help you need.
  • TR
    TR Member Posts: 40
    tune up results

    Just to "complete the loop" here is what ended up happening.

    After making a dozen calls and not getting the feeling from any company that they understood what I wanted for the 16 yr.old boiler (I asked for a major tune-up) I went with a local heating company that does oil, propane and natural gas. My reasons were: 1) having a relationship with a local company seems like a good idea if/when I need service and 2) other companies would charge travel time because of the distance to my home, and, when I asked them about testing combustion I did not get a positive response like "that's the only way to know what's going on and we always test.....).

    So the local service guy shows up. Nice guy, on time, etc. He pulled out the burner tubes, wiped/bushed them off and tapped their open ends on the floor to get any dirt/dust out, swept the burner area, installed a new thermopile, put everything back together, bubble tested for gas leaks and fired up the boiler.

    Nice blue flames down close to the burner tubes and a 'field of yellow fire' above the flames. He said the yellow was dust burning off and that everything looked just the way it should. I asked about taking the cover off the boiler and brushing out the passageways, combustion testing, adjusting the gas rates, boiler temp settings or any other type of tuning. Nope, everything looks good...

    It took him an hour. So I got my "relationship" with the local company but I sure wonder what might have been gained with thorough testing/adjusting/etc. and how much longer that would take a technician.

    TR
  • Darrell
    Darrell Member Posts: 303


    Were I to come to your house, (which I won't cuz I'm in Alaska), I would do the following tests and checks on your boiler. I would visit with you for a bit to introduce myself and see if you have any concerns or problems that may not be obvious to me today, cycle every zone valve to make sure they work, change your relief valve every two years as a matter of course, check the ph and quality of your system fluid, check the freeze point if you have antifreeze, check your expansion tank pressure, air vents, and fill valve for proper operation, pull all of the burners, clean them, clean the pilot assembly and replace the thermocouple, look up through the boiler sections with a mirror or my handy ridgid scope, look down through the boiler sections, check the operating gas pressure on the manifold side of the gas valve and the street side of the gas valve, check for circulator operation, purge any air from the system, do a complete digital combustion analysis, check visible flue for blockages and look to see if the top of the flue is intact, or check to see that the termination is clear if it is a side wall vent, scan through the menu's of any computer controls for errors, fix-replace-adjust any of the above items that were not up to scratch, note any bigger code/safety isses or items that need attention, (like a take down cleaning), and discuss them with you with the end in view of addressing them on another call, clean up the boiler area, put my sticker on the boiler, give you a written check list of all of this along with the invoice, collect my flat rate fee, (cash-check-visa), for this annual service plus any parts that I used and be gone in usually just over an hour. I keep a record of this service call, with notes on your equipment in case you call me back at 2am with a component failure. If you have me come back next year for this annual service, or recommend my services to somebody else who proves to be a good customer, I'll give you a discount next year.

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  • TR
    TR Member Posts: 40
    Now that's a tune up

    Darrell,

    I am very sad to say that I definitely could not afford the travel time to fly you here and do the service. I also wish that Burnham would put together a list like yours for homeowners to refer to when getting their boilers tuned up. This would have made it a lot easier to inform the tech what was to be done and not feel like I was some kind of nut asking for unnecessary work on his part.


    When it drops to fifty below in Alaska and you head East for some balmy forty degree weather feel free to contact me and arrange a service call in RI for this tune up. Hey, you could then put on the side of your truck that you provide top notch boiler service nation wide... :-)

    Thanks,

    TR
  • Service Procedures

    I've been following your thread here for the past few days and I'm not surprised with the dilemma you have been encountering. I've been conducting training seminars and writing articles on this topic for years and have found it to be a steep uphill battle to get techs to do these procedures. The other side of the coin though is that gas appliances have been very forgiving to this type of neglect and the majority of homeowners do not share your concern about having their equipment serviced. Here is a copy of an article I wrote a while back that addresses this very topic. This has been on our website for quite a while now.



    Glenn Stanton

    Manager of Technical Development

    Burnham Hydronics

    U.S. Boiler Co., Inc.
  • Boiler Service

    i've been following your post here for the past week or so and am not surprised with the dilemma you have encountered regarding getting your gas boiler serviced. A lot of what you have encountered has to do with past practices regarding gas appliances. Not too many years ago in RI the Gas Company would have been the party you would have called to perform any service on gas equipment. The heating contractors and plumbers were certainly the ones installing the equipment but it was up to the Gas Company to service it. For this reason primarily, the bulk of the installers were not trained on proper service procedures nor were they equipped to do so. To this day there is a high percentage of local installers who do not even own a Manometer, which is pretty much a simple and required tool to service gas equipment, let alone a combustion analyzer.

    Folks like Tim McElwain and I have been fighting a steep uphill battle for years to train these people on proper service procedures since the Gas Company no longer performs the service. We have been making inroads but find it extremely difficult to get people to attend these classes. For many of these reasons, I wrote this article a while back for a Trade Publication. This has been on our website for quite a while and addresses this very topic. You will also see that most of the things that Darell would have checked are in this article. Much of this information has also been in our Installation manuals over the years. here is a link to that article.

    www.burnham.com/stanton/Articles/BoilerServiceProcedures.doc

    Glenn Stanton

    Manager of Technical Development

    Burnham Hydronics

    U.S. Boiler Co., Inc.
  • TR
    TR Member Posts: 40
    Burnham 2A tune up

    Glenn,

    Thanks for your comments on this subject. Tim McElwain and I spoke before I had the tune-up done and he gave me the full story on servicing gas appliances here in RI. It sure would have been nice to have your letter and Darrell's list to go over with my service company but that's hindsight. Plus, telling a technician what to do and how to do it (aka how to do his job) is not a good idea in my opinion.

    Because this is really all about money (mine, the service company's and even your's as a manufacturer), here are my questions/suggestions. You don't have to answer them but they are my thoughts as a homeowner and may be helpful.

    1) Why don't companies offer different levels of service? A "broom cleaning" like I got or a major tune-up with all the items on Darrell's list? Charge different prices but guarantee the work is done properly. And have a set price for the service. If the tech is fully trained and qualified the time required should be very consistent. $90/hr for however long it takes does not give me confidence that the tech knows what he is doing. This is a scheduled routine maintenance not a troubleshooting call

    2) Because I am sure your letter has been given to all the companies here in RI my guess is they find it easier to sell parts/service on an emergency ($$$) basis and install new boilers before they might otherwise be needed.

    3) Is the major tune-up really that much better? I think so but many people feel it is overkill. Do the facts support the added time and money? What are the typical before and after efficiency test results?

    4) Lastly, I live in a development/Association where there must be 200 homes using natural gas. I'll be happy to see what level of interest there is (if any) in this subject.

    Thanks.

    TR
  • TR

    I find that most technicians who service gas equipment focus on correcting the possible causes of what may make your boiler stop working based on what they see as common place in the field. These would be things such as what was addressed with your system. The pilot assembly and thermocouple (or powerpile generator) and possible blockages of combustion air sources by spider webs and such are a few of these things. Inspection of the chimney and connected piping are also things they tend to focus on as potential causes of future problems. water side issues such as leaking valves, expansion tanks and circulator flanges are also things they may focus on.

    Most gas appliances will give you proper combustion results provided all of the external conditions are correct. These would be proper amounts of combustion air, proper chimney draft and proper gas volume and pressure. If a technician performs a test and finds things are out of adjustment, there is little adjustment that can be done to the boiler itself other than the secondary gas pressure. He would have to find the source of the imbalance whether it be air, draft or fuel related and then correct that. Inspection of the flue passageways is always a good idea as well as that can affect the same three parameters.

    There is no guarantee that "all" of the companies in RI have seen my article, Tim's books or any other sources of information regarding this discussion. I happen to live in RI also and know most of the companies that do business here. The real fact is that there are plenty that strive for excellence and seek knowledge and an equal amount that may be too busy to further their resources. Tim and I see this all of the time in that the people that attend our training classes are the ones that are always at other classes we have done, but the ones that are always calling for help with gas related issues are the ones we never see at our classes.


    Glenn Stanton

    Manager of Technical Development

    Burnham Hydronics

    U.S. Boiler Co., Inc.
  • Darrell
    Darrell Member Posts: 303
    Not a major tune-up...

    I would ring in once more with the following: Glenn has answered your question from a technical point of view, let me give you the service point of view.
    You are using the wrong words…what I described to you is not a “major tune-up”. It is a minimum annual checkup to ascertain safety and functionality at the time of service and to minimize the risk of component failures for the next twelve months. Every manufacture has some kind of statement to the effect that the owner has the responsibility to have a licensed, trained, and competent serviceman do that minimum check on a yearly basis. Read the fine print in your homeowner’s insurance policy…it probably has a similar statement. The reason that the owner’s manual doesn’t list all of these things out is because the average homeowner does not have the license, training, equipment or competence to perform the appropriate checks and repairs. And a second reason is that the annual check is extremely site-specific…every house is different, with different components, control strategies, parameters, expectations, and peculiarities. This is why it is important to establish a relationship with your serviceman for continuity, liability issues, and that personal touch.
    If I check your numbers before I clean the burners and then check it after…especially if it hasn’t been looked at in years, we’ll probably see the CO in the flue stream drop significantly and the combustion efficiency go up 3-5 %. But, this annual check-up is not about efficiency, although that is a factor. Efficiency should have been maximized at the outset by the installer, and the annual check is to ascertain that the efficiency is maintained and any creeping of the numbers is watched or corrected.
    For the record, you cannot simply look at a flame and judge the combustion by the color. The CO can go from under 100 to over 20,000 ppm in a minute or less without any perceptible difference to the flame color. This can easily happen by installing a new kitchen range hood, or the combustion air intake gets covered with cottonwood fuzz. Bottom line is you might wake up dead and still have pretty blue flames.
    Of course, there is a time and place for emergency repairs that do not address any of the annual list; Get ‘em warm ASAP, and move on to the next call. But, some folks are stuck in this mode and never, or rarely, address the items that will give an overall picture of your systems health. Kinda like waiting until you have a heart attack before your take your blood pressure. It is far better to have had a regular physical along the way.
    For me, it’s not all about money, although this is how I feed my family! It has to be about your safety, comfort, peace of mind, and relationship…in that order.
    Do the facts support the additional time and money? Well, I’ll do this annual service for 150 bucks plus parts. If you call me with a heating crisis and I can schedule you in, its 90 bucks an hour, 90 minute minimum, plus parts. If it’s after hours or on the weekend it’ll be 135 bucks an hour pillow to pillow, 90 minute minimum, plus parts, and I’ll be grumpy!. Yes, it’s cheaper to have me maintain your system than it is to repair it in crisis mode. And, by the way, my regular customer calls trump emergencies on systems that I am not familiar with, that’s the value added to a relationship with your serviceman.


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  • Mitch_5
    Mitch_5 Member Posts: 102
    Darrell just a question

    typicaly on an atmospheric gas boiler I find 02 between 6 - 9% and co steady under 100 ppm air free I do not break out the monomitor. In my area testing is extreamly rair and I have been getting alot of friction on testing equipment that has be "running fine for years". What alot of people seem to want is just make sure it will heat the house and that the flue vents.

    Just had a snow man with the asbestose removed no insulation put back doors distroid and could see strait through the two upper sections. Home owner insited I fire it up. I said know way and for them to contact the gas co.

    See what they will do with it.

    Little off topic but you can see why alot of companies dont test and dont want to know.

    Mitch S,

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  • Mitch_5
    Mitch_5 Member Posts: 102
    Darrell just a question

    typically on an atmospheric gas boiler I find 02 between 6 - 9% and co steady under 100 ppm air free I do not break out the manometer. In my area testing is extremely rare and I have been getting alot of friction on testing equipment that has be "running fine for years". What alot of people seem to want is just make sure it will heat the house and that the flue vents.

    Just had a snow man with the asbestos removed no insulation put back doors destroyed and could see strait through the two upper sections. Home owner instead I fire it up. I said know way and for them to contact the gas co.

    See what they will do with it.

    Little off topic but you can see why alot of companies don't test and don't want to know.

    Mitch S,

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  • Darrell
    Darrell Member Posts: 303


    If you don't test, you don't know. But, in this society, what you don't know can cost you your business, livelihood, house, truck, tools, clothes, etc. when the owner decides to sue you. As a serviceman, I am responsible...either to ensure that the equipment that I work on is as safe as possible, or to not work on it at all. The testing and record keeping will cover your butt in court...and I promise you they and their Lawyer knows that.

    In the case you mentioned, I'd have walked...after I wrote a report with my findings, took a picture or two, had them sign the invoice detailing what I found and what they refused to have me do. I might not have even charged them for my time. Then, if it is truly unsafe, I'd have called the local gas company to report a hazard situation.

    Yes, we are our brothers keeper. As professionals we take on that responsibility.

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  • The truth about what you can and

    can't do to boilers and furnaces goes beyond what manufacturers will sign on to allow being done. There are a lot of things that will increase the operating efficiency of equipment. I will not get into that here today.

    If only I could get the message across to everyone. I am about to go out of business because of lack of interest in what I teach. The name of the game it seems around here in RI and in some parts of Mass. is don't fix it replace it, new is always better they say and after all gas equipment is factory set and all you have to is pipe it, wire it, fire it and see you later.

    Here in RI it is really getting bad as the gas company does just about nothing anymore. Local contractors do not want to be trained on servicing and combustion issues. They will attend seminars only if there is plenty of brew after and some dog and pony training shows with funny stories. Some charge outlandish flat rate prices that are through the roof and then they still don't fix the problem.

    I need to stop before I say things I do not want to say.
  • Mitch_5
    Mitch_5 Member Posts: 102
    actually not as bleak as you think

    I am always typing that I test upon permission of the owner since the law does not tell me to test. the exception is if the instructions of the mfg tell me to.

    More and more of the new boilers give co, 02 and co2 parameters in that case by the code you must test to set up as per specs.

    The problem is in old equipment were there is no spec or code requirement to test.

    If I go in to change a thermocouple then test find 6000 co and cap the gas line, what right did I have to do that

    Yes it is the moral thing to do but today what is moral and what is legal are two very different things.

    If you can persuade the wholesalers and associations that testing will increase sales maybe testing will be required by law.

    Until then we are in uncharted waters

    Mitch S.

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  • Glenn, I tried to access that

    article and it was not available???
  • Darrell
    Darrell Member Posts: 303


    The question was whether or not an annual preventative boiler check is worth the money. Here is today’s example.

    I went on a no heat call and found a WMC CGI-5 that was in fact stone cold. No pulse, no nothing but a curious smell of burned plastic. The circuit breaker was not tripped. After some troubleshooting and back tracking I discovered that the Amtrol 110 fill valve had failed to maintain the water in the boiler, which caused it to run dry and steam, which took the gaskets and seals out of the Taco three-way, which leaked onto the top of the boiler and through the jacket onto the WMC 1107-1 control board which melted down and puddled on top of the rollout fuse. The onboard limit also failed closed due to water leaking on it but fortunately there was an ECO limit that the steam eventually tripped every time it auto reset. The secondary circulator, a Grundfos 15-42, ran so hot the paint blistered and the plastic end cap melted off before it burned up. The end result after replacing only the failed components and not addressing the inevitable failures of stressed components that he will have through the rest of the winter was a 950.00 dollar bill and a very near miss on a boiler/electrical fire when a comprehensive annual check would have caught the failed fill valve and cost him only about 225.00 total.

    He’s already asked me to come back next year.


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