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Cross Training

Tim McElwain
Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,608
I actually do not like that term. I prefer diversification!!!

It is in this day and age important to look beyond your present area of expertise and learn new things. Relating this to our business that of heating and air conditioning we need to be versed in all different energy sources. I recently encouraged my oil friends to get on board with learning gas. This is part of what I am talking about, that is the need to go beyond just what you are presently doing and expand your abilities and your business. Here locally many oil companies are going into Propane. Interestingly there are also some Propane companies going into oil.

I find many tradesmen are not computer adapted yet. This is an important part of what I am talking about. Learn what is happening in the world of the Internet. Of course many will not read that statement because they are not here.

Learn about alternative energy sources and the equipment that goes along with it. Do not limit yourself as we do not know what the future holds in our rapidly changing industry.

It is time to broaden your horizons and look beyond what you are presently trained to do and learn something new.


  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    About computers.

    I am not in the heating business, but I am interested in the technical aspects of it. I made most of my living with designing electronic digital systems and programming computers was part of that. So I am comfortable with them.

    When I got interested in home heating in a serious way (I had a 1000 gallon oil tank in the ground that was around 30 years old, and an old GE boiler almost 60 years old), I decided to learn about the options and some of the details, so I got John Siegenthaler's book:


    I think it a very fine book. He explains how to do things like computing heat loss, expansion tank size, selecting circulator pumps, etc. And he gives sufficient detail that you can do this with pencil-and-paper. He includes a CD-ROM that contains the Academic Version of his Modern Hydronics Studio. A professional would want the full version, but the Academic Version will give you a taste of how it works. It enables you to do in a few minutes what would take hours with pencil-and-paper methods.

    My guess is if you have no computer and compete with someone who uses one, you would be at a great disadvantage.
  • Frenchie
    Frenchie Member Posts: 113
    New system?

    JD, What do you have for a system now??7
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    What do you have for a system now?

    Right now I have a Weil-McLain Ultra 3 80K BTU/hr natural gas mod|con boiler with outdoor reset, and their 38 gallon indirectly fired hot water heater (replacing an old electric one). The boiler will fire as low as 16K BTU/hr. I had a "whole house" surge protector put into my power panel mainly to protect the control board (U-control) in the boiler.

    There are now two zones (one upstairs and one downstairs), plus a zone for the water heater, in a small (about 1150 sq. ft.) Cape Cod house. Four Taco 007 circulators, one standard and 3 IFCs. Downstairs is 1/2" copper tube in the slab (unknown spacing) for radiant heat, and upstairs is now two pieces of 14' Slant/Fin, one in each of the rooms (wall-to-wall) way more than I would need if I put 180F water through them), but I figured I should try for condensing there, so I am going to start with 140F on the coldest day.

    It will be my first winter, so I suppose I will have to change that around a bit (the reset curve, I mean) to begin with.
  • Frenchie
    Frenchie Member Posts: 113

    Nice job. Sounds like you did a nice upgrade there. I suppose it was a pain to pull that big oil tank out of the ground........ How many gallons/year were you burning before?
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Sounds like you did a nice upgrade there.

    Technically, my contractor did the work.  I sketched out what I thought I wanted, but had their installation manager check it out first. I have only book knowledge about these things, and while book knowledge is important, it is not everything. Experience counts too.

    I picked the contractor first. I knew I wanted gas, not oil, and the gas boilers they handled were all Weil-McLain. I knew I wanted maximum efficiency, and since I had radiant heat in the slab, I thought a mod|con was the way to go. They still could get Ultra 2 models, but I wanted to be able to run three thermostats and get a different water temperature for each, so I had to go with the Ultra 3.

    As far as the pain to remove the 1000 gallon in-ground  oil tank, that was no trouble for

    the sub-contractor and his assistant to get the tank out. They did that in a morning, including refilling the hole. But they detected signs of leakage, so he did 5 soil samples. Three met DEP requirements, but two failed. So I called my insurance co. and one thing lead to another, so the tank is still  sitting there in my front yard awaiting the pleasure of the inurance company who is arguing with my former insurance company, etc., three months later.

    The old boiler used:

    2006 June 14 480.1 gallons $1425.90

    2007 June 23 516.9 gallons $1535.19

    2008 June 16 410.3 gallons $1875.07

    But the old GE had an aquastat that kept the boiler between 130F and 140F all the time (off in the summer) and the new one is cold start and the boiler holds only about 3 quarts of water, so it should use less gallons equivalent.

    The new one heats my hot water using about 10 cubic feet of gas a day. I cannot tell what it will really cost to heat the house, though. Maybe after this coming winter is over. Right now, on the design day, it will put 180F into the hot water heater, 140F into the Slant/Fin upstairs and 120F into the slab downstairs. If I am lucky, I can turn down the upstairs a bit and get condensing all the time except for the domestic hot water. But even there in the summer I get some condensing because it takes only a bit over 5 minutes to recover, and it never actually gets up to 180F in doing so. It gets up to about 170F. If this remains true in the winter, I may reduce the 180F to 170F and see if I still get fast enough recovery.
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