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Oil burner tuning, Nozzle sizing help

RffffffffRffffffff Member Posts: 5
Long winded multi part question.... Beware!

I recently had oil burner issues, found clogged filter, bad aqua stat, sooted up boiler and a clogged oil line. Other than that it was okay. :)

After all was said and done, the thing runs, but I am 100% sure it's not tuned properly or operating efficiently.

A few questions: the boiler itself has a 1.50 gph 60 degree solid nozzle rating on the sticker. The oil burner has a (new) .85 80 B nozzle in it, and I'm wondering if that's too small. The second part of that question is that I am experiencing 2-3 minute cycle times with maybe 10-15 minutes off, which I think is a problem too. Is it just that the boiler is way too big for the house? (10 degree differential fixed, I think, 180 degree setting- 4019-1013 Honeywell aqua stat)

If so, how much oil am I wasting here, and should I think about buying a properly sized boiler in order to save money?

Second, this thing needs to be tuned regardless... I am willifng to buy the tools to do it with the exception of a combustion analyzer, and I know that I should get it professionally tuned but I can hardly afford it... How much headway can I make tuning it myself with a manometer and an ohm meter on the cad cell? Is there a cheap way to do smoke readings? Any tips for making it as good as I can without spending boatloads of money that I don't have?

Disclaimers: I know I can kill myself, have and will take precautions against CO, and am a very experienced field service engineer on non combustion related equipment, so im not a complete idiot. I am fully aware that I should have a pro tune the thing, but I can't do that right now an would like the best advice I can get in the meantime! Thanks for the help!


  • ChasManChasMan Member Posts: 353
    edited January 2012
    You need...

    To mess with that nozzle, you’re going to need a pressure gauge and any time you mess with the pressure and nozzle, you’re going to need at minimum a lot of experience. With no experience you will need to do some reading and buy a smoke tester, CO2 tester, Draft gauge. You didn't say what boiler / furnace / burner / venting set up you have. You will need that info. Was it a conversion? Perhaps the burner got lifted from another unit and that’s why the nameplate is wrong. For the inexperienced, many suggest this. Clean the unit fireside, flue, chimney etc. Set it to factory spec, pressure, air nozzle, spark gap, z dimension, everything. Set up the draft, knock the air down a couple of notches, set the draft again, take a smoke test, Got Smoke? Open the air 1/2 notch at a time till you get no smoke. No Smoke? Good, take a 25 pull smoke test.. just a trace or less? Good, take a CO2 test. Adjust from there. It is a lot of fiddly stuff and the tools are costly. I’ve spent a couple of thousand on tools but then I am nuts. I think the cheapest you could get away with would be about 500.00 and that’s if you get a good deal on everything and you won’t be able to test for CO or 02 and many feel that is essential. With just a cad cell smoke test, you could end up way out. Most modern burners will not produce smoke across a wide band And I mean wide, from burn the head off the burner hot, to fill your house with soot cold. C02 test is mandatory. You can get a C02 tester on Ebay for 50 bucks sometimes, just need to buy a rebuild kit for it.. like 50 bucks I think.
  • RffffffffRffffffff Member Posts: 5

    Thats pretty much exactly the info I was looking for... I am sure I can figure this out given enough time and a good book or three, but I am unsure if buying the tools is a good idea or really a waste of money, in some sense... I always buy the tools and do it myself, but with something like this I figure I would really only need to use them once every few years at max.... its hard to decide if its worth it or if I should just figure out how to pay for someone to set it up right once...

    how often do these things drift or need readjustment if I am changing the nozzle, cleaning the strainer, brushing out the boiler and changing the filter once a year?

    I dont have the specifics, but its a beckett burner that I would guess is 10-15 years old, but thats going by looks and nothing else... the boiler I couldnt even guess on age, but it seems like its a little older, perhaps... no coil, external hot water heater, no power vent or anything like that, straight to the chimney, feeding baseboard heaters.

    I'll figure out whats exactly there and fill in the details when I get home.
  • ChasManChasMan Member Posts: 353

    There is no set timing that you follow for sweeping. Like anything else, you clean it when it gets dirty. I do mine three times a year. I replace the nozzel once a year, primary filter once a year, secondary filter evety two years. I only set the burner combustion twice a year. Once in the spring when it warms up and once in January when it gets cold.  My burner / boiler is twitchy though. For a setup like yours, anual D&C is probably enough.  You need to check the adjustment when you replace the nozzel. Thats what makes it drift.. well, that and the burner wearing out, how do you know the pump is working if you don;t test it? A bad fuel pump might show up as no heat or hard start.. In my earlier post, I didn;t mention Gross stack / Net stack temp calculation if you want to know the efficiency. So, you need a thermometer. They are like 60 bucks for a decent one I think. If it were me, Id just pay the 200 / year service charge and be done with it on those old beasts. I might change the fuel filter myself. I have been forced to do it myself cause I can;lt find anyone who is competent in my area that will spend more than 20 minutes on it for less than 500.00. And nobody has a digital analyzer either so I bought my own. More of a hobby than anything else. Like I said, I am nutz. Find your boiler service manual, good place to start.
  • RffffffffRffffffff Member Posts: 5
    thanks again...

    I have a fluke 87 with a temp gauge and a $3000 calibrated heise gauge for work that can check temp and pressure, so I can check the pump and temps pretty easily with what I have...

    I wonder if heise makes any combustion analyzer modules for my gauge? Interesting thought.

    The reason this all started is because my girlfriend had a service contract on it and they werent doing a goddamn thing to it... I dont even think they changed the filter based on how dirty it was, and the clogged to the teeth boiler certainly wasnt cleaned in forever. I am having my doubts about finding someone who will actually come out with the tools and do the job right, and thats why I am considering buying the tools myself... I'm kinda nuts too, but the guy I had in here was worthless and the "good" guy that everyone likes checks the damper with a piece of paper because he's old school. terrific... just what I need. The service people that I have seen are so bad that its hard to not buy the tools...

    we'll see...
  • ChasManChasMan Member Posts: 353
    I here ya.

    Yeah, been there. To tell you the truth though. THe equipment is so crude that all you can do is dial it in close. You have a burner made by company A which is basically a nozzel firing a stream of fuel under high pressure into a steel hole. The adjustments are very crude, just a slot that allows the fan to pick up air. They couldn;t even be bothered to use a seperate mtor for the air and the pump. THen, you wind up having the draft set with a little flappy POS that can;t adjust worth crap. I think these guys have seen so many units they just set em by eye because if they are any good at it, they can get it within 95% of where you would end up anyways. Cleaning is important though. It makes a big difference in fuel usage..
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Oil Burner Problems:

    I have been doing plumbing and heating for over 40 years. That includes oil burners. Where I work, there are some who will call me for their very worst stumpers which I gladly help for my personal challenge and experience. I love a challenge.

    I know exactly what your problems are. They are simple and many and easily fixed. The person you have used is clueless but probably a nice guy. From your questions, you in no way, have the expertise to solve your problems. As simple as they are.

    What you are contemplating doing, will not resolve your issue. If you had said what the root problem was, I would know. You don't. A combustion analyzer won't help you. My 30+ Bachrach oil wet kit would tell  but you wouldn't be able to interpret the problem. And my Bachrach Insight would too but the old one will do as well.

    Call a really competent Professional that has a digital analyzer. If he/she doesn't have one, find someone who does.
  • RffffffffRffffffff Member Posts: 5
    my problems...

    The difference between me and most people is that I'll stop at almost nothing to acquire the information I need in order to fix things... I too am the one that people usually call when they can't figure something out, but in a different industry.

    The root problem with all of this is sludge in the tank and having a bottom gravity feed from the tank to the boiler. The aquastat failure was an added bonus caused mainly by component age and repeated cycles of the AC to the aquastat during the process of cleaning the burner, etc.

    I have temporarily rectified the oil supply problem by running a new, open line and the control no longer locks out, but I have no faith that the nozzle is the right size, the burner is tuned properly or that I am not sooting up the boiler again currently...

    I am going to run a heat loss calculation on the house, determine the amount of heat necessary and determine the correct nozzle size and pump pressure, make sure that all of that is compatible with the burner and boiler itself, tune the system or have it tuned properly if I can find someone to do it for a reasonable price and then figure out if I should switch to a top feed supply line in order to limit future problems.

    so, I have a plan. :) let me know if you think I am barking up the wrong tree. Any advice other than 'call a professional' would be appreciated!!! the professionals that have been here have soured me on that idea for the moment.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    If you read around, you have read me railing against crappy filtration. Your set-up is the poster child for my rant. Add a spin-on with a vacuum gauge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your controller. It is doing what it is supposed to do. Shut the burner off when there is no flame. If you hadn't installed that new canister filter without a place to put a vacuum gauge, and installed a spin-on type with a vacuum gauge, you would have seen that the longer the burner ran, the higher the vacuum pressure would go until you probably heard a "Vacuum Whine" and the flame went out. Then, the burner would go off after 15 seconds with that control.

    If you do as you say, and you have something electrical that is giving you a problem and it is a motor, do you put an amp clamp on the motor to see the amp draw? A multimeter to check the voltage? A vacuum gauge is like an amp clamp.

    The vacuum gauge will show you the restriction from the pump to inside the tank. Its so simple, that its stupid.

    Don't worry about the heat loss. Its not part of your problem.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,336
    edited January 2012
    When you say

    "the professionals that have been here have soured me on that idea for the moment"

    that tells me you really haven't had real "professionals" service the unit yet. Most fuel suppliers are so focused on selling as much fuel as they can that they won't make the effort to tune it properly- there is no incentive to do so. This is true of gas companies as well as oil. We tell our customers who have oil-fired equipment to buy oil strictly on price and have us do the service. Our servicing costs more but the lesser fuel consumption usually makes it up.

    Tell us where you are, and I'll bet we can point you to someone close who can do the job right. The first time it will probably cost more because they have to make up for the years of neglect, but after that it should level off.

    And when you find someone who is good, stay with them!

    What make and model is the boiler?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited January 2012
    You said it all!!!

    Absolutely correct Steamhead.

    In Spades.
  • RffffffffRffffffff Member Posts: 5
    You're right!

    I completely agree that the 'professionals' were not professional!

    The good news is that I had a family friend over, who has serviced boilers since 1960 or something like that, and he went over it a bit, thinks its fine, changed the nozzle again and tuned it by eye, so I have a feeling that its fairly close at the moment. I am not sure how much oil I am wasting, but I am short on funds as usual, so I doubt I am going to have it professionally tuned at this point, but if you know anyone on eastern long island (new york) that does it right I would love his number!

    The burner is a beckett RWB, the boiler is a thermo-dynamics thermo-val that seemingly no one has heard of, 150,000 btus, rated for a 1.50 60 A nozzle. right now it has an .85 80 B nozzle in it, still running 3 minute cycles at 180.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,336
    edited January 2012
    Call Thermo-Dynamics

    they should be able to send you a copy of the manual for that boiler. Then whoever you have working on it can use it to set the unit up properly- NOT setting it by eye, that's no good no matter how long you've been doing this. Seriously, for a true pro an analyzer is mandatory these days, for legal and other reasons, and for a pro the cost of the unit is spread out over a whole bunch of customers.

    What is the model number of your boiler (Thermo-Val doesn't show in my Beckett guide)?

    And who from the Isle of Long will step up to properly service this unit? I'd do it, but coming from Baltimore would add too much travel time to the bill ;-)
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
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