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gas pressure diagnosis

GW
GW Member Posts: 4,304
I've been watching the AO Smith commercial water heater thread. Question if I may, what diagnostic tools are out there to watch drops in gas pressure? How do we catch the gas supply drooping and causing grief? How about power fluctuations?

I love the trade, we are front and center of people having heat and hot water. If power or fuel fluctuates, we get to go do battle with a ghost.

Thanks for any comments

Gary
Gary Wilson
Wilson Services, Inc
Northampton, MA
[email protected]
kcopp

Comments

  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,037
    I would think a gas pressure data logger would be a critical meter to own and use these days..

    With so many gas pressure fluctuations in main lines these days, how do you prove adequate pressure at the appliance under all conditions?

    I think Dickson and others offer pressure dataloggers.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    Right on Thanks, how about electrical?
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 6,992
    http://www.onsetcomp.com/

    I have some of their temp/hum sensors and a 4channel module for thermocouples.
    Great products!
    I see they have gas pressure and CTs for electrical.
    It would be great to be able to have real world Data for resolving the tough ones...
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    yes thanks Z, I was using Hobo's about 10 years ago for temp/humid, very good stuff. I'll look into it for gas and elec. This is like life insurance (or any insurance), a waste of money until it's needed!
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    looks like Dickson has 100 psi for their lowest increment, anything for inches of wc?

    I presume there would be liability when attaching such a device? Any AGA approved pressure monitors out there?
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    FWIW,

    If you are going to look into Data Loggers, you need to consider what you are getting. Whatever the method of logging and recording, Analog types will do a better job of they record continuously and print continuously. Digitals can't be as accurate because they take examples in time. Not continuously like Analogs. There are things you can do with an analog meter that you simply can not do with a digital. On single cylinder engines without electronic ignition but have ignition points, you can set the timing with an analog ohm meter but not with a digital one. You can't catch the either/or, or "Mr. In Between". If you are looking for peak amperage, just before a one time fuse blows, you can get the maximum amperage with an analog meter but only approximate with a Digital.

    Any fool can make a water heater work. But the most expensive digital electronic equipment can miss the problem because what is happening to cause the faults is happening infrequently, and under conditions that they haven't figured out yet.

    While the highly paid engineers and executives at AO Smith are taking the high speed, high altitude, flying in comfort attitude in the Corporate Jets, the solution will come from the short bus passengers on the ground. In seats covered with the hides of the Nauga.

    And if one who rides on the short bus finds the solution to the AO Smith problem, the high flying jet setters won't believe you, but come to the same conclusion later.

    Because they're smart and we're not.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    Ice, i hear that. what is it's a gas pressure or elec issue? We are then barking up the wrong tree
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,317
    We have some SUPCO data loggers. Not sure if they do gas and or electric.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    When I was just starting up, I had an issue with a HB Smith 19A-12 boiler. Something like 1.6MBH On very cold mornings, the powerflame burner would fail to light. After troubleshooting for a couple days, I decided I'd be there in the morning at 5AM when the system went from night setback to day. Ending up seeing that gas pressure at the meter was about 1" w.c. Called up gas company, they wouldn't believe me. When I would call them at 5AM, they wouldn't show up until 6 or so, and by then gas pressure was fine again. So I went low-tech. I ended up videotaping the gas pressure gauge and sending that to the area supervisor. They ended up tearing out the 100 year old low pressure gas main and found that ground water had infiltrated and was freezing in the line, cutting the available supply during high demand times (ie. everyone was coming out of night setback).
    GWicesailorkcopp
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,317

    Abracadabra Posts: 886Member ✭✭✭

    11:31AM



    That's a good catch. I had three jobs in a remote town with 3 similar burners. Lockouts on all of them in cold weather. They were all firing natural gas (1 was comb gas/oil) all Power Flames. We had been through these burners several times and found nothing. The clue was one job was comb. gas/oil and the oil would lock out too. So we figured it was ignition because it was a gas pilot.

    All 3 had 6000 volt ignition transformers. Ripped them off and installed 8500 volt transformers. Never was called back for any failures. Found out that the Gas Co would dump propane into the natural gas supply when they had trouble keeping the pressure up in cold weather. The added propane with the NG orfice in the pilot made it tough to light the pilots.
    icesailorkcopp
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    gotta love that one, isn't it great??? We get to tell the higher ups they are wrong and here's why. Good job Vanguard Co!
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,317
    http://www.microdaq.com/images/microdaq.png

    Goggle "The Data Logger Store"
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    GW said:

    looks like Dickson has 100 psi for their lowest increment, anything for inches of wc?

    Dwyer 616 series is pretty affordable. Haven't tried them on gas yet.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    When I was just starting up, I had an issue with a HB Smith 19A-12 boiler. Something like 1.6MBH On very cold mornings, the powerflame burner would fail to light. After troubleshooting for a couple days, I decided I'd be there in the morning at 5AM when the system went from night setback to day. Ending up seeing that gas pressure at the meter was about 1" w.c. Called up gas company, they wouldn't believe me. When I would call them at 5AM, they wouldn't show up until 6 or so, and by then gas pressure was fine again. So I went low-tech. I ended up videotaping the gas pressure gauge and sending that to the area supervisor. They ended up tearing out the 100 year old low pressure gas main and found that ground water had infiltrated and was freezing in the line, cutting the available supply during high demand times (ie. everyone was coming out of night setback).

    I've seen the same with electricity. Especially once on an unbalanced three phase outside in the circuit covering the area, in a single phase building. Or secondary electrical with undersized transformers.

    Back to basics.

  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,037
    Or get an accurate low pressure gauge and point a camera at it for a day or so.

    I'm not sure how else you prove to the gas utility that mod con lock-outs are being caused by their inability to supply adequate pressure, under high demand conditions.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    GW said:

    Ice, i hear that. what is it's a gas pressure or elec issue? We are then barking up the wrong tree

    GW:

    It takes three things to support combustion.
    Heat
    Fuel
    Oxygen.

    If any one is off, no combustion.

    With standing pilot water heaters, all the thermocouple does is sense the heat of the pilot flame. If it is hot, it holds the magnet in place and the gas can light. As long as there is heat on the thermocouple, it works. Everything on the AO Smith water heater is based on that same principle. Everything in any water heater or boiler is based on that basic principal.

    Like any Oil Burner, everything starts at the service switch and ends up letting the fuel go down to the nozzle to burn. No burn, no run. Every safety is a switch. Every switch must be closed. With complex equipment, the brain interprets how the switches are acting. Brains get "Brain Damaged" and can't do their jobs.

  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    When I was with the gas company we would install a chart good for 30 days on trouble systems to record pressure during that period we also had charts good for just one week.

    I also remember the electric company back then with similar charts showing voltage and amperage recording for 7 days or 30 days.

    Check with the local utility engineering division and see what they use today.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    Thanks Tim, I do recall the elec co setting up a monitor on a particular home several years ago. I've never seen or heard of the gas co doing this. I fear I would be like the peasant asking the king to be sent a nice beef dinner though, I would prefer to have the diagnostic tools myself.

    I recall a job where I found extreme over pressure in the gas causing not one but two burned out, sooted up boilers. This was maybe 5 years ago, in a 1990s development. The gas co field tech/manager quite frankly didn't believe me. The home owner went on to boiler #3 through a local community program, so I don't know how the current state of the system.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    Ice, yes I understand. My question is based on what happens when power or fuel intermittently goes outside of normal parameters.

    Air would be on the techs shoulders, nothing to do with a utility co.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,304
    HR, yes this crossed my mind, a bit of liability though? The manufacturer of the manometer say it's ok to leave the gage hooked up unattended?
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,037
    GW said:

    HR, yes this crossed my mind, a bit of liability though? The manufacturer of the manometer say it's ok to leave the gage hooked up unattended?

    Good thought, maybe Tim's idea of the utility taking responsibility for the test
    It would be nice to have your own data, however.

    I had a utility data long some dirty power once, all I got back was "It's within our spec"

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    @Tim McElwain:

    When I was with the gas company we would install a chart good for 30 days on trouble systems to record pressure during that period we also had charts good for just one week.

    I also remember the electric company back then with similar charts showing voltage and amperage recording for 7 days or 30 days.

    Check with the local utility engineering division and see what they use today.

    Back in the last Century, I became acquainted with the instruments that our local power company used as "recording Voltmeters". I was on the end of a too long secondary power line, myself and a few others. One evening, I noticed that the lights would rhythmically dim. Like the descending bounce of a basketball. Strong on the first bounce, but getting rhythmically less so over a period of 2 or 3 seconds or so. It was really annoying when you tried to read. I complained to the power company. They reluctantly installed recording voltmeters on the pole to my service. Nothing recorded. They gleefully told me that there was nothing there. Of course not. It wasn't doing it 24/7, just occasionally. And the recording voltmeters ran on a clock timer, and a stylus put a mark on the paper every few seconds or more than this. Like the tick and tock of a clock. They could never come up with a solution because they didn't believe it was a problem. They took to calling me "Blinky". It slowly went away. Only to come back a few more times until they ran Primary into the area and I got my own transformer. It must be something common in Power Distribution because I see it in Florida on occasion. I know it is something, because my surge protectors/power units for my electronics are always clicking on and off.

    If you are working in any area where they have old direct burial primary cable, that isn't now in conduit, be careful. A tick tracer and a Multi-meter can save your butt. Ever seen one of those "Thumper" things in action that they use to find breaks in buried primary cables? Makes you glad that you were far enough away when the Thump came that you didn't have to change your shorts.

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,317
    Lots of stray voltage running through the ground. You can shut the power off to a house and still have power running through your water pipe ground that you can read with an amprobe.

    Classic example of a loose neutral or how your neighbors house can burn yours down
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,976
    icesailor said:

    FWIW,

    If you are going to look into Data Loggers, you need to consider what you are getting. Whatever the method of logging and recording, Analog types will do a better job of they record continuously and print continuously. Digitals can't be as accurate because they take examples in time. Not continuously like Analogs. There are things you can do with an analog meter that you simply can not do with a digital. On single cylinder engines without electronic ignition but have ignition points, you can set the timing with an analog ohm meter but not with a digital one. You can't catch the either/or, or "Mr. In Between". If you are looking for peak amperage, just before a one time fuse blows, you can get the maximum amperage with an analog meter but only approximate with a Digital.

    Any fool can make a water heater work. But the most expensive digital electronic equipment can miss the problem because what is happening to cause the faults is happening infrequently, and under conditions that they haven't figured out yet.

    While the highly paid engineers and executives at AO Smith are taking the high speed, high altitude, flying in comfort attitude in the Corporate Jets, the solution will come from the short bus passengers on the ground. In seats covered with the hides of the Nauga.

    And if one who rides on the short bus finds the solution to the AO Smith problem, the high flying jet setters won't believe you, but come to the same conclusion later.

    Because they're smart and we're not.

    This is extremely inaccurate information.

    When it comes to digital instruments it's true they are not continuous, but the amount of samples one takes can be extremely high.

    For example, if you take 1024 samples per second there is no way you would be able to tell the difference between that and analog. In fact, I bet you couldn't tell the difference between 100 samples per second and analog.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    I have a lot of experience with the subject. You can't time a Kohler K-181 thumper engine with a digital ohm meter, but you can with an analog one, and you can't catch a rising amperage when the breaker of fuse blows with a digital amp-clamp but you can with a analog clamp. As far as recording voltmeters, I'm talking 1950's, 1960's technology. It didn't record accurately for spikes like earthquake sensors. It was designed to pick up long occurring peaks and valleys in the form of voltage drop. It wasn't capable of accurately recording "Spikes" which was the problem. I'm not saying that the equipment isn't there. They have the proper equipment to do it.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    Lots of stray voltage running through the ground. You can shut the power off to a house and still have power running through your water pipe ground that you can read with an amprobe.

    Classic example of a loose neutral or how your neighbors house can burn yours down

    Interesting that you would bring that up. I ran into that and was flat out told that I was wrong, along with my Sparky who had spent years working Commercial Wiring in California on big jobs like Nuke plants.

    I had a water heater stop working. The QO 30 breaker croaked. It wouldn't reset. So with the breaker off, I started to TS the heater. My trick tracer said I had voltage on the tank. That should not be. Not wanting to be found between that voltage and wherever it wanted to go, I called my friend Sparky. Who came immediately with a new QO-30 breaker. He also found the Hot Tank extremely worrying. To call the power supplier, you had to call a 800 number that was answered like a 911 call and someone with headphones decided if the call was important and how many days someone had to wait before someone could be scheduled to take a look. Sparky had the number of the head linesman at the local office, and he was there with a crew in 10 minutes. They resolved it by installing a "Trap" on the neutral at the transformer in front of the house. I guess the "Trap" was like a check valve for water. Is that like a fuse? I thought that fused neutrals were bad things.

    A number of years before, they ran a new set of 3 phase 60+ KV primaries, direct buried, parallel to this subdivision about 1/8 mile away. The direct buried primary (with the outside wire ground) had been blowing out with more and more frequency. I brought up the same issue that you just mentioned about the electricity looking for grounds, but as usual, I was treated like an idiot. It can never happen. 6 months later, the direct buried primary was replaced and put in conduit. It seemed that ALL the direct buried primary was being replaced and being put in PVC conduit.

    Oh yeah. And this location is next to a glacial river moraine where the ground is full of iron, and cell reception is almost non-existent. And if you want to watch cool lightning, watch from a distance.

    Way back many years ago in the big inning of Heating Help.com, someone posted a query on the wall about a 40,000 sq.ft new wood shop they were doing with radiant tube. It had a 440 volt 3 phase service but during construction, they only had one single phase working. The heater guy was told that there were sparks flying off pipe conduits onto the wire concrete mesh. Why? As I remember, there were at least 4 qualified Submariners who had the answer. That all subs have 3 phase (Electric Boats) and if you don't keep your phases together and equal, you might bore a hole through the boat and sink it. That Submarines have interesting ways to shift power around to balance loads. Critical for survival and good health.

    I wish I had that discussion to have been able to send it to some.

  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,976
    icesailor said:

    I have a lot of experience with the subject. You can't time a Kohler K-181 thumper engine with a digital ohm meter, but you can with an analog one, and you can't catch a rising amperage when the breaker of fuse blows with a digital amp-clamp but you can with a analog clamp. As far as recording voltmeters, I'm talking 1950's, 1960's technology. It didn't record accurately for spikes like earthquake sensors. It was designed to pick up long occurring peaks and valleys in the form of voltage drop. It wasn't capable of accurately recording "Spikes" which was the problem. I'm not saying that the equipment isn't there. They have the proper equipment to do it.

    Kohler K series.... of course you had to pick a softspot of mine eh? :)
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited March 2015
    There is a common misconception that electric current follows the path of least resistance. In truth, takes available paths in proportion to their respective resistances (technically impedance or AC resistance for this case.) This is why your return current (neutral) and your next door neighbor's each pass (in part) through the grounding electrode system on their way to the ground rod at the utility transformer or pole. When one or more of those paths develops undesirable resistance, the current in the other paths increases proportionally. The result when the neutral is or becomes inadequate can be a back feed from the associated grounding electrode through the soil to the neighbor's grounding electrode and then back up the neighbor's neutral to the utility return.
    icesailor said:

    if you don't keep your phases together and equal, you might bore a hole through the boat and sink it.

    The NEC has some rather specific language about keeping conductors together, most especially when they are enclosed in ferrous metal enclosures or raceways.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    @Swei:

    The NEC has some rather specific language about keeping conductors together, most especially when they are enclosed in ferrous metal enclosures or raceways.

    I'm sure that they do. The subdivision was 1980's, direct burial. The later 60_ KVA was 2000. Direct buried primary and secondary was supposed to last 300 to 50years, buried. In practice, Primary with outside ground wires have been failing in 15 + years. And electrical vibration in the wire and the ground can sure help a rock to puncture the insulation. When the power company accepted direct burial primaries 30 to50 years ago, they accepted them forever. Now, they laugh if you tried to get them to accept direct burial primaries. You should see a 2400 volt primary run in a 1920's subdivision, run in lead primary.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    Lets make it more complicated than it needs to be. I was not suggesting having the utility do the collecting. I was suggesting asking them for the equipment they use and how to obtain it. It is by the way very simple equipment. I have hooked it up many times as a gas service man. Seeing that we have National Grid up here in the northeast and they own both gas and electric I am sure they can direct you to what they use.

    If you need a contact at NG I can help you out.