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Can't afford yearly $6k oil bill, Aquasmart "lockout cancel" error

coldinPA
coldinPA Member Posts: 7
As my username suggests- we are cold in PA. Our oil provides heat and hot water to a 2400 sq ft house and the bill is roughly $6000 per year. We can't afford to heat the house any longer- it's about $750-800 every 5/6 weeks, 3 seasons a year and the summer is not much better. After some research I realized we have a few problems...
- The basement is always VERY warm, the warmest room in the house, even with a window that is always open (no glass, husband has had it on the to do list for years). Despite this, basement is a sauna all year. So, we are producing the heat but it's just not reaching the upstairs.
-I think the boiler is oversized. My husband made these exact boilers at a previous job and this is one of the biggest ones he seen.
-Lastly the boiler is a hot start system. Unfortunately it is also a tankless coil. I would like to convert it to a coldstart and add an indirect tank, so I was running a test by disabling the low limit on the Beckett aquasmart and calling for heat from the thermostat to see whether or not the boiler will leak while frequently starting from low temperatures. This leads me to my latest problem…
- Ever since starting this cold start test, the relief valve has been pouring out water when starting from cold temperatures.
-Even more confusing is that the Aquasmart has now started to malfunction. It is reading "lockout cancel". Per the manual this means the cancel button was held for longer than five seconds..but the cancel button was never held. Sometimes the Aquasmart stays locked out for hours on end and then all of a sudden comes back on for about 2 to 3 seconds and then dies, reading "lock out cancel". When it starts to cycle of on and off, it will do this indefinitely until I disable the burner.

Good news however, is the boiler itself has not yet leaked so there is hope and converting our existing boiler, Peerless EC4, to a coldstart. If anyone has any insight please let me know. I plan to call HVAC tech tomorrow but would like some information to go on first.

Comments

  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,876
    The relief valve is dumping either because your fill pressure/ valve is too high or malfunctioning, or more likely, there's a problem with your expansion tank. It's either water-logged or too small. By starting cold, a lot more expansion takes place and a larger space is needed to accept it.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    coldinPA
  • coldinPA
    coldinPA Member Posts: 7
    That's very helpful thanks. It makes sense because we had the relief valve leak when the boiler was hot start and ran out of oil.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,966
    And why is the basement so warm? Is there radiation down there? Poorly insulated pipes? That's the question I'd be asking myself. It sounds to me that the place to start will be to get the heat which you are paying for upstairs to where you need it...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    coldinPA
  • coldinPA
    coldinPA Member Posts: 7
    Yea it is HOT down there- uncomfortably so, even in the single digits. The basement has no radiators, zero wall insulation, an open window... So even with a boiler running it should never be that hot. There is some heat coming off the un-insulated pipes, but surprisingly not much, but once you get over to the boiler, it's like the surface of the sun. To me, this seems like more than what I've heard called "standby losses."

    I've been speculating the boiler is oversized and the pipes are too small/ too low btu per second to transport the high heat being produced. Also it doesn't help the thing runs all the time to keep h20 up to temp even with no calls for heat, which is why I want to convert to cold start.

    Also, forgot to mention, last winter we closed off the entire upstairs, so the bulk of the $6000 heating bill was from heating the 1200 sq ft downstairs only and limited hot water usage.
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    how about some pictures of the system? may be a good place to start..
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,966
    Something really needs to be investigated much more carefully. It's unlikely that standby losses -- even from a really oversized boiler -- could be a major part of the problem. That is, assuming that the boiler's block insulation is intact and the boiler is running even close to a decent tuneup.

    One thing that comes to mind, though it seems a little unlikely -- how long has it been since the boiler was properly cleaned and adjusted by a competent tech, using instruments? That boiler should run at least in the mid 70s for efficiency. However, it would be possible for a poorly adjusted boiler to run far less than that -- which could account for some of the excess fuel usage.

    Though not for the overheated basement with no heat source other than the boiler. You need to do some creative thinking on that one.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    coldinPA
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    edited October 2018
    There is something seriously wrong here. We need to see some pictures of your boiler and piping. Have you ever had a qualified professional look at the system? It sounds like all the controls, any pumps and the system in general needs to be evaluated. It also sounds like the thermostat is calling for heat and the boiler is running to produce that heat but it is not being moved into the areas above the basement. The question is why??? As long as the thermostat isn't satisfied, the boiler will continue to run. Until that is figured out, the best you can hope for is more of what you have now, the worst is potentially a fire. Get someone in there to find and fix the problem. No boiler should feel like the "surface of the sun" or even the surface of a hot plate.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,016
    @coldinpa, By all means a few pictures will be a great help. Sounds like trouble to me . They say a picture is worth 1000 words. I have a feeling these may be worth 2000 words
    coldinPA
  • coldinPA
    coldinPA Member Posts: 7
    Thanks for all the replies, here is what I’m working with.

    -The Aquasmart “lockout cancel” seems to somehow be a result of disabling the low limit as that is when the problem began. The error can be cleared by pushing “enter” but quickly returns to lockout, unless a call for heat is immediately placed.
    -Husband is in one of the photos, he’s 6ft for size reference of the unit.

    -There is a thermostat upstairs and downstairs (hence the two taco pumps I guess?) Although please note the size difference in pipes attached to tacos... one is half inch and the other an inch. Also, why do we have SR501 taco control that says 1 Zone with two thermostats, wouldn’t that be two zones?

    - The boiler is hot to the touch when running as a hot start. By surface of the sun, I mean standing near the boiler, you feel more than uncomfortably warm even in midwinter, meanwhile upstairs is uncomfortably cold. I have a high tolerance for hot temps and even I can’t be near the boiler too long while it’s running.

    - 3 seasons a year, an oil delivery of exactly 218 gallons comes every 5/6 weeks.

    Lastly please be patient with my lack of heating knowledge :) I have spent 20 hrs plus trying to learn the basics and reading forums. I need to be able to make some educated decisions about what needs done and I appreciate all the help I can get. Even though my husband welded furnaces and boilers for three years, his experience does not extend past fabrication, of which he is very knowledgeable, but that’s of little use when troubleshooting the current problem.
  • coldinPA
    coldinPA Member Posts: 7
    Forgot these...also some equipment details:

    Taco SR501
    1 Zone

    Beckett Aquasmart 7600
    Low limit- disabled
    High 175
    Diff 10

    Peerless EC 4 -Hot water is tankless coil but will be installing either indirect tank or hybrid electric hot water tank.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,765
    Perhaps you have no pump running.
    The basement could be heated only by gravity flow from the boiler.
    With the boiler feeling like the sun there may not be any water flowing.
    coldinPA
  • coldinPA
    coldinPA Member Posts: 7
    Thanks JUGHNE, the finned radiators upstairs do get warm, but nothing compared to the heat output in the basement. Is it possible for the pumps to be circulating less water then they should? It never really gets comfortably warm upstairs. It's an old house, but has storm windows and frost king plastic, so weatherproofing steps have been taken.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,765
    edited October 2018
    It looks like you have 3 pumps. Are they all pumping down into the boiler. Look for the arrows on the pump castings.
    Your Taco zone controller...1 zone??

    How many T-stats in the house?
  • coldinPA
    coldinPA Member Posts: 7
    edited October 2018
    Yes, the arrows point downwards! I never noticed those before, but they are pointing down back into the boiler. I only see two pumps (pictured) where is the third? And I assume the “1zone” written on the Taco means it handles only one zone? We have two thermostats however.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,765
    I was wrong, I though I saw 3 pumps.
    One pump is controlled by the Taco zone control.
    The other looks connected to the Aquasmart control.

    Another set of arrows to look at are the flow check devices on the supply riser pipe. The arrows show inlet and options of outlet.
  • wrooper
    wrooper Member Posts: 58
    You can tell if a circulator is running/spinning by holding a long screwdriver against your ear/the circulator body.

    I too, suspect your water is not circulating and it could be something as simple as an airlock in your system.[needs air bleeding]
    Jim_R
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,690
    My house is probably a little bigger than yours, outside Philly, well insulated, indirect-I burned about 900 gallons last year-all t'stats set for 70°.
    You need to have someone come over and evaluate how much heat you need, what you have there, is it working/sized correctly.
    Has your boiler been properly cleaned/tuned.
    And tighten up your building envelope. Looks like a very old house, don't know if its well insulated (walls, attic), new/old windows, etc.
    steve
  • Leonard
    Leonard Member Posts: 903
    edited October 2018
    Do you always keep the insulated cover off side of furnace? I see constant heat loss without it, likely why you can't stand near it long. Maybe not whole story on fuel use though.

    How old is house? Any insulation in walls/ceiling? 0, 2, 4, 8 inches? Wood deck cellar ceiling reminds me of grandma's 120 year old house that had NO insulation in walls /ceiling/cellar.

    Just for comparison I've got a 60 year house with 60 year old oil burner/ boiler. Rooms are ~ 73 degs, have 8 inches insulation in ceiling, 2 in walls, 0 in floor and cellar. I'm in southern NH and I burn 1200-1500 gal/yr to heat 1500 SF on 1 floor, unheated attic, unfinished cement cellar is ~ 60 degs in Feb just from heat leakage off uninsulated pipes. Domestic HW coil in furnace water jacket.

    But my furnace is ~ 60 years old, so not very efficient, yours is likely better. And mine is oversized, only runs 50% duty cycle in coldest night ( -8 degs) with mild wind outside

    Just rationing up by square footage, If I had 2400 SF I'ld guess I'ld burn ~ 1900-2400 gal/yr , at $2.80/gal would be $5300 - $6700 /yr

    In summer with no heating for ~ 3 months my furnace burns ~ 0.9 to 1.0 gal/day to keep it ready to produce domestic hot water, 2 older people. (two 10 minute HOT showers/day are responsible for 0.25 gal/day of that number, 3 GPM water flow, Feb water temp rise 42 ---> 101 degs, measured at shower head).