Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

Combustion analyzer help

FortyTwo
FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
edited February 2020 in Oil Heating
Hello,

I'm a landlord with a few buildings and looking to learn how to do combustion analysis to be able to check on and tune my boilers more frequently. I'm looking for some beginners guide type help with what I should purchase and any material that could be valuable to a beginner to start me off.

I was thinking of getting the testo 310 and a smoke pump tester but I was just reading some specs and saw the testo 310 is preset for 5 fuel types, #2 oil being one of them but it did not list #4 oil. I do have one #4 oil burner, will this not work and I should be looking at something else?

I have:

Smith #19-8 boiler with Carlin 702crd running #2 oil.
Rockmills tube boiler with Carlin burning #2 oil.
Federal fst-50 boiler with internal combustion burner running #4 oil.

I don't mind spending for the right product but don't want to over/under spend.

Thoughts? Thank you!

Comments

  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,208
    IMO you're already under spending by not having a 24 hr mechanical company service agreement. I don't know what you want to achieve by having your own analyzer. I would also think someone would have to carry a license to work on commercial boilers.
    Check E Instruments, and Wohler has a wide range but its German (Vo-ler) so having one for #4 might be iffy.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,344
    HVACNUT said:

    IMO you're already under spending by not having a 24 hr mechanical company service agreement. I don't know what you want to achieve by having your own analyzer. I would also think someone would have to carry a license to work on commercial boilers.

    Check E Instruments, and Wohler has a wide range but its German (Vo-ler) so having one for #4 might be iffy.

    and pay our rates?
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    @HVACNUT I do have a 24 hr service company but in the many years I've had properties I've only had any company pull out the combustion analysis tool once or twice. It's usually part of a more expensive tune up and I have saved more and more by becoming more knowledgeable. Being able to do it myself more often would be efficient and convenient.

    I'll never ditch a service agreement and always have my guys, but in busy season times, I will not always get the top notch techs, have very long wait times, etc.

    Not looking to replace.. looking to supplement and be more on top of things and have a better understanding of what's going on for when I'm dealing with problems and the service co
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbesmattmia2
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    @pecmsg I pay quite a lot for things. Looking to be more knowledgeable and save money when possible isn't a crime. I'm not circumventing paying for technicians and work, I'm looking to supplement it and be the best that I can be. I realize that even when I get it, I may not know how to use it for quite some time and when I do, will simply use that knowledge for decision making and to relay to technicians to get the best possible outcomes.
    GroundUp
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,111
    @FortyTwo , there is nothing wrong with what you are trying to do if you use as a “read only” tool. just know that you are better off using an insured service that demonstrates competence to tune than doing yourself. You can foul a system with soot with one degree of turn on any adjustment and not see a bad number on an analyser.
    STEVEusaPAZmanFortyTwo
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    @SlamDunk yes exactly. If I can run a test now and then and see if numbers are off then I can relay that to the company - see if I need a cleaning, adjustments, etc. Sometimes I'm having issues where I'm calling techs 3-4x a week and they do a quick adjustment and go at 2am, or replace some part and it doesn't fix the issue. If it still is going into safety I can take some measurements and relay that info to a better tech the next day and more easily get exactly what I need done. I'm not looking to adjust it all myself - I want to be more knowledgeable and less stressed and eliminate blind trust and confusion. This is something I deal with constantly so being more informed would be valuable but I'm not looking to become my own full time boiler technician and drop service agreements or anything like that.

    Any thoughts on which product might be a good fit for me? Looking at the e-instruments ones mentioned by @HVACNUT up above now but there are so many different products, it's information overload.
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,668
    If fooling w air adjustment and oil pressures and doin get your own combustion testing you may end opening yourself up for some liability . . I would image that if the combustion has been set up properly there wouldn’t be much of a need to re adjust as long as combustion air is available ,clean filter ,nozzle ,strainer ,burner fan ,electrodes and properly functioning safeties . If for just the sake of checking I would suggest a stack thermometer if you see higher stack temp then u know it’s due for a clean or something may need attention . I would add a vacuum gauge on outlet of your oil filter .peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    cobyrick in Alaska
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,111
    I think you have the wrong 24hr service. Not that the right service is easy to find during heating season at 2am. But if you found the right service that did the job right, you really wouldn't need to worry about shutdowns or 24 hr service.
    STEVEusaPASuperTechcoby
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    @SlamDunk easy to say yeah but I have quite a bit of experience with it on this side of things and it is not so easy. Been through several well known reputable companies and even when they are great or start out great, it doesn't always stay that way during a busy heat season. Thanks for that great advice though
    mattmia2
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,319
    You say 2 things that make me agree with @SlamDunk about the wrong service company.
    They don't use analyzers.
    And you want to use an analyzer to tell them you need service.
    Any time a person works on a piece of equipment and the work performed could change any part of the combustion equation, they need to do a combustion analysis, period.
    If that's not the company you have, that's the company you need. It's not about saving money or anything else. Actually what you are proposing will probably cost you more money.
    It's about doing things correctly and professionally.
    You'd be better off with controls and sensors that provide feedback to alert you of a potential problem rather than trying to take the time to truly learn all you could possible need to know about combustion. Something as simple as how 02, combustion air (excess air) relates to stack temperature and draft when the outdoor temperature is 65° as opposed to 10°. You'll get 2 different sets of numbers and think you have a problem. Then you'll call (and pay) your service provider, only to find out you don't have a problem, just a misunderstanding of combustion.

    I'm all for educated customers. I don't mind and even encourage them to watch and ask questions. Let's them see everything I am doing and allows me to point out deficiencies, potential problems, etc.
    But the one customer I never have or keep (or want) is the one who either insists I don't know what I'm doing, or the one who decides they are going to do some of their own work/troubleshooting on the equipment.
    My simple philosophy I tell them is this:
    "Only one person is working on your equipment-me or you. If you want to work on your equipment, that's fine. I will help you find someone else."
    steve
    HVACNUTSuperTechcoby
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    You guys are really beating off a dead horse here! Haha
  • icy78
    icy78 Member Posts: 397
    > @FortyTwo said:
    > You guys are really beating off a dead horse here! Haha

    That's a pretty unpleasant picture .
    Not acceptable on this forum. :#

    BTW, Steve's post was right on.
    STEVEusaPAcobyrick in Alaska
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,349
    @FortyTwo

    Not sure about the combustion test on #4 oil. # 4 oil has a different composition than #2 so it will not calculate the efficiency accurately.

    I looked in the TESTO manual and I couldn't find any information on fuels......maybe I missed it. Google Value Testers you could call them and ask.
    FortyTwo
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    Thanks @EBEBRATT-Ed !

    I gave Testo a call and they said I would be fine with the model 310 on the number two oil and only the CO would be ever so slightly off to a negligible degree. For my purposes that works and while still expensive it is much cheaper than the next models up and I see a lot of people like testo in general so I'll go with that I think. I gave my favorite tech a call and he said I actually don't get #4 because it was phased out, and I get a blend of 4 and 6, making it essentially #5. But I ran that past Testo and they said I'm still good with the 310 for my purposes.

    The fuels listed for the mode 310 are: natural gas, propane, fuel oil 2, biomass 5%, and wood 20%
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,111
    edited February 2020
    FortyTwo said:

    You guys are really beating off a dead horse here! Haha

    Let me add some color to my concerns:

    Before I worked on burners, I was an aircraft mechanic. Aviation law says I am only liable for work I perform (in accordance to whatever document) until the ink on my sign off dries because I can't account for what pilots or other mechanics may have done "off the books". In other words, not document their work.

    The FAA has long given pilots limited authority to maintain their own aircraft because aircraft maintenance is hugely expensive. And, there are shade tree aircraft mechanics who will do anything cheaply as long as the aircraft owner doesn't require a sign off. But when they screw up, the law doesn't stop the pilot's estate from dragging me into court because I am the only one who documented work and is covered by insurance.

    In your situation, you are the pilot.

  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,691
    edited February 2020
    Testo 320 does all the fuels, but I agree wholeheartedly with Steve's post
    FortyTwocobyBillyO
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,208
    > @FortyTwo said:
    > You guys are really beating off a dead horse here! Haha

    If you're only looking for "yes men", you've come to the wrong site. For that you have to join the Repub... ah never mind.
    What @STEVEusaPA wrote was DOBA.
    coby
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    @SuperTech Yeah, that one is nice but it jumps outside of what I want to spend at the moment and would have to think more about it :/ Thank you. If I keep researching and that seems to be the best then I will have to think about it or put it on the backburner.

    @HVACNUT I mainly wanted to use that joke and say you guys were being repetitive in a lighthearted way.. haha

    @SlamDunk @icy78 @STEVEusaPA @clammy
    I totally get what you guys are saying, and while it is tangential to my original question and repetitive after a certain degree of back and forth, I know it is important and warranted. I should have stated more clearly in my original post that it was for my learning purposes and to develop a further understanding of how my boilers operate, while not looking to get one to do changes to my system myself.

    I do find it interesting and funny that in so many posts by average Joes, people quickly chime in asking for the data that an analyzer would provide - and then when I post asking what kind of analyzer I should buy so I could have this data, I get lambasted. When I say, "hey guys, heat is building much slower than usual, any idea whats up?" Or idk.. whatever question.. and get hit with questions asking what my flue temp is or my oxygen percentage is, or CO or whatever the heck you guys say, how do you expect people to answer? If things are running but I mildly suspect an issue, I might not always call for service right away. And if it is something that helps diagnose something or show there is a problem for me to then call for service.. well that's good right?

    I get where you are coming from, but I have spelled out what I am looking to do. I have never made an adjustment to a burner in my life and I'm not intending to. I DO find boiler stuff fascinating and having the knowledge is both fun for me and helpful. If it helps me in any way in decision making, then I am better off for it. I am seeing that it is likely not something I need and will not give me all the answers, but I will probably get one anyway. But that's why I asked for a beginner's guide type take to it, because I don't know much about them or what I would even be able to take away from the info or how I could even use it. I might have easily turned around and said,"okay this definitely isn't necessary" after learning a bit more.

    As far as techs and service companies, there is a huge amount of play in that. I'm in an area with thousands of buildings and they're all breaking down at the same time. I don't expect to have premium service with combustion analysis at every single tech visit, and quick visits are acceptable if they get things running. I also understand that diagnosing a repair is similar to diagnosing certain car problems and can be difficult with no direct answer and have to try a few things. Service contracts are often tied to oil contracts, lines of credit, etc, and hopping around for the perfect service has so many variables that change that it is just unrealistic to expect perfection unless I'm big enough to afford my own full time tech. If I want good oil prices, with good techs, and 24 hour service, it is possible and I found a good mix with my company but with it being so busy, I could never realistically expect them to spend premium time or send a top notch tech for every visit. Also, companies are bought and sold, techs switch companies, new hires come on... It could take a year to know I really love a company and then another year to realize it is time to move on if things change. I think it's vastly different than if I am getting work done on a house steam system, or 2-3 family house or something. Or perhaps different than if I was some hedge fund owning a portfolio and only using it to diversify my assets and had unlimited funds to demand premium service constantly.

    Anyway, I do appreciate the help and all the commentary and all you guys do for everyone out there and myself. This place is great. I understand what you guys are saying and am thankful.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,111
    @FortyTwo , we only warn you because we care. Speaking strictly for myself, I made a lot of mistakes before I figured out what i was doing. And, nowadays, I do less of it and am not as proficient as I used to be so I outsource it now.

    To your original question, my Testo 330L does number 4 oil.
    FortyTwo
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,991
    Comprehensive information on how to clean a boiler or furnace and adjust especial a gas burner would be really helpful. We see rather frequent posts from someone who is out in the middle of nowhere and can't find an old timer who knows how to adjust their burner.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,349
    @FortyTwo

    That being said when you see some of the work some supposidely "professional technicians" do I think an owner having a few tools and some knowledge is good for your own protection. At the least you able to discuss thing with your service company and with a lot of boiler and burner problems prevention is everything


    We shouldn't have to "protect" ourselves against sloppy technicians but that's the way it is

    You #4 oil IC burner "D" burner (red) Or "MarkV" (blue? Hopefully not an old "AM" burner
  • FortyTwo
    FortyTwo Member Posts: 46
    @EBEBRATT-Ed
    Well.. it's blue colored? haha. Can't seem to find a picture that I took of the burner or tag. I might head over there tonight to have a look and see. It's big and blue and dual fuel but only ever been set up for oil. I'm not sure what an AM looks like - tried googling it and couldn't find anything on them
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,668
    Forty two , in recommending CA aside from testo ,tif and e instruments there’s other but just remember units with out replaceable sensor need to be sent back every year for calibration which is some bucks every year ,sensors go bad and need replacing . Or go the route of units w replaceable sensors but usually there a bit more money. I ve had and been using a e instrument i ve had it maybe 10 years or more I send it in every year and they replace sensors and repair whatever is shot on it send me a bill and ship her back ,she s done her time and I’ll soon be on the market for a new one . It’s great that as a building owner your interested in your equipment proper operation and maintenance but just having the C A doesn’t really mean much unless u fully understand what the CA readings are saying and what’s the issue causing bad combustion . Just wondering in all the years u have owned buildings how many times where the service company called for no heat Andy how many times was it fuel related as to oil or related directly to burner adjustment ? Does such service Calls warrant owning your own CA and if you had one would that avoided the service break down ? The one thing for sure in apartment buildings the one who cleaned and serviced the boiler should be performing CA testing . One other note all of your boilers should be properly cleaned on the burner side ,tube brushed or washed , water side by flushing and checking water chemistry even on water boilers high tds can and will cause issues down the road . It seems everybody wants top end service and proper maintenance but usually that takes the person w the proper training and proper attitude and work ethic who know what there doing that’s a hard dream in this day and age as you know . I truely wish u the best in your endeavors. I also like my Customers to be educated and always suggest to do any research . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    FortyTwo
  • BillyO
    BillyO Member Posts: 274
    TPI makes a user friendly unit. Bluetooth capability to phone with mini printer. Great unit IMO
    FortyTwo
  • B_Sloane
    B_Sloane Member Posts: 56
    I would absolutely encourage you to purchase an Analyzer
    ....for Safety reasons

    It will not do what you expect for service reasons, but would be a great follow-up after service by a poorly outfitted tech, or one that is a hurry

    I have some 30K in combustion analysis equipment as I need a spare if one will not calibrate on a job
    at one time I maintained 22 boiler rooms, from multiple 30hp boilers to 1250 hp
    as part of a monthly maintenance, I would do combustion analization, test operation ALL controls, blow the relief valve, check all FSG failure modalities, etc

    at one time I shut down a Smith boiler at a Prison that was making 5000ppm monoxide after a major contractor serviced it
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,991
    Don't you need some pretty high end equipment to measure that high a concentration rather than just out of range above max measurement?
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,001
    mattmia2 said:

    Don't you need some pretty high end equipment to measure that high a concentration rather than just out of range above max measurement?

    My testo 320 goes to ~5k CO before locking out for the rest of the day. I have learned to pull it out when it goes over 1K so I can still use it.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    SuperTech
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,319
    Yeah once you're up and over 500-800, pull it. Who cares what the final number will be.
    Also, take a glance down at your personal CO monitor to make sure it's still safe to be there.
    steve
    Canucker
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,243
    That is the problem I have with my Testo 310 If I see the co rising fast and it is at 300 or more, and I yank the probe and rush it to fresh air, it is too late. It will just keep climbing until it finally has the dreaded 0's showing on the co and co2 lines. It usually takes at least 20 minutes of running before it resets Makes it hard to set an air mix that is way out when you have less than a few seconds to make the adjustment and get out before it red lines. Seems like the co should start dropping off pretty fast once I pull it, but I actually saw it reading 12,000 the other day before it crashed. I didn't know it even read that high. So, it is currently being rebuilt....
    As to the poster, if I am right, Bacharach has some good information on using and understanding analyzers. You might try their site for that. It is also a great analyzer to get.
    Rick
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,111
    My 330 shot past 10000 and had to go in for a $1300 repair. CO is deadly.
    mattmia2
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,349
    That's one reason when I am doing actual burner adjustments I pull the analyzer to avoid issues with high C0

    Then I stick it in the stack and take a reading, If I have high CO I pull it again to avoid it going high while I am adjusting the burner
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,243
    I tried that a few times. By the time the analyzer starts seeing the co, it just starts jumping rapidly, and then I am dead in the water.
    The last time when I was doing a gas burner that I knew was not right, I set the air at my starting point, and then took a fast sample for just a couple of seconds, and if it wasn't too bad, I did a longer sample until it was to the point where it wasn't trying to take off. At least it gives me a fighting chance.
    Rick
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 508
    Lots of confusion about combustion analyzers. I have pegged my Bacharach analyzers many times, over range, and its has never caused a CO sensor to go bad. However the worst thing an analyzer can do is shut down when the CO over ranges. When a contractor calls me with a combustion problem andTe I ask for the O2 and Temperature readings they often say they pull there meter out of the flue because of the high CO. I tell them to put it back in and don't worry about it. Bacharach analyzers don't shut down when CO is exceeded.
    If you want to keep your analyzer from over range, disconnect the hose from the meter, not take the probe out of the flue. On the Testo 310 you take the end cap off the probe because the probe don't disconnect.

    The fuel selection on all combustions analyzers is to calculate a bogus CO2 reading and a fictitious efficiency calculation. The only useful readings are O2, CO and Flue Temp. These reading are the same no matter what fuel is entered,
    By the way, Bacharach also has all field replaceable sensors.

    I know to be politically correct most manufacturers want you to have your analyzers calibrated annually. I have been calibrating analyzers for my customers for over 30 years and none of them needed calibration after one year, unless they came out of calibration from the factory. If that is the case should we really send them back to them?

    Find a supplier than sells calibration gas and test them yourself, Most manufacturers have some kind of a kit but I found I can buy calibration gas for 1/2 the price from gas vendors.
  • Northupthere
    Northupthere Member Posts: 34
    Skip the Testo 310, it’s oxygen sensor is not field replaceable and you must send the meter to Testo for the tune of $350. The O2 sensor lifespan is about 2 years.
    Those cost about 600-650 bucks so you’ll be spending half of the units initial cost every 2 years.

    Doesn’t make financial sense. Upgrade to the 320 or a Bacharach that has field replaceable sensors and do it yourself.
    SuperTech