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Feed valve and yearly maintenance questions

skybolt_1 Member Posts: 37
edited September 2020 in Oil Heating
Heading in to the '20 / '21 heating season (my second on the Ferguson Force 84 boiler which I installed summer 2019), and had a couple of general questions for the board that I haven't been able to find definitive answers for.

To give a baseline of how much "use" this boiler has seen to date, I have tracked oil consumption and have burned approximately 475 gallons since the system was installed.
  1. I have left the ball valve feeding the Caleffi 553 filling valve open since installation. I have read a number of different opinions on whether this is recommended or not. Biggest argument I've read against leaving it open is that if you have a leak somewhere in the system, the constant trickle of oxygenated water will rust out the boiler prematurely. Is this generally accepted as valid, and should I close the valve?
  2. There are two filters on this system, a General 1A-250 immediately after the shutoff valve on the oil tank, and a Tigerloop Ultra with attached 10 micron spin-on filter. Should both of these filters be changed annually, or would I expect to get two years out of the 10 micron if the General 1A is changed yearly?
  3. Since I have two filters (including the 10 micron) on the system, should I plan on replacing my oil nozzle annually as well, or is nozzle wear less a factor of oil contaminants and more related to the volume of oil pumped through it / harsh conditions it operates in?
  4. Should the burner itself be tested for combustion efficiency annually? Or is this generally something that be performed on a 2-3-5-? year interval?
  5. Should the flueways and combustion chamber be cleaned annually, or as above on a 2-3-5-? year interval?
Thanks in advance!


    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,605
    Congratulations on your low oil consumption and taking care of your boiler.

    1. Valve open or valve closed. There is no right or wrong to this. yes , an open valve can "cover up" leaks. You seem to be a hands on homeowner, If your keeping and eye on things, boiler water pressure, looking for leaks then I would keep the valve open, But do what your most comfortable with.
    2. I would change the General filter yearly although with your low consumption you could probably go 5 years, but it's cheap insurance.
    3. I would change the tiger loop spin on when the general filter tells you too. If you see sludge in the general I would change the spin on filter, if not leave it be. I would change it after 3 years regardless
    4. Nozzles don't wear out. I have worked on commercial burners that put 1000s of gallons of oil through their nozzles and they are fine. Nozzles are far morke likley to get contaminated with dirt and sludge, again let you oil filter be your guide. If the General is clean then the nozzle is clean. If you change the nozzle you need a combustion test.
    5. Boiler flue passages should be checked yearly for soot. This doesn't mean it needs cleaning every year.

    I would do a cleaning and replace the nozzle and filters do a combustion test every three years unless you see any issues or need to do it sooner.

    Check the burner air inlet area for dust, dirt and cat or dog hair which can foul things up and keep the area around the boiler clean

    Just my $.02 others will differ
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
    edited September 2020
    To add to @EBEBRATT-Ed's advice, I leave my feed valve closed but have a low water cut-off.
    If combustion and draft are set up properly, I'd probably change nozzle, filters, strainers every 2 years-put a vacuum gauge on the spin on. Open it up, remove flue pipe, and see how everything looks-if it needs a cleaning.
    If it looks good after 2 years, then I'd go 3. I let mine go 4 last time just to see. Needed a simple vacuum, and I did filters, nozzle, strainer.
    But I will put the analyzer on mine every year-only because I have an analyzer. If all the numbers are the same, and the vacuum gauge hasn't moved (and works) there's no reason for annual service on a modern, properly filtered piece of equipment, set up properly to true zero smoke, proper draft, proper combustion. Especially with only 475 gallons burned. Most forward thinking oil burner techs, and hopefully companies, are starting to use gallons burned as a benchmark for service, especially on modern equipment, rather than annual. Old school thinking is service for the sake of keeping their techs busy until it gets cold.

    The only caveat as mentioned above is a clean environment for clean combustion air. If it's sitting next to the dryer, I'd use my small brush in the combustion air inlet to check for lint/dirt, and if found, open up the burner and clean the blower wheel, check the nozzle assembly and end cone.
    A simple short cut, but not definitive, would be to note the ohm reading after tuned, while running. If vacuum gauge is good, and ohms read the same, I wouldn't worry about it.
    The only problem you may run into is if you want a service contract, and your supplier insists on annual maintenance in order to cover service calls. But a good qualified tech would (should) agree with the guidelines of @EBEBRATT-Ed and myself.

    Actually, some manufacturer's recommend valve closed to feed valve in their instructions.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,025
    A sales rep for Riello once told me that the Riello burner does not break. This was after we had a demonstration on the ease of maintenance, disassembly, and reassembly of the product on a live burn display. I took him at his word. I installed one on an oil-fired water heater in my home and did nothing to it for 5 years. After five years of operation, the burner had no failures and the nozzle was slightly covered with that black carbon build-up that looks like it was spray painted. No globs or chunks of build-up. I was impressed. After that test. I change the nozzle every 3 years when I do my boiler that has a Beckett. After 12-years of operation with the Riello, the tank failed and I installed an indirect. That was 35 years ago. Still have the Beckett in the boiler and with the proper draft and a clean combustion air source, oil burners seem to do just fine for several years.

    That said If you have a draft problem or combustion air contains a lot of dust, you need to do maintenance more often. Some of my customers have boilers that look like the day they were new and I'm almost afraid to disturb them during the annual maintenance. There are others that I just can't keep the nozzle from coaking up over a season. I believe it is all in the way the air moves over the system. If it breathes properly the system will work flawlessly. I was lucky enough to have a good breather for my water heater back in the day.

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

  • skybolt_1
    skybolt_1 Member Posts: 37
    Thanks very much for all the helpful feedback. These responses made me think of a couple of other pieces of information that I didn't add originally.

    Regarding the feed valve, the boiler is in my workshop area and the Caleffi 553 is the model with the pressure gauge on it, so I am going to close the valve and keep an eye on the pressure reported by the 553 as well as the gauge on the boiler itself moving forward. The boiler shipped with a Hydrostat 3250-Plus with the Hydrolevel Electro-Well installed at the factory, so I have a low water cut-off in place.

    Regarding the blower, I installed a Field Controls air boot on it, piped to an outside air intake which is about 7 feet off of ground level on the opposite side of the house from my dryer vent :-) so I should be getting pretty clean air to the blower. Regardless, since I have to partially disassemble the intake to check the flue passages I will have a look at the blower at the same time.

    Really appreciate all of the thoughtful responses!
  • skybolt_1
    skybolt_1 Member Posts: 37
    Wanted to post a quick update to this. I did close the valve on September 2nd, after depressurizing the expansion tank and making sure that it had the right 12 PSI pre-charge - it was a pound low, so I topped it off and repressurized the system to 12 PSI.

    Had a string of unseasonably warm days in early November. Boiler wasn't running for 48 hours, so checked the pressure on November 12th Pressure had dropped from 12 PSI down to 7 PSI. Opened the feed valve, brought it back up to 12 PSI, and wrote it off to the "fresh" water coming in when I refilled the expansion tank having dissolved air in it, or something.

    Boiler was off for the better part of today due to it being warm and having our woodstove going. Checked the pressure reading just now and it was at 0 PSI! Filled it back up, and am now leaving the valve open.

    Obviously, the water is going but prior to filling, I had this system pressurized to 45 PSI for 24 hours with no drop. I suppose that a leak could have opened up somewhere in a wall or something like that, but I see no evidence of active water leakage anywhere in the visible piping in the boiler room. There was a weep on a few of the ball valves during the first year which I resolved by tightening the packing nuts, other than that, nothing...

    Any suggestions or thoughts on this?
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,605
    If the boiler pressure is fluctuating wildly when the water heats and cools you have an expansion tank issue
  • skybolt_1
    skybolt_1 Member Posts: 37
    Wouldn't a bad expansion tank show fluctuations from the base pressure (12 PSI) up, but not drop? The tank doesn't sound full when tapped, and it's fairly new (4 years) and no water comes out of the vent.
  • skybolt_1
    skybolt_1 Member Posts: 37
    Update: turns out that the culprit may have been the backflow preventer. According to Caleffi, the valve can get grit stuck in it which causes the valve to leak. About 2 hours after posting my update, I went into the boiler room and saw water on the floor coming from the atmospheric vent on the 573. Followed the guidance on this very helpful video, I took the unit apart and cleaned up the inside. Put it back on; no leak.

    I'm going to leave both the feed as well as the shut-off on the filling unit turned off for a few weeks and watch the pressure.