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Oldest "functioning" boiler I've ever seen

I'll get a more complete history next week when I'm back for a inspection/Maintenance on this. I thought I saw the original oil burner sticking out of a box.  It's a Thatcher started with coal then oil/steam....and converted to gas and hot water 35 ish years ago. Clients been in home 58 years so far and said no issues at all since converting to gas.....other than the 1,000 gallon oil tank buried under the driveway.....I'll get some better pics as well, my headlamp was running out of charge.. I  was at the house working on her mitsu inverters and happened to find this. 
kcoppSolid_Fuel_ManRoohollahAnthony Menafro

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,666
    Pretty old formerly gravity hw
    mattmia2EdTheHeaterMan
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,659

    Pretty old formerly gravity hw

    I agree. This doesn't look like it was ever a steam system. The pressure gauge and thermometer look to be as old as the boiler.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    mattmia2EdTheHeaterMan
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,707
    And that circulator looks like it was added in like the 40's
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,518
    I'd expect at least some copper in the system if it was converted to water in the 1960s or later as well. 

    I wonder what the overall efficiency is on the wide passage coal boiler with a gas burner.....I bet in the 50% range or less.


    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • Kybeans403
    Kybeans403 Member Posts: 56
    Wasn't sure about steam. Meant to leave that as a question...I'll poke around the attic and look for the old tank.  
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,707

    I'd expect at least some copper in the system if it was converted to water in the 1960s or later as well. 

    I wonder what the overall efficiency is on the wide passage coal boiler with a gas burner.....I bet in the 50% range or less.


    I was thinking they could have paid for its replacement several times over in fuel over the past 56 years. Especially in 1965 when I'm guessing the whole job would have been under $1k.

    Wasn't sure about steam. Meant to leave that as a question...I'll poke around the attic and look for the old tank.  

    It is probably still in use.
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,041
    I've combustion tested

    I'd expect at least some copper in the system if it was converted to water in the 1960s or later as well. 

    I wonder what the overall efficiency is on the wide passage coal boiler with a gas burner.....I bet in the 50% range or less.


    I've combustion tested and tuned some like this that were running steam and the efficiencies run in the mid to upper 70's. Old Pacific steel boilers from the 1930's typically run about 85% combustion efficiency or higher. Just because its old, doesn't mean its inefficient, especially boilers. I'm not sure how much the seasonal efficiency is on these old models. If they are equipped with a burner that has a damper that closes during the off cycle to greatly limit stand by losses, the seasonal efficiency may be close to that of newer boilers.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    Long Beach EdSuperTechEdTheHeaterMan
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,707
    I'm not sure I understand this right so I'm asking.

    Does combustion efficiency just mean that 70% or 80% of the chemical energy in the fuel is converted to heat energy or does is also measure how much of that heat is transferred to the water?
    MikeAmann
  • Gilmorrie
    Gilmorrie Member Posts: 168
    Both will be about equal. The most important losses for a non-condensing boiler is the latent heat of the moisture in the flue gas - the difference between the fuel's higher heating value and lower heating value.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,666
    That boile has a few more sections on it than most so the efficiency will be better than some.

    Too much draft can kill the efficiency. Generally you can reduce the firing rate and baffle it a little bit but 70% would be a lot for that boiler. The standby loss is also high
  • mel57
    mel57 Member Posts: 9
    Maybe no thank in the attic. My house, just a pipe thought the roof.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,044
    I have read that some old systems had no tank or roof vent.
    They left some air in the top of the top floor rads for a cushion.

    I do this in a building that has an unused second floor.
    Leave some air in the rads, shut the valve off, (still has a small port to prevent freezing) and check it to insure water flow during freezing weather. Just not putting much heat where it is not needed.
    PC7060
  • OldSchoolHVAC
    OldSchoolHVAC Member Posts: 13
    My back hurts just looking at that old dog.....
    Long Beach EdMikeAmann
  • Dave_132
    Dave_132 Member Posts: 63
    I have replaced many of those old boilers over the last fifty years and my back is saying no more.
    In a world of compromise , some men don't !
  • MarkMurf
    MarkMurf Member Posts: 25
    As a 12-13 year old, all I ever wanted to do was to get into my dad's station wagon and go to work with him . We owned, along with his four brothers, C.J. MURPHY FUEL OIL CO. Formerly C.J. MURPHY COAL AND ICE . If I had a nickle for every BOYTON, THATCHER, AMERICAN RADIATOR IRON WORKS, oil fired boiler I brushed out and serviced ! Does everyone know that Standard Sanitary,(toilets,sinks, tubs and urinals)merged with American Radiator to form American Standard ? Both Bayonne, New Jersey companies. They made $ manufacturing 55 gallon drums for WW2. And the first apartment building I bought in Jersey City had two apartments in it which hadn't been lived in since 1945. There was a news paper fron 1945 on one kitchen table. The head line was"AXIS SALLY APPREHENDED" ! That apt had a THATCHER cast iron, coal burning stove in it . The apt below it had a BOYTON .
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbesrick in AlaskaEdTheHeaterMan
  • Randy_12
    Randy_12 Member Posts: 9
    Combustion efficiency does not equal seasonal efficiency. You can lower the flue temperature of the boiler and get a good combustion efficiency. Seasonal efficiency of that old boiler is 50% at best. A more modern boiler would have paid for itself many times over by now. They don't make them like that anymore(Thank God!). It'll probably never leak!!
    mattmia2
  • DavidDow_2
    DavidDow_2 Member Posts: 11
    I've seen and worked on many of these and their cousins in my early days. Easy to clean the flue passages. I would seal up the doors and dampers with high temp silicone. It did make some difference when testing efficiency with the old Bacharach.
    Not many around today, although there is an old snowman boiler in service on the West Side of Manchester, NH installed in 1924. Customer will not change until it breaks.
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,778
    The water heater looks to be about 30 years old.
  • UKN
    UKN Member Posts: 4
    Looks a little bit like ours old boiler from 1934 now replaced by hot water system; couldn't find anyone to dismantle the old boiler so it was a DIY project and I was impressed by the castings quality although it was replaced due to corrosion in an area where the casting was very thin
    , ,


    Alan (California Radiant) ForbesEdTheHeaterMan
  • jep
    jep Member Posts: 8
    just amazing!
  • jerryb46
    jerryb46 Member Posts: 56
    i bet nobody knows the name of that circulator??
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,707

    My back hurts just looking at that old dog.....

    What about your lungs...
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,659
    jerryb46 said:

    i bet nobody knows the name of that circulator??

    Thrush.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    PC7060Erin Holohan HaskellSuperTechEdTheHeaterMan
  • FrankB101
    FrankB101 Member Posts: 14
    Probably in the 40% fuel efficiency class. Should be replaced.
    P.S. in Ohio there are still a couple of hot water boilers that are coal fired.
  • scott w.
    scott w. Member Posts: 183
    What is that cement stuff smeared all over the boiler? Was that done because there was a leak? Thanks.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,707
    scott w. said:

    What is that cement stuff smeared all over the boiler? Was that done because there was a leak? Thanks.

    Asbestos furnace cement. It is for insulation. Some of the repairs may have been done with base coat plaster.
    CLamb
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 497
    edited October 2021
    mattmia2 said:
    What is that cement stuff smeared all over the boiler? Was that done because there was a leak? Thanks.
    Asbestos furnace cement. It is for insulation. Some of the repairs may have been done with base coat plaster.
    The original asbestos cement insulation on the boiler is still in place.

    Boilers designed for solid fuel have multiple access doors (firing, ash pit, clinker, flue cleanout) that leak air, which reduces efficiency.

    After conversion to liquid or gas fuel, furnace cement is generally used to seal these air leaks to improve fuel economy. This is visible smeared around the doors.

    Bburd
    mattmia2
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,707
    Note that the part that is silver is the original furnace cement painted with metallic paint. The stuff that is less smooth and not painted is a repair where either the original broke off or was removed to access something.
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 873
    I had a Richardson pancake boiler in my first house. It died because the underground return piping croaked and it dry fired. The original boiler did not have a low water cutoff or auto feeder. Removing that boiler nearly killed me because I had to take it apart one section at a time.

    Jake
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • Anthony Menafro
    Anthony Menafro Member Posts: 189

    I'll get a more complete history next week when I'm back for a inspection/Maintenance on this. I thought I saw the original oil burner sticking out of a box.  It's a Thatcher started with coal then oil/steam....and converted to gas and hot water 35 ish years ago. Clients been in home 58 years so far and said no issues at all since converting to gas.....other than the 1,000 gallon oil tank buried under the driveway.....I'll get some better pics as well, my headlamp was running out of charge.. I  was at the house working on her mitsu inverters and happened to find this. 

  • Anthony Menafro
    Anthony Menafro Member Posts: 189
    I have replaced several of these boilers over the years. Every time, it was like going back in time! Thanks for the memories!!
  • HEATSPEC
    HEATSPEC Member Posts: 9
    The [sloppily wired] gas jet burner looks like an Adams Speedflame or similar. These will get a minimum of 80% thermal efficiency [as I was required to do, decades ago, getting started contracting with the Ohio Fuel Oil Retrofit Program (FORP)], but the body is way under-insulated and [horrors!] undoubtedly caked with asbestos, turning it into a "snowman" that you'd be loath to touch.
    Now, 20 or 30 years ago I would have suggested heavily insulating the boiler and making other upgrades to keep it in place as a "museum piece". This can still be done but with [alas!] Climate Change breathing hard on our necks, the contractor needs to investigate the latest air-source, high efficiency heat pumps and alternatives to fossil fuels. These WILL be expensive but think of it as long-deferred maintenance. Otherwise, tune that gas burner up to optimum, jacket the hell out of the boiler body, convert to hydronic with an ECM-motored pump and combo air/dirt/mag separator, and hope for the best. If you keep it as steam, well, follow Holohan's book and it may surprise you - but I think a 21st Century upgrade will be best, with the boiler retired in place like MaryAnne, Mike Mulligan's steam shovel.
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 497
    That system was originally gravity hot water, and a circulator has been added. It’s not steam.

    Bburd
    mattmia2EdTheHeaterManSolid_Fuel_Man
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,288
    edited September 25
    mattmia2 said:

    I'm not sure I understand this right so I'm asking.

    Does combustion efficiency just mean that 70% or 80% of the chemical energy in the fuel is converted to heat energy or does is also measure how much of that heat is transferred to the water?


    Think of it this way. If you take a thermometer and place it in the center of the flame and it reads 2000°F and you place another thermometer in the vent connector as it exits the boiler on the way to the chimney, and it reads 500°F the Combustion efficiency is 75%. So 1500°F was absorbed by the boiler and 500° went up the chimney.

    Over 100 years ago to carry an expensive accurate thermometer to measure the flame temperature was not practical. And by measuring the CO2 content of the flue gas was easy to do with the instruments manufactured by Bacharach, we could get a pretty close guess at the flame temperature. This is because some scientist(s) already knew the temperature of the flames of different fuels based on laboratory tests. If there was 80% excess air the flame temperature was cooler than if there was 30% excess air... and the CO2 of the exhaust gasses would be able to determine the amount of excess air there is in a flue gas sample.

    That is why it is important to have no air leaks in a boiler or furnace. The only air that can be part of the flue gas measurement is air that is available for combustion. If your furnace or boiler has air leaks in the heat exchanger after the fire box, the sample will be diluted and therefore inaccurate.

    So there is no accounting for unused chemical energy with the above measurements. If there was a smoke reading of a number greater than 1 on the "TrueSpot" smoke scale, that was an indication of incomplete combustion. That was not calculated into the combustion efficiency. When I was being taught to compute the combustion efficiency of a flame that was just unable to have a clean flame, we were to add 2% for every smoke number above #1 smoke on the TrueSpot scale. This was to allow for the "chemical energy" in the fuel that was not converted into heat energy. (I'm pretty sure this is a "Rule of thumb" and not an accurate determination of the actual unused chemical energy)

    The AFUE is a calculation based on the combustion efficiency with a factor for the normal on and off cycles. This is usually a percent or two below the combustion efficiency that was achieved in a laboratory. To get the AFUE on some models, they were actually fired with on and off cycles over time. Once they had a scientifically accurate result based on many tests, a calculation was developed and applied to the thousands of boilers, furnaces and space heaters that are certified each year.
    jerryb46 said:

    i bet nobody knows the name of that circulator??

    Thrush. Most of those were installed so the motor was on top. I remember there was a spring type coupling that connected the pump shaft to the motor. You needed to tighten the setscrew on the pump shaft first, then with the Allen wrench in place on the motor side of the coupling, you needed to stretch the spring on the coupling then tighten the set screw in order to place some tension on the pump shaft in order to keep the pump seal in connection with the housing.


    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org

    mattmia2MikeAmann
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,666
    2 year old thread
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • MikeAmann
    MikeAmann Member Posts: 645
    edited September 26
    Thanks for the great explanation of combustion efficiency Ed.
    Thread is only 2 days short of 1 year old, but the info still applies.
    Here is another simple explanation of AFUE:
    Combustion efficiency is like the miles per gallon your car gets cruising along at 55 miles per hour on the highway...(while)...AFUE is like your car mileage between fill-ups, including both highway driving and stop and-go-traffic (Wilson & Morril, 1996, p.58).
    EdTheHeaterManWMno57
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,288
    edited September 27

    2 year old thread

    I did not look at that. Thanks for bring that up.

    My description of Combustion Efficiency is from before 1976. That is when I learned it from one of the "DeadMen."
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org

    mattmia2