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Oil Burner Combustion and Smoke Test Equipment

PilotPat24
PilotPat24 Member Posts: 22
Hello,

Does anyone have any recommendations for Oil Burner Combustion and Smoke Test Equipment for a Peerless WBV Hydronic Boiler? I have a boiler that probably hasn't been tested since it was new 25 years ago and I would like to perform one myself.

Thanks,

Pat
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Comments

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,983
    edited May 13
    Look on ebay or craigslist for something used. If you purchase something new it will be upwards near $2000.00.

    Old school very reasonable for something new that has never been used.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/234549754708?epid=2256072750&hash=item369c413b54:g:qqwAAOSwngNiaZLa

    I have used this model of electronic but i thinl is will bid up to about $1000.00 or more before it is over
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/304485759060?hash=item46e4c3f854:g:KNAAAOSwi25ifSqj

    For the price of a maintenance visit, an oil heat professional can do it or you. Be sure to ask the Pro if the test is included in the cost of the maintenance. Some companies will charge extra for that. (although I cant see a maintenance that does not include a combustion test. Where do you get your oil? Ask the fuel supplier!

    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,671
    Why isn't your service provider doing it?
    And more importantly why is ED recommending someone buy their own combustion test equipment with apparently absolutely no knowledge of oil burners, combustion and/or how to even do a combustion/smoke test & how to interpret the information?
    steve
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,983
    edited May 13

    Why isn't your service provider doing it?
    And more importantly why is ED recommending someone buy their own combustion test equipment with apparently absolutely no knowledge of oil burners, combustion and/or how to even do a combustion/smoke test & how to interpret the information?

    I answered the question the OP asked. But I recommended a less expensive alternative. Call the service Pro. I made the assumption that the OP has not had a pro do the maintenance in 25 years, but was a DIY maintenance guy, since he wanted to do the test himself. He probably was doing the maintenance himself. But I could be mistaken... although not likely LOL :D
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
  • PilotPat24
    PilotPat24 Member Posts: 22

    Why isn't your service provider doing it?
    And more importantly why is ED recommending someone buy their own combustion test equipment with apparently absolutely no knowledge of oil burners, combustion and/or how to even do a combustion/smoke test & how to interpret the information?

    I have been doing the yearly service myself.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,983
    edited May 13

    Why isn't your service provider doing it?
    And more importantly why is ED recommending someone buy their own combustion test equipment with apparently absolutely no knowledge of oil burners, combustion and/or how to even do a combustion/smoke test & how to interpret the information?

    I answered the question the OP asked. But I recommended a less expensive alternative. Call the service Pro. I made the assumption that the OP has not had a pro do the maintenance in 25 years, but was a DIY maintenance guy, since he wanted to do the test himself. He probably was doing the maintenance himself. But I could be mistaken... although not likely LOL :D
    NAILED IT !!!. :p:Do:)B)
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    Canucker
  • PilotPat24
    PilotPat24 Member Posts: 22

    Why isn't your service provider doing it?
    And more importantly why is ED recommending someone buy their own combustion test equipment with apparently absolutely no knowledge of oil burners, combustion and/or how to even do a combustion/smoke test & how to interpret the information?

    I answered the question the OP asked. But I recommended a less expensive alternative. Call the service Pro. I made the assumption that the OP has not had a pro do the maintenance in 25 years, but was a DIY maintenance guy, since he wanted to do the test himself. He probably was doing the maintenance himself. But I could be mistaken... although not likely LOL :D
    NAILED IT !!!. :p:Do:)B)
    Thank you for the information Ed.
    MikeAmann
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276



    I have used this model of electronic but i thinl is will bid up to about $1000.00 or more before it is over
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/304485759060?hash=item46e4c3f854:g:KNAAAOSwi25ifSqj


    I see the Testo 310s going for about half that on ebay, but of course, we don't know if they will need sensors and calibration that will likely get the total back to a thousand. No free lunch I guess.


  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,671
    25 years and never tested combustion? And you used the word 'probably'...so never, right?
    Again, no experience with combustion, combustion tools, how to use them, what the numbers mean, how to dial in combustion, etc., etc.

    Probably not doing the maintenance properly either.

    Sorry, but I just can't recommend this. Cheap money over buying/learning/using combustion equipment, to have someone come in annually and do it for you, or just check your work.

    Good luck to you.
    If you need help, Ed's your man.
    steve
    HVACNUTmattmia2
  • PilotPat24
    PilotPat24 Member Posts: 22
    edited May 14

    25 years and never tested combustion? And you used the word 'probably'...so never, right?
    Again, no experience with combustion, combustion tools, how to use them, what the numbers mean, how to dial in combustion, etc., etc.

    Probably not doing the maintenance properly either.

    Sorry, but I just can't recommend this. Cheap money over buying/learning/using combustion equipment, to have someone come in annually and do it for you, or just check your work.

    Good luck to you.
    If you need help, Ed's your man.

    Steve,

    Thanks for the advice.

    Pat

  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,546
    @PilotPat24, what make and model burner? I'll assume it's not a Riello, otherwise you probably wouldn't attempt to service it yourself. Beckett AFG? 
    There are so many more things to do other than nozzle, filter, strainer, prime and start. How are the electrodes? What's the pump pressure? How will you check over fire draft? You could use the draft gauge in the Bacharach wet kit. It's the only thing in the kit worth a damn IMO.
    If you get low CO2, how will you raise it without also raising CO? Getting all your data in range, while burning at a 0 smoke along with proper draft takes a little knowledge to achieve. If you do it yourself, things might work out great. But what happens when it doesn't? Having a qualified tech do a proper maintenance with a combustion report that can be printed or emailed to you should be a load off your shoulders, even if it is a little hit to your wallet. I don't know if you watch YouTube videos on this or what, but some things shouldn't be DIY. Now cleaning and painting after a soot disaster is probably something you can tackle yourself. Anybody can paint, right?

  • PilotPat24
    PilotPat24 Member Posts: 22
    HVACNUT said:

    @PilotPat24, what make and model burner? I'll assume it's not a Riello, otherwise you probably wouldn't attempt to service it yourself. Beckett AFG? 
    There are so many more things to do other than nozzle, filter, strainer, prime and start. How are the electrodes? What's the pump pressure? How will you check over fire draft? You could use the draft gauge in the Bacharach wet kit. It's the only thing in the kit worth a damn IMO.
    If you get low CO2, how will you raise it without also raising CO? Getting all your data in range, while burning at a 0 smoke along with proper draft takes a little knowledge to achieve. If you do it yourself, things might work out great. But what happens when it doesn't? Having a qualified tech do a proper maintenance with a combustion report that can be printed or emailed to you should be a load off your shoulders, even if it is a little hit to your wallet. I don't know if you watch YouTube videos on this or what, but some things shouldn't be DIY. Now cleaning and painting after a soot disaster is probably something you can tackle yourself. Anybody can paint, right?


    Hi HVACNUT,

    Much appreciated for the information.

    Pat
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,279
    So how does the "dumbell" measure CO2?
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,671
    mattmia2 said:

    So how does the "dumbell" measure CO2?

    He calls his boss and has him bring an electronic analyzer.

    On a serious note, the liquid is toxic and is supposed to be discarded when you change the fluid as such.
    steve
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276
    mattmia2 said:

    So how does the "dumbell" measure CO2?

    The liquid (KOH-Potassium Hydroxide) in the dumbell absorbs the C02 from the air sample causing the liquid to expand. The liquid level changes when the KOH reacts with the CO2 and the change in volume is read directly on the scale on the side of the unit. Since it works chemically, it actually is fool proof as long as the liquid isn't exhausted (good for 200+ measurements) and means there is no such thing as calibration to deal with. The liquid also doesn't age like the electronic sensors do. One of the guys I know in the trade keeps a wet kit on his truck to verify his electronic tester if he suspects a sensor problem.


    mattmia2rick in Alaska
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276


    On a serious note, the liquid is toxic and is supposed to be discarded when you change the fluid as such.

    It's potassium hydroxide - drain cleaner, and should be handled carefully like any caustic liquid. You can literally pour it down the sink when it's exhausted.

    You can make the Bacharach fluid yourself by using Pequa drain cleaner (Home Depot) and add a drop or so of phenolphthalein for the red color. The drain cleaner is easy to source but the phenolphthalein is tougher to come by although it's not a restricted chemical. My brother is a research chemist and he got me a small vial when I needed it.


    ScottSecor
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,279
    Oh, I used. Technically it is potassium carbonate when it is exhausted. As long as you dilute it with water it is safe.

    It isnt expanding but rather the volume of gas is decreasing as the CO2 is absorbed. Is there a chart to compensate for the change in temp of the gas from stack temp to room temp?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,279
    There are lots of sources for phenolphthalein.
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276
    edited May 14
    mattmia2 said:

    Is there a chart to compensate for the change in temp of the gas from stack temp to room temp?

    It's not required. The specific heat of the fluid is high enough where the small amount of gas that's introduced to it won't have much if any effect on the testing fluid's temperature. The scale is zeroed out to the liquid's temperature before the first sample is taken, and even when several samples are taken in a short time, you won't notice any change in the baseline level between samples.

    Yes, I just saw that Amazon carries phenolphthalein.

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,279
    When you cool the gas from 500f to 70f it is going to reduce its volume. I'm not sure if it is enough to be significant compared to the volume of absorbed CO2. I assume it is bubbled through or shaken with the fluid so it is cooled more or less to the temp of the fluid.
    MaxMercy
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,983
    The instructions from Bacharach on the operation of the co2 bottle has no mention of the temperature change from the vent gas temperature to the room temperature where the sample is taken. And in the tens of thousands or tests I performed over my early career, I never noticed the fluid in the instrument increase to any significance that could be measured.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    ScottSecorMaxMercy
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,279
    It isn't the fluid changing temp slightly and changing volume, it is the gases changing volume that I think could be significant. I assume the thing measures the change in volume of the gas as the fluid absorbs the carbon dioxide but the gas also cools in that operation.

    It is something like 800 rankine/500 rankine = v1/v2 unless it compensates for it some other way.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,900
    Back in the day the wet kits were all we had ...and they worked.

    The biggest thing I didn't like was trying to get a burner adjusted it took longer to use the wet kit. Just about the time you got the burner dialed in you were off on high limit.

    Dwyer used to make a wet kit I liked it a lot better than the Bacharach dumbbells and it was cheaper to buy and easier to use..... but alas they discontinued it.

    They (Bacharach) has a Co tester with a little manual pump with glass tubes to measure the Co. The glass tubes were a one time deal.

    Westwood products still sells a Bacharach type wet kit.
    ScottSecorMaxMercyEdTheHeaterMan
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 547
    I know this is getting off topic, but I can remember pumping that ball for those Bacharach "salt shaker" bottles until my hand ached.  In many cases the boilers we worked on were never dialed in with anything besides a dead man's eyes before we got there.  Most of the times his eyes must not have been that great, as we spent hours dialing in some of those burners back in the day.  This was especially true with larger scotch marine style boilers that were almost always full modulation.  To be honest, when the electric (yes we had to plug them in) efficiency testers got popular/affordable they were troublesome.  Sensors would fail often and false readings were common.  Thankfully the current combustion analyzers have come a long way.
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,721


    This needs to go. New in 1982.
    I only serviced about 8 oil burners before they were extinct here.

    Three unopen bottles of fluid included.

    $50 and freight will get it to you.

    I am easy, glad to see it go to someone who wants one.

    PM me if interested or if negotiations are needed.
    MaxMercyEdTheHeaterMan
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 574
    I teach my students that using the Fyrite bottle for combustion testing is like using a sumdial to tell time or a Polaroid camera to film a movie. When that was all we had, we had no choice, Today we have a inifinitely better choice.
    STEVEusaPAGGross
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276



    The biggest thing I didn't like was trying to get a burner adjusted it took longer to use the wet kit. Just about the time you got the burner dialed in you were off on high limit.

    *Particularly* on warm fall days.

  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276
    JUGHNE said:



    This needs to go. New in 1982.
    I only serviced about 8 oil burners before they were extinct here.
    $50 and freight will get it to you.

    If I didn't already have one I'd snap that up. That is an excellent price for that kit.
    JUGHNE
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,721
    Thanks Max, but the Captain rained on my parade a little..... ;) .

    It would be a great item for someone handy and wanted to tinker a little.
    Hey, there is a smoke spot gun with papers included.
    Also the 3 bottles of fluid.

    If no takers it will sell for $2.00 at an auction someday. :/
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276
    JUGHNE said:

    Thanks Max, but the Captain rained on my parade a little..... ;) .

    It would be a great item for someone handy and wanted to tinker a little.
    Hey, there is a smoke spot gun with papers included.
    Also the 3 bottles of fluid.

    If no takers it will sell for $2.00 at an auction someday. :/

    The fluid alone will bring $50 on the bay.

    I think it's more useful than just tinkering. When I changed my boiler, I set it up with my wet kit before my buddy had a chance to come to tweak it.

    I set it for -.02 draft over fire, zero smoke, and just under 12% CO2. My buddy brought his Bacharach Insight electronic tester and it reported 11.85% CO2 - conditions being fairly similar (about 25 - 30F outside at night). He dropped it to 11.50 % for "headroom". He told me he keeps a wet kit on his truck in case the electronic one died or he didn't trust the readings for some reason. He's also semi-retired so if the Insight needs repair or calibration (he only has the one), it could be several weeks out of service, so the wet kit will get him by. His old Testo (300?) needs something like $500 in repair. He offered it to me for free but I didn't want to spend that kind of money for the couple of times I might use it.

    The way he explained it to me is that the wet kit is fine as long as there was not some other issue going on like air leaks inside the boiler for instance where the electronic one would give him more information. Of course, the readings are instantaneous with the Insight so the air can be adjusted in seconds instead of half a dozen or more samples at 30 seconds each with the wet kit.

    He also said that if the readings are drifting while the burner is running, you won't catch that with a wet kit.
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 574
    In 1984 I was testing a condensing oil furnace that we sold to contractors. It had to be set up perfectly because of the small passage ways. For some reason aftet helping set them up, at zero smoke, they were sooted up two weeks later. For some reason I decided to do a CO test and I was shocked. At zero smoke the CO was over 5000 ppm. Back then we had to use a tube that was inserted into the analyzer. I thought I did something wrong so I called the factory and they said what I did was okay. I ask if there was anything else that could make the tube turn black. They said no but I sent the tube back to them for testing, They verified it was CO. From that time on I realized that the smoke test alone did not verify proper or safe operation. When the first digital analyzers came out in 1985 I found that watching CO at Light-off, Run Cycle and Shutdown provided a world of new information.
    STEVEusaPACLambGGross
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,671
    Use the wet kit, and if you need some help with math, use one of these:

    or you can call someone for help with one of these:


    steve
    EdTheHeaterManMikeAmann
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,279
    It looks like it comes with a slide rule...
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,983
    edited May 18
    captainco said:

    I teach my students that using the Fyrite bottle for combustion testing is like using a sumdial to tell time or a Polaroid camera to film a movie. When that was all we had, we had no choice, Today we have a inifinitely better choice.

    And the OP is going to get a feel for the old days, have more information than ever before, be testing Oh, Say, all one of his 25 year old oil burners. ...so how is this wrong? For the $50.00 the OP will get a deal. Unless @captainco has an electronic device that he can offer @PilotPat24 for $50.00

    But there are come real craftsman out there that want to learn how to do it right. I remember getting a new customer that used to do his own maintenance for years. He saw a commercial on a local TV station we ran in Cape May County on TV 40. In the commercial I illustrated that we perform "Scientific Testing" to make you burner operate at peak efficiency. He never trusted the competition because they never used the combustion test equipment, so he did it himself. The burner was immaculate and there was no carbon or soot in the heat exchanger of the boiler on my first visit. Once he knew that my company would do the tune up as complete as he did, we secured a service contract and automatic delivery customer.

    Just saying, there are some homeowners that have the capacity to lear how to do what @STEVEusaPA and @EdTheHeaterMan learned in the first month of out 30+ year career of oil burner service. Of course, they can't know everything we know, but do they need to know about a condensing mod-con vari-input with 20 to 1 turn down ratio, if all they are going to work on is one oil burner?

    Lighten up guys. Here is a DIY that is most likely going to benefit from a $50.00 wet kit.

    Just my 2 cents

    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    DJD775MaxMercyCanucker
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 574
    30 years ago I was still reading articles that stated oil didn't make CO unless it was making smoke. CO testing on oil was a waste of time. That information was wrong then and still is. Sure a homeowner might get lucky but with todays technology should we be depending on lucky?
    I know lots of contractors that have expensive combustion analyzers and don't have a clue how to use them other than bad information listed on You-tube!
    I have constantly look up combustion testing on You-tube and so far not one video is correct to date, Close, but this isn't horseshoes or hand grenades.
    GGross
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276
    edited May 19
    captainco said:


    I know lots of contractors that have expensive combustion analyzers and don't have a clue how to use them other than bad information listed on You-tube!

    You may be surprised how many oil burner techs *still* eyeball combustion. One of the youtube guys (Steve Lavamoniere (sp?)) does a lot of vids on oil burners and once in a while he takes out his Testo, but 95% of the time he eyeballs the air. One of his videos was a complete new AFG install, and he eyeballed that one as well.

    I don't have direct knowledge, but I would bet real money that if someone did a hidden video, 3 out of 4 guys who came to do a filter/nozzle/ plus adjust wouldn't take out any tester, even a wet kit.
    MikeAmann
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 276

    Use the wet kit, and if you need some help with math, use one of these: [abacus] [antique phone]

    If I was a pro, I'd use an electronic tester. I played with one at it was great to use. But while the resolution of a shake weight is maybe a quarter percent as opposed to a tenth of a percent or better, an efficiency chart shows little (insignificant really) difference between an 11.5 CO2 and a 11.75 reading. For a homeowner or a guy like me with a bunch of rental properties, the accuracy is more than adequate and the foolproof reliability of a wet kit makes it a good choice for occasional or backup use.

    EdTheHeaterMan
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,279
    So how accurate is the electronic gear? I know electronic thermometers are usually +- a degree or so even though they have a tenth of a degree reading.
    MaxMercy
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 574
    steve was a student at one time and you will hear him mention my name. Unfortunately, his videos aren't quite what he learned all the time.
    Knowing that when you are measuring in the flue you must traverse to find the correct spot to test kind of eliminates the Fyrite which is always in one location whether right or wrong. There is also a trick on how to squeeze the bulb on the tester to minimize mistakes.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,671
    I’ll never recommend a wet kit. As mentioned by @captainco you’re not getting the full picture, you’re missing 2 very important numbers, CO & Excess air, for starters.
    Combined that with the fact that many people don’t know how to properly use a smoke gun, and you’re just not setting up the burner properly, maybe even dangerously wrong.
    If you have a bunch of properties, you can afford an analyzer and some training, or hire someone who has.
    Call @EdTheHeaterMan, he’ll be your hero.
    steve
    captaincoEdTheHeaterMan
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,983
    edited May 20

    As mentioned by @captainco you’re not getting the full picture, you’re missing 2 very important numbers, CO & Excess air. (only 1/2 correct)
    Combined that with the fact that many people don’t know how to properly use a smoke gun,
    If you have a bunch of properties, you can afford an analyzer and some training, or hire someone who has.
    Call @EdTheHeaterMan, he’ll be your hero.

    Excess Air is a measurement based on a calculation done in the programing of the electronic device as is co2. There is no such thing as an Excess Air Sensor or a "co2 Sensor" in the electronic analyzer that @STEVEusaPA uses. Those two numbers are generated based on selecting the correct fuel that is being burned and the O2 sensor reading. I read the instructions in my analyzer. That is how I know that. As far as measuring the CO that is going up a chimney, what benefit is there, in actually knowing that? It can't kill you if it is going up the chimney! The CO that kills you is the stuff that is inside the building. That is the important measurement. A good draft gauge that measures the exhausting power of the chimney is far more important than any flue gas sensor. If any of the byproducts of combustion are not leaving the building, CO is only one of your problems. A serious problem, but only one of them.

    Clear the base of the chimney, maintain the pointing on brick chimneys, have proper liners installed and inspect them at least once a year. Proper maintenance is the key to safe efficient operation of any mechanical piece of equipment. If others on this site feel the need to discourage proper maintenance by a DIY over paying for the same service that "only a Pro" can provide, then why have this type of forum at all? I think all who are on this site that offer a valuable content may not be professional. Some of the DIY contributions have been very valuable and have helped many of the Pro's who may not have as much experience as Steve or Dan or Jim or the other Ed's herein.

    But I guess my opinion on DIY is different, because I'm a retired pro at HVAC and understand Hydronics and Oil Burners better than most of my area competitors. Many of those competitors have taken some of the classes that I teached, and I learned them all, the bestest I could. But now that I'm retired, I have decided to take up woodworking. Not professionally but as a hobby. Also I have installed new kitchen cabinets and replaced my electrical panel. I hope that the websites on those hobbies and trades don't have as strict a policy on me, as do the most educated contributors on this forum. But that seems to be the way this whole country is going. If you don't think the way I do, then you are wrong and you should be admonished or censored.

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