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Boiler help needed in Long Island

captainco
captainco Member Posts: 644
Just talked to a homeowner in Long Island that has a Burnham boiler with an indirect water coil that keeps locking out the drafthood spill switch but only in the summer. He has had numerous contractors at his house that did all kinds of useless repairs. None had any combustion test equipment. He does have a CO alarm in the basement, but it has only gone off once. Of course it has to get to 70 ppm for an hour or more first. I am suspecting they might be exposed to lower levels intermittently.
Looking for a contractor that understands how dangerous the drafthood on this boiler might be. It has been years since iI did a training in Long Island. Maybe one of my students is still around. If anyone wants to correct this situation send me a message.

Comments

  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 160
    @captainco, OK, since no one else has offered anything.

    Pipe Doctor Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.
    516-348-6300
    80 E Hawthorne Avenue, Valley Stream, NY 11580

    Is a listed contractor here on this site. I don't know if the home with the problem is in their service territory. I have had no dealings with him, I do not live in that area. He has TESTO equipment and seems to know how to use it. See "Mikey Pipes" on YouTube.

    I am certainly no expert here, but maybe the heating equipment is bad all year around. And maybe the draft is better (or more consistent) in the Winter due to greater temperature differentials so the CO is not detected in the Winter. If a contractor does not have the correct equipment and knowledge to test and diagnose this situation I would not let them in the door.

    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,356
    109A_5 said:

    @captainco, OK, since no one else has offered anything.

    Pipe Doctor Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.
    516-348-6300
    80 E Hawthorne Avenue, Valley Stream, NY 11580

    Is a listed contractor here on this site. I don't know if the home with the problem is in their service territory. I have had no dealings with him, I do not live in that area. He has TESTO equipment and seems to know how to use it. See "Mikey Pipes" on YouTube.

    I am certainly no expert here, but maybe the heating equipment is bad all year around. And maybe the draft is better (or more consistent) in the Winter due to greater temperature differentials so the CO is not detected in the Winter. If a contractor does not have the correct equipment and knowledge to test and diagnose this situation I would not let them in the door.

    Not to go too far off-script but...
    This guy spent almost 20 minutes ripping on Navien and encouraging folks to sue when the problem appears to be a lack of proper PP to PVC appliance adaptor and inadequately supported pipes on his own installation.

    I am not sure if @JohnNY serves this area, but I bet he could recommend someone competent if he doesn't.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,624
    edited June 4
    What town on Long Island?
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,955
    North shore of Nassau Co!
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    Thanks for the responses. Do all homeowners in Long Island have a problem finding someone that knows how to do a combustion analysis and repair?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,429
    I hope not.

    You also might try @Robert O'Brien , who operates Technical Heating:

    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/technical-heating
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    If you look up barometrics on natural draft equipment June 2017 you will find what this customer in RI needs. I had a nice talk with Tim McElwain yesterday. He covers this is his training also. I have taught contractors since 1980 on this retrofit. I was the one that supervised the AGA field test in 1993 which was instigated by Field Controls and myself.

    I did find one contractor within 30 miles of this customer that is NCI certified that said he would take a look at it. He had to go to Philadelphia to get the training. We can't find distributor in the New York area that wants to hold training. I spent a good time on the phone with the customer and he knows now if someone is doing the right thing.

    Years ago, one of our students in Washington, DC had to modify a boiler with a barometric and eliminate the drafthood on an apartment building. The owner of the building went to sell the building and an inspector came in and said he couldn't because the boiler had been modified. He called the contractor and ask them to return it to its original design. They did and then disconnected the gas line and the power and Red Tagged the boiler. The owner was upset so he called the manufacturer. The manufacturer sent two engineers to DC to check it out. They were told I was going to be in town teaching that week and could meet them on the job. They knew about the things I was teaching and gave me a call. They ask me what day I could meet them. It turned out the only day I couldn't be there was the only they could. HMMM! So they met with the contractor and the owner. The contractor did a combustion test on the boiler and showed it had rising CO and falling O2. This is a 100% proof positive the boiler is spilling some flue gases. The engineers said that the CO was not a concern because it didn't get that high when it shut off. Of course it was a 70 degree day and the boiler short cycled.
    So the contractor turned of the gas cock and the power to the boiler and told the engineers that they could turn it back on. They refused! It is your boiler and you said it was okay so why won't you turn it back on? They said they just couldn't do that. Now the property owner was really confused and upset. My contractor won't turn on the boiler and now the manufacturer won't turn it on.
    I don't want this piece of crap!

    The engineers then offered to send him a brand new induced draft boiler and take the old one back. The boiler was out of warranty. He agreed. Months later the contractor and I got on a conference call with a head engineer at the factory. We ask him his position on modifying their boiler. He said he can not recommend it because he doesn't know anything about how that works. He said they could never put anything like that in their instructions. We told him we didn't want them to because most aren't trained or qualified to do it. This was one thing I mandated being put in the 1993 AGA report. Then he said if someone knows what they are doing he didn't have a problem with it.
    STEVEusaPA
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,955
    captainco said:
    Thanks for the responses. Do all homeowners in Long Island have a problem finding someone that knows how to do a combustion analysis and repair?
    Absolutely 
    HVACNUT
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,624
    captainco said:
    Thanks for the responses. Do all homeowners in Long Island have a problem finding someone that knows how to do a combustion analysis and repair?
    In the dense areas, you could throw a rock and hit an HVAC company. Unfortunately, ninety percent of the time its not worth the rock.
    pecmsgIn_New_England
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,955
     30 yeas ago you’d see the print out on over 1/2 the units I’d see. Today a hand full at best. 

  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 213
    captainco said:

    If you look up barometrics on natural draft equipment June 2017 you will find what this customer in RI needs. I had a nice talk with Tim McElwain yesterday. He covers this is his training also. I have taught contractors since 1980 on this retrofit. I was the one that supervised the AGA field test in 1993 which was instigated by Field Controls and myself.

    I did find one contractor within 30 miles of this customer that is NCI certified that said he would take a look at it. He had to go to Philadelphia to get the training. We can't find distributor in the New York area that wants to hold training. I spent a good time on the phone with the customer and he knows now if someone is doing the right thing.

    Years ago, one of our students in Washington, DC had to modify a boiler with a barometric and eliminate the drafthood on an apartment building. The owner of the building went to sell the building and an inspector came in and said he couldn't because the boiler had been modified. He called the contractor and ask them to return it to its original design. They did and then disconnected the gas line and the power and Red Tagged the boiler. The owner was upset so he called the manufacturer. The manufacturer sent two engineers to DC to check it out. They were told I was going to be in town teaching that week and could meet them on the job. They knew about the things I was teaching and gave me a call. They ask me what day I could meet them. It turned out the only day I couldn't be there was the only they could. HMMM! So they met with the contractor and the owner. The contractor did a combustion test on the boiler and showed it had rising CO and falling O2. This is a 100% proof positive the boiler is spilling some flue gases. The engineers said that the CO was not a concern because it didn't get that high when it shut off. Of course it was a 70 degree day and the boiler short cycled.
    So the contractor turned of the gas cock and the power to the boiler and told the engineers that they could turn it back on. They refused! It is your boiler and you said it was okay so why won't you turn it back on? They said they just couldn't do that. Now the property owner was really confused and upset. My contractor won't turn on the boiler and now the manufacturer won't turn it on.
    I don't want this piece of crap!

    The engineers then offered to send him a brand new induced draft boiler and take the old one back. The boiler was out of warranty. He agreed. Months later the contractor and I got on a conference call with a head engineer at the factory. We ask him his position on modifying their boiler. He said he can not recommend it because he doesn't know anything about how that works. He said they could never put anything like that in their instructions. We told him we didn't want them to because most aren't trained or qualified to do it. This was one thing I mandated being put in the 1993 AGA report. Then he said if someone knows what they are doing he didn't have a problem with it.

    Had a similar situation in Cambridge, Mass. Installer years ago had side wall vented the ray pak boiler using power vent. obviously didn't measure the draft hood height correctly (assuming) so when it was complete it was severely back pitched. Had the blessing from ray pak to remove the draft hood and install a barometric meter. just had to set the draft and check the combustion and it worked great. it was actually a great idea as it would have been a total demo of hot water system.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,454
    A worst case depressurization test is needed, since it’s summer only, I would bet some type of mechanical ventilation pulling the house negative. Finding the cause and rectifying it is the solution, not altering a manufacturer supplied venting component. I’m not saying it won’t work but solving a transient combustion air issue by altering the venting is foolish. NFPA54 requires manufacturers instructions be followed, installing  a barometric damper on a boiler designed to use a draft hood is therefore a code violation as well. Your liability is unlimited in this situation 
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    MikeL_2
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 213
    is it a violation to install a sidewall power vent on an atmospheric boiler? i don't remember seeing that addressed in the installation instructions for venting. and just so i'm not throwing incorrect statements out there i just read the venting chapter on a burnham series 2. its not addressed in the installation manual. so is now installing a sidewall power vent a modification of the boiler venting system?

    Regarding my install i believe that the venting with the use of a barometric is approved because it it was approved by ray pak before it was done. so it wasn't something that was just thrown in. the corrective measure was done from ray pak engineering. And it wouldn't be the first time there are installation practices not in the installation manual as not every situation can be accounted for.
    GGross
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    Sidewall venting is with a power venter is just fine. However, installing any fan in a flue above a drafthood is a dangerous proposition. I have condemned 100% as being unsafe.

    As I have argued with BPI and other Hers raters etc., "worst case" is determined by the worse case not us. You do a "as is case" and then try to determine if it could be worse.
    GGross
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    Just a follow up on a depressurization test. First, we measure draft not room pressure. With the equipment running, we turn on one thing at a time. If the draft drops even a little this is a failure. We continue to turn on additional items one by one to see if they are communicating with the flue and draft,
    We have a field experience in our manuals that shows a water heater not venting because of the house leakage. This was in an open basement and garage, no partition. I opened the double garage door a foot at a time and watched the draft. Not until the garage door was opened 5 feet did the water heater start venting and then it had a draft of -.06. I joked about how big of a combustion air opening the house needed, only because the owner was a butthead. Then, I closed the garage door and blocked the drafthood on the water heater and the draft returned to -.06". This owner had already been CO poisoned so any correction made better worked because he was ready to sue someone. The drafthood on the water heater was removed and a barometric installed with a safety spill switch. How sure did I have to be that this was the solution? 100%!!
    I was on this job because a technical rep that worked for another wholesaler in town asked for my help. I was there as a favor, but I took on 100% of the liability. In last 42 years I know I have taken on monstrous liability voluntarily. And I will continue to do so as long as I can because I care.
    Larry WeingartenSTEVEusaPAGGross
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 376
    Captainco,
          Thanks for sharing & reinforcing the need & importance of proper combustion air. 
          Can you tell me the size & type of chimney, flue dimensions, the chimney height, interior or exterior chimney, lined or unlined? Were there other chimneys or fireplaces in the home?  Did the water heater share the chimney with other appliances? Were there other appliances or fans in the structure in need of make - up air that created competition for combustion air?
        
        
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    The water heater was in a tile lined chimney that was 8" X 10". It was 35' tall, on the north side of the house, 3 side sexposed. The furnace in the house which shared the flue was just replaced a week earlier with a condensing furnace. BS on the Orphaned Water heater senario.

    Anyway, for some reason the homeowner was at Home Depot, saw a sale sign on some Carbon Monoxide Alarms and bought one. Took it home and the next day it was alarming. He called the gas company and they came and found CO levels of 120 ppm to 140 ppm. Went to the basement and saw the water heater and new furnace. Asked the homeowner how old was the water heater. The homeowner said about 15 years old. Then he ask how old is the furnace. The homeowner said it was just installed a week ago. The gas rep, turned off the two-pipe condensing furnace, Red Tagged it and told the homeowner it was deadly and needed to be fixed. This might be why the homeowner was upset and called his lawyer. The lawyer said he should call the contractor to fix it before he died. So the homeowner called the contractor and got a voicemail, "Hi this is Jake your heating man, I just left town on a 2-week, well overdue vacation. Call Ferd Furnace if you have a problem. Anyway, that when the homeowner went looking for the furnace wholesaler, wwho then ask for my help.

    The house was 50+ years old, three stories with a full attic. 12' ceilings, single pane windows and basic insulation. No exhaust fans in the house. Leaking without a doubt. When the tech rep from the wholesaler ask me if more combustion air should be added, I laughed to myself and that is when I went and opened the garage door.

    I have and never will recommend a flue liner on a perfectly good flue. Even my best students will argue with me on this one. There is no such thing as an oversized flue, just undersized. Can ducts be too big? Can electric wire be too big? Can steam or water pipes be too big? What happens when all these things are bigger than they need to be? You get better flow and less resistance to flow!
    Having dealt with many industrial jobs with3, 4, 5 or more pieces of equipment common vented, they seem to work just fine independently when the other equipment is idle. Think of a 3-story apartment building or condo, where all 3 water heaters and furnaces are common vented. Most exceed the 7 times rule.
    I always figured the 7 times rule came from someone that never learned the 8 or 9 multiplication tables!

    Was this really a new problem or had it existed for years? There is a little more to the story but I will wait and see if there is any other questions so far?
    mattmia2STEVEusaPAGGross
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,725
    captainco said:

    ...Most exceed the 7 times rule.
    I always figured the 7 times rule came from someone that never learned the 8 or 9 multiplication tables!...

    Awesome!

    steve
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    Thanks Steve. I wish we could meet someday.
    Anyway, getting back to the above story, I would estimate 100% of contractors would have recommended a flue liner and additional combustion air. After this didn't work you might have heard from the homeowners lawyer.

    What I didn't mention was the whole garage area was a workshop with all kinds of woodworking machines. The whole area was heated and cooled with 3 supply registers in the main trunk line. This might have pressurized the basement enough when running to keep the CO from getting in the house. I like taking things to the extreme, so I decided to remove the blower door cover and run the blower. This had absolutely no affect on the water heater operation. Usually I don't remove the whole door but I do leave open filter racks and test. I can't fix stupid but I can try to
    protect it.
    STEVEusaPA
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 376
      Was it just a coincidence that the water heater issue showed up when the new furnace was installed?
  • Danny Scully
    Danny Scully Member Posts: 1,334
    edited June 7
    We’d be glad to help. All our trucks are equipped with Testo combustion analyzers. Feel free to forward our information along:

    http://www.scullysplumbing.com 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,150
    If @Danny Scully will help in your area, he's your man -- excellent work.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    STEAM DOCTORDanny ScullyHydroNiCK
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,725
    captainco said:

    Thanks Steve. I wish we could meet someday...

    I've been trying. Apparently we have to plan our vacations around my wife's work schedule and not my desire to attend your classes :) . Missed you twice in Philly. Don't see anything scheduled for the Mid-Atlantic region.
    steve
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    MikeL_2 said:

      Was it just a coincidence that the water heater issue showed up when the new furnace was installed?

    Without a CO alarm no one knows. However, the house leakage didn't just begin. The problem only occurs when the furnace/ac aren't running. However, that has been a common problem with new furnaces with higher blower speeds and increased duct leakage.
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 644
    What is a homeowner supposed to do when a contractor who tests his boiler with a combustion analyzer, but has no idea how to use it correctly, thinks a chimney sweep knows more about boilers then he does and then refuses to call the customer back or refuses to ask for help when it is offered?

    I have read just about everyone's combustion training material, watch as many videos on You Tube on combustion testing and realize there are a bunch of dangerous or ignorant bozos out there.
    GGrosspecmsgSTEVEusaPA