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Ramblings on Reliability

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hot_rod
hot_rod Member Posts: 22,468
Certainly when you visit a site named "Heating Help" you expect to hear mainly about problematic jobs and or products. The public is fortunate to have a mostly friendly landing pad to take problems and questions to.

What you rarely hear is experiences with the 10's maybe 100's of thousands of systems, boilers, furnaces, pumps etc that run long trouble free lives.

One could point to all sorts of conditions that cause system or products to be unreliable or fail before their expected lifecycle.

Installation error may top that list. Improper sizing, failure to tune the system both on combustion and flow rates. Lack of routine maintenance. Down engineered cheaply built product, etc.

Welcome to the digital, electronic world. Many of the products we deal with are run by microprocessors. Dirty power, brownouts are not friendly events for electronics, any more than a lightening strike is.
You would be hard pressed to find any modern "device" in your home from the basic thermostat to all the appliances that do not have a computer of some sort.

I understand the attraction to simple KISS "stuff". A standing pilot gravity system puts a smile on many hydronic folk faces.

But realistically those days are in the rear view mirror. Either by regulations, or generational changes.
A neighbor corrected me when I complimented him on his new car. He told me a Tesla is A computer that happens to have wheel. He doesn't consider it to be an automobile. Of course he is in his 30's :)

So some will continue to long for the good old days until the last shovelful of dirt is tossed on their grave. Most others will embrace, look forward to the new age of machinery. And to figure out how to leverage that for yourself and customers.

There is no right or wrong with old tech vs new tech. Even old timers like myself can embrace change and cutting edge stuff.
it's nice to live in a place and time where the options still exist.

Now where did my digital business card go off to??

Don't fear the reaper, and don't fear the HPWH :)
Bob "hot rod" Rohr
trainer for Caleffi NA
Living the hydronic dream
PC7060

Comments

  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes Member Posts: 4,102
    edited September 2023
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    I like that boiler self-diagnostics are getting better and better. They tell you where it hurts.
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,408
    edited September 2023
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    Some are familiar with the Peak Oil Theory. After a certain point Oil would become more expensive because it would become harder to find. It was a sound theory when postulated. Later Fracking changed everything, but that is not my point here.
    I have my own Peak Tech Theory. Some Tech is good, but more is not better. I believe we are well past the point where Tech has reduced total cost of ownership (TCO). We hit Peak Tech at different times with different products. I personally like General Motors GMT800 Trucks 1999-2007. I think the amount of tech on those was just right.
    The problem is unelected bureaucrats who make increasingly unrealistic efficiency and pollution demands on manufacturers. The manufacturers rarely push back, partly because of their conflict of interest in selling more product. (Planned Obsolescence). Many consumers don't know enough to push back, and become stuck with poorly engineered products that were rushed to market to meet a new unelected bureaucrat demand.
    Next year The Supremes will review the Chevron Doctrine. That may change some of this.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevron_U.S.A.,_Inc._v._Natural_Resources_Defense_Council,_Inc.#Opposition
    CLambSolid_Fuel_Man
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,941
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    hot_rod said:

    Don't fear the reaper, and don't fear the HPWH :)

    I don't fear the HPWH, i fear copper refrigeration tubing manufactured without sufficient supervision.
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 506
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    hot_rod said:
    Certainly when you visit a site named "Heating Help" you expect to hear mainly about problematic jobs and or products. The public is fortunate to have a mostly friendly landing pad to take problems and questions to. What you rarely hear is experiences with the 10's maybe 100's of thousands of systems, boilers, furnaces, pumps etc that run long trouble free lives. One could point to all sorts of conditions that cause system or products to be unreliable or fail before their expected lifecycle. Installation error may top that list. Improper sizing, failure to tune the system both on combustion and flow rates. Lack of routine maintenance. Down engineered cheaply built product, etc. Welcome to the digital, electronic world. Many of the products we deal with are run by microprocessors. Dirty power, brownouts are not friendly events for electronics, any more than a lightening strike is. You would be hard pressed to find any modern "device" in your home from the basic thermostat to all the appliances that do not have a computer of some sort. I understand the attraction to simple KISS "stuff". A standing pilot gravity system puts a smile on many hydronic folk faces. But realistically those days are in the rear view mirror. Either by regulations, or generational changes. A neighbor corrected me when I complimented him on his new car. He told me a Tesla is A computer that happens to have wheel. He doesn't consider it to be an automobile. Of course he is in his 30's :) So some will continue to long for the good old days until the last shovelful of dirt is tossed on their grave. Most others will embrace, look forward to the new age of machinery. And to figure out how to leverage that for yourself and customers. There is no right or wrong with old tech vs new tech. Even old timers like myself can embrace change and cutting edge stuff. it's nice to live in a place and time where the options still exist. Now where did my digital business card go off to?? Don't fear the reaper, and don't fear the HPWH :)
     Yes, Hot rod, I'm in total agreement with you. Technology is just the latest challenge we've confronted, adapted to, & adopted. 
       One thing that baffles me though, we have several generations of young ones weaned on technology but we can't seem to attract them to our industry. 
       It looks like a  fantastic match for young people who's fingers can dance on keyboards - technology based operating systems in all things plumbing & hvac, and great paying entry level job opportunities with unlimited advancement opportunities...... 
        
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,941
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    You busted the unions. They were the ones that recruited and trained and retained new people in the trades.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
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    All quite true. Whether we like to admit it or not, some of the new technology is far superior to the old "tried and true", particularly in terms of capability and performance. Where reliability gets confusing -- and it does -- is that there is so much more going on in the new technology, particularly in the controls, that it may seem that the reliability isn't there. Suppose that you have a widget with 10 parts, each of which has a 1 percent chance of failing in the next 10 years. As it works out, you can then expect that widget to have a 10 percent chance of failing overall in the next 10 years. But suppose you now have a widget which does everything except make the toast, and has 1,000 parts? And you want that same 10 percent chance of failure over 10 years? Now each part needs to have only a 0.01 percent chance of failure in that time.

    And our modern widgets do last -- almost as well, if not better -- than the old ones, which means that the individual part reliability is much much better.

    That said, there are a few things we never used to have to worry much about -- these things are, as your friend with the Tesla said, really computers (often dozens of them talking to each other all the time) which happen to perform some other function. Like driving to the store or heating the house. But computers have a quirk: they need to be able to talk clearly to each other and their sensors, and they need to have very clean power to think straight. So the first place to look when your widget goes paws up is all the connections -- clean and tight? -- and the power supplies and the grounds. And, for line powered equipment, which is almost everything we have, the quality of the line power. Little voltage drops or spikes which wouldn't have mattered a bit to the old stuff can really confuse a computer, unless it has a really good internal power supply or external power supply (consider: your smartphone or laptop really runs off a battery, not line power...)

    @Alan(CaliforniaRadiant)Forbes comment on diagnostics is also spot on -- but the HVAC industry, despite getting better, is so far behind the automotive industry (never mind the aviation industry) that it's almost painful. Consider: every new car or truck you buy today has an OBD II port, and you can go out an buy an analyzer (not the cheap ones which blink at you, but the real ones) which will allow you to see what every computer and sensor thinks it's doing, and which will allow you to control manually almost everything on the vehicle. Some very high end machinery (and most newer big airplanes and some small) even allow you to do this remotely, provided you have a cellphone or satellite connection (we have a timber forwarder, for instance, made in Finland. Got a nice e-mail from the manufacturer the other day saying that a new bearing was coming and how to install it, since they had noticed that the old one was wearing out... really? We weren't aware of it -- but they were).

    To go back to cars -- that OBD II port has a reliable, standard, communication protocol which works for almost every newer car out there. Seems to me that the HVAC trade could benefit from such a scheme, particularly as we get into more complex and highly stressed equipment.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    WMno57Solid_Fuel_Man
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,829
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    i am old so when the new technology started i was not a fan. I think i was 40 when I moved into the office to do some estimating and run jobs and the only thing i new about a computer was to push the start button.

    But I learned a lot and scuffled through. Back in the field at 48 things had changed. A lot of microprocessors but still a lot of old school stuff but things were rapidly changing.

    A microprocessor is about knowing how the thing is supposed to function...perhaps that is the hardest part and then troubleshooting the inputs and outputs until you come to some conclusion (or your best guess) on where the problem is.

    I found after a while I could fix things and find the problems that the newer techs that were more comfortable with the processors could not find.

    I have to admit when they work right there are much superior to the old technology.

    But I to fear (or I used to) the nighttime service call, or the chiller is down, and they need it to run a process and you can't bypass the controls to get it running and parts are not in stock.
    GGross
  • GGross
    GGross Member Posts: 1,105
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    @EBEBRATT-Ed

    It sounds like you did a great job adapting to new technology. Remember a lot of the young guys that often are touted as being very tech savvy really just know how to use a smart phone. A smart phone is meant to be easy enough to use that a toddler can use one, so I wouldn't put much stock in those young folks having any more experience with tech than you do, as it sounds like you got a good grasp of it.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,385
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    Hi,,This discussion makes me think of the power of elegant simplicity. When done right, it's very durable and easy to understand. It uses the properties of materials rather than electronics, to accomplish things. It's difficult to design however. Also, who would want to build something these days that would have very little repeat business? It's a conundrum 😏

    Yours, Larry
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 17,000
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    ....... and parts are not in stock.

    Huge problem. There's no standardization on a lot of newer stuff (see: mod-cons), therefore all parts are proprietary. One manufacturer's ignitor or gas valve won't work on another's. And since nobody stocks this stuff, it has to come from the factory. And I have to tell the customer that the part for their super-expensive whiz-bang boiler that just broke down is two weeks away.

    The oil burner industry went through this in the 1930s. There were a bunch of different designs, but the industry realized it had to be able to service these units quickly. So the high-pressure "gun-type" design became standard, and parts like fuel units and motors adopted standard mountings so as to be interchangeable. The same basic concept survives today- for example, the fuel unit from a Beckett AFG can also be used on a Carlin EZ-1 or Wayne MS-R or HS burner. So we only have to carry the one part on the service truck.

    The old-timers got it right.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    EBEBRATT-EdSolid_Fuel_Manbburd
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,829
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    @Steamhead

    Same goes for commercial gas & oil burners. You can usually find a way to get them going even if you have to order and wait for a part. The one exception is the blower wheel.

    Iron Fireman used to have a burner that was........not really a common problem but it happened often enough it would throw a blower wheel.

    I remember one Christmas Eve the Diocese had a Iron Fireman burner that lost a blower wheel so I got a no heat call an hour from home. First, they had a power failure, and the power was back by the time I got there, and I found blown fuses. Replaced those and found the blower wheel had exploded.... It happens on those burners. So back to the shop 1 hour round trip plus some time searching for the parts.

    I also made sure I had a new blower motor and oil pump and coupling.

    Those burners had a strange design. To get the blower wheel off you had to pull the oil pump, air intake shroud and pump coupling which I did and then take the motor off the other side. The hole where the motor mounted was not large enough to pull the blower wheel through. Well good thing I brought a motor
    because the shaft was bent on the motor. Iron Fireman model C240
    PC7060
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes Member Posts: 4,102
    edited September 2023
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    Those burners had a strange design. To get the blower wheel off you had to pull the oil pump, air intake shroud and pump coupling which I did and then take the motor off the other side. The hole where the motor mounted was not large enough to pull the blower wheel through. Well good thing I brought a motor
    because the shaft was bent on the motor. Iron Fireman model C240
    Ugh! Funny how those stick in your mind. That's the stuff careers are made from, i.e. experience.

    At the time, it was probably a dreadful job: travel time, no room to remove the blower. But now, you can look back with pride at having had the right parts with you and the know-how to do the work.
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,696
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    Technology is a tool, & like all tools it allows one to do something that is impossible without the tool—but at a price. That price is dependency. A GPS is a good example. A GPS will get you to an unfamiliar place easily, but after a while of driving by GPS it's going to be harder to navigate without it, even to places that you'd have been able to easily get to before.

    (One of) the problems we're dealing with right now is the insistence that everything be as easy as possible. Now, there are lots of reasons for that, but the plain truth is that easiest isn't necessarily best. I explain it to my kids like this: "if your coach tells you 'nah, that's too hard, you don't need to do it', what do you think is going to happen during your next meet?"

  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    This is a very interesting discussion relevant to a lot of things. Would be interested how you’d apply your various outlooks to my specific example (tell me if this amounts to a mini-hijacking of the thread and I’ll start a new one some time):

    I have a 22 year old Weil-McLain WGO-3 and I’d like to start having a researched plan in place for when it goes. I do not know much about HVAC but I know this with certainty: when it goes it will be during a cold snap either Christmas Eve or January 1.

    Plan A: Tackle big learning curve in advance, learn all about everybody’s favorite brands and all the new models with computers, bluetooth, whatever that look like they are going to land on Mars. Learn about efficiency and carbon footprints and whatever the heck a mod-con and Energy Kinetics and Buderus are (no idea). Gather opinions, make a decision.

    Plan B: Skip all that as I notice that Weil McMcLain still makes the WGO line and they look exactly the same as mine, I could get it next day (possibly) and the pipe tappings look to be in exactly the same places and I have the self-recommendation that this one went at least 22 years and I’m pretty sure parts would never be a problem, which is huge.

    I tend towards reliability rather than efficiency unless I figure we’d be spending lots of hundreds more a year with a WM. We don’t know if we’ll be in this house 2 more years or twenty. Tried and true vs the latest stuff, opinions welcome.
    bburd
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
    edited September 2023
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    A long forgotten (sort of) Master Sergeant once told me son, if it is not important to make a decision, it is important to not make a decision. He was right. Research, yes. Try to keep up with what's new, what's old, what works, what doesn't -- but in the current setting, things are changing so fast that a decision made today on something for even a few months down the road may be hopelessly obsolete when it comes time to pull the trigger. You have to know and understand your options, but don't fire until you need to.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,468
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    seized123 said:

    This is a very interesting discussion relevant to a lot of things. Would be interested how you’d apply your various outlooks to my specific example (tell me if this amounts to a mini-hijacking of the thread and I’ll start a new one some time):

    I have a 22 year old Weil-McLain WGO-3 and I’d like to start having a researched plan in place for when it goes. I do not know much about HVAC but I know this with certainty: when it goes it will be during a cold snap either Christmas Eve or January 1.

    Plan A: Tackle big learning curve in advance, learn all about everybody’s favorite brands and all the new models with computers, bluetooth, whatever that look like they are going to land on Mars. Learn about efficiency and carbon footprints and whatever the heck a mod-con and Energy Kinetics and Buderus are (no idea). Gather opinions, make a decision.

    Plan B: Skip all that as I notice that Weil McMcLain still makes the WGO line and they look exactly the same as mine, I could get it next day (possibly) and the pipe tappings look to be in exactly the same places and I have the self-recommendation that this one went at least 22 years and I’m pretty sure parts would never be a problem, which is huge.

    I tend towards reliability rather than efficiency unless I figure we’d be spending lots of hundreds more a year with a WM. We don’t know if we’ll be in this house 2 more years or twenty. Tried and true vs the latest stuff, opinions welcome.

    I dont know that any of the pros here have mastered the art of predicting when a boiler will fail. Fail beyond reasonable repair anyway.
    Age, maintenance, water quality, operating conditions, tune ups, etc.

    So at some point you just need to make a call based on the little info you have.

    Not knowing how long you will be there complicates an expensive replacement even more :)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,219
    edited September 2023
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    I think it has already been said here ( by Jamie, maybe) that is seems that poor design is getting covered up by electronics. We regularly see examples here of systems that are incredibly efficient ( fuel bills can't lie) in pre WWII buildings, but are repeatedly told that they are not efficient because they do not use all the latest tech. Those systems get ignored and no one bothers to see why they work so efficiently.
    It's funny I recently came across an article from the 1970's talking about the development of a diesel slant six in Europe. They used the Dodge Aspen sedan of the time ( replacement for the Dart/Valiant) as the test mule vehicle. They were getting around 30 mpg from the vehicle with about 1/9 the emissions of the gas powered slant six. with only a slight drop in HP and performance. Old tech with very little or no electronics....and where are we today with all our high tech?

    I'm with some others here.... in the automotive industry it seems that reliability peaked in the mid to late 90's. I understand the racing community uses the tech from that period. Our 2007 Jeep is at about 225,000 miles and we are having no electronics issues. Is sad to see all the issues that newer Jeeps are having.
    I try to set up my systems to get the most out of inherently good design and keep the electronics to a minimum. I believe the whizbang equipment today is way beyond the knee of the curve when looking at reliability versus efficiency. I believe when you can get about 90 to 95% of the efficiency from simple equipment with standardized controls, paying for the last 5 to 10% bump in efficiency in increased repairs, shorter life and aggravation is not worth it. I think this is particularly wise as the U.S. electrical grid gets more and more overtaxed in the winter due to all the electrification. With how close many states were to running out of power last Christmas would be a warning to those that are paying attention. It seems that most are just ignoring the signs.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,941
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    It isn't the technology, it is the making make it cheaper be the most important consideration in design.
    hot_rod
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,913
    edited September 2023
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    I think it has already been said here ( by Jamie, maybe) that is seems that poor design is getting covered up by electronics. We regularly see examples here of systems that are incredibly efficient ( fuel bills can't lie) in pre WWII buildings, but are repeatedly told that they are not efficient because they do not use all the latest tech. Those systems get ignored and no one bothers to see why they work so efficiently.
    It's funny I recently came across an article from the 1970's talking about the development of a diesel slant six in Europe. They used the Dodge Aspen sedan of the time ( replacement for the Dart/Valiant) as the test mule vehicle. They were getting around 30 mpg from the vehicle with about 1/9 the emissions of the gas powered slant six. with only a slight drop in HP and performance. Old tech with very little or no electronics....and where are we today with all our high tech?

    I'm with some others here.... in the automotive industry it seems that reliability peaked in the mid to late 90's. I understand the racing community uses the tech from that period. Our 2007 Jeep is at about 225,000 miles and we are having no electronics issues. Is sad to see all the issues that newer Jeeps are having.
    I try to set up my systems to get the most out of inherently good design and keep the electronics to a minimum. I believe the whizbang equipment today is way beyond the knee of the curve when looking at reliability versus efficiency. I believe when you can get about 90 to 95% of the efficiency from simple equipment with standardized controls, paying for the last 5 to 10% bump in efficiency in increased repairs, shorter life and aggravation is not worth it. I think this is particularly wise as the U.S. electrical grid gets more and more overtaxed in the winter due to all the electrification. With how close many states were to running out of power last Christmas would be a warning to those that are paying attention. It seems that most are just ignoring the signs.



    People want new granite counter tops and huge ugly sinks that stick out the front.
    They want big, fancy stainless refrigerators with a display built in, that really is, in all ways possibly a polished turd. It doesn't matter if it can actually make ice or keep food cold, just as long as they can pick the color and it shows them what spoiled food is inside.

    They want to be told their HVAC system is the most efficient there is. It doesn't matter if it really is, but that's what they want to be told.

    Now they want a heat pump and an inductive stove.

    Really........they want the biggest cheapest built house filled with a bunch of pretty garbage that works terrible and is short lived and they want to be told it's good and efficient. That is what everyone seems to want from my POV.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment