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Boiler cleaning, how bad is this soot?

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seized123
seized123 Member Posts: 297
Just cleaned out Weil-McLain WGO-3 (oil, hydronic). First time I’ve tried this, last cleaning/tuneup (wasn’t much of a tuneup) was in December, so would this amount of soot be normal after 9 months for a decently tuned boiler? (Not that I’m saying it was decently tuned.)

With the saw I couldn’t get all soot off everything, third photo is from above  after cleaning. Could still wire brush the top to make it look better, but I figure what counts is down in there among those nubs where it seems like only a saw can go.


Comments

  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 518
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    Did you clean that the first time or did someone else "clean" it after "setting combustion"...

    No, that's not normal.
    Mad Dog_2
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    @MaxMercy nope this is the first time I ever tried cleaning it myself (with a long sawzall blade on a string, seemed to work). 

    Setting combustion in December (trying out new plumber) meant them putting in a new nozzle, eyeballing the electrode gap, and unless I really missed something no combustion analysis, smoke or draft test (that was before I knew anything, now at least I know nothing + 1). 

    Since then I bought a used wet kid and a Beckett z-gauge and proceeded to gap the electrodes, check and adjust draft, smoke, CO2 as best I could until they looked good to me. The best possible case is that all that soot was before I came to the rescue and tried to tune it, but that might not be the case.

    I called those guys because not long after a cleaning by my recently retired plumber the thing actually started smoking, so lately this boiler has been running sooty/smoky (don’t know about now because it’s shut down while I replace some peripheral stuff).
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 518
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    If your boiler has no air leaks and you can get your draft correct, your CO2 to roughly 10-11 with the wet kit, and your smoke to 0 to 0-1, then you should find a clean boiler next service.

    Some guys could eyeball combustion and do a good job. I always adjusted by eye, then when I got a combustion analyzer, found I was indeed close and always ended up a shade on the lean side. With the analyzer, I can get closer to ideal. Some guys can't eyeball for beans and that might have happened to you, or your new nozzle may have gone wonky. I had a brand new nozzle run smooth as glass for 5 minutes then suddenly cause a rumble and smoke you wouldn't believe. I would have sooted my boiler in minutes if I wasn't next to it when the new nozzle went bad and shut it down.

    I find brushes do a great job cleaning boilers unless the deposits are hard and crusty. If they're sooty, then run the brush through it.

  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,247
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    You need to buy a soot saw...long, thin to get all the way down.  That's looks like it hasn't been serviced in years.  Mad Dog 🐕 
    MaxMercy
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    @Yup, @Mad Dog_2, you’re right, so I just ordered a soot saw and smaller 1/2” brush. Brush I have (1-1/2”) is too wide to go in, even though it said it was for WM’s.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,247
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    Do you have a soot vac? A regular shop vac will work but all the oily soot can destroy it.  Be careful plunging the brush down between the sections  its easy to get jammed in there.  Mad Dog 🐕 

    MaxMercy
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    Yup, I have the worlds oldest Mastercraft Sootmaster. Suction’s not so good but it’ll pick up stuff I’ve already loosened that has fallen and is accessible. 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 17,008
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    What @Mad Dog_2 and @MaxMercy said. That's pretty bad, though not the worst I've seen. If the oil company was "servicing" that boiler, they were laughing all the way to the bank. Then they'd get upset when the customer switches to gas.

    When we go back to a boiler we serviced, there's hardly any cleaning to do. That's because a modern flame-retention burner that is properly installed and tuned will run with zero smoke and soot all season.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Mad Dog_2MaxMercyMikeAmann
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    You also need to brush up from the chamber to the left and right (at least I do). You'll get a lot more "kibbles and bits", as @icesailor used to say.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,840
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    In a boiler that size you should only get a coffee cup full of soot after a year of run time. But, whomever cleaned it before probably didn't clean it
    Mad Dog_2
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    These comments are very helpful to give me perspective on what’s normal, as I have no baseline of experience to compare this to. An actual saw saber and smaller wire brush are arriving tomorrow. @STEVEusaPA I will definitely brush from the bottom too..
    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,247
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    Do your lungs a favor, get a Respirator for yourself.  Cost u $60 bucks, but its cheaper than chest X Ray's 20 yrs. from now. I remember when the company I was with changed over to Riello Oil Burners..Quirky to set up but burned sooooo much cleaner than all others at the time.  Wed open up the boilers and there would be no soot..just a little granular sand...The Italians revolutionized That industry.  Mad Dog 🐕 
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,888
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    What year is that boiler? The 3 section WGO's had pretty tight blocks up until about 2004. You probably won't get -.02 over the fire unless the passages are really clean and the chimney itself provides good draft. Even then you might only get 0 O.F.
    I have that same boiler ('96) with a Riello F5 and haven't vac'd it in 5 years and won't get anything close to what's in that chamber. 
    There's impingement on the target wall.
    What nozzle, head, pump pressure?
    WM specs the 3 section with a Beckett AFG for a .85 70°B with the F3 head, or a .85 45°B with the L1 head.
    MikeAmann
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
    edited September 2023
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    @Mad Dog_2 good advice I have a half mask respirator but wrong cartridges for soot so am ordering P100 filters. Wore the mask anyway when I cleaned but might just wear a regular N95 mask until P100s come.

    @HVACNUT :

    (Actual questions in italics.)

    The boiler's from 2002 or so. If my boiler goes tomorrow I currently plan to replace it with the closest WM model now made, probably another WGO-3, unless eventual research I do tells me otherwise.

    Draft: Is it bad if I can only get 0 draft over fire? I'm currently replacing the entire flue/chimney connector piping from an incorrect "plumber's tee" to a correct configuration for oil, as per advice I've received on this forum and from Field Controls which manufactures the draft control damper. I am hoping the new configuration helps draft.

    That impingement you see on a brand new liner is only from the boiler running a couple of minutes! How can I protect against impingement? Nozzle type, I assume? Speaking of which:

    Thanks for asking, it's a Beckett AFG with an F3 head, and as you say Beckett calls for a .85 70°B but I'm pretty sure they've been putting in .75 70°B because that's what's on the little blue containers they leave behind. Might that be causing impingement and/or soot? (See below for pump pressure.) When I'm done replacing/overhauling just about everything around the boiler itself would I be wise to start afresh with a .85 70°B and take it from there?

    Pump pressure: With the old pump I measured about 125 psi, and it's supposed to be 140. (I'm not sure I measured it right though, I have a Westwood T11 pump tester, I disconnected the copper nozzle tube that goes from the solenoid to the burner and attached the tester there, between solenoid and burner. I think the instructions say nothing about a solenoid and to connect from the pump directly to the burner, but I don't see how that would make a difference, while the burner's running the solenoid's open and you should get the same reading as if you had bypassed the solenoid. Interestingly, however, I'm guessing the same doesn't apply when you try to test whether the pump holds pressure after cutoff. I closed the cutoff knob that comes on the tester and saw pressure drop to zero - I thought the pump was bad but now realize that when the control sensed no oil/flame it probably closed the solenoid, so of course it read no pressure. Next time I test I should bypass the solenoid? Anyway, that pump's gone and a new Suntec compatible with biofuel is installed which I need because New York is upping biofuel percentages, but haven't started anything up because first I have to replace the flue stuff and also relief and supply valves that are 20 yrs old and apparently shot, subject of another thread.)

  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    … Oh, and the sticker on the side of the WGO-3 Says .95 gph, but, if I understand this right, nozzles are rated at 100 psi, so probably according to one of those nozzle charts a .85 at 140 psi would be about .95 gph…?
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,247
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    Welding Supplies carry petroleum type respirators     mad Dog 🐕 
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    So I cleaned this thing using my new soot saw which worked fine but tried the new 1/2" wire brush which was the smallest I saw but still there's no way that thing will go down between the pins, if that's what they're called. Do you guys always use a brush or do some boilers just have too narrow a passage (I didn't see any brushes for boiler cleaning under 1/2"). Seems to me the brush would get it a lot cleaner after the saw, which gets the big stuff.
  • fueloilrich631
    fueloilrich631 Member Posts: 16
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    You'll probably want to clean it from the bottom as well next time. I use a small brush and carry a flathead screwdriver with a 6" shaft. Looks like it hasn't been properly cleaned for a while.
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    @fueloilrich631, yes I did clean from the bottom too, just with the saw though. I’ll look for any really thin long wire brush to buy. It was cleaned and “tuned up” in January after smoking (after another cleaning and “tuneup” not long before that!) These were not heat techs but plumbers who didn’t even use a combustion analyzer. A pro from the oil company is coming hopefully tomorrow.
    fueloilrich631
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,167
    edited September 2023
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    This is the soot saw https://www.supplyhouse.com/Westwood-Products-S400-Service-Saw-Boiler-Cleaning-Tool
    I also like this brush for weil mclain boilers because the wire diameter is less likely to get stuck between the pins if you happen to skip over from one row of pins to the next row of pins.https://www.supplyhouse.com/Mill-Rose-01836-MILL-ROSE-1-2-Horsehair-Boiler-Brush-36-Total-Length I also like this one but I can not find it any place else on the web. https://www.remichel.com/WebServices/Catalog/SearchResults/SelectProduct

    Edward Young Retired

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

  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,888
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    The flue passages are tight in the earlier GO 3 and 4 section boilers. If needed, I use a saw and a 3" diameter soft bristle, and 1" tapered hard bristle nylon brushes. 

    Did you lose any draft hood bolts or clips?
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    @HVACNUT maybe soft bristle will work.

    HVACNUT said:

    Did you lose any draft hood bolts or clips?
    I’m glad you mentioned that! If you mean the bolts that hold down the inner plate on top of the boiler with a 7” hole in it for the flue, what a pain they were! Three of them were bolts that go in a slot of the heavy cast iron to be held there by nuts, but there’s no clearance for you to get underneath to hold the bolt head while tightening the nut, so you either can’t tighten it or it slides out of the slot or both. The one bolt that looked original had what I now know, and you probably already knew, is a “speed nut” (photo below), which worked fine, it acts like a spring and you screw it onto bolt and slide it and bolt into slot and it maintains tension. Two trips to the hardware store to get the right nut/bolt combo and get extras and it was a relative breeze, but that sure ate up a lot of time.



  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,888
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    seized123 said:
    @HVACNUT maybe soft bristle will work.

    HVACNUT said:

    Did you lose any draft hood bolts or clips?
    I’m glad you mentioned that! If you mean the bolts that hold down the inner plate on top of the boiler with a 7” hole in it for the flue, what a pain they were! Three of them were bolts that go in a slot of the heavy cast iron to be held there by nuts, but there’s no clearance for you to get underneath to hold the bolt head while tightening the nut, so you either can’t tighten it or it slides out of the slot or both. The one bolt that looked original had what I now know, and you probably already knew, is a “speed nut” (photo below), which worked fine, it acts like a spring and you screw it onto bolt and slide it and bolt into slot and it maintains tension. Two trips to the hardware store to get the right nut/bolt combo and get extras and it was a relative breeze, but that sure ate up a lot of time.



    The clips probably fell between the block and the jacket. I got a flexible grabber claw because I kept running into missing bolts from other techs. They didn't disappear. On the Series 1, the block was tapped and you bolted the plate right to the block. I don't know why they changed it. 
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    I remember the last time it got "tuned up" and cleaned they were cursing whoever designed that system. They might not even have known about the speed nuts (plumbers, not heat techs).