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Doing the right thing (or, 3 bricks = 220 degrees) - Steamhead

Boiler Guy
Boiler Guy Member Posts: 585
There is some real interesting stuff in here

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  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    Some thoughts on a snowy morning (long post)

    I did a job last week that really made me think.

    The system in question is a small gravity hot-water job in a 2-story rowhouse, with 340 square feet of radiation. The original boiler, a 1927-vintage National round 4-section, is still in service. As originally installed, it had an early-model Mueller dual feed/safety valve and no expansion tank. This setup was also still in service. Sometime in the 1950s or late 1940s, a Quiet-Heat conversion oil burner was installed.

    The lady called us in desperation- the oil burner kept tripping the circuit breaker and no one would touch it. "It's too old to work on" they said, "the only thing we can do is replace the entire boiler" and she almost had a heart attack when she heard what they wanted for doing so.

    I went down there with a good used Beckett in the truck that we'd kept when we replaced the boiler it had been installed in. We have a habit of keeping these around for just such situations as this, and I was glad I had it that day. I removed the Quiet-Heat and prepared to install the Beckett. I looked at the nozzle in the Quiet-Heat- 1.25 GPH! Remember, this system has 340 square feet of radiation, which translates to a Net rating of 51,000 BTUH at a boiler temperature of 180 degrees. A 1.25 nozzle will burn at an input rate of about 175,000 BTUH- over twice what the system's Net rating should be.

    So I set up the Beckett to burn 1.00 GPH (about 140,000 BTUH input) and started it up. I quickly noticed the stack temperature soaring- it stabilized at 835 degrees. The old stack relay cut off the ignition after about seven seconds of operation! The system heated up nicely, but as it did I noticed the pressure soaring along with the stack temperature. The old Mueller safety valve was only dripping- it was probably rusted up from the old steel pipe it was installed with. I drained enough water from the system to fill one radiator with air to allow for expansion, which kept the pressure under control, and arranged to return and install a new dual valve and add an expansion tank and backflow preventer. The lady was thrilled to have the heat on, and kept an eye on the pressure gauge until I returned.

    When I came back and installed the new dual valve, expansion tank and backflow preventer, I also brought some bricks with me. I placed three of these in the upper section of the boiler to slow the hot flue gases down and deflect them toward the water-backed portions of this section instead of going up and out. With this setup, the stack temp was noticeably lower, and the water heated quickly enough that I switched to a 0.85 GPH nozzle (about 119,000 BTUH input). The stack temp stabilized at 615 degrees- 220 degrees lower. The stack relay took about 25 seconds to cut off the ignition. And since the Beckett burns with zero smoke, I knew it would continue running that well.

    Lastly, I referred the lady to my oil company, who will give her the service she deserves.

    The lady had bought the house last year, from an elderly couple who could no longer afford to live there. After working on that boiler, I knew why.

    How many "heating professionals" had "serviced" that boiler, and shrugged off the excessive stack temperature instead of trying to correct it?

    How many saw the soaring pressure gauge and thought "they all do that"?

    This job was scary. They were paying for a lot of oil to run a system that could have exploded!

    How many similar systems are out there, guzzling gas or imported oil while the pressure-activated time bomb is ticking?

    I agree that boiler should be replaced. The lady says she wants to wait for warm weather, but when she's ready, we will get the job. We were the only company that "did the right thing".

    Thanks to Frank Graham and George "Firedragon" Lanthier for all the hot tips they included in their books.

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  • jim sokolovic
    jim sokolovic Member Posts: 439
    Brick trick...

    My dad showed me that one many years ago. How about a "hanging baffle" over the combustion chamber?
  • kk_2
    kk_2 Member Posts: 57
    I suppose...

    you have to be careful not to block things off enough to cause there to not be enough overfire draft, right? I've heard of using black pipe in a similar way.

    Jim - what's a "hanging baffle"?

    Nothing like doing a little "seat-of-the-pants" boiler re-engineering. :^)

    -kk
  • Firedragon_4
    Firedragon_4 Member Posts: 1,436
    Thank you for the

    compliments and the plug. To also put me in the same league with Mr. Graham is quite the compliment, I am quite flattered, just don't want to be a Dead-Man quite yet :-)

    Mr. Graham is one of my heroes not only for his writing accumen and style, but also for the knowledge he passed down, again you humble me.

    Sounds like you did a great job and it made you proud, that's what craftsmanship is all about.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    You're absolutely right

    about the overfire draft, KK. But that was 0.02, which was fine.

    A "hanging baffle" is usually cone-shaped, and is suspended in the middle of the firepot of an old coal boiler to deflect the flue gases against the water-backed walls. Some gas conversion burners, and of course the old wall-flame rotary oil burners, did their own deflecting. I might have considered something along this line if we weren't planning to replace the boiler in the summer.

    I've always hated the idea of changing a boiler in 20-degree weather unless there was no other way to get the system working safely and efficiently. The Dead Men could do it, so why can't we?

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  • jim sokolovic
    jim sokolovic Member Posts: 439
    Hanging baffle...

    It's a big ceramic disk that hangs by a chain over the combustion chamber. Maybe it was used to control the flame more than to slow / disperse the flue gasses within the passages. Putting in a modern burner and these type of things usually allowed you to drop the nozzle size significantly - so the over-fire draft was usually fine afterward. I can't speak for how the chimney fared with the reduction in flue temperature, though. It was a long time ago and everything was done by sight and feel.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    You deserve it, FD

    I always like to give credit where it's due, and your book and Mr. Graham's are two of the best I've read on oil burners. I'm working my way thru Burkhardt now.

    BTW, for those of you who didn't see it, I linked a post on Oil Tech Talk to this thread. I'm sure they will post responses there too, so it might pay to "wander off the Wall".

    See you all at Wetstock!

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  • Steamhead I love it

    those brick baffles made me stand up and take notice. The baffling of boilers coal, oil or gas is a lost art. It is a surefire way to reduce stack temp, getting better heat transfer, reduce excess air, increase CO2, and in most cases set the neutral pressure point in the boiler. I think I might have added a few more but that is just me.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    Thanks , Tim

    there wasn't room for more without choking the draft too much. And I had to load them in by prying open the old check damper on top- they wouldn't fit thru the cleanout door in front!

    I'll take some pics of this one when we replace it. On these cold days I try to avoid taking the camera, hate to slip on the ice and mess it up.

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  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    Steamhead


    YOU TESTED, the others did not. High stcack temp? That's what the stack limit is for.

    Great trouble shooting!

    Mark H




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  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    Thanks, Mark

    coming from you, Tim, Firedragon and the others, it means a lot. I'm not sure no one else tested- there was a bit of soot in that boiler but not much, so someone must have set it to burn clean at some point. I'll bet the stack temp was even higher with the old burner though. What a waste of imported oil.

    BTW, I know you were kidding me about the "stack limit". For those who might not know, the stack relay I mentioned is not a limit control- it is an old Honeywell RA117A oil primary that uses heat in the stack to prove that the oil flame was established. As I understand it, the problem with these was they would soot up- but if you set your burner up to burn with zero smoke, and allow a bit of headroom as Firedragon advises, they won't soot up! These units give a loud click when they move to the running position and the ignition relay drops out, so if you have a unit like that one and you make some major changes, just listening for how long it takes to click can give you an idea of the difference you've made before you even set up your instruments.

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  • Firedragon_4
    Firedragon_4 Member Posts: 1,436
    Set up any burner for a #1 smoke on the Lanthier Scale

    as we advise in our 'Combustion' book and you'll never unplug anything, boiler, stack sensor, nada, FACT!

    http://www.firedragonent.com/Books.htm
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    HEHEHE!


    If I had a dime for every time I heard a stack relay called a stack limit.......

    Probably as many times as I have been told that oil doesn't produce CO.

    Mark H

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  • Dave Stroman
    Dave Stroman Member Posts: 761


    Check out the brick baffling in this boiler. It was a gas fired boiler and I got a big kick out of the way someone stacked them inside.
    Dave Stroman
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    CURSE OF THE PHARAOH'S!!!!!!!!!


    DO NOT OPEN IT!!!!!!!

    Mark H

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  • Dave that is a nightmare

    and a tradgedy waiting to happen, whoever did that did not know what they were doing. What kind of a boiler is that? Was it a gas conversion or a designed gas boiler? Did you do a combustion test on it and at least test for Carbon Monoxide.
  • Dave Stroman
    Dave Stroman Member Posts: 761


    The boiler was an old coal converted to gas. It had several what I call bazooka burners that simply blew the flame against the bricks to defuse them. Here is another photo as well as the new boilers we replaced it with.
    Dave Stroman
  • imatellerslie
    imatellerslie Member Posts: 111
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    I remember my dad, who used to come home every day from work smelling like some combination of heating oil and hand cleaner doing this to a boiler in a church basement one weekend. I was there, about 5 or 6 years old, to "help" him.
  • Mad Dog
    Mad Dog Member Posts: 2,595
    GEEZ steamhead..isn't enough for you to be .....................

    a steam expert? Now, your mastering combustion and CO????? Way to go pal, you are a great asset to the industry and especially The Wall. I agree George's books and articles are excellent - the guy knows his sh.....eetrock! Mad Dog

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  • Firedragon_4
    Firedragon_4 Member Posts: 1,436
    So wahtsa sh.....eetrock?

    Is that some new kind of wallboard? Must be something from 'This Miserable House'. Thanks for the kudoo (I think) Mad Dog! ;-)
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
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  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    I think that usage came

    from that old song "Shhhhhhhaving Cream"

    MD, it's a constant learning experience. The more I know in this business, the more I realize I still have to learn. Fortunately we have so many great teachers here!

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  • jackchips_2
    jackchips_2 Member Posts: 1,338
    Your one

    of those teachers, Steamhead. Excellent thread.
  • Boiler Guy
    Boiler Guy Member Posts: 585
    MMMMMMmmmemmories

    I know I am a newby to the wall .... but this brick sh.. (as Mad Dog puts it) is another lost art! I can remember building walls and baffles and creating neutral pressure point baffles during my teething years in this industry. Those were fun times!! Set the draft with a match and a smoke .. set the fire by eye with tiny orange tendrils and just a hint of smoke .... then ... shake up the Bacharach to see how close you got. Them were the days! COMPUTERS !?!?! do we really need em? YEP! My how things have changed. Steamhead you sound like a real knowlegable dude. Do you hang out in Mad Dog country too?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    Geographically, no

    He's on Long Island and I'm in Baltimore. But we both love the old systems, especially steam!

    And from all of us- welcome to the Wall.

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  • Hal
    Hal Member Posts: 55
    The shaving cream song.

    Steamhead, thanks for reminding me of this great song. I heard Dave van Ronk do it in the sixties.
    -----------------------------------

    I have a sad story to tell you.
    It may hurt your feelings a bit.
    last night, when I walked in my bathroom,
    I stepped in a pile of...
    Shaving cream, be nice and clean!
    Shave every day, and you'll always look keen.

    I think I'll break up with my girlfriend.
    Her antics are queer, I'll admit.
    Each time I say "Darling, I love you,"
    She tells me that I'm full of...
    Shaving cream, be nice and clean!
    Shave every day, and you'll always look keen.

    A baby fell out of the window.
    You'd think that her head would be split.
    But good luck was with her that morning.
    She fell in a barrel of...
    Shaving cream, be nice and clean!
    Shave every day, and you'll always look keen.

    When I was in France with the Army,
    One day I looked into my kit.
    I thought I would find me a sandwich,
    But the darn thing was loaded with...
    Shaving cream, be nice and clean!
    Shave every day, and you'll always look keen.

    And now, folks, my story is ended.
    I think it is time I should quit.
    If any of you feel offended,
    Stick your head in a barrel of shaving cream!
  • jim sokolovic
    jim sokolovic Member Posts: 439
    Wasn't there a line...?

    "Gomer Pyle is turnin' green - someone threw #&*% in his canteen!"
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    Missed one

    "An old lady died in her bathtub,
    She died from a terrible fit...
    In order to fulfill her wishes
    She was buried in six feet of Shaving cream, be nice and clean! Shave every day, and you'll always look keen."


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