Too much soot

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Old 10-20-08, 12:27 PM
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Too much soot

My oil-fired Peerless boiler/Beckett burner produces way too much soot. One heating season results in completely occluded passages within the boiler.

The unit receives regular tune-ups - at least one per season, usually two.

I have a contract for oil that includes burner service. Yes, fox in charge of the henhouse.

The service people insist that everything is set up 'right', and explain the soot as 'normal'. I suspect otherwise.

What items should I look for? What readings - stack temperature, etc. - should I be looking for?
 
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Old 10-20-08, 04:00 PM
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For soot a smoke test (search on "Bacharach true spot") is what is used. For the issue of the burner sooting up the boiler, there are a number of reasons this can happen.

Assuming the burner is set up properly by the tech, sometime later if the air to the burner is reduced it will soot. This reduction in air can be caused by a number of factors. Such as closing the door to the utility closest, another appliance removing air from the house or area of the burner (dryer, fireplace, etc.).

Basically not enough make up air is available.

If the tank is outside and the oil gets cold this too affects combustion. When the oil is cold the flow through the nozzle increases and the droplets exiting the nozzle are larger. This can cause a burner to soot.

The other question is what type of intake/venting does this boiler/burner use? Is it inside air for the burner and a chimney, or a direct vent setup with outside air? Or a mix?

Al.
 

Last edited by OldBoiler; 10-20-08 at 04:21 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 10-21-08, 09:47 AM
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Hi Al, thanks for the reply.

Here is my setup:

There are two oil burners in a vented room approximately 12x18. There should be no problem with the units starving for air.

Two units share a flue/chimney. The first unit is an old/hot air. I suspect that this unit has a sooting problem, too, but it is not easy to get in there to check. This unit serves one zone; I plan to deep six this unit by adding a coil to the air handler and a zone off my boiler, but that is another story.

The second unit is my Peerless boiler. This serves two air handlers and an indirect water tank, so 3 zones. This sum***** soots up like crazy, and that annoys me to no end.

The boiler flue runs up two feet and then ells horizontally for a ten foot run. About two feet in (eight feet from the chimney) the flue from the hot air unit tees in. There is a damper right before the fluepie goes into the wall. This (new) damper was taped closed by my servce people when I complained of an acrid smell when the Peerless was firing. This change did eliminate the odor but had no apparent effect on the sooting problem.

The Peerless boiler is rated at - IIRC - 120 or 150K BTU. I believe it has a ,8 nozzle. I believe this unit has untapped capacity and therfore my plans to add a fourth zone (a hot water coil in the air handler of the hot air unit). This would eliminate one burner, etc., etc.

I have a robust solar panel setup for DHW. For most of the year, the oil burners are quiesced and all DHW comes from my solar system (160 degrees). The rest of the year, the DHW comes from the indirect tank off the Peerless, but it runs through the solar system first to preheat up to about 80 degrees.

My oil tank is inside; I'd suspect that the oil temp is never below 60 degrees F and a lot warmer when these units are running as that room gets quite warm.

Each year I open up the Peerless and spend a day cleaning it out. In one heating season, the flueways are completely occluded with hairy soot.

I have a service contract. On Thursday, they come to get me back onlne for this heating season. Per my other post, these fellows only look at flues and flames. They only seeem willing or able to adjust electrodes and air supply.

I note that the large air intake slots on the Beckett burner - at least the ones you see form the top - are completely closed. I know that that probably does not mean anything in and of itself.

I can install a fuel deaerator, and that might help, but I doubt that air bubbles in my fuel are the bulk of the problem.

When these folks show up Thursday, I would like to be forearmed enough to be able to ask for the 'right' things, within the limits of what they seem able to handle.
 
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Old 10-21-08, 10:16 AM
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It would be better to stay with one thread. Copied from the other:

For a residential oil burner these are the measurements that should be taken. And used to adjust the system:

Oil pump pressure
Flue CO2
Flue Smoke
Flue Temperature
Flue Draft
Overfire Draft

Ask for those readings. Without taking those measurements the burner can not be set up. These are the industry standard measurements. So if they say they aren't required or is only for the 'new' stuff, then you know they are BS'ing.

You could start off with getting a draft gage and smoke pump. And slowly work your way into understanding how to use them. Do some research on the web, lots of information out there. There is a US Army site that has a decent manual on heating systems.

Since you are the one cleaning the boiler out already, makes sense to also do the tune up. Filter and nozzle changes are easy. Once you start working on it you will become more and more familiar with the burner/boiler.

Also, with the smoke pump you can take readings with the utility room doors closed. See if that is causing an issue. Only takes a couple of minutes and you don't get dirty doing it. Then from time to time through out the season take smoke readings. See if there is suddenly smoke.

Same with draft. There may be an issue when both units are firing. And/or, there is not enough make up air when both are firing.

Al.
 
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Old 10-21-08, 05:29 PM
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There are two oil burners in a vented room approximately 12x18. There should be no problem with the units starving for air.
Vented? You mean there are openings sized appropriately for BOTH appliances ? "Should be" sounds like a guess to me.

Two units share a flue/chimney.
Not a good idea IMO. Especially given the flue piping arrangement you describe, and more so if both units can run simultaneously. Tell us this; after the two pipes join, does the flue pipe step up in size? I bet your local building inspector would have a field day in your basement with his red tags...

I note that the large air intake slots on the Beckett burner - at least the ones you see form the top - are completely closed. I know that that probably does not mean anything in and of itself.
There are two air adjustments on a Beckett, the BAND is the wide one with the oval shaped slots. Not uncommon to have that one closed all the way, depending on the firing rate. The SHUTTER is the round vertical one behind the fuel pump. That needle is pointing to which number ?

A deaerator will do nothing to speak of for your sooting. Not a bad idea to have one, but I doubt it will help the problem at hand.

Al mentioned CO2 as a measurable parameter, O2 can also be used, and either one can be 'inferred' from the other.

Here's what I think is happening: Your burners are set up in such a way that they can both run at the same time, no 'lockout' between them. They are both venting into the same (probably too small for both) flue connector pipe. When one is running, it robs combustion air from the other (it doesn't take much!, even a clothes dryer in the same room can cause an oil burner to go 'over the edge' and start smoking). Since they had to tape over a damper, it's obvious that you've got a flue vent problem too. So, you've got the butt AND the mouth being restricted on BOTH burners...

The sooner you get rid of the second system, the better off you will be.
 
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Old 10-22-08, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Vented? You mean there are openings sized appropriately for BOTH appliances ? "Should be" sounds like a guess to me.


There is a 12x8 grille vent into the furnace room. This is always open. Almost always, the door to the furnace room is open, too. There are several paths that make-up air can enter the area including from the outside. I suspect that the air supply is not the root cause. Is there a way to check?

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Not a good idea IMO. Especially given the flue piping arrangement you describe, and more so if both units can run simultaneously. Tell us this; after the two pipes join, does the flue pipe step up in size? I bet your local building inspector would have a field day in your basement with his red tags....


Everything has been inspected up the kazoot. LOL The flue pipe at the first unit is 6 inch and then it steps up to a larger size - not sure if the step-up is 7 or 8 inch - before the second unit tees in.

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
There are two air adjustments on a Beckett, the BAND is the wide one with the oval shaped slots. Not uncommon to have that one closed all the way, depending on the firing rate. The SHUTTER is the round vertical one behind the fuel pump. That needle is pointing to which number ?


The oval slots are closed. The needle is pointing to 7.5. For what it is worth, the adjustment that I believe positions the nozzle along the z axis is right in the middle.

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
A deaerator will do nothing to speak of for your sooting. Not a bad idea to have one, but I doubt it will help the problem at hand.


OK, yes it seemed like a magic bullet. Not a bad idea but probably not the biggest problem.

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Al mentioned CO2 as a measurable parameter, O2 can also be used, and either one can be 'inferred' from the other.


Here is some specific information:

Peerless WB/WV-94
There are two white Peerless stickers on the unit. One seems like it was installed at the factory by its location. It says 1.5 nozzle, unit 178,000 BTU/hr rated 155,000 BTU/hr. An identical white Peerless sticker is to the left of that one. Since it is stuck on at an angle, it looks like the installer might have put this one on. The sticker is the same but the information is different. This one says .95 nozzle, 116,000 BTU/hr rated 101,000 BTU/hr.

Beckett burner AFG series. Pump says A2VA-7116.

Honeywell controller HR8184G-4009

Circulator pump is a Taco and there is only one. Three Honeywell zone control valves. Two zones feed air handlers with coils and the third is an indirect DHW tank.

Can you tell me what oil pump pressure I should be seeing?

I believe that there is a .8 nozzle installed - is this not suited for this unit?

Why do I have two stickers with conflicting information?

I think my service people can measure CO2 - what readings would they shoot for, to back into the rest?

Again, these guys like to do things by eye. I would like as much quantitative information at my fingertips tomorrow morning as possible. I don't want to let them off the hook with statements like 'that's how we do it' unless they can back it up with numbers. And, of cource, I don't want to just get into a p!$$ing contest with them.

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Here's what I think is happening: Your burners are set up in such a way that they can both run at the same time, no 'lockout' between them. They are both venting into the same (probably too small for both) flue connector pipe. When one is running, it robs combustion air from the other (it doesn't take much!, even a clothes dryer in the same room can cause an oil burner to go 'over the edge' and start smoking). Since they had to tape over a damper, it's obvious that you've got a flue vent problem too. So, you've got the butt AND the mouth being restricted on BOTH burners....


I have been asking about the fact that there is no lockout on these systems for years. Yes, they can both run simultaneously and that has always seemed totally wrong. But of course they swear that it is OK (and it was their company that did the installation, albeit some years ago). I expect that I should insist on a lockout - what is the best way to achieve that? I'll bet that it just requires a wire between existing contacts on the controllers.

There are no clothes dryers or anything else like that down there. But your point is well taken. If it does not take much to rob some air, perhaps that can happen.

However, above and beyond all that, I suspect that the servicemen are under orders from Mission Control to set these units up on the rich side, based on a couple of offhand comments I have heard them make. My first order of business is to ensure that they are doing things right.

Yes, I am going to trash the oil/hot air unit. I'll slip in a hot water coil to the existing air handler and add a fourth zone. I was hoping to get that done before this heating season started but that did not occur. So, another project is to finish sizing that coil. I have asked a few outfits for estimates on that work and have gotten totally absurd quotes. So I will probably end up doing this myself.

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
[I]The sooner you get rid of the second system, the better off you will be.
Absolutely!!! But I still have to solve this sooting issue. last question: are soot sticks effective? Worthwhile? Ill advised? I was thinking of throwing one in to burn off the last vestiges of soot since it is very difficult to get everything as squeaky-clean as I'd like.

Thanks!
 
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Old 10-22-08, 09:59 AM
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There is a HUGE amount of information on this website that you will find interesting. I suggest that you read the items in the left hand column for starters.

http://www.bacharach-training.com/
 
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Old 10-22-08, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by furd View Post
There is a HUGE amount of information on this website that you will find interesting. I suggest that you read the items in the left hand column for starters.

http://www.bacharach-training.com/
Yes, this is all great, and I will follow up on it.

However, my priority right now is preparation for tomorrow morning.

I would *really* appreciate some hard numbers. I realize that it 'all depends' and that one thing affects another. Nevertheless, I would like to know the ranges that put me in the ballpark. For example, something like 'Beckett burners are usually 45 to 55 psi, and you are in trouble if you are under 35 or over 60'. Now, I just made those numbers up, but it is an indication of what I need: some realistic targets that provide a starting point.
 
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Old 10-22-08, 04:51 PM
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Yes, 'it depends' ...

First, pump pressure:

For many years the oil pumps on burners were run at 100 PSI, and all of the nozzle charts you look at are GPH @ 100 PSI.

In recent years, MOST manufacturers are specifying 140 (or even higher) pressures. This is in order to get a finer atomization of the spray, which helps the combustion. In particular, it helps a LOT when there is COLD oil. (you said your tank is in a semi-heated area though).

At the higher pressures being used, of course the nozzles will spray more fuel, and there are charts for this also. As an example, a 1.00 GPH nozzle will spray around 1.20 GPH at 140 PSI.

No idea why there are two stickers on your burner... but it is possible that your service guys raised the pressure on the pump and installed a smaller nozzle to match the original firing rate.

You can probably find the 'correct' specs for your system on the Peerless website. I believe that Becketts site also lists burner specs for various manufacturers boilers.

Your system may also have been 'down-fired' at some point. To an extent, this is possible, but it does present it's own problems. You can only go 'so far' before your stack temperature as an example is too low... or, you may not be able to get good CO2 numbers... it's experimental at best. A tech might go through a half dozen nozzles, trying different firing rates and spray patterns before deciding on one that works best.

OK, so your fuel pressure must be 100 PSI at a MINIMUM, never less. Depending on the nozzle, it could be higher... 140-150 is common on newer setups, some as high as 175 or so ...

Stack draft ... most systems spec around -0.05 at the breech, and -0.01 to -0.02 'over the fire'. They should measure this and adjust the damper to adjust. (but how can they? they taped it shut!) Specs on your system may differ from above.

CO2 ? 'it depends' ... in general, CO2 'is what it is' if there are no other problems like air leaks, flame impingement, etc.

Normal procedure is to use a SMOKE SPOT 'gun' first. The air bands are adjusted for just a trace of smoke, and then a CO2 or O2 reading is taken. Then, the air band is opened from that setting enough to drop the CO2, or raise the O2 about a percent from the previous reading. They may use an electronic meter for this, or a 'wet kit', which looks like a 'dumbell' or an hourglass, with either a red (CO2) or blue (O2) fluid inside. I would say that anywhere from around 10% to 12% CO2 with zero smoke on the spot gun should be OK. It could be lower, but not much higher.

They should also measure STACK temperature at the breech (where the boiler connects to the flue pipe), and that could range from say 350 up to maybe 500 ... depending on the boiler, etc ...

They should measure CO , and this should certainly be less than 100 ppm, and really much lower...

But, they know this already, and are gonna cop an attitude if you try to tell them what and how, etc ... so be careful and don't piss 'em off.
 
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Old 10-22-08, 05:52 PM
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If all was set up right at the time of service I also believe it may be a combustion air thing. With oil add both nozzle sizes togather and multiply by 140,000.
Then see this page
http://www.comfort-calc.net/Combusti...lculation.html
 
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Old 10-22-08, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by plym49 View Post
Yes, this is all great, and I will follow up on it.

However, my priority right now is preparation for tomorrow morning.

I would *really* appreciate some hard numbers. I realize that it 'all depends' and that one thing affects another. Nevertheless, I would like to know the ranges that put me in the ballpark. For example, something like 'Beckett burners are usually 45 to 55 psi, and you are in trouble if you are under 35 or over 60'. Now, I just made those numbers up, but it is an indication of what I need: some realistic targets that provide a starting point.

For a sooting issue, it is the smoke test. This is #1 above anything else. If there is smoke, that is soot. Which is why I recommended you get a smoke pump. For a hard number reading has to be: 0 smoke.

If the folks that are setting up your burner/boiler are not doing any tests, then forget it.

I thought about your thread today as I was doing some burner work. It may be that because you are the one cleaning the boiler, the techs don't care if it smokes. Or, even worse. . .

I was also thinking that why are you doing the soot cleaning if you are paying someone to service your boiler?

Al.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by OldBoiler View Post
For a sooting issue, it is the smoke test. This is #1 above anything else. If there is smoke, that is soot. Which is why I recommended you get a smoke pump. For a hard number reading has to be: 0 smoke.

If the folks that are setting up your burner/boiler are not doing any tests, then forget it.

I thought about your thread today as I was doing some burner work. It may be that because you are the one cleaning the boiler, the techs don't care if it smokes. Or, even worse. . .

I was also thinking that why are you doing the soot cleaning if you are paying someone to service your boiler?

Al.
I clean the boiler because they don't like to. It's difficult to get them to do it and then it is half-hearted. They are very happy that I do it, and every time they comment that they don't get them as clean themselves. Also, by taking it down myself I get to eyeball everything. It's like washing your own car; you are going to notice things that no one else might care about.

I break it all down and clean it out. Then I schedule a service for them to inspect, reassemble, activate and test. That happens this morning.

If they have a 'f-the-homeowner' mentality, well, they have it regardless and that is kind of the point.

Lastly, it is my money that pays for the oil that gets burnt in there. I am incented to do what I can to make sure that things are set up as best they can. Each day I learn more, that is part of life, excelsior.

The advice/links/etc. you and the others have provided has been very helpful. I will report back on how things go.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Yes, 'it depends' ...

But, they know this already, and are gonna cop an attitude if you try to tell them what and how, etc ... so be careful and don't piss 'em off.
Yep, your last comment sums it up and that is always the line one has to walk. I am tired of the whole "it looks good from my house" mentality that many tradespeople adopt and eagerly brag about. My feeling is that if you don't want to do a good job at what you do or don't enjoy it, then get into a different line of work.

You have given me a lot of detailed information and I appreciate it. I will report back later when the dust (soot?) settles. LOL.
 

Last edited by NJT; 10-23-08 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 10-23-08, 10:11 AM
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The house is warming up; both burners are back online. The service person just left. Here is what happened:

First of all, the service person was top-notch. He was obviously very experienced and it turns out that he was hand-picked by the service manager to do this job. Hopefully, the assignment was not a punishment! LOL. Seriously, apparently the issues I've been facing have gotten good visibility back at the mother ship and I honestly believe that they came here ready to do the right thing.

I was initially chastised for having cleaned the boiler myself, and at first he did not want me hanging around. Both attitudes changed as the job progressed. We had a chance to talk about cars, trucks and bikes. He saw my shop, which is pretty complete, and when a 1/4-20 bolt snapped I produced a set of Snap-On extractor bits and a tap that he used to quickly effect a repair. We left on very good terms and he asked that I ask for hinm next year. I will also call the service manager to put in a good word for him.

Here's what happened:

1) He felt that there was plenty of air available, even when both burners are firing simultaneously, so in his opinion no lockout is needed.

2) The oil line, filter, screens, nozzles, and everything were plugged. My oil tank is some 50 years old. He identified the goop that was plugging things up as algea and other things that like to live in oil, as a result of the appearance and the odor. The half-year shutdown obviously contributes to the build-up: with no flow to wash it away, the crud accumulated. He believes that the poor flow was the primary cause of the soot buildup because of poor combustion.

He said that poor flow would especially take away from the second burner when they lit off simultaneously, and cause it to lock out. This did occur one or two times last heating season - I don't recall what was then done to correct the problem, though.

He blew out the oil line with air and good bubbling was heard in the tank.

3) Since the filter, screens and so on were changed at the start of last heating season, the tank goop is a problem. He recommended installing a new tank. I happen to have a new tank waiting in the wings, so I will probably let the oil level run down at the end of this heating season and change it myself.

I will be sorry to see the old tank go. I painted and pinstriped it when I first bought this house, back in the day.

4) He changed me from hollow to solid nozzles. This might not be the correct terminology. He explained that the old nozzles produced a hollow flame. He replaced them with .85 - 8B (again, not sure of the nomenclature) that produces a solid flame. He stated that the solid flame would produce a more intense, consolidated flame that would be less likely to soot.

5) He tightened down the inspection flap! First service person to ever identify that as a possible cause of air leakage. This is where the old 1/4-20 bolt broke off. We used a replacement bolt and put neversieze on the threads.

6) He did not run eficiency tests, even though he said that Mission Control wants him to. He guaranteed that that test would only confirm the good job he did. Since he was running late (my job took far longer than most) he wanted to get on with it. I had no problem with this. First of all, it seemed that he knew exactly what he was doing, and I had no reason to second-guess him. Secondly, if for some reason a problem does arise, I think I will be able to recognize it and we can take it form there.

7) The rest of the job was pretty routine. New feed lines, new nozzles, electrodes cleaned and adjusted, and so on.

8) Oh, yes: a new damper, and no tape!!!

9) Right now the system is quietly humming along.

The support, tips and numbers and training material I got from all of you was very helpful. I was prepared and could credibly discuss the issues I've been facing. Right now I am a happy camper.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 02:51 PM
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Peerless is one of the manufacturers that has multiple firing rates for each boiler. Thus, there are multiple model numbers and stickers to go with them. You'll generally see either 2 or 3 stickers with a new one.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 04:07 PM
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Whenever the fuel system is entered or nozzle, pump strainer and/or filter change is done it must be combustion tested. He replaced the damper but did not meter the draft? Hmmmm. With todays equipment cannot be adjusted by eye. It could soot again or be wasting fuel as the adjustment is pushing too much heat up the chimney.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by heatpro View Post
Peerless is one of the manufacturers that has multiple firing rates for each boiler. Thus, there are multiple model numbers and stickers to go with them. You'll generally see either 2 or 3 stickers with a new one.
OK, makes sense. Thanks.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by rbeck View Post
Whenever the fuel system is entered or nozzle, pump strainer and/or filter change is done it must be combustion tested. He replaced the damper but did not meter the draft? Hmmmm. With todays equipment cannot be adjusted by eye. It could soot again or be wasting fuel as the adjustment is pushing too much heat up the chimney.
His check was to watch how the hairs on the back of his hand reacted when facing the draft.

I will measure the stack temp on my own, and I will also check for excessive soot. If these items or anything else seems out of whack I will take it from there.

At some point I will just get my own test equipment.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 08:00 PM
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Ya know, when old Gus came out here one day, eating a big ole cigar stump, kneeling down in front of the boiler as though he was praying to it... wigglin' around the air shutter ... and muttering; "Arrrrggghhh, that's a SHARP flame..." , I thought I had heard everything.

But this:

His check was to watch how the hairs on the back of his hand reacted when facing the draft.
Well, don't that just beat all !
 
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Old 10-23-08, 08:17 PM
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I will be sorry to see the old tank go. I painted and pinstriped it when I first bought this house, back in the day.
Yeah, I guess I'm gonna miss my 'portal to hell' when she is finally exorcised.

 
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Old 10-23-08, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Ya know, when old Gus came out here one day, eating a big ole cigar stump, kneeling down in front of the boiler as though he was praying to it... wigglin' around the air shutter ... and muttering; "Arrrrggghhh, that's a SHARP flame..." , I thought I had heard everything.

But this:



Well, don't that just beat all !
LOL! .
 
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Old 10-23-08, 08:27 PM
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When you make soot with an oil boiler something is wrong. There should never be soot in thre oil boiler. The burners today burn very clean. NO SOOT. There should not be much residue at all, maybe a little white ash.
 
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Old 10-23-08, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Yeah, I guess I'm gonna miss my 'portal to hell' when she is finally exorcised.

Nice !
 
  #24  
Old 10-23-08, 10:18 PM
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Hey, Trooper, what's with the switch (with the green tape wrapped around it) and the creative wiring hanging off the oil burner?
 
  #25  
Old 10-24-08, 01:22 PM
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Plym49, did he not even do a smoke test? As experienced as this tech may be, I can't imagine not even doing a smoke test (which takes all of about 30 seconds). You can get a new Baccarach smoke tester kit for around $100. As you sound pretty handy, I'm sure you would have no trouble learning to use a combustion test instrument. But at the very least, do a smoke test to see if you are still getting soot.
 
  #26  
Old 10-24-08, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by furd View Post
Hey, Trooper, what's with the switch (with the green tape wrapped around it) and the creative wiring hanging off the oil burner?
I _knew_ as soon as I posted that pic that you would 'call me' on it !

That is a TEMPORARY switch across the T T terminals on the primary to facilitate burner adjustment, without having to track dirt across SWMBO's (She Who Must Be Obeyed) carpeting. The switch goes back in my toolbox, and the jumper replaced when I'm finished!
 
  #27  
Old 10-25-08, 10:16 AM
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You could properly mount and wire a test-run switch. You could even make it a key switch if you were worried about it being accidentally operated.
 
 

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