red debris in oil-fired boiler clean out

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Old 01-06-10, 05:49 AM
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red debris in oil-fired boiler clean out

HELP. I really need to find the cause of the red debris (tested to be iron oxide) in my oil fired boiler clean out. Nothing visually appears to be corriding but it takes only a few days to start accumulating debris. The Carrier, Beckett and local oil servicer technicians have all inspected my setup and say the burner and boiler are running fine and within spec, yet I still have the debris and no one can figure out the source or what is causing this.

The result is the debris gets blown up and out the chimney (all parts are stainless-steel) , mixes with dew or rain and significantly stains and is ruining my roof shingles red.

I have invested lots of time and money yet I still have this problem so any insight or help would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 05:00 PM
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You may want to have the oil tested for impurities that may cause this.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 06:10 PM
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I'm not an oil guy, so I'm no Xpert on this subject.

But I'd be suspicious that rust would be coming from the bent pipe. That's the closest thing to the chimney and it's not unusual for vent pipe to corrode away over a period of years.

I'd check that for any signs of holes or severe corrosion that might be a problem by itself, and in addition could cause the problem that you describe.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 07:18 PM
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Boiler Details

Any details you can provide about the boiler, combustion test results, & piping would be appreciated. Photos of the boiler & nearby piping might also provide some clues. Photos can be posted on photobucket.com (free) or similar site & a link provided here.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:10 AM
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SeattlePioneer:

The chimney is all SS. Although the smoke pipe (furnace to chimeny 90-degree with 12" straights coming out of elbow) is galvinized there is no visible sign of corrosion. For the amount of red debris I see the pipe should have holes in it.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:27 AM
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Skip4661:

I have tried the following over the course of this problem, but to no avail:
a) I have oil delivered from various suppliers.
b) I have also added fuel additives from 2 different suppliers.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:36 AM
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Grady:

I have had various combustions tests (electronic and non-electronic) performed by various companies and their techs: Basically the results are consistant and are as follows:
nozzle size: 075-1.5gal/hr (several sizes and type have been used)
flue temp: 495degf
o2: 4.5%
eff: 84-86%
co 5ppm
co2: 12%
ex/a 27%
draft: -0.05inh20
coaf 6ppm
ambient 69degf

Also Carrier replaced my furnace and Beckett burner thinking it was leaking due to the iron oxcide in the cleanout (although I was never loosing water pressure). So I had the replacement boiler and furnace installed, but the red debris appeared soon thereafter. Basically 2 new boiler/burners have been installed in my new home and the same thing has happened.

The current replacement unit is now 2 yrs old.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:50 AM
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Chimney Setup:

The chimney is 6" double wall. The 6" smoke pipe first leaves the top of the boiler and makes a 90deg bend (this is about 2ft section of galvinized pipewith no visible signs of corrosion). Then it goes thru 5ft SS horizontal pipe into a tee where the main SS chimney is. The 6" SS chimney rises vertically about 25ft to the roof.

I never any evidence of water getting into the chimney (it has an all SS cap) and then leaking on to my basement floor. Due to gravity, even if rain water did get into the chimney it would never reach the boiler (due to the 5ft horiontal run off of the tee)
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:10 PM
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Boiler operating temps

Does this boiler stay hot all the time or is it a "cold start"? Does the system have a large water volume either by way of large piping or cast iron radiators? I'm wondering if there isn't condensation due to cold return. Is the boiler piped primary/secondary?

I'm moving this thread to the "boilers" forum in order to get more feedback from some dedicated wetheads.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:38 PM
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Grady:
It was cold start .. but then the service company thought this might be the cause so they added a control unit to keep it hot all of the time .. but this had no effect on the problem.

I think the water volume is small .. no large pipe or no iron radiators.

Is the boiler piped primary/secondary? .. not sure what you mean .. it is my only heating source .. also the hot water is controlled via a zone value to a storage tank.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:46 PM
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OH BOY! the 'red flake' saga returns!

You say "TESTED to be iron oxide" ? really?

Check this out... about 2-3 years ago, I scooped out a handful of the 'red flakes'... took two clean glass jars... one with K1 kerosene (which was Grady's idea!) and one with H2O (my idea, after Grady's idea didn't work out as we planned)...

Into each jar I dumped a tablespoon or so of the red flakes... and 'shaken, not stirred' vigorously ...

The red flakes did NOT dissolve in the K1, as we thought they would, but the DID completely dissolve in the H2O! which was a major surprise... now, look at this photo:



TWO FULL YEARS LATER, those jars are still on a shelf in the garage, and the flake/water solution is just as red as it was the day I mixed it. These photos are NOT 'color enhanced', this is the way it looks to the eye.

MY belief is that the red color is NOT iron oxide, but what's left of the RED DYE in the fuel oil. The dye is chemically altered by burning such that it no longer dissolves in fuel mixtures, but readily dissolves in water. There is no way that the red color in that water is iron oxide...

There MAY BE some rust in the flakes, but the MAJOR contributor to the color is the FUEL DYE.

I do also believe that there is some condensation occuring in any boiler that produces the red flakes.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 05:15 PM
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NJ Trooper:

Two different labs reported it as iron oxide (although I do not know if they tested for the dye). Also I talked to a chemist (from one of the fuel additive suppliers) and he said the dye is always burned completely so he said my problem must be corrosion .. but his additive did not work either?

The specs I see on ly roof (fine pepper flake size or smaller) appear black and are non-metallic .. and leach the red when mixed with the rain/dew.

Of the 1000's of customers my 3 most recent oil service/supplier company have had, almost all other customers have gray soot/ash in their clean out .. I am sure there are a few of us out there but according to the technicians 99.999% of the oil customers do not have this red debris in their cleanout.

When I last added to water my debris it turned rust color (verses bright red). However I will redo the test later and get back to you on this.

Anyhow if it is the dye (then my boiler is safe from damage?) but how do I prevent it from staining my roof?
 
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Old 01-08-10, 05:24 PM
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NJ Trooper:

FYI ..
I just added some of the red debris to water. It did not dissolve and it is not turning the water red .. I'll check it tomorrow. The debris on my roof when placed on a paper towel with water produced an immediate rust color (not red).
 
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Old 01-08-10, 05:53 PM
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I'm not a metal expert, but I know stainless steel can corrode under certain conditions. I know that poor stainless welds can corrode. I poked around on the web to see what else I could find. I found that when exposed to chlorides, such as those in sea salt and road salt, it can corrode. So maybe you are getting some of this corrosion from flue condensation. I don't know if it would turn into flakes though. Just an idea.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 06:25 PM
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Shot down

Well, there go my ideas right in the crapper but there has to be moisture coming from somewhere. With condensation due to cold return of large volumes of water being all but ruled out as well as condensation common with cold start boilers that takes us to cold &/or damp combustion air or a water leak. If the boiler has an automatic feed valve (pressure reducing valve) I suggest turning the supply to it off. Unless there is a low water cut off you are going to have to be diligent in monitoring the boiler pressure. What is the model number of the boiler?

Trooper: I thought this might stir your intrest.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 06:29 PM
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drooplug:

Flue condensation has been suggested. Also since the black specs on the roof are non-magnetic, they could be SS.

However due to the horizontal section of chimney pipe and the fact specs are seen where the smoke pipe exits the top of the furnace (the connection is not air tight and the specs collect on top of the boiler unit) it would seem the furnace and not the SS chimney is the source of the specs.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 06:46 PM
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Grady:

I have a Carrier bw4 with a Beckett AFG burner. Neither the original or the replacement lost water pressure. Both quickly created the red debris. I have a new home and this issue started shortly after moving in .. basically it seems the problem was always here.

If it is corrosion (and it may well be) I would think something should have a major hole in it since the amount of rust color I see is quite significant and it has been going on for quite some time. The technicians looked around and see nothing wrong with my existing unit, although I do not know how they check the heat exchange section since it is hard to get a good look at. Carrier analyzed the original unit I had to pay to ship to them and their lab found no leak (the reason they said I needed a new furnace) and nothing wrong with the unit .. everything was normal (although the cleanout was full of what they analyzed as iron oxide).

Also I just checked and my water is completely clear .. the red debris is not dissolving after about 1hr.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 07:08 PM
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Not sure if this helps but here's an attempt to show you what I am seeing:

Viewing Carrier boiler cleanout:


Sample from chimney flue cleanout .. water was added and leached onto paper towel:


Sample collected on a white piece of wood placed near my chimney on the roof:
 
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Old 01-09-10, 12:19 AM
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As for the dye burning completely... I think my experiment has shown that to not be true... BUT:

The appearance of your flakes is completely different than what I was/am getting. The stuff from my boiler is only in the combustion chamber, and stays in the combustion chamber. None of it becomes airborne and flies up and out the chimney. My flakes are obviously forming on the fireside walls of the combustion chamber, and falling off. They are the size of 'wheaties', but very fragile... once you touch them, they turn to red dust.

It was Carrier that suggested a leak, and to replace the boiler? and you paid to ship the boiler to them, and they tested and said 'No, it's not leaking' ? I sure hope they reimbursed you for the new boiler!
 
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Old 01-09-10, 05:27 AM
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NJ Trooper:

That is why this is a frustrating and expensive problem. No I was not reimbursed, I had to pay for shipping back the old boiler and to have the replacement boiler installed. Worse, Carrier is now basically are saying it cannot be 2 bad boilers and burners .. good luck and you are on your own.

That's why I am still looking for the solution to my problem.
 
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Old 01-09-10, 05:30 AM
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If it was leaking, wouldn't there be water showing up somewhere that you could see?
 
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Old 01-09-10, 05:46 AM
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Drooplug:

Yes, there should have been signs of a leak (they claimed the water was evaporated so nothing made it to the floor) .. but then I should have lost water pressure, but I never did.
 
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Old 01-09-10, 06:38 AM
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Here is a thought. The draft is -0.05. The draft from a negative draft boiler should never exceed -0.04" w.c. The draft is going higher on windy or colder days and the dye and some unburnt or maybe a better term is not completely burnt fuel is being sucked up the chimney. The higher the draft the more debris is removed mixed with water on the outside.
What is the firing rate (nozzle size) of the boiler as suggested by the manufacturer?
On another thought what type of radiation do you have? We know it is not CI rads but what about radiant? Are you running outdoor reset?
 
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Old 01-09-10, 07:02 AM
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rbeck:

I agree about the draft. I have observed that the draft has an effect on the amount and size of the debris that comes out of the chimney.

The techs have tried various nozzle sizes (0.75-1.70gal/hr) .. the higher the size the bigger the specs of debris being blown out the chimney. The Carrier bw4 allows for various size nozzles (1.2-2.0gal/hr) and presently a 1.0gal/hr is installed.

As far a heating, I have a hydro-air setup.
 
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Old 01-17-10, 07:44 AM
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any suggestions

I have not seen anything in about a week so does anyone have any other suggestions of what to do or where to turn and look for help?
 
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Old 01-17-10, 07:56 AM
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Draft

It seems draft may be the key. Has anything been done to reduce the excess draft?
 
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Old 01-17-10, 12:06 PM
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Grady:

So what is a acceptable draft value and what can I do to my setup to get to this value?
 
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Old 01-17-10, 12:59 PM
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Draft

Since I can't get the Carrier specs I have to use those of similar boilers. Normally we look for a breech draft of -0.04 & an overfire draft of -0.02. Draft can be adjusted by adjusting the counter weight on the barometric damper. You will need some means of measuring the draft.
 
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Old 01-17-10, 02:34 PM
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Grady:

Thanks for the info. I'll give it a try and get back to you.
 
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