Proper boiler cleaning?


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Old 01-28-11, 10:54 AM
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Proper boiler cleaning?

hi folks Ė

Been doing my own boiler maintenance for a few years now and have a question about cleaning. I have a New Yorker boiler (diagram below). The manual (section below) indicates that it is not necessary to remove the burner to clean the boiler (last sentence below). Iíve been cleaning the firetubes as they indicate.

But my question is : doesnít there come some point in time when you should remove the burner to clean and inspect the entire boiler? Under ďBĒ they only have a paragraph 1 ďCLEAN THE FIRETUBESĒ. They never discuss the combustion chamber.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!



ďÖB. FIRETUBES AND COMBUSTION CHAMBER

1. CLEAN THE FIRETUBES

a. Disconnect electric service to burner.

b. To gain access to the firetubes, remove the front
flue box door. For boilers equipped with flue
box swingdoor, remove two (2) nuts at top of
flue box door and swing door down. For boilers
not equipped with swingdoor, remove fasteners
around the perimeter of flue box frame and
remove door
.
c. Remove turbulators.

d. Using a firetube brush clean firetubes. Use care
not to damage the insulation on the inside of the
flue box.

e. Replace turbulators and flue box door.

Units should be cleaned at least once a year, preferably at the end of each heating season. It is not necessary to remove burner to clean boiler. ÖĒ

 
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Old 01-28-11, 02:55 PM
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The heading says "FIRETUBES AND COMBUSTION CHAMBER" ...

Is there a section 2. that talks about cleaning the combustion chamber?
 
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Old 01-28-11, 05:06 PM
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With that particular style of boiler there should be very little debris in the chamber but it certainly can't hurt to swing open the burner door for a look see.
 
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Old 01-28-11, 05:30 PM
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Thanks guys for the help.

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
The heading says "FIRETUBES AND COMBUSTION CHAMBER" ...

Is there a section 2. that talks about cleaning the combustion chamber?
Thatís what I thought Trooper from that title "FIRETUBES AND COMBUSTION CHAMBER". Seems like there should be a section 2 that addresses the combustion chamber? But I checked and re-checked. No such paragraph?

Seems like somebody was a little sloppy to me. They should have just added a small section 2 and included what Grady says below.


Originally Posted by Grady View Post
With that particular style of boiler there should be very little debris in the chamber but it certainly can't hurt to swing open the burner door for a look see.
Thanks Grady for the explanation. Iím going to inspect that on the next cleaning.

Thanks again guys!
 
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Old 01-28-11, 09:21 PM
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Not that he needs my blessing but I agree with Grady.

That boiler is known as a "firebox/firetube boiler and is the original "three pass" boiler. Unless you have a really crappy flame there will be little soot (or other debris) in the firebox but you likely will find a fair amount of soot in the tubes.

When I first installed a hot-water heating system in my parent's house I had a similar boiler only made by Federal. I liked to open the door of the "reversing chamber" (the front door over the tubes) at least once a month to brush the tubes. I always used an old Electrolux vacuum cleaner running to suck up any stray soot that would drift out while "punching" the tubes and to clean up the mess afterward. Call me anal but I don't like dirty boilers.

Many years later I found myself in charge of two similar boilers (this time they were Burnham, 1.2 million BTUs per hour each with power gas burners) and we punched tubes once every other year during the inspection of the boilers by the insurance inspector.
 
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Old 01-29-11, 09:28 AM
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Thanks Furd. From what I can tell the flame looks pretty good. I do get a fair amount of soot in the tubes. I figured I would start cleaning the tubes more than once a year because I just did get a fair amount of soot after 13 months.

Wow. You were doing it monthly. Now thatís care. (Donít know whether I will do it monthly, though. Iím too lazy). Guess the 1.2 million BTUís per hour units are a little larger than mine! LOL

p.s. I have an aversion to soot. Many years ago (early 60ís) when I was a teenager I worked in a small machine shop in Philly. I cleaned the soot out of a boiler from the inside. All I remember is being inside the thing and brushing it out. Took days if I remember? (I volunteered for the job, dummy). I was spitting out soot (I think I had a mask?), I had it in my ears, my hair, etc. Donít think I prepared well. Iím still alive and kicking today so who knows?

But whenever I see soot it brings back that delicious aroma and taste!
 
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Old 01-29-11, 01:46 PM
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You misread what I wrote. The boiler I punched tubes on monthly (more or less) was a little baby in my parent's home. It had an old oil burner with either a 1.00 gph or a 1.25 gph nozzle. The 1.2 million BTU boilers had power gas burners and we only did them every other year. For what it's worth, the Federal in my parent's home had the reversing chamber (door to the tubes) hinged on the bottom and one wing nut on top so it took all of fifteen seconds to open and there were only eight tubes, three inch if I remember correctly. The Burnhams had a plate with at least twenty-five nuts that had to be removed to get to the tubes.

As for an aversion to soot...my first job out of college was working for an electric utility. It was a primarily hydro-electric utility but we had two ancient steam plants, one built between 1906 and 1920 with the more "modern" one built between 1914 and 1921. Burnt bunker C oil and while operating was fun the aftermath was real work. The boilers in the newer plant were about 33 million BTUs each (14 boilers) and we would work two man crews when cleaning firesides. Each man would take a turn through each "gas pass" in the boiler and we did two boilers in a four-hour day. Wore "boiler suits", coveralls complete with a hood and elastic cuffs along with chemical respirators and goggles. We would take an "air lance" made from a piece of 1/2 inch pipe connected through a valve to a 3/4 inch air hose connected to the plant air system to blow through the passages.

Now mind you we used the regular steam soot blowers twice a day when running but even though we got about a half of a fifty gallon barrel full of soot out of each boiler after just a sixty day run. We cleaned these boilers (at both plants) every year whether or not we even put water in the boilers and we always got something like a quarter to a half a garbage can full of soot out of them. It took about two weeks to do both plants and even with the respirators you would be coughing up soot for the next week or so.

Here is a picture of the boiler room at the newer plant.



The "squashed oval" doors above the burners were just a bit above my eye level and I am about 5' 11" tall.

We also took care of some heating boilers in a couple of warehouses that were probably like your nightmare boiler. They were big enough that a man could crawl inside and do the cleaning. I did each one of them one year and that job still gives me nightmares after almost forty years. I used the same boiler suit, respirator and goggles but instead of an air lance it was a nine-inch angle grinder with a cup-type wire wheel. The soot in the combustion chamber was about an inch thick and when you turned on that grinder it didn't matter that you had a 150 watt "trouble" light two inches in front of your face because you might have well been in a coal mine at midnight on a cloudy night. I think that those two boilers were absolutely the worst two jobs I have ever performed.
 

Last edited by Furd; 01-29-11 at 03:04 PM. Reason: spelling corrections
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Old 01-29-11, 01:58 PM
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Thats very impressive....... I love storys like that. All I got was I poured lead back in the 80's.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-29-11, 02:32 PM
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Furd,
Your blessing is always appreciated. I know we disagree from time to time but for the most part we're on the same page.

Zoesdad,
What burner do you have in the boiler? You haven't smelled stink on a boiler until you've encountered a running saturation. You will taste it for a week & smell it for months.
 
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Old 01-29-11, 06:45 PM
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Furd I did know which one you meant when you said you punched the tubes monthly. I just write sloppy sometimes (maybe all the time?). That is some boiler room. I thought the one my Dad took care of for the Hospital was big.LOL.

Really impressive to see that industrial giant. Hard to imagine people can conceive and build things like that. Itís inspirational. That cleaning operation you describe is amazing. Guess that must be the biggest scale there is? Hope you got paid well for it. Soot, barrels full, oh my. And coughing up soot a week later! Even with the respirators and all the proper attire. You ever wonder if it did any damage to your body? Probably didnít.

Sounds like your job in the plant was a lot better than the job in the warehouses. The machine shop I worked in was in fact on the first floor of a big warehouse. Iím almost sure I didnít use an angle grinder or anything like that, as you did. Guess the boiler was too small or maybe I was just doing a superficial job? I think I just brushed it? But it was so long ago Iím not sure.

From that relative little puny job I did I had it coming out my nose for days, and I coughed it up for days. Always wondered if thatís why I canít smell too well today (Guess that would be a real stretch, my nose should probably be cleaned out by now, that was 1964!)

Originally Posted by Grady View Post
...Zoesdad,
What burner do you have in the boiler? You haven't smelled stink on a boiler until you've encountered a running saturation. You will taste it for a week & smell it for months.
Grady I have the Beckett AFG. What's a running saturation? Doesnít sound good. I think I can imagine. Iím guessing it would be something you would encounter when you had to come in and bale out someone who did something wrong? And Iím guessing it is also dangerous?
 
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Old 01-29-11, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
Thats very impressive....... I love storys like that. All I got was I poured lead back in the 80's.

Mike NJ
Mike you weren't making coins were you?
 
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Old 01-29-11, 07:07 PM
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I think he was pouring lead 'pigs' at the local newspaper...
 
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Old 01-29-11, 07:35 PM
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I poured lead for submarine ballast in the mid 60's. Now that is a dirty job.
 
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Old 01-29-11, 07:56 PM
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What the heck, here's a link to some pictures of the older plant where I worked. I would guess the pictures were taken in the late 1970s, it isn't quite so clean anymore but it does live on as the Georgetown PowerPlant Museum.

Georgetown PowerPlant Museum

I've got some YouTube videos of the number one air pump running on steam during the annual picnic a few years ago. Furd's videos It's not really that loud, the director had the cover off of the valve chest to inspect and replace some springs. She replaced the cover just last year and it is MUCH quieter. For anyone in the Seattle area the Saturday before Mother's Day you are invited to come see the place.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 09:56 AM
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I would consider those pictures amazing. To think of the amount of engineering and labor and maintenance that went into that plant. The individual components would seem to me to be large major projects in and of themselves. I like all the pictures but I think I like 17 and 28 Ė even though you are not seeing the details of the complex equipment, but you get that in the rest of the pictures.

Looks like good professional photography to me (Iím no expert). Good that the plant is being preserved. I know that it must have been cleaned up. Looks spotless and very well maintained. Must have been a little dirtier than that when it was operational? Looks like itís ready to turn on and start up now.

I like the fact that they built the year Ď1906í right on the edifice. Guess they donít do things like that anymore? But you can tell by looking at all the components and the entire structure, they built things to last for a long long time!

The air pump video is great. Not loud at all.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 10:02 AM
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Yes you do need to clean the combustion area from time to time. Clean with care so no damage to chamber material! This is a wet leg boiler so there is nothing below that chamber floor other than metal floor. If too much debris builds up you will get impingement from the flame and cause sooting. If properly set up and adjusted this boiler will not produce soot from year to year. If it does produce very slight soot change to a 70 degree nozzle. I have found in certain situations such as cold oil or cold combustion air that helps.
I really like that boiler without the domestic hot water coil of course.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 10:26 AM
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Thanks for the info rbeck, and glad to hear you give a thumbs up for that boiler. Yea, I now know enough from coming here to the forum that the thankless coil stinks. Itís got to go. But I have 2 speeds Ė slow and stop. By the time I get around to it , it will probably be time for a new boiler . (Hope not.)

Thanks again.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 10:35 AM
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Whatís all this stuff about pouring lead? Sounds like you folks are saying thatís a nasty job. Never thought about that. I just have some vague recollection of someone I know or a family member or someone Ė who poured lead and made their own fishing sinkers? I think I remember that. I can even picture the sinkers and maybe picture a little mold? Very vague memory.

Seems like a lot of trouble for fishing sinkers? Maybe they had a lot of lead on hand or something?

(Guess you mean pouring a whole lot of lead is a little different than a fishing sinker!LOL)
 
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Old 01-30-11, 10:41 AM
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A running saturation is where the boiler gets plugged with soot yet the burner continues to run & saturates the soot with raw fuel. The boiler is then plugged with essentially tar. I've had to burn it out from the top down with a torch. No fun at all.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 10:45 AM
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Pouring lead 'pigs' wasn't THAT bad really... got to sit in a corner behind a lead pot with about 4 tons of molten lead... pour into molds, wait a while, flip the molds, pour more... repeat.

I still have some of the sinker molds here... wonder if Grady wants 'em ? If I can find 'em ?
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-30-11 at 11:06 AM.
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Old 01-30-11, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Grady View Post
A running saturation is where the boiler gets plugged with soot yet the burner continues to run & saturates the soot with raw fuel. The boiler is then plugged with essentially tar. I've had to burn it out from the top down with a torch. No fun at all.
gotcha Grady. Thanks. I knew it didnít sound good. What amazes me is how strong a smell heating oil has. When I bleed the pump sometimes I just leave that little bit of oil in a plastic pan until I get time to dump it into the glass jar where I collect the oil.

Later on, when I open the basement door to go downstairs, I can smell that little bit of oil all the way at the top of the steps. And I have a pretty big basement and a bad nose.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
It wasn't THAT bad really... got to sit in a corner behind a lead pot with about 4 tons of molten lead... pour into molds, wait a while, flip the molds, pour more... repeat.

I still have some of the sinker molds here... wonder if Grady wants 'em ? If I can find 'em ?
Still sounds a little scary and dangerous. Sounds like you need to be very careful.

p.s. Are homemade sinkers better or is it just a labor of love that makes the fishing even more fun? Buggin the heck out of me now, can't remember who I knew that made their own? (Never was any good at fishing. My sister-in-law used to use bread and catch all the fish and laugh at us)
 
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Old 01-30-11, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by zoesdad View Post
p.s. Are homemade sinkers better or is it just a labor of love that makes the fishing even more fun?
Some of both. Sometimes you want a sinker you can't find locally. Often it's a money saver if you can get the lead for free or nearly so.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 11:46 AM
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Say what you want about the smell of fuel oil. I will take it anytime over propane. When I am around propane I can smell it for about an hour if after leaving the home.
 
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Old 01-30-11, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by rbeck View Post
Say what you want about the smell of fuel oil. I will take it anytime over propane. When I am around propane I can smell it for about an hour if after leaving the home.
I couldn't agree more. I can tell in an instant if there's an unvented propane fired heater running when I go into a home.
 
 

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