Excessive oil use caused by a bad expansion tank?


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Old 02-02-12, 03:10 AM
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Excessive oil use caused by a bad expansion tank?

Hello, I have a question I have a burnham indirect boiler system with baseboard heating. About a month ago i noticed water coming out of my pressure relief pipe and figured my old horizontal expansion tank needed replaced. Then I read a post on here about draining some water out of the horizontal tanks instead of replacing. My concern is I got oil today and used 650 dollars worth in a month somehow when usually I use 250. There hasnt been a huge change in weather, actually some 50-60 degree days lately. Could this be a result of the expansion tank being faulty? I would like to fix it myself but then again I want to fix it before burning too much more oil. I dont see how I used that much if have a1.25 gph nozzle it would have to run like 8 hrs a day to burn that much oil? Thanks for any ideas!
 
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Old 02-02-12, 03:21 AM
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That's a huge difference! However, what is the number of gallons consumed? Oil prices have been fluctuating.

I don't think a horizontal expansion tank would go bad; perhaps it needs to be drained.

It may also be that your indirect water heater has perforated and is pumping fresh water into the boiler. Heating a constant supply of cool water can consume a lot of oil (trust me, I know!)

What is your pressure gauge reading when the boiler is cool?
 
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Old 02-02-12, 03:44 AM
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I think I used 185 gallons in a month and a few days. I'll check the bill when I get home and answer your other questions. I read a little about horizontal tanks and was getting the same idea that it needs drained. thanks!
 
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Old 02-02-12, 05:18 AM
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i just drained my expansion tank, it was totally full. The pressure a little after the furnace kicked off was right around 24lbs and dropped to around 14lbs by the time i drained the tank at 170 degrees. I used 184 gallons of oil since i filled it on the 26th of last month. i forgot to mention i have kept the stat at 65 at night and 68 during the day, same as the previous month. Thanks!
 

Last edited by DiyRye; 02-02-12 at 05:20 AM. Reason: extra information
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Old 02-02-12, 03:35 PM
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So the drained expansion tank is working now and hot water actually goes into it. I will check to see if the relief valve blows again when it fires up the next time. I did notice the fill valve working when i opened the valve to fill the expansion tank however i DID NOT see any backflow preventer there? Unless the preventer is built into the fill valve and not seperate there isn't one there. I didn't think to feel the pipe on the intake side of the fill valve for hot water while the furnace was running before i drained the expansion tank to test this theory. If the pressure builds again i will be sure to feel to see if hot water is escaping that way. It was never a problem before but once the expansion tank was water logged, maybe thats where the excess hot water was going. Only about a quart of water leaked out of the relief valve in an 8 hour period so i would think more of it went somewhere if the expansion tank was completely water logged? Thanks!
 
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Old 02-02-12, 04:16 PM
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You may not have a backflow preventer. They weren't required at one time. Certainly, you can add one if you feel you are up to the task. They're not built into the fill valve.

If no more water comes out of the relief valve, I think you solved the (a?) problem.

I suppose another good question is, "what changed?"

Has anything been changed, fixed, adjusted in the past few months?
 

Last edited by ItsTim; 02-02-12 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 02-02-12, 04:42 PM
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I believe that there is a 'check valve' of sorts built into the water fill valves, but I don't think you need to concern yourself with that right now... it wouldn't cause any excess fuel usage.

If you've been reading around, you know about my distrust for pressure gauges, but even if yours is reading a bit off, what you've reported sounds OK to me.

I really can't see how an expansion tank problem would cause that kind of excess usage...

I'm going to ask an ominous question:

Where is your oil tank located?
 
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Old 02-02-12, 05:50 PM
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hello again,

to itstim:

the furnace system was only installed in 2003 so i figured it would have a backflow. it looks like there might be a check valve after it. Either way, there hasn't been any thing changed since the winter.

There was the flood from the huricane in september and the basement had 30 inches of water in it for a day while constantly running pumps with the help of an hvac friend, i had a new nozzle, filters, screens, a thorough cleaning, and new chimney pipe installed. It ran fine for months since then averageing 260 a month or so in oil.

Since then, about a month ago the expansion tank was the only issue which i put off due to other projects and not thinking it would cause a severe increase in oil use. thanks for the help!

to NJ Trooper:
I believe there may be a check valve after the fill valve. i small brass t-shaped fitting with a plug on the top of the t.

The pressure now seems ok, it stays at a low around 14 and high after firing around just under 20.

My oil tank is in the basement with the fill located alongside the road about 15 feet from it. I dont know if you were thinking it was maybe buried and leaking or if someone may have siphoned from it.

There is a stop sign right there so some one could easily stop at idle and quick run a line over with a pump if they really wanted to? there are the usual 2 90 degrees elbows that a hose would have to bend to get into the tank so i dont know if it would be an easy job or not?

There are a few diesel trucks in the area with the large tanks on the back that make frequent stops at the sign as well. And most people know, fuel oil is cheaper to run than diesel although illegal but if you're stealing it i guess you're even more willing to take that risk as well. Thanks!
 
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Old 02-02-12, 06:59 PM
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Another thought. Oil line does not run under the floor does it?
 
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Old 02-02-12, 07:09 PM
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I dont know if you were thinking it was maybe buried and leaking or if someone may have siphoned from it.
That is along the lines I was heading toward, leaking, not theft... and rbeck's question is also relevant.

Theft is of course possible, but in order to snake a hose into your tank and steal that much oil, they would have to be there for quite a long time.
 
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Old 02-02-12, 07:45 PM
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The line to the furnace is all exposed and not leaking. True it would take quite some time to pump that much oil out of my tank. The oil bill was never this high even in colder weather, higher prices, and with my old single pane original windows. I hate to pay someone to play around with it for hours to find nothing. My friend said something about hot water possibly being forced through a faucet into cold water during the whole expansion tank problem? Thanks guys!
 
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Old 02-03-12, 09:45 AM
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Diy Riy,
When was the last time the boiler was cleaned and tuned up with the proper instruments?
Maybe it's in need of a good tune up.

Peter
 
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Old 02-03-12, 11:27 AM
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hello again, it was cleaned a few months ago, however i am thinking it is due for a tune up. could that really make it use that much though so suddenly? thanks a lot guys
 
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Old 02-03-12, 12:47 PM
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184 gal oil in ~35 days at say 70% efficiency ends up at 21,300 BTU/hr going toward space heating. Depending on the heat loss of the house and degree days over the past month that may be in the ballpark.

Or about 4 hr/day of firing time over 35 days with a 1.25 gal/hr nozzle. Also seems in the ballpark.

Peter mentioned sometime back that it may also be -- if you really have a true indirect water heater -- a perforated exchanger coil is allowing the potable hot water and the boiler water to mix. In which case, all kinds of things should be noticeable with the boiler, like excess pressure, and an odd smell, taste, or color to your potable hot water at the faucets.

Might be helpful to have some pics of this system.
 
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Old 02-03-12, 12:59 PM
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I'll try to get some pictures. The thing is, it's been warmer than usual, has new windows now and uses more than with old windows and colder temps. We only keep the house at 65 at night and 68 during the day. It is a true indirect system, it has the indirect water tank beside the furnace with a taco pump circulation boiler water through it. I don't notice any change in water taste or quality For it to be a ruptured tank. Couldn't I shut off cold water going into the hot water tank and see if hot boiler water is still coming out of a faucet slowly? I didn't now if it's bad to empty it like a conventional electric heater with the heating elements burning up. Thanks
 
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Old 02-03-12, 01:43 PM
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I don't think there is anything wrong with the indirect hot water.
What temp is the water tank set to?

It would be a good idea to take a lot of, well lit, sharp pictures of your set up

Is it possible that a bigger nozzle was put in after the flood?
Do you know exactly what size it is?
Do you know what the pump pressure is?
and or, if the draft got messed up some how?
What are the typical temperatures the boiler runs at?

Is it possible, that on the prior fill ups, the tanks was 10-20+ gallons less than being full
and this time it is 10-20+ gallons over full?
That could account for some of the differences.

Otherwise.
There must be something way wrong.
Can you double check the useage again from the last 5 months?
Exact dates and fill up amounts. Not dollars.
It's hard to understand how all of a sudden you used 100 gallons more oil in January than December.
Especially with warmish weather.

What part of PA do you live in?

Peter
 
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Old 02-03-12, 02:46 PM
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My friend said something about hot water possibly being forced through a faucet into cold water during the whole expansion tank problem?
No... the domestic is completely separate from the boiler... the expansion tank problem would have no way to cause that.

I'll tell y'all that this winter has been nature's very own economic stimulus package here in NJ... I have burned about HALF of what I normally burn. I just got a fill up... 167 gallons... and my last fill up was November 25. About 1700 degree days.

How possible is it that your oil delivery ppl 'shorted' you on the last delivery?
 
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Old 02-03-12, 04:10 PM
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How possible is it that your oil delivery ppl 'shorted' you on the last delivery?
I was thinking somthing not quite so nice as that, but didn't want to mention it.


Peter
 
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Old 02-05-12, 01:09 PM
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Has anyone ever had a problem where people shorted them? I guess you never know if the oil guy needs some fuel for his own furnace.. I did just switch companys this year but have never heard of anyone having problems with them.

Its been 3.29/gal for all fill ups. The first fill of the year was 75 gallons on 11-3 then 84 gallons on 12-23 and 184 gallons on 2-2. The indirect hot water tank is set at about 126 degrees. The nozzle was exactly the same as the old one. My hvac buddy got it for me and installed it. The pump pressure says "set at 140psi" on the side.

The pump/blower motor does run louder than before the flood but it has been doing that all winter. I imagine its the bearings that got some moisture in them? Could it be causing more restriction and less psi with the pump? would that cause more oil to be used? i guess it would eventually stop one day and i would have to replace it.

As for the draft, i did put new pipe in. the lowes guy tried to give me some flimsy guage stuff that he said would work... i went and got the same heavy stuff but anyhow the damper is a little bit further away from the furnace than it was before. within a foot though i would say? would that cause a huge difference too that we ust might not have noticed until now?
 
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Old 02-05-12, 02:15 PM
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Maybe taking a picture of the oil tank gauge every few days for this month would be a good idea.
There is either something gone terribly wrong with the burner or
The oil company might have made a "mistake."

Four and a half gallons a day, up to 6, is not out of line where i live, for January.
In a normally cold winter.
However, it's no where near, that cold this year.
January i used about about 3 gallons a day, this year.

Peter
 
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Old 02-05-12, 02:18 PM
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I think I used almost 5 gallons one day a few years back... it was -3F that day/night.
 
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Old 02-05-12, 02:22 PM
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Last January 24, it was -10 all night and cold all the next day.
Used 8 gallons that day.

I'm sure there have been 10 gallon days over the years when it's hit -15 to -18 .

Peter
 
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Old 02-05-12, 02:45 PM
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Jan 24 2011 12 hours thru 7:38 am

http://home.comcast.net/~k16862/Heat/c03.jpg



Peter
 
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Old 02-05-12, 04:06 PM
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Don't you get a ticket from the truck after you're filled?

The meter prints the start gallon and end gallons. Unless he is filling portable containers in your front yard, it would be difficult to short you.

If you don't get a ticket.. well.. that sucks

Tim
 
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Old 02-05-12, 05:01 PM
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Let's recap:

Where can the oil go?

1. Burned. Something gotta be way wrong if you are burning that much.

2. Leaked. Every inch of pipe is visible? (except the fill line, underground, which shouldn't leak because it's above the tank.)

3. Theft.
 
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Old 02-05-12, 05:37 PM
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. Every inch of pipe is visible except where it goes through a block wall so all but eight inches which doesn't matter like you said because that's the fill pipe above tank level. All the copper tubing is visible not leaking and there is no smell of oil.

Do they making locking fill caps that I could unlock for the oil guy? I would just have to see if they can call ahead to fill since I'm on an automatic fill.

I'm guessing something is wrong with the boiler though. I'm going to have it tuned up this week from my old oil company and see what he says. The baseboards only heated up, for the first time since this morning, when it went below 38 outside just now at 8:30pm. Otherwise our house stayed above 65 with no heat even used. I just insulated all my hot water pipes in the basement today, figured it can't hurt and is cheap and the furnace fired twice for a few minutes in the few hours I was down there.
 
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Old 02-16-12, 12:31 AM
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I had a guy come check out the furnace today, found no issues and it's running at 80.25% efficiency. A couple days ago, I was downstairs on a windy day and noticed a cold draft from my neighbors side of the half house.. After pulling down some of the sorry excuse for a dividing wall between floor joists, i discovered I could see my breath from the air in their basement... All three window grates to the outside were also uncovered.. So apparently our neighbors never fixed their furnace after the flood and I could see they have an electric hot water heater with piping strung across the basement for hot water now.

Long story short, it appears we are heating our neighbors side of the house as well now and they have windows wide open in the basement. If only I could send them half the oil bill. The furnace guy said that's the problem as well and there is nothing we can do about it. I think it might be cheaper for me to pay to have their furnace fixed! The next question is, when will their pipes freeze?
 
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Old 02-16-12, 04:00 AM
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MY first thought was insulate the heck out of those joist pockets and probably even the whole divider wall.
Then I thought.. there's probably legal recourse for the actions of an attached neighbour. If they cause the foundation to freeze and shift, cracking your walls, is it not their fault ? Insulating that wall might accelerate this, and could you then be held liable for the problem ?
You could consult a lawyer, but I think most of them would ask you if you've talked to the neighbour about the problem yet.. so that could be step 1 before paying a lawyer for advice.
 
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Old 02-16-12, 04:19 AM
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The next question is, when will their pipes freeze?
As soon as you stop heating their side of the cellar.
There are things you can do.
How about some pictures.
You can run a 6 mil ploy wall across your half line.
Duct tape every seam and seal the heck out of it.
Then hang 23" wide fiberglass up against the poly.
Very effective and low cost.
Works, i've done similar durring reconstruction projects.
That will cool them off quickly.

Peter
 
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Old 02-16-12, 03:53 PM
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I don't know why you would take that approach. There is already an existing wall.

Treat the wall as if it was an exterior wall. Fit rigid foam between the floor joists and foam the gaps closed. Then install 5/8" drywall for a fire block. Sounds like whatever is there isn't going to do the job. I don't know what the rest of the wall is like, but get the insulated too. Maybe more rigid foam will be needed. Don't leave it uncovered though because it's a fire hazard.
 
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Old 02-18-12, 06:50 AM
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Ask them to close their windows? It can't be comfortable on their side' maybe they don't realize they are open?

Insulation is always a good thing, even if you didn't have this problem.
 
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Old 02-18-12, 09:05 AM
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Well I've got the middle wall above the foundation sealed up now. Hopefully the neighbors take my advice to close the windows/board up the iron grates. The furnace guy suggested to give them some financial aid brochures from Liheap? I guess to assist them in getting the furnace fixed and help with their oil bills. Let's hope for the best. I hope my offer goes through on this new house, owning a halfhouse sometimes is a huge headache..
 
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Old 02-18-12, 10:06 AM
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I see those duplexes all the time that have a good roof on one side and a roof that should have been replaced 20 years ago on the other. I can't imagine owning 1/2 of one.
 
 

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