Installing an oil fired hot water boiler

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  #1  
Old 01-03-18, 03:27 PM
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Installing an oil fired hot water boiler

Hello. I want to replace an existing oil fired boiler and hot water heater with a new oil fired boiler with a tankless hot water coil. The unit is currently vented though a chimney. The system is functional but very old.

I am not an HVAC technician but I am an appliance technician. I am skilled in my trade and train others in this industry (meaning...I'm not a hack, I'm a professional). I am capable of following an installation manual and/or service manual. I understand this is not an easy task but I am going to do it anyway. Please refrain from telling me to hire an HVAC tech. Without exception every HVAC tech that's been to my house to service my existing unit has been barely literate, that's not to say quality techs don't exist, just stating my experience (Plenty of those guys in the appliance Repair industry too). I am confident that I can do a better job than those people. The one reputable company that quoted a price for a replacement was simply going to swap a new unit into the existing plumbing/venting so I believe that to be suitable (and I can change that if need be).

My initial question here is what tools and/or test equipment do I need to ensure proper and safe operation after the initial installation? Ive read through a few install manuals and am still in the planning stage (I'd like to do it in the spring). I haven't decided what boiler I will be using yet (currently have an old Weil McLain 68, 151,000 BTU output - which I believe is oversized by a lot, but I'll get to that later on when deciding which boiler to buy).

For instance what do I use for a hydrostatic pressure test? What do I need to test smoke level and breech draft, etc? I will have a whole checklist of things I need to answer before I begin this but I'd like to start gathering info.

Thank you.
David
 

Last edited by dtech80; 01-03-18 at 05:18 PM.
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  #2  
Old 01-03-18, 04:44 PM
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D,
After installation is completed a combustion analyzer is needed to set the burner correctly.

There are different brands on the market. The kit will enable you to check stack temp, draft, smoke and co2.

As a general rule no hydrostatic pressure test is needed. Any reason why you bring that up?

You are only running 15-20psi on average and your boiler relief valve is rated to go off at 30psi.

My own opinion is if you are mechanically inclined and have common sense you can do this.

A word of caution though, permits are required. All states have different codes to follow and in MA if you don't have the proper permits they can refuse to deliver oil to you.

I don't know what is required in your area but it might serve you well to inquire about what they are looking for.

Hope this helps a little.
 

Last edited by spott; 01-03-18 at 05:32 PM.
  #3  
Old 01-03-18, 04:53 PM
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Hi Spott. Yes thatís very helpful, thanks. One Install manual I was reading said to do a hydrostatic pressure test after getting the boiler into place. Weil McLain Ultraoil series 3 manual.

Is there a particular brand of combustion analyzer you recommend?

https://www.trutechtools.com/testo310

That one seems to cover what Iíd need. Any thoughts on that brand/model? Itís something Iíd likely only use during install and once a year for tune ups.
 

Last edited by dtech80; 01-03-18 at 05:08 PM.
  #4  
Old 01-03-18, 05:18 PM
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D,
I will take a look at that to see what there reason is, probably just to make sure everything is sound. Not knowing where their equipment is going to be installed just covering their butt.

I've been doing these quite a while and have never done one. I would imagine to do one on the boiler you would have to plug the relief valve because the system would blow at 30psi if you didn't.

I use a Bacharach but there are different ones on the market. The electronic ones are expensive and if it's only for your use you might be better off having a licensed tech come in and set it up and pull the permit unless you have other plans.

In MA it is the fire dept. that does the inspection and permits.

If you go to this sight and click on HVAC and then tools you can see what they are.

http://www.supplyhouse.com/

Click on TESTO and keep scrolling until you find the TESTO 310. A little more reasonably priced but I've never used one but at least it will give you an idea.
 

Last edited by spott; 01-03-18 at 05:35 PM.
  #5  
Old 01-03-18, 05:20 PM
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Another thing to keep in mind is that some companies only honor factory warranties if the unit was installed by a factory trained technician. This is a problem that I've seen with A/C systems.... I'm not sure if boiler companies are the same. Something to check in to.
 
  #6  
Old 01-03-18, 05:37 PM
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Spott: Bacharach looks like nice stuff, a bit more than Iím willing to spend for a one time deal. Iíll do some research into less expensive analyzers. Iíd like to have one even if itís only used infrequently. Plus I like tools, epescially digital ones.

EDIT: Testo 310 looks good. Iíll look into it a little more.

pjmax: thanks. Iíll definitely consider that when choosing a boiler.
 
  #7  
Old 01-03-18, 06:02 PM
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I’ll do some research into less expensive analyzers. I’d like to have one even if it’s only used infrequently.
I'd like to have a combustion analyzer for the same infrequent use. However what pretty much shut me down was the O2 sensor cost: I'm sure it depends on the model, but for the inexpensive digital analyzers I was looking at, O2 sensors run about $160-175. As I understand it, once you open them they start going bad, and it doesn't matter how infrequently you use it. I've heard they only last for about a year. (!!)

Paying $160+ every year just for something I'm going to use once per year isn't feasible. Is it true that these sensors wear out that quickly?
 
  #8  
Old 01-03-18, 06:31 PM
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C,
I guess you have to do your homework but I can tell you years ago when the electronic first cam out the company I worked for bought a Lenox. The only company at the time that offered them. The cost was 1500.00.

We thought it was a one time purchase getting away from the manual Bacharach and the replacement parts to had to buy for that plus the convenience of the electronic.

The 02 sensor was never mentioned and being new we had no idea they had a shelf life but found out pretty quick they did last about a year if you used it or not and then as technology progressed and new models came out they weren't even available anymore so we had a 1500 unit that turned out to be a door stop.

I'm going back about 25 yrs. and they were 65.00 back then which was quite a bit of money so apparently they haven't made a lot of progress in that time. At the price they're getting now, just for home use it makes you think twice about picking one up just for a hobby.
 
  #9  
Old 01-04-18, 03:11 AM
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I worked in larger boiler plants for better than 30 years. It IS true that an oxygen cell for electronic combustion analyzers has a life of about a year and the cost of replacing it will pretty much destroy a $100 bill. There are other sensors as well that need to be replaced periodically.

We tried at least three different electronic analyzers and they ALL had the same problems when used on a limited basis. Talking with my buddy within the last couple of months he told me they have decided to call the factory rep once a year to do the combustion checks rather than try to maintain their own analyzer. Back when I was working we had twelve boilers to check, now they only have six. For only one boiler it is simply not economically sound to buy and maintain an electronic analyzer.

I'll give you another option. Before electronic analyzers Bacharach made what I called "dumbells" (because that is what they looked like) to measure carbon dioxide and oxygen content in the stack gases. I don't know if these are still available but back in my day it would cost about $30 for a rebuild kit (rubber seals and such) along with a bottle of fluid. With limited testing they could easily be used for at least three years before needing a fluid change. Fluid only was also available if the seals weren't leaking. You could buy the dumbells by themselves or in kits that included draft gauge, stack thermometer, and smoke indicator pump. All items also available individually. My personal opinion was (and still is) that Bacharach equipment is vastly overpriced but the "wet kits" were far more affordable than the electronic analyzers. I know that up to a few years ago Dwyer also made a wet kit but I don't know if they still do.

I'll add that for a draft gauge the Dwyer Magnehelic is my choice. Get one with a 0-1 inch water column range. You can often find the Magnehelic on eBay for around $30. For the stack thermometer you can get a type K thermocouple meter on eBay for around $10 plus another $3-7 for the probe. For the smoke pump I know of no cheap substitute for the Bacharach (well, the other combustion analyzer manufacturers) and that little baby will run in excess of $100. The hardest thing to find will be the Bacharach slide run that allows you to input all the raw data and easily calculate the combustion efficiency and other things.

I just did the Google boogle and the dumbells ARE still available as it the fluid and rebuilt kits. Here is the Bacharach page for the kits. https://www.mybacharach.com/product-...-testing-kits/ Be forewarned, they ain't cheap! Here is an old topic on the fluid and possible substitution from our favorite Do-It-Yourself forum. https://www.doityourself.com/forum/b...ubstitute.html There are quite a few topics here concerning combustion analysis.
 
  #10  
Old 01-04-18, 08:46 AM
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D,
I completely agree with Furd, in fact since retiring I have dug out my old Bacharach as the one furd referred to in lieu of constantly replacing sensors since I'm using it on such a limited basis. It just made no sense.

If you go on to ebay there are a lot of them on at different price ranges but very affordable. Just check out what is included so you get a complete kit.

On ebay in the search bar type in:

" Bacharach combustion test kit"

You can check them out. This kit makes much more sense, especially for the DIY tech.
 
  #11  
Old 01-04-18, 12:39 PM
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Thanks for the info and suggestions, Spott and Furd. Lots of Bacharach 10-5000 units on ebay for reasonable prices. I just have 2 questions about these if you don't mind:

1. Many of the ones for sale are missing one dumbell. Is the 2nd one not required? What would be the reason for so many folks to be running around with just 1 dumbell in their kit?

2. Is it possible to get a feel for CO levels with these testers by doing some math? Since it seems they don't test for CO like the digital ones do. (Yes, I'm obviously a newbie in this department. I will have to do some reading it seems.)
 
  #12  
Old 01-04-18, 02:43 PM
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The two most important things for an oil burner are smoke level and carbon dioxide measurement. The smoke level you want as low as possible without lowering the CO2 too much and the CO2 you want as high as possible without going over a 0.5 to 1.0 on the smoke spot. When burning oil the oxygen content is mostly a double check on the CO2 test.

Bacharach makes (or they did) two other devices for measuring carbon monoxide (CO) and if I remember correctly they were both called a Monoxer or something like that. The less expensive device was essentially a calibrated pump, a bit larger than a fountain pen that had a rubber end. It took a glass ampoule that had some kind of indicator chemical inside and after breaking the tips off the ampoule and placing one end in the pump you placed the other end in the flue and pressed the button on the side of the pump, maybe a couple of times, to draw the combustion gases into the ampoule. This would cause the indicator to turn yellow if the CO was over a certain percentage. The other device was a more sophisticated version but it used a different ampoule and the pump (which looked more like a hockey puck with a button in the middle and a fold-out scale) would actually read out in percent of CO so you could make a decision if it was excessive. I haven't seen either of these units in more than forty years so I have no idea if they are still available. There ARE electronic CO meters available and as I recall they are fairly reasonable in price. I could be wrong, though as I really don't keep track of these things.
 
  #13  
Old 01-04-18, 03:44 PM
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D,
To answer your question of the 2 dumbells, like a dumbbell I don't have an answer.

When I bought mine years ago it only came with 1. You only need 1.

When I bought mine it was for oil so it was for co2 testing. Back in the day efficiency tests were never done on gas because being atmospheric meaning the gas just came in and went to the burners and there was no adjustments to be made. There were no fuel/air adjustments. You got what you got and it was accepted. In fact it was a novelty to even clean a gas boiler.

Everyone thought they were so efficient but they used so much air there basically was never any soot and in reality they only burned about 60% efficient which was later discovered and came to light.

As far as the 2 dumbells, a guess and only a guess without researching it is possibly for the different fuels. Maybe it's a different type of fluid for co than for co2.

Either way you only need 1 for co2 since you have oil.

For me as Furd mentioned the smoke and the draft are the most important things. Basically you're going to take your stack temp and then your draft and your over fire draft. If you have the right nozzle and adjust the air for a clean burn the co2 will take care of itself.

That's just the result of how you set the burner up. There are tricks to co2 readings and can be fudged by people trying to sell boilers.

At the end of the day you set up the boiler as best you can get it with the draft, temp and smoke and the co2 reading will tell how efficient it is.
 
  #14  
Old 01-04-18, 04:04 PM
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The second "dumbbell" had a blue fluid & was used to measure oxygen.
 
  #15  
Old 01-04-18, 08:36 PM
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The second "dumbbell" had a blue fluid & was used to measure oxygen.

That makes sense. And so could the people with only one dumbbell dump out the the other fluid and replace it with the blue for O2 if they had to? Or are the two dumbbells different in some physical aspect?

Thanks all three of you for all the information. I personally wanted/want one for my LP forced air furnace, so of course things are different than a boiler (yeah, the topic of the OP and this subforum). But when he got talking about analyzers I got interested.

Sorry to temporarily derail your thread, detech80.
I kinda got the impression you didn't know you'd be buying something that costs $160/yr just to sit on the shelf. Just like Spott's company didn't know and they found out the hard way with a $1500 anchor. Manufacturer's never spell this out ahead of time.

I can't thank you guys enough for the old-school fluid recommendations/tips. I was all set to spend money on a brand new O2 sensor each time I wanted to test my own LP furnace. (Even if a technician would be slightly cheaper -- it's inconvenient). Now I know better, and I also know that separate CO sniffers aren't that expensive.
 
  #16  
Old 01-05-18, 09:55 AM
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The only difference between the two dumbbells that I know of is the different scales. HOWEVER, the fluid is expensive enough that it simply does not make sense to dump, clean and refill with the other fluid.

It more than likely would require the replacement of all the gaskets and the diaphragm as well.
 
  #17  
Old 01-05-18, 07:32 PM
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Keep that old boiler. Life span of cast iron boilers has not been established. Some are 80 years old. Measured efficiency is 85% on my 60 year old Weil McLain Model 57A firing at 0.80 GPH. Name plate reads 1.80 GPH.

Reducing firing rate of boilers increases efficiency. That is why many new boilers have “turn down ratios” to reduce firing rate to actual need.

Old cast iron boilers can be made efficient by spending $300 on a smaller nozzle, adding Out Door Reset, automatic vent damper and keeping them clean.

https://www.supplyhouse.com/Tekmar-2...iler-4150000-p

http://www.supplyhouse.com/Watts-059...Vent-3679000-p

Most boilers are over sized. Smaller nozzle increases efficiency and still have plenty of excess capacity. Also newer boilers are often harder to clean and maintain efficiency

It is easy to accurcately find current heat load then select smaller nozzzle with clock wired to burner solenoid.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/AC100-250V-...19.m1438.l2649

For a period of time log run time, oil consumption and degree days. Crunch data to find actual firing rate, degree days per gallon. Then calculate run time on coldest day. My burner runs 8 hours/day at 0F.
 

Last edited by doughess; 01-05-18 at 07:51 PM.
  #18  
Old 01-06-18, 04:49 AM
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doughess: Thanks for that info. Unfortunately this boiler was poorly maintained before I bought the house. It's not in fantastic shape.
 
  #19  
Old 01-06-18, 05:17 AM
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Let me add my 2 cents. I worked in the residential and commercial heating field for about 40 years and have been retired for 10 years. I have seen most types of combustion analysers and have used many. Setting up a boiler, furnace or other heating device is an art. Even the best combustion gas analyser can not make a novice an expert. Gas and oil flames can be set up pretty close with the naked eye and a lot of experience. It may not be perfect but it can be close. Most service techs out there are not worth a damn, most are not professional ,and most should seek a different profession. Most are just parts changers. Now for some insight; factory service techs would show up on trouble jobs with a wide range of combustion analysers. One of the largest burner manufacturers service tech would come equipped with only a "smoke spot " tester if he was helping set up a troubled unit on fuel oil. and get just about the same set up as I could get with the latest combustion analyser. So, if you are looking for a cheaper way to set up an oil unit that won't "break the bank" go buy a smoke spot detector or call in a PROFESSIONAL.
 
  #20  
Old 01-06-18, 06:41 AM
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My heating system priorities are adequate, reliable heat at minimum cost. Am not concerned about boiler appearance. See pix below.

Have no plans to sell house. If I did would put sign on 60 year old faithful boiler: 85% Efficiency $1,200 annual heating cost.

Last week topped off 560 gallon tank for $2.28 gallon which should last until November.

Today it is 8F outside. Family room, kitchen and upstairs are at 74F. No visitors expected today so living room is at 66F
 
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Last edited by doughess; 01-06-18 at 08:41 AM.
  #21  
Old 01-06-18, 07:44 AM
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Steamboy aced it! Calling a professional is like buying a lottery ticket.

DIY.com has many posts with tales of inaccurate, wrong data from professionals. I feel sorry for the novice coming to it for help and not getting it. My posts are to cut through the old wives' tales and other stuff.

For oil systems a smoke detector is easy, cheap and accurate. For the clean hands amateur it is a simple way to check the professionals settings.
 

Last edited by doughess; 01-06-18 at 08:36 AM.
  #22  
Old 01-07-18, 07:09 AM
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You mean like the service tech that turns on the vac, has a cigaret , or reads a magazine ,the shuts off the vac? Yeah I have my own Bachrach . I use mostly smoke and draft.
Sid
 
  #23  
Old 01-07-18, 08:32 AM
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S,
Funny you should mention that.

Years back a company I was working for had a guy that was doing the annual cleanings that they trusted and although there were never any complaints up until this one time when a woman came down to the basement and caught the guy, with the vacuum running, sitting in a chair reading a magazine.

She called the company and reported what she saw. Although there were no complaints, they had to back and check every job the guy did and then fired him.

When talking to the woman my boss asked her, what made you go down cellar.

Her response: I knew something was up when the vac never changed sounds. A vac always changes sounds when cleaning.

When I heard a steady sound I wondered what he was up to.

Never underestimate the ears of a woman. As I found out more than once they more than we think they do.

Have a nice day
 
  #24  
Old 01-08-18, 09:02 AM
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For what it's worth, 10 years ago I bought a Bacharach Fyrite analyzer which reads O2, CO2, Stack Temp and Draft when I became disgusted with the quality of the service techs I had in my area. Even when I requested that they make sure to bring an analyzer and smoke tester, I got excuses like "oh, it's in the other truck". While it is true that the O2 sensors are expensive and mine last on average about 2 years, the $160 they cost is worth it to me. I have not paid for an oil tech since then and was able to successfully install a new oil burner on my old (1975) American Standard way oversized boiler. I downfired it and have the fuel pressure cranked up to 150 psi for better atomization of the fuel. It has been running fine for the last several years.
As long as you have some decent plumbing skills, I see no reason, other than possible permit/insurance issues, not to DIY. Please let us know what you find out in this regard.
 
  #25  
Old 01-08-18, 07:59 PM
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How to Cut Fuel Costs.

My post 01-06-18, 09:41 AM #20 (permalink) has a picture of boiler and water heater.

Round water center vent gas or oil fired heaters are very inefficient compared to typical non-condensing boilers.

Years ago Brookhaven National Labs did a major study on residential heating system passive losses when not firing that made me aware of issue.

Even with an electric stack damper, the vent pipe acts like a “heat pipe” sucking BTU's out of tank when not firing. Wrapping vent pipe from tank to damper with 2” aluminum foil insulation to cut that loss.

The Weil McLain 1957 boiler has insulated vent before electric damper. Also note in picture ĺ” fiber panel board insulation on left side and top of boiler. The removable from panel has insulation.

Old boilers with sheet metal housing were often poorly insulated. I use an infra red laser thermometer to check the housing temp. Low expansion (Dap or Dow Blue can) foam can be sprayed inside housing if stack temp is below 400F.

These are quck $10 material jobs that have eternal payback.
 

Last edited by doughess; 01-08-18 at 09:06 PM.
  #26  
Old 01-09-18, 08:25 AM
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For any of you guys that like to do your own work, if you need an oil pump, you can buy them that develop 300 psig. At 300 psig most oil nozzles will deliver approximately 180% of the nozzles rated flow. 1 GPH nozzle @ 300 psig = 1.8 GPH delivered with great atomization.
 
  #27  
Old 01-09-18, 01:44 PM
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Thanks for all the help on this guys.

Can someone recommend a text or manual on properly adjusting the flame and air/fuel mixture using a combustion analyzer? Or a text on operation theory?
 
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Old 05-14-18, 07:25 PM
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Old 09-30-18, 07:17 PM
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Update: After beginning in the spring by building a small extension as the new boiler room the boiler install is officially complete. Fired it up yesterday and burner guy came out to tune it. Everything is working properly. Went with a Slant Fin LD-30PT with a tankless coil.

Thanks for all the help
 
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Old 10-14-18, 02:15 PM
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What did you end up doing for permitting?
 
  #31  
Old 10-14-18, 07:07 PM
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dtech80: For oil burners I use a smoke test kit. Adjust air until smoke just disappears.

https://www.supplyhouse.com/Bacharac...Smoke-Test-Kit

To access the Beckett Manual you have to register as a whatever. It is a great source of info.

Another good source is a training manual from North Carolina:

http://www.ncoilheat.org/files/3614/...Manual2013.pdf
 

Last edited by doughess; 10-14-18 at 09:28 PM.
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