Bock 32E Smoking from Inspection Port After Burner Overhaul

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  #1  
Old 10-31-18, 01:48 PM
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Exclamation Bock 32E Smoking from Inspection Port After Burner Overhaul

History:
This water heater with a Bock-branded oil burner has been in service at least a dozen years. It's fed by a supply/return line (2 pipe) oil system. For the most part, it has always run well, albeit would be somewhat hard starting when oil level in tank was low. But otherwise, ran clean and smoothly.

Present Day:
For the past 3 days, I was noticing a sulfur or gunpowder like odor in the basement. Yesterday, it was bad enough to notice a correlation when when the water heater had been running. This morning, I shined a flashlight into the flue damper and opened the damper wide enough with a screwdriver so I could see in there. I was shocked to see black, fluffy smoke going up the flue. The inside of the flue was pretty heavily coated with soot, too.

Realizing it was time for maintenance on this burner, I removed the burner, disconnected oil and electric lines and disassembled it and cleaned it thoroughly. I replaced the nozzle with a new .75GPH 80A type and cleaned the insulators and spark gap and re-set them to correct values. After reassembling everything, but before reinstalling, I decided something needed to be done about the soot buildup. So I attached a 3" shop vac hose to the output of my leaf blower and stuck in through the opening where the burner normally sits and aimed it up toward the Turbo Flue. Packed material around the gap between hose and wall of burner chamber and proceeded to blow air at a good velocity up the Turbo Flue structure. After that, I put the hose in through the Tee (removed the damper temporarily) and put a bag over the gap and turned on the blower again to push any soot that was in the remaining dozen or so feet of flue pipe out into the chimney cleanout space.

After cleaning, I vacuumed the bottom of the fire chamber, carefully, trying not to damage the chamber insulating material. Then I reinstalled the oil burner and completed wiring and oil line hookup.

After a few tries priming, the burner finally came on, and was running smoother than ever. No puff-backs on startup, just a smooth ignition and start. I thought, "excellent" and I went down the cellar steps to do my inspection while the heater ran. That's when I noticed grey smoke coming out of the inspection port to the left of the burner. The flue damper was open at the normal amount, so I have draft and that suggests no blockage in the chimney, but I smell an odor like paint burning as smoke is forcing its way out the port on the side. So I shut it down and opened the port. The plug that had been in there seemed loose, or seemed to fall out, so I figured that it got dislodged when I pressure cleaned the flue from inside the combustion chamber. So I put the plug back in snugly, closes the port and started up the burner again. But again, smoke coming out and the paint burning smell.

I have a hunch that possibly some part of the combustion chamber material might have dislodged in some way to impinge on the flamefront from the burner, so I need to pull the burner and take a closer look. If all looks okay with the burner clearing the firebox material, what else should I check?

It would be nice if the stack assembly were in an accessible location, but it's located in a tight spot behind the main furnace stack and a lot of water pipes. I'd feel a lot better if I could pull apart the stack and make sure it's completely clean, rather than relying on the leaf blower to clean out the soot. However, it's long, inaccessible except by taking apart the furnace flue piping and working over a bunch of water lines and in and around the furnace.

I've noted no problems with the furnace, so I don't think I got a reindeer stuck in my chimney or something like that. I did find it odd that the water heater started smoking excessively in the past few days. My thought was the nozzle wore out, or maybe something got lodged in the nozzle, causing the pattern to be malformed and thus cause sudden combustion problems. Previous inspections of the flue revealed no soot buildup whatsoever. So whatever this was, came on rapidly in the course of about 3 days.

I'm wondering if something is lodged in the Turboflu and preventing it from allowing gasses to exit at the proper rate, resulting in the positive pressure in the combustion chamber. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that's probably going to be major job to track down.
 
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  #2  
Old 10-31-18, 02:35 PM
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Mark,
Although you think it's only a hot water heater your burner should still be set up with the proper gauges to achieve proper combustion.

If you are getting backdraft that is generally a sign of a restriction somewhere either in the chimney or the smoke pipe or the unit itself. It could also be your air damper opened to much which would cut your draft down or wrong air settings at the burner.

The first thing you need is a draft gauge to see what you have and adjust accordingly to start with.

Hope this helps a little.
 
  #3  
Old 10-31-18, 03:50 PM
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I understand the burner setup is important for clean operation and optimum efficiency, but even with the same air vent settings as before, I am having the issue. But...

I took the flue stack off the top of the heater and looked down inside the Turboflue assembly. It was easily 80% blocked.. Turboflue itself blocks at least 50% with it's spiral labyrinth, but that was coated with 1/4" of soot, so the openings are very tiny for actual gasses to escape.

So I put a plastic bag over it and taped it to the shop vac hose and hooked up the blowing side of the vac to the hose and blew down there a bit. Of course, this produced a black cloud of soot out the burner area and wherever else it could escape, so I had to shut it down almost immediately. The entire basement is coated in black soot now. Next, I put the hose on the suction side of the vac and just tried vacuuming up the top layer. I removed a small amount of soot, but can't touch the layers below that.

Next, I pulled the burner and looked around the port. No dislodged material, so could find nothing impinging the flame. So I put the burner back in.

Tested again, this time, much less smoke coming out of the inspection port. I shut it down and aired out the basement and pondered my observations. Cleaning the top layer of Turboflue resulted in less smoke.

Over the next 30 minutes, I started up the burner several times. Each time it improved. The last time I fired it up, there was no visible smoke. However the odor is pretty strong. A combination of hydrocarbons and burning paint. I used a non contact thermometer to measure the temperature around the inspection port and around the burner flange. After running a good five minutes, it was hitting 295F at one point about 1 o'clock position above inspection port flange. Also left side of burner flange, but left of that on the case of the heater itself, I also measured close to 295F.

The thing is it's getting better, but it's a long ways from stinking up the basement. So I'm pondering how the heck to clean that turboflue, as I am convinced that is so clogged up that it is causing positive pressure in combustion chamber. I don't want to simply hose it down as that would wet all the insulation in the combustion chamber and end up causing massive corrosion between the wetness, heat and soot. Short of replacing the whole tank, I'm not sure what other options I have. If I run the burner, wait ten minutes and then spray it down with hot water from the tank itself, it has a better chance of drying out sooner than if I spray it down cold. It would have to be a short sprintz, maybe 1/2 gallon or less of water, or about 4-5 seconds of spray from a garden hose type nozzle. Maybe there's a better way?
 
  #4  
Old 10-31-18, 04:01 PM
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They make a soot vac and brushes for just that purpose. If you are getting that much soot then I would check and adjust your fuel/air mixture. You need more air. Adjust your air band until you get a clean burn.
 
  #5  
Old 10-31-18, 06:44 PM
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The soot was from a malfunction which was fixed (the burner was rebuilt today).. Now I have to deal with the soot.

There is no way to get a brush down that flue. Think of a wrought iron spiral staircase. That's the structure that is in there. No hole big enough to get a brush through. Maybe 1/4" slats in the spiral. I might be able to get a real skinny brush through the top layer of slats, one at a time, but will stop at the next layer below it if not precisely lined up.

I sent Bock an e-mail. Maybe they have an idea how to clean these.

Curiously, the problem is diminishing with each firing. I was able to run it this evening the full cycle until the thermostat reached the shut off temp. The hot spot near the inspection door, at 1 o'clock was 280F after 12 minutes of continuous operation. There is no longer visible smoke coming from that port. The smell of hydrocarbons and hot paint is still there, but it takes a good five minutes to present now, whereas it presented in under a minute earlier in testing.

The burner itself, after rebuild, is running fantastic. Smooth starts, no puffbacks, and no visible smoke up the flue when observed with a strong light sources into the barometric damper. The odor problem is improving with each operating cycle. Maybe the soot is being carried off or more completely combusting as the heater runs?
 
  #6  
Old 10-31-18, 06:57 PM
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This is the brush you need, also make sure the 8" or so baffle is removed from the top if there lose it for good.https://www.homedepot.com/p/1-1-8-in...0223/203652254
 
  #7  
Old 10-31-18, 07:06 PM
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Mark,
If you have a good clean burn now believe it or not the fire will actually start burning and getting rid of the existing soot on its own to a point.

As far as brushes go they make brushes just for cleaning oil burning boilers. I know what you have and have cleaned many of them over the years.

If you have a heating supply company near you they would most likely have what you need. There are numerous different sizes to handle all kinds of equipment. I don't think you'll find them in box stores but maybe chimney places may have some.

Google boiler cleaning brushes to get an idea what's available.

Hope this helps a little.
 
  #8  
Old 10-31-18, 07:34 PM
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That brush looks like the same one I have a few of downstairs. Which came from a plumber/heating supply.Did not measure how long mine was though. Also I'am sure you wouldn't recommend going somewhere special for a General oil filter insert?
 
  #9  
Old 11-01-18, 09:11 AM
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My understanding is that the spiral perf baffle runs the length of the stack from about 26" from the top lip all the way to the combustion chamber. I am not aware of a way to remove it. I've googled "how to clean Bock Turboflue" but turned up only two threads about smoking service ports on Bock 32E water heaters. Is that top section removable? If so, is it a force fit, or held with fasteners?

That brush looks too big to get into the tiny slits in the spiral baffle. And if it could be forced into one, it would only be the top level.

The burn is getting better with each firing. Temps at the edge of the inspection port flange have decreased to 240F after a ten minute run (down from 280F). But of concern to me is that when I open the outer door to the inspection port, the insulation in there is glowing at the edges. I don't remember seeing that in earlier times with this water heater.

There is still some odor, but it's reduced. I've been leaving the burner switch off during the night and only running it while I'm observing the unit until such time as these remaining issues are cleared up.

Bock hasn't yet responded to my e-mail inquiry.
 
  #10  
Old 11-01-18, 12:46 PM
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If you pull your smoke pipe and have a hole in the middle of your spiral you do not have a baffle. That brush is soft (nylon?) and goes thru the middle of the spiral. Like Spott says water heaters are run clean, they don't run long enough to be too efficient. It will clean up in time. I can't stand oily soot and might throw in a !/4 or more of a soot stick in there.
 
  #11  
Old 11-01-18, 04:40 PM
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M,
That spiral turbulator is part of the tank and is not removable. As g, said those soft nylon brushes are very flexible but if you need a smaller one for the veins they come in all sizes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADrSTUGWHxY

About 2:20 sec. in is interesting and then what he does at the end because he doesn't take the time to do it right. There are brushes that will clean those veins. Without a real soot vac that soot will fall into the chamber and you might have to remove the burner again to vac the chamber.

If you watch the whole clip he shows you the nozzle as a .75 80B. The specs clearly call far a .75 80A which is a different nozzle and may have very well caused the sooting since the guy was there only a few months previous. About 9:24 he shows you the nozzle.

This guy, by replacing the nozzle with another of the same is only compounding the problem but it works out good for him. The A in a nozzle stands for a HOLLOW SPRAY while the B is a SOLID SPRAY. That alone could be causing the sooting.

The solid spray because the chamber wasn't designed to handle it might be hitting the chamber which is only meant to contain the fire and not meant to be hit like a backboard. When the oil hits the chamber itself it becomes unburned oil and that is what creates soot.

My guess is that the only thing wrong with this tank is that it was not set up properly and could have been saved with proper servicing and instead everybody's telling this guy how good he is. Then they wonder why people don't trust service companies and are trying to do there own service.

If you look close he replaced the 30 gal. with a 50 gal. That must have been a nice bill.

This may help a little.
 

Last edited by spott; 11-01-18 at 05:36 PM.
  #12  
Old 11-02-18, 11:51 AM
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Interesting video.. I can see that spiral has a nice big hole down the middle that mine doesn't have. The veins are at an almost vertical angle so you can easily run a brush through them. Mine are almost horizontal like the steps of a spiral staircase with no hole bigger than 1/4" in the spiral 'steps'. I don't see how I can clean it other than blasting air through the assembly (not sensible inside the basement as it produces a cloud of black dust).

Incidentally, that burner is the same model as mine, but his had the ignition transformer replaced as also is the case with the controller (same controller as my main furnace though, which has a Beckett B2007 burner now.)

Additional firing cycles have been getting progressively better with lower temps measured on the skin of the tank by the inspection port. Odors are decreased a lot.

What I have done today was force close the barometric damper so as to create more negative pressure to help force exhaust gasses up through that restrictive Turboflue assembly. The port temperature is down the the low 200 degree range and the temp at the hottest spot next to the burner flange is 145 degrees after running 15 minutes with all the hot water being used the night before, resulting in a full recovery from cold to hot.

I'm thinking of putting some furnace cement on that inspection plug and reinstalling it to make a better seal, since I never use it. That should reduce the temperature of the skin around the port and decrease fire risk.
 
  #13  
Old 11-02-18, 12:20 PM
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Mark,
Without pics it's hard to tell what you have but usually that plug is there for service reasons, that is for a draft gauge.

In setting up for proper combustion you take draft readings at 2 places. In the stack and at the burner or over the fire as it's called. The smoke pipe reading tells you your draft in the chimney. Your over the fire reading at the inspection port tells you if you are getting draft through the unit and have no restrictions as soot blockages.

This is where combustion instruments come into play.

As far as blowing out your chamber could you put a piece of plastic or other covering over the hole and cut a hole big enough for your air hose and blow the soot down into the chamber, then remove the burner and vac it out.

Just a thought. I've had to do that with some real bad ones. On my air nozzle I've screwed in I believe it's 1/4" nipples to extend down into the chamber so you can control the nozzle from above the covering and make a real small access hole.

Just a thought.
 
  #14  
Old 11-02-18, 12:26 PM
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You really should be using combustion test instruments to set the burner up.
You cannot use furnace cement on the inspection port. It’s there for a reason.
 

Last edited by roughneck77; 11-02-18 at 12:44 PM.
  #15  
Old 11-02-18, 12:38 PM
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Sounds like your baffle is still there. It's baked in by now. It's only about 8" long . It's a cap pipe. Use some kind of small leverage to get it out.
 
  #16  
Old 11-02-18, 03:00 PM
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Yep, there's a baffle, but it's construction is like a spiral staircase. It doesn't look like a removable top plate, but then, with all the soot, it was hard to see that well. I don't want to risk damaging the tank by prying on that thing, especially if it's welded to the tank.

I tried placing a bag over every orifice and blowing in from the burner chamber initially, but soot was blowing out every seam in the stack and soon filled the room and I had to open both doors and leave as the air became noxiously unbreathable.

I understand that it's a service port. But since I don't use it, the benefits of sealing it outweigh the need to use it. At least this way I can delay financing a new water heater for a few more years. The previous 32E lasted 16 years before it leaked. This one's 13 years old, so it's days are numbered.

I know it's not standard practice, but since the impediment of soot in the turboflue lowers the draft over fire, I've increased the draft in the stack to compensate, at least until the soot burns off. It's progressively improving. I'm almost at the point where I feel the water heater is safe to leave on full time, but I'm going to pay close attention to the temperatures at the inspection port as a function of blow-by, which are decreasing with each cycle. I just need to measure the CO levels when this thing is running to make sure they are not higher than safe.
 
  #17  
Old 11-02-18, 03:13 PM
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Meant to say it's a pipe with a cap welded to it. You don't take out the spiral just whats in the middle of it. It will be so much better without it. When I was working I had a small collection of them.
 
  #18  
Old 11-02-18, 04:19 PM
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Blow from the exhaust down into the burner chamber with the burner installed until your done. Then remove the burner and clean the chamber and the burner if any got into the tube or assembly.
 
  #19  
Old 11-02-18, 07:11 PM
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The inspection port is used to measure draft. If you seal it up there will be no way of measuring draft properly.
Instead of trying to bag the unit you need brushes and a soot vac. Trying to blow it out will not remove all the soot deposits.
13 years isn’t that old. I’m not sure why you think it’s on deaths door.
 
  #20  
Old 11-03-18, 01:09 PM
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I did later try the reverse, blowing from the stack end down into the chamber, and had to remove the burner again and clean the nozzle and blast tube from the soot that landed on it. Soot puffed out from several places around the burner, so I had to stop quickly.

My last 32E sprung a leak at 16 years of age. Prior less expensive tanks would last only 4 years and leak. I finally found the Bock in the late 1990s and had better luck with them. Highly acidic well water here. Had to change all plumbing from copper to PVC because I was sick of having pinhole leaks spring up every 6 months.

I hope that I can get 3-4 more years out of this tank before it leaks too.
 
  #21  
Old 11-03-18, 05:31 PM
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Mark,
Not to beat a dead horse but if the air hose seams to be working and by what you said came out you still have quite a bit in there you can remove the burner and tape a big plastic patch over the burner and door openings and cover any other place where the soot came out.

Vac the chamber and reinstall the burner.
 
  #22  
Old 11-04-18, 07:45 PM
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If I could pull the entire tank, I could air blast it outside without a care for where the soot goes, but the furnace room is shared with a lot of expensive electronic test equipment in my workshop, and I don't want to foul the whole place up with soot. I recently renovated and it's all nicely painted and clean. It's too bad some soot leaked out of the bags and through seams in the stack, but I stopped the blowdown because of that. There's a thin layer of soot all over the shop now.

The first time I reverse blew down from the stack, the burner was installed. I had to pull it and wipe clean the nozzle. But I may have to remove the blast tube and clean the electrodes next. This morning the burner wouldn't start and I didn't hear the usual spark ignition sound. A minute later, it started on a subsequent try. Hours later, it started immediately with no trouble. Seems that long overnight shutdowns are a problem though. I think I will order a new set of electrodes this week (the plumbing supplier didn't have electrodes for this particular burner, Bock MSR.) Hard starting when off for 15 hours and cold. Easy starting when luke warm.
 
  #23  
Old 11-09-18, 08:47 AM
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Intermittent startup problems have been persisting since the R&R of the burner. I am starting to suspect that this work has disturbed oil line connections and that there may be a leak somewhere, causing the burner to lose prime.

The last couple of mornings when it wouldn't start, I could not smell any oil at all near the burner assembly. But when it finally does light off, it's not audibly explosive but I get some grey smoke coming out around the burner flange and inspection port for a minute. My hunch is that SOME oil is coming out of the nozzle, but it's not forming a proper pattern to ignite. When I disassembled the burner to put new electrodes in, I found some oil residue on bottom of blast tube.

Since installing new electrodes, I got one good light off and the following start caused a lockout. I've disassembled and reassembled the joints at the oil pump. Didn't see any oil in the supply line at all. Put it all back together yesterday and managed to get the burner to light. But again this morning, it would not light after three resets. I can hear the spark going nice and strong, but no ignition. I loosened the return line on the pump and oil seeped out, so I think there's oil in the pump. I also R&Red the oil filter, which was clean as a whistle. Tried tightening a few of the joints, but they are located in an area what requires a contortion artist to access, with low overhanging pipes. I got severe back pain and had to limit my efforts there.

So I tried again after the oil filter check to light the burner. 3 resets and nothing. Then I fired up the main furnace for 5 minutes. Then shut it down and retried the water heater. After about 15 seconds, it finally did light off this time, but somewhat explosively, as I could see flame burst up to the barometric damper for a moment. The burner continued to run normally after this. However, I don't have high hopes that it will start up again without a lot of intervention.

I always hate R&R'ing the oil burners because I almost always have priming problems after that. Maybe the new nozzle is defective? I wish I had bought one of the nozzles with a pressure valve inside it, like I did for my main furnace. That prevents dribbling in the event the pressure is insufficient.
 
  #24  
Old 11-09-18, 11:31 AM
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M,
Let's start off with no fire.

1) Forget about oil problems. It has, in your case, nothing to do with oil delivery. Having a 2 pipe system it is self bleeding and if you had an oil problem it would be most likely be due to an air problem but since you do not have to bleed the pump to get it going and you're getting puffback, which is the accumulation of unburned oil finally igniting, oil is not your problem.

2) As for your explosive start, that is caused again from an excess of unburned oil igniting or more simply put, delayed ignition.

Every time you hit the reset and the burner doesn't light, the pump still delivers oil to the chamber for as long as the burner runs until it goes off on safety. You said it started on the 3rd try which means if you have a 45 sec. safety control you have 11/2 - 2.00 minutes of oil in that chamber that all of sudden ignites at once.

It's these kind of delays that cause chimney fires.

Your problem is in your ignition somewhere. Without being there it's difficult to diagnose. It could be your transformer getting weak. It could be your electrode tips getting worn or the electrode porcelains developing hairline cracks or weak spots allowing for the spark to veer off to any metal in the tube before it reaches the tips or it could be just misaligned or wrongly set electrodes.

The oil in the bottom of the tube suggests to me that the oil spray is hitting something when it leaves the nozzle which is telling me something is out of alignment.

Your oil should come out of the nozzle and hit nothing. The spark from the electrodes ignites the oil and burns, hitting nothing else including any part of the chamber. The chamber is there to contain the fire, not to catch the flame. Any time the flame hits a solid object it does not burn and creates soot.

I know this is long and a little more than you probably wanted to know but I hope this helps a little.
 
  #25  
Old 11-09-18, 08:53 PM
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This is on new electrodes, installed Thursday morning.

This system has had a history of problems starting up whenever I changed an oil filter or did anything to disturb the oil lines. Usually, a little tightening of the couplings would restore it to working order.

My hunch is that there is air in the system, because when it sits for many hours, it's hard starting.

I'm going to add a Delavan Protek valve and change the nozzle again, just to be safe. If it's dribbling oil due to an oil flow problem, the Protek nozzle will prevent output unless 100PSI is reached and a proper pattern formed. (I use a Hago Ekovalve on my main oil burner furnace and it works fantastic--no carbon buildup at all.

The fact that I found oil in the blast tube supports my theory that oil is dribbling out of the nozzle due to insufficient pressure.

I don't think it's a transformer issue. If it were failing, I would have noticed problems starting going back weeks or months. With the new electrodes, I can really hear the spark ignition when it starts up. A transformer failure would involve a shorted winding. That would completely stop ignition and or result in odor of burning windings.

The startup problems came after disturbing the oil lines. Now some workarounds I was thinking about might be to change the control out to the same one I have on my Beckett burner, with a 15 second TFI delay. That would give the pump time to prime if the prime was lost. The Protek valve would prevent dribbling oil if the pressure wasn't up to 100PSI, so that should stop any raw oil buildup.

For the record, I wait five minutes for any potential oil vapor cloud in the combustion chamber to dissipate before I reset the burner again. The good news is that it looks like the Turboflue is much cleaned up. Temperature near the inspection port now reaches only 129F, where it initially was reaching near 300F when the Turboflue was clogged up with soot. That means draft over fire is increasing as the back pressure above is reduced. I just need to solve what's wrong with my lines. All of the oil fired water heaters I have had have always had difficulty with prime, especially when my oil tank was less than half full. My main furnace has never had these issues and I think it's because the burner on the furnace has a two-stage oil pump.

Is there any way to find an air leak in oil line couplings?
 
  #26  
Old 11-10-18, 11:39 AM
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I think I found the problem. I was setting up to do a check of the nozzle pattern to see if it was indeed getting the proper oil flow. This involved flipping the transformer out of the way to disable the ignition. That's when I noticed something: there was a Fractal Lichtenberg pattern burned onto the bottom side of the transformer near one of spring terminals.

This prompted me to carefully observe where the contacts touch when the transformer is in position. What I discovered is that the 4" insulators are about 2" too long and have flat metal spring contacts touching or almost touching the transformer bottom case. The transformer's two coil spring contacts come down right by the insulators, instead of in the middle or near the end of the two brass spring buss bars.

Solution was to bend the ends of the buss bars away from the transformer. If there were 2" shorter in length, that would be ideal, but bending them out of the way did the trick. When assembled it, the burner ignited the instant I flipped on the switch.

My only concern is that the port temperature that I measured as a trending downward (started near 300F last week and got down to 129F yesterday) is up to 206F after a long run. I'm thinking the plug may have gotten dislodged. I'm going to check it when everything cools a bit.

If the burner starts up reliably from now on, then it looks to be solved.
 
  #27  
Old 11-10-18, 12:45 PM
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Those bus bars on the electrodes are made to be cut if needed.
 
  #28  
Old 11-11-18, 01:22 PM
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I have the impression the manufacturer mounted the transformer 180 from the orientation that would have the contacts at the ends of the buss bars. Where the spring contacts are, is right where the buss bars join the insulators. Just bending them out of the way did the trick, so I'm not going to fuss with it til next maintenance round.
 
  #29  
Old 11-11-18, 01:37 PM
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Thank you for the update.
 
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