Things To Consider
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Consider the smaller boiler. If you have a choice between a big boiler and a smaller boiler, give that little one a second look. I say this because I've been in boiler rooms on days when it was so cold outside I thought that the sunshine might freeze. In spite of this, those boilers were not running flat out, as they should have been. I've come to believe that 99.99% of the boilers in North America are oversized. Consider a smaller boiler and put the money you save into some other part of the system.
Consider the smaller circulator. Same story here. Bigger isn't better when it comes to circulators. Bigger usually means you'll get velocity noise because in North America we have yet to fully recognize the beauty of differential-pressure regulators. We also zone like mad and then convince ourselves that there will be a day when every stinking zone and all the domestic hot water will be needed at the same instant. You ever see that happen in real life? I once visited a US military base where they had decided to standardize all their hydronic components. The circulator they chose was a two-horsepower, Bell & Gossett Series 60. They used it everywhere. They used it on a short loop of half-inch baseboard in the Base Commander's house. The velocity noise had that guy's head snapping like a dog seeing rabbits. Why did they do this? Because they could.
Consider the other person's point of view. Learn to listen. This is a tough one because most people would much rather talk. I talk for a living, but given a choice, I'd much rather listen. I had a contractor on the phone recently. He was calling because he had a problem with an old steam system. He described the problem and asked me what could be the cause. I stated to tell him, but he cut me off and described the problem again. I heard him out, and then again tried to give him what I thought was the probable cause. He cut me off again and launched himself right back into the same speech. I finally gave up and just listened. Before long, he had absolutely convinced himself that his problem had no solution.
Consider the steam pressure. When given a choice, always crank the pressure down on a steam heating system. We have pressuretrols and we have screwdrivers, and the urge to crank up the pressure is irresistible in most heating professionals born after 1950. Resist that urge and crank it down instead. When you do, the chances are great that the steam system will suddenly do what it's supposed to do.
Consider the pH of the steam boiler water. The Dead Men used to pour vinegar into steam boilers to prevent foaming. Foaming is what happens when the pH of water gets too high. You see foaming happen in hot tubs all the time. That white foam is there because the management keeps the pH of the hot tub high by adding chemicals to the water. They do this because folks often relieve their bladders while soaking in the hot tub. People also add chemicals to steam boilers. How come? Because they can! Steam boiler chemicals generally nudge the water's pH higher, and when the pH reaches 11, the water will foam. That can really mess up the system so always check the pH and lower it if necessary.
Consider the heat loss. When you look at an existing hot water boiler, I would like you to consider that the person who sized that boiler was named Larry. Got that? Good. Okay, now follow this. Larry based the size of his boiler on the size of the boiler that he found when he arrived on the job so many years ago. A guy named Curly sized the earlier boiler. And Curly based the size of his boiler on an even earlier version sized by a fellow named Moe. Each of these heating professionals added a considerable safety factor to their replacement boilers, of course. Just to be sure. Now what are you gonna do, Shemp?
Consider the difference between an air problem and a balancing problem. If you bleed a radiator and you don't get any air, it ain't an air problem. Stop bleeding because if you persist, you will make the radiator hot, and that will convince you that it was indeed an air problem. Hydronics is funny that way. And nowadays, with all these wonderful microbubble air separators, you just might start believing that even though you can't see the air in the water, it's actually there – but totally invisible to your naked eyes. Trust me. If you don't get any air when you're bleeding, it ain't an air problem; it's a balancing problem. The water's not flowing where it should – until you start bleeding, that is. Then you're draining the system through the radiator. That's why it gets hot. But unless you're prepared to bleed that radiator for the rest of your life, you should find yourself a better solution.
Consider the old stuff as well as the new. I love the New Hydronics as much as the next person, but we live in a country where there's an awful lot of vintage heating equipment. And you know what? It's going to be there for a long time, so you might as well learn about it. There's a tremendous opportunity for heating professionals who understand the old stuff as well as the new. Not every homeowner can afford to rip out that old system and install new stuff. A lot of contractors take that position, though. They tell the homeowner that that old steam or hot water system can't possibly work. You know why these contractors do this? Because they don't want to take the time to learn about the old stuff. A true heating professional understands the old as well as the new.
Consider that you probably don't know it all. Who does? One of the marks of maturity is when you're willing to admit that you don't have all the answers. That's when you start asking the right questions. And that's when your education begins to blossom.
Consider sharing your knowledge with someone else. I consider you to be far more important than I am. The reader is always more important than the writer. When I'm conducting a seminar, I know that the audience is more important than I am. Do you know why? It's because I already know what I know. But if I don't pass on what I know to my audience, then the knowledge will die with me. Sharing what we know is what moves our industry forward. We learn from each other, and that's how we grow. Please consider that.
PRODUCT FAILURE NOTICE
My friend Alan Mercurio of Oil Tech Talk fame (www.multipages.com/oil/alan.asp) passed this notice on to me this morning and I wanted to share it with you because it's pretty important. Thanks.
Bulletin United Carrier Corporation Technologies
Carrier Residential Engineering
SMB 96-0023 Subject: FURNACE CONTROL BOARD RESISTOR SOLDER JOINT FAILURES
UNITS AFFECTED: CAC: 58MXA, 58MCA, 58WAV, 58PAV, 58RAV
BDP: 350MAV, 340MAV, 395CAV, 376CAV, 383KAV, 373LAV
PAYNE: 480BAV, 481BAV, 490AAV
Resco/Eventemp/Cobra: GB1AAV, GB3AAV
SITUATION: A resistor solder joint failure mode has been identified on the following control boards used in the subject gas furnace.
HK42FZ008 (RCD Replacement)
HK42FZ009 (Production, Open faced control board)
HK42FZ011 (Production, Covered control board)
Refer to Table 1 for the affected serial number ranges of the subject units.
CAC MODELS SERIAL NO. RANGE BDB MODELS SERIAL
58MCA 3193A - 4595A
340MAV 3193A - 4595A
58MXA 3193A - 4595A
350MAV 3193A - 4595A
58PAV 1594A - 4595A
383KAV 1594A - 4595A
58RAV 1594A - 4595A
373LAV 1594A - 4595A
58WAV 1594A - 4595A
395CAV 1594A - 4595A
58ZAV 1594A - 4595A
376CAV 1594A - 4595A
PAYNE MODELS SERIAL NO. RANGE RESCO/EVENTEMP SERIAL NO.
480BAV 1594A - 4595A
GB1AAV 1594A - 4595A
481BAV 1594A - 4595A
GB3AAV 1594A - 4595A
For further information on replacing these controls please contact your supplier.
Limits To A Hot Water Zone Off Steam
THE LIMIT TO A HOT WATER ZONE OFF A STEAM BOILER
I once got a call from this contractor who was at his local wholesaler. He had the wholesaler's heating man on the phone as well. The three of us talked about how far you can push a steam boiler.
The wholesaler sounded pretty confident. "He wants to pipe a hot water zone from below the water line of the new steam boiler. He wants to heat some baseboard on the first floor with it. I told him he can do it without a heat exchanger, but he's never done it before. That's why we're calling."
"I've never done it before," the contractor said.
"There's nothing to it!" the wholesaler said. "Am I right, Dan. There's nothing to it."
"You can do it," I told them both. "It's done all the time. Just make sure you use a bypass line to blend some return water into the supply water so the water in the radiator doesn't get any hotter than 180 degrees. If it's too hot, it will flash to steam when the circulator shuts off. The key is the bypass line."
"How much load can he put on the zone," the wholesaler asked.
"Well, a lot depends on the size of the boiler," I said. "Usually, you can get away with a 3/4" line and a flow rate of about 4 GPM. That will deliver 40,000 BTUH to the zone. That's enough to heat a good size zone."
"Can he run another zone to an indirect domestic hot water heater," the wholesaler asked.
"Again, it depends on the size of the boiler," I explained. "You can't get more out of the boiler than you put in. It's like an ATM machine. If it's not there in the first place, you can't possibly take it out."
"What if the boiler's borderline?" the wholesaler asked. "Will it still work."
"Well, you can wire it for priority," I said. "You know, don't let the indirect heater run when the other hot water zone is on. Or shut them both off when the steam zone calls. Just don't try to take out more than what's there."
"Like the ATM machine," the wholesaler said.
"Right. If you try to take out too much with these satellite hot water zones, you won't be able to make steam when the time comes. That's the danger."
"You getting all this?" the wholesaler asked the contractor.
"I think so."
"Should we go over it again?" I offered.
"You want him to go over it again?" the wholesaler asked.
"No," the contractor said. "I think I'm okay now."
"Yeah, we're okay now," the wholesaler added. "Thanks."
"But guys," I immediately added, "don't oversize the boiler when you're sizing it. If you do, you'll have more problems than you need."
"What kind of problems?" the contractor asked.
"Short-cycling, carry-over, water hammer. Things like that," I told him.
"I got it," the wholesaler said. "We'll keep it in mind."
A few weeks later, we were all back on the phone having this conversation:
"I think the boiler might be too big," the contractor told me. "I mean, it's almost the same size as the old boiler, physically, that is. That's what's bothering me. Replacement steam boilers are usually smaller than the old ones, aren't they?"
"Yes, they are," I said. "They're more efficient. They hold less water. That's why they're smaller."
"This one's big," he said. "Real big. The label says the load is more than what the old one was."
That's when I told him it probably wasn't going to work.
"What's gonna happen?" he asked.
"It's gonna short-cycle," I told him. "Just like I told you on the phone a couple of weeks ago. It'll run for a minute and go off for a minute. Then it will come back on. It will carry water over into the system piping, and that water will hammer like crazy."
"I'm screwed," he said.
"How did you guys let this happen?" I asked. "You remember we talked about this, don't you? I thought you guys understood."
"Well, we did," the contractor said, "but then we got nervous when we were sizing it. You know, we were nervous about the extra load we were adding with the hot water zones," he said.
"So what did you do?" I asked.
"We figured the steam load, plus the pick-up factor, and then we added a bit. Just to be sure. "
"How much did you add?" I asked.
"You know...a bit," he said.
"About fifty percent," he admitted.
"That's a bit?" I asked.
"Well, we were nervous, you know? Didn't want to come up short."
"So it's fifty percent oversized?" I asked.
"Well, not really. We also added the load for the hot water zone. That was about 40,000 Btuh. Then we tacked on the load for the indirect heater. That was another 160,000 Btuh."
"So you sized the steam boiler by measuring the connected radiation, you then added a pick-up factor, and then you added fifty percent to that?"
"And then you dumped another 200,000 Btuh on top of that?"
"Yeah," he said.
"It's too big."
"Ohhhhhhh," he moaned. "What am I gonna doooo? Can I down-fire it?"
"I think you're beyond down-firing at this point. If you finish putting it in and try to down-fire to get rid of the short-cycling, the flue gases will probably condense in the boiler."
"I think you're going to have to put in a smaller boiler."
"Ohhhhh. You don't understand," he continued. "The guy' who owns this house is rich. I can't admit I made a mistake. I just can't."
I don't know how this one worked out. He never called back.
Here's what I wish the wholesaler and contractor had heard me say:
You can run a hot water zone off a steam boiler, as long as you blend return water into supply to temper the water and keep the maximum supply temperature under 180 degrees.
If you pipe it without vents (use purge valves instead) you can install the hot water zone as high as 30 feet above the boiler water line without benefit of a heat exchanger.
When you use one of these hot water zones, you'll be playing with the boiler's pick-up factor. The pick-up load is usually a third to a half of the total net load, depending on how you sized the boiler.
The purpose of the pick-up load is to give you the "extra" capacity the boiler needs to heat the pipes on the way to the radiators. The pick-up load becomes available to your hot water zone only after the steam pipes have heated up.
The pick-up load (and the rest of the boiler load) is obviously available to your hot water zone when you're not making steam for the rest of the building.
The pick-up load sets the limit for what you can do with a hot water zone off of a steam boiler.
Never add the hot-water-zone load to the steam load when you're sizing the steam boiler. This is a game of subtraction, not addition. Size the steam boiler first. Base it on the connected radiation load, plus a suitable pick-up factor. Then work with the available pick-up load to size your hot water zone or zones. You can't take out more than what you put in. Think ATM.
If you over-size the boiler, you'll have lots of problems with the steam side of the system.
The contractor in this story got nervous. He wanted to make sure he had enough power in the boiler to heat the rich guy's house. He figured bigger was always better, and that the safest course was the conservative one.
The trouble is "conservative" doesn't work when you're playing this game. In this case, less is more.
How's your steam knowledge?
Why shouldn't YOU be the one with the answers? Knowledge is power in this business and you can find lots of power it in my book, "The Lost Art of Steam Heating." It's available in the Books & More section of www.HeatingHelp.com. And while you're there, treat yourself to a cool tee shirt. You deserve it
How To Tell An Engineer From A contractor
SPECIAL HeatingHelp.com NEWSLETTER BONUS EDITION!
I figured you might need a smile right about now after working so hard today. So here goes:
How to tell an engineer from a contractor
If an engineer takes the train to work, he is likely to keep track of the miles traveled and the time elapsed between each station. He will keep these records for years in spiral notebooks and drive people crazy by sharing this useless drivel with them at a moment's notice. Contractors are different. Contractors rarely take trains. They take trucks! Successful mechanical contractors take limousines and sit in the back.
An engineer is likely to say things such as, "Particulates of iron-oxide residue." A contractor, when asked to explain this same natural occurrence, will say, simply, "rust." Engineers subscribe to the Charles Dickens School of Writing, believing that the volume of their words will signify the value of their work. Contractors talk like the folks on Jerry Springer.
Engineers wear rumpled suits. Contractors wear chinos and open-collar shirts, except for when they go to Atlantic City or Las Vegas. When at those place they will add gold chains to their chinos and open-collar shirts. This also applies to females in both professions, of course.
If Madonna pulled up to a stop light next to a male engineer, rolled down her window and gave the guy a smile you could pour on a pancake, the engineer would ask her how many cubic inches her car's engine had. A male contractor, under the same circumstances, would be rifling through his glove compartment, looking for gold chains.
An engineer will often have letters after his name on his business cards – BS, MS, Ph.D., PE, and whatnot. A contractor will look at these letters and decide that this particular engineer has absolutely no knowledge of the real world. The more letters there are, the stronger the contractor's conviction will be.
An engineer will hang his many diplomas over his desk. A contractor will hang a photograph of the Little League team his company sponsored last summer and feel just as proud.
An engineer will often look around a boiler room, desperately trying to find the boiler, which he or she perceives to be a small, square, blue box with the block-letters, BOILER, written across it. A contractor will sometimes hold the blueprints upside-down and, not realizing they are indeed upside-down, proceed to install the boiler on the ceiling. Hey, what the engineer wants, the engineer gets!
At lunch, engineers will order ice tea. Contractors will order beer.
Engineers carry Palm Pilots containing the phone numbers, addresses, and other vital statistics of everyone they've ever met in their entire lives. They will spend years tapping this information into that thin box. Contractors have the same information, but they keep it on hundreds of Post-It notes stuck to the visors and dashboards of their trucks. Big mechanical contractors don't bother with any of this information because they're not going to call you back anyway.
Engineers wear those watches with the calculators built into them. They tap at them nonstop with the tips of their Cross pens and pencils. Contractors wear Rolexes and flash them in your face as much as possible.
Engineers watch A&E. Contractors watch ESPN.
Engineers and contractors both stare at the architects, wondering what the heck is going on in their wacky heads.
Engineers and contractors both love traditional design methods, but for different reasons. Engineers love traditional methods because it means they can just keep using the standard specifications they've had in their file cabinets since 1955. Contractors love tradition because it means they don't have to take time from their busy schedule to learn anything new. When it comes to hydronic-system design, both groups believe that 1955 was a very good year!
Engineers think manufacturers reps are good guys because the reps give the engineers free catalogs filled with color pictures of the latest products, not that the engineers are planning to do anything with those catalogs. They just think the catalogs look cool up there on the shelf! Contractors also think manufacturers reps are wonderful because reps so easy to abuse.
Engineers attend the ASHRAE conventions, wait on long lines for taxis, pay exorbitant amounts of money for hot dogs and ice tea, and actually attend to the meetings. Contractors attend the PHCC and MCA conventions, wait on shorter lines for taxis, skip the hot dogs, grab as many free brewskis as possible, and then go searching for nudie bars.
Engineers write letters to the editors of trade journals. The editors have no idea what the engineers are talking about because the letters read like this, "Dear Sir, #@!$%^&*=1,253. So there!" Needless to say, all these letters get published exactly as is. Contractors write letters to the editors of trade journals that read like this: "I luv yur magazoon. Dont never chang!" Most editor will zealously edit these letters, feeling smug and superior all the while – even though they can't figure out how the heating systems in their own homes work.
In their leather briefcases, engineers tote those big Swiss Army knives with all the attachments. They will never actually use these, but they're content knowing that they're prepared. Contractors carry Leatherman tools on their belts and use them much too frequently to disassemble anything that's looks even remotely mechanical.
A contractor will test a high-voltage circuit with the tips of his wet fingers and be honestly surprised when he gets thrown across the room by the hot, blue light (Hey, it worked the last time!). An engineer will write a 50,000-word specification granting authority (in the contractor's mind) to do basically the same thing, but only after the contractor submits suitable OSHA documentation as to the projected angle of his body's intended flight and terminal velocity.
An engineer will look at the Leaning Tower of Pisa and come up with ways to straighten it out. A contractor will look at the Leaning Tower and figure out how many extras he's entitled to.
As children, engineers collected baseball cards and memorized the players' statistics. As children, contractors used those same cards to gamble.
A contractor goes to the theater and spends the night speculating on how he would heat this place. An engineer will sit down in the same theater, and already knowing how it's heated, set out to calculate the load in order to prove that the design engineer was wrong.
After reading an article about antifreeze in hydronic radiant heating systems a contractor might send the author a note, thanking him for the information. An engineer will send the author a 5,000-word letter, chastising him for failing to mention in the article that antifreeze is also required in any Antarctic snowmelt application. How dare he overlook such an important detail! Doesn't he realize the damage he's bound to cause by such an oversight? And what of his editor? Shouldn't she have caught this glaring error as well? Shame, shame!
If you're on a buffet line behind a group of engineers it will take you a very long time to get your sandwich because engineers are the most precise sandwich makers you will ever find. They don't make a sandwich; they build a sandwich. The meat must align with the cheese, and the tomatoes can't overlap the crust by more than a millimeter. Engineers are also expert at the mustard/mayo smear. Nothing ever drips, the sandwich specs are exact. Contractors on a buffet line? Those guys just eat as they go, wiping their mouths on their sleeves, smiling a lot, and belching.
Engineers will write me indignant e-mails about this HeatingHelp newsletter. Contractors probably won't even read it because they're too busy trying to get around the plans and specs.
BURNHAM REVOLUTION BOILER AQUASTAT VOLUNTARY REPLACEMENT PROGRAM
This was posted on the Wall at www.HeatingHelp.com today. It's important and I thought you would want to know about it as quickly as possible.
Rich Simons of Honeywell writes:
We regret to inform anyone using the Burnham Revolution Boiler that we have discovered a flaw in our manufacturing and design practice that we believe will result in a shorter-than-expected life cycle of L7148F1059 Aquastats. This is not a safety issue, but is related to a defect in the input (thermostat) circuit that will result in a no heat call. This defect only affects the Burnham aquastat, not other electronic aquastats.
While these devices will work beyond our normal warranty period, we are committed to delivering the quality that is expected of us by the industry. Therefore we are putting in place a voluntary replacement program for the L7148F1059. The details of this program are as follow: * Based on Burnham's sales records, we will be shipping to wholesalers/distributors one replacement kit for every Revolution Boiler purchased. These are at no cost. * This replacement package will contain a L8148E1299, a wiring harness, instructions, and a label. The box is designed to use for the return and labor bill submittal. * When these kits are received, we are asking the wholesaler/distributors to inform their Revolution Boiler customers of this potential failure and this voluntary replacement program. * Contractors are asked to replace existing L7148F1059 Aquastats and return defective devices in the same package. A form and return instructions will be in the package for labor reimbursement. Honeywell will reimburse contractors reasonable and customary labor charges up to $75.00 (plus postage) for this inconvenience.
This Voluntary Replacement Program will be available through 2000, concluding 12/31/00.
Letters detailing this program have already been sent to purchasing wholesalers/distributions and replacement kits have begun to ship. We expect to have all replacement kits shipped within the next four weeks.
We sincerely apologize to those impacted by this defect and to the Burnham Corporation. Our goal is to have delighted customers of Honeywell products and Burnham heating equipment.
If you have any questions, please call 1-800-328-8194 or speak with your Honeywell Account Manager.
Sincerely, Richard Simons Residential Oil/Hydronics Business Director 763-954-6761 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Gordon of Burnham writes:
On behalf of Burnham, please accept my apology for the frustration caused by our problem. Your effort in locating and replacing these controls is very much appreciated.
Note that replacing the controls is NOT mandatory but very much encouraged. The aquastats fail in a safe manner. Accordingly, any replacements can be scheduled to minimize travel time and disruptions to your business. Replacement kits will be available through the distributor where the Revolution was purchased. There is no charge for these kits.
The replacement control (L8148E1299) is very easy to install and contains the Molex plugs to fit directly into the wiring harness of the Revolution boiler. There is no need to cut the harness or sort through the wiring. The boiler does not have to be drained to install the new control.
I would also like to thank Honeywell for working with Burnham on this program. Testing of the controls indicated that they would fail well outside of the warranty period. Honeywell did not have to stand behind the aquastat like they have. Although we would always like to avoid this kind of problem, when something like this does happen, I can not think of a better partner to have than Honeywell.
As always, if anyone has any questions or needs more information, please do not hesitate to contact me.