DIY Home Improvement Forum banner
1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

We just moved into a new house a few months ago, and since then, I've been forced to learn alot about boilers, quickly. It's been issue, after issue. The house has been vacant since spring, and we moved in just in time to turn on the heat. We have a 1960 Richmond (Rheem) natural gas hot water boiler to heat our 2800 sq. ft. house. Needless to say, this 300,000 BTU unit is a monster. It vents up the chimney with a 10-12 in. flue pipe! The previous owners even left the original manuals and warranties tucked away with the controls.

When we got here, the pilot was still lit. I turned the unit on, considering it was 40-50 deg. inside and out. It fired up, (after a considerable amount of time) and the pump kicked on, but the house wouldn't get hot. The first HVAC guy we called in bumped up the pressure and said we needed a new gas regulator to replace the original (the original setup fed the pilot from a B-valve up above the main gas shutoff). We went with it, but this didn't fix our problem. The next guy came down and shoved his CO detector into the unit and told us it was kicking off too much CO and he won't help us until he can install a new boiler. I told him he needed to find a stronger sales pitch, and told him to hit the road. At this point, I just played around with the thing until I realized that the aquastat was set down to below 100 degrees. Finally, we have heat, no thanks to any technician.

We had other issues like a couple leaking radiator shutoff valves, and we called a third guy in. He repacked the valves and fixed the issue (the first guy said we would have to drain the system, and he would have to go find entirely new valves). He then gaves us a new Extrol tank to replace a water-logged one, and installed a new pump relay for our old one that was going crazy. Feeling that I could trust this guy, I asked him to tell me if this thing was putting off too much CO (we put two detectors with new batteries in the same room as the boiler overnight, neither went off. One went off 4 hours later when I placed it under the front cover of the boiler.) He checked it, and said it was higher than normal and told me to check out the chimney. Chimney was packed almost solid, with an inch gap to let out the fumes. I spent hours cleaning it out. He came back later and tore the whole unit apart, cleaned out the heat exchanger, and put it all back together. No CO problem, and our house heated much more quickly and efficiently than before.

Sorry for the excessively long story. My only remaining issue is wether I should trust the first guys work. I forgot to ask the third guy about it, and I don't want to call him back without good reason. The first guy had to move the pilot light from its original position to a new spot to make the new thermocoupling work. He said that whenever the boiler kicked on, it shut off again after a minute for some reason after he installed the new requlator. He said the castiron burners got to hot for it or something. He said this new regulator feeds the pilot, so if the pilot goes out, the gas will stop too. I blew out the pilot to test this last night. The gas just kept coming. I shut off the ball valve, and it stopped. Turned it back on, and the gas kept coming. It took a good 1.5-2 minutes for the gas to finally stop on its own. My question is: Is this normal operation, or should it kill the gas immediately? I allowed it to air out, and then relit the pilot. That regulator sure does not make it easy to light the pilot.
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,532 Posts
The pros will weigh in here sometime, but as a homeowner for me the answer would be simple: get a whole new system. 300k is HUGE and much is wasted. A modern mid or high effeicency unit would be safer, more comfortable, and pay for itself.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
287 Posts
The pros will weigh in here sometime, but as a homeowner for me the answer would be simple: get a whole new system. 300k is HUGE and much is wasted. A modern mid or high effeicency unit would be safer, more comfortable, and pay for itself.
Sorry OP, not of real help to you....
I have to agree with you. A 55 year old boiler is not what i'd want in my house. Besides lousy efficacy, dependability would be my main concern, especially during a cold snap.
Just my 2c
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,662 Posts
WOW! 300,000 to heat a 2800 foot house. Way overkill. My guess is when you find someone to do a heat loss calc on that house you will need about 1/3 of that. As far as the boiler though... Not a lot to go wrong on those. I have a customer with one similar to that that I service each year and it runs fine. I don't think I have even replaced a single part on it in 20 years
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,796 Posts
The heat sink of those old burners will slow down the voltage drop of your thermocoupler drop out test but your present pilot does look like a bit of a blow torch.
A minute and a half is not unheard of but that pilot gas pressure could be adjusted lower by a tech knowing what he was doing, to probably cut your valve drop out timing in half. Too low and you'll get nuisance lock outs and possible delayed concussive ignitions. Too high and you are wasting pilot gas.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
372 Posts
Sounds to me like the 3rd guy you had in there is the one to put on speed dial. Most good techs will be more than willing to answer questions after the fact via a phone call or email as long as what you're asking isn't a safety concern.

The shut down time on the gas valve with a thermocouple (correct terminology for what he installed) is longer than what the average person is going to feel comfortable with when they still hear gas rushing in with no pilot light. And at 300,000 btu's of gas inlet that's a BIG rush!

I agree with HOW that the pilot light could be adjusted smaller, but that needs to be done by your service tech mainly because it's sounds like the other guy placed the new pilot light assembly in some position other than what was originally designed by the manufacturer. If the pilot light is adjusted incorrectly it could cause delayed ignition of those big burners and all that gas going into the boiler on a call for heat. Delayed ignition is NOT a good thing.

Old, big, less efficient and simple is not always a bad thing. Take your time, watch your heating bills, do your research and figure out what you'd gain with a new boiler and then make an informed decision.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I get that the unit wastes alot of gas. Our gas meter is in the same room in the cellar, and you can watch the small gauge spin around when the boiler is running. Click-click, click-click, click-click... The third technician said that a replacement boiler would likely only need to be about 120,000 BTU. Can't forget, however, that we do have over 12 large "stand-up" cast iron radiators, plus 3 rooms with multi-wall baseboard fin radiators. The baseboards aren't your typical copper tube setup. They are 1 in. cast iron lines with large cast iron fins welded to them. The best part is, that there are no bleeders on the cast iron fin baseboard radiators. It sure was fun getting heat to those rooms, considering 2 of them were air-locked on the top level. After cracking a few unions and bleeding them out with small tupperware containers for a couple hours, we managed to get them bled out. The heavy faceplates on those baseboard radiators were caulked and painted in at the top, and quarter-round trim was nailed in at the base, blocking the lower screws holding it to the wall. Like I said, lots of "fun" issues. The original setup was a steam boiler, so you'd need a unit powerful enough to keep the 3 inch cast iron pipes in the basement hot. You can see some of them in the photos.

Not to mention the fact that we have 9+ ft. ceilings in this 1917 house, with mininmal insulation in the attic, and no insulation under the addition (cold crawlspace) or in any of the walls. Parts of this house are very cold. In the future, we need foam blown into the walls, we need the crawlspace properly insulated and sealed, and the attic needs new batts laid over the current insufficient ones (R-19 or less). A new unit would be very expensive. As in, $10,000 or so installed (the old one is so huge and heavy that it would need taken out in parts). We currently have a budget plan set up at $170 dollars a month. They said it would be adjusted based on usage, and we've only got one bill so far... so we will see how it goes. Not to mention, how much work and time is currently invested into the unit. The labor to have it torn apart and cleaned out, new regulator, new relay, etc... It now seems to be running fine, so I'll give it some time before we consider a new one. This one will certainly be fine for the remainder of the winter. These old units are built so much better than the new ones. I know it will last a long time. It's already been here for almost 55 years.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The heat sink of those old burners will slow down the voltage drop of your thermocoupler drop out test but your present pilot does look like a bit of a blow torch.
A minute and a half is not unheard of but that pilot gas pressure could be adjusted lower by a tech knowing what he was doing, to probably cut your valve drop out timing in half. Too low and you'll get nuisance lock outs and possible delayed concussive ignitions. Too high and you are wasting pilot gas.
I was wondering the same thing, about the pilot size. It is huge; I figured it would waste alot of gas. With our more reliable regulator, I'd like to just turn off the pilot in the summer to save on gas. Is it hard to adjust the pilot gas pressure?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,796 Posts
It is not hard to adjust but having the experience to know how far to turn it back on your unit and still have that pilot flame reliably ignite those burners is a different story.
The pilot flame changes from a cold start to a hot start because of the air being drawn into the boiler and up the chimney. If you set it up adequately for one condition which doesn't occur in the other you may be blowing the cover off your boiler.
The distance below the lighting edge that the boiler pilot has been positioned frankly disturbs me. It would have been better to have maintained the original design and just subbed the ordinary thermocoupler for a nickel thermocoupler if it was just a cold junction thermocouple problem. That way are small pilot flame could have sufficed without adding a potential delayed ignition into the mix.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,918 Posts
I agree with how...on that old boat making sure the pilot is set up right for proper timing of ignition when gas starts flowing into burners is critial ..because on that size burner alot of gas is comming if its delayed ...big bang scary thing ...seen one blow door panel clean off...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks guys!

The third technician that I was able to trust didn't seem too concerned with the pilot setup. At least, I don't think he mentioned it. I'm sure he saw it. Maybe you just have to see it in person. I was concerned a bit, just because it wasn't how it was originally designed to be. When I watch it light, there doens't seem to be any more delay in ignition then there used to be, but perhaps I don't know what to look for. If it lights with the little burner door open, the flames will lick up over the door for a second. That is, only if I leave the door open to watch it light. Otherwise, I haven't noticed anything that seems out of the ordinary. The pilot flame is literally touching the burner now. Is this something I should have someone look at, or if all seems well, should I just let it go?
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
42,108 Posts
Before considering changing out the boiler. Do your home insulation and sealing improvements first. A lot better pay back then just changing out the boiler.

Look to see if the pilot is leaving soot or carbon on the burners. With the size of it, the thermocouple might only last 1 or 2 years.

When you have the house insulated and sealed. And money to change out the boiler. The 3" inch pipes aren't as much of a problem as you think. And he size of the radiators doesn't determine the size of the boiler. Hot water and steam are very different in that matter.

What temp do you have the aquastat set to now. Probably only need 150, maybe 160 to heat the house. In an under insulated house like yours. Converting it over to a continuous run circ(24/7 run), with the thermostat only bringing the burner on. Makes the house much more comfortable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Before considering changing out the boiler. Do your home insulation and sealing improvements first. A lot better pay back then just changing out the boiler.

Look to see if the pilot is leaving soot or carbon on the burners. With the size of it, the thermocouple might only last 1 or 2 years.

When you have the house insulated and sealed. And money to change out the boiler. The 3" inch pipes aren't as much of a problem as you think. And he size of the radiators doesn't determine the size of the boiler. Hot water and steam are very different in that matter.

What temp do you have the aquastat set to now. Probably only need 150, maybe 160 to heat the house. In an under insulated house like yours. Converting it over to a continuous run circ(24/7 run), with the thermostat only bringing the burner on. Makes the house much more comfortable.
I just went down and killed the gas. I checked all around the burner where the pilot is touching it, but I didn't see any soot on the burner. This new pilot location was set up a few months ago. The nice thing about the the gas running for a good minute or so after blowing out the pilot is that I don't have to fiddle around with that little red button. I just light the match and throw the gas on. I don't know how old the previous thermocouple is, but the guy told me that the old one had mercury running through it, and the new one runs on a small DC current. Could the new thermocouple be the reason that the gas runs so long after the pilot goes out?

I set the aquastat to 160 initially, but with our current setup, the pump won't kick on until the relay kicks it on. So, if it's not too cold out, the radiators will be ice cold when the pump kicks on, and it takes a good while to get them up to temp on 160, so the third technician bumped the temp up to 180. The temp gauge still flies down, sometimes below 130, shortly after the pump kicks on when it isn't too cold out. Seems so wasteful that way. I figured that it would be more comfortable if the pump ran constantly, but I was afraid that would make the house 100 degrees inside! So, how would one switch my boiler to a setup where the pump runs constantly and the relay only kicks on the burner? I assume the temp gauge kicks on the burners now.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
654 Posts
Perhaps Beenthere can elaborate but, if you let the system water cool down too much then start the boiler and it runs up to 160 before the pump starts the relatively cold system water returning to the boiler can cause the sections to crack. Therefore I would suggest that the pump on off temps be adjusted to come on at 100F? and that perhaps just leave the pump on continuously and install an indoor/outdoor controller to that governs system temps to prevent system over heating. My experience is in commercial applications so hopefully BEENTHERE will elaborate
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,796 Posts
Usually the pump comes on from a relay activated through your thermostat (instantly) and the aquastat is just a device for limiting how hot the boiler water is ever allowed to rise up to. Less common are the residential systems that have a control to delay the start of the pump until a specific temp is reached.


Boiler systems with old rads just have a large amount of water to heat up just as they also hold that heat for a longer time. Having the pump on constantly will keep the different rads closer to the same temp as each other but if they are cold because you are often turning down the thermostat, a constant pumping is not going to change much of that.
But a more serious issue can be
too much cold water running through a boiler which can cause internal scaling and condensation difficulties from the gas being cooled down too much by a cold exchanger.
The solution on such a boiler is some piping that allows a portion of your heated water to immediately mix with the cold return water. This is just a pipe going from the outlet side to the return side of the piping with a gate valve to control the amount of that bypass water.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
42,108 Posts
180 is much higher then you need for your rads.

With power turned off. Remove the thermostat wire from the circ relay. Extend them down to the aquastat. Remove one of the wires currented connected to the aquastat, nd wire nut it to one of the thermostat wires. Connect the other thermostat wire to the terminal you removed a wire from. Then use a small peice of thermostat ire to jumper the TT terminals in the circ relay. Then turn power back on, and the circ ill run, and the burner will only come on when the thermostat calls for heat.

Have a boiler at 180, and then its temp plummet down to 130 can cause shock, and crack the boiler from rapid contraction of the cast iron.
 
  • Like
Reactions: techpappy

·
Registered
Joined
·
151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
180 is much higher then you need for your rads.

With power turned off. Remove the thermostat wire from the circ relay. Extend them down to the aquastat. Remove one of the wires currented connected to the aquastat, nd wire nut it to one of the thermostat wires. Connect the other thermostat wire to the terminal you removed a wire from. Then use a small peice of thermostat ire to jumper the TT terminals in the circ relay. Then turn power back on, and the circ ill run, and the burner will only come on when the thermostat calls for heat.

Have a boiler at 180, and then its temp plummet down to 130 can cause shock, and crack the boiler from rapid contraction of the cast iron.
Sorry for the delay, I don't check this forum often. I'm only a year and a few months late. Heh... The boiler has worked fine this past winter, and it's finally getting warmer out again.

I am certainly considering taking your advice and making the pump run constantly. My only concern is the wear and tear on the pump. Do you think it might wear out running 24/7 all winter? I oiled the bearings with a few drops of 3-in-1 oil on the pump where the latest tech showed me shortly after we moved in. How often should this be done?

Thanks!

-Michael
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
42,108 Posts
About 10 drops of SAE 30 oil once a year. 3 in1 is not a good lubricating oil.

Less wear and tear on the circ not having to start a few hundred times a year, when they run 24/7.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14,367 Posts
^What's the amperage draw on those things? May last longer because of the lack of starts/stops, but will pay the difference on the electric bill.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
42,108 Posts
^What's the amperage draw on those things? May last longer because of the lack of starts/stops, but will pay the difference on the electric bill.
Usually around .75 amps. So 64.8 KWHs in 30 days of continuous use. Some of that KW usage also go to heat the water slightly, so a slight reduction in fuel use also occurs.

Plus hard to say how much of that 24/7 run would be normal run time during the month. Obviously in a mild month a large amount of it, so maybe 80%. While in a really cold month, maybe only 10 to 15% of those KWs would be from running the circ 24/7.

Running the circ 24/7 can sometimes help the people be warmer in their home and allow them to set the thermostat to a lower set point. Saving a large amount of money on fuel.
 
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Top