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    Pneumatic controlled heating system changeout ( Ron Jr. ) (17 Posts)

  • Bill W@Honeywell Bill W@Honeywell @ 2:40 PM
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    Hey Ron...

    Pneumatics are the "1-pipe steam system" of controls! It looks like that system was a Rube Goldberg, but don't dismiss pneumatics out-of-hand. Parts and new assemblies are still available. Given clean, dry air, a pneumatic system will operate indefinitely, and provides modulating control as well. Yes, they CAN interface with electric and electronic systems, and can perform OA reset, and other advanced functions. Nice looking work, though. What's this with all that space? Usually, you install boilers in a spce you couldn't insert a putty knife. If you run across a pneumatic system that is worth saving, call me. The parts are available from any Honeywell commercial wholesaler.
  • N/A @ 5:54 PM

    Bill

    I think you're right . If this did not look like it was thrown together by a mad scientist , I might've had some time to figure out how it worked . We're still tracking down actuators that controlled individual rooms . They all have to be cut out and bridged back together . He also had multiple pipes going to individual sections of baseboard . Why have three 3/4" pipes going to 20 feet of Slant Fin ? Figuring this sytem out took the better part of yesterday morning , and we still have 2 leftover heating pipes at the boiler and no clue where they go . This is the first pneumatic system I've come across in 21 years . The main reason the new homeowner made the switch is the compressor quit . Oh yeah , and noone knows how to work on this stuff anymore . But if we do come across another system like this , I'll let you know . Thanks alot Bill .
  • Mike T., Swampeast MO Mike T., Swampeast MO @ 8:47 AM
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    Residential Pneumatics

    Have only seen one--Rockcliffe Mansion in Hannibal, MO. Johnson Electric (even if it wasn't electric) system installed in 1900. Individual thermostat in every major room. According to tour guide, it's "mainly" still working. This was before I knew about TRVs and even researched for use in my own house. Besides cost, the real killer was "maintaining the compressor and keeping the air dry". Will guess that there was a rather elaborate setback system--perhaps both zone-by-zone and whole-house. Likely had two (or perhaps even three) different supply temps--thus the multiple supply lines to individual B/Bs. Willing to bet that it used constant circulation and included some sort of reset whose control may not be apparent. Could well have had a high temp (for quick recovery), a modulated temp (for "normal" operation) and a lower (perhaps modulated as well) temp for automated setback via "starvation". Unfortunately, the original engineer is probably the only one who understood how it all worked. Too bad he didn't leave schematics and an operational description. I must confess to creating an extremely complex setback system myself. Not pneumatic, but 24VAC for the older-style Danfoss setback TRV operators. Some settings affect only a single room (or suite of rooms); other settings affect an entire floor; others the entire house. Do have the schematics and operational description, but must say portions resemble a hideous Rube Goldberg mess, even if I think it's perfectly logical and as simple as possible... Entire setback system is not yet complete, but witih the time and materials I've already devoted it will be some day.
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  • mtfallsmikey mtfallsmikey @ 6:32 AM
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    Pneumatic controls

    Still widely used. We had Johnson Controls stuff where I used to work, nice compressors, dryers, etc. Never seen anyone use them in residential apps. Guess this was an old building engineer (like me!)who had a lot of leftover stuff and a lot of time to kill. Got any pneumatics in your house, Brad?
  • Smith19 Smith19 @ 8:18 PM
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    Quincy compressor

    I've seen these in schools mostly, and they really are quite incredible; until a bond project comes along and "half" replaces the buildings controls with DDC. There is usually still a compressor down in the boiler room, serving only a few rooms. After an "upgrade" like that the whole system is always screwed up. copper and plastic tubing EVERYWHERE leading to dead ends and leaks, usually behind new DDC actuators and thermostats. They either work or the don't. I've heard these systems are still installed brand new in school districts that can't afford the DDC, but they have no idea how expensive it is to up-keep pneumatic control air. ;)
  • Smith19 Smith19 @ 8:20 PM
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    Quincy compressor

    I've seen these in schools mostly, and they really are quite incredible; until a bond project comes along and "half" replaces the buildings controls with DDC. There is usually still a compressor down in the boiler room, serving only a few rooms. After an "upgrade" like that the whole system is always screwed up. copper and plastic tubing EVERYWHERE leading to dead ends and leaks, usually behind new DDC actuators and thermostats. They either work or the don't. I've heard these systems are still installed brand new in school districts that can't afford the DDC, but they have no idea how expensive it is to up-keep pneumatic control air. ;)
  • RJ RJ @ 8:43 PM
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    pneumatics

    I continued to work on large pneumatics in 2011, I retired in 2012 after 38 yrs as a steamfitter and 5 yrs as an instructor for pneumatics and hydronics,   I saw pneumatic controls go from the only control system in the 1970s to almost being obsoleted, I designed some retofits where I would use mh T775 and Johnson 4-20 ma controls to interface with pneumatic valves,relays and actuators  If anyone needs pneumatic help let me know.
    Rick S
    RJ
  • billtwocase billtwocase @ 8:55 PM
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    shout out

    to Ron Jr. How have you been my friend?
  • J.C.A. J.C.A. @ 8:22 PM
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    Funny you....

    Should mention that Bill. One of my customers (at the old company) was still selling pneumatic controllers and solenoids to large power companies and refineries...but the bulk of his business was HOSPITALS and Dental clinics.Little tiny things compared to the commercial stuff!I put a cleancut pump on his boiler...and he showed ME the same coil...being used for a dentists chair control! The market still exists but in the residential sector, is but a memory. Semper Paratis! Chris
  • N/A @ 6:43 PM

    We got this far

    Burnham V84 , 5 zones total for the home . The solar tank is staying and being used as a preheater for the coil . That is , until the tank goes south . Then we'll throw in an indirect or an aquabooster . We took out the coal boiler too . The new homeowner had no plans to stoke a fire after a long day of work . Anyone ever connect a boiler coil to a solar system ? I was looking at the solar side of the tank and it wouldn't be too hard to connect it up that way when the tank fails ( and if they went for the indirect ) .
  • J.C.A. J.C.A. @ 8:06 PM
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    Holy Sha-WOW!

    It must have taken 1/2 a day for the removal of all that stuff. Isn't working in old engineers homes fun? I've had MANY opportunities to do it, and few were pleasant.Actually, I did the least offensive one last week. One had radiant tubing made of 1 1/4" monnell tubing set in concrete, one had 3/8ths monnell tubing within the ceiling and the third was a zone valve system that Bruce Marshall shows at his seminars in the "HUH" portion. Trying to think like they were during the process becomes a real brain teaser sometimes....but we have to work with what we're dealt. Don't forget the finish pics Ron! Looking good so far! Chris
  • N/A @ 6:38 PM

    Another interesting project we just started .

    This is in Hicksville , NY , in a Levitt ranch home with a basement . A rarity in a Levitt home . This is the first time I've seen this type of system , and hopefully the last . What a mess of zone valves , pneumatic actuators , controls I've never seen , 1/8 inch copper tubing going EVERYWHERE . The new homeowner told us the previous owner was an engineer and did all this work himself . I'm not sure if he got the parts free or cheap , or he really though he was onto something here . All I know is it took us twice the amount of time to rip all the crap out . And we haven't even started straightening out the piping .... cutting those pneumatic zone valves out all over the house . But a big bonus - a hell of alot of mungo .
  • Leo Leo @ 7:58 PM
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    Ron

    As usual your work always amazes and impresses me. I have one question and please don't take it as being critical. Why are the oil filters never rigidly supported? Is that standard practice in your part of the world? Keep up the good work, Leo
  • N/A @ 5:46 PM

    Hi Leo

    This is the standard way we pipe the oil filters since we started using Riello , maybe 20 years ago ? Although it's not as sturdy as directly mounting it to the boiler , it is a pretty strong setup . I always angle it back to the boiler so noone accidentally kicks into it . Don't worry about bringing things up , Leo . I really appreciate the feedback . Thanks buddy .
  • Brad White Brad White @ 8:52 PM
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    Another example of

    how you, Ron, offer a form of cleaning service and, I imagine, therapy, along with a heating system replacement. You are the Zen Master of Fast and Neat Boiler Change-outs, Sensei. Now, pneumatics- grand in their day, simple logic (change pressures and you change action). Easy to work with if you understand them but a little leak will drive you nuts. Never seen it in a house though! And that compressor and dryer to maintain... Still, considering that pneumatic controls were invented in the 1800's and had their heyday as the DDC Controls in the 1920's through even the 70's, it is not a bad record. You still did the right thing in my opinion.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • N/A @ 6:03 PM

    It was more like

    the 3 Stooges yesterday . I don't know how many times I said " I don't have a ^&#@!ng clue what this guy did , what pipe goes where , and why he did all this nutty work !!!!! " . I'm tellin ya it was draining and I didn't even do much physical work yesterday . We managed to track down and repipe the 4 zones on the 1st floor , except for 2 phantom pipes . The upstairs we have to track down 2 of those pneucrappy actuators , cut them out and rebridge the piping . And then .... new thermostats and wires for the 5 zones . Yesterday was my last day there , I'm on vacation next week . I'm sure they'll be able to figure out the rest . I hope ....... Thanks alot Brad .
  • N/A @ 8:44 PM

    Chris

    We still have some more crap to remove off the " wall of utter complexity " . He even had some kinda gizmo for the oil tank , and I have no clue what it does . I'll take a pic of it tomorrow . Yes , you have to wonder what was going through the mind of an engineer when you see what he does in his own house . Thanks alot Chris .
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