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Joined on September 13, 2010

Last Post on July 25, 2014

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Feeler Gauges:

@ December 24, 2011 7:56 AM in Methods for Heat Exchanger Cleaning?

You do know that they make brass feeler gauges? They come on a really good set of feeler gauges with Stainless Steel gauges. I think I got my last set from Sears but McMaster-Carr might have them.
Also, you might try looking for someone who has pieces of 304 or 404 stainless steel. 404 is harder than the tar road. You need Cobalt bits to drill it but you could attach it to a handle and use it between the tubes. 304 and 404 is more nickle than steel so there shouldn't be any problems with the SS type in the HX.
Anyone, please correct me if I am wrong. It may be a bad idea.  

Explosive Ignition et-al.

@ December 24, 2011 7:38 AM in Rinnai E110CP explosive ignition and low heat

Think about all the money you spent to save money and you get an exploding bomb in the house. Setting off a cherry bomb in a can  in your house must really get your attention.
Back in the old days, when consumers like us had some government enforced protection, a manufacturer would have had some concern about a defective product and done something about it. With as many "eyes" that have looked at this and not found a solution says that there is something wrong with this and has a factory defect that the company should resolve. All the Rannai equipment I have heard about and seen has been very reliable. If this unit acts as you describe, the company should replace it with a new one and see if the problem goes away. If it does, then the unit you have has some defect that is difficult to pinpoint. They should have their engineers take it back and figure it out. They shouldn't be expecting we installers and technicians to be doing their troubleshooting for them. And when we come up with an idea or cause, they give us an argument. These boilers and equipment have inherent problems. Which you have described in yours. You never had those problems with your oil boiler and tankless. Too bad the salesperson/installer didn't suggest a conversion power burner in your old boiler.
There is only one cause of cherry bombs going off in a boiler. Delayed ignition. Either from the gas valve opening too soon or the igniter not working properly. Or the air fuel ratio not proper due to improper mixing.
Good luck.

Running Pumps:

@ December 23, 2011 3:16 PM in circulating pump runs 24/7 sometimes

A "SR means that it is a "Switching Relay". You need a "ZC 503" That controls three zone valves and a circulator. "ZC" stands for "Zone Controller. They look the same on the outside. Different on the inside.


@ December 23, 2011 7:18 AM in Question

Here's a way to help the system.
In no way do I think it is practical in time and money to do what the owner thinks. A better way would be to split the boiler connections to the gravity system with a 4-way mixer. Then, the old gravity part can be "pumped" but still act like the gravity system that it was designed and installed as. The system water temperature will most likely be very low and the radiators will be "cool" rather than some being extremely hot (the ones closest to the circulators) and the ones that are the farthest away (from the circulators.)
Then, you can run the boiler and indirect (if installed) at whatever temperature you need and then add the radiant zone with hot water at whatever temperature you need with a mixer to give you proper panel temperatures.
I personally feel that this is the only reasonably priced way to marry a high mass system like a gravity system to a low mass heat source. I always try to make something work better than to try to re-invent the world.
The pipes in the ceiling that you think go to a gravity tank in the attic are most likely capped off. You can't really pump to a gravity tank although I've seen it done. A tip off is, Is there a Pressure Reducing Valve on the cold water fill to the system? And does the PRV have one of those Pressure Relief Valves as part of it? If so, that was installed when the pumps went in. It's a closed system. Look upstairs on the top floor in a closet for the remains of the pipes or old tank. Or, it's in the attic. The signs are there somewhere, where it was.
I've dealt with a lot of old gravity systems. I never saw a pumped one that worked worth a darn when fired with an oil burner or a gas burner. I did one recently with the 4-way mixer and it is the absolute perfect fit on a gravity converted to pumped system.
If someone calls you on the phone, they are willing to spend money. It's your job in business to figure out how much money they are willing to spend and for you to give them the best service and product for their money. I find that most potential customers will balk at the whole nine yards but will be interested in seriously improving what they have. Especially if the system gives them better comfort. And they can then spend extra savings money on heat loss improvements. Like insulating all those big gravity pipes. 
And if they decide to change the boiler in the future, it is all set. And if you are still around, will most likely be the only person they call.
It's called "Planning For The Future".

Steam Boiler Removal:

@ December 23, 2011 6:54 AM in steam boiler

Is that $1200.00 you are willing to pay to have it removed?
Not enough. The asbestos abatement alone won't cover the $1200.00 you want to pay someone to remove it.
Unless you can find someone with limited English skills to remove it in the middle of the night with no permits and no inspections. Like most of us here have to do.
But then, you probably already knew that.
I'm surprised that this post is still here with the $$$ amount listed.


@ December 22, 2011 10:18 PM in Gas flame oscillating

Years ago, I had a restaurant customer that had a whole tribe of tanks to increase the boiling area. They had 2 stage regulators. One regulator went bad and the flame would oscillate like you describe (to a point). Changing the regulator solved the problem.
But I had another one that had a vent and spiders moved in and made a nice web that was thick enouth to affect the venting of the regulator.
As I remember.

Flow Check Valves:

@ December 22, 2011 8:57 PM in Flo(w) Che(c)k question

Most use a 1/2" IPS or copper swing check to stop circulation.
I personally almost always use an IPS check valve with a union so I can ghange the valve if it has any problems.

3 Pipe Radiator:

@ December 22, 2011 3:48 PM in 3 pipe radiator?

I'll bet you're right or close.
Bet that there is a cistern tank in the attic that is connected to that third pipe. If the radiator gets air, you open the valve to let the water balance. Or, that is the cistern tank.
Whatever it ism someone had an idea. It must have worked or else it would have been disconnected long ago.

The "Question"

@ December 21, 2011 7:07 AM in Measure Normal water level from where?

You answered your own question. The measurement is 32 1/4" from the floor to the water line. If the boiler is installed on a concrete "floor", the measurement is 32 1/4" from the floor. If you put the boiler on a "floor" of 4" solid blocks, the "floor becomes the top of the 4" solid blocks. If the blocks don't stick past the boiler jacket, and you measure to the "true floor", and you measure from there, add the thickness of the blocks to the measurement. Usually 3 1/2".  Or, the measurement is from the bottom of the cast feet on the boiler.
Doing it that way involves getting on the floor and looking at where to measure from. That makes my aged head hurt. 

F14 Fault:

@ December 20, 2011 11:04 PM in Peerless PI-80, F14 Fault

In re-reading your post, the problem didn't start until you switched to the concentric vent. A lot of guys don't like them. I never had a problem with them. But that's my experience.
Pull ALL the connectors off every connection on the electrical wiring harness and re-set them. Push them back on firmly. It may or may not get better, But, you may need a new blower motor. It is troubling that at a time, it wouldn't even start. I would put a "Tick Tracer on the fan motor leads to see if there is power.
But I would have a combustion analyzer in the exhaust, no matter what. But as someone else has said, the blower motor is probably bad. He sounds like he really knows what he is doing with Munchkins. Far more than I.
These problems can be perplexing. You almost need to be there to get a feel of what is going on.
I had a 140M Munchkin I worked on today of your vintage. The older model had an air pressure switch that is no longer used. There was a connection for a pressure hose on the side of the outlet of the mixing chamber. There was a rubber cap over the connection. A mouse crawled into the boiler through the exhaust outlet in the back. With the cover on, the air fuel ratio became gas rich. The CO was high in the exhaust. If I removed the cover, the CO went way down. I smelled gas. I looked for the source. I saw mouse droppings all over the top of the boiler. I saw the chewed rubber cap. I plugged the hole with some RTV. We'll see how well and for how long it goes. Big problems usually have small causes.

Here's one:

@ December 20, 2011 10:33 PM in oil burner stops and starts midcycle

There is a possibility that one power head is failing. Which one?
As the piston in the wax motor travels down, it "makes" on the first switch which closes the contact on #2 and #3, starting the burner and circulator. It travels a little further and opens the last contact which stops the current to the coil which stops the wax from heating. As the wax and coil cool, the piston starts to travel backwards and closes the flow of current back to the coil, causing the valve to stay open, When the wax is failing, this very small movement gets smaller and barely makes the last contact. It then drops back farther and opens the first switch, breaking the TT circuit. Even though the coil is energized.
I have usually found which head is bad by pushing the manual by-pass lever down and looking for one that is calling but the lever doesn't go down as far as the others. It's probably a green power head. I think they changed to gold heads in 1980. They are original to the system. You must find which zone is calling when the problem occurs.
Also, the thermostats MUST be either Taco square thermostats or Honeywell T87's with the heat anticipators set at 1.2, Set at .04 will make them act up but they would have been addressed sooner. There was a thermostat supplied with that boiler when new that was a T884 that was square and had no mounting plate. The heat anticipator could only be set to a high of .07 or .08. They would short cycle. Often, installers used the one that came with the boiler as one thermostat and the rest were T87's set at .04. It was a cacophony of burner starts. Even if you set all the thermostat anticipators as high as you could, the one T884 would drive the customer nuts.
If you locate the problem down to one head because the lever won't go all the way down, push the lever all the way down. If the cycling stops, that's the bad head. Sometimes, they make a clicking noise that you hear in the system at night Like this:  (an "X" equals a click Below is the rapidity of the clicks.
X             X       X   X   XX  XXX XXXX           XXXX XXX  XX   X     X          X Stop

Repeated. Bad head and/or valve plunger.

Sunrad Radiator

@ December 20, 2011 10:01 PM in Unique radiator (pic included) and proper pitch assistance needed

Simply stunning.
What were they thinking?

Raise the pressure:

@ December 20, 2011 6:56 AM in Question on bleeding air from convector

Raise the pressure. 15# isn't a lot of pressure for a two story building if the boiler is below the first floor. Raise the pressure to 20# and see what happens. It will improve.

High Mass System:

@ December 19, 2011 10:18 PM in Mandated reset controls in 2012

This is a Mega High Mass system.
This is an energy saving measure in an oil boiler and a non condensing system.

4 way mixers

@ December 19, 2011 10:13 PM in Mandated reset controls in 2012

In my opinion, the Taco "I" 4-way valve is a beautiful thing. The inside machining is a beautiful thing. You/I piped it as a primary. secondary piping with two circulators. The supply and return on this gravity system is 4" pipe with 1 1/2 or 1 1/4" to the radiators. Before I got there last year, it has a Peerless boiler running at 180 degrees. I dropped it down to 160 degrees. Installed the mixer. The boiler pump was the one that pumped the system. A Taco 010. Closely spaced tees, the valve, and a WILO Star 21 3-speed. wired together. The house heats very evenly at the low temperature. It was once a coal fired gravity system. The boiler was running at 170 degrees, the system was running at 120 degrees out and 100 degrees back.  It was 26 degrees outside. There's none of what you are talking about. They offer a 3-Way. The 4-way works better. It comes with sensor and boiler protection so it will never run the boiler cold. You can set it for 120 degrees for gas and 140 degrees for gas.
In my opinion, the valve becomes a form of hydraulic separator. With parallel flow.


@ December 19, 2011 9:55 PM in Question on bleeding air from convector

Crank the system pressure to 20# at the boiler. The air will stop. The flow of the circulators have no effect on system pressure.
Accurately measure the height in feet, from the boiler gauge to the height above the gauge to the convector. Multiply that elevation number by .434. The answer is how much pressure in PSIG you need to keep the water in the convector.
Put 22# pressure in the system and leave It for a week. If you get air up there, tell me and I will say I was wrong. GLADLY.
I learned about auto coin vents years ago. I learned why here.
Today, I close down EVERY coin vent and float vent. I haven't opened a jet tee cap or a coin vent (unless it was a CI radiator) in 20 years. I purge it once and never get a drop of air, later. Raising the pressure compresses the air. Less air means more flow. And I NEVER get an air locked system. Unless the system pressure drops because the PRV isn't working.
Last month, I drained a big gravity system to install a 4-way mixer. One radiator wouldn't get hot. I found under the house that someone had re-piped the radiator and it was absolutely flat and going down hill at the radiator because of foundation and floor settling. I jacked up the radiator. Nothing. The radiator valve had been replaced. The stop was broken. I couldn't tell when the valve was open or closed. Remembering something I read here about high pressure, I decided to crank the pressure in the system to 25# overnight to try to compress the air. I was able to get an exact replacement, made in China valve, and went back the next morning to drain the system and replace the valve. The radiator was working and is still today as of this morning. I returned the valve for credit.
If you can compress the air enough to get the slightest flow, it will absorb the air and start working.
As far as auto vents, my high range hearing is so accurate, I hear air leaking in the other room. I hear the vents vent out air. And suck in air when I am draining a system. 

Commodity Speculation:

@ December 19, 2011 5:40 PM in Heating Costs

My comment wasn't to start something about the cost of Natural Gas as opposed to fuel oil, it was that the price of oil has been speculated by the Banksters and The Wall Street Crime Family. LP and #2 oil are priced about the same per gallon, not per BTU.
There was a segment on 60 minutes a few years ago on how one of the biggest brokerage houses owned an overwhelming majority of fuel storage facilities in the Northeast. That fuel oil dealers in the NE liked Vermont were getting price changes on product in tankers on an hourly basis.
Natural Gas is a commodity. With total Wall Street commodity de-regulation, Natural Gas will go up. It's too cheap. Once everyone gets done converting to gas, they have you.
Oil companies have been put between a rock and a hard place. Their margins on product is so low, they barely make expenses.
It's typical big fish eating the little. Big gas sells in the easy market and drives the little fish out of the market. Those in the country, have no access to Nat. Gas, only oil and LP. Living in the country costs a lot of money


@ December 19, 2011 8:33 AM in Question on bleeding air from convector

That's an auto bleeder no longer made like a Beacon or a Dole.
If the system pressure isn't high enough to keep water well above the vent, and the level drops, the vent will allow air into the top of the system. You can have a pressure leak but a vacuum leak is a lot worse.
Remember, If you have water at zero (O#) pressure, and there are air bubbles trapped in the water, putting the water under pressure will compress the bubbles and make them smaller. If you take the same water and put it under a negative pressure or vacuum. the bubbles become larger. The higher the vacuum, the bigger the bubble.
If that guy keeps getting air in his system, he needs to raise the system pressure. Especially if the air shows up on the second floor.
How do I know?
Put an oil line under a high vacuum and watch the bubbles form from the entrained air in the fuel oil. Been all over that.


@ December 19, 2011 8:00 AM in Peerless PI-80, F14 Fault

Maybe so.
Post a photo of the motor and blower assembly where they connect. Speciffically, where there is an opening where you can see a space, filled by a white plastic "spacer". If you look carefully, see if you can see that the white plastic is shiny in parts but dull in others. Look to see if you can see that there are vanes in the plastic plate. When it is running, look to see if there is anything unusual that you can visually see when the burner is running. This is the "Swirl Plate where the air and gas mix and fresh air is sent into the burner. Look on the side and see if it says "Dungs". There is a problem with the Swirl Plate and deterioration. It will throw the air/fuel mixture way off and cause it to go off. Your problem may only be the swirl plate because it sounds like the motor is operating properly. If someone puts a digital combustion analyzer in the exhaust outside and the CO is way high, the swirl plate probably needs to be replaced. The Pinnicles had the old swirl plates. If it has never been changed, it needs to be.
If there was ever anything blocking the exhaust like a bush in front of it, it may have caused back-firing and over heating of the swirl plate.
Try to post a picture of the swirl plate.
Also, if you find someone with the Munchkin DX program on a laptop, the history codes will show a lot of shut-downs and re-starts. Starting back years ago. I had one with over 300 "incidents". I'd say over 1000 but no one would believe me.
All is not lost. Those are cool little boilers. They can also have problems when they are on very low fire and vented with 3" PVC. I have fixed them by putting a 3"x2" PVC bushing in the exhaust outside to increase the velocity of the exhause to over come high wind problems.

Zone Valves:

@ December 19, 2011 7:37 AM in Transfromer trouble

To keep my head from hurting, here is how I change valves.
No matter what you do, you can never un-solder a 571 zone valve unless you cut slots in the bottom of the valve. So you must boil the water out of the pipe. As soon as you try to get the body off, more water shows up and cools the body.
Take the power head off and take a big pair of pliers. One end on the bottom of the body and the other end on the plunger. Squeeze the plunger down and compress the spring. Unscrew the plate holding the plunger in place and ease the plate and plunger up until the spring is relaxed. Pull the guts out. I grease the new plunger assembly and grease the screws with SuperLube synthetic grease because it doesn't wreck O-rings. Put the new plunger and plate back and clamp it down again with pliers. You can hold the plate and plunger down with one hand while you put the screws back in. You just turned a three hour job into an hour. The power-head alone is almost as much as the whole valve and the plunger and power head as a repair part is far more than the complete valve which is heavily discounted. The new valve body goes in the brass scrap barrel. I charge for a new valve. Because that's what they got.
If you have the time and the valve is working, but leaking, squirt Kroil ( on the screws and let it sit for a day. They have almost always come out for me. If the plunger is sticking through the hole in the top of the hold down plate, squirt some Kroil in it. Operate the plunger with the big pair of pliers until it works easily. Once operating easily, put Never Seize in the hole when the plunger is down. It will usually work after that. You can come back another day and do a complete repair if you must.
That's how I do it. If the screws won't come out, you have to change the whole valve body. The only time I have had to do that though is when I can't get the power head off because it is rusted in place.
It works for me.
I have never seen a case where a 40 VA transformer didn't operate 3 571 zone valves properly. A 50VA or 60VA will work fine but it takes a 60VA transformer to operate 4-571's.

Number of wires:

@ December 19, 2011 7:17 AM in Transfromer trouble

You can have 300 wires going to the thermostat. But you only need two wires on a Taco 571 Zone Valve. The 24 volt transformer is wired through the transformer to the #1 and #2 terminals on the power head but runs through the thermostat which acts as the switch. If you have a 3-wire to the thermostat, you only use two wires. Usually red and white. You tuck the green. At the power head, you usually just tuck the green and use the red and white. Most use red on top, white in the middle and green on the bottom with the green and common white going to the TT terminal on the control.
They may make a 4 wire Taco power head but I have never seen one or used one. Any electronic thermostat I have ever installed only used the red and white for heating control. Whatever was done for cooling, I am mostly clueless about. I have a hard enough time dealing with the heating end of it.

WILO Stratus & TRV's:

@ December 19, 2011 7:05 AM in Wilo Stratus with TRVs

The Stratus if it is the variable speed pump, will slow down to almost nothing when confronted with your situation. I saw this in a demonstration at a WILO Eat and Peek at the supply house. I replaced my Taco 007 with one that runs 6 Taco 571 zone valves. It works well, No problems. But the pump will stop as the zone valves close so it should never be dead headed.
You should have some sort of zone control with a thermostat along with your TRV's I would think. Or, at least the room with the thermostat should be set lower than all the other rooms with the TRV's.