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Joined on September 15, 2010

Last Post on August 29, 2014

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One more thing

@ April 5, 2011 7:13 PM in Pressuretrol shot, it looks

If you look up into the bottom brass fitting on the pressuretrol you will see a very small hole. If that hole has any crap in it the pressuretrol is not going to work right. Not probable but definitely possible. If it's not that then you need to replace the pressuretrol.


Spring for a vaporstat

@ April 5, 2011 3:35 PM in Pressuretrol shot, it looks

Pressuretrols are variable as hell and it gets worse with age.

If your going to have to replace it, consider going with a 0-4PSI vaporstat. It will cost at least twice what a pressuretrol will but it gives very good control down to 10-12 oz. If you want pressure control below that you need the 16oz model but that usually just for true vapor systems.

You can use the pressuretrol for an emergency backup to the vaporstat for another layer of safety. If you do that I would advise putting it on a separate pigtail so you don't have all your eggs in one basket.


Make sure gauge glass valves are both open

@ April 3, 2011 11:02 AM in Water level

The valve that Crash pointed out should be the boiler fill valve. Make sure the valves above and below the sight glass are fully open (full ccw) so they will "see" the boiler water level.

When you open up the fill valve you should hear water flowing through it and the water level in the sight glass should slowly rise. If you don't hear water flowing when that valve is open then you have a problem further up the line.

I agree you should have someone look at this system to install a blow down handle and fix the leak on the lower part of the sight glass. that lower sight glass leak might just need the bonnet nut tightened up a bit but don't go to far or you will crack the glas tube.


adding water to steam boiler

@ April 2, 2011 2:40 PM in Water level

There should be a copper pipe that goes into the bottom section of the boiler, follow that up and you will find a valve that controls the water feed to the boiler. Don't feed water into a steaming hot boiler, warm is ok as long as you feed the water in slowly. Turn that on and watch the water level in the sight glass as it fills, you want the sight glass to be about half full. It doesn't take more than 30-60 seconds. make sure to turn that valve off completely when your done.

After filling it to the correct level turn the heat up so the water boils in the boiler, that will drive off any dissolved oxygen so you don't cause any corrosion. If your still in doubt about which valve post a couple of pictures and we should be able to help you find the right valve.


Careful consideration.

@ April 1, 2011 8:17 AM in peerless boiler replacement

Back when i was working as an engineer we used to ballpark jobs by multiplying the price of parts by 3, that covered labor and overhead. That was in the power supply industry but it applies to a lot of instances where you wrap labor around goods that have to be assembled. I replaced my roof a few years back and that formula was pretty close to the mark.

Charlie is right about the dangers of installed a used boiler because the labor will far outstrip the boiler cost. If you do decide to go forward with this make sure the boiler sq ft of steam matches the sq ft of radiators connected to it.

A properly selected and installed boiler should last a long time and while the upfront cost is hard to swallow the cost per year is a lot better than you will get for your car or truck.


Setup picture

@ March 31, 2011 10:22 PM in Cold pigtail

Do you see any movement in your sight glass while the boiler is firing? If it stays dead quiet that may indicate a plugged pigtail.

You could put the low pressure gauge on the vent but it's really more convenient to have it on the boiler. Once you get the pigtail off and cleared you can use either pipe joint compound or Teflon tape when putting things back together.

You can buy the fittings at the local hardware store or at a big box store. Just make sure you kill the power to the boiler and let it cool down a bit before starting to take things apart. make sure you have room to unthread the pressuretrol before you unwire it. Here's a pic of my setup so you can see how I did it.


it's great when a plan works.

@ March 30, 2011 2:17 PM in Recourse for bad/illegal boiler install....

It's great to see a problem like this working out the way it seems to be, we don't have to agree we just have to agree to be reasonable. Everybody gets to walk away with a good feeling.

The best part is the homeowner is going to be taken care of.


DHW coil?

@ March 30, 2011 8:44 AM in Replaced auto feeder now overfilling

If the boiler has a DHW coil in it there is a possibility it has a pinhole and is slowly adding water.


I understand what you mean

@ March 29, 2011 8:06 AM in Burner Booster??

about miracle cures coming out of the woodwork but I'm sure the Becket oil gun was looked at with a bit of skepticism when it first appeared.

I'll just keep an eye on this in case it becomes viable when my boiler needs replacing - hopefully many years down the road.


It takes time

@ March 28, 2011 8:10 PM in Cold pigtail

My pigtail gets very hot as it exits the boiler but just warm as it enters the vaporstat. It takes a bit of time for the loop to get hot. If in doubt remove it and make sure its clear. While your at it maybe it's time to add a good low pressure gauge as well.


Burner Booster??

@ March 28, 2011 5:18 PM in Burner Booster??

Has anybody heard anything about this? It sure would be nice to shave a bit off the old oil bill!


Oil-mist system may burn less cash

Entrepreneur’s idea is simple: Get the soot out

Eric LaVoie invented the Burner Booster, a pump and valve system that helps oil burners work more efficiently.
By Erin Ailworth

Globe Staff / March 28, 2011

HOLLISTON — Eric Lavoie’s idea was simple: Turn heating oil into a mist, providing more surface area to burn, and it will generate heat more efficiently. For consumers, that would mean using less fuel and spending less money to heat their homes.

Lavoie’s idea has become the basis of a new system, called the Burner Booster, being tested in a handful of New England homes and government buildings, including a minimum security prison in Plymouth.

Company tests, backed by independent analysts, show that furnaces with a Burner Booster use as much as 35 percent less oil to generate the same amount of heat, while producing less soot and reducing greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions by 30 percent or more.

The invention could have interesting implications for New England, which depends on heating oil to keep warm. In Massachusetts, nearly 40 percent of households heat with oil, according to the US Department of Energy. In Maine, it’s 80 percent. Nearly 60 percent of homes heat with oil in both New Hampshire and Vermont.

The price of heating oil has soared and plunged and soared again in recent years, in parallel with dramatic fluctuations in the price of crude oil, driving many households to seek lower cost alternatives, from pellet stoves to natural gas. Crude and heating oil prices have spiked in recent weeks as unrest rages through oil-producing regions in northern Africa and the Middle East.

Lavoie said the Burner Booster could make heating oil competitive with natural gas again. His start-up, Energy Efficiency Solutions LLC of Holliston, is beginning to sell the system in New Hampshire, with units starting at $5,900. At today’s home heating oil prices, averaging $3.89 per gallon in Massachusetts, and assuming 30 percent better oil-burning efficiency, it would take a little over two years for the system to pay for itself for a consumer who now uses 2,400 gallons of oil each year.

Natural gas conversions cost $5,000 to $10,000 — if service is available.
All of this has the state Department of Energy Resources looking closely at Burner Booster. State energy officials are awaiting more results from Burner Booster demonstration sites to decide whether Lavoie’s system is something that might work in other public buildings.

“So far, from everything we can see and everything we’ve heard, it looks like a promising technology,’’ said Eric Friedman, director of the Leading by Example program, which promotes emissions reductions and energy efficiency at state facilities. “It looks like a fairly inexpensive way to get quickly at reductions of oil usage.’’
The idea for the Burner Booster came to Lavoie five years ago, as he waited at a Medfield gas station for his annual vehicle inspection. A former industrial engineer, Lavoie noticed the station’s heating system — fueled with waste motor oil — had too many electrical components and left the place sooty. He figured he could help.
He talked to the station owner about replacing the setup with something simpler, then began tinkering in his garage on a high-pressure pump-and-valve system to burn waste motor oil more cleanly. A stream of oil mist, he thought, might do the trick. It took about a year to come up with the first Burner Booster, a box in which fuel travels through a pump and out a nozzle as mist.

“If it works,’’ he told the station owner. “I want free inspection stickers for life.’’
He hasn’t paid for a vehicle inspection since.

Lavoie’s father-in-law then convinced him to adapt the system for heating oil furnaces. After a good deal of experimenting, the Burner Booster worked well enough — almost too well to believe — that Lavoie had it tested at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Fire Science Laboratory and at an air-quality consulting company.

Today, the Burner Booster is undergoing pilot tests. At the state’s minimum security prison in Plymouth, a Burner Booster installed in a dormitory last year cut fuel use by about 35 percent, or 1,800 gallons, said Jeff Quick, director of the division of resource management at the Department of Correction. At $3 a gallon, that’s $5,400 in savings.

Tom McColl, who spends about $4,000 a year heating his Natick home, began using a Burner Booster three or four months ago and has cut his fuel use by about 20 percent, he said. That’s $800 a year in savings.

“My house is kind of a sieve, and when it’s cold outside you’d think my old chugalug furnace would have to work harder,’’ he said, but “we’ve used less oil than last year.’’
The promise of such savings is also sparking interest among advocates for the poor.
With Congress considering cuts in the federal program that helps low-income households pay heating bills, anything that might help families lower fuel costs is intriguing, said John Drew, head of Action for Boston Community Development. The nonprofit agency assists families applying for home heating aid. An estimated 270,000 across the state were expected to request assistance this winter, up from 250,000 last season

“Yeah, I can get excited about that,’’ Drew said. “We’ve got so many people in need.’’
The big question, Drew said, is whether poor families could afford a Burner Booster without subsidies.

Michael Ferrante, head of the Massachusetts Oilheat Council, a heating oil dealers trade group, said he has not heard much about the Burner Booster and is withholding judgment.

“If the Burner Booster can reduce greenhouse gas emissions,’’ Ferrante said, “hats off.’’
Erin Ailworth can be reached at

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Experience wins.

@ March 28, 2011 10:27 AM in Measuring edr:When to include pick-up

i wiuld call that empirically flying by the seat of your pants. I've done that several times in electrical engineering and it is often more accurate than just sitting down with the slide rule because you usually don't have all the numbers at hand.

That is where experience and a good eye trump all else.


had it in Boston

@ March 27, 2011 9:36 AM in Legionellae article

The Boston P&DC had a case of legionella about 5 years back, that individual was very sick but did recover. They traced the cause to some long plumbing stubs where water could sit for years and grow anything it pleased.

That's when i started to bring water from home. one of the water bubblers that tested positive was about 10 ft from my workbench. maybe the two stiff glasses of bourbon I drank every night after getting home (about 11:30Pm killed it, who knows.


at least 1/4"

@ March 27, 2011 9:23 AM in Steam Pipe expansion

i don't know exactlyhow far that pipe will expand but I can tell you that a 2" steam main that circles my chimney (about 12 ft long) expands about 1/4" and perhaps a bit more. When cold, the main vent is touching a cold water pipe but when it's full of steam that 2" iron pipe is 1/4" away from the vent.


What kind of vents

@ March 26, 2011 4:59 PM in Cold steam pipes

It sounds like you have single pipe steam. The pipes and radiators should heat up when the boiler is running. Those bullet shaped things half way up the radiator are air vents. The steam cannot get into the radiator till all the air has left. Can you hear or feel air leaving them when the boiler is making steam? Do all radiators try and heat at about the same time? What make and model are those air vents and do they have an adjustment knob on them?

Put a level on the radiators to make sure they are pitched back towards the input pipe so water can find it's way back to the boiler. You can shim the air vent end up with quarters to get positive pitch if you have to. use a 2X4 to GENTLY lever that end of the radiator up - to much force and you might crack something.

You said you are on the top floor, is there any insulation in the ceiling? If that was removed during the renovation any heat that comes up is just whistling out the top. That ceiling has to have insulation to keep heat in. being on the top floor yo should be getting some assist from the lower floors.

You may need larger radiators to support the bare brick walls because you have probably increased the heating load.


Nameplate net steam sq ft = radiator sq ft

@ March 25, 2011 8:25 AM in Measuring edr:When to include pick-up

I agree with Mike, match the square feet of steam the boiler is rated for with the square footage of radiation that it is feeding. Also insulate all the piping in the cellar.



@ March 24, 2011 5:31 PM in To convert from oil to gas or not?

My old Delco boiler failed in 1996 and i replaced with an oil fired Burnham V75 - after talking with someone who worked for the local gas company who said he didn't see the cost of gas being as low as oil in the near future.

He was right, for about 5 years. In the Boston area right now 140,000 BTU's of gas costs about $2.70 vs the $3.42 my oil dealer is getting. Last year at this time the difference was about 20 cents.

When the Burnham dies I may well replace it with gas fired but it would take FOREVER to make up the costs of replacing a working oil system. I used about 334 gallons of oil last year and have used a bit more than that to date this year.

If the true cost of natural gas is much lower in your area (make sure you know the TOTAL cost of gas - don't believe the gas company), then you have to decide if it's really worth it. Remember you will have to get the oil tank removed and put a stainless steel liner in the chimney to go over to gas.


GE Hybird

@ March 24, 2011 5:14 PM in Getting the most bang for my buck

A friend of mine installed a GE Hybird (heat pump) hot water heater last spring and was very happy with the drop in his electric bill (vacation home in NH, elec costs about 0.18 per KWH). He calculated that hot water heater would pay for itself in 5 years (it costs about 3-4X what a regular HWH costs) and it's warrantied for 10years so it really was a no brainier for him.


Check the installation manual

@ March 24, 2011 1:05 PM in Recourse for bad/illegal boiler install....

I'd just like to add that you should check the installation manuals piping diagram to see what he might have done wrong as far as the boiler manufacturer is concerned. If the boiler is not piped per the manufacturers piping diagram, your warranty might be null and void.


Do your homework

@ March 24, 2011 12:55 PM in Time to replace boiler

Do yourself a favor and measure all of you radiators so you know what the EDR is - EDR is the square footage of radiation attached to the boiler. The number you arrive at will tell you what size boiler you should be installing. The chart I have attached will help you figure out your EDR.

Once you know what size boiler you need you have to select a good installer, this is probably more important than anything else. make sure the installer states (in writing) that he will pipe the boiler in THREADED STEEL per the boiler manufacturers piping diagram as a minimum. If he goes over and above great, but make sure he follows the manufacturers diagram so the new boiler works quietly and efficiently.

If the installer balks at this, show him the door and find someone else.


I agree, oil not burned is the best kind

@ March 23, 2011 8:20 AM in To upgrade or not?


I retired a couple of years ago and wanted to keep my heating bills reasonable. My quick solution was to keep the hallway doors closed downstairs so the heat would not go upstairs (3 bedrooms) when i was downstairs (living room, dining room, and kitchen) and to use a quartz heater as aux heat in the living room as I read or watched TV after supper. I want to keep my 15 year old Burnham V75 running just as long as I can

I have also looked into installing a split heat pump system both to use as heat for the shoulder months (keeping the oil burner off) and for cooling on really hot summer days. I actually find I use the AC less now that I've retired because i can keep the windows open in the morning to get the cool breeze. Living a block from Quincy Bay does have it's advantages - at least in the summer.



@ March 23, 2011 8:01 AM in sizing a boiler

You will have to make a chart that lists the square footage of all the radiators in the place. With any luck most of the apartments are very similar in the number and types of radiators that they contain. Don't forget to add radiators in any common areas; hallways, lobbies,etc.

When you add up those numbers that will give you the total number of sq ft; you then want a boiler that can feed that number of sq ft.

Use the chart I've enclosed to figure out the sq footage of each radiator.

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