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Boiler ash cleaner, cleaner for tubes

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by sgschwend, Jan 13, 2010.

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  1. sgschwend

    sgschwend New Member

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    Has anybody tried this gizmo (Harbor Freight vacuum gun, $10)? My buddy picked on up for me and I used it tonight. I was impressed with it. I used it to remove ash and clean the tubes.

    The gun has a 1" suction port that I extended with a 36" long piece of 3/4" PVC pipe. Compressed air is used to create the vacuum and the output side goes through a flexible hose into a collection bag. I think I will make a 5 gallon bucket to replace the bag. I have used a shop type vacuum in the past but the filter will plug with fine particles and loose power or stuff get stuck in the hose. This machine is just a straight shot no filter to plug or places to jam up.

    Pull the trigger and the gun sucks up the ash. I slid the PVC pipe down the tubes and in areas around the refractory, rather nice way to clean without the need to climb into the boiler. I can clean the tubes in 2-3 minutes. I suppose a water filter could be rigged up by leaving the lid on the bucket and exhausting into the water, then the water could be dumped out. I will give that a try.

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  2. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    Interesting idea, Steve.

    This past fall, I rigged up a FrankenVacuum using an old vacuum cleaner with one of these mini cyclone separators [below] in front of it to catch most of the ash so that the bag would not fill as quickly.

    http://store.oneida-air.com/dustdeputysystems.aspx

    It did make a big difference; perhaps a combination of the concepts (I'd tend to think that a water bucket would create too much back pressure)
  3. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Interesting concept, but I don't know how much I really like it... I suspect that it probably isn't very good on efficiency - how much energy does it take to compress the air that it uses, and how much of a compressor does it take? What does it do with the air that it uses to suck with? I don't see how that bag can cope with the dust once it starts to build up - certainly I'd expect to see it moving more air volume in total than a shop vac - it would be using both the air that it sucked and the air used to generate the suction, while a shop vac would just be moving the air it sucked with...

    The other big concern is the same as with any non-fireproof vacuum, namely the need to be very careful not to suck up any live coals or other flammable material...

    Gooserider
  4. sgschwend

    sgschwend New Member

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    It will be interest to see how the water trap idea works. A few minutes of run time is not much energy. I think it uses 5 cfm, just about any compressor should work, it only takes about 3 seconds of triggered run time to clean a tube.

    The compressed air goes to the waste side, creating a vacuum which has a straight unimpeded shot through the gun to the waste side. I tried just pointing the waste side outside th shed and the ash is shot out 20 feet.

    The bag is definitely not the way to go, I think exhausting through water will keep the return air clean and capture the fine particles. Any dry vacuum has a limit to the percent it can clean the exhaust air.
  5. sbleiweiss

    sbleiweiss New Member

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    I thought that they made a water pre-filter for shop vacs. I seem to remember seeing it for drywall sanding, but would work well for this application. I can't seem to find a reference to it on-line though.
  6. Mushroom Man

    Mushroom Man Member

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    Do you guys have your boilers in the living room?

    The tools that came with boiler (tube cleaner, rake and poker), along with a shovel and a five gallon bucket work well. Why bother with vacuuming the HX, primary, secondary etc.

    It's just going to get dirty again.

    And they accuse me of not wanting to get my hands dirty
  7. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The argument is made that crud builds up on the HX surfaces over time, and reduces performance and heat output by interfering with heat transfer - occasional extra thorough cleaning can help with the performance by removing the crud... If you do seasonal shutdowns, rather than doing all year round burns for DHW, etc. then extra thorough cleaning should extend the life of the boiler by removing moisture attracting and potentially corrosive deposits from the boiler surfaces...

    I would agree that most of the time the standard tools that come with the boiler, plus maybe a few extra rakes and / or scoops should be plenty, but I know when cleaning my stove, it's hard to tell how good you are doing if you don't use some sort of vac to get the last little bit...

    Gooserider
  8. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    what about just a long hose to the outdoors- maybe into a steel barrel to catch the larger particles? When I did the FrankenVac last fall, I stuffed the old vacuum outside and ran the suction hoses into the basement window, so that any fines that made it through the vac went outside.
  9. sbleiweiss

    sbleiweiss New Member

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    I am amazed at how little ash is produced by my boiler. One weeks worth of heating gives less ash than 1/2 day burn in my fireplace insert. However, the stuff the boiler does produce is ridiculously fine and seemingly lighter than air. You need to have some sort of vacuum running when you clean it, or it just floats everywhere. I am guessing that a large amount of the ash is getting blown into the chimney and I will have fun cleaning it out in the spring. Right now I use a shop vac (with a cleanable polypropylene filter) that needs the filter cleaned every time it is used on the boiler.

    For those with a Woodgun; How often do you remove the draft fan and clean the HX area?
    Thanks,
    Scott B.
  10. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    Where did you get the shop vac filter?? I too need to come up with a way to cut down on the fine ash that floats in my basement when cleaning.
    I have yet to remove the draft fan and wasn't planning on doing so until after the heating season? This was not mentioned to me by AHS nor is it in their manual.
  11. sbleiweiss

    sbleiweiss New Member

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    The material is made by Gore. See: http://www.cleanstreamfilters.com/
    I got it via mail order, but looks like big-box stores might carry them.
    To clean it, I just take it outside and bang it against a rock...
    It does seem to capture the fine particles better, but clogs up faster than a conventional filter. It's a trade-off.
  12. sgschwend

    sgschwend New Member

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    In my unit the plenum before the draft fan is not that serviceable, but I can reach it through the HX tubes with a vacuum hose. I agree the safest way to use a vacuum is to keep the unit outside.

    I saw a friends daughter hook up the vacuum cleaner hose to clean their pellet stove, only she connected the hose to the blow side. Turned it on and then watched all the ash flew into the living room. Stuff like that can ruin your day.
  13. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    You don't need a vac to make a major mess... I have the VC Encore in my sig, and one thing that I do like about it as one of it's few redeeming features, is the ashpan setup - it has a swing out pan, with a cover that slides over the pan, allowing it to be closed, lifted out and carried by the handle on the cover... I have two pans, so I swap them out, and leave the full one on the hearth until the next time I'm heading outside for some reason, when I carry it out to the garbage cans I use for long term storage... (And I've checked - I don't get any measurable CO from the pan sitting on the hearth)

    Was on my way out with a pan of ashes, that had fortunately cooled, when the cover slipped off and dumped the approximately gallon pan of ash in the middle of the laundry room, which is also where the GF keeps all her clean clothes... :red: I can assure you, dropping a gallon of ash from waist height makes plenty of mess...

    Gooserider
  14. chiefburritt

    chiefburritt New Member

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    Try once a season... also remove the cyclone and clean the upright and horizontal tube. Their will be some build up but the fan does a good job of scrubbing the walls down. With that said it won't be perfect, but usually pretty good for one season of burning. I just used some red rtv to seal the cyclone back on with the bolts.. a lite coating, just enough for the machined surfaces.

    The fan just bolts back on due to the rope gasket, don't overtighten!
    :{)

    BTW keep stickin it to the gov't, because they stick us!
  15. Tony H

    Tony H New Member

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    Just wondering what monster boiler do you have that you can climb into ?
  16. sgschwend

    sgschwend New Member

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    Tony H,
    The boiler is an Essex 1000 a rare beast. The fire box is deeper than one can reach inside, 43". Certainly a broom or scraper could be used to reach the ash there. I do have a bad habit of touching the wrong thing and either burning myself or ending up with a dirty sleeve.

    With this machine the refractory in the fire box is sloped to the center with four slits that practically open the center to a chamber below that can only be clean by opening the back of the unit. It is far easier to suck out the ash then sweep it forward and loose some down inside.
  17. Tony H

    Tony H New Member

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    Wow sounds like quite a boiler you have there , I can see how that vac gun would really do the trick in cleaning out the beast. Avoiding burns is always a good idea as well.
  18. dirttracker

    dirttracker Member

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    Steve,

    I bought one of those vacs years ago when I used to do auto body repair. It's really handy if you already have compressed air around for other things. It doesn't work as well as a good shop vac, but it does a fair job given it's size and cost. I ditched the bag and wired up the hose to mount into a 55 gal trash can. It beat using a shop vac as it was easier to get to the job and you don't have to empty the vac when you're done. I'll have to remember to pull it out of the tool box when I clean out the Tarm this spring, I don't think it's been used in 10 years.
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