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Can't hold temp or reach temp

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by mboerjan, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. mboerjan

    mboerjan New Member

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    Bought a used saquoyah little Albert owb I installed the unit and fired the unit on sunday afternoon. Its a down draft unit and everything seems to work as it should. After about 8 hours I heated the water from 50 degrees out of my well to 144 and that has been the highest I have ever seen it. I reloaded that next morning before work and had a raging fire. I got home and the temp was 124 degrees I then stirred it up and reloaded the fire box. The next morning I was down to 113 degrees. Did the same stirred and reloaded before work and when I came home tonight it is down to 100 degrees and when I opened the door I have tons of black creosote. Don't know what's wrong with it or what I may be doing wrong. I don't have any books or info on the unit and I'm new to this. Please help

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  2. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    Did you install your water lines to your house or building you are heating under the ground? If so, can you explain how you installed them?
  3. mboerjan

    mboerjan New Member

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    I have 100 foot of insulated pex in the ground from my house to the boiler. I trenched it 36 inches down and the base is sand filled.
  4. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    So the insulated pex you used was bought insulated like that and intended for that application? Or did you insulate it?
  5. mboerjan

    mboerjan New Member

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    It was bought that way. 1 inch pex lines foam and foil wrapped and then in a 4 in abs
  6. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    Okay. It sounded like you may be losing heat into the ground. Which can suck a lot of heat out of your system. No leaks in system I assume? Pressure is staying the same. Do you have some type of automatic fill in your system? Where the water from well will be added into system if there is a leak?

    What type of system is used for heat distribution? Heat exchanger to forced air, baseboard heaters, in-floor radiant heat?
  7. mboerjan

    mboerjan New Member

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    No leaks that I know of and water level has been staying the same. Its a closed system no auto fill. System goes from boiler to a 20 plate on my hot water and then loops to 50 plate exchanger on my gas water heater. And then returns back to my boiler. My house has 5 radiators and two rooms with floor base board heaters.
  8. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Can you measure the temps on both ends of your underground pipe & see what the temp drop is?

    'Foil wrapped' sounds iffy to me - what was the exact product you used?

    You have some serious heat going somewhere if you only raised the water from 50 to 144 in 8 hours - if it's burning like it's supposed to. I know nothing about this boiler - and found next to nothing with Google. That's not usually a good sign either.
  9. mliiiwit

    mliiiwit Member

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    "and when I opened the door I have tons of black creosote."

    This could be your problem. A lot of creosote means an inefficient burn. Get the creosote cleaned out and make sure your wood is well-seasoned. I'm not familiar with this burner so can't make much more suggestion on fixing a poor burn not caused by poor wood. Does it have a secondary burn air source or a cat? It must have a combustion air supply problem, too much restriction in the hot gas exit path or poor draft if your wood is good.

    If it has no secondary burn capability, it must be an old design and is what is referred to as a "smoke dragon". Old air tight designs cannot burn cleanly & efficiently at low rates. If this is true and if the draft control is driven by water temp, you may have to have a whole lot more water storage capacity so the thing will burn at a higher, more efficient rate. You wouldn't have to burn as often and you'd see much better efficiency.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2013
  10. mboerjan

    mboerjan New Member

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    Wood is dry and is burning hot. Just went out and I have 900-1400 f in the fire box. But my temps are 108 coming out of the pump and 108 inside the basement so no lose in ground. This unit is a 200 gallon unit with saddle tanks and the whole fire box is fire brick lined. Is that a problem? Am I losing the heat in the transfer from the bricks to the water box?
  11. mliiiwit

    mliiiwit Member

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    I have no idea the configuration of the heat exchanger, but if it is coated with creosote (or anything) heat transfer will be affected, i.e. less heat into the water and more going out the flue. Has the creosote built up just since you've been burning the unit or was it already built up when you bought it? When was this unit manufactured? Do you know if it is a secondary burn design or if it has a catalytic, or neither? If you don't know, does it emit much smoke from the flue when burning at low rates? Again, if it is a "smoke dragon", there is no way it can be made to burn at a low rate without producing a lot of smoke, which equates to creosote accumulation. That is just an inherent, poor characteristic of pre-cat and pre-secondary burn designs. Regardless of the answers to all of the above questions, a lot of creosote definitely is a problem. SOMETHING is causing or has caused dirty, inefficient burns. I would start addressing the problems with a thorough cleaning to remove as much creosote as possible. I have no idea how this unit is provisioned for cleaning the heat exchanger so you will need to figure that out. Once it's cleaned up, you'll see a significant improvement in efficiency. What you'll have to do to keep it clean after that depends on the burn design of the unit. I can't find any info on this particular model online so if you don't know the answers to my questions about secondary burn or catalytic, if you can direct me to some online information about this design, that would help me better understand why you're having the problems you are. If not, you may have to post or send some pictures of the burn chamber so we can try to figure out how this thing is designed to burn.
  12. mliiiwit

    mliiiwit Member

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    mboerjan,
    I did find a couple reviews of this unit online. They're written by the same person a couple years apart. It appears this is an obsolete design ("smoke dragon") that the original manufacturer discontinued after developing a cleaner burning design that met EPA emissions requirements. It also appears the original manufacturer no longer owns the business. I suspect it will burn relatively clean at high burn rates, but it will burn dirty when the aqua stat chokes down the draft. Maybe not immediately, but after enough time has elapsed for the brick lining to cool down it will most likely be belching smoke. Also, if I understand correctly, the steel walls of the burn chamber are the inner walls of a water jacket. That is a great design for a gas or oil burning boiler, but a poor design for wood burning boilers (but I think it is or was common for OWBs). The Albert is supposed to be fully brick lined, with the intent of the lining being to hold heat in the burn chamber to keep the burn cleaner at all times. However, if the walls of the burn chamber are also the heat exchange surface as I understand them to be, the brick lining also serves to impede heat transfer to the water. A better design is to well insulate the primary and secondary burn areas to prevent heat loss and then extract the heat from the fully burnt gases downstream of the burn areas, where heat loss won't affect the burn efficiency.

    http://www.epinions.com/content_287416618628
    http://www.epinions.com/content_413682077316
  13. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    It still sounds like you are not getting your heat into your house. What size are the lines you put into the ground? You said you have 100 feet of insulated pex. So the boiler is 100 feet in one direction away from the house. Is that correct? Or is it 50 feet in one direction from the house?

    Next, after size of pipe, what type of circulation pump are you using? Is it a single speed pump? Or is there different speeds it can be set at. I am wondering if you can get enough BTUs through your pipe and into your system fast enough.

    Another thing. Can you draw us a basic diagram of your plumbing so the more experienced guys on here can have a look at it. I am not a plumbing expert for sure, but there are many good guys on here who could help you through your problem. Even with a poor design of a boiler, if that is part of the problem, I would think you should be able to do better than you currently are.

    And pictures. Pictures would also help. Take a picture of the boiler, the connections of pipe to it, the connections of pipe coming through the house, the circulation pump that gets water from your boiler to your house, connections at plates, etc.

    Is there a second circulation pump in the house that moves your heat through your radiators and baseboard registers? Have you been able to tell if the water is moving through your radiators, baseboard, etc.?

    Is there another boiler in the equation? Is the water that is coming into the house from your outdoor wood boiler (OWB) plumbed to that second boiler? In other words. Are the boilers plumbed in series? Or are they plumbed in parallel? In parallel the water from your OWB would be able to go right past your indoor boiler and to your heat distributors.

    Sorry about all those questions. But if you take the time to answer them you may spark someone here, probably other than me ;lol, to help you figure out what your problem is. Keep this going and they will help you figure it out.


    Oh. When you say the wood is dry. How do you know? Have you split on of the splits open and put a moisture meter to one of the freshly split sides? If not, buy or borrow a moisture meter. They can be had for about 25 or 30 bucks at Lowes. See what your moisture content is in the wood. And let us know. What type of wood are you burning? Lots of creosote sometimes means wet wood. But I would think you should still get higher temps of water in your system than you are.
  14. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Does the pump that moves heat away from the boiler (to your house?) run all the time?

    There is a fundamental problem going on here that is, like most things, very hard to diagnose from the other end of the internets. Pictures usually help.

    Again, I have no experience with this boiler (sounds like not many do), or any OWB - but IMO and generally speaking, the water shouldn't move away from the boiler until it gets up to operating temperature. So, if the circ pump that does that is running all the time, from a cold start, you are getting a constant supply of cold water coming into it that is constantly condensing creosote (say three times?) which is in turn messing up your heat transfer - so all your heat is going up your chimney. A big ugly circle of lost heat.

    What is your stack temp? Does the boiler have an aquastat? Does it have a bypass loop?
  15. mliiiwit

    mliiiwit Member

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    Here's a pretty good page on OWBs. Read about "Bob In Pennsylvania's" mod that doubled the efficiency of his OWB. You might be able to do something like he did once you have the present issues cleared up. Good luck with it!

    http://woodheat.org/report-bob-modify.html
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2013
  16. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell Minister of Fire

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    have you checked your aquastat
  17. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    If you have good dry wood, and you are getting creosote, you are either idling when the controls shut off a combustion fan or close a draft door, or you arent getting enough air to the fire. So a few things.

    as what TCaldwell said above, do you know what the aquastat setting is for the hot water? Im not familiar with this particular boiler, but is it a fan or a draft door that runs to maintain temp? If so, does the fan turn on (or door opens?) Depending on what your air path is supposed to be, is that clear?

    I saw one of your earlier posts that mentioned when you closed the door the fire was having trouble, so this sounds like part of the issue...

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