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Econoburn 100 damper sticking

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by kcbenson, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    I'm running my boiler without storage, lots of creosote, but this is my fourth year with it, and this problem is new this year. Sometimes I have to bang on the damper handle with my hand four or five times before it releases. I cleaned the damper over the summer when I cleaned the heat exchange tubes, and I can get it pretty clean any time I let the fire go out with a long screwdriver by reaching into the firebox and scraping through the grate. But it starts sticking again after a day or two. Nothing's different this year from last year. I'm now burning the wood I didn't get to in the spring, nice dry oak mostly.

    Any ideas why it would start sticking now?

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  2. goosegunner

    goosegunner Minister of Fire

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    Dry oak as in how long ago was it cut and split?

    Its early in the heating season, try loading smaller amounts of wood more frequently.

    gg
  3. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    Couldn't say for sure, I don't keep records, but it's from the same batch I was burning last spring without this problem. All of my wood waits cut, in big chunks (whatever I can lift) for at least a year. Most of it seasons for two years or more. I don't generally split it until I'm ready to move it inside. I don't generally split it much at all. When idling, the boiler behaves better with big pieces. I let the fire go out during the day most days right now (we're getting highs around 45). Even with no storage, the boiler/wood boiler/indirect hot water heater store enough heat to get through a 40 degree daytime.

    But when the highs get down below 30 I'll have to keep it idling all day. I'm afraid it's going to get stuck closed and I won't be able to get it open. I could probably pop it open with a broom handle from the inside, but opening the firebox without opening the damper first produces a lot of smoke (in the basement).

    I'm working at home lately, so I actually have been loading small amounts frequently, usually two sticks at a time.
  4. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I don't generally split it until I'm ready to move it inside. I don't generally split it much at all.

    That doesn't sound like the best approach here. The longer it stays outside, split & stacked, the better. With oak, that is magnified. I don't burn oak myself, but from all I have read on here about it (and there is a lot to read on here about it), I think much under 2 years split & stacked is not enough time to get it dry.
    BoilerMan likes this.
  5. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    Look, there's no question there's a lot of sticky creosote, regardless of whether or not the wood is dry enough. The point here is that something has changed. In the three years previous I've also had lots of creosote, lots of starts and stops, less-than-optimal wood, but the damper has *not* gotten stuck. Two years ago I burned white pine for a month. There was plenty of creosote, but the damper was fine.

    I guess I was hoping for an answer from another Econoburn owner, someone who's already run into this. I suspect that something is out of adjustment, that the damper is leaking just a little.
  6. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    Look, I understand you're not getting the answer you want but it's your wood, not an adjustment. When running a gasifier "wood doesn't dry unless it is split and stacked" is gospel. You may have been lucky in the past but for some reason or another the wood has a higher moisture content. Perhaps the creosote created this season form idling is not as sticky and wet as last year but is dried more, perhaps because of a hotter fire which is creating even a better bond between the damper and it's mating surface.

    I know you want an answer from an Econoburn owner but my EKO is close.
  7. airlina

    airlina Member

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    I have a Econoburn 100 as well without storage in my 4th year. I have never had the issue that you are having with the damper door, but I would suggest you give Dale a call at the factory. I live near the factory and he has been great at any tech support that I have needed. Bruce
  8. Mauler

    Mauler Member

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    I have an econoburn (only my second season) and I have had that problem intermittently. Last year I had to bang it open with a small split on a few occasions after which it just went away. Its obviously creosote but I cant say why you all of a sudden you have it occur, and not previously. Maybe you are idling more this year? I haven't had it this year yet but I expect it will occur, as I idle alot. On a side note if I let the boiler cooldown to about 130-140 and have a nice hot burn to bring back up to my 175 setpoint I find everything is a lot looser (no surprise), especially the turbulator. It was so loose I thought that the linkage broke. Wish I had storage
  9. goosegunner

    goosegunner Minister of Fire

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    Before I had storage the damper would get sticky at times.

    I also used the potato trick to loosed the turbulators, it works amazingly well.

    gg
  10. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    Me too. Some day . . .

    Good to know it gets better when it gets hotter. My instinct when it starts getting sticky is to let the fire go out, clean it. Next time I'll go the other way, bring it up to 180. Maybe it's too clean. I know the door works better (seals better) when the creosote gets good and deep.
  11. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    What's the potato trick?
  12. goosegunner

    goosegunner Minister of Fire

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    Put 2 or 3 raw potatoes under the the nozzle in the secondary chamber. It is amazing how well it frees up a sticky turbulator arm.

    I have not had to do it since adding storage. It just runs completely different, no layer of goo on the door or ledge either.

    This year I am going to try cleaning fire tubes and area above them once a month. My flue temps are much lower after a cleaning. I am able to get the whole assembly out by just removing the top cover.

    gg
  13. airlina

    airlina Member

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    I should add that even though I do not have storage , I try to burn like I do. For example , I just started my morning fire and put in only enough wood for a 3 or 4 hour burn with a big demand on the boiler by turning up the zone thermostats to keep the boiler going with minimal idle time. The wife loves it because the house is toasty. Then i do the same thing in the evening around 5 pm to get me through the night. I have a pretty tight log house that retains the heat well and stays comfortable in between burns. In essence I try to use the house as my heat battery. My first few years I would load it up and it idled a lot, since starting the new routine no creosote to speak of. Storage would be great , but I don't have the space for tanks (boiler is in the basement) and can't justify the cost. So I trade labor (2 fires a day) for convience of storage. Bruce
  14. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    I'm doing pretty much the same thing, at least on the warmer days. We've had lows down around 25 the last few nights, highs of about 35. At those temperatures, the boiler is idling only about half the time at night. So I've had a fire going for two days now. But it's sunny and on its way up to 47 today, so the fire is on its way out. For the next few days I'll probably light it in the evening and let it go out the next morning, after everyone's had their showers.

    How do you let the fire go out? I find that I have to have at least 4 good size sticks in the firebox in order to have a productive fire. Once it gets down to two sticks and some coals, it stops gasifying and the temperature slowly drops. I'd like to somehow bring everything up to 180 and then have the fire go out instantly, but by the time everything's burned up the system is down to about 130. And 3-4 hour burns don't seem to work for me. It takes a couple hours just to consume the last two sticks. Sometimes I just shut everything off and push the last two sticks off the nozzle. It seems wasteful to me to leave the blower going for so long.

    Last year I was working out of the house (I freelance) most days, and it was just easier to let it idle than it was to try and get the fire out before work.
  15. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Dry wood will burn out good, right to ash - even two sticks at a time.
    Fred61 likes this.
  16. airlina

    airlina Member

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    Mine works the same way, if I am burning for for 4 hours the last hour its not gasifying. I didn't want the pump and blower running after the fire was out so I installed a cheapo tet 612 controller(from ebay) that monitors my flue temp and turns the blower and pump off when the flue temp gets below whatever i set it at. that way if I am not around to manually shut it down it is automatic after the fire goes out.
  17. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    What does the fire look like at that point in time? Big chunks, pile of coals, charred splits with no bed of coals? please describe.
  18. airlina

    airlina Member

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    During the start of the last hour basically a bed of coals with an occassional charred split. This will all burn down to just ash at the end of the burn . Without the fuel to gasify of course the boiler water temps start to fall. I have a good feel for how much wood to add to bring my house up to temp without much idling. I set my go to temp of water to 170 degrees (on the primary boiler controller). Gotta go load right now as a matter of fact.
  19. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like your wood is dry enough since you're getting a bed of coals. If your wood was not dry enough your coal bed would burn away from beneath the logs. My experience has lead me to believe that the unit is gassing when I was down to a bed of coals but it was just invisible gas however you may be proving me incorrect if you say your temperature is dropping. That has not been my experience but I have such a low heat demand that it doesn't take much output to keep the boiler temperatures up. Are you burning softwood?
  20. airlina

    airlina Member

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    I burn anything and everything when it comes to woodtypes. I live on 160 acres and there is always blowdowns or deadfalls to dispose of , so instead of dragging them off into the woods to rot, I cut them up for fuel whether they are pine, elm, aspen, cherry, maple or whatever. They all work to keep us warm. During the dead of winter, I try to use mostly hardwoods or I will mix hardwoods with a few pine splits.
  21. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    I'm not poo-pooing any wood as fuel. If you have it, burn it. I was asking because different woods behave differently. Pine, for instance does not have good coaling qualities and will burn from start to finish without establishing a bed of coals. Different species of wood will give you a different result as to how the load of wood behaves.
  22. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    Answering my own question: Well, I was wrong; something *was* different from last year.

    The problem turned out to be the door gasket. I replaced the gasket over the summer. In the past I've used silicone over the gasket to get a good seal. In fact I siliconed the gasket the first season I used the boiler, and this summer was the first time I've changed the gasket, so it's almost always had a silicone seal. I decided this time to skip the silicone, and it's been working okay, but the door has been sticking. Last week it stuck enough to pull the gasket out a little. I stuffed it back in, and then we had a couple of days too warm to run the boiler, so I let everything cool down and smeared a thin layer of silicone over the gasket.

    This solved the problem of the door sticking, which is what I had hoped for. Strangely, though, this also seems to have solved the problem of the damper sticking.

    Anyone want to venture a guess as to why? I'm thinking it has something to do with minute amounts of air being able to leak in around the un-siliconed gasket, although I would have guessed it's not that tight anyway. My impression was that there's always a little air coming in through the (not running) fan.
  23. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    You should have been getting smoke coming out into the room if your door gasket was leaking. I've run two different boilers one with induced draft and one with forced draft and they both smoked if the gasket leaked.
  24. kcbenson

    kcbenson Member

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    I have had problems with leaking smoke (that's why I siliconed the gasket originally). And there are always circumstances when it leaks (sometimes it chuffs when it first goes into idle, especially if the wood is split really small, or if the firebox is really full). But it wasn't leaking anymore last week than it is today (that is to say, not at all, unless it chuffs). When it chuffs smoke comes out everywhere, not just the door.

    The damper is clearly better today than it was last week before I siliconed the gasket. Maybe the silicone changes the chemistry in the firebox slightly. It's only two days old; it's probably not finished curing. Maybe it's off-gassing into the firebox, making the creosote less sticky. Or maybe there's some other explanation. It doesn't seem like it could be enough (I probably used about a teaspoon total) to really affect anything, chemistry-wise.
  25. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    I doubt that the silicone sealant is acting as a catalyst. High temperature silicon sealant is acedic acid based as opposed to solvent or alcohol based RTV silicone rubber.

    You shouldn't get smoke coming out your door when the unit puffs. Perhaps you should adjust it at the hinges.

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