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Furnace Question

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by wg_bent, Apr 19, 2006.

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  1. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Well, not hearth related, but the hearth stuff is getting sort of slow this time of year, so....

    My hot water flow is getting pretty slow. I have a oil furnace with a coil, and pretty hard water. (Yes I have a softener) I suspect the coil is getting pretty gummed up with mineral deposits. It's a Burnham circa 1987. Anyone know if the coil can be replaced or cleaned? The cleaning guy says it's running very clean and efficient, and I'd only gain 2-3% efficiency with a new one, so not worth replacing unless absolutely necessary.

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    If it's limed up, an acid like citric, acetic or (more intense) muriatic acid can be introduced during the heating cycle. Usually this is done by a pro. Tankless coils are replaceable and that is what's done most of the time from what I remember. Burnham is a good brand so parts should be available.

    http://www.boilersupplies.com/tankheaters/burnham.html
  3. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Warren at this time if the coil is clogged the treatment will probably finish the coil.
    Yes the coil can be replaced, But do a little research first. There is a mixing valve where it can be adjusted. Deposits can build in the valve creating a restricted water flow. They periodically need replacement. Replace that first. Here is a tip you can do. Go around the home and remove and clean all fawcetts heads and screens including the shower heads There is also screens at the hose connections to your cloths washer that need cleaning

    The worst part of replacing the coil is snapping off the nuts and bolts. What I did is soak them with a bolt loostening product call PB Blast. I soaked them for weeks, hoping things loosened up
  4. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Before spending money on a new coil, you might want check out solar hot water - between New York and federal tax rebates, you can get half the cost back - it's an incredible incentive as long as you can stay out of AMT. If you're already looking at a few hundred to replace a coil, you might find this is a nice option.

    We are looking at going to solar HW with electric backup so we can shut down the oil furnace for the summer. The how water use and standby losses all summer are actually the biggest hit to our oil bill now that we have 80-90% of our home heat coming off wood and don't seem to be trivial in cost. I will probably keep the tankless coil to help supplement solar in the winter, but even that may not be cost effective the way oil prices are going - if it died, I might just go to pure solar/electric for DHW.

    -Colin
  5. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    That reminds me there are other options. An Aqua bost or boiler buddy, run off zone from the boiler
    You could eliminate the tankless coil all together. Electric solar combined with tankless is also an option.
    Word of caution, the chemicles of flushing the system could work but there are risk involved. If the coil wall
    have thinned over the period of time, the chemicles can eat threw what is left, and You could have quite a
    water clean up mess. I know I replace my mixing valve about every 3 years as crud builds up . and it restricts
    the flow and heat of hot water. One also could achieve the same results eliminating the mixing valve with 2 ball valves.

    You would have to experiment with their settings to mix cold and hot water but you would never have to replace them again.
  6. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Uhhh... Mixing valve? Gotta go look at it again.

    What does a Solar panel set up cost? I have 6 people living in the house.
  7. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    From what I've read, you could be looking at something in the $4-$6K system for a complete installed freeze-protected system that would deliver 100% of hot water needs during warm half of the year and about 50% of your needs the other half. For a family of 6, maybe more in the $5-$6K end of that.

    $4K seems to be about the minimum for a freeze protected system and should serve a family of 4. I determined that we are spending $500/year on hot water now with only two of us in the house - a lot of waste keeping the furnace boiler going all summer. That is even with high efficiency dishwasher and front-load washing machines. So, if I pay a net of $2K out of pocket and cut my annual hot water bill to $125/year for some winter supplemental use, I'm saving $375/month for the $2K investment. That has a pretty nice payback period of about 6 years thanks to the tax incentives that get the cost down to $2K.

    It's impressive how much heat modern systems collect even in the dead of winter - Dutchess County (where I think you live?) has relatively sunny winters and is considered a good region for solar applications to get solid bang for the buck.

    -Colin
  8. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    PS - if you are already looking at a $500 tankless coil replacement and instead allocate that towards solar, then of course it becomes even more cost effective since your incremental cost would be even less over what you're already looking at having to spend either way.

    As soon as I get a quote, I'll share the info with the forum - most of us on here like alternative energy in all its forms :)

    -Colin
  9. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Warren follow the piping for hot water leaving the boiler eventually you will come to a valve with number settings on it, that's the mixing valve. plus the temperature setting for your hot water. If it has never been replaced it probably needs to be.
    It is my approach to eliminate the simple possibilities first, fawcet screens and mixing valve. If you want I will get a cost for a common replacement
  10. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    You might have to look further. In my last house, virtually 100% of the hot water piping from the boiler to the faucets was clogged with some kind of acid goo. It was like a yellow vaseline!

    So look beyond just the coil.
  11. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Nope, no such animal on my furnace output anywhere.
  12. zogboy

    zogboy New Member

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    You could try to pull the coil and heat it red hot with a torch. While it is still red hot spray it with cold water. The will cause the metal to expand and shrink, in turn the lime deposits will crack and crumble. At that point you can flush out the coil.
    This method works well with both stainless steel and copper.
    good luck

    do check out all your spouts and screens and valves
  13. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Warren provide the model number and BTU output of your current boiler so I can look it up.
    There has to be a mixing valve somewhere. With the introduction of anti scald laws some were factory set and
    not manually operated. If your boiler is cast iron the life expectancy is between 30 and 50 years
  14. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    It's a vt-13a-t. How do I tell what the BTU's are? Where the hot water coil is there is also some sort of a Honeywell controller that is clearly attached to the coil, but not inline with the output. The plate that the coil is attached to holds this controller in the center. I'd guess that is the temp sensor. but nothing that appears to mix any cold water.
  15. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    warren that is your aquastat. water temp controller. if it's 2 inches wide it controls your hot water temp. if it's 6 inches wide it controls your min boiler temp and your max boiler temp and the differential from those other two settings. if not mistaken the only real way to tell how many btu's your making is to see what size nozzle is on your burner.(you would have to take out the nozzle and look on the side of it to see how many gallons a hour it sprays)
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Post a picture of the setup. That may help with identifing parts.
  17. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Warren I will talk to some burner poeple I know. Plus visit the supply house to get more info on your boiler
    Did the manufactures tag get damaged? Couple of other questions, I believe there are more than one hot water
    coil available for your burner. Chances are you have the norm 3gpms coil there are 3.5 and 3.75 coils that Burnhan has used
    I will also try to get a cost of a coil and replacement labor for your refference. Actually I have to get educated about repair cost as I have done all my own repairs. I do not know what others charge.
  18. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    We just moved from a house with high mineral municipal water and no softener to a house with a well and a softener. There are no deposits now on the shower, tub, etc. I've gotta believe that if you're running softened water internal deposit buildup is not the problem. Then again, I'm no expert for sure. :)
  19. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Hmmm. Like you all said, more investigation needed, cause there are other factors.

    1. We're not really good about keeping up on the salt in the softener
    2. We had a serious iron bacteria problem (now solved) that used to cause some pretty nasty build up in the toilets.
    3. We've owned the house for 3.5 years...It's 19 years old, so who knows what happened before we came along.
  20. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    During the first two years we owned our home, we had problems with rust-colored particulate forming in the hot water lines and clogging faucets/showerheads. This was not observed where we only used cold water. My understanding was this was a type of precipitate buildling up as water sat in the tankless hot water coil and it flaked off periodically from the flow. I also had a whole-house water filter installed at this time - that coupled with it not being in the cold water suggested to me that it had to do with the high furnace temperatures and not something incoming. I later read this is rather common. Had I left this alone, it would have likely rendered our hot water system useless in a few years.

    I then installed a $350 GE water softener from Home Depot - the precipitate diminished steadily over the following month and we found much better hot water capacity with time - it seemed to actually reverse some of the damage. Makes sense since almost anything is soluble in water at 160-180 degrees given enough time...

    The softener was worth every penny, and I am very careful to maintain salt based on this result. Also, keep in mind a really old softener may no longer be functioning properly - may want to get your current faucet water tested to see how it's doing. We also found that we use a fraction of the dishwasher and washing machine soap that we used to use and no more spots on the glass shower.

    -Colin
  21. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Hey Colin,

    I apologize to Warren for hijacking his thread, but you seem to know a lot more about the NY/US tax credits for solar hot water installations than I've been able to find out.

    I'm seriously considering putting in a solar system this summer. As I understand it, the credits are for a two-year period, 2006 and 2007. If I decide to buy the solar panels from a commercial mfg. but want to do the installation and design the rest of the system myself, can I deduct the cost of off-the-shelf parts like circ pumps, aquastats, copper pipe, a tank, etc. as well? I know the credits only apply to hardware, but does it matter where you buy it?

    Can I just save the receipts from Home Depot or Ebay for that stuff? Do I need to draw up a project description and parts list to prove that the parts I'm buying are for the solar system and not some other plumbing project?

    Also, I'm in Central NYS (near Utica) where I've heard people say there's not enough sun to do solar, but I don't think that's true. We get plenty of sunny days. Anyway, I'm thinking evacuated tubes might be better than a flat plate collectors, since the former will apparently work well even without direct sunlight. Any thoughts on that?
  22. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Hijack away (but I did start a thread on this already) since I'm interested in this too.
  23. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Here is a link for the NYS program:

    http://www.dsireusa.org/library/inc...Code=NY03F&state=NY&CurrentPageID=1&RE=1&EE=0

    and here is a link for the Federal program:

    http://www.dsireusa.org/library/inc...US37F&State=Federal&currentpageid=1&ee=1&re=1

    There is no explicit statement that you need to have it installed, although I think I will go that route because you are effectively paying half price for the installation too when you go through this program. I would check with one of the online vendors you may be looking to buy from to make sure you won't have any issues.

    I have read the same thing regarding the evacuated collectors - more up front investment, but smaller area taken up on your roof and possibly more effective in cloudier climates. We might go that route because my wife is concerned about how giant flat plate collectors may look.

    One other thing that might be useful is the following website:

    http://www.bp.com/solarsavings.do?categoryId=3050527

    According to this site, "The sunlight intensity in your area is rated: Very Good" Of course keep in mind they want to sell you a solar system - might be good to pick a really cloudy area and make sure they don't say that for everything :)

    I think for electric systems, you have to be a lot more cautious because even with generous NYS tax credits, it is still very hard to make an economically driven argument - sun load is critical. Everything I've read says you get way more bang for the buck by first doing solar hot water. In some parts of the world this is standard practice in every home even without tax incentives. Solar electric on the other hand is not yet at that point.

    If anyone on here does get a system installed, tell us about it! I'm still trying to finish up my woodshed :)

    -Colin
  24. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    The update:

    Yesterday we had the coil cleaned. Ahhhh...Lots of hot water. The gumk from the iron bacteria was amazing, and promptly clogged my kitchen faucet. So, I go to take the faucet apart, (an 18 year old delta), and broke the supply lines cause THEY WERE THE ONLY THING HOLDING IT IN PLACE!!!!. "Oh shucks" I said. well, maybe not, the word did start with "S" and another with "F" and a few not invented yet. So, in the amazing department, I went to the BORG and came home with a new faucet and a few other new parts to install a new faucet, supply lines, adapters for the drinking water, etc... and it all went together without a single hitch. Happy happy happy!!!!
  25. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    In my situation my burner is 30 years old Utica and I'm at the cross roads of what to do. Milk it for some more time or replace it
    I'm on a well and know I have minerals in my water, though it tested well. I am pondering a clean out option but worry if I do so the process will develope holes if my coil is worn thin in places. Congrate it worked out well for you
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