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Harmon HydroFlex 60 Pellet Boiler?

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by velvetfoot, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Falmouth, Michigan
    Welcome aboard ovendoctor. :)

    How are ashes handled in the Harmon and how often do you have to clean the flue tubes?

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  2. ovendoctor

    ovendoctor New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2013
    Messages:
    4
    Loc:
    Keweenaw of Michigan
    there is a ash can that slides into the unit,,,have run about 1/2 ton threw it so far and finally filled the ash can
    at the present time we are using it to heat domestic water
    the cleaning job is going to happen this week and ill let ya know how it goes
    Tech support was awesome in trouble shooting a start up issue over the phone
    the unit was getting too much fuel and smoking up the neighborhood real bad,reset the dip switches on the circuit board and fixed the issue
    the nearest service tech is 2 hrs away in Marquette
    other than that its been a great unit
    now the fun part is sorting out the wiring for the ''zone valves'' Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
    inherited the mess wen we bought the place,3 zones and wires every were [sloppy]
    what do you expect for Da Keweenaw LOL

    Doc.
  3. ovendoctor

    ovendoctor New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2013
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    Loc:
    Keweenaw of Michigan
    welp the cleaning job was not too bad[need to purchase a 2''boiler tube brush]
    also a retractable drop lite would be wonderfull
    the secondary tubes are going to be a pain due to having to remove the heat deflectors in the burn chamber to axcess the ash trap
    figure ill get a smaller dia. vacuum hose and go at it from the top
    was just able to get the 2'' hose down the tubes this time to clean the ash traps
    over all its still easier than the Breckwells [parlor stove and Big E]
    had the fuel feed on 1 today for the DHW and it worked great
    now for the sad news
    I read the thread for running lines under ground [what a nightmare]
    I really would like to run a line set out to the green house/sauna house
    its about 30' but the water table is at ground level here
    so Iz really have to do some heavy thinking on this one
    the whole idea is to have it all automated so there is less work growing food in the winter up here
    its great picking fresh produce Christmas day with 6' of snow on the ground

    more updates to come

    Doc.:cool:
  4. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2012
    Messages:
    61
    Loc:
    Vermont
    Wecome Doc,

    Thanks for sharing your HF60 experiences !

    I only burn about 3T /yr in my HF60, but I never remove the Heat Sheilds except at the end of the Heating Season when I do a complete tear down and cleaning. Durring the season, I just vac the Top Heat Exchanger and work the tubulators, empty ash pan. About 1-3 times a season I clean the fan and check\clean the exaust pipe.

    BTW: The really high BTU Hardwood pellets seem to have a smoky startup, unless you limit the amount of pellets in the burn pot during ignition (IE: your DIP switch change). I'm still running with the factor DIP Sw settings, using ALL Tubulators, but I like to mix some Softwood Pellets in with my Hdw Pellets, which seems to give me a really nice mix of fast clean ignition, and high heat output (which is very hard to measure ==> I can only observe the boiler temps during varrious load situations) .

    VT_Bubba
  5. thro9

    thro9 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2013
    Messages:
    14
    I have a Hydroflex 60 and have been using it for the past year. My issue is with cleaning the heat exchange. Seems ash always gets distributed through my basement. I'm using an ash vacuum which definitely cuts down on the ash circulation but I'm still seeing a considerable amount. Any suggestions or tips on the weekly cleaning?

    I also noticed a gooey discharge coming from just above the burnpot door after getting it up and running for the first time this season. I've asked my Harman dealer about it, he said he would send my picture to Harman but I still haven't heard back from him (they are the most reliable).

    Thanks!
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2013
  6. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Vermont
    Hello Thro9,

    My HF60 certainly creates some dust and ash in my utility room during cleaning, but nothing like cleaning my woodstove in the adjacent room, which is much worse. Using an Ash Vac should give you the best results, but beyond that, I have no suggestions on cleanings. I have been burning my HF60 about 3-4wks now in 2013, but have not clean it yet. I have really good pellets this year (very low ash).

    I also noticed a gooey discharge on my HF60 frame around the lower ash door the first year I fired it, just like you are describing above. I had assumed I was pulling to much heat from the boiler and it was condensing creosote (from the boiler operating below 140F, which is bad for the boiler....). However, at the end of the first year, I cleaned it all off the door frame (the gooey stuff is really hard to get cleaned off) and have not seen it return. I now wonder if it was clue from the door seal material ? I now make sure my pellet circulator shuts-off at Temp <= 140F, and I'm not seeing that goo on the door frame anymore. So, was it creosote or clue from the factory that first year ? I do not know for sure.

    Thanks for sharing your HF60 experiences !

    VT_Bubba
  7. thro9

    thro9 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2013
    Messages:
    14

    Bubba, just recently my hydroflex quit working. I got 5 blinks as an error message which states the igniter failed to fire after 40 mins. Long story short, I had the dealer tech come out and they said a failed sensor (just below the exhaust) and a bad igniter. The feeder would not feed any pellets (possibly because of the bad sensor), so I don't really know how they determined the igniter is also bad. I'm starting to wonder if I have a lemon. Your thoughts?
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
  8. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Vermont
    Thro9,

    Thanks for sharing your system failure with the forum ! That's how we all learn.

    I'm hoping this was an early life electrical\electronic fail, and your HF60 starts performing better for you now. When I read this forum, you are the first HF60 owner to report a real HF60 equipment failure (at least that I have read). The exhaust sensor seems to be a common fail on the PB105's. A neighbor has just gone through his 4th Burn-Pot on his PB105, and the Harman tech just installed a new Ceramic Burn Pot and igniter system on that PB105 3wks ago (I have not seen it yet).

    I was expecting the Igniter to be a routine replacement item on my HF60. I was going to order a replacement igniter, just to have at the house, but my Harman Dealer said the HF60 pressure ignition rarely fails and he keeps them right in stock anyway, so I never did buy a replacement. I would expect these igniters to last 2-5yrs, but that is just my guess.

    I'm 3yrs of low to moderate use and have not had a HF60 failure. My HF60 ignites maybe 5-20 times a day and is still running fine. My only advice is to keep the burn-pot scrapped and the exhaust chamber clean. A clean boiler is a happy boiler.

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences !

    VT_Bubba
  9. BMW 22

    BMW 22 New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2013
    Messages:
    3
    Loc:
    Maine
    Hey All,
    I haven't had a chance to read through all the posts on here yet, but I have a HydroFlex 60 and have been using it for the past 2+ years. I've had great luck with it and am actually removing it from my current home (which I'm selling) and am going to be installing it in my new one.

    I am happy to share any information/experiences I've had if anyone has questions about the boiler. I absolutely love it!
    Have saved a ton of money on heating costs and it still utilizes my baseboards as well as providing the heat for the domestic hot water.
  10. thro9

    thro9 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2013
    Messages:
    14
    Sounds like you guys are fortunate with your Harman. Unfortunately, I haven't been as lucky. It was installed last December and I've had nothing but problems. I had numerous issues with the installation by the Harman dealer's plumber. He had to bring 2 separate plumbers out, the last one to correct issues with the original plumber. It wasn't heating my home when the temperature would drop under 40. I had to use my oil boiler to heat the house (which is the reason why I bought the Harman). In all, this has cost me around 10k and I'm still using oil. Last week, the boiler stopped working all together. The dealer came out on Wednesday and told me of 3 new problems. The exhaust sensor is damaged. The tech checked it and found scratches on it. These scratches were the result of their tech coming out earlier this year and scraping it with a screw driver to get some ash off of it. This recent tech told me that was a big no-no and is likely the reason it failed. He also said the igniter is bad and will need to be replaced. Lastly, the gasket that goes around the burnpot door has come loose at the bottom (this is the 2nd one).

    The dealer said he has ordered the parts from Harman but still hasn't received it. It'd be nice if they kept them on hand like VT Bubba's dealer. Regardless, I don't know why it would take this long even if they had to order them. This week has been cold and the oil has been running and will continue to run until the Harman issues are resolved.

    I've got 3 tons of pellets that are taking up space in my garage. This has been unbelievably frustrating for me and my family and it seems as if I'm at the mercy of this Harman dealer. I've asked them for a direct contact for Harman but they won't give me anything and say they are waiting on Harman. I've kept up with the cleaning religously and don't know of anything I can do to make this any better.

    Maybe someone from Harman will see this post and be able to help.
  11. BMW 22

    BMW 22 New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2013
    Messages:
    3
    Loc:
    Maine
    Wow, that's rough. I bought mine in 2011 I think it was and had zero issues other than the switch to turn it on crapped out after the first week. I found a site that sold them and ordered 3 spares (they were cheap).
    I installed it with the help of a friend so the cost was just materials for that part. I NEVER get anywhere close to the temperature probe when cleaning it. I clean the inside, and then I remove the fan and take a small toothbrush sized wire brush to it to get the the gunk off. I also remove my pipe once a year and vacuum it out (it runs horizontally for about 4' so it gets some ash build up).

    My oil boiler does run once in a while, but since I installed my pellet boiler, I haven't dropped below 3/4 of a tank of oil (and this is the 3rd winter running it). It usually kicks on when both of my zones are calling for heat and have been, or if the shower is going while they are calling, just to ensure the boiler stays up to temp. but it has use barely any oil.

    I'm wondering if the newer versions of them are coming out with cheaper parts or something. I haven't had any of the issues described here (although some of yours were created by your install guys - which I would be throwing a fit about to them to get some sort of compensation).

    Good luck!
  12. thro9

    thro9 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2013
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    BMW 22, do you recall what was the cost of the install of your Harman? It seems you have a similar setup to mine with the oil backup. Thanks!
  13. BMW 22

    BMW 22 New Member

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    Loc:
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    I did the install myself with the help of a friend, so it was pretty cheap. Just the amount of copper needed to hook the two directly together, a pump to circulate the water between the two, some pipe for a vent (I have a dial flu chimney so I tied into that).
    You don't have to mess with the zones at all, just take 2 plugs out of the boiler (hopefully there are two ports not being used, one bottom and one top) and hook the feed to the pellet boiler in from the bottom port and dump the hot water back into the oil boiler at a higher port.

    We did have to put a fuse thing over the top in case of a fire (same thing your oil boiler should have over it)

    This all make sense?
    Also I learned the hard way that the metal plates on the inside of the burn area come out and you need to remove them at least once a year (probably should be more) to clean out behind them. Guess I should've read the book closer, lol
  14. gpjandra

    gpjandra Member

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    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    5
    Loc:
    Green Bay,WI
    This will be our 3rd winter using the Hydroflex for primary heat and DHW. Burn about 2-3 ton/yr. Had to replace the exhaust fan but was under warranty. I burn clean pellets and clean it weekly. However it's more a pain than should be. It would be nice to be able to clean the boiler flues without taking off the top and getting ash all over. Also the those protector plates along each side of the burn pot are much to be desired trying to get out/ in to vacuum the ash out. It heats 3 zones, using thermostats to activate Taco controller for the circulators.

    I'm trying mixing soft and hardwood pellets this year to see if it will burn clean and continue to throw off the same amount of heat. Overall, I'd rate it a 4 out of 5 . Curious on the life span of this model.
  15. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2012
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Vermont


    Thro9,

    Did you ever get your HF60 running satisfactory again ? I can sure relate to your frustrations.
    We appreciate your sharing of problems and information !

    Thanks,
    VT_Bubba
  16. timberframe

    timberframe New Member

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    Dec 11, 2013
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    Loc:
    Mid Michigan
    I have five radiant floor heat zones that I would need to keep warm. We are currently burning 6 ton of pellets in two differnet stoves to keep that space warm. Will the Harman Hydroflex 60 be sufficiant? We do have a backup 60.000 BTU gas boiler that seems to be sufficiant when we run it to keep up with the five zones.
  17. thro9

    thro9 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2013
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    I've officially pulled the plug on the unit (literally). The dealer came back out and are still not able to resolve the issues. I've only been able to use it for about 2 weeks out of approx 2 months into this heating season. The rest of the time I've been waiting on the dealer to come out but they have been out 3 times now and replaced the ESP sensor but the unit failed about an hour later. The most recent time they came out they said the door on the back of the hopper was slightly open and that caused the unit to not come on. It came on only to turn off for good an hour later. I've never even come close to that door so I'm doubting that was really the cause. The door is completely shut now and the unit still won't come on. I've had it with the unit and dealing with this particular dealer. I've asked for a refund on the Harman and am waiting on a response from the dealer. I'd like to mention the name of the dealer here to warn others but I'd rather not go that route at this time.

    It's really a shame because I loved the idea of having this unit run properly and run on clean wood as opposed to oil. I guess it wasn't meant to be. I also wonder if it's not so much the unit itself but the dealers inability to diagnose these issues. I've never been able to contact anyone from Harman directly to see if they could diagnose any of the problems. The dealer has had over a year to get these issues resolved and I'm still left with a piece of metal that is just taking up space in my basement. I'd say I've been patient enough. I'll wait to hear the dealers response to my demand for a refund. If they don't honor this request, I'll be taking legal action.
  18. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

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    Loc:
    Vermont

    Wow - What a horror story !

    Given your description, I can't believe they didn't replace the control board. Thanks again for sharing your experiences. I hope you get satisfaction. Please consider posting again when this comes to a conclusion.
    Good Luck !
    VT_Bubba
  19. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

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    Loc:
    Vermont

    Hi Timberframe,

    I'm not very knowledgeable on how to size radiant loads and radiation. I was hoping one of the professionals on the forum would answer your question. It's not as simple as counting how many zones. If you can heat your space with a 60KBTU Gas Boiler, then you should be able to heat your space with a 60KBTU Oil, wood, or Pellet Boiler. The other thing to consider is domestic hot water, is that part of your heating load ? In summary, I see the HF60 as a 30-50KBTU boiler. If you have the physical space in your boiler room, the PB105 would certainly handle your load.

    VT_Bubba
  20. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

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    Loc:
    Vermont
    Today's Topic ==> HF60 Auto vs Manual Mode

    Background - When I installed my HF60, I connected the HF60 "Dump Zone relay" in parallel to my Zone1 thermostat (1st Floor BaseBoard Heating Loop). My thinking was, if the HF60 would ever go into "Over-Heat", for any reason, the "HF60 Dump Zone" would be activated and the Circulator on Zone1 would lower the boiler temp until the "Over-Heat" condition was removed. My dump zone rarely activates in Auto-Mode, but does activate occasionally for a few seconds, usually from an over-shoot when I'm burning Hardwood Pellets at a higher feed rate and no water is being circulated (With all Zones turned-off the boiler can over-shoot the Max Temp setting on the way up...). If you read my posts on this forum, you know that I have always run my HF60 in "Auto-Mode" and my HF60 may have 5-25 ignitions everyday. Note that I have never had any ignition problems on my HF60 !

    My Manual Mode Story - Last weekend was very cold here in VT (below zero). The house programmable thermostats were set for weekend heating of all zones at 70F and Grandma_Bubba was busy cleaning, doing laundry, baking Xmas Cookies, and running the dishwasher all day. VT_Bubba was hiding-out in the basement, cleaning the woodstove, hoping to avoid the GrandaMa_Bubba "Holiday-Honey-Do-List", when I noticed the HF60 thrashing On\Off with all of the various zone activity. This constant "Auto-Igniting" made me ponder if it might be better to run the HF60 in "Manual Mode", as many users do, just to avoid this constant short-cycling on the HF60 boiler. However, I didn't know if the "HF60 Dump Zone" would activate when the HF60 was in Manual Mode, as the Harman Manual is not very clear on those details. So, I switched to Manual Mode and watched the boiler operate under the various scenarios, it worked awesome ! In Manual Mode, when the HF60 rises to the "Max Temp" setting, instead of slowly shutting down, like in Auto-Mode, it just kept the fire idling by occasionally feeding a few pellets to keep the fire alive. With no water circulating, the HF60 will eventually drift into "Over-Heat" and activate my Zone1 Dump for a couple minutes, which brings the boiler temperature back down. So, I ran the HF60 for 2 days in manual mode and it worked very nicely ! I did consume noticeably more pellets during Manual Mode operation.

    In summary, I think "Manual Mode" would be the preferred operating mode, when it's really cold and for installations where the HF60 is a little under sized for the house. Running in Manual Mode keeps the boiler at "Max Temp" all the time and eliminates the long, slow recovery time when the HF60 must go through an Auto-Ignition Cycle. It's also better for the boiler in terms of minimizing low temperature operation, which can cause condensing in the boiler (creosote) and additional thermal stress to the steel.

    For my installation, I will continue to use "Auto-Mode" most of the winter, only because my basement wood stove still provides much of the homes base-load heating and I save significant pellets using the programmable set-back thermostats during the weekdays and at night. I also like that HF60 is frequently shut-down, which makes it easy for me to scrape the burn-pot 1-2 times a day, without ever touching the controls. In manual mode, there is always a fire going.

    However, Manual Mode may be the way to go for those folks that have large heating needs and no other heating source in the house. I still have 1.5 yrs of firewood available, but once that is consumed, I see more pellets and "Manual Mode" as my future solution.

    Hoping this helps others get the most out of their HF60's.....

    VT_Bubba
  21. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    6,321
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    Hi again. Well, my wife has said that she wants the 2nd floor warmer than it was last year, so we've been running the oil boiler some. A small pellet boiler could be ideal to heat the 2nd floor, and maybe the basement too if I ever make it habitable.

    On another note, doesn't a dump zone have to operate in the event of a power failure? Oh wait, it's a pellet boiler so maybe it's not that much of a factor?
  22. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Falmouth, Michigan
    From the service work we have encountered I have to say the Harmon/Heatilator/PB series is kind of spotty. Let's just say they seem to be more of a "hands on" unit than I would like to be responsible for.
    Not bashing them at all. They just are what they are which is a product conceived and designed to serve as a back up, not primary heat source IMHO.
  23. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

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    Hi Velvetfoot, long time no chat....

    Yes, pellet boilers do not necessarily require "Dump Zones", because the fire can be controlled and stops during a power outage. However, IMHO any wood boiler better have a "Dump Zone" or it's a unsafe install. The HF60 Dump-Zone is nice, because the control relay is built right into the unit and works in both Auto and Manual Mode (Harman made it real easy and No Cost at install time).

    BTW - I have basically been using my HF60 to heat my 2nd floor and DHW (and the whole house, when I'm to lazy to throw another log on the wood stove...). However, after using the boiler for a few years now, and my recent experiment with using manual mode, I'm pretty convinced this little boiler can heat my whole house when my wood pile is gone. I will always have and burn some wood, but the HF60 will be doing 98% of my heating when this wood pile is gone.

    Happy Holidays to all !

    VT_Bubba
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
  24. VT_Bubba

    VT_Bubba Member

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    Hi Heaterman,

    I basically agree with you. They are what they are....

    I have had a pretty good experience with my HF60, but would love a more rugged Pellet Boiler if the economics made sense. The problem was, when I looked at my current home constraints (very limited space available in my boiler room and NO Chimney), there was NO Other Boiler available that matched the economics\business case of the HF60 given my circumstances. I also have a very good, fully automatic back-up system, so ultimate reliability was not as important for my pellet boiler.

    I challenge you to name another Pellet Boiler that can easily be Installed by a DIY'er using direct vent (no Chimney), can heat 1900sqft in below zero weather at > 90% efficiency, and can be fully paid for in 4 Heating Seasons !

    Because that is why I purchased the HF60 and have still NOT found a better solution given those constraints and objectives. I know some have had there share of problems, but I have no regrets so far.

    VT_Bubba
  25. Doeboy611

    Doeboy611 New Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2013
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    6
    Loc:
    Maine
    We are having some problems with our Hydroflex 60. This is the first season that we have used our Hydroflex 60 and up until about a week ago we were pretty pleased with its performance. Since then the unit has not been able to provide the output needed to bring our home up to heat and maintain the temperature despite the temperature in the 30's and low 40's. The last load of pellets (Energex) were a major step down from the Okanagan pellets we had used previously - creating a lot of ash noticed during cleanings.

    The unit starts up and appears to be running normally, but when put under a single zone load the boiler temps hover in the 140-150 degree area (min setting = 160, max =180) eventually falling to 140 when the oil fired boiler comes on to boost temps and shuts down after it has done its job. The pellet circulator continues to work and temps fall back to the 140-150 level and eventually needs another boost from the oil burner. Even though there is a demand for more heat the pellet feed does not respond to the demand by supplying more pellets to the firepot. Instead the feed falters - it does come on, but not enough for a high sustained burn in an attempt to meet the btu demand.

    I suspect that the temp sensor may be gunked up or has outright failed. Has anyone else had a problem like this? Our latest supply of pellets are Cubex - because of the existing problem it's difficult to judge their performance.

    Thanks, Will

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