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My Varm project...

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by maple1, Sep 20, 2012.

  1. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    After way too many way too late nights in a row in the basement, I'm taking this one off - so time for an update.

    This has been a heavily fueled project:

    [​IMG]

    New boiler got wheeled into place, after fixing my backwards ash pan issue:

    [​IMG]

    There are gaps in this, once again I didn't stop to take many pictures. So jumping ahead a bit, a few pictures of things half done as they stand now. Boiler front all plumbed up:

    [​IMG]

    I put two tridicators in the boiler outlet & inlet. Just because, mainly. Also tranferred the fresh supply components from the old boiler. Closer here - but a dark pic:

    [​IMG]

    Stepping back a bit, there's the stack exit, new dump zone above and existing supply line above that, new hot water tank, electric boiler, aquastat & sidearm in background, and monometer upper right:

    [​IMG]

    Stepping around the back a bit to the other side (tight busy space back there), looking down is the return line. Zones on left, sidearm next, then connections to storage thru wye to boiler:

    [​IMG]

    Stepping further, looking up at top piping. Existing return manifold at top, diagonaling down to retun at bottom, supply header with aquastat, top of electric boiler & its circulator. Some of that looks confusing with parts blocked by piping:

    [​IMG]

    Then just to the left, above & behind the electric boiler, is the sidearm. One of few things I have any insulation on so far:

    [​IMG]

    I used 1" pipe for supply & return on that, as that is what the sidearm fittings were. But I should have reduced it - I think too much my flow goes through that when the load circ is on. For now I've got the ball valve partly closed. I'll be adding more controls to that circuit eventually, the zone valve isn't wired up. Right now it's just heating the hot water tank by convection when hot water isn't being used. And I had to partly close the valve on the domestic through line, because with it open all the way the water was short circuiting through the sidearm to the tap when hot water was being used & not getting hot enough.

    Here's another shot of the expansion tank all hooked up after some expansion action:

    [​IMG]

    Have to thank whoever it was here that tried the fishing float thing. Not sure how long it will last, but I like it. I also have discovered another issue here. The load circ is just the other side of the wall, and when it first starts, it seems to do most of it's pulling from the tube. The float drops like a rock out of sight. I might have pulled a little air once before I noticed what was going on. I will pull apart the top of the tube & choke that down from 3/4 to something real small to try to stop that from happening.

    On the expansion topic, I hooked up my old one to the top of the boiler, same as it was before - since it was right there anyway. I added enough parts to give another sight guage, a pressure guage for it, and a way to add air:

    [​IMG]

    (Not a good pic).

    Here's the flue temp thermostat that starts the loading unit. Found these neat little LED indicator lights at the supplier, this one is on when there is electricty being sent to the loading unit:

    [​IMG]

    I've got it set to turn the loader on at a bit over 100c exhaust temp. The power for it though also runs through a 6006 aquastat (in fresh feed parts pic above with cover off), so if the exhaust temp thermo fails for some reason, it will also start the loader when top of boiler water gets to 185f or so. That was Deans suggestion and it works great.

    This kept me up way past midnight a couple nights ago and was the biggest pain so far. It's on the supply return line (so no heat to rads). After several unsuccessful attempts at stopping the leak in the very rear of the bottom of the 45 fitting by soldering upside down in place, and one quick grab for the garden hose, I ended up cutting a big section of piping out with the recip saw after discovering I had an extra coupling & union left over. I should have done that right off the bat. Took 2 minutes to resolder the leak once I had it out in the open & right side up, and a half hour or so to get the piping back in place & re-do the joints:

    [​IMG]

    So the big event was Monday night - first fire. It took me a while to get a fire going - the refractory was way wet (it looked dry but I couldn't believe the water that was running out the bottom once the heat got going), everything was ice cold, and it was fairly warm out. There was no draft registering on the manometer at first. And I was in a hurry so didn't build it very good. But after a half hour of coaxing, and getting the draft to build, we had this:

    [​IMG]

    I stared at that for a good hour. SInce then it has been a lot better. I was just down an hour ago to do another short burn (they've all been small loads so far), and took this sequence. Did a quick clean & unearthed not many hot coals (last fire was a small one this morning). Split some fine stuff, layer with paper then more wood. By the time I got that done, the paper was smoking:

    [​IMG]

    Note no smoke outside. It all gets sucked in through the bypass and right up the chimney. No smoke in the house and no smoke hood required. I looove that. Manometer was about 0.05 before fire.

    Then I grabbed the torch, and aimed:

    [​IMG]

    Before I hit the trigger, flames erupted in the fire box, so I put the torch down & snapped another quick pic:

    [​IMG]

    Closed the door and waited 5 minutes while I took some of these pics to close the bypass & start the gassing.

    So, I've been heating the house and DHW by gassification since Monday, and the only electricity being used is what is running the 15-58 on low on the loading unit when burning. Even then I think it would all circulate by convection without that running - say in a power outage. With the tanks hot in the basement and uninsulated, the first floor & basement maintains. If I need heat in the second floor, I just manually open a couple of zone valves for a while. Next thing to do is get all my controls wired up so thermostats will be functioning again, and backup is functional. And put more wood in if we can get a few days with no rain (that's the priority). So far, I am marvelling at the way this thing works and burns all by natural draft. I think I had 0.05 on the manometer in the first gassing pic above. The unit specs for 0.08, I'm usually around 0.1 - my chimney is about 30ft. tall. I put the barometric damper back in mainly for winds. I think it would gas quite good enough on less draft than spec'd.

    That took way longer than I thought it would...

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  2. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

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    "That took way longer than I thought it would". Do you mean your post or your install?;) sorry....

    Seriously, congrats! Nice job.

    Noah
  3. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Maple, looks like you have it working well! Looks like quite a tinker toy though.... :p LOL, if I hadn't got the deal I did on the Attack, I'd have bought a Varm, great boiler! Great simple Sweedish design.

    TS
  4. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    'Way longer' - that would be the post and the install. There were long periods of nothing done over the spring & summer, and it's been a one-man job. Still a lot to do, hopefully the tinker-toy effect will be not as bad once things are all tied in & cleaned up. I didn't have to put all that fresh feed stuff on there, but it was put there on the original install for code & insurance reasons 17 years ago - so I just moved it over. I keep it valved off except if the pressure gets low, then I just open a valve to slowly add more water. Definitely adds to the clutter though. I also just transferred all 3 aquastats from the old unit, since I wanted to maintain all their functions for backup control etc.. That leaves me with one extra 24v circuit that was used for the old draft door motor, but I plan to use that to power the sidearm zone valve. I could likely have done with less stuff there too.

    One thing I did find out after the fact, is about the built-in cooling coil. You can see the copper stubs of it with red caps on, in the pic that shows the manometer. It will not be used, since I have good dump zone protection. I think it could be used as a DHW pre-heating coil, if you wanted. It is not a big coil, and not very big pipe (Euro copper '1/2' is slightly smaller than our '1/2'), but you could plumb at least part of your DHW tank feed (might not be enough flow through that small pipe if you sent it all through there) to go through that and help with heating DHW. Still in the back of my mind, but for now I have something else planned for that. There will be more updating sometime later.
  5. wardk

    wardk Member

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    Great job Maple,a lot of work but worth it when you feel the heat. Like you I did it myself and it seems like I was at boiler trade school for the last few months,and by doing it yourself you can look at it and understand what every piece does because you installed it.There are two terms Laddomat and Manometer , can you explain?
  6. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Maple, mine has (all Euro solid fuel boilers) the overheat coil as well. Mine is steel though :( so I'm just gonna leave it with the factory plastic caps. It is actually illegal to use the cool down coil as means of boiling protection in North America, by code we all need to have a pressure relief valve for boiling protection. You can still use the coil though as long as you have a relief valve which you do. Just thinking out loud here. I like the Varm very much, and I like zone valves over circulators as well.

    TS
  7. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I might have used the wrong word in a place or two along the way, or switched them around by accident - along with the odd typo. Manometer is the Dwyer unit mounted up high in one of the pics - it's attached to the flue pipe & tells how much draft there is. Laddomat is the loading unit - you can partly see it in the rear low piping picture. It encorporates a Grundfos 15-58 3 speed circulator and internal thermostat. It moves the hot water from the boiler to storage and system while maintaining a constant 135-140° degree boiler return temperature. It also opens to allow gravity flow on power outage, and when the circ shuts off at end of burn also allows gravity feed to get the last of the heat from the dying fire to storage. It's kind of an expensive unit, but it works very good. I haven't moved it off the low speed setting. It has 3 thermometers on it for bypass, in from storage, and out to boiler return - but with where it ended up in my plumbing I have to go around back to see them.
  8. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    On the coil, the unit comes with a pressure relief valve too. I'm pretty sure using both is standard procedure in Europe, and just the coil is a no-no everywhere. The manual specs the valve. I just found it interesting that there's a potential DHW coil built in but it's not designed as that therefore not mentioned as that - quite a potential side benefit.
  9. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Mine says that it is un-lawful to use the coil for anything other than boiler cool down. In Europe of course, here in the States we can do what we want with it! Great translation from the Polish I know.

    TS
  10. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    Very happy for you Maple! Looks like quite the setup.

    How is the natural draft working out for you so far? Drawing OK even with the "mild" temps? I would have loved to have gone that route, I just didnt have enough chimney to pull it off....
  11. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Natural draft is great - I love the fact this thing burns the way it does with no electricity. The only issue for me is it is kind of slow to get going if the boiler hasn't burned for a while (like a day) and it and the chimney have cooled down. It would be better if I had better fire starting material & more of it. It's kind of like getting a big turbo charger spooled up - when cold it takes a few minutes after you stomp on the gas until the boost hits. I'm calling it my turbo-lag. Tonight, I hadn't burned since last night and I waited about 15 minutes from the time I lit the fire until I closed the bypass. It fires right up again no problem though if there are coals left and your chimney is still warm - just unearth the coals and rake them into a couple of small piles, load with splits, close the door, close the bypass and you're gassing. I'm still experimenting - tonight I took one turb out and saw an improvement in stack temps. They went up a bit and with that my draft went up - to about 0.13". I will likely take Deans suggestion & cut them in half and fine tune with half sections - more for winter less for summer. I think this thing would work with less chimney than the lit specs, given the drafts I'm seeing and how it's working now.
  12. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    Good to know! It probably burns sorta like some of the EPA wood stoves to start. I can understand its harder to get it spooled up without that induction fan going, but its awesome that it works so well. Have you made any adjustments to the little window as far as your secondary air at all?
  13. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I've played with it, but to tell the truth when I did I couldn't tell that it made much of a difference. Maybe it will once I get the burn tuned in otherwise. I think maybe I'll try it with another turb out next. The burns so far are peaking with a stack temp of around 200c, and recommended is 250-300. I still haven't loaded it full though - but it's been a few days since I heard anybody complain about a chilly house. I peeked in the baro damper opening this morning - clean as a whistle in there. With my old one, the baro would be starting to stick from creosote by now. So I'm way beyond happy with how it's burning. I think yours has the same window - what are your experiences with it?
  14. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    I dont seem to get much difference either, but I did open it up quite a bit half way through last season. I found that things didnt look different, but it changed the color the ash I was pulling out of the Hx tubes. Also helped my temps out quite a bit.

    But I typically never see above 200 C in my burns, usually around 175 C. I dont think I can get it higher than that without dirty tubes.
  15. BoilerBob

    BoilerBob Member

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    Congrats on your install Maple, sounds like it is working just fine for you.
    I think after 2 fires you can officially retire "Benjamin" from your profile, you must be proud of doing the install yourself.
    I am happy for you, I think you've wanted a gasser for a while now.
  16. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Yes, I should update the profile maybe - I'll put that on the to do list.

    I've gotten lazy the last couple of days & taken a break from the boiler work, now that I'm getting heat from it when I want. I've got a couple of fittings to re-do that are seeping a bit when the boiler cools down, then it'll be wire in all the controls. I've decided not to insulate the tanks until the spring, the heat goes right to the basement & first floor anyway, and the wood I'm putting in needs some drying - it's been rained on for over a month, steady. What part of the province are you in? Maybe we're neighbours...
  17. scooby074

    scooby074 Feeling the Heat

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    Nice Install!

    Do we have a Varmebaronen dealer in the province?
  18. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    No we don't. That was kind of a disappointment in this whole thing too - there are next to no gassifying dealers of any kind around here. There is a place selling Empyres in the Valley, and I saw Econoburns advertised in NB somewhere. Mine came via Smokeless Heat in Pennsylvania (they do all of North America I think). I could see where maybe service could be a bit difficult on both ends for future service related stuff just because of the distance and border in between, but all is very good so far with that in getting me up & going. Freight + duty + taxes totalled around $1500 total, and it only took a week or so for it to show up at my driveway. Watch the exchange rates though - they're a lot better now than when I bought. And if you or someone you know is planning a trip down that way with a truck or trailer, you'd save money on the freight.
  19. scooby074

    scooby074 Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks Maple. Im gathering info for a future home build. And I agree the lack of gassification dealers is real disappointing. About the only guy I found was the man selling Walltherms in CB. Walltherms are nice, but I dont believe they will be large enough.

    If its not a Kerr or Wood Doctor nobody knows anything about it. Discouraging.

    Who is carrying the Empyres?
  20. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Hearth Energy in Berwick.

    http://www.hearthenergy.com/furnace.html

    I called them way back in the Spring - I don't think they had been carrying them that long. He was quite enthusiastic on them though.

    It's twice as disappointing when you consider all the furnace/boiler manufacturers we have here locally - three within an hour of me. But they're all stuck in the stone ages with wood burning tech. Too bad Kerr didn't keep the Jetstream going.
  21. scooby074

    scooby074 Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks, Ill keep that for future reference. Just read about the Kerr Jetstream due to your post. That was quite a unit! Seems like it was way ahead of its time. Kerr isnt the same company since it was bought out though.

    As a side note, Ive been reading up on Wood Doctor... quite a mess there!
  22. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Another quick update.

    Took a few pics during a burn a couple nights ago. Cell phone pic doesn't do the flame justice, I'll have to work on my lighting:

    [​IMG]

    The barometer was here:

    [​IMG]

    And the barometric damper was here:

    [​IMG]

    It was a windy evening, usually the draft is about 0.12 and the baro is closed.

    The stack temps were here:

    [​IMG]

    That's about 220c on the dial, only about 100c on the magnetic guage.

    I'm trying some experimenting. This thing has a big gassing hole to the secondary chamber, I've found quite a few times that a pile of coals had fallen through and had the hole pretty well blocked. They eventually burned away, but right now I'm trying a fireplace grate with the legs cut off:

    [​IMG]

    I've burned three times with it and I think it helps. I don't have to worry about paper etc. falling into the secondary chamber when building a fire, and the coals stay right up under the wood (for the most part). Not sure how long it will last, but we'll see.

    Due to the mild temps, it's been hot as double hockey sticks on the first floor when I've been burning to raise my tank temps. I decided I had to throw some insulation around the tanks or else just stop burning - and I couldn't do that.

    [​IMG]

    Just some 1 1/2in foam board with fiberglass laid in top. The other end is still open. It helped but I need more, it was all I had on hand - so this is very temporary. Stopped at the local building supply place today looking for a bundle of Roxul but they don't carry it. Next time I'm a bit further away I'll get some.

    Also decided I had to hook up one of my thermometers even if it was a Red Greene job for now:

    [​IMG]

    The ones I got take two probes, and alternate the display between them every 4 seconds. I stuck probes on the middle of the two tanks for now - think it's showing the top one here. I'm still looking for a decent box to mount them in.

    Right now it's finally below freezing outside (-2c). But it's still 26c in the living room, 25c in the far end of the first floor and 23c upstairs. Haven't had anything going through the rads for two weeks now. I just can't stop burning this thing though - not sure why. ==c
  23. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I forgot to add: when I first started burning I had burning paint smell. I thought it was from the BBQ paint I used to touch up the smoke pipe I re-used. I was just burning to maintain some heat in the tanks, and the smell went away. Last couple of days I've been driving my tanks temps up - and the smell is back, maybe even worse. So I'm pretty sure it's the rust paint I used to paint my tanks with. Keeping the basement door shut & the Venmar on, so it's mostly just in the area around the basement door. But it stinks.

    And another add: I've got all my turbs pulled out right now, but will be putting at least one back as it gets a bit colder. I still don't think I've seen 250c on the thermometer, but it also isn't right at the pipe exit - likely a foot & a half away from it.
  24. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    Now that you are up and running Maple you could put some of the Turbs back in I would think. I only pulled mine out until I got some heat in my tanks, since I didnt want the colder temps to start condensing in my chimney. Did your Varm come with two long turbs and three short ones? Or is that a different configuration? I dont usually ever top over 200C with all of my turbs in, at least with clean tubes.
  25. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Mine came with just 3 long ones. I have 3 long up tubes & 3 short ones - is yours the same? And yes I'll likely put at least one turb back in on the next burn. It did OK with two out when it was quite warm out, I just pulled the third to see what that would do. I think it might have given me a bit faster start - but I'm also trying to be more careful & deliberate in my cold start fire building. It's also easier to clean the tubes with no turbs there - playing to some laziness. :rolleyes:

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