If survival is not enough reason to offer clean liquid heat, then what will it take?

No one enjoys or embraces change. It would be great if we could continue to buy and sell carbon-based fuel for the next few decades and not have to learn a new pitch to share with our customers, but the status quo is clearly not sustainable. Even the most resistant to change out there knows that—so, now what? What does this new roadmap of energy and policy being championed by our political leaders mean to us?

Our lives have been turned upside down since March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us into seclusion and redirected how we would lead our families and manage our respective businesses and careers. During this time, we learned to adapt. We figured out that many of us could be disciplined and productive working from a sliver of space in our homes. The result was momentum toward a more collaborative world order that rested on an increasingly connected global economy, one facilitated by the internet and lower-cost communication, advances in transportation and the flows of capital, skills, knowledge and people.

However, the momentum is now going in reverse. Our spaces have become more splintered, with a resurgence of distrust, competition for power and the rising politics of suspicion and resentment. Globalization doesn’t go away, but becomes more fragmented and contentious, adding to the troubles along the already-troubled path to economic growth and the need to achieve net zero, yesterday.

Before COVID-19 struck, the global economy was on fire. Anticipated growth within the next five years was well on its way to $100 trillion. Unfortunately, the world economy is now tormented by lives thrown into disarray. Small businesses everywhere are fighting for survival. Companies of all sizes are under severe pressure. Less-developed countries and developing nations have become even further impoverished, with hope evaporating for many, while even the most advanced governments are stretched to the extreme by debt and a huge loss of economic output.

The U.S. appears to be decades away from resuming normalcy, and that is assuming vaccines now in play are effective and sustainable. If not, then resuming business as usual will continue to be challenged by hesitancy and suspicion.

An alternate reality
Behaviors have been altered by this continuing COVID-19 challenge, and whether this psychological phenomenon can ever return to its previous state remains to be seen. At least for a time, there will be apprehension to return to large groups, which has already forced me to cancel not one but three XBX educational seminars sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board and its stakeholders.

This fear of gathering in close quarters is not just affecting people’s willingness to attend events, either. Carpooling and public transportation may go the way of the dinosaur, at least in the near term, while people revert to driving their own cars fueled by gasoline or coal-powered electricity subsidized with a small percent of wind or solar energy.

Work need not be concentrated in offices anymore either, as many companies have demonstrated that they can operate successfully from home offices, equipped with all the amenities of the office plus a couch for deep thinking after lunch, barking dogs or a wandering child here or there in the background. Time spent commuting can be reduced. Business meetings can be replaced, successfully or otherwise, with virtual connection. This impact will last long after lockdowns are in our rearview mirrors.

Oil’s role will be challenged by these shifts in behavior, work and daily life. It will, however, take a few years, post-vaccine, to understand the lasting impact on business and leisure travel, education, commuting and whether the office of the future will remain at home. If so, it will be important for people to work from home, but not live at work.

The current environment in which we all exist will continue to impact politics at home and abroad as well. The divide between nations will become more apparent and working together will become more difficult with a fractured global community.

A sign of these challenges can be seen every day with the widely publicized supply chain shortages. As we go to press, container ships anchored offshore, loaded high with products that are not on store shelves, are getting more and more backed up by the hour due to the lack of human resources needed to offload them and restore the supply chain.

Energy—particularly oil, gas and renewables—will continue to be an integral part of the new geopolitics in life after COVID-19, as hard as post-COVID life might be to even think of right now. While many of my industry associates struggle with keeping ahead of those legislators who are interested in electrifying everything, I choose to continue protecting market share by revealing the benefits of low-carbon liquid fuels.

Whether the discussion centers on biodiesel, renewable diesel or products yet-to-be determined, we still have an opportunity to protect and defend our businesses with these cleaner liquid fuels. If you wish to discuss electricity, hydrogen, wind and solar, then you can—but those “clean” fuels are not being hauled in your shiny aluminum tank wagons that navigate your local delivery markets. What you haul is liquid, and honestly it should be Bioheat® fuel, not generic No. 2 home heating oil.

Will the COVID-19 crisis accelerate an energy transition or slow it? Many argue for a Green recovery, with regional and national governments’ spending focused on climate-friendly infrastructure and greater support for renewables, electric vehicles and air source heat pumps. For local governments, Green and cleaner air become their rationale for restricting diesel trucks and gasoline vehicles.

The expeditious time frame to “Green up” remains unrealistic in many cases. The sheer scale of the energy infrastructure that supports our supply and demand, the need for reliability, the demand for renewables and the disruptions and conflicts that would result from speed is being disregarded in many ways.

As PADD I (Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts I—a.k.a. the U.S. East Coast) is the epicenter of home heating supply and distribution, we can intelligently evaluate available assets and make progressive improvements to prepare for the ever-increasing volume of low-carbon fuel, which will be a prerequisite for our collective survival. However, to achieve our goals, we need to accelerate communications with our customers and advise them why we are now delivering Bioheat® fuel.

At the same time, we need to press our local legislators with our story that no conversions to heat pumps are required to achieve the goals they are seeking. We have a product and are well in motion to incrementally increase volumes over the next decade to be defined, not just by ourselves but by others, as clean-fuel merchants.

All the confusion and unrest that we manage every day, individually and collectively, is what it is, as the saying goes. We seem to always figure out how to turn challenges into opportunities; however, this decade-plus long transition to low-carbon Bioheat® fuel simply is perplexing to me. What’s it going to take to convince the fence-sitters to move their trucks into the clean-heat rack position and abandon the carbon-intensive liquid, which is the same fossil-derived energy source that is pushing politicians to accelerate their efforts to jettison homeowners into installing air source heat pumps? To go one step further, do your customers really deserve to be purchasing a fuel that is on the government’s most- wanted list? I think not.

It can’t be said enough, if you are one of those naysayers who simply refuses to adopt this industry transition to clean liquid heat, you’re hurting yourself, your family, your customers and, if it matters, the industry at large. Whatever your per-gallon profit margin selling carbon-based fuels is today, multiply it by “0” because that’s what you’ll be making on a gallon of carbon that is being regulated out of business. Give Bioheat® fuel a chance and increase the odds that you will be keeping people warm for decades to come. ICM

Do it Once. Do it Right!

“Do it Once. Do it Right.” is one of my favorite sayings from our friends at Taco Comfort Solutions. It’s something all technicians and installers try to live up to when servicing customers. I’d like to share some information on how troubleshooting and installing Taco’s 007e and 0018e has been made easier with Taco’s innovative technology. See Figure 1.

Taco’s 007e Circulator
Let’s start with the circulators and questions you might have, such as what do the solid and flashing lights mean? The Taco 007e® is a variable speed, high-efficiency wet rotor circulator with an ECM motor. For installations, the 007e performance is ideal for hydronic zoning to reduce velocity noise or banging of zone valves closing against high head pressure circulators. Remember when we used to remove one of the springs from an older style zone valve to prevent this from happening? No need to worry about that anymore because the 007e has an additional Green Mode operating curve that will self-adjust automatically. How cool is that? This circulator also reduces power consumption by up to 85% compared to equivalent AC permanent split capacitor circulators.

Here’s how it works—the circulator will start in what’s called the normal mode; you’ll see the Orange LED during this mode. After seven days of constant running, the 007e will adjust its curve to Low Proportional Pressure curve for power optimization. This is the Green Mode; the Green LED will be displayed during this period. The 007e will reset to the original normal mode curve every time it cycles OFF. See Figure 2.

Now for some troubleshooting; if you encounter a White LED flashing on the circulator, this is an indication that the system is air-bound and you’ll need to purge the system. Believe it or not, this circulator is capable of attempting to self-purge itself. Here’s how—if the circulator becomes air-bound, it drops itself down to seven watts of power, and then quickly jumps up 42 watts, in most case this will burp the air out of the circulator and hopefully get caught and removed by your air eliminator in the system. If you encounter a solid Red LED, this indicates that there’s a blocked rotor and the circulator was not able to dislodge whatever is causing the blockage.

If anything impedes the flow of the impeller, the circulator recognizes this and will go to its flashing Red & White mode, drops itself down to its lowest power, then returns to full power, and proceeds to spin the impeller forward-and-backwards to cause a vibration that attempts to dislodge the blockage. Once the blockage is dislodged, the circulator will resume its normal operation. If it’s not able to dislodge the blockage, the circulator makes 100 attempts to restart (that process lasts approximately 15 minutes). Every restart is signaled by a short White flash of the LED light. If the locking is not removed through the automatic release process after 100 attempts to restart the circulator, it goes into standby and the LED remains a solid Red.

In this case, follow the manual procedure: during any attempt, the Red LED light keeps blinking; after that the circulator tries again to start. If the locking is not removed through the automatic release process (the warning light returns to Red), perform these manual steps to unlock the circulator:

1. Disconnect power to the circulator.
2. Close both isolating valves and allow cooling. If there are no isolation valves, drain the system so that the fluid level is beneath that of the circulator. This would also be a good time to consider installing isolation valves.
3. Loosen the four motor bolts and remove the motor from casing. Carefully pull the rotor/impeller from the motor.
4. Remove impurities and deposits from the impeller and casing. Then reinsert the rotor/impeller into the motor, restore the power and check to see that impeller is rotating freely.

If the circulator still doesn’t run it will need to be replaced.

Taco’s 0018e Circulator
The Taco 0018e circulator is awesome; it features Bluetooth technology and is a versatile, variable speed, high-efficiency wet rotor circulator with an ECM motor. It’s ideal for closed loop hydronic heating, open loop or domestic water applications. If you download the Taco 0018e Mobile App, you can see and control real-time system performance, as well as run system operation and validation reports, including performance diagnostics and history. You’ll know the most efficient setting based on real-time feedback and alleviate the problems of over-pumping.
You can now design systems with precision. See Figure 3.

Once you’ve downloaded the App to your device (phone or iPad), you can adjust the performance curves with accuracy. For a panel radiator with this circulator’s variable speed capabilities, you can set it up for a proportional pressure mode, so the circulator maintains a proportional pressure differential as the heating load increases or decreases. Your selection options here are Medium and High. See Figure 4.

A system with zone valves can be placed in the constant pressure mode. In this mode, the circulator will maintain a constant pressure differential in the system as the heating load increases or decreases. Once again, your selection options here will also be Medium and High. See Figure 5 for the equivalent 00 model at each setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a system zone circulator can be placed in the fixed speed mode, where the circulator will be infinitely adjustable and operate between its minimum and maximum speed. This allows you to control the circulator’s flow rate to precisely match the design load conditions. See Figure 6 for the equivalent 00 model at each variable speed setting.

Note: As far as the troubleshooting goes with this circulator, all steps pertaining to the 007e as relates to the Red & White lights applies to this circulator as well.

Service Education Circulator Troubleshooting Circulators These are just two of the many circulators available and happen to be favorites of mine. There are many others, both in type and brand, and choosing the right circulator is something many—including myself—have not taken into consideration over the years. Guilty as charged. Let’s be honest—how many of us believed for years that the Taco 007e was the right circulator for just about any scenario? Just because it worked and was heating the home doesn’t mean it was the right application, nor was it likely providing the optimum performance and comfort that our customers deserved. This is why it’s important to size a circulator using the chart provided by the circulator manufacturers. See Figure 7. ICM

Alan Mercurio is the Lead Technical Trainer & Assistant Director at PPATEC, a division of the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association. He can be reached by email: [email protected]; phone: 717-939-1781
ext. 101 or on PPATEC’s Facebook Page.

As a manufacturer of whole-house humidifiers, we often get calls from home owners asking: How do I get more humidity out of my humidifier or Which setting offers more humidity? Numerous factors contribute to humidity levels in a home.

First, it’s important to know that every humidifier manufactured is designed for a finite, maximum humidity output. The humidifier that is initially selected for installation should be properly sized by a qualified technician, who will consider:

• The square feet of the home
• Ceiling height
• Number of fireplaces
• Age of home
• Type of widows
• Type of insulation
• Amount of woodwork and wooden items (artwork, musical instruments) in the home
• Future plans for home additions or installation of wood floors
• Climate at the given location

It is important to note that installing an evaporative or fan-powered humidifier with the hot water supply produces approximately 20% higher humidity output. If there is a manual humidistat, turn the dial towards the higher number for more humidity. With an automatic humidistat (with an outdoor sensor installed), select the desired percent humidity level and the humidity level will be maintained. Set to a higher number for more humidity.

To help with humidity, be sure to replace the Vapor Pad (also called humidifier pad, humidifier filter, water panel or water filter) at the start of each heating season. The homeowner may need to replace it more often depending on the water supply’s sediment content or the humidifier’s run time. Do not wash/clean the pad—it will remove the coating that holds water to the pad and the humidifier will produce zero humidity as a result.

It is important to perform other maintenance tasks while replacing the Vapor Pad, such as checking water lines and the solenoid valve for clogs, and removing scale build-up from the distributor trough and drain pan.

There are also a few simple things that can be forgotten, so be sure to check that:

• There is power to the unit (plugged in and turned on)
• The water supply is turned on
• The humidistat is set to the humidity level desired
• The damper is turned to “open” or “winter”
• The Vapor Pad is new/not clogged
• The solenoid valve is not blocked (it allows water to run to the humidifier)
• The temperature is correct—colder air cannot hold as much moisture as warmer air
• The furnace run time and plenum temperature support the humidity output needed

Has the home been remodeled since after the installation of the humidifier? Has the homeowner added on a room or installed hardwood floors or a new fireplace? These may increase the demand for humidity from the humidifier, and you just may need to replace the unit with a higher output humidifier. Another culprit could be water pressure. Has the water pressure changed in the home for some reason? Perhaps the water line is not fully open?

As you can see, there are numerous considerations in selecting the humidifier for a home. Understanding them prior to selection will set up the homeowner and technician for a positive humidifier experience. ICM

Mother Nature has a collection of “rules” that govern how things work in this world—“High pressure goes to low pressure,” “Whatever goes up must come down,” “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” and probably her most famous if you are in the heating industry, “Heat goes to cold!” If you were to ask someone where does heat go? he/she would say heat rises. That’s not necessarily correct, since hot air rises, but heat goes to cold, always. Mother Nature hates an imbalance and, when it exists, she does everything in her power to equalize or balance it.

When your heating system delivers warmth to your house, it eventually leaves through the windows, roof and siding. Why does the heat leave? There is an imbalance between the temperature inside the house and the temperature outside. Heat goes to cold…always! The same thing happens in the Summertime. When it is very hot outside and your house is cooler inside, the heat outside wants to go to the cooler indoor temperature.

How do we typically make the indoor cooler? Most people would say the air conditioner, which is true, but how eludes most people. We use an air conditioning system that removes heat from the indoors and sends it outside. That’s because you can’t make cold. To create a cooler atmosphere, you have to remove the heat, which is the basis of refrigeration. Whenever you feel cold, it is caused by a lack of heat.

If we know that heat wants to go to cold, why do we call it a heat pump? Why do we have to pump the heat when heat normally goes to cold? The reason is a heat pump, rather than creating heat, simply moves it. For example, it can move thermal energy from the cooler outdoor air into the warmer inside room. It pushes heat in a direction counter to its normal flow (cold to hot rather than hot to cold), hence the word pump. A boiler or furnace burns fossil fuel to create heat. A heat pump simply uses an existing source of renewable energy, like the heat that exists in outdoor air. This can lead to a significantly reduced consumption of energy while providing comfort.

Refrigeration
The definition of Refrigeration is the process in which work is done to move heat from one location to another. It may also be defined as lowering the temperature of an enclosed space by removing heat from that space and transferring it elsewhere.

Refrigeration uses refrigerant to move heat as it changes state. Nowadays, the refrigerant of choice is R410A. Its properties allow the refrigerant to be a liquid well below freezing. It has a freezing point at -155°C which is equivalent to -247°F. It has a boiling point of -48.5°C which is equivalent to -55°F. As a liquid refrigerant, it absorbs heat when it evaporates into a vapor. When the refrigerant is in its vapor state, it contains all that energy; when it condenses back into a liquid, it rejects or expels the heat it originally absorbed.

You have to remember that phase change contains a significant amount of energy. For example, when you change the temperature of one pound of water from 211°F to 212°F, it requires one British Thermal Unit (BTU). When you change one pound of 212°F water to 212°F vapor (steam), it takes 970 BTUs that you “get back” when the vapor condenses back to its liquid state.

A heat pump incorporates the vapor-compression refrigeration cycle to move heat either away from an area where it’s not wanted (cooling) or moves heat into a space that needs it (heating). Because of the unique operating properties of R410A, an Air-to-Water or Air-to-Air heat pump has the ability to take heat (energy) out of the air that we would consider very cold but to the refrigerant considers it warm. This applies to the heating mode of the heat pump.

The cooling operation is identical to that of an air conditioner. Again, using refrigerant and the vapor-compression cycle, the cold liquid refrigerant flows through the air conditioning coil as room air blows across it. The heat from the air goes to the cold liquid refrigerant, thus leaving the air cooler than it was when it entered the coil. The absorbed heat “flashed” the cold liquid refrigerant into cool vapor, which will then flow outside to the compressor. There, the cool vapor will be compressed (by the compressor) into a high temperature vapor. The vapor, which is storing a lot of energy (the heat we wanted to remove from the home), is pumped through a condensing coil where a fan is blowing outside air across it. This outdoor air is hot, relative to our comfort, but much cooler than the temperature of the hot vapor refrigerant. The hot vapor transfers its energy/heat to the outside air, thus completing the process of removing heat from the house and condensing it back into a warm liquid.

Reversing valve
Heat pumps have the unique ability to either heat or cool a home through a simple device called a reversing valve. There are four key components required:
• evaporator
• condensor
• compressor
• expansion valve

By adding the reversing valve, the heat pump can “reverse” the role of these key components and provide heating or cooling from the same compressor.

Another term unique to heat pumps is Coefficient of Performance (COP). This term expresses how efficient the heat pump is with regards to the amount of energy it uses relative to the amount of energy it delivers. The term was developed to compare heat pump systems according to their energy efficiency. A higher value implies a higher efficiency between the pump’s consumption of energy and its output. Design conditions will impact the heat pump’s COP performance factor. Air-to-Air and Air-to-Water heat pumps have in the past been negatively impacted in their performance by colder outdoor temperatures. However, with advances in compressor technology, specifically invertor-driven compressors, these Air-to-Air and Air-to-Water heat pumps are capable of extracting energy (heat) from very cold outdoor temperatures and transferring the energy to the heating medium (water or air).

Contact me with any questions or comments at [email protected]; 800-423-7187 or follow me on Twitter at @Ask_Gcarey. ICM

Part 1 (From Indoor Comfort, Jul/Aug 2021)

As we look into some more modern systems and what specific problems they present, it is important to understand the basic fundamentals associated with these systems. Most of our modern heating equipment in some way or another involves electronics, and with the electronics, the use of flame rectification as a safety and flame-proving system.
It does not matter if it is a forced warm air furnace or a forced hot water boiler—the same basic system is used to perform safe ignition followed by consistent operation throughout the entire call for heat.
There are, however, different ways the system is applied from intermittent pilot application to direct spark ignition and including hot surface ignition. Each has its own distinct advantages and problems. In this next series, we’ll attempt to resolve those burner problems related to these systems as well as offer corrections and diagnostics.
We will start with the basics and continue to operation, typical problems, diagnosis, troubleshooting procedures and hopefully a final solution to your particular problem. It’s easy to jump to conclusions with these systems and just change parts to hopefully solve the problem. That is, however, time consuming and costly.
I invite you to visit our new Facebook page Timmie’s Tips on Gas, it is located here. I look forward to seeing you there.
The Honeywell Smart Valve story
In this article, we are going to cover the Honeywell Smart Valve systems and discuss Generation I and Generation II. Generation I is obsolete, but controls from that series may still be in the field.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Smart Valve is the name Honeywell has given a unique ignition system developed in 1993. The Smart Valve combines all the best features of intermittent pilot ignition and hot surface ignition. It utilizes a pilot to light the main burner. It uses a glowing 24-Volt igniter to light the pilot light instead of a spark. There have been two Smart Valve systems. The first generation was manufactured from 1993–1997. Generation I included SV 9500, SV9501, 02 (0.5″ x 0.5″ pipe and 200,000 BTUs) and SV9600, SV9601, 02 (0.75″ x 0.75″ pipe and 415,000 BTUs). The new generation is still in production at the present time.
System controls & application
The SV9401/ SV9402/ SV9403, SV9501/ SV9502/SV9503 and SV9601/ SV9602 SmartValve System Controls combine gas flow control and electronic intermittent pilot sequencing functions into a single unit. This product family offers several different intermittent pilot sequences for a wide range of applications. See Table 2 for specific sequences available. The Q3450 or Q3480 intermittent pilot hardware provides low voltage ignition, flame sensor and pilot burner. This system is suitable for application in a wide range of gas-fired appliances including furnaces, rooftop furnaces, boilers, unit heaters, infrared heaters, space heaters, water heaters, decorative appliances and commercial cooking units. The specific application of the SmartValve System is the responsibility of the appliance manufacturer. See Table 3 for gas capacity and thread sizes.

The Tradeline SV9501 and SV9502 SmartValve models are replacement controls only for the SV9500, SV9501 and SV9502 models. Do not use these controls to replace other types of intermittent pilot or direct ignition controls. Do not use other controls to replace SmartValve models; the controls might fit, but the gas flow control functions might not be compatible with the appliance.
The Tradeline SV9602 SmartValve models are replacement controls only for the SV9500P, SV9501 P, SV9502P, SV9600P and SV9601 P models. The SV9602 is a prepurge, step-opening model.
1. Prepurge is normally 30 seconds.
2. The step-opening function provides a timed step outlet pressure at the start of each heating cycle to allow main burner ignition at reduced outlet pressure.
3. Reducer bushings are provided with the SV9602 and SV9601 models to adapt to smaller pipe sizes.
4. Ignition system controls with standard opening regulators (SV9501M, SV9502M and SV9601M) or slow opening regulators (SV9501 and SV9502H) can be converted between natural gas and liquefied petroleum (LP) gas.
5. Ignition system controls with step-opening regulators (P suffix) cannot be converted between gases.
Pilot burners
The first difference you see is the pilot burner—a standard Honeywell burner similar to the Q314. What is unique is the ignition source for the pilot:
• Small igniter in front of the pilot
• Powered by 24 Volts
• Glows red hot on a call for heat to light the pilot.
The igniter is made of silicon nitride, which is similar to the material used for hot surface igniters. It is, however, stronger and is well-protected by the pilot burner and ground strap so that it does not break unless it receives unusual abuse. The igniter has a positive coefficient with a relatively low resistance when cool. Therefore, the initial current flow makes it heat up very fast. The pilot usually lights in a few seconds. The flame rod is positioned to “prove” the pilot. Flame rectification is used to prove the pilot flame is burning. When the flame is detected the igniter is turned off. The main valve opens. Flame rectification provides fast, sensitive flame detection.
The igniter flame rod assembly is replaceable without having to replace the entire pilot, which is a great advantage over intermittent pilot systems. The original pilot and harness that plugs into the valve (Part No. Q3400A-1024) was an unshielded version. A shielded version (Part No. Q3400A-1115) was released due to problems with pinching the cables and getting a feed over of 24 Volts on the microamp wire. The blue wires on the harness are for 24 Volts to get the igniter to glow. The first versions had a clear wire, which was for the microamp signal back to the electronics on the valve. It was later changed to a black wire. The Generation I valves used 24 Volts as a superimposed signal and they had a minimum microamp signal of .3 microamps. Generation II uses 80 + Volts to create a minimum signal of 1.3 microamps.
The pilots are the Q3450 (Figure 1 and Figure 2), which is a lower input pilot, and the Q3480 (Figure 3) version, which has a little higher input.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Smart Valve is a dual valve (redundant) valve based on the VR8200 and VR8300 series of gas valves. The dual valve feature guards against the possibility of a passing gas valve. The capacity goes all the way up to 415 cubic feet per hour and has a 1″ W.C. pressure drop at 300 CFH.
Figure 5 shows that the first valve is a solenoid valve, which opens upward and is actually the PV (pilot valve). It is designed in such a way that if pressure in excess of 14″ W.C. is applied to the valve, it may not open. This is a safety feature to prevent over-pressure and possible damage to the diaphragm valve. The second valve is the servo valve (a diaphragm valve controlled by the servo regulator); it is typically the MV (main valve). The second servo valve will not be powered until the flame is proven by rectification.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There are various models available to manufacturers:
• Standard open (M model)
• Slow open (H model)
• Step open (P model)
The M and P models are rated for -40°F so they can be used on rooftop units or other unheated spaces. Replacements for many models can be found in the Honeywell Tradeline catalog or at customer.honeywell.com.
The valves can be used with natural or LP gases. The exception is the P model (step opening), which can’t be converted. There are conversion kits available:
• Natural to LP 393691
• LP to Natural 394588
There are also pilot orifices available for the Q3450 pilot:
• Natural BCR18 (.018)
• LP BBR 11 (.011)
Figure 6 illustrates the different opening characteristics of SmartValve Standard open valve:
• Fast open
• Reaches full rate in 1–2 seconds, depending on capacity
• On some applications, particularly low firing rates, there is little variation in regulation for a half second when it first turns on
Slow open valve
• Takes about 4–5 seconds to get fully open
• Under maximum capacity, it may even take 9–10 seconds to get fully open
• Again, for service, replace with slow open
Step open
• Valve opens to some fixed (non-adjustable) low rate for light-off, and after 10 seconds, goes to full rate
• For service work, replace with step opening only as there may be ignition problems with any other opening characteristic
• Equipment manufacturers chose step open (at higher cost) for a reason
• Usually used to make light-off smoother or to cure light-off problems

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When the Smart Valve receives a call for heat, there is an immediate surge of current due to the low resistance through the igniter (low cold resistance). Silicon nitride has a positive temperature coefficient. Line voltage igniters have a negative temperature coefficient. The hot resistance is high. There is a 22.5 Volt drop across the igniter and a 1.5 Volt drop across the pilot valve relay coil. The pilot valve relay coil is immediately energized, pulling in the pilot valve. On the original Generation I Smart Valve there was continuous trail for ignition—the igniter came on and stayed on until the system lit off. Generation II has continuous retry with a 90-second trial for ignition followed by a 5-minute wait period if ignition does not take place.
During the 90-second attempt at ignition, the igniter will be on for 30 seconds, then shut off for 25 seconds, then back on for 30 seconds. This is to keep from overheating the pilot relay and to extend the life of the igniter.
SV9501 (Generation II) features
The new features of Generation II of the Smart Valve include:
• Meeting new Z21.20 requirements
• Switch provides manual shutoff
• Soft element warm up
For direct replacement for the SV9500, or Generation I, you should be aware of the following:
• Same package shape and size
• Same Q3450 pilot burner
• Identical connectors (power connector on top)
The steps for the Call for Heat are as follows:
• Start check (three seconds)
• Trial for ignition (90 seconds)
• Pilot valve open
• HSI on (30 seconds)
• HSI off (25 seconds)
• HSI on (30 seconds)
• Pilot valve closed /HSI off
• Retry delay (five minutes)
• Trial for ignition
• Retry delay
• Cycle continues until pilot lights/proves or the call for heat ends.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
For theQ3450 & Q3480 pilots, the pilot igniter and flame rod assembly on both the Q3450 and the Q3480 need to be field replaced. Figure 7 gives an illustration for doing so. The directions are as follows:
Replace Igniter-Flame Rod Assembly
1. Turn off the furnace at the circuit breaker or fuse box.
2. Remove the spring clip, then the igniter-flame rod assembly from the pilot burner.
3. Disconnect the igniter-flame rod assembly keyed plug from the igniter connection on the SV9500/SV9600.
4. Remove the igniter-flame rod assembly from the furnace.
5. Install replacement igniter-flame rod assembly in the pilot burner and secure it with the spring clip.
6. Connect igniter-flame rod assembly keyed plug to igniter connection on the SV9500/SV9600.
7. Turn on power and set the thermostat to call for heat. The pilot should light and then the main burner should lights.
Note: Sensor tip must be in pilot flame.
Adjust Pilot Flame
The pilot flame should envelop approximately 3/8″ (10mm) of the sensor tip.
To adjust pilot flame:
1. Turn off system by setting thermostat below the temperature to call for heat.
2. Disconnect lead to MV terminal on SV9500/SV9600.
3. Light pilot by setting the thermostat to call for heat.
4. Remove pilot adjustment cover screw from gas control.
5. Turn inner pilot adjustment screw clockwise to decrease or counterclockwise to increase pilot flame.
6. Always replace pilot adjustment cover screw and tighten firmly after completing adjustment to assure proper operation.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Generation I system used a 24 Volt signal for rectification and had a minimum microamp signal of 0.3 microamps, which proved to be somewhat of a problem as it was too low and caused some nuisance shut-downs. Generation II went to a minimum voltage signal of 80+ Volts with a minimum microamp signal of 1.3 microamps. The flame-proving circuit is illustrated in Figure 8. A complete discussion on flame rectification is in our manual Electric Ignition Systems Volume I.
Figures 9, 10, 11 and 12 illustrate the physical differences between Generation I and II. The SV9500 with the on/off knob easily distinguishes it from the Generation II SV9501 and SV9502. In addition to the Generation II having a switch, the control harness connector was moved from the side to the top. Also shown is the use of the flange kit, which makes for ease when replacing a valve, as the 9/64″ hex screws and the valve can be easily removed by using a wrench to unmake the threaded portion of the valves.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 11 and Figure 12 also shows other typical characteristics of the valves, such as the pressure regulator adjustment, pilot outlet, inlet and outlet pressure taps for testing gas pressures with a manometer. The electrical connections visible on Generation II on top of the valve are the igniter connector and the control circuit connector.
We will continue with the Honeywell Smart Valve in the next issue of ICM.

Part 2 (From Indoor Comfort, Sep/Oct 2021)

Honeywell SmartValve
In this article, we continue our discussion of the Honeywell SmartValve. SmartValve is the name Honeywell gave a unique ignition system developed in 1993. The SmartValve combines all the best features of intermittent pilot ignition and hot surface ignition. It utilizes a pilot to light the main burner and a glowing 24-Volt igniter to light the pilot instead of a spark.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There have been two SmartValve systems. The first generation was manufactured from 1993–1997. The new generation is currently still in production. Generation I includes SV9500 and SV9501, 02 (1/2″ x 1/2″ pipe; 200,000 BTUs), as well as SV9600, SV9601, 02 (3/4″ x 3/4″ pipe; 415,000 BTUs).
Picking up where we left off in “The Gas Side—Honeywell Gas Valves: Part 1” in ICM’s July/August 2021 issue, here are directions for Standard Pressure Regulator (M Models), Slow Open (H Models, Step Open [P Models]):
1. Check the full rate manifold pressure listed on the appliance nameplate. The ignition system control outlet pressure must match the full rate pressure listed on the nameplate. Adjust the pressure if they do not match. Note: Slow opening (H models) and step opening (P models) may take several seconds to reach full flow rate. M models will take 2–3 seconds to reach full flow rate.
2. With the main burner On, check the ignition system control flow rate using the meter clocking method, or check the pressure using a manometer connected to the outlet pressure tap on the ignition system control.
3. Adjust the pressure regulator to match the appliance rating if necessary. See Table 2 and Table 3 for factory set nominal outlet pressure and adjustment range.
a. Remove the pressure regulator adjustment cap screw.
b. Using a screwdriver, turn the inner adjustment screw clockwise to increase or counter- clockwise to decrease gas pressure to the burner.
c. Replace the cap screw and tighten it firmly to prevent gas leakage.
4. If the desired outlet pressure or flow rate cannot be achieved by adjusting the ignition system control, check the ignition system control inlet pressure using a manometer at the ignition system control inlet pressure tap.
 

 
 
 
5. If the inlet pressure is in the factory-specified nominal range, as shown in Table 2 and Table 3, the ignition system control. Otherwise, take the necessary steps to provide proper gas pressure to the control. Note: If the burner firing rate is above the maximum capacity as shown in Table 3, it might not be possible to deliver the desired outlet pressure. This is an application issue, not a control failure. Take whatever steps are necessary to correct the situation.

 
Convertible (Natural/LP) Regulator for Mobile Home Applications
Ignition system controls with the suffix letter R are convertible pressure regulator models. They can be converted from natural gas to liquid propane (LP), or from LP to natural gas, without a conversion kit.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Before converting the ignition control from one gas to another, check the ignition control label and the appliance manufacturer rating plate to determine if the factory-set pressure regulator setting meets the appliance manifold requirements after conversion.
Note: Convertible pressure regulator models (suffix letter R) do not have field-adjustable regulators.
If the factory pressure regulator setting meets the appliance manifold requirement, convert the ignition control using the following procedure:
1. Remove the pressure regulator cap (see Figure 1).
2. Turn over the cap so the letters facing up are for the gas type the appliance uses—NAT for natural gas and LP for liquid propane gas.
3. Replace the cap and tighten firmly.
The original SmartValve had continuous trial for pilot ignition; the igniter and pilot gas would remain on indefinitely as illustrated in Figure 2.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SmartValve Generation II is a continuous retry version. It attempts to ignite with the igniter on and pilot gas flowing for 90 seconds. If there is not any ignition, then the igniter and pilot gas will shut down for five minutes. This is shown in Figure 3. The system will continue this sequence until ignition takes place or the power is shut off. There is not enough gas escaping during the try for ignition to reach the lower explosive limit of either natural or LP gases.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There is safety designed into the circuits, as the igniter is part of the valve control circuit. If the igniter is broken or otherwise electrically open, the valves cannot be opened; it is fail- safe.
Figure 4 is the sequence of operation for the older Generation I system. Depending on the version, there may be a different sequence of operation with Generation II as shown in Figure 5.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The SV9501 is the regular 90-second trial with the five-minute shutdown. The SV9502 will have the same trial times but will add prepurge at the beginning.
The SV9503 version is a single try with immediate hard lockout if ignition does not take place on the first try. This will require shutting the power off and reattempting another try for ignition. This system is used on many decorative fireplaces that use a switch on the wall to start the fireplace.
The sequence of operation illustrated in Figure 6 on a call for heat is that the pilot valve and igniter come on together when the thermostat calls for heat. The main burner opens only when the pilot is proved and remains open throughout the call for heat. The pilot burner also stays on during the entire call for heat. When the thermostat is satisfied, the pilot and main burner gas is shut off.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 7 is the sequence of operation for the Generation II SmartValves.

 
 
 
 
 
 
In the next series, we will explore SmartValve typical wiring. ICM


Timmie M. McElwain is President of Gas Appliance Service, which provides training for those servicing gas combustion equipment. He is a certified instructor and test proctor for the Propane Gas Association in their CETP program.

For better or worse, social media has had a profound and irreversible effect on society. Its impact has reached every business sector in the developed world. The skilled trades are no exception.
Some HVAC and plumbing manufacturers were quick to build a presence, although serious work-related adoption of social platforms by tradesmen and women took
some time. Now, however, the field has been populated by more than a few influencers who’ve differentiated themselves by regularly posting informational, interesting and humorous content that others in their trade can relate to.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TikTok and Instagram, specifically, have become peer-to-peer powerhouses, though the latter is far more widely used by tradespeople.
“Following other installers on Instagram has had a huge impact on my own work,” said Mike Flynn, Lead Installer & Job Supervisor for Service Professionals in northern New Jersey. “It pushed me to raise the quality of my work, especially from an aesthetic standpoint.
“You could plainly see the progress I made by comparing my own mechanical rooms to what I was seeing on social media,” continued Flynn. “I’ve probably learned the most on Instagram from Aaron Bond, Motty Pliers and Howard Mechanical, who I thanked in person at AHR [Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Expo] 2020. The list goes on and on.”
Flynn really began posting to Instagram in 2015, about the time he started running jobs on his own. He goes by @flynnstone1 on the photo- and video-sharing app and has almost 17,000 followers.
His Instagram is populated by advice, tips, tricks and the rare tool review. Flynn’s French Bulldog, Bruce, makes a cameo appearance from time to time, and is even depicted in the caricaturized stickers he had made of his likeness. These stickers—in which Flynn is pictured with a giant pipe wrench and full arm sleeve tattoo—are traded with manufacturers and other tradespeople who use Instagram. The stickers he receives in return get applied to the inside of his van cab, acting as a backdrop when he records videos from the driver’s seat, or on the bins in the back of the van.
“Of course, 17,000 followers are insignificant for a celebrity or a big, household name company, but for a tradesman, it’s a very solid number,” said Flynn. “I appreciate my followers as much as I enjoy seeing other accounts that I learn from. I didn’t start posting in order to gain a big following. It kind of happened by accident. Once I hit about 1,500 followers, I realized I might have something unique.”
Opportunities
Flynn’s Instagram account is characterized by super clean work and things he encounters on a daily basis. He also posts what he calls Sunday Boiler School. He started these informative videos about two years ago.
“Sunday Boiler School is a way for me to address what I see in the field being done incorrectly,” explained Flynn. “Steam boiler piping, circulator placement, venting, and circulator sizing—the latter being something I promote working on with a manufacturer if help is needed. I often contact Dave Holdorf, Eastern Region Residential Trainer at Taco Comfort Solutions, when I’m not certain of the pump curve I need.
“I know my lane within the Instagram community, and I do my best to stay in it,” added Flynn. “For that reason, I don’t offer advice on things I’m not really confident in or passionate about. I also don’t do many tool reviews.”
Having a robust social media presence has provided a number of opportunities for Flynn, whether to socialize, share information or improve his own skill set. He’s been a guest on a number of podcasts, including HVAC Know It All, Bold City Plumber’s “Bold Cast,” and HVAC Reefer Guy.
A photo that Flynn submitted to the Ridgid Tools brand in 2019—in which he’s stands atop a 550 MBH residential steam boiler with two pipe wrenches—earned him a ticket to the 2019 Ridgid Experience in Ohio.
On occasion, customers will recognize him from posts and ask, “Hey, you’re the Instagram guy, right?” However, this typically comes after a salesman has shown the customer Flynn’s Instagram.
“Service Professionals salesmen will sometimes use photos from my Instagram to show off our work to homeowners,” said Flynn. “So when they see the big guy with the beard and tats show up for the install, they sometimes draw the connection. Ultimately, my company likes that I’m active on social media. I’m careful not to let it interfere with my work.”

Ample education
As an employer, what’s better than a team member who actively seeks out his/her own training opportunities? That’s another advantage Flynn has found with social media. He’s always abreast of the training being offered by several different manufacturers.
Most recently, Flynn has attended Taco Comfort Solutions’ online training, which he learned about on Instagram. The company presents training materials in two live webinars.
The first is Taco Tuesday, a weekly webinar hosted each Tuesday at noon EST. The webinar alternates between residential and commercial topics. John Barba and Dave Holdorf host the residential courses while Rich Medairos and Brett Zerba host the commercial sessions.
Taco After Dark is presented weekly by John Barba, Dave Holdorf and Rick Mayo. The content from these webinars comes from Taco’s full-day hydronic courses, broken into one-hour segments.
“The webinars are great,” said Flynn. “I’ve met and learned from the hosts in the past. Dave Holdorf and John Barba are super smart and really funny.”
A recent Taco After Dark topic was whether to zone with circulators or zone valves, a topic that interested Flynn.
“My takeaway was that using valves or circulators is an entirely personal preference,” said Flynn.
“There are slight advantages in certain situations, like price point and redundancy, but it really comes back to sizing your circulator correctly for the demand. If you do that, the system will never be over- or under-pumped regardless of whether zone circulators or valves are used.”
More often than not, service professionals use valves to zone residential projects. Flynn speculates they do so only because that’s the way they’ve always done it. However, it wasn’t long ago that Flynn had the opportunity to install a lot of pumps in a single residence.
The Palace
“We arrived at a large residence in Upper Saddle River, NJ, to find a huge cast iron boiler, a 100-gallon, gas-fired water heater and 11 zones of baseboard, radiant, convectors and hydro coils, none of which were working properly,” said Flynn. “The owner only had three requests: replace it all, make it work and zone the house with circulators. That’s exactly what we did.”
The 9,500 sq ft home was served by a 20-year-old, 12-section boiler. Both it and the big water heater were due for replacement. The piping left a lot to be desired.
“You can argue all day about whether zone valves or zone circulators are better, but I think everyone will agree that you have to pick one or the other for a single zone,” said Flynn with a chuckle. “The zones on this system had zone valves downstream of the zone circulators. As you’d expect, the homeowner had all sorts of problems.”
Over the course of a week, the system was torn out and replaced, this time with two, 200 MBH condensing NTI boilers and an 80-gallon indirect tank. Primary/secondary piping was facilitated with a large hydro separator.
“We installed a Taco 007e ECM circulator on eight of the zones, with a pair of 0011s on the remaining two zones.” said Flynn. “The 007e was dependable, readily available and efficient. We install hundreds of them every year. The boiler circs are 0013s.”
Venting the job was the only challenge, given the mechanical room’s location in the middle of the beautifully finished basement. The joist bays ran the correct direction for combustion air and venting, but they would have terminated outside under a hardscaped stairway, so Service Professionals used the two existing chimneys that served the boiler and water heater.
“We ran both boiler exhaust vents through the existing boiler chimney with Centrotherm flexible poly vent lines,” explained Flynn. “The smaller chimney only allowed us to run one of the intake vents. The second boiler draws combustion air from the big mechanical room, and the owner leaves the mechanical room open. He likes to show the room off to his engineer buddies. He calls it ‘The Palace,’ and he’s really proud of it.”
When asked about the fuel savings provided by the retrofit, the owner admits that he doesn’t pay attention to his fuel bills. It’s safe to assume, though, that the reduction in natural gas consumption is substantial.
The job was gratifying for Flynn. He designed the system himself and headed up the install. Like many of his other mechanical rooms, the system is now immortalized on his Instagram account.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Half of the work I do is hydronic, and half of that is steam,” said Flynn. “Last year we were installing four boilers each week. This year, for obvious reasons, we’re installing fewer. However, I’m keeping an eye on social media to see what others are doing as we emerge from the slow-down caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instagram is one way I can keep a pulse on things nationwide, and I’m hoping to see an uptick in boiler sales soon.” ICM


Dan Vastyan is PR director and writer for Common Ground, a trade communications firm based in Manheim, PA

In ICM’s July/August issue, I mentioned how I looked forward to writing about the Carlin Pro-X 70200 Primary Control. The diagnostic capabilities of this control, as my friend Michael Warn of Carlin/Hydrolevel would say, provide you with a roadmap to determine what component to check as well as what caused that component to fail. Let’s use an example of the control showing a fault code that says “Check Motor” “High Amps” (Figure 1).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Notice it does not say replace motor; it is just pointing you in a direction that will likely lead to solving the issue(s) in a more efficient way. If you see that message, make sure the power is off to the appliance, then flip the igniter back (open) to expose the burner’s blower wheel. Push it forward to see if it feels tight/sluggish. Then remove the motor from the burner housing and turn the burner’s blower wheel again. If it moves with ease, then I would suspect it was the fuel unit binding up, and likely is in need of replacement. You can confirm this by using the burner coupling to turn the shaft on the fuel unit, and confirm it is in fact binding up.
If the burner blower wheel is hard to turn after removal, then it is the motor that needs replacement. However, still check the fuel unit. For this scenario, let’s pretend it is the fuel unit. Although we know it will be replaced, there are still some diligent steps we need to take in the hopes of preventing a call-back.
The 5 Whys
In my workshops, I often talk about cause, effects and chain of events. In the National Oilheat Research Alliance’s (NORA) Oilheat Technicians Manual–Silver, we refer to this as asking the 5 Whys. It is great that we have determined what part needs to be replaced, but we need to ask ourselves what caused it to fail in the first place? In this case, check for water in the fuel and the condition of the fuel filter and strainer. You’d more than likely replace those at this time and also check the system vacuum. All of these steps don’t really take that long, and they will most likely lead us to what actually caused the fuel unit to fail.
To check the system vacuum, you first need to know the anticipated vacuum. To determine that, just remember 1′ of vertical lift = 1″ vacuum and 10′ of horizontal run = 1″ vacuum. Then add any filters, fittings and valves. If the vacuum is lower than your anticipated vacuum, you have a leak somewhere and this needs to be fixed. If your vacuum is higher than your anticipated vacuum, you have a restriction somewhere and that needs to be corrected.
Further testing
Another fault code, in this case from the Beckett GeniSys via the contractor tool (Figure 2), shows the message “DID NOT LIGHT.” This could be something as simple as the electrodes are out of alignment, which you could check with an electrode gauge; it could also be a faulty igniter. There are a couple of ways to check this. One way to test the igniter is the secondary coil test—place an ohmmeter across the igniter output terminals with the power off and measure the resistance between both springs/clips. The reading should be less than 2,000 Ohms and should equal the reading you get from both spring/clip to ground reading +/- 10%

 
 
 
 
 
 
Then measure the resistance from each igniter post to ground (Figure 3). The igniter is considered good if the resistance from each post to ground has no more than a 10% difference between posts.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Each manufacturer is different and they should be consulted for the proper output range and differential. It’s also important that you verify continuity between the igniter case ground and true ground.
Another test that is approved by most manufacturers is to bring the igniter output terminals to within ½ to ¾ of an inch apart and turn on the power (Figure 4). A strong, blue spark should be generated. Let it spark for about five minutes to see if the spark changes from blue to orange; if it does, replace the igniter.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Finally, you could also test the igniter with what is referred to as the input current test. Bring the igniter output terminals to within ½ to ¾ of an inch apart, as described earlier. Then using a multi-meter capable of reading milliamps, put it in series with the hot line going to the igniter and turn it on (Figure 5). Again, the reading should stay steady and not vary for at least five minutes with a strong blue spark throughout the test, while staying within 10% of the rated amperage draw for the device.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If you have any questions as to how to check and test any of the items referred to in this article, you can find the information in NORA’s Oilheat Technicians Manual – Silver, or feel free to E-mail me. ICM



 
 
 
Alan Mercurio is the Lead Technical Trainer & Assistant Director at PPATEC, a division of the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association. He can be reached at [email protected], 717-939-1781 ext. 101, or on PPATEC’s Facebook Page.

Circulators have been around the hydronic heating industry since the 1930s. They were originally added to existing gravity hot water jobs to “boost” the heat around the system. These original circulators were often referred to as “three-piece” pumps because they had three distinct sections—the wet end or volute where the impeller is located, the motor end (which is the driving force) that would mount in a cradle and a bearing assembly that would connect the two ends together with a coupling assembly.
The motor assembly was completely separated from the wet end of the pump by a seal. The bearing assembly would be lubricated with oil to keep the bearings in good working condition. These pumps dominated the hydronics industry for decades and did a very good job.
Sometime in the 1970s, a new style of pump came onto the scene that changed forever the residential (and eventually light commercial) market. These “new” circulators used the system’s own water as its lubricant. There was no longer a need for a separate bearing assembly and seal. The physical size of these pumps was considerably smaller and they cost much less than the three-piece style.
At first there were many skeptics about the new pump’s ability to perform as well as the original, larger pumps. However, over time, the industry realized these new “water-lubricated” pumps worked quite well, lasted a long time, required virtually no maintenance and were less expensive.
Multi-speed pumps
Over the past 10 years, some pump manufacturers have been offering multi-speed pumps, which offer a different pump curve for each speed. The most common is a three-speed wet-rotor circulator, which offers three different performance curves. The benefit is that with one pump, three different curves are provided to meet various system conditions. From an inventory standpoint, you can stock—on the shelves or in the service truck—one circulator model that can meet many different system applications.
Imagine that instead of three speeds there are 10 speeds or even 50 speeds—for each speed change you could plot a new pump performance curve. The highest speed would represent the pump’s maximum performance and the lowest speed would represent the pump’s minimum performance. A variable speed pump can operate anywhere between these two points simply by varying the speed of the motor.
Any wet rotor pump with a permanent split capacitor motor can function over an extensive range of speeds with a variable speed controller. This device varies the frequency of the AC signal sent to the permanent split capacitor (PSC) motor. By varying the AC signal, the revolutions per minute (RPMs) of the motor (the speed) are changed, which directly changes the flow and head capacity of the pump. The changes, and therefore the pump curves, are unlimited between the fastest and slowest RPMs of the motor.
The new circulator: ECM
“Smart” pumps, the latest technology in pumping, have made their way into the North American hydronics market. They are called ECM pumps, which stands for “electronically commutated magnetic motor.” They are very different from the PSC motors we have been using in our wet rotor pumps. This new style motor is sometimes called a “brushless DC” motor. The rotor in this ECM motor has permanent magnets instead of wire windings that are separated from the system fluid. The magnets are located inside a stainless steel rotor can and react to the magnetic forces created by electromagnetic poles in the stator.
However, you may experience a problem with the new ECM circulators, as the onboard magnets can collect/attract iron oxide from the water in the system. Iron oxide is a chemical compound consisting of a mixture of oxygen and iron. Every hydronic system has some oxygen (from the system water H2O) and more often than not some type of iron (i.e. cast iron from circulator volutes, flow-control valves, cast iron boilers, cast iron radiators and black iron steel pipe).
Of course, every system can contain a different amount of iron oxide, which will influence whether the ECM circulator “attracts” enough of it to cause the pump to stop running. I have heard of several instances where the contractor isolated the pump, pulled the can from the wet end of the pump, cleaned off the buildup of iron oxide, put the pump back together and it ran fine afterwards. Other times they ended up having to replace the pump because too much damage had been done.
A simple solution
There is a simple solution to this and it is not to go back to the old-style wet rotor pump— that horse has already left the barn. The utilities have been playing a big part in creating incentive programs to promote the installation of “High Efficiency” pumps, just like how they played a big part in the industry’s adoption of modulating/condensing (Mod/Con) boilers.
Look to Europe, which has been installing high efficiency boilers for years and has outlawed PSC (permanent split capacitor wet rotor pumps) due to the fact that they consume too much electricity. Instead, they have been installing high performance dirt and magnetite separators for years.
It is just standard design practice over there—if you are putting in high efficiency boilers and ECM pumps (by law), then you want to ensure the quality of the water circulating through the system. As the industry continues to install these high, efficiency ECM pumps, it should become standard practice to also include a magnetic dirt and iron oxide collector to protect the new high efficiency equipment.
The efficiency of these “Greener” circulators was designed to meet the ever increasing efficiency standards that have made their way over to North America. Their “wire to water” efficiency is simply higher than the PSC wet rotor circulators. Their multiple application capabilities with the on-board microprocessors, and their reduction in wattage consumption, make them a very compelling alternative to what we have used in the past.
If you have any questions or comments, E-mail [email protected], call 800-423-7187 or follow me on Twitter at @Ask_Gcarey. ICM

As I am writing this column, the summer of 2021 is getting underway. It seems like a strange time to talk about steam systems and condensate handling equipment, but as you all know, the heating season will be here before we know it, and steam systems will be turning on as the cool nights eventually arrive. Condensate pumps, when used in steam systems, play an important part in the proper operation of that system.
Understanding the operation of these pumps is pretty straightforward. The condensate pump is made up of a pump and motor with an impeller on the end of it, and a receiver that the pump and motor are mounted on (usually cast iron, but steel can also be used). Cast iron receivers are more rugged and last longer in corrosive environments; condensate usually has a low pH (which makes it acidic). Inside the receiver is a float assembly (not unlike a ballcock found in a toilet tank) that is connected to a floatoperated electrical switch, which is attached to the receiver. The receiver has an inlet opening near the top side of the receiver; it also has an opening on the top where a vent pipe is connected.
The condensate return piping from the system is connected to the inlet connection of the receiver; the vent pipe is used to vent the air from the system. As condensate and air travel along the return piping, they enter into the receiver through the inlet connection. The condensate falls to the bottom of the receiver while the air enters into the receiver and exits out through the vent pipe located at the top of the receiver.
Therefore, in effect, the vent pipe of the condensate pump is the main air vent for the system. Make sure that there are no water pockets in the return piping because that could prevent air from getting out of the system. Also, never plug the vent line because condensate pumps are not rated for pressure. If they become “pressurized” because of a blocked vent line, they could explode!
As the condensate continues to gather in the receiver, the float part of the assembly starts to “float” up/rise up with the rising level of condensate. At some point, the float-operated electrical switch “makes”—closing a set of contacts that turns the pump on. The condensate pump discharges the condensate to either the boiler directly or possibly to a boiler feed tank in the boiler room. Naturally, as the pump discharges the condensate from the receiver, the water level, as well as the float in the receiver lowers to a point where the switch “breaks.” This opens the contacts that turn the condensate pump off. This is basically what a condensate pump does—as returning condensate enters the receiver, it raises the float, which eventually turns the pump on. As the water level drops in the receiver, so does the float—eventually turning the pump off.
Important details
There are a couple of details that you need to pay attention to when piping a condensate pump into the system. On the inlet side of the receiver, it is good piping practice to install some type of strainer (a Y-strainer or basket strainer are two popular choices) just before the condensate enters into the receiver. There is sediment in old steam systems that the condensate will pick up as it flows back to the receiver. If the sediment makes its way onto the face of the pump’s seal, it may groove lines into the carbon and ceramic seal, causing it to leak. If the leak isn’t discovered quickly, the condensate will work its way into the bearings of the motor, causing it to eventually fail.
On the discharge side of the pump, there should be a check valve, a balancing valve and a service valve. The purpose of the service valve is to isolate the pump from the system; the service valve can be closed if you need to work on the pump. The check valve is needed so that whenever the pump is off, the water that is in the piping on the discharge side of the pump doesn’t fall back into the receiver. If the check wasn’t there, or if sediment gets underneath the flapper of the check, the water would flow back into the receiver causing the float to rise and bring the pump on. The pump would unload the receiver and shut off, and this cycle would “seesaw” back and forth endlessly.
If you happen to walk into a boiler room in the summertime and the steam boiler is off because it is used for heating, yet the condensate pump turns on and then turns off…and then turns on, and then turns off again…most likely the check valve has been compromised. Probably dirt or sediment is keeping the flapper from seating properly on its seat.
The balancing valve is used to provide a certain amount of “back pressure” on the pump. Standard stocked condensate pumps are rated to pump the condensate at a discharge pressure of 20 pound-force per square inch gauge (psig). However, in most applications, the boilers are running at very low pressure, typically 2–5 psig. When the pump turns on and it doesn’t “see” 20psig of pressure, it will run way out on its curve, pumping too much condensate, too fast. It can cause the check valve to chatter, creating unnecessary noise. By closing the balancing valve, you are creating the additional pressure the pump was designed to work against, thus slowing the flow rate down to where it can operate properly and quietly.
Pump problems
I get calls every now and then complaining that the condensate pump is turning on, but the pump isn’t pumping the water out of the receiver. In some cases, the water starts pouring out of the vent pipe. Usually the problem is related to the temperature of the condensate. I am not talking about the temperature that exceeds the material of construction or the pump’s seal rating (most are rated at 250°F). What I am referring to is when steam is allowed to enter into the return lines (usually bad traps that have failed in the open position) and elevate the returning condensate’s temperature above 185–190°F.
When the condensate becomes too hot and gets close to its boiling point, there isn’t enough pressure on the water to remain a liquid. When the pump turns on and the water enters into the eye of the impeller, it experiences a drop in pressure. Because the water is so close to its vapor pressure (boiling point), it flashes into vapor/steam. Of course, the impeller isn’t capable of pumping steam, so the impeller is spinning at 3,400 rotations per minute (rpm), and no water is discharging out of the receiver. This isn’t because of a bad pump; the water is simply too hot. There isn’t enough pressure on the water to keep it in its liquid state.
Remember—this is an open system and the only available pressure is the height of the condensate that is sitting in the receiver, which is less than a foot. In a closed hot water heating system, you have a fill valve and an expansion tank that provide a lot of pressure, so the pumps have no problem circulating the 200°F water.
The answer to this problem is to lower the temperature of the condensate, so fix the radiator traps that are leaking and make sure the pressuretrol isn’t set too high. There is a relationship between the pressure of the steam and its corresponding temperature, which holds true to the temperature of the condensate. This is another reason why there is no benefit to cranking up the pressuretrol setting in a heating application. If you have any questions or comments, e-mail me at [email protected], call me at FIA 1-800-423-7187 or follow me on Twitter at @Ask_Gcarey. ICM

Having personally spent the greater part of the last 20 years directly communicating with credit card brands on behalf of the Heating Fuels Industry, I am not happy with the recent and unfortunate increase in Visa Credit rates. Not only is this increase detrimental to the industry, it eats into the hard-earned profits that you work for each and every day by providing your customers important essential services, comfort and peace of mind.
Your customers have grown to trust you over the years—the late-night emergency service calls certainly illustrate the type of responsiveness that a customer could only hope for from another service provider.
For greater perspective, just think about the vast differences between the multi-generational Heating Fuels Industry compared to the conglomerate utility companies that trade on the New York Stock Exchange. This industry is different; it focuses on individual customers and cares about their immediate needs. This is where “Big Business” drops the ball; their priorities are the investors and shareholders of the company who are forcing the majority of publicly traded companies to look at daily operations and overall priorities differently.
There was a time when good service and pride was a required prerequisite of most companies, both large and small. However, the landscape has drastically changed, compounded by advancements in technology, access to data and greater transparency. It is intimidating enough to compete in today’s world, but throw all of these additional obstacles into the mix and it’s daunting.
From a competitive vantage point, there is no question that “Big Business” can utilize its resources to help tip the scales in its favor and win market share.
This Heating Fuels Industry is made up of thousands of family-run businesses that now, more than ever, need to think creatively to complete in an environment with the odds inherently stacked against them.
When it comes to electronic payments, all four major brands (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express) are publicly traded companies that operate around the globe. As mentioned above, they have a lot to prove as they all trade in the public markets, where good news and big profits are constantly on display for stockholders and investors
In April of this year, the payment landscape drastically changed for the worse for Heating Fuels dealers operating in the U.S. After more than 15 years, they are no longer eligible to participate in a reduced Visa Credit interchange category, resulting in a significant increase in fees the likes of which this industry has never seen before. To further compound the issue, in conjunction with the elimination of the discounted program for Fuel Dealers, Visa simultaneously released its largest general rate increase in the last 25+ years, magnifying the processing expenses associated with accepting Visa credit cards. To make it worse, consumer Visa credit cards represent the largest pool of card types in the marketplace.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To illustrate what this really means for the average Fuel Dealer accepting consumer Visa credit cards—it will cost them an additional $3.00 per transaction based on an average transaction size of $400. What cost dealers approximately $6.00 on April 1 today costs them roughly $9.00 for accepting the very same card. It should be noted that $6.00 was almost three times the cost of running a MasterCard or Discover credit card, and that was before the huge increase to $9.00.
It is unfathomable to simply accept this as the new norm. This industry cannot just “take it on the chin” because big business needs to report larger earnings to Wall Street.
The time has come for the heating fuels industry to be innovative and approach these rate increases in a strategic, creative manner. Embrace it as an opportunity to engage with customers, build loyalty and add value that truly differentiates you from your competition.
It is no easy task, but if handled properly, the byproducts of executing a well thought-out plan will yield dividends to your organizations and the entire industry. Let us once again come together and rise above the tsunami of big business. ICM


Larry Richmond, is a Cashflow Automation Specialist and President of Richmond Financial Services (RFS). In 2005, Richmond successfully lobbied MasterCard to reclassify home heating retailers into the lower risk utility processing category resulting in billions of dollars of savings to the industry. Contact Richmond at 617-843-5700 x200 or by email at [email protected]