Lots of Smoke?



An issue has arisen that in my opinion was just not necessary for discussion, but someone tackled it and horribly fumbled, so I’d like to try to set it right, at least from my point-of-view.


A lot of words have now been written about the issue (sic), and even more words to justify the fumble. In some ways as a really poor defense strategy and to smoke up the issue even more they even managed to get me involved in their fiasco. That did it! There was no reason to malign me in this pathetic mess, but what’s new there? By the way this all happened in another publication, so don’t expect to find that kind of stuff here at Fuel Oil News where oil heat is still called out by its historic and proud name!


The bottom line is that the bottom line hasn’t even been hit! It turns out that some today may be using older, outdated smoke scales. These scales are in every container of ‘third-party’ smoke paper. So the very first thing and probably the most important thing is that if you are using an old scale, go buy some more paper and throw the old scale out because the scales were corrected some time ago and the new ones are more ‘in-sync’ than the older ones.


The fact that there were some possible inconsistencies a while back have been corrected, and if you read on, you’ll see that the proper use of instrumentation and the setup of oil burners negates these problems making the whole issue a non-issue and just fodder for a poorly tackled subject.


In addition, reference was made to ‘industry guidelines’ and my involvement for the setting of oil burners that are now obsolete. Those guidelines date from 1949 through 2002, and, it’s not just those guidelines that are obsolete, but the burners they reference too! If you’re not using Table 12-1 from my book Advanced Residential Oilburners, you are not only in the wrong pew, you are in the wrong church!


Moreover, a chart from an obsolete 1990 text was referenced, but neither my 1995, 2002, 2007, 2011 or God forbid, my 2012 views on ‘proper smoke level’ were not. Also, if you are still servicing non-flame retention burners, I offer you my sympathies because you not only need them, but so does your customer’in all honesty they should not be out there and you have a wonderful cradle for a gas conversion just waiting to happen!    


It is important for me to note that the smoke scales supplied with the smoke testers from Bacharach, Testo and Wohler are correct and always have been. What I see are many more problems with improper use and maintenance of chemical testing kits, and so I’d like to reference you to my website and recommend that if you use any or all of a ‘wet’ or chemical testing kit including a smoke tester you read our Firedragon Field Note #5 about these kits at http://www.firedragonent.com/Notes.htm.


In today’s marketplace no burner should be set at anything other than True Zero Smoke (TZS), period. It would behoove the retail oil industry to replace these oil guzzling pigs before the gas suppliers do. In addition, many of today’s burners are struggling to burn today’s fuel mixtures, so what chance do you think these poor, old, tired, obsolete clunkers have? It’s tough enough to do the job today on state-of-the-art burners and that, as I often say, is a FACT!


It may be just my opinion, but even selling a used or refurbished high speed flame retention burner to many would be better than leaving the dinosaurs in the basement. Why don’t we try leasing? How about leasing oil tanks too? A long term lease of five or 10 years or more for new equipment would not only sell better and more efficient equipment resulting in happier customers, but could also slow down some of the hemorrhaging of this trade because at this rate we won’t have a very long life expectancy.


Time to stop thinking some ‘silver bullet’ or ‘magic oil’ is going to save us, and start thinking out of the box and ‘same ole-same-ole’ and the strategies of ‘but we always did it that way’, because none of those have worked and it’s survival time, boys and girls. However, I’ve been predicting these days would come for 30 years and been ignored by most, ridiculed by others in denial, and so for some, why change now?


Today the industry has more ways to setup oil burners than ever before. Adjustments can be made much faster with electronic instrumentation, and even smoke testers have gone electronic. But, and in my opinion, something ‘electronic’ is the way to go. Again, the electronic analyzer is king, but because we do not want to pollute these fine instruments by first starting to be close to True Zero Smoke, maybe TZS is not only the place to end up, but maybe where to start?


I still love my cad-cell and multi-meter trick, but I’m being upstaged by an even better electronic way, the latest primary controls. If the burner you’re working on is equipped with a Beckett GeniSys, a Honeywell R7284 or the new Carlin ProMaxx on the way, you don’t even need a meter, you use the control and follow my directions for setting a burner ‘by eye’ (cad-cell eye) and my ‘Lanthier Scale’ to bring you home and wrap it all up with your combustion test equipment. There’s another point worth making. If you are still messing with stack controls, you and your customers are missing a lot! Are we ever going to let those dinosaurs go too?


If you need any of my procedures give me a shout and I’ll send them along. They are also in my books, Advanced Residential Oilburners, The RIELLO Handbook and WIRING #4 – Oilburner Primary Controls, because they work, are easy to use, and for many of us fun, and the only way to get to True Zero Smoke. Doing anything else is just simply a lot of smoke and even more mirrors!

So, it ends up the true bottom line of this pathetic catastrophe is; don’t be stupid or cheap, replace any old ‘third-party’ scales and forget about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the scales, because if you end up in the ‘TZS Zone’ how you get there just doesn’t matter to those of us who know how, have for some time, and do every time!

See ya.


*George Lanthier is the owner of Firedragon Academy, a teaching, publishing and consulting firm. He is the author of over 40 books and manuals on heating and HVAC subjects and can be reached at 608 Moose Hill Road, Leicester, MA 01524. His phone is 508-421-3490, fax at 508-421-3477 and his website can be found at www.FiredragonEnt.com





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