Who Listens?

Over the years, I have talked with several technicians, service managers and company decision makers pertaining to heating product issues. Most of their comments are ‘No one listens.” Well, I guess it’s time for me to express my own thoughts on this subject.


Several years ago when I was still working with my wrenches, I had the opportunity to be selected by two manufacturers to join their new product development focus groups. One was a boiler manufacturer and the other was a burner manufacturer.


The group generally met a couple times a year at the manufacturers’ facility, with the focus always on evaluating new prototype products. Generally, the group consisted of 10-12 technicians who literally dissected these new products with one goal in mind, which was to share our ideas with theirs to develop a product that would be both reliable and user-friendly before going into production.


Let’s now look at hydronic controls’how many times have we said that we wish there were not so many? Well, now we have one control that will interchange with many and at the same time raise or lower the water temperature based on the heat demand and provide low water protection.


In the case of the oil burner primary control, think of the days when we had to ohm out the cad cell, worry about proper voltage and the hours spent trying to diagnosis the cause of a burner out. We now have controls designed to point us in the direction of the problem and store reliable operating data even in our absence.


Another trade related complaint has always been cleanings and why are they called cleanings? The simple answer’you had to spend an average of between three and four hours taking the unit apart and sucking the soot from a unit equipped with a 1725 RPM yellow flame burner operating at a No. 2 smoke, 72-75 percent efficiency, and 900 degree stack temperature.


Of course, oil in those days fuel oil was probably about 22 cents a gallon and efficiency was not really a consideration’having heat and hot water was all that was important. But in the 70s when oil started to rise in cost, customers started to complain to their oil supplier, who then complained to the equipment manufacturers to do something.


The result was, and still is, the introduction of the 3450 RPM burner operating with higher oil pump pressure, smaller nozzles and is often installed in three-pass boilers with as little as two to three gallons of water and operating with an efficiency of 85-87 percent.


I recently had a burner out in my home with a boiler equipped with the new generation hydronic controls that has every one of the new LED features, including all the telltale mini-lights.


Immediately, I noticed the low water red light was displayed rather than the normal green. I checked the pressure on the boiler and noticed it to be at 18 pounds, certainly not a lack of H2O.


My first thought was possibly a bad control, but I decided to check the Molex connection which appeared fine. I then decided to move around the loosely fit sensor probe and immediately the LWCO green light came on and the burner started.


My final opinion was that the small paper like clip that is attached to the sensor was no longer making a positive contact within the well to complete the circuit, and when I moved it, contact was re-established allowing the burner to function.


My next move was to bring this to the attention of the manufacturer’s rep., who immediately acknowledged my issue and offered me the solution, which was a small 3/8″ wire brush used to clean the inside of the well. He also suggested that I add slightly more tension to the paper type clip to allow for a snug fit of the sensor to the well’s interior in order to make better contact. He also stated that he would bring this to the attention of the manufacturer.


So at that end do they, the manufacturers and reps, listen? You bet they do! And on a final note, I hope that someday the words ‘oil burner” can be changed to ‘energy saver!”


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