Overdue Post on My VF3000 Boiler!!!

Overdue Post on My VF3000 Boiler!!!

PostBy: csimone On: Fri. Dec. 07, 2007 11:12 am

Although this post is overdue and lengthy, two members of this Anthracite Coal Forum need to be recognized. “Highlander” & “Coalkirk” have really shown me how valuable this forum is.

I recently purchased a Harman VF3000 stoker boiler after a year problems with a brand new Yukon Eagle wood/coal furnace.

The bad year started like this:
I called Yukon Eagle and ordered a $4000 coal furnace with a 1/3 horse blower motor on it. Yukon Eagle advised me that this was all I needed. I then paid $200 for the shaker grate option and $750 for shipping. So, $5000 later I was in good shape, right? No way!

I had to completely duct my house. I had base board heat and now I was converting to force blown air. So, with my best friend, a “Union HVAC Guy”, got to work cutting my house to pieces. The stove was located in the basement; so the ducts had to go up through a closest, (My wife was very upset that she no longer had her main closest in the house.) then into the attic. From the attic, I ran separate drops to each bed room.

After we completed the ductwork, we piped in the chimney and electronics. So, there was another $1000 dollars in material and labor to my friend. $6000 Complete! Not really, I went out and bought a brand new wood splitter at Tractor Supply for $1400. $7400 COMPLETE!

I started cutting wood, bucking it into pieces, splitting it, and stacking it. After, I had a stack of wood; I had to stack some in the house.

I had prior experience with a wood/coal stove, so I had it running in no time. Wow, look at that fire, burning great and looking good. I was so proud; but still cold. I didn’t have enough CFM’s to carry my ductwork. So, the next day I had to order a 3/4 horse blower motor. Yukon was wrong. Three days later, and another $170 motor upgrade, I was finally getting warm air. $7570 COMPLETE!

The Yukon Eagle burnt wood great. But I had to load it every 4 hours. Not fun! This lasted approx. 1 week of waking up cold at 3:00 am and trying to get the fire back up. There had to be an easier way. I found it, the Anthracite Coal Forum! I found an ad that someone is converting from nut coal to rice coal and wants to give away approx. 1000# nut coal for free. I met HIGHLANDER! He lives less than 5 miles from me.

I also went out and bought 2 tons of coal. I learned how to build a coal fire and was up running in no time. After three days of burning coal, my house was 72 degrees. I was happy! For now!

I learned very quickly that the Yukon Eagle has a very poor shaker grate design. The lugs that shake the grates are right inside the firebox. Thus, they always get baked and are cherry red all the time. If I burnt wood, it didn’t happen. But who wants to load wood every four hours, cut, buck, split, stack, restack, bla bla blah!

SNAP #1 I broke my shaker grates. Called Yukon and they are sending me new grates. They admitted that they had a bad batch of cast iron from there molder, and other people are having the same problems. They sent me them for free. $200 grates for free? They must know it’s a problem.

Two weeks later, SNAP #2. Now Yukon Eagle is trying to tell me I’m over firing my stove. Not true! I feel bad about the poor design and come up with a solution. I drew an AutoCAD drawing in 3D and send it to Yukon Eagle. It’s a simple design that calls for some fire brick in front of the lugs to keep the heat off of them. They never replied or even said thank you for the complex drawing. Who cares. They sent me $200 grates for free again.

4 weeks later, SNAP #3. Yukon Eagle said this was there last time replacing the grates. But still, they sent them free. No help from them on a fix on their poor design. I used my design and get through the winter. The hell with Yukon Eagle! It’s a boat anchor and found its way to E-Bay! I sold it for $1900! What a learning lesson! I’m now down $4000 and now incomplete!

So, I ended up learning that Highlander bought his VF3000 stoker boiler and was running it all summer with no problems. I sent him many e-mails and he even let me come up to his house and look at his installation. Wow! I’m very impressed and jealous! I want one!

Well, I received my brand new VF3000 today for $4200 dollars. I took my F350 Diesel pick-up truck and went to the dealer to pick it up. The dealer said he was too busy to hook it up and gave me directions from another boiler and said it was easy. Ok, I can’t plumb, but I took his advice.

Now, I have this 1000 lbs. boiler back at my house. Now what? No friends to help me…I’m a rigger/climber by trade. I climbed and built radio tower hundreds of feet in the air for 15 years. I can do this. My wife is laughing right about now.
I have a basement door on the ground level, so I just need to get this out of my truck. I use a come-along rigged in a tree and lift it up, drive my truck out and place it on dolly. Now what? This tree is approx 300 feet away from my basement door.
I use a heel block rigged to a base of another tree and tied the rope to my truck. As I drove my truck away from the tree, the boiler got closer to the basement door. Well, I’m there. Now what? Well, I place the heel block on one of my basement columns and do it all over. I got it in my basement, in place in approx. 4 hours. Very tired, but proud! My wife couldn’t care a bit. They never seem to understand what it takes to accomplish these things.

Well, I’m ready to plumb. I know nothing about boilers. Although I’m a certified welder I can’t I can’t sweat pipes. That’s so funny! Please don’t make fun of me.

I look at the directions, Harman can shove these up their ***. They are no use for the inexperience plumber. Just a simple drawing showing it plumbed up alone. No drawing showing it in series or parallel to another boiler. I’m back to the Anthracite Coal Forum for help. I find Coalkirk and send him an e-mail. We talked on the phone and it was a great help.
I also call my Union HVAC Guy, he owes me since I welded his new axles in and lifted his jeep. He tells me rough it in and he will sweat the pipes for me. In short, he instructs me to install the coal boiler AFTER the oil boiler in series. I roughed it in and wait. And wait, and wait. A week goes by and it’s getting colder. I can’t wait anymore.

I learn to sweat pipes thanks to youtube! I spend all day and learn how to drain boilers, sweat pipes, bleed boilers and wire the aquastats in. Highlander, an electrical engineer sent me an e-mail explaining how the Johnson controllers work. Perfect! (Almost, Harman forgot to ship a lot of pieces to me. I make a short trip back to the dealer.)

I got it all in with only one bad pipe joint. I’m a pro. Not yet. I fired the boiler up in only 2 minutes. I need the Staples “easy button.”

I get it up to temperature and no heat. The oil boiler was running, even though I lowered the aquastats. So, I search the internet for a reason. I find it in a Harman wood pellet boiler manual. Perfect. Why didn’t Harman rewrite the coal boiler manual?

I uninstall my masterpiece and start again. I put my coal boiler BEFORE my oil boiler, moved my zone valves to the coal boiler, add a circulator pump between boilers, and I’m golden!

My house has been 73 degree for 4 weeks now. No issues at all. I load it with coal and ash it when needed. This is too easy. I year of hell and it was this easy!

I learned how to plumb, I learned everything about boilers, I met some really nice people on Anthracite Coal Forum, I learned my local Harman dealer knows nothing about boilers, and my wife is so happy it’s warm in the house. I’m a pro now!

What to learn from my experience? I feel that the Yukon Eagle wood/coal furnace is garbage! Anthracite Coal Forum is the best! Have friends over to help move 1000# boiler. BUY A VF3000 NOW and install it BEFORE you existing boiler. Don’t call my HVAC guy.

What about the wood splitter? It’s paying for my coal. I sell firewood and so far it’s cost me $0 to heat this year. Besides, the coal boiler needs almost no attention and I’m bored!

THANK YOU Anthracite Coal Forum!
Last edited by csimone on Fri. Dec. 07, 2007 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Stove/Furnace Make: Coal Boiler
Stove/Furnace Model: Harman VF3000

Re: Overdue Post on My VF3000 Boiler!!!

PostBy: traderfjp On: Fri. Dec. 07, 2007 11:45 am

Your journey was interesting to read. It sucks that your first boiler didn't do what you wanted. I'm curious did you buy the first boiler under the assumption it would make hot water for your baseboard heat. It really must have been a pain to cut inall that duct work too. Are you still using the duct work or did you install it to work with your baseboard heat. perhaps you can also use the ducts for air conditioning. I'm curious on how much coal you can load into your boiler and how often you empty the ash pan? In retrospect I think a coal boiler would have made more sense then the stoker I installed. Next weekend I'm installing a coil inside my stoker (40ft.) and am hoping it will make some heat for a basement. I llike doing projects like this too. I enjoy working with my hands and also researching all the appects of the design. I even called the company that smelts the SS to find out the melting point and if it was safe for my application. I ended up using 316 ss.
Stove/Furnace Make: Alaska
Stove/Furnace Model: Channing 3

Re: Overdue Post on My VF3000 Boiler!!!

PostBy: Highlander On: Fri. Dec. 07, 2007 8:58 pm

Charlie, glad ot hear you got the unit installed and running. You should have called me about the plumbing, we could have figured it out, but hey thats water under the bridge now. Getting my boiler off the back of my truck and into the basement was my biggest headache, I'm no rigger so I enlisted the whole family to give me a hand. My wife did appreciate the effort since she helped in getting it off. I think I scared her a couple of times but we managed and nobody got hurt.

Have you been keeping track of how much coal your burning? With the colder weather we've had this last week or so, I'm up to about 60 to 70# per day, still a heck of a lot cheaper than propane or electric.

Congrats and stay warm. ;)

Stoker Coal Boiler: Harman VF3000 Sold
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Vermont Castings Resolute
Coal Size/Type: Nut
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: VF3000 Stoker Boiler

Re: Overdue Post on My VF3000 Boiler!!!

PostBy: coalkirk On: Fri. Dec. 07, 2007 9:28 pm

Glad to hear you are up and running too. It's a shame you didn't find this forum before you bought the Yukon. That was quite an ordeal you went through with it. I think you'll be very pleased with the vf3000. I just finished helping my wifes cousin with his vf3000 install and start up. He's very pleased as well. He got the domestic water coil on his. I had forgotton how lousy the Harman installation manual was. They also forgot to send him about 4-5 parts. If anyone else is thinking about getting one, PM me first. I can tell you where to pick one up the cheapest.
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: anthracite/rice coal

Re: Overdue Post on My VF3000 Boiler!!!

PostBy: csimone On: Sat. Dec. 08, 2007 8:58 am

I'm burning approx. 70-80# a day right now. House is 73 degrees in tall ceiling areas, and 70 degrees in the bedrooms. Heat is great. I have the aquastat up to 180 +/-

I'm still working some kinks out though...

I think my pressure reduction valve on my oil boiler is bad. My pressure is at 19 psi on the oil side and maybe 8 psi on the coal side. Do you think they should be the same?

Also, I get a few unburned pieces of coal in my ash. Feed is set right, I get approx. 1.25" of ash before it drop over the edge. Just not getting the time to burn I guess.

I'll be posting pictures once I get my project mess cleaned up. lol

Stove/Furnace Make: Coal Boiler
Stove/Furnace Model: Harman VF3000

Re: Overdue Post on My VF3000 Boiler!!!

PostBy: LsFarm On: Sat. Dec. 08, 2007 10:07 am

Hi Charlie, sounds like you really ran a 'gauntlet' with the various burners and installs. Glad to hear this one is working out.

For your questions, yes, I agree the pressure reducer on the oil boiler is bad, they are pretty reasonably priced, I'd change it.

You will get some unburnt coal in the ash, actually it probably is not coal, but slate or rock. You can do an experiment, pick the pieces out and put them back on the fire, they will come off the end looking the same. If they were coal, they would burn. This is the result of some coal sellers mixing coal from old culm piles in with the new freshly mined coal. This added 'old' coal is usually less than 10%. The coal on the outdoor piles gets baked by the sun and all the volitiles leave the coal, the result won't burn much if any.

As long as you don't have way too much 'unburnt' in the ashpan, I'd not worry about it. I had some pretty bad coal last spring, that had about 15% unburnt and another 10% ash, The ashpan was overflowing every 12 hours!! The new deep mined coal I have this year when burned in the same boiler as last year, has so little ash and zero unburnt that I can go 24-36 hours between emptying the ashpan. Huge difference.

Hope this helps.. Greg L
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland