A tale of CO and lessons learned

A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: coalkirk On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:30 am

I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I've got a number of things to say that I think are worth taking the time to read. I will use paragraghs to make it mo' better to read.

Tuesday evening at dinner time the CO detectors in my home started going off. Now I'm used to the smoke detectors going off at dinner time. That means the food is just about ready. :P But I've got those Nighthawk combination smoke and CO detectors that are interconnected throughout my home. These are the ones that beep and talk and that lady was clearly saying "Warning - Carbon monoxide." Crap, now I had a serious problem. Eat the broiled salmon that smelled and looked delicious and maybe fall face down in my plate.....or see what the frick was wrong. I chose the latter.

Now I will confess I'm a smoke and CO detector freak. I've got 13 interconnected units in my home, 2 on each level are combination smoke and CO. I've also got a standalone CO in the boiler room with the digital display. All were screaming and the digital display said 56 ppm. So I knew it was the real deal. The puzzling part to me was that there was absolutley no suphur odor. I know CO has no odor but until Tuesday I believed that CO related to a coal burner would always have that odor. Not so. First lesson learned.

I shut down the boiler (Yes I'm out of the 1 match club) and opened the windows. I think it was about 12 degrees with a nice breeze and that CO up and vanished like a fart in the wind. (Shawshank Redemption reference) I dragged out the vent pipe for the oil boiler and reconnected it to the chimney and fired up the oil burner. Then I ate the salmon. It was very good. Now I know being a long time coal burner I should have finished dinner and torn right into the coal boiler to see what was wrong. Afterall I'm the freaking State Mod for god's sake. But a funny thing happened. I said screw it. I worked all day, it was a nasty cold, windy day all day so I opened a Yuengling and watched TV. Yes down in the basement a horrible, disgracefull thing was happening. Fuel oil was being sucked through a piece of copper tubing, pumped and sprayed into a fine mist and ignited. But I didn't care. Richard, if this costs me my state modship, I understand.

I had to work all day Wednesday and that evening I had a family commitment that I could not dismiss so another 24 hours went by with the coal boiler idle and the oil boiler doing its dirty deed. By this time the guilt of it all was almost too much to bear. Everytime I heard that boiler fire, a little piece of me died. But Thursday I was not scheduled to work so I knew there was an end in sight. In the mean time I had figured out what had happened. No it wasn't a clogged vent pipe. I have vacuumed out the vent pipe at least 4 times since October including last weekend. It was due to greed and stupidity. :oops:

Most who read this forum regularly know my boiler struggles in extreme weather. I'm asking it to heat an area on the edge of its limits. So to that end with the recent cold snap I've been pushing fire right to the end of the grate and I had my draft dialed back to .02 trying to squeeze every btu out of it. And that brings me back to the salmon. Things were getting a little smokey in the kitchen Tuesday evening so the exhaust fan got turned on to pull the smoke out. Also the clothes dryer was running. So you can see where this is leading. The combination of the negative pressure from the dryer and kitchen exhaust overcame the draft just enough to pull CO into the basement through the boilers hopper. So the second lesson I've learned is not to try and get too cute with my fire and draft during extreme weather. I'm going to run it like I know it should be run and if that doesn't quite cut it, I'm going to have to drag out that oil boiler vent pipe and do the nasty again.

I think I may start a support group called "coal boiler supplementers anonymous." The purpose will be to help deal with the shame felt by those who must admit failure of the coal boiler to fully carry the load. Oh I can hear you guys titttering with your hi powered EFM's, AHS's and the like. But I will continue to hold my head high. After all I'm still savings thousands every year with my boiler. So the main lesson learned is not to try to skate too close to the edge of the ice or you will fall through. Oh yeah. Always have lots of redundant CO detector protection.
coalkirk
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Harman VF3000
Coal Size/Type: antrhcite/rice coal

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: michaelanthony On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:59 am

Maybe if you ate fried bologna like the rest of us you will live longer :P Kidding aside I too wonder of the need to squeeze every last possible btu from a fuel that is already saving me 1500.00 dollars AND keeping me 2000.00 bucks warmer. for me to stay this warm my warm air prostitute in the basement would run most of the day and night, we would have dry mouth and pet dander up our wazoo! My 6 yr old made me check all 5 detectors yesterday, 3 smoke and 2 co and he wouldn't rest until I literally took them down and showed him the new battery dates and test them, he covers his ears because the sound scares him and the dog, but he said, "daddy I hate invisible smoke, it's bad."...from the mouths of babes!

lately I have been toying with starting a thread "Pictures of you C.O. detectors" what do yah' think?
michaelanthony
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Vigilant 2310, gold marc box, vogelzang pot belly coat rack
Coal Size/Type: Pea, and a little nut
Other Heating: Very cold FHA oil furnace

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: tsb On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:18 am

Houses that are too tight need to supply intake air for the boiler.
My house, not a problem. Fresh air leaks in everywhere.
tsb
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Binford 2000
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: LL Pioneer top vent
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Saey Hanover II


Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: windyhill4.2 On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:24 am

coalkirk, you write well, lots of good info & advice,all things ended well ,hopefully we all become smarter because of what you have shared. You might want to talk to wsherrick about a parlor stove to supplement your boiler when the weather gets brutal,you would not feel guilty then in firing up your supplemental heat because you would just be burning coal ! ;) What he said,install a 4" pvc from outside to your boiler so it can breath ,stay warm ,... safely :!:
windyhill4.2
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Crane 404 with variable blower
Other Heating: Oaktree OWB 600K

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: Sting On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:28 am

Sting
 
Other Heating: BurnHAM=NG-gas

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: coalkirk On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:35 am

I should have mentioned that I do have a 4" pvc pipe through the wall of the boiler room to the outside. Just wasn't enough for the conditons I created. Probably should be 6". The 4" has worked fine if I don't get stupid and greedy.

Mmmmm- bologna! I love it. Best fried on a sandwich with french's yellow mustard.
coalkirk
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Harman VF3000
Coal Size/Type: antrhcite/rice coal

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: StokerDon On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:41 am

CoalKirk,

I'm very glad you not dead. That's the real tricky part with tight houses, you don't want cold air coming in but you need enough outside air coming in to run your coal burner, bathroom fart remover, dryer. I leave the ashpan door open on the Harman SF3500. That way the Alaska 140 can breath through the SF3500 chimney if it needs more air. If you leave your oil burner chimney un-capped maybe the coal boiler could breath through there?

-Don
StokerDon
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Yellow Flame "Competion Series" 3 grate boiler
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Alaska Stoker1? can't figure out these dern Alaska names!!! It's a big old black one.
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Harman SF3500
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Noth'in but COAL! Well, Maybe a little tiny bit of wood

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: Lightning On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:46 am

Your admission is a statement of courage and the warnings within could save the lives of a family someday.

I applaud your effort in bringing attention to it.

Kudos to you, partner! :)
Lightning
 
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Clayton 1537G
Coal Size/Type: Nut Size / White Ash

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: Sting On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:48 am

coalkirk wrote:Mmmmm- bologna! I love it. Best fried on a sandwich with french's yellow mustard.


And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the dormouse said:
"Feed your head. Feed your head. Feed your head"
Sting
 
Other Heating: BurnHAM=NG-gas

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: Carbon12 On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:53 am

It still amazes me that new coal appliances don't come with a CO detector (actually, some do) AND a manometer or at least the option to buy one at cost from the dealer. No coal appliance should ever be run without these two devices.
Carbon12
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KA-6
Coal Size/Type: Rice/Anthracite
Other Heating: Heat Pump/Forced Hot Air Oil Furnace

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: CoalisCoolxWarm On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:02 am

Taking steps to stay both warm AND safe is no shame, for sure!

Even more, using your own experience as a warning and example of what can go wrong to draw attention to that line that increases risk of CO is part of the reason we are here. How far can we safely tweak for efficiency, what to watch for, and knowing when to 'pull the plug', sometimes literally.

It never hurts to remind us all of the danger and sneaky nature of CO.

Giving a detailed account to help others avoid a similar problem deserves respect and appreciation, certainly not any admonishment.

Thank the Lord you're okay.
CoalisCoolxWarm
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KA6
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: old Sears rebuilt, bituminous
Coal Size/Type: Kittanning Seam, Stove size
Stove/Furnace Make: old handfired bituminous

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: freetown fred On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:16 am

ck--glad you got through that safely. You mentioned that your detectors are combo smoke & co--I think it's been proven concerning combo heating units--coal/wood-leave much to be desired, as in, do ONE thing PROPERLY. I do NOT have enough confidence in our egg-head society to see that ever being a viable happening :( I have in my own home 3 SMOKE detectors & 3 CO detectors--they individually work REAL well for what they were made for--They are all Blackhawk, plug in to a receptacle with battery back up--the Co's are digital--You did well in a, dangerous situation. At least your detectors all did their job. Probably over-kill on my part, but KILL being the key word. Thank you for that reminder:)
freetown fred
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: HITZER 50-93
Coal Size/Type: BLASCHAK Nut/Stove mix

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: michaelanthony On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:50 am

[quote="Carbon12"]It still amazes me that new coal appliances don't come with a CO detector (actually, some do) AND a manometer or at least the option to buy one at cost from the dealer. No coal appliance should ever be run without these two devices.[/quote]

I know deep down you wanted to say "...at a reasonable mark up!..." :P The longest 8 days of my conversion to coal was waiting for my manometer through an E-bay seller. I would have gladly paid more from my local stove shop, I save about 100.00 bucks a week heating with coal.
michaelanthony
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Vigilant 2310, gold marc box, vogelzang pot belly coat rack
Coal Size/Type: Pea, and a little nut
Other Heating: Very cold FHA oil furnace

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: Rob R. On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:28 pm

1. Thank goodness you are ok.
2. Adjust the draft where it is supposed to be.
3. Increase the make-up air to the basement. 1 square inch of outside vent per 4,000 btu/hr of boiler capacity is recommended for oil and gas units...I think solid fuels require a bigger area, but I can't find that info at the moment.
Rob R.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy

Re: A tale of CO and lessons learned

PostBy: qbwebb On: Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:52 pm

CK - Glad to hear you reached resolution w/ out much effort, I know if it were me I would have been tearing into the thing right away, looking at flue pipe ash build up etc trying to solve the problem, all those voices in my head of other people saying see coal is more trouble than its worth! I'm learning sometimes its better to say F it and have a beer then the solution may come to you all on its own.

I too am struggling to get every last BTU from my unit, my biggest frustration as of late is I will have my feed rate dialed right in to have the 0.5-1" of ash in this cold weather, then yesterday morning I wake up to a temp of 115 when its 5 outside (my furnace blower has probable running all night extracting every last BTU), go take a look and I'm at 2.5" of ash, no where near the peak BTU output I need for the cold. All else appears equal, draft .03-.05, is the santaclaus coal having varying quality issues I wonder?

So it takes a full crank on the feedrate to get back to where I need in BTU output, I started thinking for this cold weather type of operation, has anyone ever tried a control scheme that had a thermocouple probe right at the end of the grate sensing the immediate temp that could cut cut the feed when it gets too hot? This would be really nice for these little boilers, you could go max feed rate and limit the amount of time your dealing with a small fire w/ less than Peak BTU output.
qbwebb
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: VF3000