When is Ash Pan Full?

 
crazysteamer
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Post by crazysteamer » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 9:38 am

Having put in a new Keystoker A150 that has a smaller ash pan than my old Reading, I decided to (maybe) get smart about 'when is the ash pan ready to be dumped'. :o

the old Reading had a large door and it was easy to take a 'quick look' at the pan. The Keystoker...not so.

OK...so ash in pan is a function of 'how much coal have I burned'?

Not using a coal-trol but a PLC instead of the standard TORK timer that Keystoker provides (probably over-kill but the coal, propane and a/c are all linked to the same ducting system and easy to change over with a single switch), I have the ability to easily accumulate how many hours the stoker has run.

After a bit of fiddling, I found that about 10 hours of stoker running (either on the thermostat or the timer to keep the bed burning)...the ash pan is ready to be dumped.

Ok...so using an internal timer in the PLC, I can close a contact which will light a light, sound a buzzer or.....send a signal to my e-mail saying 'DUMP THE ASH PAN'.

This is done using a little Proteus sensor widget that connects to my WiFi and sends out an e-mail when the timer gets to 9.5 hours (safety margin for nights and laziness).

The Proteus unit costs about $100 and is also used to alert for open doors, water on the floor, a full sump...anything you can dream up with a dry contact.

Signal e-mail is programmable to repeat every 30 minutes until reset...and is set to NOT send a signal after 10 PM at night (when I am generally headed to bed). When I am away, I can send the signal to my wife's e-mail (she hates that), or to my brother in law who will dump ash / feed hopper as needed.

Overkill?...sure...but what the heck..gotta do something to modernize coal burning.

Next step...a set of indoor / outdoor temperature sensors and a VFD on the air circulation fan through the house...all controlled by the same PLC. Need more data on the Keystoker through the winter to decide just how to handle it.

and YES -> I do have a complete spare PLC on the shelf, programmed and ready to run....just in case. I don't trust anything electrical that I can throw further than 10'.

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nepacoal
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Post by nepacoal » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 9:51 am

Nice mod... And I thought my hour meter and remote temperature monitor were modern twists to burning coal.

 
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titleist1
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Post by titleist1 » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 11:16 am

Very cool mod! :yes:

What is the PLC you are using? ladders programming or something else?

 
crazysteamer
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Post by crazysteamer » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 11:21 am

Your timer would be my #1 choice to replace the Tork...however I needed quite a bit more to control the 'whole house' system and the PLC was a no-brainer (considering what I do for a living).
plc small.jpg
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The little square rectangle on the left with the 'black button' in the middle of it is the Proteus wifi e-mailing widgit.

lower right hand corner is the typical 'light switch' that is COAL / PROPANE transfer...Kills the coal feeder, waits 30 minutes for things to cool off then flops over several zone shutters in the ducting so that the propane furnace is on-line. Thermostat signals are transferred and voila!

a few dangling wires from the new Keystoker install yet to be finalized, but overall very close to being 'done'.

entire PLC, which includes power supply and all I/O modules is on a DIN rail and can be unplugged and replaced in 10 minutes.

my old Reading needed a lot of 'head start' if the temperature was going down..but the Keystoker appears to be able to keep up with cold temps...so I am still unknown if I need a remote temp monitor or not. Before, if I saw that temps were going down to 20 or below, I would have to bypass the nightly temp set-back since the Reading would struggle to catch up in the morning.

the PLC is a Koyo Click from these folks. Literally any ladder logic unit will work. I chose this for $$, and expandability..maybe $400 total invested in PLC / POWER SUPPLY and I/O modules.

the house is zoned off to living / sleeping with priority override on sleeping at night should both areas call for heat at the same time.

As usual, the external support equipment (relays, fuses, terminal blocks, switches, etc) consume much more space (and $$) than the actual PLC.

https://www.automationdirect.com/programmable-log ... ontrollers
Last edited by crazysteamer on Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 11:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

 
franco b
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Post by franco b » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 11:24 am

What I see is a high tech solution that only partially abates the blunder of the manufacturer in not providing a large enough ash pan to go 24 hours before needing to be emptied.

 
crazysteamer
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Post by crazysteamer » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 11:31 am

that bothered me at first, but the ash pan needs to fit INSIDE of the combustion chamber and on this furnace the chamber is ...maybe 30" in diameter...so a standard BUSHEL bin fits in nicely....not really a blunder as much as a compromise...and in general am much happier with the Keystoker than the Reading that preceded it.

the Reading took a #3 wash tub (about 2 bushels)..which was nicer -> but may well have been more than I can lift in a few years. a full tub ran about 70#.

The 'high tech solution' gives me an excuse to play around..simply walking to the basement and looking in will work..but what the heck, I had the PLC there anyway so why not use it?

I also needed a way to make the control seamless for my wife (who is very computer challenged)..and she is most likely going to out-live me....hence the plug-and-play PLC replacement.

The clincher was the $100 widget to send the e-mail alert...gotta love black magic - and the folks at work consider me a dinosaur so I had to take a swing back and show that I COULD use my smart-phone for something other than getting VPN codes from the company network.

 
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freetown fred
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Post by freetown fred » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 12:18 pm

My timer/alert system works REAL well--Redbone Coon Hound/ Black Lab pup starts barkin at the old HITZER!!! :)

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crazysteamer
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Post by crazysteamer » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 1:47 pm

no dogs on this farm...very territorial cat(s) who know how to handle same...

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Post by Pacowy » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 2:51 pm

I think I'm with Fred on this. No offense intended, but it seems like you are making yourself subservient to technology, rather than employing technology only when it improves efficiency or quality of life. I've run an assortment of coal stoves, boilers and a furnace, and with all of them there was a predictable and regular pattern for handling coal feed and ash based on the season and conditions. For example, when making DHW for a family of 8 in the summer with a stoker boiler, I needed to empty the ash every 21 days. During the heating season, the "tending interval" depends on whether it's a shoulder period, normal dead of winter conditions, some annoying polar vortex event, etc. Generations of coal users unencumbered by technology have found that the learning curve on this is pretty short. And for me at least, it is far easier to work coal and ash handling into the chores on a regular schedule, rather than put myself on call to drop everything every time the hour meter hits 10.0. Let alone the bad stuff that can happen if any kind of techno-glitch causes a failure of the system (see, for example, "Jurassic Park").

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of technology where it provides tangible benefits. Here, however, as inter-galactically known attorney Samuel T. Cogley argued at Captain Kirk's court martial, "...you have brought us down to the level of the machine. Indeed, you have elevated that machine above us." In light of Starfleet command's subsequent affirmation of the primacy of human rights over techno do-dads, I rest my case.

Mike

 
crazysteamer
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Post by crazysteamer » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 3:03 pm

giggle...you fellows have no idea what I do for a living...this is all very 'low tech' in comparison to what I do on a daily basis.

I appreciate your thoughts non-the-less....

When I want low-tech, I get one of the steam locomotive(s) out for a run and truly put the brain in neutral for a few hours.

 
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Post by Pacowy » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 3:37 pm

My comments are not based on any particular assumptions about your tech capabilities, so I think your giggle is misplaced. Indeed, if your set-up is as low tech as you describe, you might want to ask yourself why it isn't already in widespread use.

Mike

 
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freetown fred
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Post by freetown fred » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 4:05 pm

Never really cared what ya do for a living--seems you're impressed enough with all that. You've had people share some thoughts & a lil humor even!! :) OK, you're a gadget guy, this is good for ya, you're havin fun with it. Have a Happy New Year. :D
crazysteamer wrote:
Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 3:03 pm
giggle...you fellows have no idea what I do for a living...this is all very 'low tech' in comparison to what I do on a daily basis.

I appreciate your thoughts non-the-less....

When I want low-tech, I get one of the steam locomotive(s) out for a run and truly put the brain in neutral for a few hours.

 
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freetown fred
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Post by freetown fred » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 4:15 pm

No dogs on a FARM??????????? Interesting indeed--I got a couple packs of coyotes that would love to meet your"VERY territorial cats" ;)
crazysteamer wrote:
Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 1:47 pm
no dogs on this farm...very territorial cat(s) who know how to handle same...

 
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titleist1
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Post by titleist1 » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 4:32 pm

freetown fred wrote:
Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 4:05 pm
Never really cared what ya do for a living--seems you're impressed enough with all that. You've had people share some thoughts & a lil humor even!! :) OK, you're a gadget guy, this is good for ya, you're havin fun with it. Have a Happy New Year. :D
That's all that matters really....that you're having fun with it. :clap:

Thanks for sharing the info on the PLC...I am fishing for an alternative homebrew controller for the mag stoker. I don't have a spare controller other than whats running in the workshop. I'd like to have something on the shelf that can operate in timer mode to throw in there and move that controller to the house stoker if needed. That looks promising for less $ than buying a complete spare stove!

 
crazysteamer
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Keystoker A150
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Other Heating: Propane

Post by crazysteamer » Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 4:36 pm

nope...no dogs...3 goats and a bunch of cats we share with other members of the family.

I am too forgetful and too occupied with my gadgets to really have time to properly care for a dog as much as I like them

So the cats survive on little furry (slow) critters and bowls of food they share with the itinerant raccoons and the occasional fox.

we are all gadgeteers - or we would not using this bbs.

remember - one man's gadget is another man's black magic. (Arthur C. Clark paraphrase)
Last edited by crazysteamer on Tue. Dec. 31, 2019 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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