Central Boiler FORGE 3500 Outdoor Coal Boiler

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Lightning
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Overmodified/Bored out Clayton 1537
Coal Size/Type: Nut/Stove Size Mix
Location: Olean, NY

Post By: Lightning » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 9:37 am

So, short version of the long story. A coworker of mine installed this boiler. His name is Dave, he's been struggling with it, he's a former wood burner. He heard from a mutual friend of ours about my coal antics. Dave contacted me on facebook messenger for my help. It turns out he only lives a few miles from here. I paid him a visit a couple days ago. A little background on his home, its a 2500 sq ft single level built on a concrete pad, no basement. The walls are cinder block with drywall, no insulation, new windows.

This outdoor coal boiler is MASSIVE. It's rated BTU output is 350,000 BTU/hour. The fire box is so big that I could climb inside and lay down in it. I mean you could easily dispose of adult sized bodies in this thing. It takes 300 pounds of coal just to get the fire bed up to 8 inches deep. We were able to get a good coal fire going and I've been coaching him on tending it.

Whats really freakin cool about this boiler is the Firestar Control unit. It controls actuators that regulate primary and secondary air input with these little canisters that have lids that elevate to specific heights. I'll try to get pics of it. This Controller is so smart. Once the water temp reaches set temp of 185 degrees with the combustion blower running, it enters idle mode and allows 10% primary air driven by natural draft so the fuel bed can sleep. It has several modes that actuate varying amount of combustion air such as standard run mode, pulse mode, idle mode, ignition assist mode and others. All the parameters are adjustable to suit the fuel being used. Its got quite the learning curve but its all explained well in the user manual. That coupled with the struggles of learning the burn of anthracite and anyone would be overwhelmed. So you can imagine his euphoria when I came along :lol:

He gave me access to his online monitoring system so that I can help him along. Here are a few screen shots of the monitor from last night. He almost lost the fire yesterday and was going to resort to building a wood fire in it but I guided him with bringing it back from the brink of death. He did a shake and load this morning and it appears to be recovering nicely.

Any questions, comments, advice is welcome of course. I can help him with the fire but have limited experience with hydronics and this controller. From what I'm sensing though his heating system is not moving enough heat from the boiler to the house. It overshoots easily (in my opinion) and shuts down completely on occasion. This leads to the combustion actuators sealing completely and starving the fire out before the water temp can lower enough for it to go back into standard run mode. His loop is one big enormous loop that goes to the house and back on continuous circulation. The house thermostat is set at 85 degrees (to keep the circulator on, I assume) but his home is only reaching 63-65 degrees. There is no heat dump, no secondary loops, just one loop to the house and back. I explored his house for radiators, there are a lot of them. Fin tube baseboard, I didn't count how many feet yet but it is very substantial. The concern I have, and I've also mentioned this to him, is that I think the pump is too small for the friction head and isn't pumping nearly enough volume to move heat from the boiler to the house. There is an in floor radiant heat loop in the concrete pad that his house is built on but its unknown at this time if its operational. I'm not sure how long he's owned the home. But, if that in floor is operational I told him it would be an excellent heat load for that boiler.


I think he's unsure about what steps to take next to get more heat into his house and so am I. This unit obviously has the capacity to heat 4 homes simutaneously in below zero weather. Any help much appreciated. He's been so frustrated to the point of regretting the transition to coal, but I'm helping him see the light of the anthracite. I realize his heat distribution system needs a lot of work, but thats all I got...
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tsb
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Post By: tsb » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:03 am

Are there any close neighbors that would like to hook into the system ?

franco b
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Post By: franco b » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:17 am

Is that one long loop through the baseboard heaters as well? No heat exchanger? Do the baseboards get hot?

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McGiever
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Coal Size/Type: RICE,PEA,NUT,STOVE /ANTHRACITE and EGG / BIT
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Location: Junction of PA-OH-WV

Post By: McGiever » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:31 am

With that much coal burning on the grate there should be no shortage of heat available...you are correct to assume a flow or lack of flow issue.
Before condemning the pump be sure the system has all the air pockets purged...power purged, by garden hose...not by circulator.

Air pockets anywhere along/in that single loop can choke any size pump down to a dribble of flow.

Anyways, that would be my first step before any disassembly and/or opening the check-book.
Last edited by McGiever on Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

Rob R.
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Post By: Rob R. » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:34 am

Did the house heat properly before he installed this monster boiler?

I would guess that the radiant system is either compromised, or very expensive to operate - otherwise they would not have installed fin tube baseboard.

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lsayre
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Stoker Coal Boiler: AHS S130 Coal Gun
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Location: N/E Ohio, between Medina and Wadsworth

Post By: lsayre » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:36 am

How many total overall feet on that single loop run? What ID pipe is mainly being used? What is the ID of the underground run? What is his Delta-T? What circulator is he running on the loop? How many feet of hot water fintube baseboards? 3/4" copper on the baseboards? What is the areas annual average HDD's? Is every foot of baseboard in play all of the time, or are there bypasses? Does all of this run on a single T-Stat? Is DHW also being heated by the outdoor boiler? is he heating the garage also?
Last edited by lsayre on Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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McGiever
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Stoker Coal Boiler: AXEMAN-ANDERSON 130 "1959"
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Coal Size/Type: RICE,PEA,NUT,STOVE /ANTHRACITE and EGG / BIT
Other Heating: Ground Source Heat Pump and some Solar
Location: Junction of PA-OH-WV

Post By: McGiever » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:42 am

Rob R. wrote:
Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:34 am

I would guess that the radiant system is either compromised, or very expensive to operate - otherwise they would not have installed fin tube baseboard.


Agree with *RobR's* assessment of the old radiant floor.

Age of dwelling may be before PEX and Blue or Pink Rigid insulation board came into favor.
Rotten embedded tubing and lack of insulation would make for a lost cause there.

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Lightning
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Overmodified/Bored out Clayton 1537
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Location: Olean, NY

Post By: Lightning » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 11:33 am

tsb wrote:
Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:03 am
Are there any close neighbors that would like to hook into the system ?
Yes, he has close neighbors and I bet that would be an option once we get his home heating in order. Great idea TSB!

franco b wrote:
Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:17 am
Is that one long loop through the baseboard heaters as well? No heat exchanger? Do the baseboards get hot?

Yes this appears to be the case as far as I can tell right now. No heat exchanger. I'm gonna go over with my IR gun and take measurements throughout the network of radiators.

McGiever wrote:
Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:31 am
With that much coal burning on the grate there should be no shortage of heat available...you are correct to assume a flow or lack of flow issue.
Before condemning the pump be sure the system has all the air pockets purged...power purged, by garden hose...not by circulator.

Air pockets anywhere along/in that single loop can choke any size pump down to a dribble of flow.

Anyways, that would be my first step before any disassembly and/or opening the check-book.
I will go over this with him, thank you Larry.
Rob R. wrote:
Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:34 am
Did the house heat properly before he installed this monster boiler?

I would guess that the radiant system is either compromised, or very expensive to operate - otherwise they would not have installed fin tube baseboard.
Right, that makes sense.. I'm gonna try for more information about the in floor heat. He wants to pressure test it somehow? I don't know how all that gets handled. He said the house never really got very warm for him in the past. He thinks its due to lack of insulation and being on a concrete pad, and I'm sure those are all small factors compared to the potential of this boiler. He had a Taylor wood monster before this unit. He says this new one is doing better, but at this rate he's gonna be cold in sub zero weather and that is just wrong lol....
lsayre wrote:
Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 10:36 am
How many total overall feet on that single loop run? What ID pipe is mainly being used? What is the ID of the underground run? What is his Delta-T? What circulator is he running on the loop? How many feet of hot water fintube baseboards? 3/4" copper on the baseboards? What is the areas annual average HDD's? Is every foot of baseboard in play all of the time, or are there bypasses? Does all of this run on a single T-Stat? Is DHW also being heated by the outdoor boiler? is he heating the garage also?
Thanks for your interest Larry, I'll try to get more specific numbers for you. He's only heating the 2500 sq ft house at this moment. No garage, no DHW, nothing else. Yet..

I also have spoke to him about this great site and he is interested to join us.


Olllotj
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Post By: Olllotj » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 11:37 am

house never got warm.... Keeps trying new boilers....

Lack of radiation or flow or both.

Return temps to the boiler would tell a lot.

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Lightning
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Overmodified/Bored out Clayton 1537
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Post By: Lightning » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 12:15 pm

Olllotj wrote:
Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 11:37 am
Lack of radiation or flow or both.
That was my first thought also..

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lsayre
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Stoker Coal Boiler: AHS S130 Coal Gun
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Location: N/E Ohio, between Medina and Wadsworth

Post By: lsayre » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 12:56 pm

Assuming standard 8 ft. ceilings, I'm going to take an initial purely wild stab guess at a need for roughly 150 overall ft of HWB radiators, and a need for at least 7 GPM of flow through the loop. This being for a guess at a 70K BTUH home heat loss calculation, and for 20 degrees of Delta-T, and for 180 degree water departing the boiler, and about 7,500 HDD's.

70,000 BTUH ~= 7 GPM flow x 20 degrees Delta-T x 8.34 Lbs./Gal. x 60 Min/Hr.
Last edited by lsayre on Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Lightning
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Overmodified/Bored out Clayton 1537
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Location: Olean, NY

Post By: Lightning » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 1:36 pm

I think that is an excellent guess Larry. Thank you for your effort on that.

His boiler has been running flawlessly today. It's reaching its set point, going into idle and doing it's pulses on time. This controller has really peaked my interest lately. What a neat piece of equipment with its automation and internet connectivity. Take a look at this user manual.

Here's the current specs on the monitor.
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lsayre
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Stoker Coal Boiler: AHS S130 Coal Gun
Coal Size/Type: Lehigh Anthracite Pea
Other Heating: Resistance Boiler (13.5 KW), ComfortMax 75
Location: N/E Ohio, between Medina and Wadsworth

Post By: lsayre » Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 1:51 pm

To raise the efficiency of the boiler, he should (as mentioned already) see if his neighbor wants to heat his house with the boiler also. It is about twice the size that is likely needed, even if one figures it to be only about 50% efficient (which may not be far off in the real world).

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Post By: lzaharis » Sun. Dec. 02, 2018 4:07 pm

How often is he emptying the ash pit?
If its anything like the old evergreen boilers it may have a cleanout door in the back.
Is the circulator and bladder tank in the back of the boiler or in the home?
The sooner we see a schematic for the plumbing the better.
Is this coal boiler using a closed pressurized system or an open system?
Where is the circulator?
How old is this circulator?
Is there a vacuum gauge on the suction side of the circulator?
Is there a pressure gauge on the outlet side of the circulator?
Will he let you take some pictures of the system to see and show where everything is?

lzaharis
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Post By: lzaharis » Sun. Dec. 02, 2018 4:50 pm

I hope we can find out what type of pex he has in the ground.
This boiler has an open system and the circulator is in the rear of the boiler set up to pump away from the boilers water tank.
There are isolation flanges to shut the water flow to the circulator to allow it to be changed if needed.
It has a pressure gauge on the pump outlet according to the schematic.
It has a stack clean out that is on the exterior of the boiler.
The ash pit has to be shoveled out to be cleaned.


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