HVAC question and saga (long)

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First the question. I have an oil burner in the attic. Its relatively new, couple months old. It recently started to lose prime. It has about a 20 ft vertical lift and a horizontal draw of about 50 ft. The 5th HVAC person to work on the system (hence the saga) says they can fix it by replacing the 3/8" single line with two 1/2" lines and a two stage (B) pump. Is this reasonable?
To start, I learned as much as I could about HVAC from the net, books, this news group and the HVAC news group. I thought I was prepared to fined a good HVAC contractor to install what I wanted. The only requirements were, metal runs, oil as one of the sources, and two zones. This was a new installation in a new house.
I secured three estimates and only one payed any attention to my requirements, and this person came highly recomended from my neighbor, a commercial HVAC person. (This had been his primary work but had transitioned to other work at this time.) He proposed 2 heat pumps to work at 40+ degrees with oil kicking in below 40 degrees. Sounded reasonable. Also suggested a oil hot water tank which I agreed to. He started before Thanksgiving last year and by Feb 2005 was not half done and none of the burners working, with temps in the single digits. He would show up once in 3 weeks. I was about to start drywall and I had a huge amount of 3/4 pine paneling delivered that required a stable heated environement. He told me to find someone else.
Now I was in a bind. So I tied again to find a HVAC contractor. Most would not return my calls or were booked months in advance. I finally found some who said they could get one of the burners up and running in 3 days. 5 days later I almost fired him for not having it running like he had promised. 6th day he finally had one running. To shorten the story, he got everything up and running by warm weather. We're not confident of his work and would not use him again.
Summer we moved in to the new house and the air worked fine. Cold weather showed the flaws in the new system. The hot water line was teed off the main oil burner in the basement. It started to loose prime. After the first time the tech that came out to trouble shoot it showed me how to prime it which I had to do several times. Also the heat pumps would run 5-10 minutes and then the oil would kick in no matter what the outside temps were.
So I was talking to a friend and they thought highly of their HVAC contractors. ( I did call the orginal guy 3 times with no response). So I called them and they came out and after a day and half they ripped out the fossil fuel kits the previous person put in and run a new line to the hot water. The bill was a shock. They explained this was because we were not their customers and the call was considered an emergency!! was not happy. I guess I should have known. The next day the burner in the attic lossed prime. We called them out again and they primed it. They said it would need a two stage pump.
It continued to loose prime and I primed it myself. But Christmas eve it failed again. Monday I called Agway and they came out twice and told me there was no solution. Oil would not work and they would not install propane because we did not get our oil and propane from them. (I had tried to get a hold of the folks who did supply us but they were not in on that Monday.)
Wednesday I was able to get the folks who supply us and they said it should work with the two line method. So thats where we are now.
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The first thing to do, is make sure you only have flare fittings on the oil lines, and that all the flares are good. For the attic, try a 'positive shut off' (not the steel ball type) check valve in the supply line. Then go with a two stage fuel pump. If that doesn't work, then run a 3/8" line back to the tank and install a by-pass plug inside the fuel pump to switch it to a two-pipe system. I don't think you need to switch to 1/2" lines. If your tank is in the basement, and the oil lines are off the top, they may be too close together at the bottom of the tank, causing turbulence.
I stopped reading after the attic problem, maybe you could edit out all the non-essential stuff.

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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote:

Yes. A 20 ft lift install should never have been done with a single-stage/one pipe pump.
Install a check valve at the base of the suction line to help combat loss of prime.
Jim
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I am no expert; they will jump in, soon.
First answer: Yes. A two stage (B-pump) in a lift feed piping system is logically called for. A lift feed piping system, is one where the oil tank reservoir is located at a level below the oil burner pak, as opposed to a gravity feed.
The info available at http://www.suntecpumps.com/PDFs/Installation%20and%20Service%20Manual%20-%20Section%20III.pdf will make good reading. However, 18 feet for a two stage is specified as the maximum vertical rise. It would take some studying for sure.
See also http://www.suntecpumps.com/PDFs/Form%202100%20-%20Model%20A%20&%20B%20%20Installation.pdf forTABLE B: TWO-PIPE MAXIMUM LINE LENGHT. The 1/2 inch piping is called for your requirements of the oil burner solution.
The above two links are offered for your reading reference in case you have not yet gone there.
Good luck.
On 31 Dec 2005 06:34:07 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote:

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I wouldn't put a reservoir in a residential attic, especially if it only feeds one heater. They are meant for shops/factories, where they feed several heaters at the same time. Although they are usually safe, why take the chance of putting a tank in the attic? A two-stage fuel pump installed directly on the burner will most likely solve the problem.
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wrote:

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On 31 Dec 2005 06:34:07 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote:

Im going to call you on this one. Your story is bullshit. Its stinks very heavily of you looking for the cheapest hack you could find and it looks like you got exactly what you paid for. Who on earth would keep a guy that only shows up once in 3 weeks??? Why would you put an oil furnace in an attic? I hope this is an attic with steps to it, a complete floor, plenty of stand up head room and lots of lighting? No? I didnt think so. Dark and have to crawl around in the insulation to get to it eh? Yup, that one will see a lot of service. With only a single pipe toil line to the attic it sounds like your installer doesnt have the first clue what he was doing. I can only imagine what the rest of that mess must look like. Stop using your oil supply guy to do your oil service. They supply oil, not service. Good luck. Sounds like one heck of an expensive mess you have. Bubba
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Now now.......
;-]
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Wrong on several accounts. The one thing I learned was price was NOT a qualifier. In fact the guy we picked was far from the cheapest. The reason he was picked and kept was he came highly recommend from some one we trusted to know. We fired him the when he did show up once in 3 weeks. Also he just lost his girl of many years, and was a friend of our neighbor, and he was the only one to install with metal runs.
Of all the service personal that have come out only one said oil was not appropriate.
There is ample head room and space, but alas no steps. The original installer used a lift to get it up. And light is not a problem. There is a complete floor and pan under the unit.
we have paid out nearly twice the orginal spec. And at this point we are condsidering, turning it off for several years, and when finances get better replace it with a propane unit.
So far the folks who supply the fuel are the only answer. And what about the first 4 contractors who screwed ever thing up...they did not supply the fuel...what criteria do you use to tell one from the other....a secret hand shake maybe. I would say at this point most of the contractors in the HVAC biz are hacks.
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"So far the folks who supply the fuel are the only answer. And what about the first 4 contractors who screwed ever thing up...they did not supply the fuel...what criteria do you use to tell one from the other....a secret hand shake maybe. I would say at this point most of the contractors in the HVAC biz are hacks. "
I have been in the HVAC business since 1975, and I agree, 95 % of the contractors, even many of the supposedly good ones, are hacks.
I was just on a call yesterday where the customer has had a balance problem all 10 years since the house was built. Trane was the original system, had other problems as well. Trane washed their hands of the repeat failure problems, even though it had an extended warranty. The other contractor (well known with good reputation). said a new lennox heat pump would solve all problems, including balance. Power company did the load. Installed 5-ton, same as the old one. The contractor never even looked at the ducts in the attic. Changed indoor & outdoor units and thermostat. Repeat failures stopped but air balance stayed the same.
I went in the attic, duct trunk feeding the hard to balance parts of house had a gap in it I could put my hand into! there were other duct leaks as well. He didn't check air flow with a hood till the customer complained loudly and repeatedly about the new $6,300.00 new system. The house has two supply ducts going to the garage with no return path and one going to a swimming pool bathroom with no return path! This company is not the original installer but has serviced it since it was out of warranty! The duct problems and balance problems should have been addressed and fixed long ago! Customer is not cheap. Contractor is incompetent!
Stretch
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And in this case, sure sounds like it., huh?

No one in his right mind installs a oil burner in an attic. Period. Sure, it can be done..

In all seriousness, sucks not to get it done right the first time.

And most homeowners are whiny bitches, but hey, you get a few good ones..LOL Seriously, there is no magic way to get a good contractor. Good contractors wont advertise much, they have more work than they can handle. They wont have a huge ad in the yellow pages screaming look at me, and Look how much we pay out a month to get your attention. The best ones, you probably wont ever hear of.
Im curious...what part of the country are you in, and how much did you pay for your already obsolete system?
Hell, better yet, you can name names too....who was the fool that started you on this journey that seems to have no end?
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In my section of the country, you can't use a 90+ gas furnace in an attic, and oil is a lot cheaper than an 80+ propane furnace. I've seen lots of oil furnaces work fine in an attic. His problem is not the decision to use oil, but the quality of the installation and service. I certainly wouldn't want to service it. There's no way I'd want to climb up and down through a little trap door every time I needed something. Install a pull down ladder, and see the quality of service go way up. All of the problems he describes can be solved by a tech with experience on oil. It's not hard to find a good company. If they return your calls in a timely manner, that's a real good start. If the technician can explain things to you in layman's terms that you understand, then it's a good bet he also understands what the problem is. If he's thorough in both his checks and explanations, then he probably wants a satisfied customer.
A homeowner should be able to explain the problem well, but any homeowner who starts to tell a technician what to do, or who professes a little knowledge of how to repair something is looking for trouble. Any homeowner who is a whiny bitch should be politely told to call a competitor.

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I had to tell one of those whiny homeowners that yesterday. Went on a no heat on a 20 yo heat pump about four days ago. Run cap to the compressor was bad. Tell ho that due to the age of the equipment I would recommend replacing the system. He says no, go ahead and replace run cap. I do, and tell him that although I don't have a crystal ball, something will break again, maybe sooner, maybe later. I offer him a 1 year maintenance contract which entitles him to 20% off any repairs. He declines. Yesterday I get a no heat call at the same place. This time the blower motor has died. Tell him again i recommend replacing the system but I'll do whatever he wants. he asks about price of new system and price of blower motor. I tell him and he starts whining about the money he spent for the run cap and the money he has just decided to spend for a new blower motor. This goes on for about five minutes and then I have to explain "overhead" to him. he starts whining again and I tell him that he should get some more estimates for the blower motor if he is not happy with the price. This shuts the idiot up. He buys new blower mototr and 1 year service plan. So now said genius has spent 99.00 for a run cap, 59.00 twice for service calls, 477.00 for a blower motor and 183.00 for a service contract. All of this for a 20 yo system. What a good investment! Not!
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I think you were wrong in selling him a service contract. Assholes like that will be calling every other day about something.
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Let him call, he'll either pay for whatever the problem is or wise up and replace the piece of shit.
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Bad inducer motor, 5 year old Goodman gas forced air furnace. HVAC tech says there's no point in fixing it. Just replace the whole unit. It's too old.
Well, sure, 5 years is about the best you should hope for with one of those, but, I was selling the house in six months. Good investment? Not in this case. Does that make me a whiny homeowner?
Five hundred bucks for a blower motor? Lucky the dude didn't know the local electic motor shop could sell him one for $90 and it takes 10 minutes to install.
-rev
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Damn man....they saw you coming.

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I said $90 for the blower motor, but coincidentally that's also what I paid for the Goodman inducer motor. That's what us home-moaners pay when we need parts. You could probably pick one up at the local supply house for $35 and sell it to me for $190, +$150 labor, +$85 service charge. And it's cold outside so I'd pay it.
-rev
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Actually, NO, thats NOT what I would do...but some would.

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The Reverend Natural Light wrote:

seal in the unit and so it wouldn't fire. They found that the unit was fine and resealed it (new gasket) under the warranty. Out of curiosity, I asked how much it have cost (them, not me) if they had to replace it and the repairman replied that the inducer was $350. Ridiculous, but I also checked on the Internet and some are not cheap, but not $350.
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