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Thread: Boiler going into "lockout" mode

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    DIY Member watson524's Avatar
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    Question Boiler going into "lockout" mode

    Hi all,

    On Saturday, our boiler started randomly putting itself into lock out mode. This was only noticed because my husband said he had a cold shower. We have a Weil McLain oil fired boiler, oil hot water baseboard heat and a Boilermate tank for hot water. As a result of this thread (http://www.terrylove.com/forums/show...ate-Coil-issue) I disconnected the blue wire on the hi/low control so that we had cold start and also have the valves to/from the boiler coil shut off. Not at all saying that is causing our current issue but I wanted to be clear on what's what and also note that since that was done, we haven't had a lick of problems until now.

    The boiler was installed new with house construction in May 2002. We now have a 8184G primary controller because in November 2006, our original primary controller (a 60200 Weil McLain - the one with the big red rubber button) went faulty so the oil company replaced it with the 8184G.

    We also have a power vent vs a chimney. I've read about the general disdain for those but since our builder didn't even give us an option when we were building and I didn't learn of the issues until after, it is what it is and has been ok so far.

    When my husband reported cold shower, we went to the basement and the primary controller was locked out but on the panel, the boilermate was calling for it. We hit the red reset button and it heated up to the 180'ish we'd expect it to and all was normal. Later that day, we checked again and it was locked out (I think this was after running a load of laundry). Hit the reset button and nothing. Flipped the little black switch on it, that did the trick. Ran the normal on/off cycle. Similar behavior yesterday too. We thought perhaps the barometric dampener flap on the flue was sticking because it wasn't rotating quite freely but a gentle nudge unstuck it. Also, for a test, I forceably held flap shut with my finger while the boiler was running but it ran the normal cycle. We did clean just inside the flap area with a wire brush while running a vaccuum hose there just in case, but it flips freely now. Also, I opened up the little inspection plate to check for flame. I'm not sure what it's supposed to look like but it's a big bright orange flame :-) This morning my husband went down to check and it was locked out again though nothing would have called for it since the last reset since showers and laundry were done last nite, though I guess boilermate could have needed warm up.

    This year when the oil company cleaned the boiler in the fall, I didn't get their slip to show what was done. We've had some issues in the past with various size nozzles (one time the "eye" in there was sooted up and they cleaned it off) but for the last at least 4 years at cleaning, the nozzle is the 85-80b and has been working well.

    Is there anything I can check before I call the service company for what might be something stupid and easy?

    I thought about opening it up and seeing if I could determine if the eye was just dirty but it seems odd that when we're standing there, it comes back on and runs fine and when we walk away, it doesn't. I know that that whole front panel swings open after you unbolt the one bolt on the left there but I didn't know if the oil line swung with it (copper line, can't imagine it'd bend easy) or if that should be disconnected somehow.

    Any help would be great. If anyone needs pictures or anything, just let me know.

    thanks!

    P.S. yes I know about the master power off switch and we shut the system down while cleaning dampener area

    P.P.S. oil tanks are plenty full.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Check the boiler water pressure. Generally, it needs to be something like 14-20#. If it is low, the boiler will shut down. You should have the owner's manual (if you don't, check online for it). It will have some troubleshooting info.

    There are various interlocks, and if you can figure out the wiring diagram, it is generally fairly easy to see what switch or control is not functioning. To do this, you'd need a meter and know how to use it (well, you could use a 24v lamp and some leads, but that is a little harder). Various interlocks might be things like: flame sensor, flue damper, pressure (vacuum) indicating there is a fan on, low water pressure, high temp and maybe others. If the circulator isn't running, the boiler can get too hot since the water isn't moving. Lots of things, but if you are logical, easy enough.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Member watson524's Avatar
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    The pressure was reading ok (we were watching that and temp) but of course when we're standing there, it runs fine, but I presume if it did go low, it wouldn't just randomly come back up even when not running when we went to check on it.

    When you say interlocks, do you mean on that primary controller? The circulator is definitely running (I checked that on a hot water call and a heat call and both were ok).

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Nope the boiler will not shut down if the pressure is low. If it has a low water cutoff it will shut down if the water level drops drastically as in a big leak. It could be any one of a whole lot of things from bad or dirty cad cell eye to bad nozzle, electrodes, transformer, pump, pump coupling, burner motor, draft issue, plugged filter or pump strainer, fluctuating power, bad primary control, get the picture? Without test equipment and experience you are shooting in the dark.

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    DIY Member watson524's Avatar
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    So translated as - call a tech. I guess I'm just leery given they installed a boiler mate and left me getting hot water from the coil. The manual troubleshooting page lists a bunch of scenarios, none of which are lockout related. Maybe I'll try opening it up and at least cleaning the eye. I am not going so far as to messing with how electrodes are pointed and such.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    My (gas) boiler will shut down if the primary loop pressure is too low...I'm guessing, since this one and the last both had it, that that is a fairly common interlock function, but I have no experience with an oil fired boiler.

    Some things are fundamentally the same, though. THere's normally some sensor to determine that the flame actually got lit - you don't want to continue to add fuel if it isn't lit. On a power vent, there are interlocks that determine the fan is running and the vent is not blocked (either by pressure or vacuum - those I've seen use vacuum, though). Other than that, you'd need to review the manual to determine what's in yours, and what may cause it to shut down. Some functions are 'catastrphic' and won't reset by themselves; others are condition based, and if a transient condition, will reset and then things can work normally.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Oil burner service is not rocket science, but you definitely need to know what you are doing. Over the years I have serviced mine several times and did fine with cleaning the boiler, replacing the nozzle,oil filter, cleaning and setting the electrodes, etc. I did as well as the techs that my various oil companies techs did that they sent out in the 40 years I've been in my house. I even replaced the original burner myself with a Becket AFG to replace the piece of crap that was there. Actually, I had an oil company replace the entire piece of junk steel boiler and its burner in 1986. They had put in a Weil MCclane and a Blue Angel burner, but nobody seemed to know how to set up the Blue angel, and the service techs, when they came, always said it was diificult if impossible to adjust it; so, I was too cheap to pay them what they wanted, so I bought the Beckett at the supply house.The only thing for me is getting the combustion air set correctly (well, I did it by eye and did not have even a smoke test device). All the years that the techs the companies serviced my burners, not ONE of them ever had a combustion analyzer; they set the flame by eye, and some did a smoke test with the little hand operated suction pump that pulled some flue gases through a paper filter. Several years ago, when I did not feel like doing it anymore, I asked a friend of mine to service it for me, and he used a B******ch (spelling?) analyzer to set it. He was very maticulous in everything he did. Most of the techs that the oil companies sent out were of the Hunch back of Notre Dame's mentality. There were a few that knew what they were doing, some cared, but NONE had the combustion analyzer. I think it is likely that if I hired an HVAC company to send a tech out, they would be equipped with the analyzer (maybe).

    Most importantly, if you really get it wrong and burning dirty, it will not only soot up and dirty up the cad-cell eye, it will be dangerous.

    I am an advanced DIY guy and have been in the industrial automation controls industry for a long time and did it myself at times because of the level of skill of the techs they sent out to my house.
    Again, its not rocket science, but I recommend you get somebody in that is a pro. Troubleshooting the cause of it locking out, as Jim says could be easy enough, but if it involves getting the combustion set up properly, I say: get a pro there. If you saw it call for heat, and the burner motor never even make an attempt to start, then maybe the primary control is faulty. You sound like you can do that with everything else you have checked.
    Did the motor turn over when you saw the thing go off on "flame-out"?
    my 2 cents here (maybe not even worth that much!) ;-)
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Default wazzat?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobL43 View Post
    . Several years ago, when I did not feel like doing it anymore, I asked a friend of mine to service it for me, and he used a B******ch (spelling?)
    looks like the analyzer's name was spelled correctly as I wrote it, and was auto censored. Anyway, it is pronounced like Back er Rat
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

  9. #9
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The shutoff after the timeout is because the sensor is not (always?) seeing that the flame is actually lit. Somewhere in the manual, they should tell you the resistance valve or voltage output of the sensor. On some, I think it is just a voltage divider circuit, so in that case, you can check the voltage. If it is detecting the light, it would also output a voltage. It may be that it's getting weak, and the voltage it produces is marginal, or the controller sensitivity is marginal. It could be that the controller sensitivity is adjustable, and if it is, it could just be a dirty wiper arm on the pot that would be cleaned if you turned it a little, then turned it back to where it was. Don't know the specifics of that sensor...some detect the heat, some detect the light, and neither works well if covered in crud, is misaligned, or the contacts to it are corroded or loose. Because the resistance is critical, if the contacts are push on, you might just try removing them and reinstalling them. This sliding will tend to clean the connector. But, the manual often will say to check either voltage or resistance under certain conditions and give you the values. My guess is that it won't go from zero to some high value like a switch, but will be some intermediate value that changes, either in voltage because of the light, or resistance (which normally would be a thermocouple rather than a CAD cell). Sorry, don't know the specifics of your setup, but these generalities may help you understand the manual, which is often written for a tech with training, and greek to many others.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Member watson524's Avatar
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    I found in my stack of manuals were you can pull the CAD cell and check for resistance with room light vs dark. At room light, it's supposed to read < 10k ohm so I set my tester to 20k and it read 3.89 - 4 on the pins at the back of the cell so that checks out. At dark (I put my thumb over it), it's supposed to read > 50k ohm so I set the tester to 200k and it read between 57 and 58 so I believe that all checks out.

    There doesn't appear to be a wiper or anything on my setup and other than the yellow wires on the F terminals on the primary control, I can't get to the ends of the wires on the eye because they're integrated into the unit. I can only see the pins on the back of the CAD cell and those were clean when I pulled it.

    It looks like this (except the eye part doesn't have the silver band at the top and has the numbers 21K1757 and 1024 on it)


    Also, when I made it call, it crapped out again but when the PV and motor (was running, I got 2.7v on the F screws on the primary control). It went in to lockout and still I got 2.7v on the F terminals. After I reset it and all was running normally, I am getting .3V on the F screws.

    As for the motor and all that, I don't have that pre purge. The argo panel gets the call, the PV comes on and almost instantly, I get the big "woosh" of burning flame when all is normal. When it goes into lockout, I am definitely hearing the motor during the 45 second pre lockout period and after lockout. I've also been able to hear it during normal operation so I would say the motor is turning normall at all times, it's just that unless I am starting it by hitting the reset, I never get the "woosh" of ignition.
    Last edited by watson524; 06-21-2011 at 11:40 AM. Reason: added more info

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    If your oil burner has a fuel valve with the solenoid, check for 115VAC on the coil wires; the more we go over this, the more it seems like the primary control is the culprit. If the motor turns the pump and blower, all else required for flame is fuel and ignition. If the ignitor is bad or the fuel solenoid is bad, the problem would probably not be so consistently repeatable as you have it.
    Bear in mind that my advice is from a DIY homeowner with some experience on this stuff, but I don't want to make you buy a new controller if its not needed. Then again, "I" have a spare part for everything in my burner including the blower wheel, pump coupling and air tube with "nose cone", fuel filters, screen; everything other than the main casting . In the middle of the Winter, if my system went out, I just want to get it going again ASAP.

    Good Luck,

    Bob
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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    DIY Member watson524's Avatar
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    Well I finally got smart and started using the temp control on the boilermate as my way to make a call vs running up and down the steps to the wall thermostat and making the house hot :-)

    I went down, all was quite and not locked out (makes sense, nothing had needed it). I turned up the temp setting on the boilermate, I heard the relay make the loud clip on the argo panel, the power venter come on but never the loud "woosh" of the thing firing up so I wanted and after 45 seconds, it locked out. Ok good, so I turn back the temp control to stop the call and let the PV run it's 3 minute expunge cycle and now we're at nothing calling, and boiler locked out. So I hit the reset on the primary control, and all is quite because nothing is calling for it (unlike other tests where something is still calling). So I turn up the temp control on the boilermate to get a call, and the thing works fine and runs the cycle.

    100% of the time it fires right up after lockout when I hit the reset and never has an issue. And now I know it doesn't matter if you hit the reset when something is calling for it or not. Since the resistance is reading ok when firing and not, the eye is clean, the nozzle is the same size used for years, the electrodes are at correct spacing specs, I think I am going to replace the primary control before I call someone just to see if that is it. I mean what the heck, it's worth the $65 for my own learning and so I don't get a guy up here and find out it was something that dumb that I could have dealt with myself.

    Not sure what you mean about the motor turning over when I saw it go off on flame out. I can't really hear the motor when it's running because of the "woosh" of the burning itself and obviously can't look in there to see if it's turning when it's running so.... Is there some other way I can check that?

    It just seems like this thing doesn't think it gets enough love down there in the basement and wants me to come visit to burp it each time. Cripes.

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Red face

    Quote Originally Posted by watson524 View Post
    Well I finally got smart and started using the temp control on the boilermate as my way to make a call vs running up and down the steps to the wall thermostat and making the house hot :-)

    I went down, all was quite and not locked out (makes sense, nothing had needed it). I turned up the temp setting on the boilermate, I heard the relay make the loud clip on the argo panel, the power venter come on but never the loud "woosh" of the thing firing up so I wanted and after 45 seconds, it locked out. Ok good, so I turn back the temp control to stop the call and let the PV run it's 3 minute expunge cycle and now we're at nothing calling, and boiler locked out. So I hit the reset on the primary control, and all is quite because nothing is calling for it (unlike other tests where something is still calling). So I turn up the temp control on the boilermate to get a call, and the thing works fine and runs the cycle.

    100% of the time it fires right up after lockout when I hit the reset and never has an issue. And now I know it doesn't matter if you hit the reset when something is calling for it or not. Since the resistance is reading ok when firing and not, the eye is clean, the nozzle is the same size used for years, the electrodes are at correct spacing specs, I think I am going to replace the primary control before I call someone just to see if that is it. I mean what the heck, it's worth the $65 for my own learning and so I don't get a guy up here and find out it was something that dumb that I could have dealt with myself.

    Not sure what you mean about the motor turning over when I saw it go off on flame out. I can't really hear the motor when it's running because of the "woosh" of the burning itself and obviously can't look in there to see if it's turning when it's running so.... Is there some other way I can check that?

    It just seems like this thing doesn't think it gets enough love down there in the basement and wants me to come visit to burp it each time. Cripes.
    what I meant about the motor turning: whe the burner starts up, the primary control the 8184G, I think you said you have, will power up the motor first and turn the blower wheel and pre-purge the boiler of fumes if the G model does that for about 15 seconds. After the pre-purge, the controller will energize the fuel oil solenoid and the ignitor on top of the burner; when that happens, you normally hear a distinct (at least to me :-) change of sound when the then sprayed oil ignites. So my question again is, when you get the lock out, does the burner make the wooshing sound, and no flame?
    Oops! I looked up the 8184G, and it LOOKS like it does not have the pre-purge cycle. I guess then I'll have to re-phrase my question: At the call for heat for a lock out DOES it make any woosh sound? If it the motor does not turn and blow air and pump oil to the nozzle, then the cad cell will of course see no flame and shut the system down. The primaries I've worked with all have the pre-purge and some have a post purge cycle as well.
    Sorry for the long winded replies. Sometimes its hard to express things, and I do phone tech support for a living now, but not in plumbing or HVAC LOL
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Refer to post # 4 before you wind up spending a whole lot of money replacing things that are not bad.

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Nobody can argue with that, as it covers everything. The OP was determined to fix it. yeah, maybe it is as simple as a plugged filter. That normally causes some cavitation screaming though.
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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