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A Trip Back in History Today!


Kyle Kubs
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Todays inspection of a 1950 Cape being sold by the original owner turned up something special today. The original boiler was still in place, unbutchered and something I have never seen before. After looking at how it was made and engineered it was no wonder it is still working at 57 years old.

Never seen a heat exchanger like this before. Basically a wound copper coil with a burner charectoristic of one you would find on a water heater sitting in the middle. Guess that is why AO Smith went on the make water heaters.

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Wow, I've never seen a boiler design like that before. It uses a very small quantity of water compared to a traditional cast iron water jacket. Kind of ahead of its time. I'll bet it heats up very fast.

It's also unusual that the circ pump is inside the boiler frame.

Were the circulating pipes and radiators copper too?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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All the AO Smith boilers have the copper tubes. I think Lochinvaar does also.

AO Smith built a lot of these puppies from the 50's through the 70's. It's a very nice design; definitely ahead of it's time. Lots of new on-demand water heaters use the same concept.

Every once and a while I find them w/the coils all badly corroded foamy green; they'll clog the draft & cause major backdrafting.

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Originally posted by kurt

All the AO Smith boilers have the copper tubes. I think Lochinvaar does also.

Every once and a while I find them w/the coils all badly corroded foamy green; they'll clog the draft & cause major backdrafting.

Thats interesting since it was backdrafting badly, but it was backdrafting from the top side of the heat exchanger. Do you find them backdrafting from under the exchanger in that situation? The exchanger did have some good corrosion and signs of leaking. What I found interesting was that the outlet from the exchanger did not have a hard connection to the flu pipe on top of the cabinet. It kind of funneled into it with a few inches of space between them almost like a draft diverter on a water heater, but there was an integral diverter on the flu pipe. I guess the corrosion could be slowing down the flow enough to make it come out on top.

Jim - The distribution/return piping was an all copper Diverter T system which is really common for the era and the Rads where all standard cast Iron hot water radiators. Never seen a Copper Radiator before... That would be pretty neat.

Believe it or not the coil was still cool enough to touch even after running the boiler for about 20min. I guess the radiators were doing a good job of bleeding the heat out of the water. Probably this designs downfall since the low temps at the exchanger would cause condensing of the exhaust gases on the coil and accelerate corrosion...

Kurt - Any idea as to the efficiency of this boiler?

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When I find them messed up, they're usually ready for the dump. I tell folks to replace them. I really like the design though; they hold up well for approx. 40 years. This one is the statistical aberration, but it sounds like it's done too.

Efficiency is not so hot compared to really modern stuff, but it's not bad either. I have no idea regarding actual #'s. In older houses, there's so many other things to consider regarding energy efficiency, I wouldn't worry about the equipment @ this point; I'd be looking @ insulation & windows.

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Originally posted by Kyle Kubs

. . . Jim - The distribution/return piping was an all copper Diverter T system which is really common for the era and the Rads where all standard cast Iron hot water radiators. Never seen a Copper Radiator before... That would be pretty neat. . .

Surely you've seen copper-fin-tube radiators before?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Originally posted by Kyle Kubs

. . . Jim - The distribution/return piping was an all copper Diverter T system which is really common for the era and the Rads where all standard cast Iron hot water radiators. Never seen a Copper Radiator before... That would be pretty neat. . .

Surely you've seen copper-fin-tube radiators before?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Sorry, of course I have. I just don't think of those as "Radiators" Not in the traditional sense. I grew up with steam heat. In my world a radiator weighs more than you do and breathes & snorts during the cold winter nights to let you know all is well...

Neal - Yes, they are one in the same. "Monoflow" was B&G's brand name for their diverter T fitting. Kinda like calling NM-B "Romex" Same thing. I love these systems. Wish everything had that kind of simplicity today.

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