• Tag Archives Enhanced Convection
  • HYDRONIC (FHW) HEATING OPTIMIZED – “Going Back To Nature?”

    A primary tenet of Industrial Engineering is: To properly justify a process change you first optimize the existing process, then define the proposed process and make your CBA’s (Cost-Benefit-Analyses) for both. From weighing these you will then derive your best course of action. Speaking from painful experience as a Manufacturing Process Engineer, you will make this mistake only once. Somewhere in a dark corner of a semiconductor facility (or hopefully a scrap pile) lies my personal ill-advised, sophisticated process equipment humiliation!

    The makings of similar embarrassments are appearing within the hydronics heating industry. Hydronic component suppliers can be placed into three primary groups: boiler, distribution and radiation providers. They correspond to the three basic elements of the hydronic heating process. Component suppliers define the scope and applications of their products within a heating system, but that’s all. History and physics now become excellent teachers.

     A century ago there were two competing water-based energy heating methods, Gravity Hot Water and Steam. Both were based upon the natural (gravitational) convection attribute of water in the liquid or the vapor state, respectively. Energy distribution from a boiler to radiation required no external energy, only variation of the fuel supply ….. more heat, more fuel. Powered burners and thermostats were added for control. Pumps (circulators) doomed gravity water by adding zone management while reducing costs. Thus the modern hydronic heating system evolved.

    I’ve had the benefit of “playing with pipes”, beginning as a teenager within our family heating business for over 65 years while pursuing a paralleled hi-tech engineering career. (You can’t raise ten kids even on an engineering day job.) So while doing hydronic work “on the side”, so to speak, hydronic evolution followed me. My “engineering hat” always questioned why natural convection shouldn’t be an asset rather than a flow-checked nuisance. The old “gravities” were so simple!

    Post-engineering “non-retirement” provided time to aggressively play with hydronics. My “motor head” also makes me analogize heating systems with automobiles, i.e. the boiler being a pure “heat engine” with air, fuel and ignition for example. So when the delta-t circulator came along, there’s the “automatic transmission”. Now what can we do with the drive-line (distribution)? Can we re-evolve the Model T Ford car as a hydronic “Model Delta-T Appliance” by incorporating natural gravity convection into delta-t distribution? Well, we can and we have …..

    The old Gravity Heating System featured a large boiler, proportioned larger piping and radiation, typically all cast iron and pipe. They were skillfully defined and installed, used no distribution energy and lasted almost indefinitely, a tough act to follow. Its modern contemporary uses a much smaller (albeit more efficient) boiler, features multiple, circulated zones with smaller piping and radiation. Arguably it trades off fuel efficiency and comfort convenience for some increased distribution energy and “sophistication”.

    The sophistication referred is almost entirely within the distribution element of hydronic heating systematization.This is the consequence of a component-driven marketplace, as prior mentioned. The contemporary build-in-place method of system installations relegates hydronic interconnection of boiler to radiation in particular as “The Plumber’s Playground” wherein there are few rules and little consequence. Every system differs in a similar application, and therefore all perform differently in practice.

    If the objective is to provide overall hydronic system energy efficiency including electrical power consumption, freelancing must be both qualified and quantified in practice. Redefining near-boiler piping to optimize natural (gravity) convection with the boiler and integrating a delta-t circulator to refine hydronic delivery dramatically reduces distribution material and energy usage. Our now-patented “appliance” exhibits a typical 8 to 13 Watts total distribution energy usage while heating, over 90% reduction depending upon the contemporary configuration. Coupled with a high-mass, cast-iron boiler to enhance gravity operation, it also exhibits a thirty-plus year economic and operating life, twice or more that of low-mass, condensing units.

    Further gravity convection enhancement is available within the appliance-to-zone interconnects. The “level & square, pipes everywhere” approach does not fly in a gravity world. Minimized, pitched piping to simple series and split perimeter radiation loops are ideal. Full port valving if necessary and fewest 90° fittings further contribute to minimizing head pressures and thus distribution energy consumption. It won’t win a beauty contest, but it will win the race.

    Our 2,700 sq. ft. personally built (1970) raised ranch home has been our gravity test stand. An indoor wood boiler was convection-coupled to the cast-iron, flow-checked supply and circulator returned 3-zone “oiler” back in 1975. Multi-mode, multi-fuel operation also permitted completely unpowered, manually adjusted flow check wood gravity convection heating. As an example some years ago up here in “Frostbite Falls, NH” we were powerless from a severe ice storm for 10 days. A mere inconvenience for us ….. just feed it wood and adjust the valves.

    We currently have a series of up to six-year installed appliance “Beta Sites” that have now aggregated over twenty-five years service with no system-related calls! Two oil-contamination incidents did occur and last year a power line short-circuit blew out every control on a system. Our appliance is comprised of all standard, domestic trade components, so it was restored within the day.

    Our “appliance economics” haven’t been mentioned but are profound. Very significant complexity, material/labor content reduction and extended operating life vs. traditional architecture eclipse contemporary materials and methods. This observation was similarly but subtly affirmed in the 2019 Annual Boiler Report by several contributors opining that in effect it’s still hard to beat the economics of a well designed and installed cast iron boiler system. Their commentary and our natural (gravity) convection appliance development experience confirm that the existing, i.e. the “pre-condensing” process has yet to be optimized, to our potential peril. But try to find trade journalism and process development efforts to the contrary!

    So, is history due to repeat? That is, will a hydronic “Model Delta-T” displace this industry’s “Carriage Makers”, or will there be yet another technical “skeleton” in my closet?


  • USPTO NOTICE OF PATENT PUBLICATION – Paul D. Mercier, Sr.

    Pursuant to United States Patent & Trademark Office Regulations our Patent Submission entitled “ENHANCED CONVECTION, DIFFERENTIAL TEMPERATURE MANAGED, HYDRONIC HEATING APPLIANCE” is now posted for public access and viewing.

    A copy of the published application can be obtained at the following link, http://appft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.html.  Type in the publication number 20170299200Click “Search”, a link is presented to the published application, simply click on this link to access the published application html format.  To view the application as published click on the blue “Images” button at the top of the page.  Please note you will need an appropriate TIFF reader in order to view these images.

    We believe this to be the first, truly self-contained Delta-T ECM Hydronic Distribution enabled Heating APPLIANCE. It dramatically alters the installation of hydronic (FHW) heating systems as a free-standing, modular construction, application specific device. The installation task is reduced to merely positioning our Appliance and extending interconnect piping & wiring as necessary. Skill levels, installation and operational costs are significantly reduced with predictable system performance resulting. Interchangeable gas or oil firing options ….. same appliance!

    The proprietary items that support our claims beyond any contemporary hydronic heating installation are:

    1. Near-boiler piping configuration permits a “packaged” device, optimizing natural hydronic (gravity) convection with de facto Indirect Water Heater service prioritization.
    2. High-mass Boiler and Indirect Water Heater thermal capacities enable prolonged convection heating continuity under failed circulator or power burner conditions.
    3. Lowered system temperature operation and reduced burner cycling times for increased efficiency, extended system life with lower operating costs.
    4. All high-mass cast iron, steel, brass & bronze construction provides prolonged, natural chemical corrosion and thermal shocking resistance vs. all contemporaries.
    5. Proprietary components and assemblies enhance appliance operation and performance.
    6. A “Design for Manufacture” Appliance provides optimum consumer value.

    “Simple, Durable, Efficient FHW Heating ….. Period!”

    Within our Patent Submission are references to “derivatives” attendant to our product(s). These are being announced as our testing and sourcing is completed. Check our website for updates.

    Follow these links to our Product Sales Brochure and our website for additional detail.

    Author Note: Updated 12/14/2018


  • NOW A TRUE DELTA-T ECM HYDRONIC (FHW) HEATING APPLIANCE!

    Hydronic (FHW) heating system installations can be likened to creating something with a giant Erector Set™. As a kid, mine came with an electric motor enabling powered cars, airplanes, ferris wheels, etc. Days, weeks and months of childhood imagination and expression ensued. Great memories!

    Now as “big kids” hydronic heating system installations offer us a similar fulfillment of free expression. Within the limits of ultimate system functionality hydronic “artists” can seemingly paint their own canvas while getting paid for it! The question logically arises however as to where are the cost benefits of our efforts? We argue that heating guys are indeed losing direction, both technically and functionally. The adage “Old Dogs need to learn New Tricks” comes immediately to mind, regretfully also being one. It’s not only our innate trade resistance to change but not to think forward in applying what has preceded us ….. beginning with Physics 101!

    Gravity convection was the means of distributing heating water from the Roman Age onward. From the mid-1800’s to about 1930 it was “Queen” Gravity Hot Water along with “King” Steam. However gravity hot water systems required large boilers, piping and radiation sizes. They were slow to react, single-zoned and fuel hungry, whether burning wool, coal, oil or whatever.

    Introduction of the electric circulating pump changed hot water (hydronic) heating forever. Now multiple zones, rapid response through less intrusive radiation and powered burners do it all very conveniently. Gravity is still there, but we have necessarily learned to control it with flow check valves. Apart from the brief and unsuccessful introduction by American Standard of their “Ash Can” Gravity Boiler System in the late 1950’s (our nickname – we were Am-Std Installers back then) FHW has predominated. Circulators began by being placed on the (cooler) returns with flow checks on the (warmer) supplies to control convection. Then circulators moved to the supplies along with the valves. Boilers are now migrating from two-pass to three-pass or condensing types for greater efficiency. That’s arguably been it ….. until now!

    Enter the Delta-T (differential temperature) sensing and managing, ECM (electronic commutator motor) driven Variable Speed Circulator, specifically the Taco® VT2218-HY1-FC1A01 (Current Model). This latest iteration in Taco® Hydronic Distribution Technology is making its inevitable mark on radiant and other hydronic circuits. Its “smart” capabilities are many however, having five (5) selectable operating modes, but we are focused only upon the “DELTA-T MODE” within its appetizing menu.

    We have been experimenting for some years now with Taco®’s prior Delta-T’s and the current VT2218 ECM as a dedicated system circulator, beyond that denoted inTaco®’s Product Brochure. During this process we discovered and integrated differential temperature management with natural hydronic convection (gravity) for an optimized design with superlative results, again well beyond those claimed by Taco®. Multiple “Beta Site” installations have provided us with sufficient data and results to seek “Provisional” and now subsequent “Non-Provisional Intelligent Property Protection” on our:

    ENHANCED CONVECTION, DIFFERENTIAL TEMPERATURE MANAGED HYDRONIC HEATING APPLIANCE (Patents Pending, USA & Canada)

    Quite a mouthful indeed, but place the emphasis on APPLIANCE. You see, delta-t hydronic technology is not merely a “circulator swap” for radiation and energy efficiency gains. It offers additional opportunities in hydronic process integration and management as yet either unrecognized or underutilized. Our efforts fall on the latter, particularly when cooperating with “Mother Nature” by employing natural hydronic (gravity) convection to an operational advantage.

    Falling back upon and employing the principles of “non-powered” gravity heating we optimized a “contemporary” Delta-T ECM FHW System. Utilizing supply and return iron-piping “stacks” and compacted manifolding minimized distribution head losses. Combine these with the thermal storage capacity of mating to a cast-iron high-mass boiler enables a true, free-standing APPLIANCE. Its profile is contained within the boiler footprint plus about a foot of exhausting & piping space to the rear. Modular construction is a natural for hydronic elements as well as system wiring and controls. Module variations to suit particular site and application requirements logically follow.

    Taco® promotes energy reductions of up to 85% and 15% for electricity and fuel respectively by using their Delta-T ECM Circulator Product. We emphatically agree ….. and even more! Measurements on our multiple “Beta Sites” indicated a deviation that was not anticipated. Namely, upon the dedicated VT2218 system circulator achieving preset “delta-t” and stabilizing, the wattage displayed further deteriorated to approximately half this value along with some further speed reduction! A subsequent “Beta Site” circulator failure confirmed our suspicions. First, that failure event was not noticed for an estimated 2-3 days, and then only with a gradual decay in house temperature. The event was camouflaged by an integral Indirect Water Heater (IWH) based domestic hot water (DHW) delivery that was never affected!

    The circulator failure not only quantified the now measurable convection (gravity) heating effect witnessed, but qualified our overall near-boiler piping configuration, purposely designed with a de facto priority circuit for the IWH Option. The latter eliminates the need for that particular optional control feature. Further witnessed on our “Beta” circulator failure was boiler temperature operating near maximum. TheHydrolevel® 3250-Plus Aquastat on our Weil-McLain® UO Boilerlogically incremented system temperature upward, attempting to satisfy prolonged zone demand(s). The higher supply/return temperatures and differentials further enhanced convection. The effective 700 pound plus thermal storage mass of our “appliance” also served to dampen the close-coupled IWH zone demands! It is reasonable to presume that the IWH thermal storage would also be “pumped down” during a burner failure, passively prolonging thermal decay.

    Radiation configuration and piping integrity are paramount to convection (gravity) heating effectiveness however. Drawing from over 40 years operation of our personal dual-fuel, fully no-power emergency capable hydronic heating system, we can attest to radiation attribute importance. Simple, well designed serial and split baseboard loops work best. De-aeration is absolutely necessary and system water pressure must be present.Taco® Zone Sentry Valves utilized in our design have a manual open-close feature that can be utilized to regain a heating level upon an actuator failure, as do current flow check valves. (NOTE: You can replace a failed Taco® actuator head on our appliance in 20 seconds – if ever a need!)

    Complimenting hydronic performance is our “Compact Steel Hydronic Header” (Patents Pending) that positions, orients and provides flexibility in both zone and return valve mounting with expansion capability. Placing Taco® Zone Sentries at their minimum (2-3/4″) spacing with wired harnessing eliminates the need of a significant valve or circulator relay expense ….. and with greater diagnostic and system functionality!

    Currently applying our manufacturing process expertise we are projecting the “economies of scale” provided in our construction. The physical modules of boiler, supply and return are configured for capacity/fuel and zone complement and inventoried. A natural and complimentary option of an Indirect Water Heater (IWH) for domestic hot water (DHW) generation falls into this methodology as well. Adding assembly fixtures, applied tools, wiring assy’s, etc. further contribute to appliance value.

    A Hydronic Heating “Appliance” changes everything. The historical loose-piece “process” of hydronic (FHW) installation now becomes a “product” installation of lesser content with higher, predictable system performance and costs. Not just having a stock product that readily configures to the specific requirement, but being available on demand to fulfill both routine and seasonal emergency failures is a valuable resource indeed. Appliance costs and performance are also guaranteed, with all components warranted by their U.S. Manufacturer(s) as with any contemporary installation.

    Our motto:“Simple, Durable and Efficient FHW Heating ….. Period!”sums it all up. Technology has finally caught up with hydronic heating, and it’s about time! The end game after all is providing real value to the consumer, is it not?

    Author’s Note: Updated 01/20/2018