EDITOR’S NOTE: Thermo Products and Boyertown Furnace answered a recent call by Oil & Energy for information from furnace manufacturers. We asked them to tell us about their oil-fired products and offer advice for contractors. We appreciate their participation.
Thermo Products, LLC, a manufacturer of warm air heating and air conditioning products, has developed a 95 percent AFUE oil condensing furnace that is Energy Star® qualified. “This is a testament to our commitment to bringing you the best products in the industry,” wrote Linda Keene, Marketing Coordinator of Thermo Products. “Now a quality oil furnace that can match the AFUE ratings of gas furnaces.”
The Thermo Products Research and Development Department, headed by Chief Engineer Everett James, has designed and developed this new ultra-high efficiency oil furnace, the OHC95, with assistance from the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA).
The OHC95 has a firing rate of 75,000 Btuh with up to 4 tons of A/C capacity and uses industry standard components such as the Riello BF3 Burner, according to Keene. A standard ECM blower motor offers additional energy savings.
“When designing the new furnace, Thermo Products’s engineers asked themselves ‘How can we make this unit easier to service than our competitors’ units?’” Keene said. They have designed easy access to the primary and secondary heat exchangers by mounting them on a roller system to be pulled out. “This makes servicing the primary and secondary heat exchangers quick and easy for routine maintenance,” she said.
Thermo Products’ engineers have also designed the secondary heat exchanger with larger tubes allowing less restricted airflow to minimize buildup. According to Rob Paquette, National Sales Manager for Thermo Products, they have had units in beta testing for some time now and even with the recent cold weather have been experiencing no issues with this furnace. One beta test site has seen fuel savings of approximately 25 percent, Keene said.
The OHC95 is offered in direct vent only, using 3” PVC pipe. The cabinet is 24” wide by 37.5” deep and 48” high, with heavy 22 gauge cabinet steel with rounded door corners. The powder-coated cabinet is black with silver front panels, which differs from the classic Thermo Pride furnace colors. Venting can be either left, up or right, with an air supply opening of standard 20” x 20”.
Each unit comes with a venting eductor assembly. (See attached image of the venting.) This is similar to an inducer fan on a gas furnace, but it is in-line with the PVC pipe. This eductor is a sealed system venting flue gases when the furnace is running while at the same time bringing in combustion air.
The OHC95 will be available for sale in early 2014. Thermo Products will initially offer the furnace to contractors who have gone through their contractor training class. Thermo Products strives to maintain the highest quality products and installation and service are a large part of how a system operates, according to Keene. The company is offering the technical training to make sure the system is installed to their specifications for maximum performance and efficiency.
Oil vs. Gas on Cleanliness
Keene also shared some news on oil and gas heat combustion emissions. “Oil has a perception as not being as clean burning as natural gas. This view has changed recently,” she wrote. “According to a recent Technical Update from the Oil Heat Manufacturers Association (OMA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently acknowledged that modern oil burners are much cleaner burning than older models.
“According to OMA, the EPA emissions factor for particulates from oil burners is 7.5 times lower than previous ratings. OMA submitted tests by Brookhaven National Laboratory and other sources to the EPA and requested an update to the oil emission standard. This is an important revision. The new EPA emission ratings affirm that oil burners are now one of the cleanest combustion sources in the U.S.
“The Technical Update also states that modern oil burners typically use flame retention heads and higher air pressure to lower soot and smoke and improve efficiency compared to older designs. The EPA emissions rating for oil burners has been reduced from 3 to 0.4 pounds of particulates per 1,000 gallons of fuel burned. This is approaching near zero levels. Oil burners now emit particulates at a rate that is similar to the levels produced by natural gas burners over the past 10 years.
“This refutes the misconception that oil burners are dirty. In fact, proper adjustment of oil-fired equipment reduces particulates by a factor of 10 to 20 compared to some older burners. While oil burner emissions have been lower for many years, this fact is now fully supported by an EPA publication. New ambient air quality standards are now being proposed by the EPA that may restrict particulate emissions from combustion equipment in the future. Residential oil burner emission ratings are now already much lower than the previous ratings. This makes it easier for oil equipment to comply with more stringent regulations in the future.
“Oil is not going away totally. There are still many locations that will rely on oil into the future.”
Boyertown Furnace Co.
Boyertown Furnace Company is now in its second year of selling the Regal Star oil furnace. Sales Manager Rosemarie Bartchak said contractors appreciate the Regal Star’s low profile at 44½” and the flexible flue design. “We have managed to keep one of our most unique features on the new Regal Star. The RSM 600 has two flues, front and rear on every furnace. Installers smile when I mention that feature, because they know the number of times they have been delivered the incorrect furnace for the installation”. The Regal Star can be installed as a low-profile highboy, or as a horizontal.
The Regal Star ECM, is Energy Star®-rated. The variable speed ECM motor is one of the best improvements to oil furnaces in several years. The Regal REH or REL 750 ECM unit can be paired with Carlin’s EZ-H2L Burner, for two-stage oil heating.
The Regal Star AFUE ranges up to 86.5 percent, and installers have the option of chimney vent with a Beckett, Carlin or Riello burner or direct-vent with a Riello BF3. Heating capacity is 60,000 to 89,000 BTUH, and Boyertown is developing a new version with capacity to 125,000 BTUH.
The Regal Star ships with the nrgMax 9103i control board, developed by Bob Tonner. The board supports both PSC and ECM blowers, making it service-friendly in the event that either a PSC or ECM motor fails.
Adapting for Gas
Boyertown does not make a gas furnace, but it has partnered with Carlin and Riello to enable the use of a power gas burner in certain Regal and Hallmark furnaces, as well as the Trio and Solaia boilers. “If a customer had a Hallmark or Regal installed in the last few years, there are specifications in place to change it over to gas,” Bartchak explained. “That way if gas becomes available on a customer’s street and they want to convert, they don’t have to install a new furnace. The unit will operate properly and be efficient with a Carlin or Riello Power gas burner installed.”
The power gas burner option can help oil dealers make equipment sales to customers who want to replace an old oil furnace or oil boiler, but have been holding out for natural gas to come to their neighborhoods, she said. “With the extremely cold weather,
if the homeowner experiences a catastrophic failure on the boiler or furnace, but is not prepared to switch to gas, they have an option, and you can make a sale to someone who wasn’t going to buy.”
The Boyertown team places a high priority on contractor support according to Bartchak. “Boyertown Furnace is small enough that we have always maintained the personal touch. That’s what sets us apart as a company,” she said. “There are technical people here available to answer the phone. We don’t hide behind answering machines, and if the phone is ringing at the end of the day we stay until they are all answered. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been thanked for being there or for calling someone back personally.”
Bartchak is a huge fan of ECM blower motors because of the comfort and efficiency that they provide, but she recognizes that making the upsell is a struggle for some contractors. She recommends that contractors refer customers to informational sites such as The Dealer Toolbox (thedealertoolbox.com) to research blower motors. “The site discusses why airflow is important and how an ECM motor, when installed properly can save the homeowner money”.
Contractors can sell ECM motors and even ductwork upgrades by talking with customers about their comfort. A customer might think their comfort is adequate until the contractor starts raising specific issues, such as draftiness and excessive noise.
“People want to be talked to like adults. If you provide some information and let them do research on their own, 90 percent of the time you get the sale,” she said. “It’s all about educating the consumer.”