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That ONE Thing You Don't Know About
Your Outdoor Boiler - But Should!
Okay Patriots, here is a test of your Outdoor Boiler IQ: If your boiler has a "Pull Rod" in the front like in this photo...
...Did you know that you can turn that handle clockwise, and pull the handle back about FOUR FEET? And that by doing so, you clean off your deflector plate?
Yup, this is a critical maintenance item that many people are unaware of!
If you have never done this, then watch what happens: 1. Open the firebox door, 2. Pull the pull rod to the stop, 3. Turn the handle clockwise (about one-eighth of a turn), 4. Continue pulling the pull rod all the way back, 5. Watch for a big poof of white ash that will fall from the deflector in the top front of your firebox. You will see this since your firebox door is open.
Located in the front of many outdoor boilers is what we call the “Pull Rod” (also known as the “Cleaner Rod”). The Pull Rod is a handle that you pull before opening the firebox door that opens a draft that allows smoke to exit directly out the top rear of the firebox. This minimizes the amount of smoke that comes into your face while loading the firebox with firewood.
Under normal circumstances, you can pull the Pull Rod approximately 12-14 inches until it hits a stop. The rod is approximately four feet long and it is attached to a “Cleaner Plate” at the other end (also known as the “Draft Plate”). While the outdoor boiler is burning, the Pull Rod should be pushed fully forward, and in this position the Cleaner Plate completely covers a hole in the top rear of the firebox. This prevents smoke and heat from easily exiting the chimney directly, but rather forces the smoke and heat to circulate throughout the boiler, increasing heat transfer into the water jacket and thereby improving boiler efficiency. It is very important that the Pull Rod is fully forward for normal operation, so that this Cleaner Plate is in position for maximum efficiency.
Figure 1 - Pull Rod and Cleaner Plate Highlighted
What if the Pull Rod Comes Loose?
The Pull Rod is attached to the Cleaner Plate with a bolt, lock washer and a nut. On rare occasions, this bolt can break or the Pull Rod can otherwise become detached from the plate. This is obvious when it happens because upon pulling the Pull Rod, it will not hit any stop, and may pull out completely.
Figure 2 - Cleaner Plate
The Pull Rod MUST be reattached to the Cleaner Plate. Follow these instructions (see below) to reattach the Cleaner Plate to the Pull Rod. If you cannot do this right away, do not operate the boiler without the cleaner plate in its proper position, so at least be sure the Cleaner Plate is carefully placed over the hole it normally covers during boiler operation, until it can be reattached to the Pull Rod.
Instructions To Attach Pull Rod To Cleaner Plate
The boiler must be completely off, cool, and cleaned out. You will need to get inside the boiler to complete this process.
Remember to wear safety goggles. This is a dirty job.
Look at the drawing of the boiler components that are relevant to this job shown above in Figure 1 and Figure 2. Familiarize yourself with the “Pull Rod” (shown in the drawing as the “Cleaner Rod”), the “Cleaner Plate”, and the “Deflector”. We also sometimes call the Deflector the “Deflector Plate” or “D-Plate”.
You will need to see how the Pull Rod attaches to the damper plate OUTSIDE of the boiler first. This is because when you connect them, it will be in a “blind position” so you need to see how this is to be accomplished.
Remove the Pull Rod from the boiler completely.
Remove the damper plate from the boiler also. This may be difficult. If possible, get inside the boiler and grab a hold of the damper plate and attempt to remove it diagonally through the hole just under the chimney. If this does not work, you may be able to grab it from above the chimney. If that does not work, the last resort is finding a way to push it towards the front of the boiler so that it falls out of the deflector plate (see drawing).
Purchase a bolt, nut and lock washer that will connect the Pull Rod to the Cleaner Plate. These parts MUST be stainless steel and able to tolerate high heat. Plated, chrome or other materials will fail. The drawing indicates that the size is a 0.25 x 1.5 Hex Head Bolt and a 0.25 Hex Nut. Verify that this will fit OUTSIDE the boiler before attempting the next steps.
Assemble the Pull Rod to the Cleaner Plate with the bolt, lock washer, and nut outside the boiler first. Do not tighten this too much because this is just a practice round. You will be doing this assembly blind so this is just to make sure you can put it together without seeing what you are doing.
Insert the Pull Rod from the outside of the boiler, but only so that it is slightly into the front wall of the furnace.
Position the Pull Rod so that it is at the correct angle (horizontal). You may need to have someone help you with this – it can be a frustrating job to do alone.
If you put your head just inside the firebox a few inches only and look up, you will see the front of the deflector (see drawing). Place the Cleaner Plate just on the front lip of the deflector.
Wear a head lamp for vision.
Now you need to get into the furnace and sit on the door frame with your legs outside, and your body inside. Model HE-2100 furnaces have more room and are easier for an average man to do this. If you have a furnace model HE-1100, you will have to adapt according to your size (sorry!)
Now insert the end of the pull rod into the Cleaner Plate weldment tube and match up the holes.
Insert the Hex Head Bolt, attach the lock washer and nut. Tighten the nut as tight as possible.
Be sure that the Cleaner Plate is now placed on the front of the deflector.
Exit the boiler.
Turn the Pull Rod clockwise approximately one-eighth of a turn to lift the plate over the stops and push the Cleaner Plate all the way back into position.
Test the Pull Rod by pulling it to verify that it holds, and that it stops in the proper place.
Verify that in the closed position, the Cleaner Plate completely covers the hole in the deflector plate in the rear of the boiler. If you were lying on your back inside the firebox with your head against the back wall and your feet hanging out the firebox door, you would be looking up. With the Pull Rod pulled back, you will see the sky out the chimney. With the Pull Rod pushed fully in, you should not see any light coming through; the Cleaner Plate should completely cover the hole in the deflector.
Now that your Pull Rod is securely reattached, you can continue saving money on your heating bills with your outdoor boiler!
For more information on the EPA rules on wood burning, click HERE. As you will see, most boilers are banned effective January 2016, and the remainder as of January 2020. Some claim to meet the 2020 "particulate" standard, but do not meet the other 2020 emissions limits. The technology does not appear to exist to meet all 2020 rules, hence the EPA has effectively banned outdoor boilers.
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