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spudland_dave

Cleaning & Tuning a Torpedo Heater

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My new garage is finally done, blew the budget doing all the finish work, so my plans for installing a unit heater this fall are probably on hold till next summer. That being said, my FIL had given me a K1 fueled Torpedo heater last fall, which I used last winter when the building was not insulated at all. Heats up GREAT but puts out too much odor to be bearable in a "sealed" garage.

Anybody know how to clean them? what can be done? etc... My FIL had told me that years ago it ran like a top with barely any fumes, but he himself noticed that recently it was getting "dirty".

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Can it also burn Diesel? Diesel doesnt smell quite as bad as kerosene.

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On most of these types of heaters there is a small rotary vane type air pump that is used to regulate and atomize the fuel flow.

The pump has a sort of pressure regulator, more like a simple screw and spring pressure relief, that determines how much fuel is blown in and that regulator can get plugged up causing the air pump to deliver too much fuel causing a slight to moderate rich burn condition which makes for the stink.

It should be accessible from the back and all you need to do is try adjusting it first. If that does not work then a simple disassembly and clean out is needed. At worst you may have to buy a rebuild kit. ;)

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Can it also burn Diesel? Diesel doesnt smell quite as bad as kerosene.

Yes, it can burn diesel...but I thought that using Diesel made it smell worse and K1 was the cleanest option?

On most of these types of heaters there is a small rotary vane type air pump that is used to regulate and atomize the fuel flow.

The pump has a sort of pressure regulator, more like a simple screw and spring pressure relief, that determines how much fuel is blown in and that regulator can get plugged up causing the air pump to deliver too much fuel causing a slight to moderate rich burn condition which makes for the stink.

It should be accessible from the back and all you need to do is try adjusting it first. If that does not work then a simple disassembly and clean out is needed. At worst you may have to buy a rebuild kit. ;)

I'll take pics of the heater hopefully tonight and post em here...sounds simple enough, and what you describe about it running rich also sounds right. Last time I used it was at the end of July, used it to dry out the joint compound in the corners, even with all 3 of my garage door's open the fumes were too bad for me to say in the garage.

This is an older unit, so I just assume buy a rebuild kit from the get go and do it right....

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I use one of those heaters in my garage also. I burn diesel fuel. Cheaper than kerosine. Any time I get any oder from mine is when it picks up fumes from any type of solvent like WD-40 or something similar. Remember they don't get outside air

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I'll take pics of the heater hopefully tonight and post em here...sounds simple enough, and what you describe about it running rich also sounds right. Last time I used it was at the end of July, used it to dry out the joint compound in the corners, even with all 3 of my garage door's open the fumes were too bad for me to say in the garage.

This is an older unit, so I just assume buy a rebuild kit from the get go and do it right....

You may get lucky and not have to rebuild anything. The pressure adjustment is most often used to fine tune the burner unit for whatever type or grade of fuel you are using in them. Being there is a fair amount of viscosity and heat content difference between different grades of kerosene and diesel fuels the air adjustment is how you set the burner for the cleanest burn depending on which fuel you are using. Your burner may simply be set to rich for whatever fuel and grade you have in it at the moment.

On the back of most good models there is a small pressure gauge that read between 0 and 15 or so PSI. That is your reference point for setting the air/fuel ratio. If yours has a gauge and it's reading way at the top end the odds are the pressure is set too high or the little regulator valve is partially clogged.

Easy fixes for that and no rebuild is needed. Just take the set screw out and clean the inside where the spring and ball sit with some either and an air hose. A lot of times that spring and related internal parts get gummed up with old fuel residue and it throws the settings off. ;)

I picked up three commercial torpedo heaters a few years ago that had air pump problems.

The local dealer claimed they were brand and model specific and no parts were available so they got the customer to buy all brand new ones. :rolleyes:

I knew different so I picked them up as scrap. About 20 minutes online and I had their actual manufacture and equivalent sub models tracked down. After that it was about 10 minutes on eBay to find the aftermarket rebuild kits to repair them. Total cost for me to fix all three was less than $100 to make about $1500 worth of heaters work like new!

I gave one to my brother and one to my dad. We don't use them much but when anyone needs a lot of heat fast they are the got to machines to do it!

So if you do need to rebuild yours the odds are you can find aftermarket parts online rather cheap.

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Good advice from many how to fix them.

The main problem is they're not so good for your health especially if you are using any solvents/chemicals.

I'd like to offer a good alternative: Pick up a Miller mobile home furnace, buy their cottage adapter and have a real heater. I've been able to buy them for around a hundred bucks, the cottage base is around fifty, and the flue won't cost more than another hundred. They are pretty efficient. I heat my 28X42X12 shop all winter, never below 60, with about 250 gallons heating oil. Used tanks are around for free.

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Good advice from many how to fix them.

The main problem is they're not so good for your health especially if you are using any solvents/chemicals.

I'd like to offer a good alternative: Pick up a Miller mobile home furnace, buy their cottage adapter and have a real heater. I've been able to buy them for around a hundred bucks, the cottage base is around fifty, and the flue won't cost more than another hundred. They are pretty efficient. I heat my 28X42X12 shop all winter, never below 60, with about 250 gallons heating oil. Used tanks are around for free.

What he said

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Good advice from many how to fix them.

The main problem is they're not so good for your health especially if you are using any solvents/chemicals.

I'd like to offer a good alternative: Pick up a Miller mobile home furnace, buy their cottage adapter and have a real heater. I've been able to buy them for around a hundred bucks, the cottage base is around fifty, and the flue won't cost more than another hundred. They are pretty efficient. I heat my 28X42X12 shop all winter, never below 60, with about 250 gallons heating oil. Used tanks are around for free.

Funny you mention the Miller...my dad has heated his shop with a miller for YEARS, and it was my original plan to run a Miller as well. BUT a couple things came into play...A) in speaking with a bunch of HVAC guys the newer Millers which are easy to find now aren't as good as the old ones and B) Stainless flue is much more then a hundred bucks. Just the thimble is almost that. Factor in all the stainless flue I need, big cost there. And then the tank...rather not go used. Pricing it out it was almost 800.00 for the metalbestos flue. Used furnace which requires a rebuild, tank, flue, etc... led me to going with a Reznor or Modine LP fired unit heater....that's what I will be doing for permanent heat.

The torpedo is really only for those days I want/need to tinker on the tractor, or do a brake job on my truck, etc.. If I had the cash to buy the Reznor and horizontal vent kit, it would be installed. If I burnt a whole tank of fuel on the torpedo from now till next April I'd be surprised.

Trust me, I'd rather be talking about installing a Modine/Reznor or Miller, but just not in the cards for me right now.

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I was just looking for the cheapest way for you to heat it without breathing fumes. I have been using two of their galvi mobile home roof jacks for the two buildings I heat. They're both over 10 years old and still are nice and strong. I think I paid $80. for them, probably more now.

If you're limiting your exposure to the torpedoes, I'm sure you'll be fine.

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Monitor heaters also work well. They use an intercooler and exhaust outside.

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ours for whatever reason eats hoses, every year or 2 we have to put new lines on it. they just crack and it leaks. also it is important to remember that for every bit of oxygen you burn with one of those things needs to be replaced or sooner or later you find yourself with no oxygen :o:blink: that might account for the light headedness those things stink....BAD if your budget can swing it I would get one of those propane pot burners...100 bucks or so, and once you have headed up with the salamander one of those propane deals and a fan to blow it around works nicely in a sheetrocked insulated space. they don't need to scream wide open...just simmer. and its way easier on the brain cells.

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tcmtech pretty much outlined what you need to do to keep a forced air kero heater running. Start with keeping it clean. Then keep it clean. Did I mention keep it clean? :D

Besides the regulator, the intake filter for the air pump also likes to clog with dust...the pump vanes are carbon and as they wear the carbon dust cruds up the pump and regulator assembly.

The injector nozzle will clog up, just like on a diesel engine too. It's low-pressure so it'll give you poor atomization much easier than a diesel engine injector though.

You need a good low-psi pressure gauge to adjust the injector (air pump) pressure...just guessing will cost a lot of time and smoke/fumes in the shop.

Use fresh kero in em. #1 Diesel is cheaper...but it doesn't burn clean. "Skunked" kerosene from last year...or lord knows when...stinks even worse than diesel.

The heaters are jetted from the factory to burn kero. You can fine-tune the pressure setting (A/F ratio) so that diesel will burn a little cleaner but it still isn't quite as good as kero.

95% of the units out there are/were made by DESA (Knipco, Reddy, all the ag-equipment branded ones, etc). Most of em are still parts available units too. the exceptions that I've run across are some of the older ones having obsolete ignition boxes. Those ignitor boxes can be upgraded to the new style easily though.

This is my favorite parts outlet for DESA heaters. http://www.reddyparts.com/

Here's the main DESA site where you can get a service manual for your heater. http://www.desatech.com/index.htm

Most of the guys around here have swithced to propane forced air heaters but I still get probably a dozen or so come through my shop each fall/winter. Most of em just need fresh fuel and a filter cleaning to get em running decent again.

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This strikes a bell as I have 6 of the same heaters.....uhhh. I meant fume generators. My late step dad bought six of them to heat a four story dorm he was building while they were poring the floors and had to keep the temp up until they dried. He had to run those and maybe two or three more 24/7 for like three days IIRC. I have not operated any of them for the last several years for the above mentioned reasons but am interested to see how you come out with yours. If you would please keep us updated as to your progress, or lack of if that is the way it works out. Wishing you lots of good luck. ;)

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I have one of those. It needs a new combustion chamber. It was always a good heater, though. I have never had it adjusted so it did not smell some. My newer units do not use the fuel pump like these. They siphon the fuel, I think. Burn better, or at least don't stink things up as much. Those older units are not much different than an old fuel oil furnace. The nozzles wear and the distribution pattern gets off creating hot spots and if the igniters are not in exactly the right place with the right gap you can get a smokey startup. Newer units seem better. I know after I bought one to replace my faulty 40 year old unit, I decided to not fix the old one.

Ron

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I see they are of the old design so most of my info does not pertain to them. Sorry. :(

However as mentioned by others they are very similar to how a common fuel oil furnace works and are tuned about the same as well.

There should be a nozzle pressure adjustment on the pump under a nut cap. That's the easiest way to fine tune the burn rate.

Everything else after that is just air adjustment and cleaning.

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Oh lordy...I haven't ever had any Suntecs come through the shop. Seen em on sales but have never worked on one. I'm getting out of my element with those guys. As tcm said, they're a pressurized fuel heater (like most big furnace-style oil burners) instead of a siphon feed like the DESA heaters.

That block on the back of the motor is the pump/regulator assembly. It actually pumps the fuel to the nozzle instead of using the vacuum/venturi effect to draw the fuel from the tank to the nozzle like what we were referring to in earlier posts.

If the fuel supply from the pump is acceptable, the same concepts should apply though. A good clean nozzle with a good supply of fuel & an ignitor to light it off and it should burn clean.

Looking at the outside, I'd venture a guess that the insides are pretty crudded up too.

Suntec is still in business though and they should be able to source parts for you if you need any too. Here's a page on their site with service literature. http://www.suntecpumps.com/Suntecus/Technical%20Literature.htm

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Thanks for the info guys...so sounds like I should just start off with the basics...new nozzle, new fuel filter and give it a go.

Hate to dump TOO much into it as for a little over a hundred bucks or so I can get a new LP convection heater..Dont want to trip over dollars to pick up pennies..on a temporary solution at best.

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I think a basic teardown and cleanup would be a good place to start then after that a bit of trial and error fuel pressure and air adjustment to see if you can clean up the burn quality.

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Thanks for the info guys...so sounds like I should just start off with the basics...new nozzle, new fuel filter and give it a go.

Hate to dump TOO much into it as for a little over a hundred bucks or so I can get a new LP convection heater..Dont want to trip over dollars to pick up pennies..on a temporary solution at best.

Yep. A place that services or has parts for your fuel oil furnace would have the nozzles if you need one. There should be a filter screwed into the intake of the nozzle that can get clogged, I suppose. Your main fuel filter should have done the job, but it doesn't hurt to clean all of the system. I doubt you can tune it to get it odorless. They were serviceable and reliable units in their day. Excellent for outside heating of construction jobs, etc. For some uses, I prefer them to the newer siphon style. Drawback is on a false start or shutoff, fuel can accumulate in the combustion chamber and when it ignites, it can crap flaming fuel out onto whatever is close to the heater. So.....do not set it to blow on anything you do not want to catch fire. :) I have replaced igniters, fuel filter, nozzle, and shut-off solenoid but nothing else. If the combustion chamber had not burned out after thousands of hours of use, I would still be using it. It still goes and I bought it used in 1969. Knipco brand.

Ron

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with that shop, id ditch the heater. if you have ever spent a couple hours in a shop with one of those you will wish you had never spent a penny on it. propane has less BTU's per gallon, true. however the propane burns clean, much quieter and it will not make you sick.

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