Penn Stack Relay Switches on Oil Fired Heating Equipment
Penn oil burner primary control operation, adjustment, repair
PENN OIL BURNER STACK RELAY OPERATING DETAILS - CONTENTS: Penn oil heat controls - Stack Relay Switches - Penn oil burner controls are similar to Honeywell Type RA 117A / RA116A Protectorelay Primary Controls on Oil Fired Heating Equipment, boilers, furnaces, water heaters. Here we include details about the installation, operation, repair of this control.
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Penn oil burner primary control: stack relay switch guide for oil fired heating equipment:
This article answers questions about the Penn oil burner stack relay control.
In this article series we explain how to inspect, test, reset, or clean the stack relay switch used as a flame detection/safety device for primary control on oil fired heating systems (boilers and furnaces).
A Guide to Penn Oil Burner Stack Relay Control Switches on Boilers, Furnaces, or Water Heaters
Reader Question: Penn Oil Burner Primary Control (Stack Relay Switch) operation: how long should it take for the stack relay to turn off the oil burner?
I have two really old used stack relays that I'm tinkering with to learn about them and want to know the seconds at when they are set to trip at usually?
One of mine trips at 100 seconds and I have not tested the other but was wondering if that is not the right time or too long or if there is a way to lower that number so it trip at less seconds or is it fried past fixing cause I love to fix or rebuild and tinker with oil burner stuff??
At left is the Penn oil burner primary control stack relay. The one that is working in my workshop
Thanks Ben. Please reply.
- Ben Bourdreau, Maine
Here [photos above] is the interior of the Penn Oil Burner primary control stack relay - looking nice and clean.
Typically safety switches cut off the burner at a "nominal" delay of 75 seconds (RA 116A and RA 117A Protectorelays) according to Honeywell. 100 is a bit long but probably within tolerance in my opinion. Keep in mind that these are not lab grade instruments.
It is also my OPINION that in comparison with a cad cell relay switch, a stack relay type switch may have to let the oil burner run a bit longer before deciding to shut the system down. That's because the cad cell is right in the combustion chamber where it can "see" the flame (or not), while a stack relay is located in the flue vent connector - a location at which more time might be needed for the flue gases to reach a sufficient temperature to keep the switch closed (that is, to avoid turning off the burner).
The issue is the longer the oil burner gun assembly shoots unburned oil into the combustion chamber the greater the risk of a puffback when ignition finally occurs.
Exactly how long the stack relay takes to respond to the temperature in the flue vent connector depends on some variables besides the instrument itself including
Proper installation - that does not interfere with movement of the bimetallic spring and that does not, by contact with the equipment, conduct heat away from the sensor. Incidentally the device is capable of handling temperatures up to 1000F.
Proper installation location - not somewhere distant from the heater
Proper maintenance - a soot-coated stack relay is insulated from heat so will take longer to respond to temperature - possibly cutting off the system when it should not
The condition of the relays inside the switch and whether or not they have been "re-stepped" properly. You can see the re-step lever in our illustration in the Protectorelay article above.
The condition of any moving parts inside the switch that may have been bent or corroded due to abuse or poor environmental conditions.
When I worked on heating systems I found these switches reliable and very durable, and I note that at these Stack relays or Honeywell Protectorelay® devices have been in use for a very long time and are still produced and installed and in use on some heating equipment.
Watch out: while we applaud your interest in understanding and restoring antique oil burner controls such as the Penn Oil Burner Primary Control or the Honeywell Stack Relay, just cleaning up contacts and removing rust may not assure that the device will work properly and safely.
In particular, a bent, modified, corroded, or obstructed helix, that bimetallic spring that responds to temperature and operates the control may appear to work but may not respond properly at the proper temperature range.
Modern versions of these Protectorelay® switches are the #RA117A1047/U (three wire control) and the #RA116A1055 (stack relay).
For a wiring schematic and installation instructions you can contact Honeywell Corporation at the location listed in our references below.
Shown below are photos of the front and rear of the Honeywell Stack Relay primary control. Here [below left] is the outside of the Honeywell The small slot is the slide reset lever and the large one must have been where the Honeywell tag was. The thing looks so new because I replaced some parts like the cover and wiring knockouts and the back of it from a bad relay but good parts ( is it always workout that way)
If I ever get time or when I can I will send info I know or have learned about stuff I tinker with!! I'm only 22 so I got life ahead of me, Thanks again for replying and Thanks so much for one of the best web pages I have ever come across about the stuff I like!!! I am always on your page looking at stuff.
Also I heard back from a guy I know that knows about heating stuff and he said honeywell use to make a 90 sec stack relay in the 60's and stopped making them but some are still in use today!!
Feel free to use what I said if you would like about the stack relay!! You can also use my name thanks again Ben BOUDREAU
P. s. I will send you a photo of the working stack relay but not installed yet and I also have a picture of a working and installed one made by PENN controls in one of my work shops on the furnace. - Ben
Below left Mr. Bourdreau's photo shows the (corroded) stepping relay inside the Honeywell primary control stack relay.
At below right Bourdreau illustrates the reset lever for the stack relay. The notched red lever protrudes through the control cover when the cover has been replaced on the unit. The stepping relay (below left) is accessible only by removing the cover.
The corrosion on these parts would lead a heating service tech to trash this control as unreliable and possibly unsafe. - Ed.
Mr. Bourdreau's photo shows the interior of the Honeywell stack relay looking down on the controls, relays, and wiring terminals.
The articles at this website describe the basic components of a home heating system,
how to find the rated heating capacity of an heating system by examining various data tags and components, how to recognize common heating system operating or safety defects, and how to save money on home heating costs.
We include product safety recall and other heating system hazards.
Also see GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS for more details on how to inspect and test LP and natural gas piping, controls, valves, and tanks.
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AUDELS OIL BURNER GUIDE, INSTALLING, SERVICING, REPAIRING, [PDF online copy of this book] Frank D. Graham, Theo. Audel & Co., New York 1946, 1947, 1955 (out of print, copies occasionally available from antique book dealers and on EBay). Use THIS LINK to read a free online copy of this helpful classic textbook.. Originally this 364 page guide to oil burner installation, operation, diagnosis, and repair sold for $1.00 - one dollar.
 RA116A and RA117A Protectorelay®, Oil Burner Controls, Honeywell, 1985 Douglas Drive North, Golden Valley MN 55422-3992, Tel: 800-3456770 x 423, Website: customer.honeywell.com or in Canada: Honeywell Limited, 35 Dynamic Dr., Toronto, Ontario M1V 4Z9, website: www.honeywell.com, June 2000. Web search 4/3/2012, original source: http://customer.honeywell.com/techlit/pdf/63-0000s/63-9421.pdf
 Domestic and Commercial Oil Burners, Charles H. Burkhardt, McGraw Hill Book Company, New York 3rd Ed 1969.
The Steam Book, 1984, Training and Education Department, Fluid Handling Division, ITT [probably out of print, possibly available from several home inspection supply companies] Fuel Oil and Oil Heat Magazine, October 1990, offers an update,
Principles of Steam Heating, $13.25 includes postage. Fuel oil & Oil Heat Magazine, 389 Passaic Ave., Fairfield, NJ 07004.
The Lost Art of Steam Heating, Dan Holohan, 516-579-3046 FAX
Principles of Steam Heating, Dan Holohan, technical editor of Fuel Oil and Oil Heat magazine, 389 Passaic Ave., Fairfield, NJ 07004 ($12.+1.25 postage/handling).
"Residential Hydronic (circulating hot water) Heating Systems", Instructional Technologies Institute, Inc., 145 "D" Grassy Plain St., Bethel, CT 06801 800/227-1663 [home inspection training material] 1987
"Warm Air Heating Systems". Instructional Technologies Institute, Inc., 145 "D" Grassy Plain St., Bethel, CT 06801 800/227-1663 [home inspection training material] 1987
Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Volume I, Heating Fundamentals,
Boilers, Boiler Conversions, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23389-4 (v. 1) Volume II, Oil, Gas, and Coal Burners, Controls, Ducts, Piping, Valves, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23390-7 (v. 2) Volume III, Radiant Heating, Water Heaters, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Heat Pumps, Air Cleaners, James E. Brumbaugh, ISBN 0-672-23383-5 (v. 3) or ISBN 0-672-23380-0 (set) Special Sales Director, Macmillan Publishing Co., 866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. Macmillan Publishing Co., NY
Installation Guide for Residential Hydronic Heating Systems
Installation Guide #200, The Hydronics Institute, 35 Russo Place, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922
The ABC's of Retention Head Oil Burners, National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers, TM 115, National Old Timers' Association of the Energy Industry, PO Box 168, Mineola, NY 11501. (Excellent tips on spotting problems on oil-fired heating equipment. Booklet.)
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