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issue: September 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Ignition Systems & Gas Technology
Web Exclusive: The Bright Look of Ray


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A bold package for a cast iron condensing boiler is indicative of the fresh approach taken by its maker.

Ray isn’t your typical boiler. Mestek, Inc., calls it the first condensing, cast iron, low-mass, gas-fired boiler engineered and built for residential use. It delivers 40k to 199k BTUs at 92.7% AFUE. For this new kid on the block, the company is making a statement with an appearance that is bold, sleek, and high-tech. The look may tempt homeowners to place it someplace other than a basement or closet.

Introduced in mid-2007, the Ray is derived from the KN commercial boiler series developed four years earlier. While similar to the Ray, the commercial series uses more than one cast iron section.

“We put together a wish list,” relates Mike Abrahamson, product manager. “We wanted to have a boiler with higher efficiency than most on the market. Higher efficiency could be achieved with a condensing model, but there were some significant technical hurdles we needed to overcome. We also wanted to develop an innovative modulating control, and ensure reliability and long life in an attractive package.”

Both boiler series and control were developed with the help of engineer and consultant Kent Cohen, and Mestek’s MTI control and Design/Engineering groups.

The design eschews the stainless flue or flues often used in other boilers. Castings are made at the company’s Boyertown, PA, U.S. operation. The cast iron sections of the Ray series have a patented design engineered for condensing performance.

The company looked at how the flue gases are exhausted and how water circulates to maximize heat transfer. The resilience of cast iron allows it to fully recover the latent heat produced by the condensing process while standing up to its inherent corrosive effects. While the cast iron construction adds to the boiler cost, the heat exchanger is designed and built for a long lifetime of low maintenance.

“People previously thought that condensing could not be done in a cast iron boiler,” points out Abrahamson. “This is true of a traditionally designed unit in which the combustion is at the bottom of the unit and the evaporation/condensation cycle increases the acidic content of the water, causing it to become increasingly corrosive. Ray, however, has been engineered with a down-fired counter-flow design coupled with a patented section design that provides outstanding condensing performance.”

Ray also features continuous modulation with a five to one turndown ratio utilizing a SmartCycle control that determines optimum firing rates based on thermostat cycles. The integral control exploits the turndown by adjusting the firing rate according to system demand. Generally, the closer energy can be delivered to the temperature to which it needs to be used, the lower the energy loss and greater the efficiency.

Typically, turndown is affected by outdoor reset, in which water temperature is determined by outside air temperature. This type of control, however, is open loop and is sensitive to installation placement as well as ambient conditions such as direct sun or snow. With the indoor air reset of Ray’s SmartCycle control, the unit uses the thermostat as a sensor. Additionally, for larger applications, the SmartCycle control allows linking of up to 16 units without the need for third party controls.

The company chose Fenwal’s new 35-60 Direct Spark Ignition (DSI) to work with the SmartCycle control. “By utilizing the compatible 24 V ac Fenwal unit we didn’t need to incorporate ignition control in the SmartCycle, and so alleviated some of our design burden,” says Abrahamson. “We considered the Fenwal control and direct spark ignition to be our most reliable choice in the moisture conditions found in a condensing environment.”

Kevin Norby, product/program manager at Fenwal Controls, Kidde-Fenwal, Inc. (Ashland, MA, U.S.) adds, “Our DSI control provides a high output voltage and strong spark energy to the electrode. The control is based on a reliable, long-life standard design. Since our company has already addressed noise immunity and provides multiple agency approvals, Mestek could focus on the SmartCycle.”

Ray is designed for servicing without special tools or equipment. The plug-and-play control module features polarized wiring and easy-to-remove, easy-to-wash intake filter. Configuring Ray for natural gas or propane simply requires turning a screw.

According to Mestek, Ray’s compact footprint and visual appeal accentuate the high tech nature of the product. The bright yellow color reinforces the impression of the clean, efficient, earth-friendly product that it is. Ray is designed to be an attractive addition to the home while addressing the growing market for efficient residential boilers.

 

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