In last month's column, I promised to give you more information on the Wilo Brain Box training tool. This training device was developed via an education grant from the German government and is the byproduct of an industry and higher education consortium. The device is portable, can be shipped by truck, assembles in minutes, and shows visually and graphically those hydronic concepts that are hardest to see in our mind's eye.
The demonstration begins with an empty, see -through model of a hydronic system. The instructor speaks to the students during filling and commissioning of the Brain Box, sometimes stating the obvious, like how it is important to have the system completely filled with water prior to turning on the circulators, and what role static fill pressure has in that whole scheme. The unit has pressure gauges placed strategically around the "loop," so that the students can see exactly what is happening with the system during fill, purge and circulation.
There are many different types of flow controllers within the loop, simulating non-electric zone valves, pressure-activated bypass valves, flow circuit setters and two in-line flow meters. One meter is for low-flow conditions, and the other is for high-flow conditions. In addition to these components, the device has a clear plastic captive air diaphragm-type expansion tank, a horizontal air separator, and a vertical cyclonic/vortex style air eliminator.
The device has two circulators. One is a conventional, fixed-speed circulator and the other is a new variable-speed, constant-pressure circulator. Both of these pumps are connected to a watt-meter to show power consumption during operation.
Once the instructor has the Brain Box completely filled and properly vented (a key part of training), he starts the conventional circulator and you can see air in suspension working its way through the system. Initially, the automatic air vents connected to the air eliminators are kept closed just to show the students visually what air does in a system when it can not be properly eliminated. It makes a lot of noise and causes extremely erratic flows and operation. He then opens one of the air separator 's automatic air vents, the vertical axis cyclonic separator, and you can actually see the little tornado of air form in the center of the vertical separator, quickly removing the bubbles of air, including the micro-bubbles.
He shows what happens to the power consumption as flow through the system varies as a function of load. He shuts down the cyclonic separator and begins using the horizontal "fat spot in the pipe" type of air separator and can actually inject air directly into the fluid stream to show how the conventional air separator works. Trust me on this one, it goes against everything you ever visualized in your mind's eye, and there is nothing more visual or graphic than to actually see the air slanting in a certain direction as it flows through the horizontal air separator.
Then, with the system flowing, and everything clicking along just fine, the instructor can simulate the loss of air pressure from the air side of the diaphragm expansion tank and show what happens on the in -side of the system. Air seems to magically come out of nowhere, causing more noises than you can shake a stick at, eventually causing the system to become completely air bound and causing erratic flow; eventually flow ceases.
Next, the instructor recharges the air side of the expansion tank and the air begins venting out of the air vents and separating in the two air separators that are a par t of the circuit. It makes you want to stand up and clap
and cheer! At long last, a glass system that you can actually see into and see what goes on at any given point in time and under any given set of circumstances.
The Brain Box is going on tour throughout the U.S. and Canada as a part of the Wilo customer training program. If you get the opportunity to take it in, by all means do so. You'll come away an educated person, not only on circulators, but on how hydronic systems function in general.
Tune in next month as we continue our journey towards the ultimate circulator. Until then, Happy See-Through Hydronicing.
Mark Eatherton is a Denver-based hydronics contractor. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 303/778-7772.