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pilot keeps burning out

did use thermocouples of what later became the standard type. On these, the thermocouple held a switch closed so the 24-volt current could reach the main gas valve. If the pilot went out, the switch opened and the main valve couldn't respond to the call for heat. BASO was a very popular manufacturer of this type of equipment. Some later versions would shut the pilot off too as well as the main valve, but these aren't as common. You'd need a knowledgeable heating man to recognize what you have and why it keeps going out.

If you have an ancient "gas train" (which term covers all the controls that regulate the gas on your boiler) and the boiler is expected to remain in service for a while, it makes sense to upgrade to the current type of gas train equipment. This way you're much less likely to have problems, and if you do they will be more easily fixed.

There is also the possibility that the gas train is not the culprit here. During the winter, gas pressure can fluctuate enough to kill a pilot light, especially on older gas distribution systems. Also, I've seen cases where there was an obstruction in the gas pipe coming in from the street, and when the boiler tried to light off the gas pressure got so low that the flame would sometimes snuff out before it could catch fully, taking the pilot with it too. Both these situations are the gas company's problem.

Again, you need a real good gas tech here. Try the Find a Professional page of this site.

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Comments

  • ErinErin Member Posts: 10
    pilot going out

    We moved into our house in June, so this is our first winter here. We have a ~50 year old (according to our tech) gas boiler on our one pipe system. We had the boiler serviced last March as part of our inspection, and this fall I called all the heating guys in town until I found one who could discuss main valves and not doing a heating loss estimate based on windows and doors with me.

    I have Dan's book and have made all 14 radiators quiet and working, and we had the attic insulated 3 weeks ago (1901 house with no insulation, but we didn't know that when we bought it...).

    In the last 3 weeks the pilot has gone out 4 times, twice in the last 3 days. The first time we called the heating company, I knew the pilot was out, but smelled gas and didn't know if something more sinister was afoot. He showed me how to relight it, and said a draft from the chimney probably blew it out. He also said that it is a good strong pilot, not a weak one.

    I am having trouble imagining that the previous 8 owners relit the pilot all the time. My husband is wondering if the insulation has caused the boiler to short cycle, and thus that is somehow affecting the pilot. We do have an automatic water refiller thing, but no automatic pilot.

    Given that we have had to replace 2 roofs (with 2 more to go), insulate and do a bunch of other assorted repairs our inspector didn't see, we are really hoping to put off a boiler for a while. But we need this not to happen, we were supposed to be in New Orleans at a wedding this week, and if the wedding wasn't cancelled we'd have frozen pipes and frozen cats. As is is waking up to a 52 degree house is miserable.

    I plan to call our heating company again Tues after the holiday, but what do I do/what should I know?

    thanks!
  • ErinErin Member Posts: 10
    one more thing

    Also, the radiator valves in the last few days have just started hissing as the steam starts. Kind of a wet hissing sound, if that makes any sense. I replaced every valve in Nov, this sound is new. Any relation to the pilot going out?
    thanks, Erin
  • Pilot problem

    You should be able to find someone who can resolve the pilot issue without replacing the whole boiler. If it's fifty years old you should be thinking about it though. It may just need to be converted to a thermocouple-based pilot safety set-up. You'll likely have to change the gas valve too but I'm sure it can be done for less than a boiler replacement.
    I don't think the hissing vents is related to the pilot issue.
  • MitchMitch Member Posts: 549
    Did the tech just relight the pilot or did he do more

    If your gas valve is not an A and B cock but a standard standing pilot the gas to the pilot should have shut off within 30 seconds of pilot loss. If not the gas valve must be changed. At a minimum the tech should have changed the thermocouple or power pile.

    If the hissing and or banging starts after about 20 minuts or so you may have a clogged pig tail to the pressure switch.

    When I do a pre season check (depending on the boiler)this is typically what I do.

    1)Disassemble the smoke pipe, check the breach and flue.

    2)Pull the gas logs inspect and clean the fire chamber.
    3)Brush out the sections if needed.

    4)If i have pulled the burner log with the thermocouple I
    change it.

    5) Clean the pig tail to pressure switch.

    6) Re assemble everything.

    7) Test fire the boiler, check LWC and any other operating
    devises.
    8) Check draft.

    9) "Optional" do a complete combustion analysis.

    Mitch S.



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  • ErinErin Member Posts: 10
    pilot gas supply

    Any of you guys service Concord NH?

    The tech didn't do anything but relight the pilot and show me how to do it. He gave me the wind down the chimney story and didn't check anything once it lit.

    There is a separate valve to the pilot that doesn't turn off, the main valve does shut off automatically when the pilot is out, but the smaller valve breaks off from the valve line before the shutoff. So when I relight the pilot I turn off both valves, wait 15 minutes and then turn on the pilot gas, light it, then move out of the way and turn on the main gas.

    So it sounds like we can add an automatic pilot, safer cut off valves to our existing boiler?

    If we need to replace the boiler in the next few years (which was our plan), should we just suck it up and do it now? Our plumber (who is not our heating guy) says that every part for our boiler is still made, so there is no hurry for a new one.

    Our heating company won't work if there is asbestos within 12 feet of the installation, so we'd have to remove that, or move the boiler. I am tempted to move it to the pit where it originally was and just leave the old one standing for now. Although I don't know if piping a new one from scratch to the steam pipes would cost more than asbestos abatement. Also, we would need to direct vent or spend another $1000 to line the chimney before getting a new boiler. Can we vent it to under our front porch, or is that unsafe? The front porch takes up the whole front of the house. Our house is a duplex, so we only have 3 walls to vent to.

    The tech thinks our boiler isn't actually that oversized, but we haven't gotten as far as having them count radiator columns yet. We have 10 American Radiator company rococo model radiators with between 7 and 12 fins on each, and one smaller shorter plain radiator in the downstairs bathroom. We do plan to add a radiator to heat the mud room at some point in the next year or two, and would like to eventually add and heat a bathroom over that room. Should we account for 2 more radiators in our boiler sizing, or is it basically just a close enough kind of thing?

  • MitchMitch Member Posts: 549
    Sounds like you

    have an A and B cock so changing the thermocouple will not effect the pilot. You should have a good sweep check the flu for options. In the end with a 50 plus year old boiler you may just want to bight the built now.

    To many variables for the rest of your questions but no you cannot vent under a porch.

    I think Burnham makes a power vented steam boiler. You can always bolt on an after market venter.

    My preference is always for conventional draft, simple and less problems. Location of boiler is dictated by existing piping so you need a pro to check it out.

    Mitch S.

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  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 319


    Perhaps a picture? Some pilots, most of them have flow adjusters, does yours?
  • ErinErin Member Posts: 10
    boiler info/pictures

    The boiler is Bryant 3-146 or 3-446 series A, we couldn't tell for sure. Neither number has any product info at their website.

    I have just started to master radiators, boilers are still greek to me, so I was not sure what exactly to take pictures of. Let me know what else would help and I'll do it.

    The gas company should be here today to check our flow to the house. Thanks for that suggestion.

  • If you have a

    constant pilot which is not controlled by a pilot safety and the pilot is going out then it is very possible you have a combustion problem. You need a professional to come and do a combustion test on your equipment.
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