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thirsty boiler, high gas bill

We recently learned that our gas-fired one pipe steam 1980 Weil Mclain boiler has needed to have water added daily for years. It loses about an inch of water in the sight gauge per day. Our first gas bill for the last 16 days was $250 and the  house is only 1900 square feet. We kept the thermostat at 60 F. The boiler gets up to 4 psi before the pressuretrol turns it off and there are no main vents on our heating system. We have ordered Dan's books and are hoping that there is a solution other than replacing the entire heating system.  

Comments

  • where is the water going?

    this is the time for careful observation of the whole system, to find out whether you have a boiler leak, or just a number of steam leaks. reduce the pressure on the pressuretrol to 1.5 psi MAX, and while running, check the radiator vents and valves for escaping steam. on a warm day, while not running, overfill the boiler, to check for section leaks.

    rectify the no-main vent problem, as the steam cannot rise, until the air has been let out [not squeezed out through tiny little vents-allowed to escape!].

    if you need major work, then it is best done in the summer, but can more easily be diagnosed in the winter.--nbc
  • More pictures

    Hi- Could you shoot some more pictures of your boiler and pipes?  Take them from all sides of the boiler. Try to get the piping around the boiler in the pictures. Done worry about being too far back as we can blow them up to look at the detail. With these pictures I'm trying to trace out you near boiler piping and where it leads.

    - Rod
  • TomM
    TomM Posts: 233
    Welcome-

    Congratulations, this January, you have joined the elite "30 year old Boiler Club". 

    .

    Also, I would suspect that your gauge probably isn't too correct at this point.  Someone can probably post the link to a proper auxillary gauge b/c it slips my mind at the moment. 



    -TomM
    beautiful Conshohocken PA
  • Thirsty Boiler

    Hi-  Glad to hear you' ve ordered Dan's books .They will be a tremendous help to you plus they are very useful as we can refer to a page number when discussing something.

    First of all your system's pressure is way too high. Residential steam systems operate at a maximum of 2 PSI and most way under that. Lower = Better  I'll let Dan's books explain why.   Building pressure uses fuel so cranking it down will make a big difference.



    You need to have main vents. If there is air in the piping the steam can't get in. Main vents allow the air to escape but close when the steam reaches them so that the steam can't escape.  These should be located at the end of your main (s) after the last radiator. They may alos be located at the end of the dry return.  You didn't say whether your system was one pipe or two pipe so I'm assuming one pipe. Please correct me if I'm wrong. You might want to look at the end of your main and end of your dry return to see if there might be a location where a vent was originally installed and is now plugged. Not having vents is probably why your pressure has been raised so high as compressing the air is the only way the steam can get into the radiators.



    Pictures- I've added some notes to your pictures.

     The item marked "A" appears ti be some sort of s skimming port. This isn't very beneficial and should be removed though it can wait as it isn't directly affecting your system.

    Item marked "B" - Where does this go? It should be attached at this point in the system.

    Item marked "C" - This pigtail is completely wrong. The idea is that the loop in the pigtail contains a small amount of water which protects the gauge and controls from contact with live steam.  As your pigtail is now setup, the water is trapped and can't drain away from the gauges/pressuretrol. I've attached a photo of a typical  piping configuration you should use on your system. Note how any water drains away from the instruments.and it uses a brass pigtail and piping as these are less likely to corrode.



    Water usage- You are using way too much water which may mean a leak somewhere though it can be from other things. Let me ask you some more questions: Are your radiator vents spitting water? Does your boiler have an automatic water feeder?  Is there a hot watercoil  (for make hot water for your sinks) on your boiler?

    After you add new water to your boiler make sure bring the boiler to the boil as this drives off excess dissolved oxygen which can corrode your boiler.

    You mentioned the make of your boiler but not the model. It might be helpful if we knew that and any other info.  It should be on a plate attached to your boiler.

    - Rod
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,678
    Just a suggestion

    This is just a suggestion as your boiler has put in 30 years of work and this is waht i would do before wasting time and money would be to shut off the boiler switch and remove the flue pipe and flue collector (and the  top of the jacket)and then with the boiler cool i would fill the boiler with water to the top and make sure that there is not a small leak on the top section .Some times a water side leak may be small enough that you do not notice it outside by looking at you chimmey(no big plume of white smoke)In some cases this is where you are losing water ,other things to look for if you have them is buried return pipes,lines that are in crawl spaces,if you are handy then you should be able to check for some of these things if not see if you an locate a pro from this site or some one who is well versed on steam systems to check your system and boiler for leaks ,water side leaks on the boiler an damage chimmeys and also in some cases effect the draft on your boiler and soot them up and leak CO into your living quaters which is not good ,Personally at 30 years old i would check for a above the water leaks on the boiler first and if all was fine move onto raditor supply valves and raditor vents .On another note buy 1 or 2  CO dect that have a digital reading (plug in battery backup type) install one in your boiler room and one in a main hall or bedroom much better safe then dead peace and good luck clammy hope this helped
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • djthx
    djthx Member Posts: 52
    CO Detectors

    Hello, are there any CO detectors that you can recommend for my boiler room and home?  Thnx.
  • djthx
    djthx Member Posts: 52
    Skimming Port

    Hello, I was planning to add a similar skimming port (with cap) in order to avoid having to remove the pressure relief valve whenever I needed to clean/skim the boiler.  Why is in not a good idea?  Thnx.
  • Polycarp
    Polycarp Member Posts: 135
    CO detectors

    I like this one from Kiddie:



    http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&productId=202026789



    It's easy to find and reasonably priced.  I have two houses with boilers and have one mounted right by each boiler.  Sucker is loud.  If your boiler is in a basement like just about every boiler, you should get good warning before CO gets to the living areas.



    This one:



    http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&productId=100003545



    Looks better, especially if you have a gas boiler, but I don't have any experience with it.
  • newoldhouse
    newoldhouse Member Posts: 6
    more pictures, info

    The boiler is a 1980 Weil McLain EG-45, 150,000 btu input. There is no automatic water feeder or hot water coil. The radiator vents are not spitting water. However there is steam rising in occasional puffs from the top of the boiler. The system is one pipe steam. 
  • Thirsty Boiler

    Clammy, who is a very experienced steam pro, is giving you good advice. I would follow his recommendations.  Let us know what you find and we can go from there. You may want to take a look in the "Find a Professional" section at the top of this page. Scroll down the page to the "States" Section. ( the zip code section has new software and isn't reliable) and look under your state. There are some very good steam pros listed there and hopefully there is one listed local to you.

    - Rod
  • newoldhouse
    newoldhouse Member Posts: 6
    new chimney flue, CO detectors

    There are CO detectors in the basement and on every floor. The chimney flue liner was just replaced with 6" stainless steel. There do not appear to be buried return pipes.  I have seen white smoke billowing from the chimney, but not all the time.  I will follow up with a steam pro. Thanks for all the advice.
  • Skimming Port

    It depends on where your pressure relief valve is located.  The skimming port should be located on the side of the boiler. The idea of skimming is to just remove the surface layer of the boiler water that contains the oil film,contaminates etc. To do this you want the boiler water to very slowly overflow out the side port of the boiler. You can't do this properly though a port on the top of the boiler. To give you an idea of the skimming rate, it takes me about 2 hours to skim off 4 gals of water. Slower = Better.

    - Rod
  • newoldhouse
    newoldhouse Member Posts: 6
    pipes were painted when asbestos was removed

    We just had the asbestos removed from the pipes (friable, not wrapped) and we haven't replaced the insulation yet.
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,678
    couple of other thoughts

    beside checking the  steam chest of the boiler (proper name for above water line of a steam boiler)When it comes to re insulating your steam mains please remenber to use a mimiun of 1 inch wall fiber glass insulation any thing less then that thickness is a waste of money and if you do have to replace your  boiler have a over sized drop header installed using both tapping on the boiler and have 2 riser installed to connect to your 2 mains also have main vents added if there are none pay what ever it is and have tees installed in the proper location and main vents added  also tees, nipples and caps on the boilers return tapping so years from now mud can be cleaned out from the bottom of your boiler and  on yet another note when and if you do replace your boiler do your whole system a favor and replace your raditor vents with new good quality air vents (gorton or hoffman 1A steel tongue ) If you do all that which may seem like alot you will be rewarded with a steam heating system which will perform properly and give you years of comfort .PS remenber a skim port to clean that new boiler Hope this may help peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
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