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Losing too much water

We have an 80+ year old home with a 2-pipe steam system and hot water type radiators.  The boiler was converted from coal to gas sometime in that history.  I have read some of Dan's books and we have fixed several problems, including some leaky radiator supply valves.  Besides annoying noises, we did that  because we were losing too much boiler water.  Without an automatic water feeder, we had been adding water every 2-3 days during prime heating season.  (This makes it really hard to go on vacation in the wintertime!)  We also had the boiler cleaned because our heating guy suspected that the system was gunked up and not holding the capacity of water that it should.  Now we fill it every 3-4 days, so it appears that we still have other problems.  (By the way, it seems that most of our problems began about 2 years ago when our system flooded during the summer months when our manual water feed valve failed.  We didn't discover the problem until water started dripping into the basement off a return line running from the second floor or possibly the third floor attic.)  What could possibly be causing this loss of water?  I hope it's not symptomatic of big problems.  Thanks.

Comments

  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    What color smoke do you have?

    A white cloud on a cold day means it is a leak in the boiler. If it is a coal conversion you would be well served to save up and replace the boiler. Are there any underground return lines?
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Steam_Rookie
    Steam_Rookie Member Posts: 2
    too warm to check smoke color

    Thanks for your help.  I will have to wait for a colder day to check the color of our smoke (it was 64 degrees yesterday in Northern Indiana!).  I really would like to get this problem diagnosed before the heating season ends.  Surely we'll have some colder weather ahead.  How cold does it have to get - below freezing?  Our boiler is probably at least 30 years old, but I'm not sure.  It is certainly not the original boiler.  It is a Weil-McLain model number E-7, and there are no underground return lines.  If there is a leak in the boiler, I suppose that means a new boiler, right?  Could there be a leak in one of the supply lines inside a wall, or would that be completely obvious because of noise and damage?  Is there some kind of equipment or procedure to test for leaks?  I suppose I should wait and get a reading on the smoke before wasting time elsewhere.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    A tech can do smoke test

    when they do a smoke test the water vapor shows up if they are using a paper based tester. Leaks in walls usually show up as damage. a large leak can be found by filling the boiler with water and looking for water in the fire chamber, Of course with the burner shut off!!! leak means new boiler unless the current boiler is still quite new.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
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