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Boiler Question

As you can tell, I am very green to home ownership. I do have another question, however. The previous owner had purchased a boiler in 2005, so it's relatively new. When we put the heat on above 74 degrees and it's running for a bit, the boiler emits large amount of steam..as if the pressure gets too high. When this happens, I check the psi gauge and it's around 5 or 10 psi. Any idea as to what could be causing this? I'll post any additional information if needed.
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Comments

  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited October 2010
    Welcome to steam

    The cause of too much pressure could be the pressuretrol is adjusted too high.  Everybody here likes them set way low.  Cheaper to run and they work better.  There are some professionals here that can tell you how to adjust it yourself, but you need to help them out a little by taking some pictures of your setup, and posting them here.  If you are interested in learning more about your steam system there are some good books for sale here.  The grey box near the top right is the pressuretrol.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    New to Steam

    Hi- Don't worry about being new to steam and asking questions. We have all in that boat at one time or another.  We do our best to help you out.

    For some reason or another,  as Crash mentioned, your steam system is running at a much higher pressure than normal. The normal operating pressure for a residential steam system is 2 PSI or under. I think I would have a professional come and take a look at it. It should be a fairly simple solution. You might want to take a look in the :"Find a Contractor" section at the top of this page. Scroll down past the zip  code section to the "States" pick your state and see  if a steam pro is listed near you.:



    There are some very good  books on residential steam heating available on this website.

    A good introductory book is "We Got Steam Heat!" which is written for the homeowner new to steam. It's easy humorous reading and after a few evenings reading you'll be light years ahead with your knowledge of steam.

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/products/Books/5/61/We-Got-Steam-Heat-A-Homeowners-Guide-to-Peaceful-Coexistence



    Perhaps you can tell us a little more about your steam system. Is it a 1 pipe or 2 pipe system? (This is determined by how many pipes lead to each radiator - 1 pipe = 1 pipe system, 2 pipe = 2 pipe system)

    What is the make and model of your boiler? (There should be a plate on the boiler with this information) Do you have the manual for the boiler? (If not,with the make and model numbers, we can find on on line for you)

    Where exactly is the steam emitting from ? (Is it a pipe or a fitting on the boiler or somewhere else?)  Pictures are a great help so if you can take pictures of your boiler from several sides so we can see all the piping and fittings would be a big help.

    - Rod
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    first thought...

    clogged pigtail between boiler and pressure device..it's the curly pipe.
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Pics

    Here are the pics. Let me know if anything else is needed! Thanks guys!
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    edited October 2010
    could be an easy fix...

    if you feel comfortable and capable .. unscrew the pressure gauge .. then blow into the pipe that you just exposed .. if you can blow through it fairly easily, then it is not plugged (see below) .. if you blow really hard and then try hard again (since there is supposed to be *some* water in there) but are unable to blow freely after a few attempts .. then it is plugged up ..



    you can take a piece of wire or somewhat rigid/flexible plastic something (that you won't break or lose in the pipe) and try to poke the clog through .. DO NOT try draino or anything like that .. the only thing that should go in the boiler is water ..



    if you feel that your efforts (after another blow test which seemed clear) were successful, you can rinse it out with some water .. perhaps with a turkey baster ... this should/might get you through the next few days ..



    in the coming days you should plan on either calling in a pro or replacing/properly cleaning that pigtail (the curly pipe) . this would involve removal of the pressure control device (the grey box with the red wires) .



    if you found it to NOT be plugged at the outset, then something else is very wrong, quite possibly the pressure control device is set too high as was suggested above. let us know with a follow-up as to how you made out. OR it could be that the horizontal straight pipe between the pressure device and the curly pipe is plugged, but that's harder to test and clean since you need to remove the pressure device and that involves wires. don't poke around the wires unless you should off the boiler AT THE ELECTRICAL CIRCUIT BREAKER BOX.



    OH AND MAKE SURE YOUR BOILER IS SWITCHED OFF AND IS RELATIVELY COOL SO YOU DONT BURN YOUR LIPS during the above blow test.
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    where?

    as Rod asked? where exactly is the steam coming from? 
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    I appreciate your help

    I will do this first thing in the morning and let you know my results. Thanks!
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    i made some edits

    i made some edits, make sure that you reread again before starting the work. 
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    edited October 2010
    Here

    It's coming from there:



    The copper pipe.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    New to Steam

    Hi-  Thanks for posting the pictures. If you could take some more pictures farther back from the boiler it would be a big help as then we could see the boiler and the piping around it.

    Take them in Hi resolution and then we can blow them up if we need to see more detail.



    You didn't mention whether your system is 1 pipe for 2 pipe.. I see the boiler is a Utica but I can't read more than that . Could you please provide the model number. It will be on the plate.

    As we suspected the steam is coming out of the blow off pipe from the safety valve which menas your boiler is developing too much pressure.  As Jpf has already mentioned it may be a clogged  pigtail so follow his instructions and let us know how you make out.

    Make sure the boiler is cool and the burner is turned off. Make sure the thermostat is off and also the Red cut off switch on the side of the boiler is off.

    Did you look in the "Find a Contractor " section?   Is there a steam pro local to you?  One the benefits of the book I mentioned  (We Got Steam Heat!" ) is that it will tell you the maintenance items you as a home owner can do and what are best left to a professional.  As you get more familiar with steam and your system you will be able to do a lot of the maintenance yourself. I'm just a little concerned you are new on this and so if you feel something is beyond your capability at the moment please let us know and call in a pro. Steam systems are actually quite easy but they can be confusing at first.

    - Rod
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    High pressure

    A residential steam system operates below 2 PSI by law. Even the empire state building heats all 102 stories on 2-3 PSI. I still don't understand why they never designed a pressuretrol that has better resolution at the low end. You actually can replace the pressuretrol with a vaporstat and then you can run the system in ounces but that is a subject that we don't have to have right now..



    The grey box besides the pressure gauge is called a pressuretrol, it shuts the boiler down when it reaches the set point and allows it to restart once the pressure falls to another set point. It looks like the front control (the pointer on the front of the box) is set as low as it can go (0.5) which is good.



    If you take the front cover off this pressuretrol (a single screw) you will see a white thumbwheel dial that should be set as low as it can go (1 or less). Make sure the power to the boiler is off (turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse) before adjusting this wheel - better safe than sorry. You cannot adjust it too low so don't worry about that.



    If the gauge reds 0 when the boiler is cold and 5-10 PSI when it is steaming then it seems to me you either have a blocked pipe (See JPF's post above) or a bad pressure control. Pressuretrols are not precision instruments, I had two of them go flaky (high pressure) in 13 years. At this point you have to determine if your comfortable doing this yourself or you want a pro to do it for you. If you do it yourself make sure you buy the right part, take the model number off the one you have so you can match it up.



    Once you are sure the pipes leading to the pressuretrol and gauge are clear and that the pressuretrol is set up correctly, the chances are you have to replace this control. It's just a matter of disconnecting all power and then removing two wires (make a diagram so you know where they go) and disconnecting the flex cable that connects to the pressuretrol. Then twist the pressuretrol off the pigtail apply some teflon tape to the pigtail and twist the new one back on. Put the flex cable into the new control and hook up the wires. Adjust the two controls, power everything back up and you can run the boiler and see if everything is happy.



    good luck,



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    OK

    The model number is PEG112CIDE and seems to be a 1 pipe system. I have to run to lowes for something, so when I get back, I will be cleaning the pigtail and possible adjusting the wheel as well. I feel pretty confident to be able to do this, As silly as it sounds, I just want to be 110% clear on each step that needs to be taken. I know you guys are probably pro's in your own right, but im not yet!
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    One more thing

    It does not get to 10PSI, I made an error. It gets close to 5 PSI, not higher...if that makes a difference.
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    lol..one more thing

    I wasn't clear enough...the system doesn't seem to operate at around 5 PSI, it stays around the 0-1 mark. It seems once we raise the thermostat, it spikes at certain point and the steam comes out. Also, the water gauge (the tube that allows you to see how much water is in the system) is high. Almost 3/4 full. It was lower, but it's refilling at a higher level. Could this contribute to the problem?
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    You need a Steam Pro!

    Hi- It sounds to me that you have multiple problems with your boiler and should get a steam pro to look at it. There maybe other things besides the pigtail that are plugged up.

    You should have an annual inspection / maintenance done any way. The boiler and safety devices should be cleaned and checked and the burner should be cleaned and checked. Working on the burner isn't an DIY project that the owner can handle.  A Pro has the equipment to digitally check the combustion and adjust it. (If he doesn't, find someone else who does!) This makes sure the burner is properly running at maximum efficiency and NOT producing unsafe levels of Carbon Monoxide.

    Since you're new to the house you wouldn't know when this maintenance was last REALLY done by the previous owner so it would be  good idea to get a start point where you know everything is running correctly.

    - Rod
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    A relief valve blows off at 15PSI

    If it is releasing you have issues that require a full assessment of the system if you are reaching 10 times the working pressure. A rising water level are also indicates there is a problem unrelated to a clogged pigtail.
    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
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Thanks!

    I'm going to have someone come out and look at it. Any idea at what the cleaning would cost? I will go to the "find a contractor" resource as well. Thanks everyone.
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    we don't discuss costs here

    discussing costs here is discouraged .. did you try clearing the pigtail yourself? 
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Boiler Manual

    Attached is the I& O manual for your model boiler which maybe of help to you and/or the pro.

    Let us know what they find out. When looking for a pro make sure to question them as to their experience with steam heating as surprisingly a lot of heating pros aren't familiar with steam.

    - Rod
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    ohh

    Yeah Im going to do that, but I used the "find a Contractor" resource are there are none in my area. NEarest is 30 miles away.
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    !

    Rod, you are very helpful. Thanks!
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Finding a Pro

    You mentioned there was a steam pro listed in the "Find a Contractor" section but he was 30 miles away from you. I would suggest you still call him as he might be doing a job out your way but even if that was too far out of his territory, you might ask him if he could recommend a steam pro closer to you. Mention that you saw his name on the Heating Help "Wall". The majority of guys listed are very professional and go out of their way to help.

    Just a thought

    - Rod
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Will do

    Thanks for all your advice!
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Update

    I have not gotten a contractor out here yet because it's been warm until today. I just had to change out the thermostat for a new one. The old seemed to be defective. After installing, the boiler seemed to be staying on. I shut it down, let it cool and took off the pressure gauge. I blew into the pigtail and it seems to be pretty clear. I also took off the cover to the pressuretrol and turned the white dial down to 1 (lowest it seemed to go). It was on two. Also on the front of the box, was a slide dial that was controlled by a screw. It was on 2 also, so I turned the screw down and slid that dial down to .5. Does all this sound correct to you as of right now?
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Well...

    Now it is releasing steam and the pressure gauge is reading a tad less then 1. Any other ideas before calling someone?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    edited October 2010
    Steam release

    The good news is the pressuretrol and gauge appear to be fine.



    When the steam releases is it loud or is is it just a slow release? Do you think you are releasing the same amount of steam or less? If there was any real pressure behind it, it usually makes somewhat of a racket - not something you want to be around. If i recall you used to be reading a lot higher on that gauge than 1psi.



    The pressure relief valve is supposed to open up around 15psi, maybe it is opening up to soon. just a thought.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Well...

    The pressure is rising again, back to 5 psi. It's loud, like when a hot air balloon gets fired up. A very loud hiss. There is this thing on the top of the pipe that is releasing the steam. It pops (not sure if this is normal...probably is) up when the pressure rises. If it's blowing steam, I can push that lever on the top down and it stops. Not sure if has anything to with anything.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    edited October 2010
    Boiler Question

    Hi- We can't tell what is happening until we have more information. What is the maximum reading now on the pressure gauge? At what pressure does the boiler cut out? At what pressure does the boiler cut back in? That's what the settings on the Presuretrol do.

     I would still suggest you get a heating guy to come and look at your system while it is still warm. When it gets cold the good ones are very busy fixing breakdowns and don't have time to do maintenance on systems. From your descriptions your system has several problems that need to be checked out. A faulty thermostat wouldn't cause the problems you described in your earlier posts. You should also have an annual check done to your burner to see if it is running properly. Special knowledge and instrumentation is needed to do this. That's one of the reasons I suggested you get Dan's book "We Got Steam Heat". It tells you what maintenance you as a home owner can do and what is best left to a pro.

    - Rod

    Edit: I just read you latest post. Shut down the boiler and get a professional to look at it. It's a safety issue. It shouldn't be at 5 PSI or hissing!!!
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Possibly fixed

    I just had a steam pro come out and it seems the pressure control was the culprit. I am not 100% sure on what he did, but he made some adjustments. If it does start releasing steam again, he will have to replace the pressure control totally.
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Possibly fixed

    I just had a steam pro come out and it seems the pressure control was the culprit. I am not 100% sure on what he did, but he made some adjustments. If it does start releasing steam again, he will have to replace the pressure control totally.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Check and Record Pressures

    Glad to hear you had a steam pro look at it. What exactly did they do?  At what pressure does you boiler now shut off? What pressure does the boiler turn back on?  I would record these pressures as they give you a good idea of your pressuretrol's health. Large deviations from these set pressures means something is wrong.

    - Rod
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Well...

    Right now they have it set to shut off at 3 PSI or about that and come back on at 1.5. The calibration was off it seems as even though it was set at 2 it was really set to go off at 5 or there abouts.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    edited November 2010
    Settings

    That seems high to me. The system should be able to work fine with a cutout of 1.5 to 2PSI and a cut in of 0.5; you could go even lower if you had a vaporstat.



    Although pressuretrols are not very accurate at low settings that difference seems a bit much. The other fly in the ointment is the pressure gauge, a 0-30 is not very accurate at these pressures. You really need an auxiliary 2 0r 3 PSI gauge to see what is going on.



    You could try adjusting the setting on the front of the vaporstat down to 0.5 and the white knob to 1. Low pressure usually makes everything happier.



    I would keep a close eye on it, keep a log of the pressures you observe at cutout and cut in.



    Bob.
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Pressuretrols

    The pressure markings on the Honeywell pressuretrols are notoriously inaccurate.  You have to fine adjust it by using the pressure gauge. Use the marking on the pressuretrol as a start point and then do a very slight adjustment on the cutout setting and observe the pressure gauge to see at what pressure it now shuts off. That will tell you if the way you are turning the screw makes the pressure go up or down. Don't turn the screw more than 1/4 of turn before testing the pressure again.  Ideally you should get the cutout pressure at  2 PSI or lower.  Pressuretrols get more inaccurate the lower you go which is why most people switch to using a vaporstat for very low pressures (under 1 PSI)

    - Rod
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Actually

    I made an error. The pressure control is set at .5 and the inner white dial is at 1.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    0-3 PSI Gauge

    At this point you might want to get a 0-3 PSI pressure gauge. Just get some 1/4 pipe fittings (use brass or bronze - Home Depot has  them)   and attache it next the 0-30 PSI gauge. The 0-30 gauge must remain as it is a code /insurance requirement.

    Most of the people on the board get their 0-3 PSI gauges at the Gauge Store.

    This is a link there: http://www.gaugestore.com/prodinfo.asp?number=33020

    The model you want is #33020 which is shown in the link.

    - Rod
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Thanks

    You have been a great help! I will do this tomorrow.
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Problem again..

    Well,



    It is not doing it as much but it blew off steam at 6:30 this morning. It's constantly waking us up. I haven't gotten a firm quote for a new one, but the tech yesterday said a new one would be around $225. Is there a good place online to perhaps buy one?
  • Breakthecycle2
    Breakthecycle2 Member Posts: 34
    Honeywell pressuretrol P404a1009

    The numbers on this pressuretrol is P404A 1009. I can't find anything that matches it, but I found a P404A 1023. Does it matter?
This discussion has been closed.