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Problems with new steam boiler installation

We just had a new Burnham Independence gas fired boiler installed in our 1937 house.  The old boiler worked great, no hammers, gentle hissing, the usual.  But when the low water cutoff failed, the boiler cracked, and $4500 later, the new one looks great, but is creating some problems.  First, there are the bangs that must be water hammers.  But the bigger problem are leaks that have developed at (now) 3 of the radiator ball valves, requiring us to turn those units off for the moment.  So they got something wrong.  The subtractive pressuretrol lists 3 on the Main scale (cut-out) and 1.5 on the Differential (cut-in) so that doesn't seem too high (or does it).  My initial theory before looking at that was that the pressure was probably set too high and was blowing through the ball valves.  The plumber is coming this afternoon.  Suggestions for places to direct him?


  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    You could tell him to turn the pressure down.

     In the meantime, could you post a few pictures of the boiler?  All 4 sides and how it hooks up in the ceiling.  Stand back as far as you can and try to get in as much as you can.  Maybe we can see something obvious.
  • First Off

    Your boiler is running at too high a pressure.  It should operate between .5 and 1.5.  Set your main scale at 1.5 and your differential at 1.0.

    There's probably more going on and we'd need some pictures of your installation to determine these.  Near-boiler piping is so important, i.e. how he piped his header, equalizer, Hartford Loop and the all-important "A" dimension.
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    the radiator ball valves

    I am not a contractor, but my understanding is that you use steam radiator valves for the radiator, not ball valves. You could get water hammer with ball valves if they do not allow the condensate to drain out properly while the steam is coming in. I hope you just named them incorrectly. Or it may be that now someone makes a ball valve designed for steam radiators.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,736
    If the ball valve is full-port

    it should work OK. But the usual steam radiator valve is preferred since it has a union built into it, to disconnect the radiator if needed.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • what to ask the plumber

    ask him, and verify yourself that the boiler was installed according to the instructions from the mfg. this includes:

    steam piping layout, and sizes.

    return piping ditto.

    cleaning the boiler, "skimming"-not "squicking"

    clocking the gas meter, or doing a combustion test on the burner.

    verifying the exact steam pressure cut-out, and cut-in of the pressure controller with pressure set under 1.5 psi, or for economy 2-12 ounces..i think your present pressure is set too high [so what else was not followed in the manual?].

    verifying the correct amount of main venting-not rad venting.

    he should have left the manual for you to keep, but it can be downloaded easily.--nbc
  • Chris Bain
    Chris Bain Member Posts: 28
    homeowner follow-up

    First, you guys were correct.. they are steam radiator valves, not ball valves... my mistake.  I'll take some photos later today/tomorrow though we're buried under 16" of snow here on Long Island and I have to dig out first. 

    The guy came, and mentioned that the pressure wasn't too high, and that it only needed to be a pound or so, which was a relief, since at least he knew that much.  Further discussions lead to believe he knows his stuff.  The water level was too high, so we emptied a bucket out, he lowered the pressure a bit, and here's his theory:  Next to the automatic water feed there is a valve, the standard looking wheel type that you'd have in the copper feed lines.  This is typically closed, but he's wondering if water is very slowly leaking past it, causing the boiler to over fill over the course of a few days or a week.  If so, that valve would need replacement (simple enough, for him).  So he wants me to watch the water level in the glass every day to see if it creeps upwards.  Time will tell.  Now I'm off to shovel.  Thanks for everyone's advice, of course.
  • RandyG
    RandyG Member Posts: 5

    I guess the $4,500.00 didn't include a new bypass valve, ball type?
  • t hardy
    t hardy Member Posts: 29
    my two cents

    I think you would be unwise to ignore the suggestions put forward so far.

    Some of the best reasons a boiler "floods" (and destroys valves from water hammer) is not that the water level is too high per se or that a leaky valve caused it.  That condition (complete with valve destruction) is generally a final result.

    The boiler floods due to surging which leads to a low water condition which then leads to a call for makeup water from the feeder which lads to increased surging which leads to a further call for makeup, till you get a flooded boiler.

    It's a new boiler, so it needs real cleaning to prevent surging not just treatment - thorough skimming multiple times is involved - it's a bit of a pain and takes time and a little effort.

    You seem to have ignored the call for lowering the pressure - get it under 1#. -period.  This will help with the surging effect.

    You can print out page 17 et seq of the I&O manual from Burnham and check that your plumber has really followed ALL the CRITICAL dimensions -to include size of pipes, AND height of header above boiler and piping arangment of header.  If this was not done, it will magnify by many fold the results of any surging, and if done badly help cause same. 
  • t hardy
    t hardy Member Posts: 29
    2 cents PS

    Skimming means just that - taking the crap that rises to the top in a hot boiler at the water line -not just just flushing via the blow down valve which just helps protect the electromechanical make up water device from guming up.

    Remember also. that modern steamboilers don't have much water in them anyway, so a little crap in the water goes a long way in causing problems. 

  • JackHoseman
    JackHoseman Member Posts: 6
    my 2 cents

    i'm just wondering if the boiler was sized right in the first place. did the contractor measure up all the existing radiation and size the new boiler that way and not to the btu capacity of the old boiler. if the water capacity is not sufficient to handle the job you'll get the flooding conditions mentioned in a previous post.....and as mentioned , a good skimming job can take most of a day especially if screwed pipe was used and threading oil and the oil from the cast iron boiler is floating around in there. was that done at the startup????? just my 2 scents........Jack
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