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Fully Sooted

The owners of this house called the local utility because their boiler was putting out a bad smell.  After testing it, the technician capped the gas line and attached a hazard notice.  They called me and my CO meter went off the charts, above 3,000 ppm.

They are planning to remodel in a couple of years, so they were not inspired to replace the boiler just yet since they want to move the boiler to a new location.  BTW, the boiler is now IN THEIR BEDROOM!

Their only other option was for me to clean it.  I removed the flue on the top of the boiler and the burners underneath; brought a garden hose in and flushed the soot from the heat exchanger, re-assembled the boiler and fired it up.  That simple cleaning brought the CO down to a manageable 18 ppm.

I also replaced the x-tank (totally waterlogged) and showed the owner how to oil the B&G circulator.  They said it was the first time it had been oiled since they moved in 15 years ago.

The boiler is a M.E. Universal, made in San Francisco.  They were popular here in the 40's and 50's and there are still quite a few of them around.
Often wrong, never in doubt.


  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997

    Is that in a room sealed off from the bedroom at least? Not sure I could sleep with that thing next to my bed...
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    I thought

    gas was trouble free and never needed servicing? Isn't that part of the selling point for conversion from oil to gas?
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Gas in the bedroom:

    Is it allowable in California to have a gas appliance in a bedroom? It isn't in Massachusetts and it wasn't in California before I left almost 50 years ago.

    Something about Carbon Monoxide in sleeping rooms being a danger to the sleeping occupants.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    It is illegal to install a boiler in a sleeping room...

    but it probably doesn't eliminate putting a sleeping room into a boiler room... Weekend warrior retrofit dontcha know:-)

    I've slept with a few boilers in my days ;-)

    (Disclaimer: I am NOT endorsing either putting a bedroom in a boiler room, or a boiler in a bedroom)

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    Boiler in a bedroom is a

    violation anywhere in the US and Canada, especially if it gets its air for combustion from within the room and has a draft hood, that is a killer just waiting to do its thing. I would never touch it and would cap of the gas line so they could not use it and send them a registered letter and last of all alert the Fire Marshall

  • Calculated risk

    and I hear what you're saying everyone.  I was shocked to hear that this was allowed to be built like that in the first place. 

    I based my decision to work on the boiler for a few reasons:

    1) The room has a lot of combustion air, both low and high. 

    2) The door between the rooms is well sealed.

    3) The flue draws very well, so even large amounts of CO were being vented

    4) The owners will remodel in 1-2 years, and

    5) I will install a CO monitor in the boiler room.

    I have cleaned the boiler back to its original shape and I know that it will not soot up before the next heating season when I'll pay them another visit to check and clean their boiler again.
    Often wrong, never in doubt.
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    do what you can

    Alan the only additional thought I would have is to make the door auto close with a safety shut down switch if it's open and to make sure the combustion air does not come from the bedroom.

    As far as built to allow, we had a contractor put a power vented water heater in "small office's" in condo's (60 units). Of course this is at a ski area so not a one was used for offices. As we go in each unit and find bed's we red tag and remove the water heater's and switch them to electric...
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    I hope all you friendly

    guys have million in insurance to cover your butts. Worse than that what if you read in the paper two people die in their sleep.

    I really feel like sometimes I am wasting my time trying to keep people from killing themselves or someone else.

    You leave a fire burning in the bedroom your are guilty of attempted murder! I love you all but that is the truth.

    I would rather leave them cold than dead.

    Get to one of my classes or to Jim Davis classes and you will think a lot different.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    Ichmb and California,

    Take this however you want but you are both as dumb as a box of rocks.


    It doesn't matter what you do, walking away doesn't absolve you of any responsibility. And saying you will come back and check just continues your legal ownership of this problem. If I had been faced with this problem, I would have gone out and bought a CO detector and installed it, demanded that I or someone else fix it, and write a letter pointing out the problems and the solution, notarize it and send it to them signed received. CYA.

    You out there can make all the jokes about Massachusetts regs but they are there to protect us AND the consumer. If you install a gas boiler, you MUST install hard wired CO detectors as prescribed in the Regs. No exceptions.

    We plumbers and gas fitters are required to take 6 hours of CE every year to keep our licenses. They cover this stuff all the time in the three hours of gas review. Doesn't anyone teach you this stuff? Do you know about it?  
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    one sec

    I never said i agreed with it nor have I ever serviced one in a bedroom. As I pointed out as I find water heater's in bedrooms I red tag them and shut them down on the spot. I also dont call people dumb as rocks no matter what I think. The decision was made by someone else to do something. I only added option's to try and make it as safe as possible given the fact it is done. In the state I live in, CO detector's are not required, but I give them away for those willing to take them. I have shut down many systems and have removed lp tanks for system's that are not installed to code. Costing my company alot but saving even more Where i work I am known as being a hard azz on codes. Before you throw stones get the facts straight...

    If memory serves me right, there is a code that allow's gas appliances to be in a room attached to a bedroom as long as the door self closes and seals and the combustion air come's from "other than the bedroom". I have never done this nor would I but I believe the Gub'ment (your words) allows for it.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    Good on you for not doing it and not being part of it.

    It started out as a sooted up heat exchanger.

    I've seen a few HA gas furnaces lately that are all sent out set up as natural gas. The HVAC installers do all the venting (PVC) and then expect a gas pipe person to do the conversion. Somehow it doesn't get done. The unit is fired off set for Nat. Gas, completely soot's up, because MA requires hard wired CO detectors in all residences where new gas appliances are installed, a cacophony of CO detectors goes off and alerts all concerned. The furnace must be replaced because you can't clean the soot out of them.

    I guess the rocks come with the farm.
  • Battle Ready

    I knew what I was in for when I started the thread and I wore my flak jacket.

    If I didn't feel that this system was not going to be in my control, I wouldn't have taken it on.  Better me than some tech. that can't monitor it as well as I can.  The house is a few blocks away and along with the sealed door, plenty of combustion air from outside, CO monitor, cleaned HX, regular visits by me and promise of future replacement, I am not worried.  You manage your risks and this is one well within my control.

    Rant away.
    Often wrong, never in doubt.
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    to some degree

    Dont we do that with every system we touch. I went to one last night, a major fire had occured at a shopping complex. One of our tech's made a "suggestion" back in May  and the fire marshal wanted to know if it was followed through on. He's looking that hard at everything in the building..
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    You are correct Tom

    the code allows for central heating in a room attached to a bedroom with a self closing fire code door. The boiler or furnace must get its air for combustion from outside the room. The room must also be sized to allow for adequate cooling of the appliance based on the square foot area of the appliance as to the space in the room.

    I have seen however many a nightmare with this stuff.

    Here in Rhode Island the landlords finish basements to rent to college kids. You go in and four guys or girls are sleeping in a boiler room with absolutely no ventilation.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    Go easy Ice

    these are two very good service techs you are talking too. If you read carefully neither one of them was happy with this situation

    Also as Alan went on and explained it is actually in a separate room from the bedroom which code does allow, with certain stipulations. My code books are at the training center but I will actually post the code as it is written and then everyone can be friends.

    We have a lot of furnaces here in New England that are not very safe. I can show you 25 of them in Seekonk, Mass that the inspector approved.
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    Thanks Tim

    I remember running into a system that fell under that code.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    Here we go code book info


    We had a discussion about this and I promised to get the latest code ruling from NFPA54/ANSI Z223.1 National Fuel Gas Code 2009 (latest code)


    This is the code


    10.3.1 Location


    Central heating furnaces and low-pressure boilers installations in bedrooms or bathrooms shall comply with one of the following:


    (1) Central heating furnaces and low-pressure boilers shall be installed in a closet equipped with a weather-stripped door with no openings, and with a self-closing device. All combustion air shall be obtained from the outdoors in accordance with 9.3.3.


    (2) Central heating furnaces and low-pressure boilers shall be of the direct vent type.


    This is an explanation of the code taken from the Handbook for NFPA 54


    Note that Item (1) has been revised to clarify that a solid door is not required. The previous text, "weather-stripped solid door," did not convey the committee's intent that the door have no louvers or other openings and that a standard interior closet door was acceptable.


    A furnace is permitted in a closet off a bedroom, with the restrictions noted in 10.3.1.  These requirements clarify the instal1ation of boilers and furnaces in bedrooms and bath rooms and are consistent with an option for the instal1ation of water heaters in closets opening to bedrooms and bathrooms. Another option is a direct vent boiler or furnace, which may safely be installed in or near a bedroom or a bathroom.

This discussion has been closed.