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Hole in steamer?

Hi all,

I've got a Smith G-8 steamer- only about two years old. Last year I was fretting that I was losing water- I had to top up the boiler about once a month because it would shut off on low water. Eventually decided that this wasn't enough to worry about- evaporation and a few iffy vents could account for the water loss.

Well, this year the problem is cropping up more frequently. Last night I got home to find the boiler shut off due to low water. I tried filling the boiler to the header to check for a leak- nothing (at least nothing conspicuous). I topped up the boiler to the normal water level- around 8:00 last night. As of about a half hour ago the boiler is off again due to low water. I've got two "suspicious" radiator vents, but no other obvious signs of water loss. All new returns (above ground) etc.

Any advice? Steam pros around here are slim pickings ("Have I ever heard of Hollo-who?").

Thanks all,



  • AbracadabraAbracadabra Member Posts: 1,938
    hidden or underground piping?

    any hidden or underground wet returns?
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Member Posts: 249

    All new above ground returns. All the main and  piping is visible and easily accessed.


  • Mark NMark N Member Posts: 1,035
    How much?

    How much water is there between the NWL and the LWCO? Did you keep records on how often you were putting this much water in? When you were putting it in? You might have been adding a lot more water than you thought. Were you boiling it as soon as it was added? Check your main vents, packing nuts on valves and the unions on the valves to loose as much water as you were I doubt is was steam escaping from a rad vent.
  • crash2009crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    What Mark said

    and check the sight glass nuts.
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Member Posts: 249
    2.5-3 gallons overnight

    I just checked- I'd say I lost between 2.5 and 3 gallons of boiler water between 8:00 last night and around noon today.

    This seems like more than I could expect to lose because of a couple of bum radiator vents, and yet I'm surprised not to be able to detect a hole in the boiler (via overfilling the boiler). But I'm no pro and have nothing to gage these expectations against.

    Yes, any time I've added water I'm dilligent about ensuring that it is well boiled immediately. I have not kept good records of the times I needed to top up the water, but you can bet I will now... It has definitely become more common over time.

    When I first suspected someting was amiss I checked my main vents (several Gorton #2) by placing a bread bag over each and checking for condensation. This turned up nothing, but again, I'm no pro...

    Any other insights or troubleshooting tips?


  • crash2009crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Sorry to hear about that

    You might want to save yourself all the grief and guessing, and pressure test it.  Long Beach Ed wrote a how to a couple months back.
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Fix Steam Leaks

    Hi- It sounds like you have checked the obvious - no steam coming out the chimney, flooding the boiler etc. though with the boiler flooding test sometimes with a slow leak you have to wait a while as it takes sometime for the water to work its way down to the floor and become visible. Waiting long enough in winter may not be all that practical.

    Carefully go over the system and check/ fix any steam leaks. I had a leaky radiator inlet valve stem a few years back and was very surprised at how much water escaped from the system in a very short time. This was especially so when the weather was cold and the burner was on for long continuous periods.

    - Rod
  • Long Beach EdLong Beach Ed Member Posts: 686
    Losing Water

    Thanks, Crash, for passing along that thread. 

    Finding leaking steam can be a difficult task, especially when the steam quality is good and dry and the pressure is low.  

    I suspect this fellow's problem isn't a leaky boiler, but is more likely a bad vent or leaky radiator union.   I was losing gallons every day from several radiator unions that leaked. 

    Remove the suspect vents, turn them upside down and blow through them.  That will test if they seat, and will usually (but not always)  identify leaky vents.  

    The water loss you describe can easily be one bad vent or leaky union, or as mentioned a leaking top sight glass washer. 

    Happy hunting!
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Member Posts: 249
    Life Lesson #23,944: When in doubt, look behind the Christmas decorations.

    Yes! Ed, you were right.

    Many thanks for linking me to that thread. I remembered reading it, but being that I wasn't having that problem at that time, it must not have sunk in.

    I read it and resolved to play detective. Cranked up the boiler and let 'er run for a good while, overheating the place. I checked everything. Then I checked again and that made all the difference. There behind a stack of rubbermaid totes I saw a riser union leaking like a seive. I could actually tighten the nut a good half turn by hand, it was that loose. Evidently this leak was invisible except when the system had been running for a good while.

    When I find the dope that repiped my header and mains this summer and neglected to tighten that unon, why I'm gonna... well, I'm gonna buy him a nice Scotch and breathe a sigh of relief.

    THANK YOU, gentlemen. I will be using the pressure test method to check for additional leaks just as soon as I unclench my jaw.

    Thanks again,

This discussion has been closed.


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