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Gas fired steam boiler startup water loss problem

I've been reading heating help for a few months now, but this is my first outcry for help.

This is my story; I bought a 2 floor house in Somerville, Massachusetts and converted from oil fired system to gas fired system. Ever since the system has been installed, i've been having problems. The water in my boiler leaves the system way too fast (it seems more like they are being drained upward into my main pipes). within few minutes of the boiler turning on, the water is completely gone into the pipes; resulting in wet steam, gurgling/boiler sound, and massive pipe hammering.

Event though there are two boiler raiser connections, the plumber only installed one (manufacturer document specifies the second raiser is optional).

The distinct between the normal water level and the header (it's the pipe connects to boiler raiser?) is 25 inches (manufacturer installation requires 24").

Isn't the header suppose to tilt down toward the return pipes (hartford loop?) instead of tilt up toward the return?

The original system did not come with main vents or connections. I added an antler with 2 gordon #1 vents to the end of the dry return pipe (18 inches away from the drop to wet return); few minutes after the system's turned on, water comes out of the gordon #1s as if they are faucets (i am guess its caused by the fact water leaves my boilers too fast).

I think maybe adding another 2" boiler raise will decrease the velocity of steam leaving the boiler, resulting in dry steam leaving the boiler?

I have a burnham PIN5SNI-ME2.

piping connection installation is on page 17:

<a href="http://www.e-comfortusa.com/PDF_files/Burnham/burnham_pin5sni-me2_install.pdf">http://www.e-comfortusa.com/PDF_files/Burnham/burnham_pin5sni-me2_install.pdf</a>

Video of boiler water glass.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAsqXHkwqf4">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAsqXHkwqf4</a>


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,270
    Nice straight pipes...

    not.  Even I could do a better job, I think... 

    Adding another riser would always help.  Correcting the pitch of the header would help a lot.  If you were to add another riser, though, you would have to do some repiping to make sure that the two steam mains came off the riser after the two risers and before the equalizer.


    If you are going to go to that much trouble -- and it would surely help things a lot -- why not really do it right and configure the thing as a drop header?  You've got plenty of space to do it.  It would be a few more fittings, but less stress on the boiler and much drier steam...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,202
    Dirty Water

    Does the water line in the sight glass bounce around? 

    Usually when water flies out of the boiler, the water is dirty -- has oil in it. 

    Did the installer clean the boiler for several hours?  If not it has to be cleaned.  You have to get the oil out of it. 

    If you have any recourse, get that guy back there to pipe the header correctly.  I don't think it has anything to do with your problem, but nobody should pay for such shoddy work.

    Go clean the boiler and I'll bet your problem will go away. 
  • skimming the boiler

    Are you asking whether the plumber skimmed the boiler? The answer is No. The plumber only stayed to make sure the boilers didn't explode when they was turned on. If you think skimming the boiler will help, i will can definitely give that a try.
  • as last resort

    The plumber is coming back sometime this week to take a look at the problem. If the issue with surging can be fixed without repiping, then i am all for it. If nothing helps, i'll have to re-pipe the near boiler pipes (maybe even configure it to be dropped header).
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,202
    edited February 2012
    Skim & Clean

    Since you're posting here, I suppose your "plumber" won't back up his work. 

    Regardless of how poor the piping looks, it should work fine.  Skimming and cleaning will take the better part of a day.  That's five hours at least.

    After you're done you'll probably have to spend another few hours a week later skimming and cleaning again. 

    That's definitely the problem with your system.   It's pretty remarkable that Burnham makes a boiler that behaves this way when the water's dirty, but every Burnham Independence we've watched do that has oil in the water.  I've marveled at many a disappearing waterline in these and I'm surprised they don't crack more often.  Even with the cock-eyed header and the straight take-offs, you shouldn't be losing water like that.  It's a sign of cutting oil in the boiler for sure. 

    Good luck.
  • use the pressurtrol nipple for skimming

    The pressuretrol is currently connected to an 90 degree elbow which is connected to the boiler. Can I remove that elbow and use the nipple to skim the boiler? The nipple is right above the top of the glass water gauge.

    also, should the boiler be skimmed while its cold or should it be skimmed when its warm?
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    edited February 2012
    Bizarre Boiler Piping

    Hi - As others have said the boiler piping is properly configured. Look on page 17 in the installation manual . The "alternate piping method" is what is called a drop header and is the one you want to have.  Also note the chart of piping sizes used. These are "minimums" required for proper operation.  The header pipe should a have a very slight slope towards the equalizer pipe. The header pipe acts as a separator which allows the water, that was pulled up from the boiler with the steam, to precipitate out and return to the boiler by way of the equalizer pipe. You might want to check your present pipe sizes by measuring the circumference of the individuals pipes and then comparing it with the table that I have attached below. Here is a good link to a video on the importance of having the boiler piping properly configured.


    Hartford Loop- Note on the page 17 piping drawing in the manual what it requires of the connection of the piping to equalizer. This needs to be done with a close nipple at the specified distance below the boiler's waterline otherwise you will get water hammer.

    Pressure- A residential steam system should not operate at more that a maximum of 2 PSI. With steam lower pressure = better

    Skimming- Use the Search the Wall function as there are a lot of good past discussion on skimming.  If you have droplets of water forming in the sight glass above the waterline and/or the waterline in the sight glass is bouncing up and down a lot during operation, you most probably need to skim your boiler, Look on Page 6 of the I&O manual the tapping labeled "L" is the Skim Tapping.

    Piping Installation- Piping up a boiler isn't just connecting "A" to "B" as noted  it is very important that the piping instruction in the installation manual be followed.and as a homeowner you have the right to expect that.

    If you have any questions we can help you with just let us know.

    - Rod
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,202

    You should skim from the skim tapping on the back of the boiler. 

    If the installer never removed the plug or it's not accessible, using the pressuretrol tapping will work but because it's 3/4", you'll have to work much more slowly and it will take forever. 

    If you can't skim, you can flush the thing out a dozen times and hope for the best.  We've done that and it works. 
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
    Did anyone notice

    His pressure relief valve is mounted sideways?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • ed wallace
    ed wallace Member Posts: 1,613
    Gas fired steam boiler startup water loss problem

    looking at the picture of the header it looks like header pipe runs up hill to the drip leg which isnt right hope tour installer will fix the issues
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,202
    Yes it is...

    Yes, Hap, we see most of them mounted that way, which is contrary to the manufacturer's instructions. 

    I believe the reason they should be mounted upright is to discourage mung from fouling them open and from collecting in them which would reduce their effectiveness. 

    Anyone know another reason?  
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
    Any port in a storm.

    A skim tapping is usually a 1 1/2" NPT tapping somewhere near the water line or slightly above, usually on the side opposite the gauges. I searched high and low to find one on my Peerless G-561, but I couldn't find it, it wasn't mentioned in the manual, and when I e-mailed Peerless, they gave me the wrong location. I did find a 3/4" NPT tapping on the back right next to the pressure relief valve, so I've been using that. It takes longer, but hey, I'm a patient man. :-)

    You won't need to be quite as patient if you'll use the tapping labeled "L" in the third picture at the top of page 6. They call this the "surface blow-off" port. I think that's what they call skimming. We just call it skimming.

    Skimming should be done while the boiler is hot--180 to 200 degrees. Don't bring it to boil while the skim port is open. That would be bad. You can monitor the temperature with one of those pocket digital thermometers, but you need a way to shut down the burner without running upstairs to adjust the thermostat. Some people turn up the heat then pull the lead off the burner or tweak the Pressuretrol when it gets up to 200, some use a clip lead to bypass the thermostat.

    There's a really good article here on skimming. See http://www.heatinghelp.com/files/posts/11488/Skim%20Article%20OH%20June%202009.pdf
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
    That's good.

    For a minute there I thought I was going to have to run downstairs and turn mine over!
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • The reason for straight piping

    It is not only esthetic to have straight piping, but also makes the piping easier to fit in such a way as not to exert undue expansion/contraction forces on the boiler block, whose sections can be torn apart otherwise. Certainly the header looks to be mis-sloped. The plumber needs to do more than just have a look at this one!!!--NBC
  • Thank you everyone!

    I ended up adding a skim tap to the safety valve and spent 2 hours skimming the boiler this morning. After skimming, i fired up the boiler and amazingly, the surging is significantly less now. The boiler no longer lose all its water (the water in the gauge still fluctuate a bit, but most of the water is still in the boiler).

    I'll have to skim it some more in a couple days to get it more stable.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,477
    Great news - but

    I'm glad the skimming reduced your problem significantly. Unfortunately the plumber may well now take a look at it, pronounce it as fixed and hasten for the exits without doing anything to correct the piping.

    Hopefully he will do the right thing.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Steve Nichols
    Steve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    edited October 2012
    Wow, mine did that too!

    I know this is a bit late to post, but I wanted to add my experience into the mix.

    Just replaced a 1939 boiler with brand new Burnham 5section  Independence for a one pipe steam system.  First time I fired it up after the contractor left, the water line went from about the 3/4 mark on the sight glass to dropping out of sight, with lots of dirt and stuff showing up in the glass.

    What also happend was it pushed the water out through the Hartford Loop and up the returns, hence making a forced hot water system, kinda.  I guess this probably helped clean out the returns, huh?

    Won't get into the particulars here, but contractor came back and did a quick skim to remove the dirt and stuff, of which there was a TON.  Water line was much more stable after he left.

    I'm now doing a much more slowly controlled skim through the blowoff port and hoping for a much steadier water line.

    No chemicals, just SLOW steady skim for hours and hours.  Keeping my fingers crossed!
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....

  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,658
    edited October 2012
    T&P screwed into tee

    Not to rain on your parade but something tells me you shouldn't have a temperature & pressure saftey valve screwed into a tee which means the temperature probe is outside of the boiler. 

    Maybe it doesn't matter I don't know.  Perhaps a Pro can comment?

    A friend of ours has an IN5 which has a seperate skimmer installed in its own port.  Perhaps there is a plug you are not seeing under the jacket?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
    Chris that is pressure only

    temperature and pressure are only used on water heaters. The pressure relief valve should be turned to the vertical position and have the discharge piped down to a safe point.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
This discussion has been closed.