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Dirty water

DK27
DK27 Member Posts: 28
I've fired up my 1 pipe steam boiler system for the season as it's started to get cold.  I noticed that after the water got to a boil the sight glass had become dirty.  I drained a few buckets of water out of the boiler and wet returns, initially it had some sediment in it, but now just comes out dark black and brown.  The water bounces about 1/2" while generating steam.  I am not sure the age of the pipes, but the boiler is about 6 years old in a house built in 1921.  Is the dirty water an issue?  If so, what can I do to eliminate it?  Thanks in advance for your time and insights. 

-DK

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,189
    Dirty water

    Did the boiler act anything like this last year?



    Dirty water in a boiler is usually caused by work on the system that introduces oils and other contaminants into it. has the boiler been skimmed? Skimming is a process that lets you slowly draw off the contaminants that usually float on top of the water.



    The boiler will not operate normally till the water is clean. You should either have it skimmed or do it yourself. Post a picture of the boiler from the front and rear and we can tell you where you might be able to skim from.



    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
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    Pics

    Thank you so much for the reply. I feel like it was there last year too, but I didn't pay close attention as I am now. I've attached some pics of my boiler. Thanks again in advance.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Somehow

     I managed to get one picture right side up.  No luck on the second.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Could you

     post the second picture again DK
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    a new pic

    This should be right side up
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Not sure how to untangle this one

      The pictures seem to be crosslinked somehow.  I am sure they open fine on your computer.  I would try renaming them dk001, dk002, and dk003 and upload again
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    Third time's the charm?

    Technology and I are not getting along
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    I guess today is not a good day for pictures

      As Bob said, skimming is the likely cure for a bouncing waterline in the sight glass.  The skimmer on my Weil-Mclain is located  right below the pressure gauge.  It looks just like the boiler drain.  Before you get started, go down to the hardware store and get a couple brass (not plastic) hose caps, in case it won't shut completely when you are done.  Most of us attach a short piece of high-temp washing machine hose to the skimmer,  cut off, so it just reaches the pail.  Oh yea the boiler should be shut off and allowed to cool for about 8 hours.  Open the skimmer valve, and then open the boiler fill valve, just a little.  You want to be overflowing out of the skimmer so that it would take about 2 hours to fill a 5 gallon pail.  Too fast and you will be wasting your time.



    Another place that might need a little cleaning is your wet return.  Have a look back in there behind the water heater.  There might be another drain valve back there that might allow you to flush the wet return.  
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    pictures

    There have been a few threads recently like this, where all thumbnail images in the thread zoom out to the same (first) image posted.
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    Skimming

    Thanks bob and crash for the info. It looks like just to the left of the pressure gauge there is a plug right now. I'll get a fitting and a valve to go there and follow just what you both said. I'll allow the boiler to cool and then let the top layer trickle off for a few hours. Also, crash you're right about the drain valve for the wet return being right by my water heater. So I drain that until there is no water left coming out? Thanks again for all your insight.



    -DK
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,355
    If you're draining large amounts of water

    make sure you heat the make-up water as soon as possible after you introduce it. Skimming should always be done while the boiler is heating (but not making steam) anyway, so you should:
    1. drain the wet return until it runs clear or runs dry

    2. drain the boiler until it runs clear or runs dry

    3. fill the boiler to the skim port

    4. fire the boiler and heat the water to 180-200°

    5. open the water feed valve until water pours out of the skim port at a slow, steady rate

    6. maintain this flow rate and temperature until water removed from the skim port has no surface contaminants (no film, no foam)--this can take several hours

    7. turn off the water supply and close the skim port

    8. adjust the water level

    9. continue heating until steam is produced
    Now you can check your results.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Flushing the wet return

    "Also, crash you're right about the drain valve for the wet return being right by my water heater. So I drain that until there is no water left coming out?"  NO



    That's going to be a whole different can of worms.  Read up on that one before you mess with it.  You think the boiler is dirty, just wait till you see what's in the wet return.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    The end section

     of YOUR boiler is likely different from mine.  Mine does not heat the domestic hot water.  Wait and find out for sure if it's a good idea to take that plug out and put in a skimmer.
  • ryanr256
    ryanr256 Member Posts: 49
    Picture help

    I've discovered that if you right click on the pics and select "Open link in New Window" the correct picture will display. I'm using IE 9, but other browsers have similar functionality.



    -Bob
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Picture help

    Good catch!  Hadn't noticed that - thanks.
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    Wet return/hot water

    My domestic hot water is made by a separate hot water heater. The hot water heater also feeds the boiler when I need makeup water. In boiler pic from the side, the copper tubes coming out to the right if the pressure gage are for the radiant heat in family room addition put don the house before we bought it last year. I think I can start with the skimming using the plug to the left of the pressure gage. I'll leave the wet return alone for now. Thanks again for all your useful help. This is a great forum.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited October 2012
    Thanks Ryan

     your advice to right click and open in a new window, worked.  I was able to download, rotate the photo, and post back.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited October 2012
    This is what my skimmer looks like

      Maybe we should have a peek in the manual first.  What is the model of your boiler.  If you go around to the front and look in, right above the Weil-Mclain sticker, you should see another sticker that will tell us the model. 
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    Model number

    Crash, it's a eg4. The pic you posted of your skim port looks exactly like what I have less the valve. I'll buy that and take a crack at skimming the boiler. Thanks again for all the advice. As for the wet return, there isn't a port to connect a hose to right now so I can flush that. For the time being I'll leave that alone. One more question crash, the main vent tree you made, what type of fittings did you use on that?
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited October 2012
    I thought

     you had a plain old one-pipe steam boiler.  Now that I have seen the boiler right side up, I have discovered that I am not familiar with the type of boiler that you have.



    My main vent antlers are constructed from 3/4" fittings.  Here is the diagram that I attempted to copy. 
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    It is

    A regular one pipe steam boiler. The previous owner put an addition on in 2006 and decided they wanted radiant heat floors. To accommodate they added a second system in parallel with the steam system that pumps water in pipes running through the boiler Acting like a heat exchanger. My inspector said he's never seen it done like this before. Thanks for the diagram of the antlers. Are they made of galvanized steel?
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited October 2012
    Galvanised

     is not allowed with steam.  Plain old black iron is good for an antler or menorah.  If you have too much money you can also use brass.  There's gotta be someone around here that is familiar with the kind of boiler setup you have. 
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,189
    A bit fancier setup

    If you look at this thread you can see the skim setup on my Smith G8, it has a full port valve that allows good flow for skimming.

    http://72.3.142.104/forum-thread/142817/Smith-G8s-first-skimming#p1275301



    It costs more to do it this way but it's only a one time cost.



    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
  • DK27
    DK27 Member Posts: 28
    Antlers

    Certainly don't have extra money to go copper, black iron it is.  Last night i tried to remove the plug that was in the skim port, and man that thing is stuck in there really good.  I have pretty hard water so i left a small rage of vinegar wrapped around it to see if that'll help break it loose.  I'll take a crack at it again tonight.  Thank you for the wealth of wisdom all have passed along.



    -DK
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