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Losing all the water in steam/oil boiler every day - changed return lines - still losing water

We are losing water in our boiler. We used to fill it once a month, then in the last 6 months we now have to fill it three times a day. We have no knocking or visible leaks in the three story house radiator/valve system. One valve in the 2nd floor bathroom spits a little steam. We were told it was the return lines and had them replaced this week. This has not worked, the boiler still needs to be filled three times a day, even though the return lines have been replaced to the boiler. No lines are now underground they are all above ground. We don't see water on the floor in the boiler room. The boiler vents to the chimney. The boiler is old, possibly original to the 1935 house. The metal is fatigued. There is not an auto feed on the boiler, there is an auto cut off mechanism when the level of water drops. The house pitches towards the boiler, so that should help the water/steam to return through the return line we thought. Can anyone help us solve this mystery. We had the return pitched to avoid knocking a few years back but the draining problem started happening a year ago. Can anyone help us work through this problem. We have had one technician and two contractors and a plumber look at everything, and they all said change the return lines. We did that and it has not worked. Any help would be very much appreciated.


  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 1,996
    older boiler and losing water

    After all the regular suspects are ruled out  ie buried returns and holes  above the water line which is checked by flooding the boiler to the top and visually checking for leaks and leaking valves ,raditor and main vents there is usually only one other suspect which is usually the hardest to find due to its location and this is very true which older dry base boiler which sat on a cast iron box or fire brick .I have ran into this twice and the leak was the old push nipple on the water side  which only leaked durning firing and ran unseen into the concrete from inside the fire box very hard to see and always means replacement .When  the boiler was being removed and was stripped out  it was not until we poped them apart that we noticed the wet concrete right under the original fire brick ate a hole through the cement and was draining under the basement floor undermining under neather the fire box .This was a1920 arco boiler piped to a early trane vapor system the push nipple was like a sheet of tin foil thin ,We had tryed to find this leak for about 1 month and original advised the home owner that they had got there money worth and really needed a new boiler they finally went for it and there mystery water lost was solved .If the boiler is that old get a properly sized one properly installed with a over sized header and you will see your fuel comsumption drop espically if this is a close to 100 year old boiler ,new boiler are quite  a bit more effecient but don't go cheap and make sure you get some one who is experenced with steam other wise you may not be happy peace and good luck clammy
  • Mark NMark N Member Posts: 1,035
    Old Boiler

    Your boiler is 78 years old. It sounds like it has earned its retirement. The amount of water your losing most likely the boiler has developed either a hole in a section or a crack. time to replace.
  • JamesC in Stamford CTJamesC in Stamford CT Member Posts: 83
    edited February 2013
    is there white smoke coming out the chimney?

    If there are absolutely no leaks in any of the pipes, radiators, valves, etc., then it is quite possible that there is a leak in the boiler that would be sending steam/water into and up the chimney. Sometimes you can see smoke coming out of the chimney (really it would be moisture that condenses when it hits cold outer air, it is not smoke).

    But be sure to check all the pipes and radiators and valves again, sometimes you will not notice it clearly, but there could be a leak someplace.

    I also wonder if the water feed valve is faulty such that the boiler is pushing hot water backwards into the water supply -- touch the pipes on the water supply side of the valve, many feet away from the valve, to see if it is unusually hot from being filled with backwards flow (not likely since the supply pressure should be much much higher than the boiler pressure, but worth a check in case there is pressure problem in your water piping caused by some improper piping).
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