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Problem with flooded boiler

NateNate Member Posts: 9
Hi All,

I've got a single pipe steam system, 5 radiators, and a Burnham boiler that was installed in 01, with a Bock indirect water heater.

I've had no problems with it since I bought the house in 07.  Water level has been very constant.  It does not have an auto-fill, but obviously has a LWCO.  

This morning I woke up to my pipes clanging like mad, which they have never done.  Went downstairs and shut off the boiler, and the water level was over the top of the sight glass.  I drained out probably 5 or 6 gallons to get it down to the proper level again, and watched it for a bit.  I figured maybe the fill valve got some kind of schmutz in it or wasn't closed all the way, so I opened/reclosed it.   After a few hours, it looked like the water level had crept up another 1/8" or so.  (Boiler switch had been on, but it had not fired.)  so I drained again back down to the recommended fill line and realized there was a secondary ball valve on the fresh water fill line back behind the boiler, so I closed that too, to hopefully figure out if it was the normally-used fill valve that was leaking.

Now, I have VERY rarely known 1/4 turn ball valves to go bad, so I find it odd that the fill valve would just suddenly decide to start leaking...... 

It also occurred to me that maybe it could be getting in from the hot water tank?  I guess maybe if there was a leak in the coil that goes into the boiler, that would cause water to enter the boiler, but that, too, seems unlikely since this is all fairly new equipment (relatively speaking). 

Anyone have thoughts on what the most likely culprit is?  I have a service guy coming tomorrow to check it out, but I figured if I can prepare myself with any relevant data to give him that would be good. 

I'm going to continue to watch the water level with both ball valves on the fill line shut off.  Assuming it's unlikely that BOTH valves failed, if the water level goes up, that would point to the hot water coil?

If it is that, how much damage am I looking at price-wise? (Or is it something I could do myself?)

Sorry for the huge post, just wanted to give as much info as I can.   You guys are great.



  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,454
    Pinhole leak?

    If the level continues to rise with both fill valves closed i would suspect a leak in the indirect tank. You could shut the house water feed into the indirect off and see if that stops the level creep. If that does stop the level from rising in the boiler the indirect would have to be replaced or repaired. Nothing lasts forever and it may be that the indirects heat exchanger has a pinhole in it.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • MDNLansingMDNLansing Member Posts: 297
    Bad Ball Valve

    This wasn't in a steam application, but I had a 1/4 turn ball valve go bad twice. Debris in the line got in the valve and chewed up the silicone plastic seal around the ball. The more I opened and closed, the worse it got. Not very common but it does happen. If you have a stethoscope (every toolbox should) listen to the valve. You can hear the slightest of leaks with it.
  • NateNate Member Posts: 9
    looks like the coil

    Well, as suggested, I shut off the intake/output to the water heater, and the level has been constant for several hours now, which would lead me to believe that it is in fact the coil for the indirect water heater that has a pinhole leak.

    1.  Are these repairable?

    2.  If not, does anyone have a suggestion for the best replacement?  and also...

    3.  Should I look into an alternative to using an indirect?  Maybe electric or natural gas water heater?

    Thanks all....
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,454
    Might be covered?

    The Bock site lists the Bock Sidekick as having a 7 year warranty, but if it was registered at installation it may have a limited lifetime warranty so perhaps it can be fixed at an affordable cost. Do you know if the anode rods have ever been replaced?

    It depends on what your hot water needs are to hazard a guess what kind of use you would get from a standard gas or electric hot water tank. In most areas a gas fired hot water tank is cheaper to operate than the electric tanks. i suspect the cost of installing a new indirect might be 3X that of a gas fired water heater so you would have to decide if your hot water needs warrant the expense.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • MDNLansingMDNLansing Member Posts: 297

    I would highly recommend looking into a hybrid hot water heater. There are several options out there, but a continuous flow unit with a small holding tank is perfect for home installations. You get instant hot water for washing hands and such from the tank, then continuous hot water when it runs out. I love ours.
  • NateNate Member Posts: 9

    Well, my hot water needs are very small.  I take 5 minute showers, and have lived off-grid often... but I also may end up selling this house in the next few years, so I don't want to tailor it specifically to me.  I also don't want to go cheap and crappy, as I am not a fan of disposable crap equipment. 

    I guess I figured my cheapest option would be to just swap out the indirect for another indirect, but from what I'm hearing, that's not the case.

    Last I knew, I can get gas run to my house by the city if I install a water heater, so that's an option....  it's also worth noting that due to it being a city-run electric company, and having our own hydro... our electric is very cheap.

    Are folks thinking a better option would be to eliminate the indirect altogether and do something else?

    I know that, since the tech coming tomorrow is from my oil company, he will probably recommend going with another indirect (if indeed, I need to replace it)....  so I welcome other opinions.


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