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Burnham boiler not firing. Power off/on fixes it. . . . for a while. Ideas?


I'm the new owner of a 100-year old house with one pipe steam heat. I have a Burnham PIN5SNC-ME2 boiler which is experiencing a problem:

The system all seems to run fine during the day. I generally keep the thermostat in the 64-68 degree range. At night, I set it down to 60 or so since I don't really need the whole house warm. Twice, when I woke up in the morning and turned the heat back up to 64-65ish it has seemed to fire up fine. But then an hour or so later I noticed that the house was getting cold and the boiler wasn't running. Once, I woke up to the boiler already not firing and the house was cold --- down to 50 or so.

If not for the one time it was already not firing when I woke up, I would have guessed that the issue was related to the extra strain of re-gaining the 5 degrees or so from the overnight setting.

In any case, turning the boiler power switch off and then on starts it all up fine and it runs for the rest of the day. In all cases the pilot light remains lit. The system has never quit out mid day.

Various pictures attached. I'm guessing that that nest of wires is not normal, and suggests some past repair job on the controls. It doesn't seem to me like there's an issue with water level or pressure, but maybe this wiring suggests a faulty gauge being bypassed or something?

Many thanks in advance if anyone has any suggestions. This is all new to me. I'm assuming this is going to be job for a pro, but figured it could be good to at least know what questions to ask or to have a few ideas of possible solutions to measure against what a contractor proposes.

Thanks again,



  • conversiontime
    conversiontime Member Posts: 87
    how old/ what model is thermostat?

    Could be going bad and will not correctly call for heat at times. I had similar symptoms before switching out thermostat which fixed the issues.
  • the ill postino
    the ill postino Member Posts: 10
    thermostat is a Honeywell - model # unknown

    Thanks for your reply. The thermostat is a Honeywell, but I don't see a model number on it. Compared to the rest of the system it seems newer, but I'm not sure of age.

    Whenever I adjust the heat the response from the boiler is immediate, except of course in the instances described above when the whole thing shuts off.
  • don_9
    don_9 Member Posts: 395
    edited December 2013
    could be

    The stack damper getting stuck or a pig tail getting close to being completely clogged or, even the stat may be reverting back to program mode.Sound like a job for the pros to me.
  • conversiontime
    conversiontime Member Posts: 87
    if therm OK then sound control related

    Since reseting the switch temporarily fixes. Next time the boiler is off, adjust the therm up and if you hear therm click/call for boiler but nothing happens, then something in the control at the boiler is going bad. BTW your water level looks pretty low based on the sight glass picture, you may want to add some to about halfway, then set the boiler to fire for a bit to boil it off. Do you have an auto feeder? Recommend having a check/tuneup of the whole system if you have not done so in the last 12-24 months.
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