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Dirty Water Problems

My 4 month old Burnham boiler was creating a lot of banging pipes, some radiators not working well, and sounding like they had water in them. The water in the sight glass was actually disappearing COMPLETELY when the boiler was running, and then coming back to 3/4 full once it cooled down. Obviously, the water was going up the pipes.

After a bunch of reading, I figured it was probably due to very dirty/oily water. Even though my plumber had skimmed a couple of times, I decided to do it myself. I did it very slowly for many hours. To my amazement - problem solved. Banging went away, all radiators working. The water in the sight glass looked great... for a few minutes.

Then, it started to get dirty again. Still no banging and radiators working well, but filthy looking water. Then, the water in the glass started bobbing up and down quite a bit. A few days later, I skimmed again and the water that came out was again filthy. Radiators were still working and still no banging.

I started to really pay attention to the sight glass. It goes completely clear when the boiler has been off for a while. Once it fires up, you can see the junk coming up from the bottom, and the water level bobbing up and down.

So, here are my questions...

1. Is skimming the right thing to be doing, or should I be draining it from the bottom since that seems to be where the junk is coming from?

2. Is it likely that this junk is coming from my old steam pipes? If so, is it ever likely to stop?

3. I am wondering about the costs/benefits of all this skimming and draining because each time it adds a lot of new water. I have read that too much new water is bad for the boiler. Any thoughts on this?

4. Should I just leave it alone until it starts banging and not working again, or should I keep trying to get it to run clean?

Thank you!


  • Pipedope_2
    Pipedope_2 Member Posts: 14
    Dirty Water

    Did your plumber clean the boiler after the install, or just skim it? Do a search here on the Wall, and look for posts about Gerry Gill's "wand". He has a video up, and you will see how much filth is actually in there, and how hard it can be to get out. Read some other info to see how much impurities in the water can cause the problems you are seeing. Hope that helps you get started.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,230
    edited December 2013
    Drain, flush, and skim

    There is probably a lot of crud that was shaken loose when the old piping was disturbed. This will probably continue to show up for a few months.

    When the boiler is cold I would drain it completely and refill it a few times to try and flush out the accumulated crud. i would then refill it and make steam, as long as you bring the boiler up to steam any dissolved oxygen should be removed and that is what damages boilers.

    See how it works for a few days, if the crud reappears you might have to build a wand that you can use to wash down the inside of the boiler, if you search for magic wand on the wall you should find it. This link will take you to a youtube video that shows how it works -

    Also you may still have some skimming to do if there is still any oil inside the boiler.

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