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No Pressure and Water Loss

GeoeG Member Posts: 4
In summary, I suddenly have to add water daily to system, 0 pressure reading on gauge, new or good valves do not close on all radiators, system heats great as it did before sudden water loss.  Details follow.

I have a 9-10 year old Burnham furnace, single pipe system.  Recently, and somewhat suddenly, I have had to add water daily instead of once or twice a month to prevent low water shutoff.  Coincidentally (?), it happened almost exactly at the time that I had to replace the thermocouple.  I fiddled with the PressureTrol a little before I realized the thermocouple had failed in case that may be pertinent.

After reading the extraordinarily helpful posts on this forum I began checking the system and without details, this is the status now.  I have replaced or tested all the valves on the radiators and the main valve on return line.  I replaced a stuck pressure gauge (30 psi) with all new piping. I've ordered a low pressure gauge but have not received it yet.  I've adjusted the PressureTrol according to settings recommended here - Main at less than psi, diff at the lowest possible, about 1 psi  - subtractive.  When the system comes on, it heats everything fine but some of the valves do not close.  The pressure always reads 0. Bear in mind that before I replaced any of the valves it worked fine one day  and over a 1 to 3 day period began to lose all water daily.  In other words, all the new valves and changes I made did not make any difference in the way it heated house.  If I crank the heat up 8 to 10 degrees above my normal 72 setting, the valves will close but there is still 0 pressure reading in system and the PressureTrol does not react.

It would seem that the steam is escaping through the valves causing the loss of water but why did it not do this previously?  I can detect no leaks in the system elsewhere.

Any suggestions?


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 21,512

    Well, for starters, look for the leak... or leaks.  Probably not the vents.  Do you see steam coming out your chimney?  Check all the wet returns for leaks as well...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • GeoeG
    GeoeG Member Posts: 4
    RE: Suggestions?


    That is a good suggestion to check the chimney - I hadn't  thought of that.  Otherwise, I have checked the entire system at least twice and can detect no leakage.  I was unable to check chimney today but will tomorrow and let you know what I see.
  • Overfilling the boiler

    To check the boiler for leaks, overfill it up to header height and let it sit. Any leaks in the sections should be visible as leaks in the firebox, or on the floor.--NBC
  • GeoeG
    GeoeG Member Posts: 4
    Leak Found

    Well, there was no steam from the chimney but I could hear a hissing in the flue immediately after burner shut down.  I figured the leak was in the boiler so after removing some pieces I found a hole in the heat exchanger (see photo).  After removing the loose pieces it's about 1 inch in diameter or more.  Everything else that I could see is almost like new; hardly even surface rust.  It appears to be a bad casting and since I am still with 8 months of full warranty I'll see if Burnham will fix it for free.

    Meanwhile I patched it with epoxy and steel which I hope will last for a bit until I can replace the section that's bad. 

    Has anyone ever replaced on of the heat exchanger sections in these boiler that can tell me how difficult that is to do?

    I'm a bit disappointed as the boiler is less than 10 years old and the previous went at least 50 years before it began to leak and not nearly as bad as this one.  At least it's above the water line so it doesn't make a mess.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    Where's Harper111 for these threads? Another leaking Burnham and what's being done about it?

    I would get quotes to replace just the boiler block under warranty, and to install a completely new, different brand boiler. You may find that the warranty work isn't worth it.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,281
    Before we throw Burnham under the bus

    Can you post a photo of how the boiler is piped?
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    I'm not targetting Burnham directly. Or maybe I am. I just know that we see A LOT of failed Burnham boilers every year. Some installed correctly, some not. When does somebody step in and decide to figure out why? This can be asked of all manufacturers.
  • Steve Nichols
    Steve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    Deja Vu All Over Again!

    Yep, I was over at a friend's house helping with a low water issue on a 13 year old Burmham 4SIN. When I saw the fact that the boiler fired for over 45 mins and the pressure gauge never moved (0-3psi), I knew there was a problem (leak) somewhere because there is no way this thing is piped ideally enough to produce that little amount of pressure.

    We checked all the piping and valves for leaks and found none.

    I removed the top sheet metal and manifold(?) to get a look at the sections. Bam, right there in the section closest to the gauge glass was a hole that once I cleared away all the weak material was about the size of a silver dollar. The failure occurred just above the top thimbles, which I am guessing is about the high water line and the constant feed water caused this demise.

    What I will add is that I did the old "hey go look out at the chimney" and there was nothing visible. Zip. Had them watch for multiple days and Nothing showed. Disclaimer, there is no liner and the boiler is about 40 feet below the chimney top (3 family house). My guess is it's already condensed by the time it gets to the top, because there's no "choo choo" train out the stack.
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....

  • GeoeG
    GeoeG Member Posts: 4
    Latest Update

    Wow, but time flies.  I want to first thank those who responded here and

    to heating help.com for providing information that will really help me

    get the most out of my heating system.

    It so happens the hole I have is nearly identical to the one that Steve Nichols showed: same size, same location.  I called Burnham and they said it was caused by corrosion which is not covered by warranty. They graciously offered to sell me a new base unit (not quite sure what that includes) for $500 or to give me $750 off a replacement boiler.  I sure as heck am not going to buy a new boiler if it is only going to last 10 years so I will try to buy what is listed as the Section Assembly in their operating manual.  I don't think it would be wise to purchase only the portion with the hole as there is likely more corrosion I can't see.

    Charlie from WMass asked for pictures of the piping.  Instead I have a drawing of the way it is plumbed now which I learned from this site is totally wrong.  When I installed the boiler I put everything back pretty much as it was on the previous boiler.  There was no Hartford loop, so I am going to put that in when I replace Section Assembly.  I did include a drawing of how I plan to do that for your comments.  It is pretty much the way Burnham recommends in the installation instructions, which I apparently ignored the first time around.

    The patch I put on is holding well.  With temperatures well below freezing for the past 2-3 weeks, I've had to add no water and that's good!  I only hope it will make it through the season.  It has two layers of sheet metal with epoxy between each layer. 

    Comments and suggestions are welcomed.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,281
    edited February 2014
    all dry returns must

    tie together below the water line of the boiler. from your drawing your first boiler was a snowman type with a really high waterline. Also make sure you install properly located mainline vents.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726