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Last Rites?

Orple
Orple Member Posts: 35
I'm having to refill my boiler about every two days now, and can't find any evident leaks in the piping. Mostly new Gortons on the rads, and one main vent that leaks just a little (but not near enough to cause that many refills). I'm guessing I have a hole in my boiler, and that I'm sending lots of steam up my chimney.



Aside from disassembling my boiler, is there any easy way to confirm that the problem is in the boiler itself?



And, if it is in the boiler, are there any other options than full replacement?

Comments

  • Pipedope_2
    Pipedope_2 Member Posts: 14
    Leaking

    Turn off the boiler, and manually overfill it to the top. Then look for water on the floor, in the fire chamber etc. , to show obvious signs of leakage. Don't forget to drain water back down to normal level before restarting it.
  • Orple
    Orple Member Posts: 35
    Yup... drat.

    Yep, when I overfill it with water, I get drips underneath. Nothing rushing, but definitely drips. I'm guessing that a small hole for water becomes a significant hole for steam.



    Does this necessarily mean full boiler replacement, or are the intermediate options (patching the hole somehow, replacing the tank only, etc.)? It's a relatively new boiler (10 yr old Burnham Independence), so it would seem a shame to have to replace everything.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Replacement section

    I have a 30 year old Burnham boiler too. You can get replacement sections but that's a hefty job for a home owner. A pro can probably get it done. The only problem with replacing the leaking section is that other sections probably aren't far behind and getting those section apart my lead to another failure. I think you can get a full replacement cast iron unit. Not sure how cost effective that is when you add the labor in but it's worth looking into. You say the unit is about 10 years old. Do you have any paperwork on that unit. I think Burnham has a 10 year warranty on the tank itself. Won't cover labor but will save the cost of the tank which is a big savings.
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,094
    Leaks

    Fix the leaks or the new boiler will suffer the same fate. I have a Burnham IN-4. According to the manual I'm only allowed 1 gallon of make up water a year.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,308
    Why did it fail?

    Before replacing the section or boiler try to find out why it failed so soon.



    Has it been using water for  a long period of time? A steam boiler should use very little water, if you start having to add water more than once a month find out why, fresh water contains oxygen and that eats cast iron..



    Was the old boiler near boiler piping correct? Incorrect near boiler piping can shorten a boilers life, post some pictures of what you have now so we can tell you if there is a problem with the way its piped.



    Some areas of the country have high chlorides in the water (areas of eastern MA and RI for example), find out if the water in your area has high chlorides.



    If you have any of these problems and fix it your new boiler should have a nice long life.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Orple
    Orple Member Posts: 35
    edited February 2014
    Reasons for failure

    It has been using water for awhile now -- for the last year or two, I've found that I've had to refill it about every week or two. It's been getting slowly but progressively worse, but only noticeably worse not that it has gone to two days. (Note: I've only had the house for about 3 winters, so I don't have much history).



    I am here in eastern MA, so I suspect the hard water is part of the problem.



    I haven't messed with the near-boiler piping, except to put in a new set of main valves. Beyond that, I've taken it to be nearly correct (correct enough not to require immediate change, anyhow), but more experienced eyes might spot some issues that I missed (pics below).



    Thanks all for the great feedback so far; much appreciated.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,308
    Are you on Quabbin water?

    if your town gets water from the Quabbin the quality of the water should not be an issue BUT if the town gets it's water from wells it could be a problem.



    I don't see any glaring problems with your piping. Make sure you find someone who is really good on steam systems when you get the system fixed. It's not going to be cheap but it's important it be done correctly so it lasts for a long time.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Orple
    Orple Member Posts: 35
    I wish Quabbin

    We have well water here, so, no luck there. I wonder if it's worth getting a water softener just for that purpose. I also heard it's a good idea to run your boiler water from your hot water heater to reduce via the heating, effectively sacrificing the hot water heater for the boiler. But that's another issue.



    I'll give Burnham a call tomorrow and see if I have any replacement options under warrantee.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Check Owner's Manual for Warranty

    If you have the Owner's Manual for this boiler, now is the time to pull it out. I looked at several sites for the Burnham Independance steam boilers and some say ten year heat exchanger warranty (cast iron tank) and others say 25 years. You want to be prepared when you talk to them.
  • Graphitic corrosion

    This cast iron cancer is caused, or excellerated by chlorides in the water.

    Last I heard, water softeners used sodium chloride to remove the calcium, so I would advise keeping the water softener in the next room away from the boiler, as even the fumes may do it in! Certainly the water going into the boiler should be pure. If you have chlorides in the water, then some Rhomar water treatment products could be used.--NBC
  • Orple
    Orple Member Posts: 35
    Original Owner

    So, I looked up the warranty for the boiler, and it is limited to the original owner. That's not me, since I just bought the house four years ago.



    So I guess its time to make some calls and break out the wallet.