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Oil boiler with summertime leak

pattn Member Posts: 4
Seeking expert professional advice:

We discovered a small but steady leak in my mom's oil boiler last summer but the leak stopped at the beginning of the heating season.  The boiler is approx. 25 years old.  In one of the pics I'm including, you can see a small clear plastic dish by the corner of the cabinet.  The leak was right at the corner coming from inside the unit.  The little dish was emptied daily and rarely overflowed.  My questions:  Is there anyway to know how long the unit will continue to function?  Is it likely that the unit will quit working abruptly leaving my mom without heat or hot water?  She will have the option of converting to a gas boiler this coming winter, but a boiler replacement is a big expense for folks on fixed incomes.  What would you do?  Thanks in advance for any informed and knowledgeable guidance.


  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,573
    Small leak

    Does this boiler also make hot water? Can you take off any panels to find the exact source of the leak? A rusted nipple leak is probably repairable, whereas a leak between the sections is more difficult to fix. If you can, fix it soon as the constant addition of fresh water will keep the oxygen level of the system water higher, and cause more corrosion.

    Predicting the future is always difficult, but at least you can find out whether any installation mistakes have caused this leak to happen 15 years early.--NBC
  • Techman
    Techman Member Posts: 2,144
    Water leak

    Does this model  have a rectangle plate for a tankless coil , right behind those 2 control boxes on the side of the boiler?
  • bill nye_3
    bill nye_3 Member Posts: 307
    cold start

    Can't really tell from the picture but , it may be a cold start boiler. The aquastat may not maintain temperature until a call for heat or hot water. In the summer when the Amtrol hot water maker is satisfied the burner can be off for extended periods of time and when the boiler cools the leak may appear or the leaking water may not evaporate like it would when the boiler is warm.

    When you have it serviced this year, the technician should be able to open up the jacket and try to find the source of the leak. 25 years ? If you switch to gas or not summertime is a good time to replace it. Instead of waiting until cold weather.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Good (?) boiler gone bad:

    Guaranteed, that boiler is a cold start. So, the Kibbles and bits, made up when the burner fires and creates the kibbles and bits, they fall down and lodge between the sections. That's a boiler with steel push nipples. When the K&B's set up house between the sections, they dry out between the sections and from expansion and contraction from the wide range of temperatures, they pry the sections apart. Causing leaks. It doesn't appear that much in the winter heating season because the boiler will be hot enough to cause the water to evaporate. But in the summer, you will see the water. Or ask any oil burner service person who goes on a no-heat call and sees water on the floor under the boiler when it is cold and off on safety. Touch it off and the water goes away. Just like FM.

    But notice on BOTH sides of the boiler photos on the 4" foundation blocks. The concrete blocks are stained brown/rust from the boiler weeping when the boiler is off and cold for the summer.

    Weil-McLain *68's are almost as bad with cold starts and they use rubber gaskets. I've never seen a JOT Peerless that was a warm start ever do that leaky thing. I've never seen a cold start JOT Peerless that didn't do that leaky thing. Along with the cleanout cover plate over the burner/combustion chamber that is never cleaned and plugs them up.

    Thermal expansion can move the world. Contraction is more than something that women experience in childbirth.

    Check behind that black round cover in the front. Look for white scuzz between the plate and the boiler block. If you see a red rubber gasket, it is as hard as a tar road and leaking. Get a mirror and look along the bottom and see if it is rusty between the sections where it is leaking onto the foundation blocks. It can also leak through the bottom section seals if the boiler makes enough condensation.

    If it isn't too bad, switch it to a warm start control and you could get X number of more years on it. Cold Start Oil Boilers are the absolutely worst money saving fraud that was ever instituted on a gullible public.

    JOT's make good boat moorings in a muddy bottom.  
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,127
    Here's what I would do.....

    First I would get someone in there who can give you an honest evaluation.  This would include, but not limited to:

    1.  Taking the jacket off, to the extent needed, and evaluation where the leak would be coming from.  Where you have the dish could either be from the fitting, or rolling down the pipe, or rolling down the jacket.  But also take heed to the knowledgeable advice from Ice about the discolored concrete blocks.

    2.  Put a low water cut-off on the boiler.

    3.  Close the water feed off to not allow any make up water into the boiler.  Just for diagnostic checking

    Check the boiler pressure with another gauge, not just the tridactor,  daily/weekly to see if/how much water your losing.

    It appears with the storage tank, your boiler is technically a cold start, but probably isn't getting 'cold', just warm.  But if your Mom is there alone the boiler may only fire once or twice a day for domestic hot water, and the boiler water temp is dropping down into the 80's, forming Ice's coined phrase of 'Kibbles & Bits' causing the problems with the possible leaking sections.

    There are also options to ensure the boiler's circ doesn't run until the boiler gets quickly out of condensing range.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    That's a high limit only control with the 24 volt "T-T" terminals connected to the burner primary control. The control is closed all the time until the system temperature goes above the setting.

    The boiler is filthy awful. Its overheating to beat the big bass drum. The galvanizing on the exhaust as all melted. Exhaust gasses are leaking out of the inspection port and the burner mounting plate.

    It was a very nice install. Too bad that someone didn't treat it as nicely as the installer did.

    It needs the gentle hands of a professional. If the owner was unwilling to replace it, I'd be fixing it up. But that's my minority opinion. I've seen far worse. It isn't going to get better. But, it might outlast the owner. Then, decisions can be made.
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    that boiler

    will have a blank plate behind that panel. and I will bet that the front plate also weeps when cold. I would say no to leaking push nipples
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Push Nipple Leaks:

    On those JOT's, when they have gone off on safety, and I found a lake had formed under the boiler, and the foundation was rust stained under the boiler, a quick look with a flame mirror would show the evidence of leaking.

    There's a rust streak on the right side of the front of the boiler. Probably the blank tank less plate is leaking. The blocks are also stained. If you look inside and see that the cast iron is clean as a whistle, there's a water leak from the steam wash. But would be leaking. Those leaks when cold, end up in the bottom of the chamber. I've seen kibbles and bits almost up to the bottom of the burner. That absorbs water. Excess will leak out the bottom between the sections after a while. *68's are worse. The few JOT's I ripped out that were cold start, all had signs of leaking and signs of leaking out the bottom.
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    don't miss them

    installed the last batch of those in 88. They were having sand holes in the casting issues back then. No fun installing, removing, and reinstalling those heavy ****. No cast boilers were small, cute, and light back then
  • pattn
    pattn Member Posts: 4
    Kibbles and bits and holes in pipes

    First, I thank you all for your time and responses.  And for the existence of this forum, where I will continue to learn.   To answer your questions, this unit does make hot water via the indirect amtrol tank.  I wouldn’t be comfortable taking any panels off to look inside.  Completely unfamiliar territory and best for me and my mom to leave it to the pros.  I can’t tell if there is a plate where the tankless would go, I didn’t find a manual for this model on the Peerless website, so defer to Ice’s expertise that there is one.

    A picture tells a thousand words, and I’m impressed by what Ice picked up from the pictures.  I noticed the rust on the floor when I was posting the pictures, but looked right past the “filthy awful.”  So now I need to learn some more.  It’s possible the boiler was neglected when my dad was ill.  I vaguely remember a regular maintenance call when something had to be repaired in the burner chamber.  If I recall correctly a piece of the lining  or something fell forward and might have been interfering with the burner.   Would this have caused the “filthy awful?”   My mom’s had the boiler serviced regularly.  A company “down fired” it a couple of years ago.   Would this have contributed?  I don’t believe anyone has ever mentioned the rust on the floor or the “filthy awful.”

    And I have two more questions for these 2 additional pictures.  I picked up little chunks of rust on the floor by the boiler today.  Are these “kibbles and bits?”  And, it’s hard to see in the picture but the galvanized exhaust pipe has a hole in it.  Looks like something used to be over the hole, but now there is nothing.  Is this dangerous and should it be covered up?

    As it stands, we will probably replace this boiler when the gas line shows up this winter, so I’ll be posting more questions and appreciate your help.  Thank you.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,127

    The pic on the right is a hole used for a combustion test. The blackened square was probably from a piece aluminum foil tape covering the hole. You can replace it with the proper tape but I use an large bolt and screw it in. Doesn't have to be covered,

    Pic on left looks like rust that flaked off

    The target wall could've fallen forward, causing some of your problems. Why did it fall over? Usually from aggressive brushing when cleaning but also from condensation or a leak. When it was repaired the tech should've let someone know.

    How far was it downfired? It shouldn't have been downfired without a very good reason-and I really can't think if one.
  • pattn
    pattn Member Posts: 4

    Down fire recommended to reduce oil consumption, Sorry to say I have no idea how far it was down fired.  The down fire was several years after the other issue.    When that happened, the tech did tell us the piece or part that fell over needed to be repaired....so it was repaired......we weren't tuned in enough at the time to ask any questions, and never looked closely enough to see all of the soot and crud on the outside of the cabinet.  Honestly, a month ago, I didn't even know what a tankless coil was, which is what I have in my home.  This has all been quite a learning experience and I appreciate all the info and knowledge shared on this website.  Thanks.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    The round plate at the front upper right is where a tank less heater would go. The plate just covers the hole and allows the control to be installed there. The control that is there is only a high limit and only shuts the burner off if the boiler gets too hot. The plate is round, and has bolts (6 to 8) through it. Look between the green jacket and the black plate. You don't have to dismantle anything to look.

    IMO, down firing a cold start oil boiler can be counter productive because it makes the boiler heat up slower, causing condensation longer. "Kibbles & Bits" are a pet name for the byproducts of cold start combustion where water/condensation mixes with soot etc in the exhaust. It creates a hard insulating debris that is difficult to clean out. Sometimes, even a soot saw won't get it out.

    The boiler actually looks well maintained. It just looks like an old boiler. For me, the issues are always cold start. I think that a JOT can be used as a steam boiler and there are some other tapings into the block. Like where a gauge glass would go. You could install a "makes on fall" control and connect it low voltage to the TT terminals on the burner control and have warm start. You wouldn't see any change in fuel consumption. I've seen JOT's older than that one.
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    down firing

    That is the best thing to do to those boilers, then crank the pump pressure to 140 PSI. I think the service guys have been taking pretty good care of this boiler, from what I see. Always good to see a test hole in the smoke pipe. I would say that the burner should have a .75 or .85 80 hollow nozzle in it now, for best results at 140 PSI
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    When the gas line comes

    keep an eye out for rebates and financing programs.  A properly sized and installed mod/con could knock 75% off the fuel bills.  Make sure someone does a proper system analysis -- it's quite likely the system is overpumped and could run on a single ECM circulator with zone valves.