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Burnham indepence-Cracked boiler?.

New to the sight and behave been doing some research but thought I might get some info by asking what I am sure is a stupid question. I have a burnham independence NG steam boiler, model number PIN4SNS-ME2, from the paperwork that came with house when we bought last year, it was installed in 2012. Last year when we moved in I had a heating company come take a look at everything, no banging, worked well, he said everything looked fine, installed well, piping done correctly, if anything he suggested possibly new adjustable vents for upstairs radiators but that was it. That was this past march (2014.) This season I have been increasingly having to add water to system, with electronic low water cutoff off coming on several times. There are no visable leaks, no puddles by radiators, unit or pipes that I can see, however, banging has increased significantly at one section of pipe. I had same heating contractor come out, explained everything, he opened water supply valve for what seemed like two mins, water leaked all over the floor and he told me boiler was cracked.

-is he correct?
-am I damaging anything more(piping) by continuing to add water and use boiler until I can fix problem?
-is it possable to replace parts of boiler(actual boiler) or does entire unit need to be replaced?
-I live in Boston, he quoted me anywhere from 5-7k to replace, does that sound correct?
-if I do have to replace I was thinking same unit for ease of swapping out, or is burnham indepence not a quality unit ( especially since I though they should last for closer to 20-25 years.

Thank you very much for the help!!


  • maxwell12maxwell12 Posts: 7Member
    My fault I meant installed in 2002, it is 12 years old
  • BobCBobC Posts: 5,071Member
    edited November 2014
    You can continue to use the boiler but it will get worse and could fail ay any time. As distasteful as it is i would plan on replacing it sooner rather than later, it will cost more to replace it in an emergency situation. We don't discuss pricing on this board. It can sometimes be less expensive to replace sections but it's labor intensive and there is no guarantee that other sections won't fail soon after doing the work.

    The question is why did it fail? Steam boilers should need very little water added to them over the heating season. Any leaks have to be fixed promptly, steam leaks can be tough to find. Does it have an automatic water feeder on it and has that been feeding water more than once every few weeks, if so how much water?

    Where do you live, the area between Boston and Providence is known to have a lot of chlorides in the water and is bad for cast iron. Are you on well water and is there a water sotener in the house?

    Post some pictures of the boiler and the piping around it so we can see if something in the install might have made failure more likely.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Mark NMark N Posts: 1,087Member
    The boiler is not cracked it is most likely rotted out from excessive amounts of feed water being added over the last 12 years. For a IN-4 Burnham recommends no more than 1 gallon of feed water per year. Most of the steam your making is going up the chimney. All the leaks need to be found or the same thing will happen to the new boiler. Does the system have buried wet returns? Check all the vents, the packing nuts, the union nuts.
  • j a_2j a_2 Posts: 1,796Member
    Heres the deal,,,You have no idea if its cracked,until you strip down the jacket and do some sort of hydrostatic test…to do that you need to cap off all openings,maybe not that easy for a homeowner,but possible..Have found many cracks not to be cracks, just a poorly installed plug…Question,is it one or two risers, if only one I highly suggest checking the one that was capped/pluged..It may be leaking and you never will know it by signs of water because it boiles off very quickly…Cracks are not common on a boiler piped and maintained properly…All that said I am not there to see it live and can only try to give you some info. that may help…Burnham does not deserve the bad rap. they often get…As do most manufactures not..Truly its in the installation and care…Installation by installer, care by OWNER..FYI I can’t stand the so called automatic fill, alls it is is a back up to the low water cutoff,and a waste of good money..Good luck
  • FredFred Posts: 8,278Member
    As far a the banging pipe is concerned, that is probably not related to the problem (rot or crack) in the boiler. It sounds like you may have water standing in that pipe that bangs. Check that it has some pitch to it nad that it isn't sagging. When steam hits a pocket of water, it will cause banging.
  • j a_2j a_2 Posts: 1,796Member
    Be sure to follow up and let us know what happened
  • maxwell12maxwell12 Posts: 7Member
    THank you all for the info. As far as the banging, I had read about it being pockets of water that flash boil to steam causing the banking however it was not a problem last winter nor was it when we started useing this heat, it has been an increasing problem along with the adding of water, hence my concern that containing to use boiler in current state might cause damage to piping ( which I am sure would increase repair cost exponentially, thus my concern.)

    To answer posed question, unit does not have automatic water feeder, I have been adding water manually as level in glass tube dropped or automatic cutoff kicked on, in which cases i would need to add water.

    I live just south of Boston in braintree, we are on town water and I do not have a water softener.

    I am not sure what wet returns are but will attach pictures of boiler. I have checkd all visable connections, vents, nuts and stillndo not see a leaking.

    I know pricing is not discussed on this board but is there anyone who might be willing to contact me regarding ballpark estimates of what I will be looking at tomreplace? I found exact same burnham unit online for roughly $2400, knocked down, am wondering what typically install cost should be and how long to do so. I was hoping that since I would be replacing unit with exact same, piping would be the same, hookups etc, relatively easy replace??
  • maxwell12maxwell12 Posts: 7Member
    I also have pics where I tried to get angle of piping, returns etc. first pic is where banging occurs it, it at begging of piping out of top of boiler

  • This will be a good time to improve the supply piping above the boiler as it is being replaced.
    Install 2 risers, and a larger header, and that will reduce the amount of water blown up into the mains. When the new piping seems to have worked well, after the skimming, then insulate them all.--NBC
  • Captain WhoCaptain Who Posts: 452Member
    Check to make sure that the Hartford Loop is 2" to 4" below the normal waterline. Hard to tell for sure from the angle of the picture but it looks like it might be too high. Also, there is supposed to be a reducer elbow where the header goes down into the equalizer. Both of those issues can cause issues where the condensate isn't flowing freely back into the boiler and you could get banging from that.

    If the piping is not correct it will have to be redone and you can forget about a easy swap out install.

    If those two things are wrong, it is very likely that pipes are not pitched correctly. You will have to check that with a water level or a bubble level on a tight string, etc..
  • gcp13gcp13 Posts: 122Member
    Any piping below the water level in the boiler is considered a wet return.
    Looks like you have dry returns, they're all up above the water level
    Boilers usually leak near the water level that is maintained on the boiler
    You could take the cover off the top and take the draft hood off and slowly fill the boiler and you'll you should see it leak in between the sections to confirm that it is leaking
    As well as checking the chimney outside on a cold day while it's running you may see a lot of steam coming out
    A proper header and two takeoffs from the boiler is definitely a plus for a new installation.I would have someone install a drop header. A few extra fittings but well worth the money,in the Burnham manual for installing piping they have both diagrams for a drop header or conventional header either way make sure they follow the book and they shouldn't have any problems
    As for now I would definitely run the system for quite a while and walk around and check every radiator and all the piping that you can see to make sure there's no leaks on anything or signs of water or steam. Good luck
  • maxwell12maxwell12 Posts: 7Member
    Thank you everyone for the intel. I will continue to look for leaks, question on piping, what is the correct pitch for piping? Is anything that breaks the bubble ok for pitch?

    Also, Hartford loop is mentioned as being too high above waterline, what is Hartford loop and how do I determine where waterline is? Apologize about the novice questions, I am trying to educate myself withy material off this site as I am asking them. Also, just to retouch, am I damaging any piping or anything else by continuing to use this boiler (and adding water every other day) until I replace the unit and fix the problem??
  • BobCBobC Posts: 5,071Member
    Breaking the bubble is fine for the radiators. A counterflow main needs 1" of pitch per 10ft of main, a parallel flow main needs half that - 1" per 20ft of main.

    Runouts to radiators on the first floor need a pitch of 1" per 20ft. If the runout serves a radiator on the second floor it needs a pitch of 1/2' PER FOOT

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • gcp13gcp13 Posts: 122Member
    On your third photo of your boiler there is a One and a half inch vertical pipe coming up to a elbow that goes into a 2 inch tee,The tee is the critical point that should be 2 inches below the water level.

    again if you read the manual that came with the boiler online or you may have it in a folder it has a picture of the Hartford loop and how it should be piped. It protects the boiler from being dry fired if you have any leaks below the water level

    As far as any damage to the boiler is concerned you may be damaging the chimney old time(clay) liner or brick.
    with all the moisture that's getting in to the chimney mixed with the flue gas can deteriorate the chimney very quickly
    The moisture can get in between the bricks above the roofline and freeze over the winter causing the bricks to break apart or loosen up
    Not sure where you're located but today's a good day around New England to check for steam coming out of the chimney
  • gcp13gcp13 Posts: 122Member
    On a sidenote I've seen boiler leaks bad enough that as the steam is going up the chimney it cools and gets heavy enough to drop back down causing the fluegas to get pushed back into the boiler triping the spill switch
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