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Can I save this 9-year old boiler that leaked?

cmahrle
cmahrle Member Posts: 15
edited December 2014 in Strictly Steam
I have a 9-year-old Burnham steam boiler (245k btu) that developed a leak*. Over the summer we put in Boiler Liquid to stop the leak**. That has worked for now. However, a lot of the insulation on the bottom of the boiler has come off. We cleaned out the debris, but it continues to fall down, even though the leak has stopped. Recently, we started having flame rollouts. I bypassed the flame rollout switch temporarily so I could see what was happening, and there were major flames going up the front (paint was coming off the boiler panel). The burner tube slits were partially rusted shut (or clogged with insulation debris), so I cleaned those out (thinking maybe the gas couldn't go out the slits, so it was coming out at the front, causing the flames), but still have major flames coming out and inconsistent flames above the tubes (inconsistent, as in, there seems to be a rolling flame above some of the tubes). And still, more insulation comes off. I have what looks like ashes sitting at the bottom. I clean it out, and more falls down.

So, can I do anything to save this boiler? Can the insulation be replaced? (If so, how difficult is that to do?) And if I can save it, is there something I can put into the boiler to flush out all the sediment and clean it thoroughly? (If I open the drain valve to flush it out, I never get anything close to clear water coming out.)

Thanks in advance!


*The boiler is in a small apartment building. Apparently the property manager thought it was normal that steam was coming up through an apartment's floor. Apparently this went on for years. Hence, the leaking in a relatively new boiler.

** If there's something better, please let me know, in case this stuff doesn't hold.

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    That boiler is dangerous, it should be looked at immediately - before it starts a fire. It sounds like the problem has existed for some time and now the burner tubes have been compromised.

    The cost of repairing this will be a substantial portion of a new boiler (a lot of labor) and there is no way of knowing if something else will fail soon after any attempt at repairing it.

    The question that has to be answered is why did it fail so soon. If water has been added frequently that is probably the cause of failure. Fresh water causes corrosion, it should only need water added once every month or two.

    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
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    It sounds like the boiler has been seriously neglected. A boiler should not fail at 9 years if properly maintained. The flame rollout is probably due to some kind of sooting which is blocking the flue passages. Call a professional to check out the boiler. You are risking people's lives by bypassing a safety device.

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    It is probably still leaking and that is what is causing the insulation to continue to fall. It may not be obvious as it is probably steaming away. May not be as obvious as it was but those boiler stop leaks are, at best, a very temporary fix. Chemically Flushing the boiler out will surely reopen any leaks. It sounds like the burners may be rusted or clogged as well. It is not safe to operate that boiler if there is still flame roll-out and the roll-out switch should shut the burner down if it is working properly.

    Someone, preferably a Steam Pro, should be looking at that boiler to determine where the leak is and if it can be corrected (that will probably entail taking all the cabinet panels off), with special attention focused on the burner situation.
  • cmahrle
    cmahrle Member Posts: 15

    You are risking people's lives by bypassing a safety device.

    Yes, the boiler is currently off. I only bypassed it temporarily to see what was happening.
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    I would also say those burner tubes are probably still toast. They can be replaced economically, but the same will happen to new ones if the leak isn't addressed. You may be able to limp through the season, but I wouldn't trust it to hold for long, or not develop further leaks. start saving your pennies and educating yourself about boilers and their correct install. If you continue to use those burners, there's a good chance your house could blow up. I had the exact experience and it was fixed with new burner tubes until the gas valve failed. See my post and its responses: http://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/139953/kaboom#latest
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • cmahrle
    cmahrle Member Posts: 15
    Thanks for all the input.

    Yes, there was a ton of soot between the boiler sections and beyond. And yes, it is still leaking. We had everything cleaned and now we have a good flame again. The burner tubes cleaned up nicely. (At least, the flame looks normal.)

    Would the leak have caused the excessive soot? Or do I need to look elsewhere (fuel/oxygen mix, etc.)? With its neglect, I'm sure it needs a thorough checking; it's just hard to get people to do anything this time of year beyond the emergency stuff to get it running safely. Have to wait until the early-winter rush subsides. :-)
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    The excess moisture and condensation from the leak will contribute to the sooting but it sounds like that boiler hasn't had a lot of maintenance. It should be cleaned annually.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    cmahrle said:

    Thanks for all the input.

    Yes, there was a ton of soot between the boiler sections and beyond. And yes, it is still leaking. We had everything cleaned and now we have a good flame again. The burner tubes cleaned up nicely. (At least, the flame looks normal.)

    Would the leak have caused the excessive soot? Or do I need to look elsewhere (fuel/oxygen mix, etc.)? With its neglect, I'm sure it needs a thorough checking; it's just hard to get people to do anything this time of year beyond the emergency stuff to get it running safely. Have to wait until the early-winter rush subsides. :-)

    Does the boiler have a way to get sufficient make up air for combustion? Is there anything else that would create a vacuum (ie. draw air out of the boiler area?).
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Like clothes dryers.
  • cmahrle
    cmahrle Member Posts: 15
    edited December 2014
    There is no dryer. There is a gas water heater to compete with. While it is in an open-area basement, there is no air from outside, other than through drafty windows and a door.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    Insufficient make up air for combustion will create a situation with excessive sooting.