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Boiler losing water and radiators gaining it?

ezli
ezli Member Posts: 5
Hi All,

I'm new here, so I apologize in advance if this question has an obvious answer:
This is our first winter in our 80+ year old home, and we've been having a host of problems with our one-pipe system. The latest is that our boiler seems to be losing water at a very rapid rate - auto-fillling many, many times a day. There are no obvious leaks in the system (though a small part of it is in crawl spaces and in walls), and the vents are not really spitting. On the flip side, I hear the gurgling of water in the rads (but very little water hammer). My initial thought is that the wet return was clogged, causing the water to back up into the system, but the wet returns are very hot, leading me to think they're letting the condensate pass through. This happened last week, and in desperation I let out the water outnear the end of the wet return (not sure if that was smart, but I was desperate), and that seemed to fix things for a couple of days. At this point, I'm not sure what to do, as I woke of the morning to mid-60's. Any thoughts?

At this point, I'm really eager to have someone who knows what they're doing go over my whole system (we also have a couple of rads not really working), but can't seem to find someone willing to come to Nassau County, NY. Any referrals would be appreciated. Thanks!

Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,625
    Have you tried the find a contractor link on this site? If you need to, increase the search radius a lot of steam guys will travel. One question are all your radiator valves fully open? It almost sounds like you might have them partially closed which can cause the symptoms you describe.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • The pressure could also have risen as a result of a faulty pressuretrol, causing water to back up into the returns, starving the boiler. However as the water should always return when the burner is off, that would not explain the constant refilling.
    Mr Scully is a frequent contributor here and will get to the bottom of your problem.--NBC
    ezliZman
  • ezli
    ezli Member Posts: 5
    Thanks guys. I checked the valves, and one had a slight drip which may have been due to the fact that the rad installer dd not pitch it.
    I also checked my chimney - and it does have a decent amount of steam coming out relative to my neighbors' chimneys. We filled the boiler to the headers, but we detected no leaks in the boiler. Is there anything else that could be causing it? It is 5 degrees outside today...
    Also, there seems to be one line and rad in particular that have a swooshing going on inside, but no hammer.

    Thanks in advance.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,515
    Check all the lines to each radiator and make sure they pitch back to the Main. The radiators need pitch but so do the steam lines that feed them as well as the Mains (which should pitch towards the returns).
    I suspect the pressure is way too high, not allowing the return water to get back to the boiler and the boiler is not shutting down beccause it can't satisfy the thermostat.
    Make sure the Pressuretrol is set for a Cut-in of .5PSI and the Differential is set for "1" if it is a gray pressuretrol, it is additive and the differential wheel is a white wheel inside the gray box). That will give you a max pressure of 1.5PSI.
    Also, take the Pressuretrol off of the Pigtail (looped pipe it is mounted on) and make sure that pigtail is not clogged. If it is, the Pressuretrol can not control the pressure.
    ezli
  • ezli
    ezli Member Posts: 5
    Thanks Fred! I think what may have happened right now supports the pressure thoery: The boiler finally rested for a few minutes after a long period of short cycling on and off (as it tried to hit the thermostat setting and had to stop to add water), and the water level went way up. If I understand correctly, the high pressure was keeping that water from returning to the boiler. The water only returned when the boiler had a few minute breather. It was a vicious cycle....
    I took a closer look at my pressuretrol, and I'm not sure it's even appropriate for my system (or working - as
    my pressure gauge is dead). It's a honeywell pressuretrol l404a1354 (see pic or link: http://www.patriot-supply.com/products/showitem.cfm/HONEYWELL_L404A1354). From the gauge and specs I read online, it seems like it's meant for operating ABOVE 2psi, and I understand that this is too high for my system. Does this need to be swapped out asap?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,625
    If your pressure is running high I don't think it's the pressuretrol exactly. It may be that your pigtail is clogged. If it's clogged the pressuretrol isn't seeing the system pressure and essentially won't work. I would check the pigtail and make sure it is clear. That pressuretrol is fine for your system as long as you keep it dialed way down. Even at 2 PSI you should be able to back up into the return piping...it would generally take more pressure than that. Of course sometimes controls fail in which case you would have to replace, but first make sure everything is clean. The pigtail and the small port on the pressuretrol must be clear. Start there and see if it resolves the issue.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
    ezli
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,515
    That Pressuretrol should work OK , if it hasn't simply failed. As KC and I said earlier, make sure the pigtail isn't clogged. Also, how old is this boiler? You will see similar symptoms when a boiler needs a good skimming to get the oils off of the surface of the boiler water. Those oils willcause the boiling action to actually push the water out of the boiler and into the returns.
    Check and clean the pigtail, check to see if the water in the sight glass bounces like crazy and if so, skim the boiler. There should only be 1/2' to 3/4" of bounce in the sight glass water.
  • ezli
    ezli Member Posts: 5
    The boiler is about 15 years old. We had an issue with nasty water after we added some rads, which I'm guessing shook loose some gunk. That did cause the water level to bounce, as well as push water into the system. I didn't skim (as I'm told that's a big expense), but I did drain and refill a bunch of times which improved things significantly.
    I'm going to check the pigtail as you guys suggested, as well as change the dead pressure gauge out and see what happens.
    Thanks!
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,625
    Not sure who is telling you skimming is a big expense? As long as there is a skim port you can do it for free. Even without a skim port you can add one for minimal amount of money. Now if you are paying someone to skim it, which amounts to them sitting around watching water drip. That could be expensive.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,515
    Skimming is easy and something you can do yourself. What brand of boiler do you have? Is there a skim port on it (a pipe above the water line on the front, back or side of the boiler with a cap or valve on )? If not, is the Pressure relief valve on the side or back of the boiler?
  • ezli
    ezli Member Posts: 5
    We'll get back to skimming in a moment - I think my pressuretrol is not working. You guys were right - I took off the pigtail and it had a lot of gunk in it. I cleared it out, as well as the pipe coming out of the boiler as best as I could. I also took off the pressure gauge and put it back on, and it seems to be working now. The problem is: the gauge is reading 6 psi, and the pressuretrol doesn't react. If I manually push down the mercury glass, it shuts off the boiler, so I know the electrical connections are good. Is it time for a new pressuretrol? Is there any way to diagnose what the issue is?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,182
    It looks like your pressuretrol is on a different boiler tapping than your pressure gauge so the pressuretrol may not be seeing the pressure inside the boiler. can you see the mercury filled bulb tilting as the pressure builds? On mine you can see the bulb tilt as pressure builds untill the ball of mercury rolls away from the contacts at the setpoint. The mercury pressure controls are usually very reliable.

    Are you sure the pigtail is clear, can you blow through it? Did you turn the pressuretrol upside down and verify the little hole at the bottom of the brass base is clear. Sometimes there is a plug of crap inside the port the pigtail threads into, use a piece of wire and make sure that port is clear.

    If everything really is clear the pressure gauge may be lying to you, does it read zero when the boiler is cool?

    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
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,796
    Boilers can do 2 things, heat your house or destroy your house….one by letting it freeze up, 2 by causing personell harm….My advice, get a lic. and insured pro in there….Let him look things over and service the boiler because if the pig tail was clogged that means it has not been serviced, properly….
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