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HydroNiCK
HydroNiCK Member Posts: 110
edited March 2015 in Strictly Steam
I recently inherited my grandfather's 8 year old Burnham Independence boiler which has been a bit neglected. The boiler operates on a one pipe system which heats a 3 floor building in Brooklyn. My grandfather (RIP) was a great tool and dye maker but wasn't a boiler guy. He used to empty about 5 gallons from the boiler every month in one shot. This was before I knew enough to teach him what I know now . I wish he was still around so we could talk but unfortunately he isn't. He took the water from the skim port which is a 3/4 ball valve at the water line. The skim port wasn't the best setup for a skim port 'nor was it the best style of skimming which was more of a full blast than a skim. My lone tenant in the building carried on this tradition probably more frequently than she should have. She watched things when my grandfather used to stay with me on Long Island and now takes care of what she can between my commutes between Brooklyn and L.I. being that the house is now my responsibility.
My tenant called with no heat. One of the wet returns rotted out and was running in the most remote spot possible in a basement closet until it finally all rotted out. This happened over months. The whole time the auto feed was doing it's job until finally there was no heat and the boiler flooded. I replaced the return section with copper and added brass nipples at each end. Should have insulated pipes and main but..I didn't. Fast forward to now..my tenant calls again saying the boiler is flooding. I went to check it out and basically it's an old Brooklyn house built in the '20s with nice cast iron radiators and probably now sagging pipes and dirty water. Even though the boiler is about 8 years old i'm worried all that new water in and out of it from reasons I mentioned above is affecting it. I don't think that boiler was ever skimmed; the water is dirty despite all that new water coming in and flushing it out. Because of the saggy pipes and dirty water the water is returning slower than it should to the boiler and not making nice dry steam.
I tested the electronic low water cutoff and it turns the gas burner off like it should and the auto. feed kicks on. I probably should program a delay into it. I noticed the feed is piped wrong...it should be tied into horizontal piping. Also, the needle on the differential gauge looks broken. I took some boiler water and boiled it on the stove and saw no foam but there was priming. I then used some test strips which don't display the proper range but did give me an idea of where things are at. My question is where should I test from? I tested the return line where it twins together at a ball valve..it had low PH which I figured it would since the pipe rotted. I then tested from the skim port which seemed OK depending on who you ask. The auto feeder probably throws the PH off in the boiler so I don't know if the test is valid or not. I tested each spot twice at the start of steaming and a lil while during. So, should I add a 1.5" skim port and clean it out with TSP then treat with 8-Way or just pour a bottle of 8-Way in run it out then add another bottle and let it ride? The heating season is almost over and the house is going to be up for sale soon. I guess cleaning it out now might be a little late in the game but if a potential buyer comes to visit I would like nice clean water to come out of the boiler instead of mud if they happen to check. I included some pics...the test strips on the right are taken from the skim port the ones on the left are taken from the wet returns.

Comments

  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 263
    edited March 2015
    you have to check this out from top to bottom and systematically fix the main problems you are pointing out. a combination of failures add up to alot of problems. if those big pipes are the headers just above the boiler it seems they aren't high enough..but picture could be deceiving. it's a real problem when tenants keep calling for heat especially since you are so far out. has anyone looked at this lately..what is the status of the system now?

    usually the home inspectors check these things out and if the system isn't working it will be noted in report that goes to potential buyers.

    i flush the boiler out with the fill valve and hose at the bottom of boiler leading to floor drain until water comes out and do this a few times until clean with plain water. i check the return lines as well.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,493
    At least the boiler has been skimmed! I would suggest you fix the return piping, and insulate the mains, (which look well done).
    Check the settings on the pressuretrol, with a 3 psi gauge, as it looks like the settings are too high.--NBC
  • HydroNiCK
    HydroNiCK Member Posts: 110
    Yeah, I've been fixing it. My tenant has heat. As soon as she lost heat 2 months ago do to the rotten return I repaired it. Yeah. I think the header is a little short. I have to measure it.
  • Larry_52
    Larry_52 Member Posts: 181
    edited March 2015
    Throw in the 8 way, it uses some part sodium nitrite to attempt to scavenge the O2. It will also raise your pH with the NaOH and TSP. The TSP is to convert scale to sludge, but if you are in Brooklyn you will most likely not have a major scale problem.

    As long as you have your makeup water under control, I would sell.
  • HydroNiCK
    HydroNiCK Member Posts: 110
    edited March 2015
    @Larry Thanks for the input. I've read some of your posts and you are pretty knowledgeable when it comes to water treatment.
    I'm pretty much looking for suggestions about the PH and where the best place to test on the boiler would be. When the PH is low in the return yet normal to high in the boiler how should you treat that? I guess the simple answer would be to replace the wet returns to eliminate the ph lowering environment in the pipe in order to equalize the system PH? I was going to wash the boiler out with TSP then treat with 8-Way as per the manufacturers instructions but i'm wondering if that might be overkill. All though the boiler def. needs to be washed and skimmed my test strips seemed to register normal from the skim port. I dont want to raise the PH to the higher than normal range. Since the condensate is testing below normal would making the the Alkalinity higher not matter since it would equalize to normal do to the neutralizing the carbonic acid in the wet returns?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Definately lower the Pressuretrol (the one with two scales on it). The Main scle should be set at about 1.5PSI, and the Differential scale should be set at 1 (This gives you a Cut-in of .5PSI).
    Also, (and I have a Burnham boiler) they are very sensitive to oils on the surface of the water and will cause the water to bounce and back out through the wet returns. That can cause the auto water feed to add water. Then, when the boiler has finished a heating cycle and all the water returns to the boiler, it is over filled. Once you flush the boiler out to get the crud out of the bottom of it, spend a few hours to skim it to get the oils off of the surface of the water. You can use the Pressure relief port on the boiler if you don't have a skim port. Just take the Pressure relief valve and the elbow off and install a Tee in that tapping, using a short nipple. Remount the Pressure Relief valve on the top opening of the Tee and use the end opening to skim. Once you're done, pet a plug in the end opening so that it is ready to use again. It may take 2 or 3 shims at maybe 1 or 2 week intervals to get all the oils out, especially since you replaced some return piping and added to what was already there.
  • Larry_52
    Larry_52 Member Posts: 181
    edited March 2015
    Best place to test boiler pH is anywhere near the water line, like out of sight glass or lwco. Just make sure you flush the sample first so you are getting it from thE boiler.

    The proper pH starts above 8.5 and ends around 10.5 for residential heating. So IMO between 9-10.

    It is not the wet returns that are the cause of your low pH but usually high makeup water to the boiler. By taking in makeup. The boiler cycles up in concentration of dissolved solids as mostly water leaves and dissolved solids stay. Your makeup in NYC should be around a pH of 6.8 and 7.3 ( depends where in Brooklyn as some is from resevoir and others are from ground). In any surface or ground water there is what's called the carbonate equilibrium (h2co3 to hco3 to co3) which is determined by lime and interaction with air. The co2's ability to release or bind in your water is determined by pH/temp of this carbonate equilibrium. Low ph will have co2 into its acid form, neutral will be bicarbonate form and high ph to carbonate form. Above a pH of 8.5 the co2 converts into all carbonate form. Your city water supply has CO2 dissolved in gas form, little h2co3, mostly dissolved bicarb and carbonate solution of the water. When the boiler boils water the dissolved CO2 travels with the steam and then dissolved back into the pure water in the condensate piping as h2c03 carbonic acid ( CO2 + H20 = H2C03). The boiler is not effected by this acid because it builds more and more carbonates which raise pH (from breakdown of bicarbonate) and alkalinity neutralizing the weak carbonic acid.

    TheCO2 /carbonate equilibrium is a slow reaction at ambient so only higher ph like above 8.5 will immediately convert the co2 to carbonate.

    I would work toward tightening up your system to minimize water loss. Bad vents, valve packing, leaking boiler and leaking pipes being the usual culprits. This will stop your low ph in the condensate return. Over time this will bring the pH of the condensate return back to near neutral. Also this will stop the dissolved oxygen from attacking metal.

    I would also heavily skim and use the eight way treatment to raise the ph to the desired level. The sodium hydroxide and TSP will raise alkalinity and the sodium nitrite will assist in 02 removal.

    the wash will help with surging but tightening up the water loss is the key to the system attaining desired chemical equilibrium.
    HydroNiCK
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 263
    also the main vents have to be checked..see if there are enough of them..clean out the pipes,etc. ..as these problems are addressed..things will get better..
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 263
    also the main vents have to be checked..see if there are enough of them..clean out the pipes,etc. ..as these problems are addressed..things will get better..