Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

Water usage this winter 25 gallons - Do I have a leak?

I have a WM SGO-4 running with Gorton main vents and Hydrolevel water feeder and LWCO. Vaporstat set at 5 ounces. Using EZ-Gas burner. One-pipe steam.

Most winters, I have used 10 gallons of water, based on the meter reading. This winter, the meter is at 25 gallons. No sign of leaks, but my question is: does this mean I have a leak? None of the main vents show any sign of moisture release.

Is the easiest way to determine if the boiler has a leak to remove to remove the sheet metal cover and fill it to the top? How long should I wait until I decide the result?

Thanks,

Steve Garson
Boston, MA
Steve from Newton, MA

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,210
    If you are not flushing a float type LWCO that is a lot of water and you do have a leak somewhere. Check around all the shutoff valves and air vents to be sure there isn't a steam leak. Steam leaks can be hard to see, thy using a mirror around vents and valves to see if you see any signs of steam condensing on the mirror. Do this while the boiler is making steam.

    To check the boiler, fill it up to the boiler takeoff pipe when it is just warm. You can tell when you get high enough because the takeoff pipe will get cold. Let the water sit for a few hours and look for water on the block, on the floor, and in the combustion chamber. If you find water try to find where it's coming from, if your really lucky it might just be a leaky coupling between sections - that is not the usual cause but you never know.

    After your done, drain the boiler down to the normal water line and fire it up to make steam to drive off the oxygen in the new water.

    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
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    That's a lot of water not to show up somewhere. When the boiler is running, do you see a lot of steam coming out of the chimney? That's a good sign there is a hole in the top of the boiler block. If you don't see water somewhere, it has to be steaming away.
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    The chimney doesn't seem to release any more water vapor than in the past. My LWCO is electronic. So I guess I'll try the see where the leak is...when it gets a bit warmer. It works fine for now, just wasting energy, I guess.

    I was looking at the WM warranty. It covers a leaking section, but isn't the labor involved almost the same as installing a new boiler?
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,210
    It costs a lot money to have someone replace a section and if one section is leaking how far behind are the remaining sections?

    If your going to do it yourself it's a different story.

    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
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    I only got eight years on this one. I'm surprised, especially with the care I have given it since installation day.
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Do you have a probe type LWCO? Unless you blow the boiler down, even 10 gallons of water every season is a lot of fresh water. That much fresh water will kill a boiler. If you blow it down manually, every week during the heating season, I can understand 10 gallons a season, as long as you fire the boiler up immediately afterwards.
    If the LWCO is a probe type and you don't blow it down, there has been a leak somewhere for a long time.
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    Probe was installed two years ago.
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,865
    edited March 2015
    My system uses around 1 to 1.5 gallons per year.

    What kind of care have you given the boiler?
    • Are you using water treatment?
    • How are your packing nuts on all of the radiator valves?
    • What pressure does the system typically run at?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,714
    My total usage this winter is up to 5 gallons, which I deemed excessive. I have repacked all my valves and now the water usage is effectively nothing. Steam leaks can be very difficult to find and often overlooked because you can't see anything other than water usage. If you aren't doing weekly blowdowns IMHO even 10 gallons is too much usage. I think you have had some kind of leak for a while now. Repacking valves is easy and inexpensive and can be a good low hanging fruit to start with. Then vents, then pipe joints...just keep working through the system the water is going somewhere.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,495
    In this situation, could there be some explanation for a shortened boiler life span with some chloride containing products stored nearby the boiler?
    I know that you are a somewhat frequent contributor here, and that you appreciate the importance of of good maintenance, so if there is a problem with the boiler leaking, it must be as a result of some unusual circumstance.--NBC
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    Nick, a real clean and tidy basement area surrounds the boiler. If the valves show no sign of water, is it still worth repacking? I checked all the Gorton main vents: not a sign of moisture on the plaster ceilings (1/2-inch above them) nor any corrosion. I just reset the water gauge on the filler, noted the date, and we'll see how much time goes by for the next gallon. Thanks for the feedback guys. As a side note, the boiler also feeds a copper Everhot heat exchanger that heats two hydronic loops, but that shouldn't have any effect on things.
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    edited March 2015
    This morning I went out and looked at my chimney and the neighbors' chimneys. I guess the water is going up the chimney. The chimney exhaust is clearly far more than it was last year. Way more than the neighbors:-(

    So is my only practical solution a new boiler, based on this new information?
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    When the weather gets better and you can go for a day without heat, flood the boiler and check for leaks. Both outside and inside the combustion chamber.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,714
    Just for your information if you have a steam leak on a valve or anywhere else you most likely won't ever see any water. My valves were ALWAYS bone dry, but the packing's were leaking. People assume they will see water with a leak, but that isn't necessarily the case. Steam can come out and be absorbed directly into the air or if it does condense enough to make water it will just hit a very hot surface (valve body) and evaporate right away. This is why I say all forms of Preventive Maintenance (PM) is important on ANY system.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,865
    I agree with @KC_Jones for the most part.
    However my observation was I noticed the leak just as the valve got steam. It would bubble out a little and sizzle a few times until it got hot enough and then no more signs of anything.

    I saw that on packing nuts as well as a loose spud nut on a radiator.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,714
    Agreed Chris, but the average person doesn't look that closely. Not trying to be rude to the OP, but typically unless someone is in the room and happens to notice or hear that, they won't realize. Some of us are obsessive and constantly looking for things. I will at least touch my radiator if I am in the room with it...can't help myself. It must be some kind of illness.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    RomanGK_26986764589
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,865
    KC_Jones said:

    Agreed Chris, but the average person doesn't look that closely. Not trying to be rude to the OP, but typically unless someone is in the room and happens to notice or hear that, they won't realize. Some of us are obsessive and constantly looking for things. I will at least touch my radiator if I am in the room with it...can't help myself. It must be some kind of illness.



    b4d.jpg 13.9K
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    vaporvac
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518

    This morning I went out and looked at my chimney and the neighbors' chimneys. I guess the water is going up the chimney. The chimney exhaust is clearly far more than it was last year. Way more than the neighbors:-(

    So is my only practical solution a new boiler, based on this new information?

    Yes, It looks like there is a leak in the boiler, based on those pictures but flood the boiler anyway and make sure it's not a section nipple or something other than a hole in one of the sections.
    If it's rot, lets hope WM is as "Stand Up" as Slant Finn has been with another poster on this site. Keep us posted on what you find and how it is resolved.
    General
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    edited March 2015
    Why was the last boiler replaced 8 years ago? Was it also rotted out? Were any leaks fixed at that time. Quite a bit of steam can escape out of leaky vents, packing nuts, and radiator valve unions. If there are covers over the rads you might never see it. I see you're in Massachusetts. Get your water tested for chlorides.
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    The last boiler was replaced for efficiency reasons only. It was ancient. No covers on the rads. It's clearly going out the chimney.
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    One would think that 10 gallons of feed water per year shouldn't rot out a boiler in 8 years. It is less than 2 gallons a month during the heat season. Most of the boiler that rot out take on much more feed water than that. Could be a leak between sections.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,865
    Mark N said:

    One would think that 10 gallons of feed water per year shouldn't rot out a boiler in 8 years. It is less than 2 gallons a month during the heat season. Most of the boiler that rot out take on much more feed water than that. Could be a leak between sections.

    Though it's a different company and boiler, according to Burnham a boiler of this size shouldn't use more than 10 gallons in 5 years.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    j a_2
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    What does it say in the Weil-McClain manual about water usage? Burnham is probably the most restrictive when is comes to feed water. The OP needs to find the old leaks in this system and repair them. Being from the Boston area I would look into checking the water for excessive chlorides. If this boiler was equipped with a float type LWCO I would think with the weekly blow downs you could use 10 gallons of water per year for that.
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    Steve,

    I re read your posts. I myself would not rely on the LWCO to maintain my water level. It is there as a safety device. You should be maintaining the water level. Check the PH of your water.
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    Mark, the probe and feeder do a good job of maintaining the water level. Previous years never added more than three or so gallons over the season.
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    Is the Burnham Megasteam available without the burner?
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    Is it 3 gallons or 10 per season? I myself feel it is not good to allow the water to drop low enough to trigger the feeder. As I said you maintain the level not the feeder. My level will drop 1/4" to 1/2" over a month. I make note note of that do a quick flush of the gauge glass and the mud leg, add water and boil. You can't use a megasteam with a gas burner, it is not certified by Burnham.
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    Mark, the probe type LWCO feeder works very nicely. It never adds water unless the level drops a 1/2 inch and then it only fills to the fill line. My guess is the the least expensive solution will be to have a new cast-iron boiler installed with all the same controls. Now I just need to find the right contractor, since the one who installed it is no longer in the business.
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Truth be told, I'm betting a lot of the boiler manufacturers are having their blocks cast offshore and those that are doing them in-country have changed their specs to reduce wall thickness. Burnham still cast there's here in the states. Mine is 32 years old but when the time comes for a replacement, I suspect the new one won't have that kind of life.
    With all the extremely High temp coatings available today, it sure seems like these blocks could be coated on the inside to protect them from rot.
    There is another factor that comes into play as well, if you recall, several years ago, it was discovered thaat a couple major brand electronics manufacturers had an engineered life built into some of their television components. For them it was five years.
    Ensures a market is always there and so many of these companies sell under several brands so even though you think you are buying differently, you are still buying the same.
    Technology changes so rapidly today and people upgrade so often that they usually get the problem free use of a product but boilers are a different story as are other home appliances. Create your own market through obsolences and/or engineered failure?
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    edited March 2015
    Steve,

    I read an old post of yours from 12/07, in it you mention using Rhomar products and added Boiler Pro 903 which is an oxygen scavenger. Did you stop using these products? Also at that time you had a float type LWCO that you were blowing down weekly. When did you switch to the probe type? Also are you a homeowner or a pro?
  • General
    General Member Posts: 120
    @Steve Garson Did you over fill the boiler to see if you had a leak?.....just curious and didn't see it in previous posts.
  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 638
    Yes, I used the Rhomer 903. Switch to probe three years ago. I never drained much when I had the float Around a quart or so. I feel like I did everything right.
    Steve from Newton, MA
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,865
    You are and have been using Rhomar 903?
    If you're using it as per Rhomar's instructions including testing your levels and keeping an eye on PH the boiler should be almost like new.

    Excessive makeup water is bad, but quality water treatment as well as blowdowns can make it almost moot.

    Have you gone over the system and looked for leaks? Your easiest best this summer may be to remove all vents and plug the holes, then pump the system up using a tire pump to a few pounds and go around with a soap\water mixture.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    Steve

    Describe exactly what you did. If you were using products designed to prevent corrosion and your boiler still rotted out(yet to be determined by visual inspection) there is something else going on. Is Rhomar safe for boilers with gasketed sections instead of push nipples? Let us know your exact procedure.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,865
    edited March 2015
    Mark N said:

    Steve

    Describe exactly what you did. If you were using products designed to prevent corrosion and your boiler still rotted out(yet to be determined by visual inspection) there is something else going on. Is Rhomar safe for boilers with gasketed sections instead of push nipples? Let us know your exact procedure.

    Mark,
    I believe Rhomar 903 is safe for all boilers including ones with gaskets.

    You're supposed to test sulfite levels occasionally when using it.

    http://www.rhomarwater.com/media/W-903.pdf
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Maine Vent
    Maine Vent Member Posts: 129
    Water usage up this winter, Maine, coldest, longer cold streaks. 3rd winter with my SGO4, I used 6 gallons.

    My old Burnham V7 or V8 had nickle size holes in it. The plume of steam/money coming out my chimney was a spine chillah.

    Maybe if it is a section breach you may be able to patch it, or use a leak stop product.

    I have Hydrolevel water feeder also, I fill my boiler with the manual top switch. I also make sure the probe is working when the level does drop, and it works fine.

    Best of luck with it.