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Removing the skimming plug without breaking the boiler

Well I have a mess on my hands: my 1984-vintage Utica boiler died 4 years ago shortly after I moved in. I had it replaced (Utica PEG-C 187k BTU) but several mistakes were made (copper piping, etc.) in addition to mistakes made when the original was installed (probably when the neighborhood converted to gas). Unfortunately, I only started reading the forum during the installation so wasn't able to insist upon corrections. Of course, I'm overfired as well (318 sq ft connected radiations vs 472 sq ft rated output [I=B=R]) as the new boiler was sized based on original name plate rating and at least one radiator was removed.

I'm working with @Dave0176 to come out but he's real busy right now with installs and heat emergencies so I'm trying to fix a few things myself. The installers never skimmed the boiler and dumped Steam Clean in to stop the water hammer. It doesn't hammer but it does hiss and puff and surge (sight glass rapidly drops 2+") on initial firing. I installed a 0-3psi gauge and see fluctuations up to 0.5 psi during the early firing before it settles back down to zero until the vents seal around an hour later when pressure again builds up.

So I need a skim, and doing it through the 1/2" sight glass or 1/4" pigtail tappings aren't going to cut it. The pressure relief valve is on a vertical tapping so that won't work either. The one thing done right is the right side supply tapping does go into a tee and there is a 2" threaded copper plug in the tee I can skim from.

The problem is I've never gotten it out. I've tried wrenching on the plug and getting a bigger wrench and applying more torque just seems to want to make the entire boiler move. Do I need to blowtorch the tee to expand it and melt the pipe dope/thread seal? More torque/effort and don't worry about the boiler? Two pipe wrenches: one to grab the tee and one to grab the square end of the plug?

Thanks!
Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.

Comments

  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,928
    What size wrench areally you using? Always always always use two wrenches. You don't want to snap anything. It's always possible to cut out the plug. Takes bit of experience. Are you sure that it's a copper plug?
  • SteamedInWharton
    SteamedInWharton Member Posts: 62
    edited October 2015
    Last time I tried it, it was with a simple crescent wrench (too little). I then tried one of my dad's pipe wrenches (not sure of the size). I think the plug is copper, but the tee may be iron. The riser is 2" copper. There's some sort of thread-to-sweat adapter on the riser. Sorry I don't know the terminology. I can post a pic when I get home.

    I can pick up two pipe wrenches this evening. What size would you recommend.
    Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,928
    24" minimum. You must hold back with second wrench.
    SteamedInWharton
  • SteamedInWharton
    SteamedInWharton Member Posts: 62
    Thanks @STEAM DOCTOR
    Do both need to be 24" or can the second be 18"?

    By hold back to you mean apply a counter force or torque to keep the tapping from moving.

    Sorry I'm an electrical engineer: mechanical things are not my forte :(
    Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,900
    Yes. You will need two 24" pipe wrenches -- one to turn the plug, and the other to hold the fitting it's plugged into. You may not be able to do this by yourself -- on the other hand, you might be able to brace the wrench on the fitting against something. Then again, you might not...

    A little heat might help. So might some PB Blaster... but whatever, hold back on that fitting -- you don't want it to move!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    SteamedInWharton
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,928
    The force that's used to turn the plug will also turn the Tee and everything that's attached to the Tee. Bad! The way to counter that problem is by holding the Tee with a pipe wrench applying equal or greater force in the other direction. The hold back wrench should be equal or greater.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,442
    I'm an electronic tech, but,
    If you have an 18" Ridgid brand wrench you could try putting a pipe on the handle to extend it but be warned, you may bend the handle. Make sure you don't exceed the length of the wrench you're holding the tee with.

    DO NOT try this on anything but a quality Ridgid brand wrench and be careful!

    If it was me, I'd heat the tee with a torch first in hopes to expand it. Don't heat the plug.
    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
  • SteamedInWharton
    SteamedInWharton Member Posts: 62
    OK I understand. Thank you @STEAM DOCTOR and @Jamie Hall for your insight
    Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,442
    Oh and if you need to go buy a second wrench, but already own a 24, buy the next size up.
    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
  • SteamedInWharton
    SteamedInWharton Member Posts: 62
    OK picked up two 24" steel pipe wrenches from Harbor Freight tonight (they were on sale). They're probably cheap crap but I figured good enough for this purpose.

    I'm wrong the plug and tee are black iron, not copper.

    It's definitely a two man job or heat/penetrating oil is needed. On the bright side, when I hold back on the second wrench, I don't think I'm going to break the boiler.
    Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    I did one of those side feeders and eventually used the torch on the tee. You want the pipe wrench tight on the plug, if you start to break off the square corners than things could turn for the worse.

    When you get it out look inside at the nipples connecting the top sections. In my case even though it was a 2 1/2" outlet the nipples inside were a lot smaller. So if you slow skim with a full size nipple connected where your plug came out of most of the water flowing out will be from the closest section of the boiler. I added a short nipple and reducing coupling of 1 1/2" with that smaller size nipple to skim out of. This way the water has to rise in all sections and travel to the drain pipe. Oil from sections would then have to float across the raised water level to exit your skim port. Does that make sense to you or anyone else for that matter??
    SteamedInWharton
  • SteamedInWharton
    SteamedInWharton Member Posts: 62
    That makes sense. Your essentially saying skim so that the boiler's water line is above the bottom of the nipples connecting the sections.
    Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    No way I would put all I got on a harbor freight wrench...There cheap for a reason...I would use a oxy/act set up....It will come then.....
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,603
    Any issue with burning up the pipe dope on the other end of the fitting when using heat? I'm just wondering.
    I made a skimming tool, took a nipple to fit in the skim port & welded a short plate across inside, with a small be notch cut in it. I put a PVC tee on the end to direct the water down. I expect it to work good - gonna be skimming this weekend after some more repairs. I'll post pics of it.
  • vr608
    vr608 Member Posts: 144
    edited October 2015
    Not to hijack the thread, but I've always wondered; is it possible to use an impact wrench (with appropriate socket) to take off these tough bushings and plugs off these boilers? I do a lot of DIY car repair work and this tool is one of the best purchase I've gotten (from Harbor Freight, interestingly enough):

    http://www.harborfreight.com/12-in-heavy-duty-electric-impact-wrench-61173.html

    Does anyone know if using something like this could break a fitting?
    Peerless 63-03, 118,000 BTU (308 sqft), single-pipe steam system connected to 286 EDR of radiation, 30ft of baseboard and indirect DHW
    3PSI gauge
  • SteamedInWharton
    SteamedInWharton Member Posts: 62
    Tried again tonight with some PB Blaster and let it sit for a few minutes. Held the tee wrench with both hands and put my foot on the plug wrench and SUCCESS!

    I guess the blowtorch can go back to Home Depot. I did some cold skimming (about 2 gallons) and then heated the boiler up to near steaming and skimmed a bit more. I did not try the 1 1/2 reducer trick as Home Depot was out of 1 1/2 to 2" reducers, but it sounds like a really good idea.

    Judging by the sight glass, there's still oil on the water but things are much quieter during the initial firing: no fluctuations up to 0.5 psi and no hissing and sucking from the main vents. I wasn't upstairs to listen to the radiator vents but I bet they got quieter.

    I did add vents to two of my mains so that may have helped too. I'm not sure.
    Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    JUGHNE said:

    I did one of those side feeders......

    (snip)

    In my case even though it was a 2 1/2" outlet the nipples inside were a lot smaller.

    That was a Dunkirk, not a Utica. On the Utica and similar Columbia, the side tappings are 2-inch.

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    vr608 said:

    Not to hijack the thread, but I've always wondered; is it possible to use an impact wrench (with appropriate socket) to take off these tough bushings and plugs off these boilers? I do a lot of DIY car repair work and this tool is one of the best purchase I've gotten (from Harbor Freight, interestingly enough):

    http://www.harborfreight.com/12-in-heavy-duty-electric-impact-wrench-61173.html

    Does anyone know if using something like this could break a fitting?

    We use the impact wrench all the time for this. Never had it break a fitting yet.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    vaporvac
  • vr608
    vr608 Member Posts: 144
    Steamhead said:


    We use the impact wrench all the time for this. Never had it break a fitting yet.

    Thanks, that is great to know.
    Peerless 63-03, 118,000 BTU (308 sqft), single-pipe steam system connected to 286 EDR of radiation, 30ft of baseboard and indirect DHW
    3PSI gauge