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Installing new boiler, Auto feeder or not?

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I am installing a new boiler in one of my old homes. It's a old 1800's victorian and the previous owner neglected the old boiler and it was a gonner. When I started tearing it down to pull apart the heat exchanger sections were badly corroded and one had holes in it. The new boiler did not come with a auto feeder. The old auto feeder was destroyed when the previous owner allowed the system to freeze.

I have not had it running yet. That will be this weekend. I am going to start it up with out the auto feeder and start inspecting vents and the rest of the system. The boiler is 225k BTU and the home is about 4000 ft2.

My question is:

1. What is normal water usage for something like this? "range" 15 radiators two main vents.
2. Is there anything wrong with running a manual feeder and checking on on the system? Wouldn't this help expose problems with vents and other possible leaks that could otherwise be overlooked?

I have never run a boiler with out a auto feeder. I will probably purchase one but wanted to turn the system on this weekend.

Comments

  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
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    All an auto feeder will do, or is supposed to do, is keep the boiler waterline at a safe minimum independent of the system. Manual intervention is still required. Some have meters so you can monitor usage.
    j a_2wcs5050
  • randallkc
    randallkc Member Posts: 38
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    I understand it's function. Just have never run a system without one before. My other system does not have a meeter. Wow I wish it did!

    I am just trying to get a gut feeling of how much water usage would be normal if all the vents and valves were working properly.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    "Normal" usage is one of those terms... but for your system, my own feeling would be that anything over a gallon or two a month, beyond any normal blowdowns, would be excessive. Some systems manage on half that, or less.

    You will find opinions split on the matter of autofeeders. If you -- or your help -- is in a position to respond to a low water cut off sufficiently rapidly to avoid any possibility of freeze ups or other evils, and if you or your help check the boiler water level daily, then I expect that you may not need one. If that is not the case, I feel that they are a very useful additional safety device -- but they should have a water meter.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • randallkc
    randallkc Member Posts: 38
    edited November 2015
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    That does not seem like much water. I appreciate the input. I can see the emergency it could cause. However I like the idea of knowing I have a problem with a vent or valve.

    The other system I have is much larger and does not have a water meter. Just a auto fill. I was noticing that the new auto feeders have a LED display and probably display how many gallons they have used. It may be a good idea to change the feeder in my other system.



  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    randallkc said:



    My question is:

    1. What is normal water usage for something like this? "range" 15 radiators two main vents.
    2. Is there anything wrong with running a manual feeder and checking on on the system? Wouldn't this help expose problems with vents and other possible leaks that could otherwise be overlooked?

    I have never run a boiler with out a auto feeder. I will probably purchase one but wanted to turn the system on this weekend.

    Checking the system should not be a function of the auto feeder you should do it no matter what for the reasons you stated. I have one and I only put it on for the meter and for the occasions when I leave the house for several days at a time in the winter. In all the years I have owned my house the old and now the new water feeder have never fed the boiler automatically. The old one did not have a meter, but with the new one I can use the feed button and it will track how much I am adding. It's a good diagnostic tool. As far as water usage Burnham has a chart in their manual and on a boiler the size of yours they recommend 3 gallons per year. So that should give you a rough idea.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    j a_2
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Me, I do not like them....if u do install one make sure it has a meter and a back flow....that's just me and my opinion...
    SWEI
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,177
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    I don't like them either, I think it gives a false sense for no maintience, like your boiler is now fully automatic. I prefer the customer go look at their boiler at least onece a week.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
    j a_2SWEI
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Yup, if theirs something in your house that has the power to really ruin your day, it deserves a look see more often than not...I believe it's in the homeowner manual
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    I have never had an auto feed on my boiler. They do offer some value if you intend to be away from home for weeks at a time but for me, if I had one, it would be off at any other time. I blow my boiler down (about a quart to half a gallon a week, float type LWCO) other than that, I don't have to add any water. When I do, maybe a quart, I typically know I have a vent somewhere that is stuck open.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    I agree the autofeeders should only be used if your going to be away from home for a while, otherwise they should be valved off.

    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
  • randallkc
    randallkc Member Posts: 38
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    That is what I am thinking.

    I was surprised to find out how little water these systems should have to use. Running without a auto feeder will allow you to keep a close eye on the system.
  • vr608
    vr608 Member Posts: 144
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    I second others about not adding one. When I was given the option to include one on my recent install I immediately refused, thanks to the many comments on this forum on this topic, along with the info in Dan's book. They seem to be more trouble than they're worth.
    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
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    It all depends on whether you want your system to fail safe or fail operational.

    If you want fail safe, then no auto feeder makes good sense. It does make considerable demands on the person responsible for maintaining the unit, but if it fails and one of your two LWCOs shuts the system down, you're fine (I'm a belt and braces type -- if I didn't have an auto feeder, I'd surely have two LWCOs, one of them manual reset! But then, I do anyway...)

    On the other hand, if you want the system to fail operational, perhaps in a degraded state, you have to have some means of feeding water without operator intervention. It's not going to help in the case of a catastrophic leak, but in the case of a slow leak the system can limp along.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    All good points Hatt.. But me I don't like them...I did use them on occasion when like disabled or elderly people had issues...Boilers are meant to be looked at and not just tucked away in the basement....they can be your best friend or your worst nightmare...I don't leave fill valves open and I do not like so called auto feeders...just me being me
    SWEIDave0176
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    Every one who is against the auto feeder is also fooling themselves into believing that NOT installing one will make a person take better care of their boiler. That is absurd. A person is either going to maintain their boiler or they are not, the feeder has absolutely nothing to do with it. I have several neighbors with steam boilers, they don't have feeders and they also don't maintain their equipment. I have told them what they need to do and they don't care. The lack of a feeder means nothing to boiler maintenance. I also submit (and Hat eluded to) that without at least a meter you have zero clue how much water you are adding in a given year, so how is that beneficial as everyone claims? I'm with Hat on this one, there is NOTHING you can do on a boiler installation to change human behavior. You can think it will, but it just isn't the case.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    Hatterasguywcs5050
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    I know they check there wine cabinets , there beer fridge, there wallet....there cell phone , but only when driving lol....but I don't think they check there boiler,there oil level in there 50 k car or there brake fluid in the kids cars....until the **** hits the fan
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    KC_Jones said:

    I have several neighbors with steam boilers, they don't have feeders and they also don't maintain their equipment. I have told them what they need to do and they don't care.

    When's the ripout date and which FHA system will they be purchasing?
    Hard to say, one neighbor LOVES old houses and refuses to change anything, so I doubt they ever rip out the steam. They still have the old push button light switches....
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    But it's what's in the driveway that counts. Lol
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    j a said:

    But it's what's in the driveway that counts. Lol

    I live "in town" we don't have driveways. lol Couldn't resist that one.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Guys next time you fly,and I don't anymore. Sit by the widow at the gate area and watch the pilot or co pilot do his safety walk around....on the plane your about to get on. It's a riot
    wcs5050
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    I can't resist commenting on this... having been a pilot! Depends on the aircraft. If it's something biggish -- like an airliner -- and it's a reliable airline, believe me the mechanics have been over that bird with a fine tooth comb. The main purpose -- and it is an entirely valid one -- for the copilot's walk around is to make sure that a) no idiot has rammed a baggage truck into the bird and b) all the doors and access panels are latched properly (that's the one that occasionally makes the news -- it's remarkably hard to see that the engine cowl latches are secure on some aircraft) and any safety locks have been removed. And I quite agree -- his or her walk can indeed look pretty casual.

    Smaller birds the walk around is, oddly, likely to be much less casual looking, as the pilot is charged with a good many mechanical and structural checks as well as the above.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    SWEI
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Jamie, I was a phantom f 4 mechanic 9 years then was a mechanic, at eastern, then Piedmont then useless air...I would venture to say we are on the same page...gear pins, chalks in the wheel well,engine f o d...fuel leaks hydronic leaks blue water leaks....pissed off employes due to pay cuts and people like frank Lorenzo....I walked out after the last pay cut in 2001. Never once looked back
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    j a said:

    Jamie, I was a phantom f 4 mechanic 9 years then was a mechanic, at eastern, then Piedmont then useless air...I would venture to say we are on the same page...gear pins, chalks in the wheel well,engine f o d...fuel leaks hydronic leaks blue water leaks....pissed off employes due to pay cuts and people like frank Lorenzo....I walked out after the last pay cut in 2001. Never once looked back

    I dare say we are! And I don't blame you for walking out. Only I referred to that particular airline as "you are scared" rather than "useless air". The F4 was a wonderful bird. Still in use in some places.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    I loved the f 4. j 79 ge-15 engines 18500 lbs of thrust per engine...Afterburner was pissa....Martian baker ejection seats, I saw a habu black bird crash and burn in Okinawa July 20 1972 or may 1973. S R 71. I was crash recovery but at the time it was top secret so it just sat and burned
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    I more than anything or anybody respected fighter pilots those guys have balls of steel and are in my opinion the most talented individuals in our great country
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Oh boy now we have some one running who wants to **** on Sir John McCain..omg. He needs a, well I won't say it
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    While I don't support everything McCain did in congress he deserves all the praise he gets for what he did during his service. The moron who slighted his service was very careful to hide under daddies desk, or perhaps behind mama's apron. when the draft board came calling.

    I've had managers like the idiot who tried to defame McCain and it didn't take very long for them to find out what I thought of them. Most were smart enough to stay out of my way, the few who didn't soon regretted their indiscretion. Being brash is one thing but when you add ignorance to the mix it really gets disgusting.

    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
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    BobC said:

    While I don't support everything McCain did in congress he deserves all the praise he gets for what he did during his service. The moron who slighted his service was very careful to hide under daddies desk, or perhaps behind mama's apron. when the draft board came calling.

    I've had managers like the idiot who tried to defame McCain and it didn't take very long for them to find out what I thought of them. Most were smart enough to stay out of my way, the few who didn't soon regretted their indiscretion. Being brash is one thing but when you add ignorance to the mix it really gets disgusting.

    Bob

    Wow I love it....you sir are beyond correct.....I am so happy you agree....sometimes I believe I am just crazy
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Back to the topic of this thread. As I said earlier, I for one have never had an auto feeder and I don't plan to have one. Those who don't check on their boilers, or anything else, can add the auto feeders and once every few years can call all the neighbors to come enjoy the water park. It doesn't make sense talk down to anyone who is of a different opinion than you. Some like them, others don't. The OP was asking for opinions and opinions are what he shall get. If you look at your boiler regularly and/or have a float type LWCO and like the idea of taking care of the mechnicals, an auto water feeder is optional and it is optional as to wether you leave it on all the time or not. If you're not so inclined, add the auto feeder and then check it periodically to make sure water isn't leaking past it, into the boiler instead of checking the water level in the boiler OR, Option 3, do none of the above and take your chances.
  • Jason_13
    Jason_13 Member Posts: 304
    edited November 2015
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    I also agree that auto feeder does not replace the owner manually checking water level. I like the Hydrolevel with the built in water meter.
    Water feeders are activated by the LWCO in a low water condition. The feeder feeds until the probe is under water and shuts the feeder down. The problem......water is not to the designed water level, it is just above the probe. The Hydrolevel if adjusted properly will at least bring the water level to tor near proper level. Again most Feeder/LWCO options only satisfy the probe and not manufacturers Normal Water Level (NWL).
    The other problem here is all your measurements during installation are off the manufacturers NWL and the feeder/LWCO does not operate at at the NWL but instead probe level.
    j a_2Bob Bona_4
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
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    Need a "phone home" feature when water consumption rate per XX days goes above YY gallons.
    j a_2
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    And I z exactly what you are saying. Lol
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    j a said:

    Guys next time you fly,and I don't anymore. Sit by the widow at the gate area and watch the pilot or co pilot do his safety walk around....on the plane your about to get on. It's a riot

    It's not a "safety walk around". He's only checking to be sure all the control surfaces are intact. Remember, he probably just got to that aircraft and nobody has looked at it since it last flew.

    Odds are good that he finds nothing, obviously, but there have been exceptions................

    j a said:

    Guys next time you fly,and I don't anymore. Sit by the widow at the gate area and watch the pilot or co pilot do his safety walk around....on the plane your about to get on. It's a riot

    It's not a "safety walk around". He's only checking to be sure all the control surfaces are intact. Remember, he probably just got to that aircraft and nobody has looked at it since it last flew.

    Odds are good that he finds nothing, obviously, but there have been exceptions................
    Not a safety walk around,and only checking flt controls? I think not.....You are correct in a non maintenance station no mechanic is around to to do a post flt or preflight...To darn expensive to put mechanics at all places...Hay as they say in the business it flew in,it will fly out..oh but then they have the special m e l list and that can get real tricky
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,259
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    Redundant level control & low water shut off make more sense to me than automatic make up. Anyone seen any?
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Not sure of your question...
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    jumper said:

    Redundant level control & low water shut off make more sense to me than automatic make up. Anyone seen any?

    Yes. On my system, the upper LWCO and autofeeder (a VXT) are on a McDonnell Miller. The LWCO is at a slightly lower level than the feeder. The lower LWCO is a probe type, and is a manual reset.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England