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Copper pipe electrolysis on a recent boiler installation

fluffy
fluffy Member Posts: 9
edited February 2016 in THE MAIN WALL
I have an Weil McClain Ultra 230 that was installed 3 years ago. It stopped working because the copper pipe above the unit have electrolysis and has leaked on the blower circuit. Upon further inspection, other pipes close to the system have corrosion also. These pipes were installed with the system, and they feed into black iron. There is no corrosion near these joints. I have no corrosion in any copper elsewhere in the house.

I was told by WM customer support that intake and outtake water pipes should be grounded. They currently are not. See second pic. Is this what's causing the electrolysis? Main copper water service line is tied to the neutral.

I need to get these pipes repaired and a new blower unit, but what do you think can be done to ground the boiler properly? or am I missing some other point?

Thank You.
JharrisSeattle

Comments

  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
    That leak does not depict electrolysis. It would be evident at a joint of dissimilar metals.
    STEVEusaPAChrisJ
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    Bad soldered joint... That dielectric unions that are on that boiler are useless, and probably more of a potential leak than if it had been directly connected from steel to copper.

    Also, di-electric corrosion occurs on the lesser noble of the two metals, and copper is not the lesser.

    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
    ChrisJSWEI
  • Eric_32
    Eric_32 Member Posts: 267

    Bad soldered joint... That dielectric unions that are on that boiler are useless, and probably more of a potential leak than if it had been directly connected from steel to copper.

    Also, di-electric corrosion occurs on the lesser noble of the two metals, and copper is not the lesser.

    ME

    That was my opinion when I saw it as well... bad solder joint...

    A good boiler treatment will help with dis-similar metals in the system... like the Fernox F1
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 21,853
    The early Ultras actually had galvanized steel piping to connect to. It was a good idea to transition with a brass fitting
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    Mark Eatherton
  • jamplumb
    jamplumb Member Posts: 15
    I have never cared for dielectric unions. They seem to be more of a problem than not. I would normally use brass. But, looking closely at the ball valve it appears that it is leaking from the nut connection. It might not have good support or is just an inexpensive ball valve.
    SWEITinman
  • aircooled81
    aircooled81 Member Posts: 205
    Soldering on a check valve can trap pressure in the pipe, if the downstream was closed or not open to atmosphere, the air inside trys to get out of the joint while soldering.
    I think the wallies are right, bad solder joint.
    Check the ph of your water loop.
    Does anyone have an opinion on not flushing the flux out after piping. I think its highly advisable, as the high ph in the loop will cause premature pipe failure, and speed-up galvanic and electrolytic corrosion. Plus, convectors are usually covered in green grease, i think from the fin installation, but that stuff needs to be flushed out too.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    You need both galvanic potential (different metals) and some fluid chemistry (generally the presence of oxygen or chlorides) to produce that kind of corrosion. Turn off the auto-feeder and see how long the system holds pressure. Find and fix the leaks. Test and treat the water. Rhomar, Fernox, Sentinel, and others have treatments intended for multi-metal systems.
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    edited February 2016
    The two metals you see are brass and copper. From what I've read there isn't enough of difference between the two to cause this. I think the cause is bad solder joints as there are a number of leaks like this. I can share more pics, if it makes a difference. This boiler was manufactured in Sept of 2012.

    What is distressing about this is that the heating contractor who installed it never gave me the 5 year extended warranty form or submitted it on my behalf. The contractor purchased the boiler.

    Thanks for the responses. Everyone's input is appreciated, as I am trying to become as educated as possible.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
    It's would not be a warranty item as far as the manufacturer's concerned. Show the pictures to the contractor, and ask if he will help with the repair costs, as they are poor solder joints. If not, I'm afraid it's a "live and learn" experience, and that would be unfortunate.
  • Leon82
    Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    It looks like it may be the factory made p/s manifold they sell. Do you have a full picture?
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited February 2016
    The metal you don't see is aluminum. The manufacturer recommends water treatment for it.

    Is there any glycol in the system, or is it just water?
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    edited February 2016
    More pics including deterioration near other brass or copper on copper joints.
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    SWEI said:

    The metal you don't see is aluminum. The manufacturer recommends water treatment for it.

    Is there any glycol in the system, or is it just water?

    I believe just water from the city municipal supply.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    I would start by valving off the auto-feeder and seeing how long the system holds pressure.

    Where are you located? Have you looked at your CCR to see what the water is like?
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    I am in Philadelphia (Baxter plant supply). The water quality seems alright to my uneducated eye. I have had no other issues with copper deterioration in my house besides these joints near the boiler.

    http://www.phila.gov/water/wu/Water Quality Reports/2015WaterQuality.pdf
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    Leon82 said:

    It looks like it may be the factory made p/s manifold they sell. Do you have a full picture?

    Leon, you can see a more complete pic in my comment with all of the pics.
  • Leon82
    Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    Yes it looks like a factory manifold but there is the same issue on non factory areas from what I can see.

    You can try to have them warranty the manifold but they won't cover other areas.

    If I recall they ship the boiler with or recommend inhibitor for the aluminum hx. Also other treatments like ptrotek hydrosolve 9xxx warn against over 2 hours of treatment.
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    Leon82 said:

    Yes it looks like a factory manifold but there is the same issue on non factory areas from what I can see.

    Right. Any idea of what would cause this? I don't have this problem anywhere else in my house. Even in the boiler room where the copper feeds into black iron, there seems to me no issue. I was told it could be a grounding issue with the boiler itself.

    I'm sorry, I don't understand your last paragraph. Can you put it layman's terms?

    My prior boiler was from the 80s and gave me no such problems. :(
  • Leon82
    Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    I'm not an expert but there are additives that you put in the system to treat the water.

    Has the installer looked at it?
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    Leon82 said:


    Has the installer looked at it?

    The installer sold the company to another company. They're sending someone out tomorrow. They are balking at standing by the original installation job.

    While investigating, I have found some irregularities with the install: air intake is pulling air from the basement rather than outside and boiler relief valve doesn't have proper discharge pipping. Unfortunately, this makes me question a lot of what was done.

    Also, you can see steel conduit wire tied to the pipes. I have read mixed opinions about this. Does anyone think this can cause an issue?

    I called Weil McClain tech support and their engineers said that boiler return and outlet should be grounded. I assume the meant clamped and attached to house ground. Both pipes are not.

  • Leon82
    Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    I think they mean a bonding clamp like you see on csst or your water pipe from you breaker box
  • fluffy
    fluffy Member Posts: 9
    Leon82 said:

    I think they mean a bonding clamp like you see on csst or your water pipe from you breaker box

    Right. My water pipe has that bonding clamp on it before and after the water meter. WM engineers said it was required, but I don't see anything stating that in the boiler documentation.
  • aircooled81
    aircooled81 Member Posts: 205
    Interesting, manufacture insisted grounding the boiler. ?why?
    I think if your domestic water line does not go 10' in the earth, they (typ electricians, plumbers) ground the water system to prevent the piping system from becoming an electrode (carrier of electrical short), and when the pipe is 10' in the ground i think they use the water main as the grounding rod. Someone correct me if im wrong here please.
    But, electrical current traveling through your pipes, even if ever so tiny is likely not causing damage until it finds a point to jump to or ground at.
    I beleive the green is patina from flux on copper, the pump o-ring gasket is a dripper, and your near boiler piping giving you the problems was due to poor craftsman ship.
    Please let us know how your heating contractor resolves this for you.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Grounding is primarily about lightning protection. It provides a path for the unwanted energy to dissipate by returning it to the earth.

    Bonding (electrically connecting metal objects to the grounding electrode system) prevents those objects from becoming unintentionally energized. The return path (ultimately to the main bonding jumper) allows the OverCurrent Protection Device (OCPD) to trip should that occur.
    Gordy
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
    You can find older homes everywhere that used the plumbing for electrical ground. It is very dangerous for plumbers, and here's why....

    http://www.thecircuitdetective.com/mnpn.htm
  • 4Johnpipe
    4Johnpipe Member Posts: 480
    Is that a low water cut off device just to the right of the picture? I have a theory about stray voltage causing issues that look like dialect ric corrosion. Make sure this device is grounded properly if it is in fact a low water cut off. Perhaps switch to a low voltage version or use the accessory WM one.
    LANGAN'S PLUMBING & HEATING LLC
    Considerate People, Considerate Service, Consider It Done!
    732-751-1560
    email: [email protected]
    www.langansplumbing.com
  • john p_2
    john p_2 Member Posts: 367
    The very first picture in this thread shows a valve with a street ninety soldered into it. I expanded that pic on my phone (great quality pic by the way - pic almost never distorts when expanded) and there is a gap between the main body of the valve and the nut side where the ninety is soldered in....thinking this might be the source of the leak....
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    The circuit detective dot com referenced above is an extremely good source of electrical information, on a level with heating help.--NBC
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,542
    The manufactures assertion about bonding both sides of the boiler is nuts. I would love to see that one in writing!
    It is a good idea to make sure that your electrical service to the building is properly grounded/bonded and that the boilers electronics are bonded to that.
    The service should be bonded to the the wire you see at the meter and another point, usually a ground rod near the service.
    The boiler's electrical circuit wiring should consist of a hot, neutral, and ground, all making their way back to the main service.
    Oh, be super careful if you decide to mess with any of those wires. Theoretically there should not be current in any of the bonding wires. If something is wired incorrectly, there can be very dangerous current there.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,452
    edited March 2016
    A lot of those pictures I see corrosion I'd say was from left over flux and sloppy soldering. Didn't bother to wipe off excess flux after soldering.

    Looks like they even burnt the handle on the ball valve.

    The very first picture I'd bet was a slow leak due to a bad solder joint.

    I don't see how electrolysis would show it self outside of the pipes and if anything stuff would be building up on the copper stuff, not leaving it.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but that would've been my guess.
    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
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,239
    In my experience, a leaker system tends to be destructive like what we see in the pics. It seems the continuous supply of fresh water aggressively attacks every possible leak point. I've cleaned up several leakers and always found the damage to be quite extensive on modern low mass systems. Had to replace pumps, ball valves, fill valves, exp tanks, etc...
    SWEIZman
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    I agree with JohnP that the check valve body threads are loose or cracked and dripping. Could be a bad solder joint in addition. System soldering looks like it was done by 2 different people.

    The only good thing about die-unions is the transition from threads to solder. They would isolate the boiler block from the grounding provided by the CW supply copper connected to the system copper piping. However the boiler block should then be grounded by the electrical green/bare connected to the power terminals of the boiler control panel.

  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    It's not in the I&O manual. It is in the NEC. All equipment and its connected purveyance are required to be bonded to the buidlings ground(s). Other than the ground where the power comes to the appliance, it is rarely enforced, unless there are pool and spa pumps, in which case it is over enforced.

    In addition to the grounding rod driven into the ground near the service entrance, it is also required to be tied into the concrete foundations rebar systems, if available.

    Quite honestly, it appears that you are attempting to recover the cost of the control board that got wet and had to be replaced, and based on the evidence provided, it appears that the original installing contractor simply did a bad job, left a leak and it caused these problems. It doesn't appear to be electrolysis.

    The NKOTB (new kid on the block, meaning the new service company) does have some obligations under the original companies contract, assuming there is still warranty left. If no warranty, then they really don't have to take care of these problems, but would be wise to do so for good will if nothing else.

    The ability to solder doesn't mean that anyone can do hydronics.

    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    edited March 2016
    If I were the installer with my feet to the fire for this, I would brass brush clean the suspect solder joint and the valve joint/crack. Then run the pressure up on the system. If not visible then wrap a thin strip of cotton rag or toilet paper around each and wait a bit. This isolates and locates a leak. Has worked for me several times.

    If not the solder joint then a defective valve is at fault.
    That must have dripped quite a while for the water to get down into the board.

    It woulda/coulda/shoulda been good if boiler maker would have made the top of the boiler drip proof/resistant somewhat like the Knights (and others, I assume) are. Never thought about it until now but that is a minor design item to the advantage of the Knights cabinet design ....solid sloped top (water shedding) with wiring coming into the back.
  • jonny88
    jonny88 Member Posts: 1,139
    Your first pic shows a green flange which was/is leaking .Also even though Weil says pvc is ok for venting it is recommended that you vent with poly or sch 80 pvc I believe.You got a boiler that must be commisioned and calibrated.