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Asthma Attacks from New Steam Boiler, please help...

24

Comments

  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    OP Casey here...
    OH AND.... this is very important... every time installer comes back to flush system out again (which he says he is done doing and has "completed this project to his satisfaction") ... after every time he comes to flush more, the problem gets pretty fixed and goes away for about 3 to 4 days, and we get a few days respit thinking nightmare is over, and THEN on day 4 the smell starts up again!!! almost as bad as the original smell! like something seriously is continually melting! this multi day cycle has happened at least 3 times in a row now, maybe 4 or more, lost count. installer cant understand these facts and thinks we are crazy !
    gotta run...-CS
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    If the installer would remove all rad vents and plug the holes tight with 1/8" plugs and then remove all main vents in the basement and plug those also. That would close all openings from the piping, rads and steam making (wet) side of the boiler from your breathing air..... the only leak could be a bad packing on a rad supply valve.
    Then with the boiler firing just for DHW and you still smell things that would mean the problem is on the fire side of the boiler and not the wet side. (Even if the boiler made steam without air vents it would try to heat the house a little and then it would shut off by means of the pressure switch which should only be 2 PSI or so.)

    However we don't know what type of DHW heating system you have with the boiler, that could shed some light on things.
    So when you have time, pictures from a distance of 4 sides of the boiler would help everyone to look.
    Charlie from wmassSWEI
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    I went back and reread your original post and I'm wondering if the smell is a result of this new boiler installation or if it has something to do with the old boiler failure. You say the old boiler died as a result of a failed Low Water Cut-off and the boiler "Over-heated" for at least 3 hours. When you say it "Over Heated" do you mean the boiler was actually dry for a while? You also mention that the pipes "over heated". What do you mean by that? Are there any flange joints near the boiler or along the Mains? Those have a composite/fiberglass gasket between the flat surfaces of the flange where the two halves bolt together. Is it possible they got so hot that they started to breakdown in some fashion? Are their any other composite materials on the system that remain from the old installation?
    While I think it is a good idea, as other posters have said, to have a pro check out the burner and do a combustion analysis, it sounds like the fire dept. tested for CO and that you have CO detectors in the house. Do you also have smoke alarms? Most of those measure particulate matter in the air, as a measure of determining "smoke", have any of those gone off? I'm leaning towards thinking the problem is a possible damage remnant from the original failure.
    rick in Alaska
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    Now you're thinking Fred! Or it could be a rubber handled tool left inside the boiler.
    Asthma, we won't be able to go much further with this mystery, until we see the photos of the boiler and piping, so see if you can overcome any posting difficulties soon.--NBC
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    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.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    She says she does not smell rotten eggs.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722

    She says she does not smell rotten eggs.

    You don't have long before it deadens your sense of smell for it. Couple of breaths, at most. Better to use a detector
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    But wouldn't the people showing up from the installation company or fire department say it smells like rotten eggs?
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722
    It's possible, you just wouldn't be able to confirm it with just your nose, it deadens it that quickly. I can see a scenario where you got a short whiff of it and then the smell "disappears". Hard to identify that quickly unless you knew it was there going in. I have to use a sensor to identify it where I work
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
    Charlie from wmass
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Casey OP here: here come some more photos, and then i will post a list of answers and more data.-C
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    pic 1 thru 3 are earlier in string
    pic4: this water came out of one radiator NEW radiator vent in 12 hrs last night. the rad was clanking and steaming every few minutes all night. steam valve is fully open, knob is fully on. this rad is on second floor, farthest one away from boiler in basement 2 floors below. this water smells like THE nasty chemical smell (not rust) and i do not have a way to test it for TDS. every rad vent in the house has been replaced these last few weeks. 4 rads are making wet chemical smell steam, 4 others maybe not. but i can bag every rad vent in the place if need be...
    pic4 is the grey box setting (pigtail tube below) looks to be set at 1.0
    the rest of the photos will be different angles on boiler. this is a VERY cramped basement with other water plumbing and filtration etc all condensed here to this area.
    are these pic sizes ok for you guys?
    -Casey OP
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    sorry- gray box is pic 5 (not 4)
    above furnace is pic 6.
    here are pics 7, 8 and 9
    you can call them by their IMG.jpg numbers too
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    Can you get us a photo that shows the supply and return piping at the boiler? The photo of the boiler is too close and from the side would help. How deep into CT are you? I do service CT and I am licensed to do so
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    pics 10 thru 12
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    that's all the angles i can get i think...
    so below will be some more answers and data...
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,505
    Why is there plastic wrapped around the steam mains?
    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
    Charlie from wmass
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    That water shouldn't be coming out of the vent. Very wet steam and from what I can see, there is no Header on the boiler. The near boiler piping doesn't look right but we need a picture from further back so we can see the top portion of that 2" pipe coming out of the top of the boiler. If that is tied directly into the main, that will definitely make wet steam.
    We need to see how that flue pipe is tied into the chimney as well.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,505
    Fred said:

    That water shouldn't be coming out of the vent. Very wet steam and from what I can see, there is no Header on the boiler. The near boiler piping doesn't look right but we need a picture from further back so we can see the top portion of that 2" pipe coming out of the top of the boiler. If that is tied directly into the main, that will definitely make wet steam.
    We need to see how that flue pipe is tied into the chimney as well.

    Fred.
    There is a header... ?
    Unless I missed something the near boiler piping looks fine.

    Other than being wrapped in plastic.
    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
    Charlie from wmass
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    edited April 2016
    ChrisJ said:

    Fred said:

    That water shouldn't be coming out of the vent. Very wet steam and from what I can see, there is no Header on the boiler. The near boiler piping doesn't look right but we need a picture from further back so we can see the top portion of that 2" pipe coming out of the top of the boiler. If that is tied directly into the main, that will definitely make wet steam.
    We need to see how that flue pipe is tied into the chimney as well.

    Fred.
    There is a header... ?
    Unless I missed something the near boiler piping looks fine.

    Other than being wrapped in plastic.
    Chris,
    I see the other pictures now. Strange, when I made my comment, only the first three pictures showed up and I assumed, even though Asthma said she posted more that they did not post. The near boiler piping and header do look fine!

    Asthma, you need to take that plastic off off those steam pipes, especially the un-insulated ones.
    ChrisJCharlie from wmass
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,505
    I'm sorry but all of the talk about burning plastic.

    And then here's a bunch of cheap plastic tarps or something wrapped around steam piping...........

    Ya know? :)
    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
    Charlie from wmass
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    house tour:
    basement has no such smell ever ever. even fire dept picked up nothing on their gadgets and noses. mom lives on first floor which has 4 rads and two of those are in her bedroom.
    0P, me, lives on second floor with 4 rads. in my bedroom lives the radiator that is absolutely farthest from the boiler in the whole house. Furthest up and farthest over. The steam vent was replaced with a new one three days ago. this one produced the water you see in pic...last night. that rad knob was full ON and steam vent was full ON.
    We KNOW that the smelly steam comes from at least 4 of these rads.

    info for VilbertC: we have oil tank and town water feed. lowish chlorine, 6.8 pH, super soft water, low minerals from deep granite aquifers.

    info for BobC: i will investigate whether smell happens before any hissing starts but i believe that it does. based on recent memory. when any air at all comes out, it's smelly air. but the water collected last night is also smelly as hell. chemical smell.

    the first 3 days after install smelled different than this. i have a good nose and have since ruled out samples of cutting oil and sealants involved, and i have sniffed all joints above boiler and none of it smells. first 72 hrs smelled like oil, now it's a chemical caustic type smell. the smell woke me up at 2 am last night leaking out the side of the tight ziplock bag, ok? i do NOT have multiple chemical sensitivity. i brought water sample to town plumber outfit and they smelled it and said "peeeew"

    i think that's it for my new data today...
    -Casey OP

  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Location, we are located on long island sound near RI, so western MA is 2 hrs away minimum. -Casey
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Casey OP here. I have been working on basement this year. Moving many things around. asbestos pipes, i didnt want to hit with things and cause crumbling onto me. it's just draped and staple gunned up to prevent asb dust rain on me. there is NOOOOO burning plastic smell or ANY smell in basement.
    there is NO plastic anywhere near non asbestos pipe. anywhere.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    I tend to work more towards the south west in places like New Canaan. But I travel out towards Plymouth MA fairly regularly.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Also, I have been in the house since the moment this all started. I was here hte night the old boiled died and yes, i think it was still running even with no water, or close to it? When we found it, furnace was so hot you couldnt touch it. It was going thru water too fast for unknown reasons. Not knowing, we attributed it to the -10 weather outside. No alarm of any kind, CO, fire, have ever gone off ever in this story.
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Charlie WMass, how do i get in contact with you off board?
    Casey
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    413 841 6726 call me
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Update: I just smelled the "vent steam sample bag" again, and now that i have opened the bag three times, the smell is gone. That means that, as i have observed every time before, the SMELL is coming from the "gaseous part of the steam" not the water part of the steam. the water that comes from the vents (upon coolin gof the sample) has NO BAD SMELL. So again, if you ziplock tight around the rad steam vent, and collect a sample, and open the beg and sniff it, it's the bad chemical smell. if you leave sample bag open to the air, the smell disappears. the water in the sample bag does not smell. the GAS in the sample bag is what smells. the AIR inside the system from BEFORE the steaming happens is what SMELLS.
    -Casey OP
    scottnjr
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    edited April 2016
    After thinking about this the one thing that might help is flushing the radiators out by introducing water into the radiator vent tapping, this was mentioned earlier in the thread. Radiators all have some standing water in them, if something got into them from the cleaner foaming up into the pipes it could be the source of your problems.

    Or maybe something else?

    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
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    She has varivalves on all rads. I suggested changing them to Vent Rite 1 or Gorton 4 5, or 6 to provide surer shut off and slow vent speed to prevent carry ovet into the system. I have found funky issues in systems often occur with the use of these vents. If this does not clear up the issue I will be available to check it out in person.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    SWEIZman
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    I agree varivents probably cause more problems than they solve - too damn fast for 90% of the systems they are used on.

    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
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Charles WM was very nice and helpful. We will do the vents over with better ones. And Charles also did ask one other question I can now answer... see photo below, the "main vent" is about 5 inches from the elbow to the horizontal.

    Also, when down there, I completed my FIRST skim all by myself. I am taking off just about 2 gallons. is this a sufficient amount? The water was steaming because boiler had been on recently and the steaming water i took off did NOT have a smell at at all, while the steam gas from the rad vents today smell horrible. The skimmed off water had a little color to it, but not much.

    In the event that i CAN find someone to look inside the system for a left behind piece of plastic or whatever, is that an easy or a super hard thing to do? And how is it done?
    -Casey OP.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,505
    Skimming depends on how dirty the boiler is.
    I skimmed 4 gallons at a time many many times from my boiler early on. I forget what the end result was, something like 70-80 gallons was the total I think.


    I fell asleep one time and overflowed the bucket.
    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
    MarkS
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    edited April 2016
    When I skimmed it took about two hours to fill a 5 gallon bucket, just a bare trickle of water. You want the water to flow without disturbing, and mixing, the surface of the boiler water. I probably did that 6 or 8 times over a couple of months.

    Next time you do it grab some of it as it trickles out and boil it in a sauce pan and see if there is a hint of that smell.

    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
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    The furnace installer skimmed a total of 8 times, but we filled the bucket in about 3 min, not an hour. I can do the super slow version every day for a year if that's what it takes.

    A tinkerer friend just told me what i should do is remove all steam vents and turn boiler on and let the house fill with steam in order to do a complete turn over of the AIR inside the system.
    Family thinks the asthma mom would end up in the ER even smelling the residual the next day. Any feedback on this friend's idea?

    Casey -OP
  • hvacfreak2
    hvacfreak2 Member Posts: 500
    edited April 2016
    You actually get a complete air change in the system every time the heat is on and the pipes and radiators fill with steam , no need to release steam into the spaces.
    hvacfreak

    Mechanical Enthusiast

    Burnham MST 396 , 60 oz gauge , Tigerloop , Firomatic Check Valve , Mcdonnell Miller 67 lwco , Danfoss RA2k TRV's

    Easyio FG20 Controller

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    Don't take all the vents off and expel the steam into the house! That's not a good idea. As has been said the air in the system is vented out each time the boiler cycles. When the vents close all that left in the system is steam that the boiler has produced. Your Pressuretrol is set correctly (the scale on the front) Take that screw out (the one located at the bottom center of the front cover) and make sure the white dial on the inside is set to "1" facing the front of the of the Pressuretrol) so that your Cut-out pressure is 1.5 PSI. It may be set high making it difficult for the condensate to return to the boiler.
    Do a couple slow skims also. I'm concerned as to why you have so much water coming out of those vents.
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    will do Fred...
    casey
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    One other thought as well. Squick is designed to create a "sludge" of sorts when it contacts oils/dirt in the boiler. That sludge then settles on the bottom of the boiler. Skimming won't remove that sludge. Open the drain valve on the lower portion of the boiler (make sure the boiler isn't steam hot) wide open and drain water out until it is clean. If you haven't done that, it is possible some of that sludge gets stirred up when the water is boiling and maybe something in it is off-gassing and being carried into the steam mains to the radiators.
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Fred, so here is a photo of the inside white switch you asked for.
    i touched NOTHING, just added light to take a photo. If you can zoom into this photo on that dial and if you think of what you see white disk, the number 5 is on the left side of pic, the number 1 is toward front of pic, and the number on the right side of the pic i forget is number 3? or #2... i didnt want to touch/bend these wires around... but what does it look like it's "set at" to you? I hope you can enlarge pic.

    i have from the beginning asked everyone if i could drain from the bottom and everyone basically blew me off. it's like no one takes me seriously. i'm fairly certain that this step was NEVER done by the installer because i have been involved in almost every visit from day 1.

    i'm trying to get a plumber friend here in 2 days just back from out of town and maybe we can do these things together.

    the cold skim water does not smell like anything cold, but may indeed smell badness when hot. mom got the bad whif and then it was gone by the time i got to the pot. so i will repeat that stovetop experiment tomorrow.

    btw, should i be worried about having only 5 inches of horizontal pipe before the main vent above boiler?

    -Casey OP