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

13

Comments

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    @asthma , the setting on the Pressuretrol is fine. No problem there. The placement of your Main vent is fine but you probably need more venting than what is currently there. That certainly isn't causing the odor problem though. Just something you will want to look at after you get the smell problem resolved.
    Do drain a little water out of the bottom of the boiler and see if it looks dirty. If so drain it until clean water comes out. You should bottom drain the boiler about once a year as a general maintenance practice. There is a "mud leg" in the bottom of the boiler just to collect any sludge/dirt that accumulates.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    You can also build a wand so you can wash the inside of the boiler down.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1tw9rz-pUk

    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
    SeanBeans
  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 262
    I have a theory that the source of the stench is not in the boiler, steam pipes, or radiators but the return. This would explain why it takes a few days after refilling the boiler for the problem to occur again. When the boiler was drained was the return also drained? The Hartford Loop will keep water in the return when the boiler is drained. The return must be drained separately.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    CLamb said:

    I have a theory that the source of the stench is not in the boiler, steam pipes, or radiators but the return. This would explain why it takes a few days after refilling the boiler for the problem to occur again. When the boiler was drained was the return also drained? The Hartford Loop will keep water in the return when the boiler is drained. The return must be drained separately.

    I would think with the boiler cycling for several weeks the condensate would have pushed water through the wet returns and into the boiler multiple times by now. Just my opinion though. I suppose if the wet returns weren't cleaned well when the new boiler was installed, the crud in them could have absorbed some of the odors but even that should have been diluted by now and the OP doesn't smell the odor in the boiler water, at least when the the boiler is idle. That's why I thought, maybe sludge that settles on the bottom of the boiler at idle and gets stirred up when the water is boiling during a heat cycle.
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    I'm attempting to find and remove that sludge today... stay tuned...-casey
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    we did MAJOR surgery on the system all day today... so far so good... I'm stuck at work all day tues but will update you all on what we did sometime tomorow night. stay tuned. thank you all for being there... your collective advice helped us all day today- casey op
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    And?
    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
    So, with help from my plumber friend who has many years experience with old and new steam boilers, we did...

    -3 cold then hot skims, no improvement
    -2 sludge flushes, revealing a tad of oil film, but otherwise no sludge or participate came out. no improvement
    -flooded the returns, no improvement
    -over filled the pipes hence flooded 7 of 8 radiators once, and 4 downstairs rads got flooded twice, via collecting all water in huge ziplocks tied to vents on 8 radiators. 3 to 5 gallons washed thru each.
    (and in doing so, it pushed out all air in radiators which smelled as bad as the strongest bad smell since the beginning. it literally blew us out of the house for a few minutes)
    -upgraded mom's verivalve vents with ventrite #1 per Charles
    (i ran out of energy&time so have not yet replaced the other 6 vents but i will do so tomorrow)
    -and a Partridge pear tree
    house never smelled so clean...

    So after all we did on monday...

    here's the play by play during the last few days of basically exact same weather outside every night:

    on night 1 (monday) the only radiator that stank was the one that never got washed out by us (flood waters never reached it).
    monday night left NO steam collected in ziplock bags on the old veri vents.

    on tues, i did a skim AND a bottom "sludge flush" to educate myself on doing it solo. both looked clean. micro tad oil atop maybe, but clean.
    tuesday night, all radiators that got flushed only once (the upstairs ones) began smelling.
    tuesday night left maybe a touch of steam collected in ziplock bags.

    on wed i was spent after work so did no skimming.
    by night 3 (wed night), all downstairs radiators were nasty and blowing mom out of the house at 3 am. Same exact smell as always.
    wed night left a huge amount (puddle) of steam collected in ziplock bags. (there are only bags on upstairs rads currently, none on the new vents)
    water does not smell but gaseous component of steam DOES.
    mom says that BOTH new vents that we installed in her bath and bedrooms both stank to high heaven last night. She had to turn stat off and open every window with fans again, all night after 3am.

    So i think something continues to be "added" to the "air" of the system upon the addition of heat.

    that's where we are...

    interesting, aint it????? i feel like the house is possessed : )
    whether it is or aint, i want a medal for going above and beyond normal daughter-ing.
    heat has been running normal to keep 71 degrees in house since.

    Charles, we may indeed need you on sunday...? If you have any further ideas? New vents will go on tomorow, but new ventrite vents are smelling bad too.
    But my friend and i listened intently for rattling of any foreign object in there or in pipes and heard nothing.

    sigh... : (
    Casey OP
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    Has there ever been any "stop leak" added to the system before the new boiler went in? That stuff is very smelly.
    Have the wet returns been thoroughly flushed out?--NBC
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    I'm at a loss now, as well. The only other question I have is are you on city water or a well? If a well, is there any possibility you are picking something up in the well water? I know there are times when a well gets low that the water starts to smell like sulfur, also when a well is drilled too deep. It may not be obvious at the tap but boiling it may cause some off gassing. Other than that, I don't know what else it could be???
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    city water. for many many years.
    we limped along on the old busted boiler for 2 weeks,a new low water cutoff was added and we limped along even tho boiler was cracked. i will see if any "stop leak" was added during that limp along.
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    There is one other critical piece of the original scenario. We jsut remembered that after our original boiler died and we were waiting for like 10+ days for delivery of the new peerless from PA, we got the old boiler "repaired in a temporary fashion" by adding a new low water cutoff to the cracked boiler and limping along by adding water every 24 hours of so. During that whooole stretch of time, there was nooo smell. No bad smell in the pipes. the disaster really began about 2 days after the new furnace was installed, and NOT after the old furnace died. So I seriously doubt that the old overheated furnace put anything horrid into the system. We forgot this part of the story until just 2 days ago. -Casey OP
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    If stop leak had been used, the wet returns may have been contaminated with it, and they should have been flushed out.
    Can you describe the smell again please. Is it chemical, organic rotting, or....?--NBC
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    the smell is :
    chemical/raw/plastic/"caustic"/too dry/like drying agent, but those things are not usually volatile. it's strong enough to wake you up, mid sleep. it's not organic in any way. i am a biologist. i know organic. causes mild burn in back of sinus and upper throat. even in me. my friend said it smells to him maybe like manganese? in 30+years here, we have never smelled this smell before these events.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Did you try removing and plugging every vent opening in the system, including main vents? Then firing the boiler and you would be certain the smell is inside the piping/boiler wet side.
    Your plumber friend could help you with this. The boiler would short cycle on the pressure switch but still provide some heat.
  • NY_Rob
    NY_Rob Member Posts: 1,370
    Maybe time to get the boiler manufacturer involved?
    See if they have any ideas... the smell started after the new boiler was installed.... couldn't hurt to contact them if you haven't already.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    Are the radiators getting hotter than they use to?
    Have any been painted?
    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
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Does the boiler get its feed water from your hot water heater or just cold water from the city supply?
    Does your hot water at the faucets smell bad?
    Charlie from wmass
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,505
    JUGHNE said:

    Does the boiler get its feed water from your hot water heater or just cold water from the city supply?
    Does your hot water at the faucets smell bad?

    Oh,
    @JUGHNE is pulling the ol anode rod stink out of his back pocket.

    Nice.
    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
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Yup, all sorts of ideas are flying around here. If the DHW was the cause then it would probably be obvious with hot water usage......unless the stink was somehow trapped and would not form until the water was boiled. Simple test would be to boil some hot tap water on the stove and give a sniff.

    I would still try the seal all openings in steam piping (vents) and give it a boil, then you would know if internal to boiler for sure.

    Just some tin foil hat meditation on my part ;)
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    I would do the same with some boiler 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
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    MSDS for Squick

    http://orders.sidharvey.com/IMAGES/MSDS/Z0048.pdf

    Think I'd flush the living crap out of this system from top to bottom...

    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.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    Casey do you need me to stop over? Call me if you do.
    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
  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 262
    edited April 2016
    Oops. Delete this.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    edited April 2016
    Or you, (with the boiler cool/cold), on your stove, could:

    Boil some cold tap water (as a control)

    Boil some hot tap water

    Boil some water from the sight glass drain valve directly under the glass....this would be the upper boiler water (fairly clean)

    Boil some water from the lower boiler drain itself---not the return piping (maybe some bottom sludge here)

    Boil some water from the lowest portion of the return piping (this would be the most dirt/sludge)

    This smell test would perhaps tell you what part of the system had the nasty water in it.
    CLamb
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    hi again Everyone, OP here...
    with the opportunity brought on by warm weather to take a breather here, i had to attend to all the life that was falling behind after spending months on boiler fiasco.
    so now i'm getting back on the job... looks like i never finished my letter to you guys explaining my disappearance.
    To answer all recent questions, all waters from everywhere have been boiled and sniffed and assessed. only bad smell comes from radiators.
    Hence the plan is to do what Mark E suggested and "flush the living crap" out of the top of the system and then the whole system again.
    (and yes thanks, i did have that squick msds... months ago that was the first thing i googled. i was msds queen at a past job.)

    much jury rigging will have to be created cus no one in strong enough to bring 10 radiators out to the street i dont think... but im gonna try one.

    and Charles, i do have your number if needed down the line...
    thank you for asking... sorry i missed your post...
    casey
  • Justin_11
    Justin_11 Member Posts: 12
    edited November 2016
    @asthma Dear Casey & co,
    Has there been any resolution to this? Are you still dealing with this?

    Reading through this thread was eerie -- it is almost EXACTLY what my wife and I are going through right now:
    • We experienced NO smell prior to the installation of a new boiler.
    • When the new boiler was installed (ours was a conversion to nat gas), we smelled both the "new boiler smell" (the oils, etc burning off the boiler itself) AND a caustic, burning-plastic like smell that makes our noses and throats burn slightly.
    • The smell happens when the radiators vent air. It doesn't come from the boiler itself. It's so bad that we have had to stay in a hotel.
    • The original installers have flushed & filled the system a number of times, in good faith. They've "skimmed" the boiler a number of times, though I'm pretty sure they're doing it much too fast and not actually accomplishing skimming. They've flushed from the base of the boiler, and they've also flushed out the hartford loop/wet return.
    • Oh, and my wife has an autoimmune disease with significant lung involvement. (the parallel: the person living with us can't tolerate chemicals/irritants/etc without detriment to her health.
    • Oh, and we're both in Connecticut. Eerie.
    • As a small silver lining: As a result of all this I've become quite conversant in hartford loops and pressuretrols and headers and skimming and wet returns... They've made me into an amateur steam tech. ;-)
    Casey - please let me know how things are going for you. I get the sense that we could be a resource for each other.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    commenting to be subscribed to thread
    known to beat dead horses
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
    Casey here finally !
    Hello to NeilC as well !
    I hope this message goes to EVERYONE who helped for the whole month(s) I was here on this board....

    Official Cause: MELTING blue teflon tape INSIDE all of the newly plumbed joints and connectors. steam was melting teflon into vapor but no bits were coming off during any flushes so we never saw much in the flushes. the was a little of it that had been sent up thru all 9 radiators though.
    see pics. i have plenty more pics if folks want to see more.


    The Surgery entailed:
    1. all steam vents removed and replaced with the VENT RITE vents recommended by Charlie from W Mass here on this board.

    2. all newly installed pipe was taken apart and insides scrubbed clean, all teflon tape removed from all pipe joining locations. pipes were redone with pipe dope like they should have been from day 1.

    3. all radiators (top to bottom) were flushed in place/in situ with high pressure water (running through an adapted air line) (an invention of this final plumber) . all flush went down the returns line to the boiler where that tank was dumped twice. this step solved 95% of the toxic smell problem, so we ran heat for about a month and then repeated this exact same flush top to bottom. all radiators., following the advice of Mark here on this forum to "flush the living crap out of this system from top to bottom"

    4. dumped the boiler tank twice after each flush. last flush was yesterday.

    Conclusion: it was the teflon that nearly made us have to sell the house because it was unlivable.
    this lethal problem took ALL SUMMER to solve.
    corner cutting plumbers be warned.
    Note: it took calling 18 plumbers to find one with both the science mind, AND the lack of fear at touching "someone else's install job". plumbers NEED TO START coming to the rescue more. and if insurance is making it hard for you to do that, then go after those who are blaming you for the crappy work of others. To those of you who come come to the rescue, you are life savers, just like surgeons and firemen, and that's worth more than money. Keith will be forever my hero, and I will send him all the business and gifts I can, county wide.

    Official Status:
    whole duration: feb 14 2016 to dec 17 2016
    all smell testing is negative.
    toxic teflon boiler fiasco of 2016: status resolved
    defcon level: 5
    science officer of ship casey: standing down
    house has been saved
    i sent plumber keith a medal.
    he should have it by xmas.
    now it's time to debrief the heating help forum.

    So Neil... I wonder if you and I were victims of the same CT plumber? LOL
    If someone can tell me if it's "legal" to share my phone # on this board, I'm happy to do so to help others in this deadly boat.
    i'm happy to answer any other questions forum folks may have.

    Casey
    (mom says the heat smells like roses) : )
    MilanD
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    edited December 2016
    Glad this was solved. Wow.

    Is the lesson then never to use blue Teflon tape, for steam install and repairs?

    Call me old fashioned: I always use white. Tried and true. Then some T plus 2 dope. Unless it's nat gas. Then, yellow tape. Same dope.

    So awesome this was resolved, and thank you for sharing the results.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,736
    You say you have a boiler "tank"..... is this a separate tank with a pump on it, or the boiler itself?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,605
    I would think the lesson would be use blue Teflon tape properly. The instructions on the roll I have says that it must be started one or two threads in from the end, presumably to keep it from entering the piping system as happened here.

    Glad to hear a resolution to a smell issue like this, it's something I'll be watching for now. I must admit that I wouldn't have expected steam to have a volatilizing effect on PTFE tape.

    kcoppRobert O'Brien
  • Yes iron man, the teflon tape theory is a little far fetched, as so many here use a combination of dope, and tape with no ill effects.
    My guess is that the "cleaning" of the boiler with Squick, and maybe other stronger alkali chemicals, caused wet poisonous steam. This coupled with possibly inadequate main venting would have caused all those fumes to exit the radiators, instead of the main vents in the basement. When all the rads were flushed out, then it disappeared.
    My Peerless instructions called for only Arm&Hammer washing soda as a cleansing agent, to be simmered, and then skimmed off. The colder makeup water caused the hot soda water to float on top, as it trickled in. As I remember, it took 4 hours for the cold fresh water to replace the warm. Luckily, I have a floor drain next to the boiler.--NBC
    IronmanDan Foley
  • Hilly
    Hilly Member Posts: 426
    Aside from knowing with 100% certainty the exact root cause of it all... You were able to solve the problem. Which is the of the greatest importance. I was happy to get this update in my inbox today. Seeing issued resolved on HH.com is great but it's even better when health concerns are addressed and corrected.
    Gordo
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    asthma said:

    Casey here finally !
    Hello to NeilC as well !
    I hope this message goes to EVERYONE who helped for the whole month(s) I was here on this board....

    Official Cause: MELTING blue teflon tape INSIDE all of the newly plumbed joints and connectors. steam was melting teflon into vapor...

    Sorry.. I'm not buying that...
    Normal temperature Range: -450°F to +500°F (-268°C to +260°C) PTFE is completely stable up to +500F or +260°C.
    Steam at pressures 3PSI is something like 220F.
    There is no way that the steam was causing the teflon to melt.

    I have used blue monster teflon tape on just about every pipe joint i've threaded since it came out and never had an issue with it "melting" or "vaporizing"

    New England SteamWorksSWEIj a_2
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,505

    asthma said:

    Casey here finally !
    Hello to NeilC as well !
    I hope this message goes to EVERYONE who helped for the whole month(s) I was here on this board....

    Official Cause: MELTING blue teflon tape INSIDE all of the newly plumbed joints and connectors. steam was melting teflon into vapor...

    Sorry.. I'm not buying that...
    Normal temperature Range: -450°F to +500°F (-268°C to +260°C) PTFE is completely stable up to +500F or +260°C.
    Steam at pressures 3PSI is something like 220F.
    There is no way that the steam was causing the teflon to melt.

    I have used blue monster teflon tape on just about every pipe joint i've threaded since it came out and never had an issue with it "melting" or "vaporizing"

    Agreed.
    PTFE is not going to melt at steam heat temperatures, not even close.

    Most of my joints have PTFE (Teflon) tape and Megaloc which has Teflon in it.

    To my knowledge, every single professional on this forum uses PTFE thread sealer on their joints.
    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
    New England SteamWorksj a_2
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    I too am glad this problem has been resolved. I have wondered for a long time how/if this situation was ever resolved. Thanks @asthma for the update.
    As far as the teflon tape, is concerned, it still is a question. Who knows what the original installer used??? t may have been some off-the-wall teflon like cheap plumbing tape. It may have even been the pipe dope he used in conjunction with the tape. It may be that the tape and/or dope didn't actually melt but still off-gased, based on it composition, quality and brand. Whatever it was, a radical cleaning was what it took to get rid of the smell. good for you!
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37
  • asthma
    asthma Member Posts: 37