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STRANGE INCONSISTENT LOSS OF WATER FROM STEAM BOILER

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ww
ww Member Posts: 282
This is a Weil Mclain 100,000 btu natural gas steam boiler in a one family 2 floor house in Northeast. Boiler is probably 30 years old and works fine except for strange loss of water.

You can fill the water up to the line on sight glass at 11pm. The next morning the water is at the same level. Level may not change for another day or maybe less. Sometimes you see the level is right in the middle and then four hours later the low water cutoff kicks in and boiler shuts down. It's a manual feed as well for the water.

Don't hear any water hammer,see no leaks by radiators,vents seem to be working fine,no puddles under boiler...sometimes may see dampness but not much.

Wondering if boiler is evaporating water and you can't see it. Where is this water going?..All pipes look like they are above ground. I'd like to know what causes this crazy loss of water with no set time or consistency when it goes down.

I went back to a number of threads before posting and haven't seen anything on this. I didn't fill the boiler up a bit yet to check for above water line leak but this is crazy. Is it expansion and contraction?..Boiler is staying hot and keeping house warm at 70 degrees.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,661
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    A first cut guess would be that somewhere in the system there is a vent which sticks open sometimes. You wouldn't necessarily see steam -- in fact, you might not notice it at all, unless the humidity were very high.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,701
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    Might there be a relationship to outdoor temp -> run time of the boiler?
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,399
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    Look outside at what's coming out of your chimney when the boiler is steaming. If you see a white vapor, you have a leak above the water line.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    Jackmartin
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,844
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    Find all your return lines. You could have one above the floor at the boiler but it may go underground (under a doorway?) somewhere else in the basement.

    Also, shut the boiler off and wait until it cools off (so you can hold your hand on the boiler sections) Then flood the boiler with water above the sight glass and look for leaks. Drain down to normal before re starting.

    Also, check the chimney as @Ironman suggested and look for leaking vents and leaks in general as @Jamie Hall mentioned.

    If you are leaking steam, your loosing water but you may not see a steam leak.
    JackmartinHVACNUT
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    That is the funny thing about this....the water loss is so eratic and at different times....we are talking about losing to below the site glass....it cold take 4 hours or stay for 2 days. Temps are cold 30's and less...set at 70 for days and 68 for nights. I'd imagine if a steam vent was losing steam with all those gallons of water there would be some water on the floor...or not?..Will be going over all this again.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    If you lose that much water in a four hour or two day window and you don't see wet spots anywhere, it is going up the chimney. Turn the power off to the boiler and fill the boiler up all the wat until you can feel the cold water start to rise into the riser on top of the boiler going to the steam main. I suspect you will see water running out of the boiler onto the basement floor before that though. A hole above the water line. The water loss is consistent, it just isn't the same volume each time because the boiler run time isn't consistent.
    Jackmartin
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    Ok thanks...Never got to that point yet though...but was able to get down to boiler yesterday and it was off. Looked on floor and now there was a wetspot in the back of the boiler...and a constant drip..siteglass was now 2 inches down from center of glass.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Well, It's pretty clear something near the boiler is leaking, most likely a hole in the block, above the water line. It lasted 30 years so it did well, by today's standards. Take the top panel off, if you can and see if you can locate the hole. Find a GREAT Steam Pro to do the job right the first time, if a replacement is in order. Where are you located. Hopefully someone here can recommend a Pro.
    Jackmartin
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,661
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    Before you mortgage the house to finance a new boiler -- check and see if there is a joint of any kind on or near the boiler (including any tappings into the block itself) where you found the wet spot, and then check and make sure that it really is tight and doesn't open up when it reaches some temperature or other...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Jackmartin
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    Wondering if some type of liquid sealer would do the trick? Do they usually work and are they just temporary fix?..If so maybe could use that and worry about replacing the boiler down the road.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Don't pour any of those products into that boiler. That's a fast way to turn a steam boiler into a boiler that will go crazy with bouncing water, wet steam, a mess in the piping, maybe even clogged returns. Find the leak and, if it's small, try to use something like JB Weld to patch it to get you through the rest of this heating season.
    Jackmartin
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    I'm surprised at that. I read about 25 reviews on product saying it was great and stopped leaks..I called the company and they said it works. I read the directions and it gave specific instructions on how to use product. I did see one review that said it caused surging. The directions said it didn't cause clogging of any vents.

    I mean if the lady is a senior citizen and has little money...has a hard time walking down the basement to fill the water...just wondering about what can be done besides the sealer for now to help this lady out.

    I do know that sometime reviews can be wrong and fake too...but that's alot of people saying it's good. This isn't my decision anyway..it's up to the lady.

    Is there any kind of incentive program where she can pay a boiler off in time or get a rebate. She is in the NYC area.
    Also where do you find someone who can change this boiler if it turns out it's not some small leak from a pipe or plug?
    Jackmartin
  • Jackmartin
    Jackmartin Member Posts: 196
    edited February 2017
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    I am afraid what you have been advised to do is excellent advise. The use of a boiler leak arrestor is the wrong thing to do.In the old days you put steel cut oats in the boiler and the protien from oats formed a seal
    It worked but it was only intended to get you to spring with our tempertures you could not have the boiler off for any length of time unless you were going to put in an round the clock effort until the new boiler was on line. I think you ate looking at a leak going up the chimney and the reason you do not loose water at a constant rate is directly related to outside temperature the colder it is the more your boiler fires the more evaporation so you are looking at a new boiler and when you do it check out the rest of the system really well. If you were loosing water from an underground return your water loss would be much more uniform. Surely the state of New York has a program to help elderly people with this kind of problem?
    All the best and I hope you have an early spring
    Jack Martin Winnipeg Canada
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    Ok...Thanks for the input. Interesting about the steel cut oats in the boiler too in the old days.
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,892
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    Just for the heck of it. Did you or anybody tamper with the settings on the pressurtrol? Cut in should be 1/2 to 1lb. Diff. 1lb.
    Agree with others you probably have a leaking block. Time for a new boiler.
    Jackmartin
  • New England SteamWorks
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    I agree with the leaking block theory. And you will lose more or less water based on outside temperature. Also agree that stop-leak products for steam cause more problems than solve. Temporary epoxy patches sometimes work though.

    Time to fill the boiler up so you know for sure...
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
    Jackmartin
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    I told the lady that I was getting alot of negatives on the boiler sealer..but the professional plumber came in and told her that he would try a boiler sealer...when he said that I told the lady that was the product I told her about...the one with all the negatives here on the site. She then directed the plumber to put the sealer in the boiler!...It's not my house and I can only lead a horse to water.

    So after some water hammer issues things have evened out a bit and now getting estimates for boiler. I did tell her to take it day by day and wait until the warm weather comes..So we'll see what happens.

    The boiler is 30 years old and a Weil McLain...100,000 btu in and 81,000 btu output...I doubt it but was wondering if there is a boiler out there to just replace it with not much modification.

    Also should an automatic water feeder be installed in new boiler or just continue with the hand boiler fill?...I have my opinions on that one...with an auto fill you may not know if the boiler is losing water...and I've heard stories of floods...but this may be an old problem that no longer exists..so your feedback would be appreciated!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,661
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    Which Weil McClain? There should be something close with similar piping...

    On the automatic water feeder. My own rather strong opinion is that there should be one, but with two cautions: first, it must have a water meter or counter of some kind. Otherwise you are right, you won't necessarily know that the system is using water. Second, they may need some maintenance -- but the valves are pretty reliable. As to floods... well, if the valve fails open, they might flood the system. Quite true. Which will usually lead to a service call and not a flooded basement. On the other hand, if a boiler dry fires because no one is checking on it, that's not a service call. That's a 911 call. I know which I'd rather have...

    All this is particularly true if the homeowner is not the sort of person who looks at the boiler every day.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    I do hope she is checking the water level regularly because a bottle of Stop Leak won't seal a hole in the boiler block. If she starts to complain about hammer, hissing vents, or other issues, start with a complete flush of that gunk out of the boiler, clean the pigtail under the Pressuretrol, clean the tappings that the sight glass is mounted on, etc.
    Jackmartin
  • Jackmartin
    Jackmartin Member Posts: 196
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    I would suppose the plumber was trying to get her to spring and she is of course worried and I would suggest frightened this crap is putting her indépendance at risk. After all no heat and she cannot live in her home. How about we talk to Erin and Dan and set up a go fund me page and get this lady a new boiler. It would be a check mark in heaven for all of use and lets face it none of have been at the right hand of God I know I have not. All the best Jack Martin Winnipeg Canada
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,750
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    Of she has a Weil McLain and it's 30 years old and it's an EG, the design hasn't change much if at all. When I replaced mine all the connections were basically in the same spot. Mine was vintage 1982.

    I would suggest, make sure the current piping is appropriate and to spec. Just because you could swap it easily doesn't mean you should.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    I will take a photo of the boiler spec plate and post it to see. These are all good points...and I also explained to the lady about a point mentioned. I told her that I was once working on an a/c unit on a car and it didn't seem right...after some research I found that the unit was the wrong one for the car..and told her that there is no guarantees that the boiler in her house now is even the correct one. She replied it worked for the last 30 years...and told her that it could also work with another boiler that would save on fuel...and told her boiler size is figured on the cubic feet of all pipes and the radiator sizes,etc...but that went in one ear and out the other. Some don't care about any details at oil and just want to touch the thermostat and not worry about anything else!
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,750
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    Tell her a possible smaller boiler would be cheaper to install....then watch her eyes light up. I could drive a Mack truck to work everyday, doesn't mean it's the best vehicle for the job. Some people amaze me....or not.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jackmartin
    Jackmartin Member Posts: 196
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    How about we really light up her life and help this lady get a new boiler. Dan and. Erin would you be receptive to a go fund me page on the wall. Not only would it help someone who has thier back to the wall it would be excellent advertising for the heating community. Lets face it gentlemen a lot of people think we are crooks because some a hole has talen them for a ride. I would be delighted to put in the first 100.00 US towards helping this lady ------ that is in our devalued dollar 125.00 Canadian which would equal 100.00 American. All the best Jack Martin Winnipeg Canada Remember we are all going to get to the point where we cannot go down the stairs anymore let alone install boilers
  • ww
    ww Member Posts: 282
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    Thanks for the nice thoughts...

    I checked the boiler model and it's a Weil Mclain EG-35PI...Looks like this boiler is still made and will be a replacement with not many changes at all. So now looking around for plumbers to give some estimates for the job located in Queens, NY.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,661
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    ww said:

    Thanks for the nice thoughts...

    I checked the boiler model and it's a Weil Mclain EG-35PI...Looks like this boiler is still made and will be a replacement with not many changes at all. So now looking around for plumbers to give some estimates for the job located in Queens, NY.

    Check Find a Contractor -- there are several good steam guys who service that area. And you want a good steam guy. Some plumbers are. Some think they are and aren't...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Jackmartin