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New steam boiler install chemical smell in house

Hi all,
I'm a service tech for a large HVAC co. We replaced a steam boiler this summer with a weil mclain. As soon as winter started, customer began calling complaining of chemical odor. I thought it was just oils on pipes, or glue or insulation in boiler jacket, and told her let the system run and this odor will go away. After a month, she called back-still stinks. I began to think maybe it was not coming from outside but rather inside and the boiler water was smelly and escaping into the house via the rad. vents. So I attacked it from that angle. I skimmed the boiler 3 different times using TSP two of those times. I put squick in. all to no avail. The installers all use propress now to speed up the jobs, so I thought maybe the o-rings were off-gassing. We removed all propress. The customer had asbestos removed by an outside contractor who then painted the pipes with something I assume is used to lock in any left over fibers. Could this paint be the culprit? Is it just latex paint, or something else? The customer is ready to go to the press over this, and neither we nor the weil mclain rep have any ideas. Ive never had this problem before. Any suggestions?
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Comments

  • Have you smelled this yourself?
    See if you can get the abatement company to tell you what they painted the pipes with.
    I would drain the boiler, and flush out any additives, Squick, etc, and then more skimming. I believe that there may be another old post here on Squick, and smelly boiler, so do a search.
    I wonder if propress is applicable to the riser pipe sizes needed for most steam boilers-2 1/2 inches.--NBC
    clammy
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    I know that steel or cast iron pipe should only be used on steam, but when they can save time and money, propress or at least soldered copper, becomes too tempting. Propress has been replaced with soldered copper now. Asbestos company is ignoring us now. I do smell it. Its not the squick, because it was there before I added that. When I first saw the paint on the pipes, I thought it had to be that, but what about all of the painted radiators out there?
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    The last post we had about a chemical smell that wouldn't go away, after months of checking everything/trying everything, the home owner and a steam contractor took pipes apart and found that many of the pipe connections had teflon tape that was wrapped over the end of the pipe and consequently overlapped into the steam pipe and off-gassed. I don't know if it was an off brand tape or one not rated for steam temps but they took those joints apart and re-taped them and claimed the issue was finally resolved. Did they use any threaded joints, along with the propress?
    scottnjr
  • AbracadabraAbracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    Does the boiler water smell? If not to you then to either the homeowner or other individuals?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,703
    Investigate that paint -- some paint formulations can continue to off gas for months.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    scottnjr
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    Fred, the teflon tape is one I hadn't thought of. Thanks for that. Can you point me to the thread on that? I can't find anything with search.
    Jamie, yes, I need to find out what the paint is. If they always use it, if it's specific for asbestos work, if it can withstand high temps. Trouble is they don't get back to us.
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    Just called the contractor, and before he was aware who I was told me they use just a regular latex paint. He said it it usually smells only until its dry usually. Then he found out who I was calling about atold me she's nuts and didn't want to talk further about it.
    ethicalpaul
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    thanks a lot fred. The system indeed had blue monster tape used on all threads. I went back yesterday and removed all tape. Much like that thread, the tape was wrapped past the first thread and had entered the system. I then rinsed boiler until water ran clear. The homeowner didnt want to let me flush radiators, I will return next week and find out if the smell went away.
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    @scottnjr , Please come back and update us in a week or two. It will be interesting to see if there is something in that tape that boils out or vaporizes when in contact with boiling hot water/steam.
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    Thanks to Fred, I got in contact with the plumber who resolved the problem at this job: http://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/157986/asthma-attacks-from-new-steam-boiler-please-help
    and the homeowner and plumber both felt it was indeed the blue tape causing the odor. So I went and removed all the tape, and did a wand-wash of the interior of the boiler, but the customer had to leave and didnt want to let me flush the rads. I will return next week to do.
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    Update: I went again yesterday to flush radiators, and the customer reported much less odor. I flushed 2 rads she said still had some smell. Found both to have hot water bleeders cracked open in place of proper steam vents. Since they never close, I'm sure thats why they let out so much stink. Replaced with steam vents. I really think that the cause of the smell was the blue monster tape which was inside of the pipes.
    MilanD
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    Thanks for the update @scottnjr
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    This job has been stink-free
    FredSuperTech
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    Glad to hear that. This is an issue we need to remember the next time someone else has this issue!!
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,571
    Blue monster tape is a great scapegoat when dealing with insane customers. Just loudly say "OMG someone used this horrible blue tape" so they can overhear you and then pretend to remove it.

    If anyone has actually smelled blue monster tape I'll eat my hat
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    GrallertChrisJIntplm.Charlie from wmass
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60
    How big is your hat? Because this job proved it.
  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,142
    @scottnjr. You did mention that you removed the teflon and you wand washed the boiler. Do we know which of the two eliminated the smell? Reason that I ask is because I have used blue teflon on every boiler install since the stuff came out. Zero complaints about smell. I did read the other post and I am still intrigued. For all you know, a mouse crawled into the boiler in the supply house and died inside the boiler.
    New England SteamWorks
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,935
    I don't like the Blue Monster anyhow has nothing to do with any suspected smell I just prefer the regular Teflon tape.

    There has been several posts on here that say they have had smell problems with it. I guess time will tell.

    I am not going to dismiss it as a potential problem.

    Maybe Blue monster is made in China? :):):):)
    Intplm.
  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,142
    @EBEBRATT-Ed Just curious. Any particular reason you don't like the blue monster "teflon"? It has higher temp ratings, is thicker and easier to work with. Imo
    ethicalpaul
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,935
    @STEAM DOCTOR

    We all know working under cold conditions how you sometimes have difficulty making the tape hold to a pipe, Blue Monster to me seems more problematic under cold conditions than regular teflon tape probably because it is thicker as you mentioned

    Maybe it's just me others in my shop like it better
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    It might be worth mentioning that, while PTFE is chemically very stable, it's not blue. Native PTFE is white. Whatever they add to it to make it blue might volatilize at > 200° F. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,142
    @Hap_Hazzard . I think that blue monster tape is rated for 600 degrees or something like that. Could be wrong.
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    Wow, Everybody defends Blue Monster tape like it is some kind of deity. It is ((or was) a good product but when we see a couple installs with a chemical smell and the common denominator is Blue Monster tape that has been improperly installed, lets at least consider that issue. The problem may not be the tape (even though now it is being produced in China and who knows what coloring/chemicals they use) but it well could be the installation. The tape does say to stay back from the end of the pipe. It's temp rating may not be the same as its boiling/steaming capacity.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,855
    Fred said:

    Wow, Everybody defends Blue Monster tape like it is some kind of deity. It is ((or was) a good product but when we see a couple installs with a chemical smell and the common denominator is Blue Monster tape that has been improperly installed, lets at least consider that issue. The problem may not be the tape (even though now it is being produced in China and who knows what coloring/chemicals they use) but it well could be the installation. The tape does say to stay back from the end of the pipe. It's temp rating may not be the same as its boiling/steaming capacity.

    I'm not sure what that means Fred. Boiling steaming capacity?

    But I've had Blue Monster tape on many steam pipe joints since 2011 and all of it is still the same blue color. That, at least in my mind suggests the coloring is stable at 212F.

    Now Megaloc on the other hand does bubble and sizzle for a while and it does have a smell. Oddly enough, I kind of like it. But I've never smelled any of my Blue Monster tape and I have some from several different batches.




    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
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    ChrisJ said:

    Fred said:

    Wow, Everybody defends Blue Monster tape like it is some kind of deity. It is ((or was) a good product but when we see a couple installs with a chemical smell and the common denominator is Blue Monster tape that has been improperly installed, lets at least consider that issue. The problem may not be the tape (even though now it is being produced in China and who knows what coloring/chemicals they use) but it well could be the installation. The tape does say to stay back from the end of the pipe. It's temp rating may not be the same as its boiling/steaming capacity.

    I'm not sure what that means Fred. Boiling steaming capacity?

    But I've had Blue Monster tape on many steam pipe joints since 2011 and all of it is still the same blue color. That, at least in my mind suggests the coloring is stable at 212F.

    Now Megaloc on the other hand does bubble and sizzle for a while and it does have a smell. Oddly enough, I kind of like it. But I've never smelled any of my Blue Monster tape and I have some from several different batches.




    I was trying to say I don't know how the Blue Monster tape reacts to actual exposure to steam and boiling water since it does specify staying back from the end of the pipe.
  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,142
    I would suppose that staying back from end of pipes is to prevent pieces of teflon from getting into pipes and places where it don't belong. No different then any other pipe sealant.
    ChrisJHap_HazzardSuperTech
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,571
    scottnjr said:

    How big is your hat? Because this job proved it.

    We have different definitions of "prove" :)
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418

    I would suppose that staying back from end of pipes is to prevent pieces of teflon from getting into pipes and places where it don't belong. No different then any other pipe sealant.

    I agree but there is also other potential side effects. I am not condemning the Blue Monster tape, I'm just suggesting that we not discount the possibilities when two or three Home Owners complain about a chemical odor and that tape is a common denominator.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263

    @Hap_Hazzard . I think that blue monster tape is rated for 600 degrees or something like that. Could be wrong.

    Sure, but it's not guaranteed not to smell bad. :)
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    If I had some blue monster tape handy, I'd go out to my shop and set my heat gun for 300° and see what happens.

    Personally I'm skeptical that the small amount of tape hanging inside the pipe could stink up a whole house for weeks on end, but, as @STEAM DOCTOR points out, there are other reasons for keeping tape and pipe joint compound a couple threads back from the end of the pipe. I thought we all knew that.

    Also, if it were me, I'd have taken out my combustible gas detector and sniffed around with it, just on the off chance that the smell was caused by some volatile organic compound that might set it off.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    CLamb
  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,142
    There are thousands of installations using blue monster. 2-3 have an issue with oders. It's hard to believe that the blue monster is the issue. But who knows. Maybe a rodent left residue in the boilers. Maybe bad cutting oil. Maybe the low water cutoff probe had bad brass that burnt off. I an just saying that there are lots of potential common denominators besides the blue monster. I don't really have a horse in this race. Maybe those 3 boilers had bad cutting oil that got mixed with the teflon. Skimming removed the oil in the boiler but not the oil in the teflon. Or endless other possibilities.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,855

    There are thousands of installations using blue monster. 2-3 have an issue with oders. It's hard to believe that the blue monster is the issue. But who knows. Maybe a rodent left residue in the boilers. Maybe bad cutting oil. Maybe the low water cutoff probe had bad brass that burnt off. I an just saying that there are lots of potential common denominators besides the blue monster. I don't really have a horse in this race. Maybe those 3 boilers had bad cutting oil that got mixed with the teflon. Skimming removed the oil in the boiler but not the oil in the teflon. Or endless other possibilities.

    Not to mention every one that had a problem changed multiple things, not just one.


    I have no idea what boiler manufactures use, but some places use refined lard as cutting oil. It does a decent job and it's very affordable. Look up McMaster 1308K4.

    Not sure if it can go rancid or not.
    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
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    Has anyone ever watched the movie "Grumpy Old Men" ? >:)
    Intplm.mattmia2BobCGrallert
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,855
    Fred said:

    Has anyone ever watched the movie "Grumpy Old Men" ? >:)

    Before you say it,
    No, you're not as old as Burgess Meredith in it. Closer to Jack Lemmon..........
    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
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,418
    ChrisJ said:

    Fred said:

    Has anyone ever watched the movie "Grumpy Old Men" ? >:)

    Before you say it,
    No, you're not as old as Burgess Meredith in it. Closer to Jack Lemmon..........
    I wasn't talking about me. I was referring to you guys!
    ChrisJGrallert
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,790
    So who left the dead fish in the boiler?? >:)
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,935
    I looked it up it's stable to 500F

    It does react to some chemicals but seeing chemistry was my worst subject I will leave that to others.

    "Precautions
    Note: Keep Mill-Rose Blue Monster Thread Sealing Tape clean. Replace the clip on the spool after use. Store in a clean place. PTFE is virtually chemically resistant to all media, however there are a few exceptions. Alkali metals such as elemental sodium, potassium and lithium are to be avoided. These alkali metals remove fluorine from the polymer molecule. Extremely potent oxidizers such as fluorine (F2) and related compounds (e.g., chlorine trifluoride(CIF3) can be handled by PTFE, but only with great care. Since fluorine is absorbed into the resin, the mixture becomes sensitive to a source of ignition such as impact. Other media to avoid are 80% NaOH or KOH, metal hydrides such as boranes (e.g., B2H6), aluminum chloride, ammonia (NH3), certain amines (R-NH2), imines (R-NH) and 70% nitric acid at temperatures near the suggested service level.

    Do not use Mill-Rose Blue Monster Thread Sealing Tape on oxygen lines!

    Mill-Rose recommends Green Oxygen Tape for oxygen lines. For further safety details consult the Material Safety Data Sheet.

    Note: Mill-Rose also offers a Yellow Gas Line Tape where certain codes require it. was my worst subject I will leave that to others"

    "
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,186
    Is there anything special about the yellow tape other than it is yellow and thicker?

    I wonder if there might be a reaction with heat and water with a high sodium content. My suspicion would be more the there was a contaminant in the manufacturing or possibly a common dope that was used.

    teflon itself is very heat and chemical resistant. RF connectors with teflon or phenolic insulators can be soildered without fear of melting or burning the insulator (although seeing how teflon is molded explains why those connectors are more expensive then the ones with the insulator that melts easily, it has to be compacted as a powder then heated, it decomposes and still is very viscous if you try to injection mold it).
  • scottnjrscottnjr Member Posts: 60


    Maybe Blue monster is made in China? :):):):)

    it is
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