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Going Through Too Much Water???

I've been in my house for 10 years now and the steam boiler seems to go through more water than I would expect. It hasn't gotten any worse over time but it downed on me that it might not be normal.

On a frigid week the sight glass could be 3/4 full and by the end of the week it could be down to 1/4. I usually top it off a few times but that seems like a lot of water.

I've had a plumber buddy look at it and he couldn't find any cracks and says it looks fine.

Is that too much water?

Comments

  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,374
    That is not normal. Are any of the wet returns under the basement floor? Is this a one or two pipe system? Do you see any main vent leaking steam? If one pipe system, do you see any radiator vents leaking? Are any of the radiator valve leaking? Are you sure the water usage hasn't gotten worse over those ten years? o you see a steam cloud coming out of the chimney when the boiler is running?
    ethicalpaul
  • AdmiralYodaAdmiralYoda Member Posts: 79
    No wet returns under the floor. Its a single pipe system. No steam leaks in the piping. One radiator has a hairline crack and does leak a bit....doesn't leave any mess behind. Water usage hasn't gotten any worse in 10 years.

    The boiler holds pressure just fine. When it cuts off at 1.5psi I don't hear any hissing or anything.

    When the boiler starts up after being off for a certain amount of time I do see alot of steam coming out of the chimney. If its been off for say 15-30 minutes I see a fair amount of steam for say half a minute or so. It its been off for less than 15 minutes or more than 30 or so there isnt much steam out of the chimney.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,684

    When the boiler starts up after being off for a certain amount of time I do see alot of steam coming out of the chimney. If its been off for say 15-30 minutes I see a fair amount of steam for say half a minute or so. It its been off for less than 15 minutes or more than 30 or so there isnt much steam out of the chimney.

    Sounds like you found the leak. But why not have a Steam Man come over to verify it? Then you'll know for sure. Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • AdmiralYodaAdmiralYoda Member Posts: 79
    I'm in central MA. His name escapes me but there is a well known gentleman in Western MA.

    I may just live with it until I replace the boiler...its 30 years old at this point.
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,374

    I'm in central MA. His name escapes me but there is a well known gentleman in Western MA.

    I may just live with it until I replace the boiler...its 30 years old at this point.

    It's likely @Charlie from wmass It is better to find the leak (probably somewhere in boiler above the water line) and know what you are dealing with rather than have a full blown failure in the dead of winter.
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,116
    Likely to be 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
  • AdmiralYodaAdmiralYoda Member Posts: 79
    edited March 2017

    Likely to be me.

    Bingo! I've been planning to give you a ring at some point. My boiler is old and my header piping is all messed up. And I have no main vents.

    We've been burning wood mostly so the boiler hasnt really been an issue. But if for some reason I start using steam as my sole fule source.....I might be in for some issues.

    Just for the heck of it.....my steam setup and all its woes:
    forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/152380/check-out-my-steam-system-need-some-advice-pictures#latest
    Charlie from wmass
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,116
    Link does not work.
    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
  • AdmiralYodaAdmiralYoda Member Posts: 79

    Link does not work.

    Fixed it. Link should work now.
    Charlie from wmass
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,116
    I am currently living in Springfield so I am a nit closer. I will be in Leominster next week.
    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
  • MilanDMilanD Member Posts: 1,114
    edited March 2017
    You'd be surprised how much water a radiator vent that's not closing can let out аѕ ѕteam. Make that 6 rads, and this can happen.

    If you listen to what your boiler sounds like with your head by the draft hood or by the damper when it's making steam, and you can hear a hissing sound, like water running through the copper pipe when the faucet is on, you likely have a leak. A lot of make up water will do this to the boiler. Happened to me this winter.

    Flooding the boiler is not that difficult. Find a way to fill it with water past the main riser, and wait. If it drips below, you got it. Just don't do this on a hot boiler. After it's been off for a few hours should be fine, when it's ok to touch close to that riser.
  • AdmiralYodaAdmiralYoda Member Posts: 79
    As soon as heating season is over in another month or so I will take a deeper look. All of my vents are less than 10 years old and appear to be functioning correctly.

    One of the radiators has a hairline crack between the sections and hisses a bit when the system is at the upper end of its pressure range.

    Flooding the boiler is a piece of cake and I will do it after heating season. The only hard part is to figure out when the boiler is full so I don't go overboard and fill up my radiators too!
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,116
    If you have it slightly warm and you fill it with cold water you should be able to feel a temp change in the riser.
    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
    MilanD
  • AdmiralYodaAdmiralYoda Member Posts: 79

    If you have it slightly warm and you fill it with cold water you should be able to feel a temp change in the riser.

    Great idea! Thank you!
  • AdmiralYodaAdmiralYoda Member Posts: 79
    Well....the verdict is in. NO LEAK!!!!

    At the start of the heating season I removed the radiator that had a hairline crack on the bottom because I was remodeling that room. Capped and shut the valve.

    Well its been shut all winter and I've only added water maybe 3 times. And that was probably just from making up lost water from flushing the HWCO and sludge at the bottom.

    That one radiator was making me add water once or more per week! And by the way....very little water came out of the crack in the radiator. When I pulled up the carpet there wasn't even a water stain on the subfloor.

    Thanks for your help guys!
    Precaud
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,385
    It's really kind of astonishing how much water can be lost through a small leak. This is a good case in point -- thank you!
    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
    ethicalpaul
  • dabrakemandabrakeman Member Posts: 132
    I have seen ain a couple posts now the reference that if you see any steam emitting from your chimney that you should suspect a a upper boiler leak. Is this really true? On a cold day I have always seen steam coming from the chimney both with my old boiler and with the new one I got 6 years ago. Seems Admiral Yoda passed his flooded boiler test yet still has steam visible? Not sure whether there might be some other condensation source other than a leak from the closed water/steam system that could occur during system cooldown?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,385
    On a cooler day, with the dewpoint relatively high, you will almost always see some condensation as the flue gas escapes from the chimney or vent, except for condensing boilers operating in their well down in their condensing range. This is because all fuels produce some water as they burn -- natural gas the most, and on down from there. The question is... how much? Billows? You have a leak. Wisps? Most likely not. In between... judgement call, and not an easy one.
    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
    Hap_Hazzard
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,747
    As @Jamie Hall pointed out all gas equipment will condense coming out of the chimney if it is cold out.
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