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Smith steam boiler sections got loose

Henry Member Posts: 996
I have been installing cast iron steam boilers for over 40 years. But this install has me stumped. We assemble for others Smith boilers and are recommended by the distributor. Once in a while the contractor does not follow the instructions for the near boiler piping. A leak usually occurs on the top right ports as the header tries to pull the sections apart. In 2016 we assembled a 19 in a church. Of course the contractor did not follow the manual for the header configuration or even the boiler feed. They piped the boiler feed into the second section. We rebuilt the boiler and gave the outfit copies of near boiler piping in 2017. I was there with our guys making sure that all was torqued as per Smith. Once the season ended in late April, the boiler sprung leaks from the left lower ports. At last Friday's meeting, I noticed that the sections have moved 1/8 or so. The burner guy said that the rods were loose. What would cause the rods to become loose? I would think that perhaps there was water hammer in the boiler or thermal shock. The glass gauge was rusty which is unusual for a heating boiler. What do you say?


  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,718
    Was the burner flame pattern correct, i.e. not impinging on the cast-iron, and not concentrated in just the front of the boiler?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    When you assembled the boiler, did you put the sheet metal outer covers on?
    Maybe the piping contractor loosened the rods connecting the sections in an effort to connect his improper piping.—NBC
  • GBart
    GBart Member Posts: 746
    Sounds like it's time for factory intervention. The final torque is minimal, I've seen rods loosen over time, but if they are having surging or low condensate return rate and the make up water is coming in to the middle of the boiler????? I would think the warranty is void.
  • GBart
    GBart Member Posts: 746

    page 5, table 3 for reference, sounds like you did everything right, if they piped it wrong it's on them, this is why the factory makes manuals and instructions

  • Henry
    Henry Member Posts: 996
    Looking into the combustion chamber, shows everything even on the sections. We have seen misaligned burners before causing section failures on hot water Smith boilers. The contractor did modify his piping after the first leaks which were the usual right side. He installed two 90s on each outlet. He also corrected the boiler feed into the equaliser. I was there personally when we reassembled the boiler. I called out the torque sequence to make sure. Could it be that the water softener is letting salt into the water causing foaming and surging?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,897
    Quite aside from the loose tie rods -- water softeners do add salt, and even if you didn't get foaming or surging, you will get increased corrosion. Unless the water is really really hard, or some of this is process steam and lost so you are adding a fair amount of feed, softened water does more harm than good. If you have to add a lot for some reason, and the water is hard, see if you can use reverse osmosis for your feed instead.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • GBart
    GBart Member Posts: 746
    Agreed and not sure what's there for a feed but one with a meter to tell how many gallons are going in, either way, you don't a lot of make up water going in. I've also seen water softener systems screw up and add a layer inside that basically blocks the transfer of heat and that will snap a block, you should be able to see it inside a failed block.
  • Henry
    Henry Member Posts: 996
    edited June 2018
    I think that the boiler water got somewhat contaminated and a film formed at the waterline. It could prevent evaporation and now release large bubbles of steam.