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Steam boiler losing water

T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
edited January 11 in THE MAIN WALL
I have a single pipe steam system.
Everything had been working fine, no water loss.
Then a horizontal pipe about 6" x 1-1/4" adjacent to the boiler developed a pin hole leak.
I couldn't get my regular guy to replace, he was too busy.
I taped it with electrical tape. That worked. Boiler was not loosing any water.
Since I was going away for 2 weeks, I didn't want to risk it.
So I had another guy who I didn't know replace it.
He just drained the boiler from the low water shutoff.
He replaced the small piece of pipe. It took him about 15 minutes, he charged me $ ( his explanation travel time).
He was only alone for 2 minutes, while I ran upstairs to raise the thermostsat.
The pipe does NOT leak, but the boiler water level now mysteriously goes down.
This was NOT happening before even with the pipe taped.
Now I need to add water every 3 days or so.
I have checked everywhere and do NOT see any leaking water.
It just seems like an incredible coincidence that this problem developed immediately after the repair.
Any ideas?

Comments

  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 5,648
    Is there any other drain valves he might have tried to use?
    Perhaps one with a hose connected dripping into the floor drain.

    He may have tried to drain thru that and it was plugged and now shutting off completely.

    Pictures are always good.
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    No, he used the low water shutoff drain.
    Here is a photo.
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Member Posts: 4,108
    First the boiler looks ancient, so if it is now leaking I really wouldn't be surprised.

    Second, coincidence happens and that is possibly what you have here. That being said, do you have any underground returns? From what I see in the picture I am guessing no.

    A test you can do to see if the boiler is leaking is to shut it down let it cool for a while, then overfill to the top and see if water comes out under the boiler. If it does the boiler has a hole in it. If you get nothing, then it's time to start looking harder.

    If you do get a replacement, get a steam pro in, the person who installed that thing clearly is not.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    Thanks.
    My regular guy told me to look for chimney smoke.
    I did not see any smoke.
    Would filling the boiler to look for a crack, likely damage the boiler further if there is a small crack?
    I'm thinking I can make thru the winter adding every 3 days.
    Is draining the return line worth a shot?
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    Also no underground returns.
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Member Posts: 4,108
    Filling it wouldn't make things any worse, but the sooner you know, the sooner you can plan your next move. I would want to know ASAP so I can start figuring the budget if needed.

    We don't discuss price, but it isn't what I would call cheap.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    Is draining the return line worth a shot?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,383
    T_4 said:

    Is draining the return line worth a shot?

    Not really -- after all, you are looking for a leak, not a slowdown or block. However, it is worth looking at all the fittings that might have been disturbed during the work to see if you can see any sign of a leak. Particularly on pipes that are hot, it can be hard to see.
    Jamie



    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
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 5,715
    Love the low water cut off that they turned around the corner with a 90. That is a big no no but not contributing to the problem.

    Long Hartford loop nipple. Wonder if it hammers?
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19

    T_4 said:

    Is draining the return line worth a shot?

    Not really -- after all, you are looking for a leak, not a slowdown or block. However, it is worth looking at all the fittings that might have been disturbed during the work to see if you can see any sign of a leak. Particularly on pipes that are hot, it can be hard to see.
    Thanks that makes the most sense.
    However I don't see any water on the floor and haven't noticed
    any hissing around the fittings.
    The water has to be going somewhere, I'll keep looking.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,383
    That's the problem with small leaks. They won't make a puddle, generally -- and unless the pressure is really high -- they won't hiss or do anything helpful like that. Consider: if you are losing less than a gallon a day, that's less than a cup of water per hour. Boil a cup of water in the kitchen -- if it's a slow boil, you won't see any steam, you won't hear it usually... Dang things are hard to find.
    Jamie



    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
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    OK, then how do I find it?
  • SeanBeansSeanBeans Member Posts: 301
    @T_4
    If you have a friend with a FLIR gun, that may help
  • retiredguyretiredguy Member Posts: 6
    What is the operating steam pressure? Has it been changed recently? This is noy really part of an answer but I would have a boiler guy move the low water cut-off and gauge glass to a better place. (that piping could easily plug up)
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 5,648
    Did you flood the boiler above the water line...when cool?
    Overfill up to the piping only. Let sit for an hour or so.

    Can you see all of your piping in the basement, anything buried?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,383
    T_4 said:

    OK, then how do I find it?

    Danged if I know. But you might get lucky wrapping a piece of tissue paper around the various joints and valves -- that sometimes will get damp, but not hot enough to dry out. Sometimes...
    Jamie



    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
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    Any possibility the water loss could be due to a partially clogged return line. Perhaps when the boiler was drained for the repair,
    the drain got partially clogged.
  • FredFred Member Posts: 7,846
    T_4 said:

    Any possibility the water loss could be due to a partially clogged return line. Perhaps when the boiler was drained for the repair,
    the drain got partially clogged.

    If the return was clogged or slow, water would either slowly return to the boiler, between heating cycles and the boiler would be over filled with the water you are adding or, if fully clogged, it would back up into the main and cause a lot of hammer. You'd know the return was the problem.

    As much as you may not want to hear it, do as others have suggested. Let the boiler cool down and over fill it up to the riser,
    over the top of the boiler and see if water runs out onto the floor. If it does, you have a hole in the top of the boiler block and the boiler needs to be replaced. If no water runs out, start looking for smaller leaks at fittings, valve and vents. You can take a small mirror and hold it close to fittings, valves and vents while the boiler runs. If you see condensation on the mirror at any one of those locations, mark it a one that has a leak and move on to the next until you have checked them all.
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    Thanks appreciate the suggestion.
    However given that it's 15 outside, I'm reluctant to try overfilling
    the boiler at this point.
    I did find a small leak between the sections on a radiator in a remote room. I doubt this is the problem, but I'll try shutting this radiator off.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,383
    I'll bet that "small" leak is the problem, or at least a good bit of it. You'd be surprised how much water a small leak can dump over time.
    Jamie



    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
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 5,648
    The rad valve may not close 100% and steam may still seep inside. If so then condensate will build up in the rad.
    If this happens, you could open the valve to drain as needed and reclose.
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    That did not fix the problem, still losing water.
    That radiator is now ice cold, so I assume condensate is NOT
    building up in it.
  • FredFred Member Posts: 7,846
    There is likely a hole in the top of the boiler block. Do you see any steam coming out of the chimney when the boiler is running? I think the only way you are going to find where the water is going will be to over fill the boiler. I think you will see water spill onto the floor.
  • T_4T_4 Member Posts: 19
    Now that it's warmer, I got around to overfilling the boiler.
    Water coming out the bottom on the right side.
    As mentioned previously, problem started after plumber replaced the small piece of pipe pin hole leak. Coud it be
    pipe connection to boiler now leaking. Can i remove covers
    to see where leaking?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,383
    Indeed you can. The covers are usually pretty simple to remove, once you figure out what's holding them on.

    And it could well be that the connection is leaking. It shouldn't...
    Jamie



    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
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 693
    As soon as I touched my boiler piping, 1 pipe started leaking from a rotted place dammed up with rust, and I found 2 more pipes with paper thin walls. Hopefully you can fix it by fixing a joint, or replacing a couple pipes like I was able to.
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 10,383
    Don't be shy about replacing pipe. First place, I've never known a leak to get smaller with time. Second place, if there is one, there are likely to be others just waiting for a cold dark night.
    Jamie



    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
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