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4 yr old cracked block

cinder
cinder Member Posts: 8
Last week our oil company service sent technicians out to install two Pigtails and an expansion tank on our 4 year old Dunkirk Steam boiler. I had forgotten they were coming and so I had not turned the boiler off. They completed the work in about a half hour and then left. The boiler seemed to be working okay as it has been all along. However toward evening the house began to get cold. We keep the heat down in our bedroom where we were in the evening and of course at night but in the middle of the night when I got up I felt it was very cold in the hallway and I was sure the boiler had gone off. I went downstairs to the basement and heard water rushing and came to see water was flowing out of the boiler and the boiler was off. Of course I called the oil company service and our regular plumber as well. Our regular plumber was dumbfounded, and said somehow freshwater must have gotten into the system while it was hot. I wondered if that had happened in the morning because the guys had completed the work so fast the boiler was hot when they did the work. Undoubtedly they turned it off for a short time while they were working but then turned it back on. Obviously I am no expert at all , I am just a homeowner trying to keep my house warm. The oil company service manager of course denies that his guys did anything that could have caused the boiler block to split. It is completely ruined and we are having a new boiler installed. This is a pretty devastating expense as it is something we certainly were not prepared for and the boiler had worked so well all this time. I am wondering if anyone has any ideas about what could have happened. The service manager came to inspect the boiler and found other little things here and there that he said were wrong but he had nothing that explain the cracked block. When my husband asked him what had caused the crack he said "Steam." Our regular plumber is a man of few words but he did seem pretty disgusted and commented that he didn't think these guys knew what they were doing. He insists it was fresh or cold water entering the hot system which caused the crack. To me that is common kitchen sense. We are thinking about taking them to court but of course as I said they are denying they had anything to do with the cracked block. I asked the service manager to write up his findings as he said he was going to and send them to me along with the pictures he took but so far I have nothing from him. Does anyone here have any suggestions or thoughts on this?

Comments

  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,172
    edited January 2019
    First of all, why would they be putting an expansion tank on a steam boiler, expansion tanks are for Hot water boilers. Do you have a picture of the work they'd done? It almost sounds to me like someone made a mistake and maybe put a water feeder and an expansion tank on the boiler.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
    Gordydelta TSuperTech
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,282
    @Dave0176 , maybe a hot water zone off it.

    If the old boiler is still there I would take plenty of pictures. Then I would try and get Dunkirk rep over there. before anything is disturbed. I realize it's cold out...maybe you can't do that. It may do no good but is worth a try. Document everything

    I think you plumber may be correct. Pretty hard to ruin a 4 year old boiler. I would be upset if it was mine.

    They could have put too much cold water into a hot boiler

    Of course the oil company will deny everything.

    I would go after them
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,948
    If they put 2 pigtails on the steam boiler, they would not have to drain it.
    Assuming the expansion tank was for domestic hot water, that would probably not require the boiler to be drained.
    Pictures of the boiler and their work and where it is leaking could tell a lot.
    cinder
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,172

    @Dave0176 , maybe a hot water zone off it.

    If the old boiler is still there I would take plenty of pictures. Then I would try and get Dunkirk rep over there. before anything is disturbed. I realize it's cold out...maybe you can't do that. It may do no good but is worth a try. Document everything

    I think you plumber may be correct. Pretty hard to ruin a 4 year old boiler. I would be upset if it was mine.

    They could have put too much cold water into a hot boiler

    Of course the oil company will deny everything.

    I would go after them

    Yeah your right , however if its a domestic coil maybe it ruptured and added a ton of cold water.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
    cinder
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,948
    Coil would be only 4 years old also?
    cinder
  • cinder
    cinder Member Posts: 8
    Thank you all for your comments. I don't know half this stuff. We were so shocked that we would need a new boiler that I failed to take pictures--though to the naked eye everything looked fine, as it's still a shiny new boiler, just water pouring out! i didn't open it up. The oil company guy came last Friday he said to do "his inspection." He took it apart and took a ton of pictures. He promised to send me the pictures plus a narrative of what he thinks isn't right. but he hasn't done that. My regular plumber took the Dunkirk out yesterday,and is installing another. It's freezing cold, so we need heat! My plumber insists "fresh"/cold water hit the hot block. He also thought it was ridiculous to install the expansion tank, which he said could have put too much pressure on the coil. The oil company said it was necessary to "be in compliance" in NYC.
  • Jellis
    Jellis Member Posts: 227
    If the expansion tank was for your domestic hot water, than an expansion tank would help reduce the pressure in the system.
    The pressure increases as the water in the coil is heated, the tank allows the pressure to enter the expansion tank and not create excess pressure in the pipes.
    cinderSuperTech
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Call your insurance company and see if they will offer any assistance working towards a resolution with the Oil Service company. They may be willing so send a letter from their attorney asking for a full report and explanation for the catastrophic failure on a relatively new boiler, hours (maybe minutes) after they serviced it. Hopefully your Plumber still has the failed boiler and can set it aside so that the Mfg's Representative can also inspect it and make his own assessment of why it failed. If he still has the boiler, take as many pictures as possible of the area where the failure occurred. It is also possible the MFG may provide a new boiler block or at least a new section and that boiler can be sold helping to defray some of the replacement costs, or if the new replacement unit is the same Brand, maybe the MFG. will give you some credit towards the new boiler if, for no other reason than a "Good Will" gesture.
    Grallertcinder
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 3,820
    I can only think they dry fired it and added water to it after they realized it was empty... IDK.... Sorry for the mess.
    cinderSuperTech
  • cinder
    cinder Member Posts: 8
    My regular plumber is installing [same model] the new boiler, and he's taking the busted one back to the manufacturer. But he told my husband today that he discovered the pipe to which they had attached the two pigtails was clogged and he thinks that caused the problem. I will get clarification on that tomorrow because neither my husband nor I really know how any of this works so I might possibly be mis-stating his diagnosis. Thank you all again. This is a wonderful site!
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    @cinder Let us know how this turns out!
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,282
    Maybe the low water cutoff didn't work or was plugged.
  • cinder
    cinder Member Posts: 8
    This is what the oil company inspector wrote: " The boiler was equipped with 2 probe style low water cut-offs. One a manual reset style. Neither cut-off shut the boiler off in the instance of low water.... . My inspection revealed that the primary low cut-off did not shut the boiler down as it was supposed to for whatever reason. The manual reset cut-off which was wired to interrupt the limit circuit did break the power when tested. However, the probe of this cutoff was mounted 4 -1/2" below the minimal permissible water line. After removing the jacket, the probe was also piped into an extension coupling which did not allow the probe to be fully immersed in water. This was done at the initial installation of the boiler. The location of where the reset cutoff was mounted was in a location the manufacturer of the boiler has reserved for an indirect water heater."
    Now, we DO have an indirect water heater--his last sentence seems to imply we do not, though, I don't really know if that was what he meant, or if it matters..
    But he says the "primary low cut-off did not shut the boiler down 'for whatever reason.'" According to my plumber, who removed the broken boiler and installed the new one, the cut-off did not occur because the line to which the pigtails were attached was clogged. My plumber says the guys (from the oil co) who installed these pigtails should definitely have checked that. Again, this is all pretty much Greek to me, but is any of this making sense? I do get that if the probe did not reach far enough into the water, that would indeed be a problem. ( my plumber didn't comment on that and though I gave him this report I've not heard back). Still, nothing like this ever happened before. Could the clogged line have caused this fiasco?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,948
    If I walk into a boiler room and just turn the lights on to look at the water line, I feel obligated to test the LWCO's that are installed, especially if it is a blow down type.
    And if any work was done to the control/safety circuit then I feel absolutely required to test all safety controls possible. I make a note of it on any invoice for the building.
    I would guess that anyone else would do this just to insure safety and avoid liability.

    A picture of the primary LWCO location and these 2 pigtails would be interesting. Often if a pigtail is plugged then the fittings that it is connected to are usually due to have an inspection/cleaning. IMO
    cinderSuperTech
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,065
    "They did it". This is a can of worms. As often is the case, there would appear to have been multiple errors, no one of which would have caused the problem -- but in combination, the problem occurred. Trying to prove which error was the error is almost hopeless -- and a lawyer's field day.

    All of it does make sense -- take any one thing out of the chain, and the block would probably be fine. Assigning responsibility for it...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kcopp
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    edited February 2019
    confused by a few things.. "the pigtail was plugged" wasnt the pigtail new? The lwco wasnt fully immersed in water... so it would fail to detect water and shut off if properly wired? I know it may have been 4" below minimal water level, but were you adding a lot of water to the system? Had someone maybe shut the water supply off to the boiler? If they were there in the morning, and worked on the system I would assume they reset the water level. Had you been losing a lot of water? Did you have a water meter on the system? Did you check the boiler after the work was completed? Do you ever? Btw, I'm of the mindset, you work on a system you verify all safeties are functioning properly! That's my job..
    JUGHNEcinder
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,397
    Pig tails should have nothing todo with low water. Agreed, anytime you touch a steamer,test controls and safeties. Even if pig tail blocked, relief should protect vessel, I would lean towards thermal shock but if they only replace operating and high limits they would not drain.
    cinder
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    I'm lost too. Why did they use two Pigtails and what did they put them on? Pigtails are typically used to protect a control, like a Pressuretrol or a gauge from steam temps. The original installation of the boiler should have had a pigtail(s) on those devices. Was other equipment being installed that required additional pigtails? If, what? In any case, pigtails are not used on Low Water Cut-Offs and typically a clogged pigtail may prevent a Pressuretrol from functioning but if the boiler ran for so long and pressure built up, the Pressure Relief valve should have blown at 15 PSI. On a 4 year old boiler, it doesn't seem reasonable that that would have cracked the block. Is anyone saying the PRV also failed?
    It still seems like the most likely cause would be cold water added to a hot block. Whether that was done manually or by a delayed auto feeder is the unknown. If the primary LWCO failed and the probe for the manual LWCO was 4.5" below the minimum acceptable water level, and that manual reset was also wired to the auto water feeder (which I don't think it should be as that is what makes it a "manual reset), then I suppose the addition of cold water could have cracked the block.
    cinderSuperTech
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,282
    If a cutoff is installed on an extension coupling debris collecting in the coupling/nipple may prevent the water from draining during a low water condition so that control wouldn't cut the burner off, but the first cutoff should have worked

    That's one thing I dislike about the probe controls. I feel thy are safer but testing is problimatic
    cinder
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,948
    IIRC, some pigtails are screwed into the side of the top port of a float type LWCO. If they replaced that pigtail and the LWCO was sludged up as the pigtail was that LWCO might not have functioned.
    cinder
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,107
    Two properly installed and correctly wired LWCO’s failing is nearly impossible. “ Nearly impossible” because you should test them regularly during the heating season and clean them annually. This suggests that it is not impossible for two to fail.

    My state inspector tests our vertical probe type LWCO at work (granted, high pressure steam but same safety) by firing burner while draining boiler. Burner MUST extinguish and lockout while there is water still in sight glass.

    It is a great but difficult test to pass. If the probe is just a 1/8” too long, you fail. If it is a 1/8” too short, you pass all the time , but suffer nuisance shutdowns during high demand. It has to be just the right length.

    These safeties have to be tested routinely and certainly after any work is performed. Most importantly, it has to be documented. If you had this much, the oil co would be paying.

    your plumber should test and document the results of new boiler and you should test and document results monthly.


    cinder
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,065
    I would agree that the proximate cause of the cracked block was cold water added to hot iron because the water was low and the boiler essentially dry fired. That, however, is not the entire causal chain -- and every link in it must be considered and corrected.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    cinder
  • cinder
    cinder Member Posts: 8
    I am going to send a picture of the pigtail installations. There WAS one pigtail installed initially. The Fuel company said that to keep in accordance with NYC code it needed two more. My plumber didn't agree but he installed them again on the new boiler, because they (fuel co) have to reinspect and report to the DOB. My plumber is also convinced it was cold water hitting the hot iron that cracked the block. Your comments have helped me tremendously in dealing with the fuel company.What surprised me initially after their inspection was 1) that they reported the inspection as taking place Dec. 21 instead of when it actually took place, November 2. They explained that they had to use that date because they had reported the "missing pigtails" as violations needing to be corrected, and the DOB gives them only 45 days--and since they were, I expect, behind, they changed the date. 2) I thought they should have told me about the "violations" before reporting it to the buildings dept. I thought I should have a right to a second opinion, and also who I get the correct these "violations." The fellow they sent Nov 2 to do the inspection had told me everything was OK and that the office would be in touch. At any rate, I plan to send pictures tomorrow.
    Thank you all again.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,107
    I'd call the DOB and ask for a copy of the violation.

    Trust but verify.

    delta Tkcopp
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    I'm interested in seeing those pictures. I can't imagine needing more than one pigtail but Maybe two if they want something separated, like a primary Pressuretrol and a manual reset Pressuretrol. More than two ????
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,838
    edited February 2019
    Needless to say, you do not want that oil company touching your system again. Tell us where you are located and we might know someone who actually knows what they're doing.

    If it was me and they showed up at my house, I'd have them arrested for trespassing.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ethicalpaulcinder
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,324
    Steamhead said:

    Needless to say, you do not want that oil company touching your system again. Tell us where you are located and we might know someone who actually knows what they're doing.

    If it was me and they showed up at my house, I'd have them arrested for trespassing.

    The oil companies are in the same boat were in...................
    Zero too No Skilled Workers, and it going to get worse before it gets better!
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,107
    It is not just your industry.
  • cinder
    cinder Member Posts: 8
    I'm hoping these pictures showw the 3 pigtails. My plumber put them back in the same place because the company told me it will not pass inspection without them. We are in Manhattan in New York City, Upper Manhattan. It's very difficult to get boiler inspectors and you really never know it seams if they are telling you the truth from what I've heard many people say. My regular plumber who no longer does boiler inspection says these guys don't know what they're doing. He is also an older guy though incredibly busy so it isn't always possible to get him when you need him. We have a contract with this particular fuel company which includes service but of course we can get anyone we want for service if we are willing to pay for it which at this point I am! However I just found out as a NYSUT member I can get a much better deal for both fuel and service.
  • Is one of those pressuretrols not level? If it is the older mercury bulb type, the level, and the pigtail orientation are very important to maintaining a constant low pressure. The copper pigtails should be at right angles to the front face of the device.
    Ironically the pigtails sit on the manufacturer’s own version of a master pigtail, which provides the needed waterseal between the steam, and the pressuretrol, so you have two waterseals!
    All of these should be cleaned out yearly, so the pressure can be properly felt by the control. A good low pressure gauge,(0-3 psi) would enable you to verify the true pressure in ounces.—NBC
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,107
    It looks to me that one pressuretrol (left)is used to control burner on/off between two pressure set points And the other pressuretrol looks to be used as a pressure limit switch that would kill the burner and lock it out if pressure reaches a certain point because the left one failed or you have a runaway burner.

    If this is the case, you have pressure safety redundancy. Nothing wrong with that if you can test it. Not easy to test if you operate in the less than 2psi range.

    I don't know if it is code for low pressure boilers in NYC. It is code for high pressure steam.

    I have seen residential steam boilers in NYC that have only the pressuretrol. My boiler in NC only has a pressuretrol. None of this has anything to do with low water cutoff safeties.

    And, NBC is right about the orientation of left pigtail. Just good maintenance practice.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,827
    cinder said:

    This is what the oil company inspector wrote: " The boiler was equipped with 2 probe style low water cut-offs. One a manual reset style. Neither cut-off shut the boiler off in the instance of low water.... . My inspection revealed that the primary low cut-off did not shut the boiler down as it was supposed to for whatever reason. The manual reset cut-off which was wired to interrupt the limit circuit did break the power when tested. However, the probe of this cutoff was mounted 4 -1/2" below the minimal permissible water line. After removing the jacket, the probe was also piped into an extension coupling which did not allow the probe to be fully immersed in water. This was done at the initial installation of the boiler. The location of where the reset cutoff was mounted was in a location the manufacturer of the boiler has reserved for an indirect water heater."
    Now, we DO have an indirect water heater--his last sentence seems to imply we do not, though, I don't really know if that was what he meant, or if it matters..
    But he says the "primary low cut-off did not shut the boiler down 'for whatever reason.'" According to my plumber, who removed the broken boiler and installed the new one, the cut-off did not occur because the line to which the pigtails were attached was clogged. My plumber says the guys (from the oil co) who installed these pigtails should definitely have checked that. Again, this is all pretty much Greek to me, but is any of this making sense? I do get that if the probe did not reach far enough into the water, that would indeed be a problem. ( my plumber didn't comment on that and though I gave him this report I've not heard back). Still, nothing like this ever happened before. Could the clogged line have caused this fiasco?

    What I am confused about is he is talking about low water cutoffs and then the plumber mentions pigtails. Pigtails are for the pressure safety and are what you pictured. The low water cut off is a box mounted on the side of the boiler and is just barely visible in your second picture (bottom left).

    Someone is confused here.

    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    SlamDunk
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    edited February 2019
    First off, adding those pigtails would not have required the boiler be drained so something else occurred to cause the boiler to crack.
    Secondly, they could have gotten by with two pigtails, one for the Gray Pressuretrol and a tee on it for the gauge and the other pigtail for the second Pressuretrol.
    Third, the way they did this install probably wouldn't pass inspection either. They have both the Pressuretrol and the Manual Reset on the same boiler tapping. If that manifold gets clogged, both Pressuretrols will fail. The primary Pressuretrol and the manual Reset should be on separate boiler tappings.
    Finally, I see the Primary Pressuretrol is set at abour 3 PSI, Cut-In. It should be set at .5 PSI and the Differential, inside the Pressuretrol should be set at "1".
    It also looks like there is no drain pipe that drops to a couple inches above the floor for you Pressure Relief Valve. That would not pass inspection either. It seems to me that these guys were more about making a few bucks than ensuring the boiler passed inspection.
    cinderSlamDunk