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Low water level

New homeowner - not sure exactly what things are called or how they work but here is my problem.
We are renovating a house and do not live here currently.
My dad noticed there was no water in the little glass vial (which I know should be half to three quarters full) - he manually added more water in (enough to rise the water level 2 inches in the vial) He said the steam radiator in a back bathroom was rattling and making a lot of noise which was what prompted him to go downstairs. After he added more water the water level in the vial fluctuated - the number on the black box (automatic water feeder system I think) stayed at 41. Now a few hours later, the vial is halfway full. I drained some water (like I was shown ..to ‘flush’ the system so the dirt and stuff doesn’t build up) and the water system has not kicked in.

These are pictures of everything in the basement. Trying to figure out what is going on and if this is normal or we need a pro. Thanks!


  • cricci
    cricci Member Posts: 5
    Update: drained more water -then the system came on and all water from glass vial dropped to the bottom - the yellow light on the low water cut off box came on - the water level in the glass vial is fluctuating between 1 - 3 inches of water in the vial.

    I don’t see any leaks in the basement - or anywhere else in the house.
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,943
    I'm not well versed in steam boiler repair, I'm sure someone else will have a better idea. I have seen that low water cut off referred to as the psycho- guard because they are known to malfunction. That pipe shouldn't be copper either, but that's not your problem. How comfortable are you with working with/on electronic equipment? Someone might need to check it with a voltmeter.
  • cricci
    cricci Member Posts: 5
    I’ve always left electricity/natural gas related items to the pros so I would say not comfortable.
    If anyone can suggest someone in/around Bogota, NJ (Bergen county) I would appreciate it!
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    How old is the boiler? It needs to be skimmed to remove the oils from the surface of the water. When those oils lay on the surface of the water, it prevents steam bubbles from breaking through the surface and that in turn pushes water out into the wet returns, until the boiler burner stops, then the water returns to the boiler. The amount of bounce in the water level that you see in the sight glass is a clear indicator of the need for skimming.
    It looks like you have a tee, with a plug on the end of the tee, where your pressure relief valve is mounted. You can use that as a skim port. Search on this site for "Skimming and there should be several sets of instructions on how to do it. Draining the boiler will not fix the problem. It must be skimmed, slowly.
    One other note, You have a Cyclegard Low water Cut off on that boiler. It, by design will shut the boiler down several times during a heating cycle to check the water level. We call it a psychogard. Most replace that unit with a Safegard which does nor shut the boiler down. That Cyclegard may be the reason your boiler didn't start up when you added water. It keeps the boiler shut down for a few minutes and you may have been in one of it "psychos".
  • cricci
    cricci Member Posts: 5
    Fred - thank you for the information. Looking into this skimming and will report back! If I’m understanding correctly - this explains the low water level and just about everything.

    Boiler was installed Feb 2018 by previous owner. We purchased in Dec 2018 and had no problems (that we know of at least). We keep the thermostat set between 65-68 since we don’t live in the house.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,834

    Check "find a contractor" on this site. I think there are some of the best in NJ.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 21,555
    edited February 2019


    Check "find a contractor" on this site. I think there are some of the best in NJ.

    There are. Try @EzzyT.

    In the meantime, the boiler water level should be about half way up that sight glass, and with it there the boiler should run. The green light on the Cyclegard may be lit -- but the yellow one should not be.

    If the boiler doesn't run, there's more going on...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,269
    @cricci you can private message me or call me at 201-887-8856
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,410
    I agree skimming is the first order of business, to bad they ran the equalizer piping right in front of the skim port plug, the plug off the PRV will work but it will be slow because of the small pipe size. That boiler pressure is too high, it should be no more than 2PSI. That pressuretrol is set at 5PSI

    Get @EzzyT to take a good look at that boiler installation. It was done with some idea of doing it right but the reducer on the boiler output port is not right and the copper going up to the steam main will leak in time.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,431
    1 year old and the water meter is showing 41 gallons. You have a leak somewhere that needs to be addressed for sure.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • cricci
    cricci Member Posts: 5
    @KC_Jones there were a few radiators that had steam coming out of the valves when we bought it (I think it was the air release valves) and we had the valves replaced and the guy also re-did the connections on some of the radiators he said were leaking (the pipe coming out of the floor into the radiator). Since then we have not seen any steam coming out of any of them.

    I didn’t know that number was measuring ‘replacement water’ ...I’m trying to see if I can find a picture of it from earlier to see if that number has gone up since those replacements went in.

    Thank you to all who are commenting and educating me on this and providing your insight!
  • Ying
    Ying Member Posts: 58
    edited February 2019
    Skimming through the PRV should be easy for you by removing the plug and attaching more pipe or hose to get space clearance if need. Just make sure that the pipes are clear when you remove that plug so that oil can flow out on a larger opening.
    I had to skimming very fast one time to flush out some clogs on the PRV pipes then slow skim 3 times, for about 2 hours each every other day, to see significant improvements on my boiler.