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Battery Backup Steam Boiler

C_ConradC_Conrad Posts: 1Member
Been reading and following this page since I bought my new house a year ago. Never had steam heat and found great resources here. Been reading Lost art of steam and it's companion to learn more. Have been using what I read to help myself understand and gear my questions to the service techs who arrive. Who also was linked with this site.

Again thanks.

My question, which my tech said he never had experienced before is.

We had a brown out the other day. I was home to experience it for the first time. Lived in this area 15 years first time I been through one. My battery backup on my computer and to alarmed throughout that power inadequate. My GFCi that had a trip alarms were all alarming due to lack of power. All lights dim.

The issue was my boiler automatic water fill was running and adding water to boiler. To a point that the boiler was full. I turned off the line to the boiler and the relay and such kept making the noise as it was calling for water. But at least the boiler was not receiving any more water. Instantly called to schedule a tech for that day. Drained 5 gallons out of boiler which took me back into upper level of sight glass.

Before tech arrives. Power goes full out for an hour and back on full power. Reset the gfci's, checked the battery backups all good. Thermostat called for heat, boiler fired up ran fine. Did not call for more water.

Tech arrives we discuss issue. His belief if that with the Brown out. The eye in the automatic feed, wasn't receiving enough power to read the boiler had water, which caused it to keep calling for water. When power restored it had enough power to read the water level. I asked if I didn't turn off water is there an over flow or drain. He mentioned , No, my system could of filled the radiators til it found a path of resistance to leak from.

My system is a two-pipe system.

So I asked what I can do. He didn't really direct. So. After he left. I thought of some type of battery backup for the boiler would probably be a good idea.

Has anyone else experienced similar. Any remedy, besides going full house backup generator.

Sorry about long winded post. Will continue reading posts.

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,271Member
    Power on or power off isn't usually an issue. But a brown out or partial power is. I think your tech is correct about the cause of your feed water issue.

    If your boiler is oil it needs more power than a gas boiler which doesn't need much. Oil would need 120 volt power for sure. A gas boiler may need 120 volt but most are probably 24 volt ac.

    Depends what you have
  • pecmsgpecmsg Posts: 626Member
    I a little confused.................

    What GFIC's had to be reset and why?
    how the auto feed called on a brown out unless a neutral was lost and High Voltage was distributed to the 110 circuits?
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 720Member
    edited March 16
    They make low/high voltage shut off sensor/relays. Shuts off power if it's not near ~ 115 VAC. Power fill sensor off that.

    No experience, but seems someone should sell a better designed water level sensor that's "missing" that failure mode. Seems to be easy to design, just have to inhibit relay coil power if voltage is not in a reasonable range, or if lamp burns out.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,014Member
    Brown outs are a real problem (and not just for oil fired steam -- gas fired with a power burner, hot water with pumps...). Black outs not so much -- the burner will just stop, and if the automatic feeder should happen to be feeding, it will snap closed and it's all good. But brown outs... different story. It depends so much on the particular electronics which are involved, as various circuit designs will fail in any number of ways when fed low voltage It sounds as though the combination of your automatic feeder and your automatic feeder trigger electronics was such that there was still enough voltage to keep the feeder open, but not enough for the low level electronics to switch state to shut.

    Honestly, could have been much worse: if the burner motor was running, it could have been overheated and damaged by trying to run on low voltage.

    What can be done about it? As you imply, an automatic start backup generator is the ideal solution for any long term possibilities -- brown or black. It's also expensive, and may not be needed much. An uninterruptible power supply, such as is used for computers, will also work -- but if it is feeding burners or blowers or pumps it won't operate long. Then the question is -- do you need it to operate long? If not, it would not be that hard to wire in a relay which, in the event of a loss in voltage (brown out or blackout) would open and lock out until manually reset -- essentially converting a brown out into a black out as far as the boiler and its accessories was concerned.

    Interesting problem. Regrettably, I expect it will become more common...
    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
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 720Member
    edited March 16
    Here in NH we've only had black outs. But when I was in Conn, we had 6+ hour brown out once.

    The low/high shut off sensor/relay can do full amps ( ~ 15-20), so can protect your whole furnace with it.

    During Arab oil embargo of 1972 utility here reduced voltage to ~ 105VAC during day to save oil. Result was many pumps in refrigerators overheated and died from drawing extra amps on low voltage. Was a class action lawsuit, utility had to buy it's customers new refrigerators.
  • ratioratio Posts: 1,881Member
    What you're looking for is commonly called a phase loss relay. They will open a contact when the voltage drops below a(n often programmable) set point. TBH I would expect nearly any modern (μController operated) equipment to have this functionality built-in.
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Posts: 2,588Member
    My computer(s) can take a wide variety of input voltage -- from around 90v to 135v or something like that. And they are powered from APC Smart-UPS units. These switch from the power company to the battery backup if the line voltage goes below 95v or over 132v; they also switch if the waveform gets too ugly.

    But I did not put my WM Ultra 3 on a UPS because once the power went out for 6 1/2 days (after storm Sandy) and at other times for quite a number of hours. Instead, I put in a 12-14 KW natural gas fueled backup generator from Kohler.

    http://www.kohlerpower.com/home/home-generators/products?prodNum=14RESAL

    If the line voltage gets too low, it switches on. It can run as long as the gas company does its duty. If it does not, I could not run my boiler anyway.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,014Member
    Bottom line, @C_Conrad -- There are a number of ways to do what you want to do. To select the correct one, first define the load. Second, decide how long you need it to run for. Third, pick the type of device you want to use (generator, UPS,, ?). Fourth, pick a unit in the that device class which will accomplish running the load (step one) for the time desired (step two).

    Last of all, wire it in to your system according to code.
    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
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,399Member
    I agree with all the above. Brown outs have burnt up a lot of equipment that I've changed. A line phase monitor is the best solution, which just turns a brownout into a black out!
    Master electrician specialising in boiler and burner controls, multiple fuel systems, radiant system controls, building controls, and universal refrigeration tech.
  • SeanBeansSeanBeans Posts: 239Member
    Denver just had a “bomb-cyclone blizzard”.

    I think that name was a bit much, but the storm really was insane.

    Anyway; transformers, boards, and gas valves were burnt up everywhere.

    I went to one house; this guy would plug in a space heater and when he pressed the power button, the furnace blower kicked on. The kitchen lights flickered on and off, the computer turned on and the radio started playing.


    I opened up the federal pacific panel and was getting 15 volts out of some breakers and others my meter was reading 1000-3000.

    I was dumbfounded and told him he needed an electrican 8(
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,399Member
    Federal Pacific Energy....get that outta there! Fire waiting to happen.

    Sounds like it could be a bad neutral, but with an FPE panel....that panel could be the problem.
    Master electrician specialising in boiler and burner controls, multiple fuel systems, radiant system controls, building controls, and universal refrigeration tech.
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 720Member
    edited March 20
    IF 1000-3000 volts between hot and neutral is real , sounds like a medium voltage utility wire on the street fell and made contact with the 120V hot.

    With voltages like that if there's a short on load side of breaker and breaker tries to open it might not be able to stop the internal arc

    Also lost neutral if hot to neutral voltages change as load changes
  • SeanBeansSeanBeans Posts: 239Member
    XCel energy called and said that the power was going to be back to normal later that night.. it went back to normal; but everything on the furnace was fried!

    One of the worst crawlspaces I’ve been in as well, smh.

    we called them Fire Starters in Jersey
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,513Member
    SeanBeans said:

    XCel energy called and said that the power was going to be back to normal later that night.. it went back to normal; but everything on the furnace was fried!



    One of the worst crawlspaces I’ve been in as well, smh.



    we called them Fire Starters in Jersey

    They call them Fire Starters everywhere in the world, not just Jersey. ;)
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,399Member
    Crawlspacees.... are for crawling, not for equipment! They are not called equipment spaces are they?
    Master electrician specialising in boiler and burner controls, multiple fuel systems, radiant system controls, building controls, and universal refrigeration tech.
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 720Member
    If utility sent you 1000+ V on a 120 line then send them a bill for repairs. They are liable.
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