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Hoping against hope

My wet return is under my basement floor. After the condensate returns, the level in the sight glass gradually goes down, but stops just below the LWC line. Then, of course, the feeder kicks in. This usually takes about 2-4 heating cycles, and amounts to 3-6 gallons a day. My fear is have a leak under my floor. I'm guessing the water does not go lower in the glass due to the Hartford loop, and that the 3-6 gallons a day that go through the feeder are going somewhere else. The run under my floor is about 12 feet long, so wouldn't there be something (other than the water level) that would indicate that much water loss, such as a sagging in the (concrete over dirt) floor or foundation? It doesn't look like steam is going through the chimney, and there is a leak towards the end of the main in my crawl space (I can't imagine that much water escapes as steam through that leak). I probably can't afford to fix something like that and I'm worried my house will be destroyed. Also, the water in the boiler was pretty clear for a couple weeks when I turned the system on in September, but has become pretty dirty over the last few days.

Comments

  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Posts: 804Member
    It sounds very possible, but the expense may not be too bad—the line may be able to be rerun lying on the floor like many returns are. Photos?
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,882Member
    If it's warm enough, you can try this: turn the system off. Fill the boiler to a specific point above the Hartford Loop on the gauge glass and mark the level -- a spring clothes peg is kind of handy for that. Then watch it for a time. If the water goes down, you have a leak. Now. Lower the water level to below the Hartford Loop and repeat. If the water doesn't go down, the leak is in the wet return. If it still goes down, the leak is in the boiler (sob). If it doesn't go down in the first test, the leak is in the boiler above the water line, or out in the system somewhere -- but not in the wet return.

    If it is the wet return, which is highly likely, it shouldn't be that hard to replace -- if, as @ethicalpaul says, you can run the replacement line above the floor.
    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
  • ShalomShalom Posts: 122Member
    My grandfather did that, years back. Leak in the wet return, someone quoted him a few Gs to break the concrete and replace the pipe. He rented a Sawzall, and cut the pipes flush with the concrete, Then he hired a guy he knew from synagogue who worked part time as an assistant to a real plumber, measured out the replacement pipes and had a local supplier cut and thread them. Ran the pipes around the edge of the basement wall, covered them with a wooden enclosure so it looked like they belonged there, with this guy's help. It worked the first time he steamed it up, and cost him about 1/10 what the professionals would have charged.

    Only thing was, he didn't know that they grease the pipes when they cut them, and he didn't know about skimming (the boiler was as old as the house, which was built in 1928 more or less. Coal burner converted for oil in 1938, then for gas in 1973.) Result was, the smell of the grease boiling off came out the vents and the house was uninhabitable for 3 days, Still remember hin unscrewing the air vents and pouring vinegar down the holes into the radiators to try and cut the smell a bit.
  • subaru400subaru400 Posts: 16Member
    I like the idea of possibly moving the wet return above ground, and sorry for being so naive, but the closest 'steam guy' has to travel quite a ways to me, which obviously us the cost. The quote for the 22" section in my crawl where the other leak is is almost a grand. Isn't installing new pipe something that can be done by a regular plumber?
  • ratioratio Posts: 2,074Member
    Youo may be able to locate the leak with an infrared camera of some type—they're getting cheap enough to purchase for a single intention like this.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,882Member
    edited October 10
    subaru400 said:

    I like the idea of possibly moving the wet return above ground, and sorry for being so naive, but the closest 'steam guy' has to travel quite a ways to me, which obviously us the cost. The quote for the 22" section in my crawl where the other leak is is almost a grand. Isn't installing new pipe something that can be done by a regular plumber?

    Fortunately wet returns aren't that hard, and yes a regular plumber -- so long as he doesn't mind threading pipe -- can do the job perfectly well. Just remember to keep the new pipe always below the boiler water line, and you can route it pretty much where you want to go.

    It's nice to provide T's at the two ends (bet they're not there now!) since that will make it easier to flush it out if you ever need to.

    Furthermore, if the person you get has problems with threading pipe, keep in mind that a wet return can be done in copper, so long as it is big enough (inch and a half, probably) but NOT in plastic of any kind.
    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
  • tkos115tkos115 Posts: 41Member
    If it's in the boiler such as a heat exchanger that's cracked you might be burning it off. My guess is that if it's that bad you would be able to see a lot of steam coming out of your chimney once it was running for a few minuets. That would at least tell you if the heat exchanger was cracked and the water was being steamed up into the chimney.
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