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steam boiler system questions for beginner

I am completely new to steam boiler heating & live in Southern Virginia in a home built in 1910. I believe the boiler is from the 1940s - 1950s.

I have already had 1 company come to my house to service the system, but they really didn’t do anything to service it. I have lots of questions, and some of them I have found answers to through other posts on this site, but I would appreciate any help in becoming more versed in my system before calling another company to come back out to help me.

My first question is about all of these 3 blue water valves. I know at least 1 of them is supposed to be to allow water into the boiler, but I am unclear on the other 2 valves’ purpose. The one that is labeled water for furnace is fairly clear as to what it is for, but the bottom blue one looks like it has a pressure release that the other 2 don’t have. Finally, the top valve doesn’t seem to be letting water into the system as much as letting water out. Once we clear up these questions, I will come back with some additional questions about the rest of the system as a whole.


    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    Can you back up for a picture that shows all the piping on that side of the boiler. It would be easier to trace out. Floor to ceiling please.
  • nmwitkowski
    nmwitkowski Member Posts: 3
    edited October 2019
    Here is the photo from floor to ceiling. Let me know if you need a different angle.
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    The vertical pipe down from the ceiling is the cold water supply,
    the blue handle valve on the vertical pipe looks to the be the manual water fill valve for the "furnace" (boiler actually).

    The upper valve on the horizontal is the supply for the low water cutoff/auto water feeder (LWCO). It has 2 critical safety functions: to shut down the fire if the water level gets too low and then to automatically add water to a safe level and turn the fire back on.
    The lower valve on the horizontal would feed water from the auto feeder into the boiler.
    (what you referred to as a pressure release is just a drain port cap which would not be needed for now..leave alone)

    Usually the manual valve would be always off.
    The other 2 would be always on.

    The LWCO adds water as needed, should be seldom once the boiler is filled to the water line. The large dome of the LWCO has a line cast into the housing that is the water level.

    The valve under the the LWCO is there to flush the bowl and test the function of boiler shut down for low water and auto filling to where the burners would relight. The absence of a bucket could mean it has not been done on a weekly basis and it may not function.

    Keep the manual fill off and open the 2 valves on the horizontal lines. If the boiler needs water the feeder should respond and the sight glass show that water is being added.

    IIWM, I would try a "blow down" of the LWCO with the boiler cool or cold. The valve may not shut off completely and you could have a dribbling mess of hot water if fire is on.

    If the blow down valve functions and the water is added as needed you could then test the burner cut off when the fire is on.

    The hose valve on the lower left is the boiler drain.
    The hose valve on the lower right is to drain the LWCO piping for servicing once the two blue valves isolate the LWCO.

    You have some interesting steam piping on the boiler, could you post more far back pictures of the other 3 sides?

    Also there is a very good book for homeowners with steam heat, "We Got Steam Heat" is very informative without getting too technical, IIWU I would get it now.
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    Also, I should mention that the valves for the sight glass should be open. If they had any leaks someone may have shut them off.

    If you look here for a posting entitled "47-2" it has good info and a great U tube by Gordo for your situation.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,534
    If you need a good contractor check "find a contractor" on this site. I beleive @Ironman is in Virginia but may not service your area. There may be others as well
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,376
    Where in VA are you?
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • nmwitkowski
    nmwitkowski Member Posts: 3
    @JUGHNE Thank you so much for all your help and advice. I purchased the book and it should arrive tomorrow. I am attaching 2 more pictures of the other sides because the back side is completely up against the dirt from our crawl space.

    I tried to do a blow down on the LWCO, but it didn't budge. It still works to turn off the boiler when the water is low based on what happened last week, but from what the 47-2 post was saying I am assuming that I still need to replace the LWCO if I can't perform a blow down.

    Also, the sight glass does work from what I can tell, but when I turn on both of the horizontal water valves, it just fills all the way up to the top of the sight glass without turning off the water. The top of the sight glass was cracked before I got the home, but this doesn’t seem to be impacting anything. I would believe that the auto-feeder is not working correctly to turn off the water supply which is another reason I probably should replace the LWCO.

    @EBEBRATT-Ed @Ironman I did try to look in the "find a contractor" section, but since I live in Chatham, VA (Southside Virginia 30 minutes from NC) the search came up empty. If you know of anyone who services down here, that would be amazingly helpful!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,318
    The only one I can think of who might get down your way is @Ironman. Try giving him a PM. If you can get him, he's top notch.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England