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My waterline is wrong. Should I do anything??

trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
edited October 2019 in Strictly Steam
My steam system is noisy.

Problem #1: The near boiler piping is definitely not right. I’ve learned this through prior posts but repiping is not worth the expense so I am just living with it.

Problem #2 (this is why I am posting!): The waterline is probably not right. The auto-feeder fills the boiler such that the waterline is at the very top of the sight glass when the boiler is cold. I’ve drained it down to mid-sight glass on a couple occasions and within a cycle enough water leaves the boiler to trigger the auto-fill and bring it back up to the former level.

Heres my questions
1) is mid-sight glass definitely the correct waterline? For reference- the top of the glass is 15 inches below the bottom of the header and bottom of the glass 21 inches below. There is also a marker line with ‘cutoff wl’ marked about an inch below the top of the glass.
2) is there a way to easily adjust the level of the autofill?
3) any other suggestions or should I just live with it until the boiler dies?
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Comments

  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    @trivetman , The water line in the sight glass should be at least 21" to the bottom of your header. As you already know, the header is low.
    The water line should be about half way up the sight glass. Does the water in the sight glass bounce a lot when the boiler is running (more than an inch)? If so, skimming the boiler to get the oils off of the surface of the water will help stabilize the water level and should prevent the auto fill from kicking on.
    Is this a counter flow system? (Mains slope to their lowest point at the boiler?) Are there any wet returns? Can't see from your pictures.
    What pressure are you running the system at? Running it at no more than a pound to a pound and a half may help also.
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    edited October 2019
    @Fred There is definitely a lot of bounce when the boiler gets going. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have a skimmer port. My best guess is the probe lwco was installed in the skimmer port.

    Definitely not a counterflow system. It has wet and dry returns. Two pipe and no steam traps. On other posts it was speculated there may be have been orifice plates at one point but aren’t there anymore. I installed a vaporstat a couple months ago and am keeping the pressure under 8 oz.
  • SeanBeansSeanBeans Member Posts: 483
    That piping is so wrong.

    the pipes Exiting the top of the boiler are so small it is probably siphoning the water right up into the main.
    ethicalpaul
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    How old is the boiler? If it were me, I'd probably repipe the near boiler piping, raise the header and configure it properly, riser out of boiler, riser out of boiler, riser to main, separate that second main and tie it directly into the header, and then equalizer on the end, after the main risers. Make the header at least one size larger than the pipe tappings out of the boiler.
    Shy of doing that (and even after you do that) , you have to find some place to install a skim port.
    I don't know that you are going to fix this problem other wise. Adding that much fresh water will destroy the boiler soon enough but adding water up to the top of the sight glass just puts that water at a level where it easily gets sucked up into the header.
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Thanks Fred. Boiler is probably 35 years old if some old records I found are right. Ive only been in the house two years. It’s showing a little sign of corrosion in the bottom so who knows how much longer its good for. I did have someone out to look at redoing the piping but we decided it just wasn’t worth the cost as the whole boiler might need replacing before too long.

    I don’t think the autofill is continually adding as long as I don’t drain i it down. Sounds like I should just leave it be for now. Its noisy but it does heat the house evenly.
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,518
    Turn that auto feeder off it will just mask a leak ,the vapor stat should have helped some what .if this is a 2 pipe with out orifices or traps then the dry return must drop into a wet and have a water seal between the dry and supply drip other wise you will usually have issues when auto feeder is added usually the boiler will take on water as the boiler steams retrying to fill the water seal by the time the t stat is satisfied all that extra come s home to roost and you now have a high water line in your boiler .if this is your case u need a false water line or some piping changes on the wet return side to correct usually a false water line is the answer . Do u have any cross over traps or are both supply and return vented ? If so are they properly sized and is the boiler properly sized at 35 years old she owes no one anything .another question does this system have the original graduated supply valve so ? Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,692
    I agree with clammy that the autofeeder isn’t doing you any favors but I fear without fixing the piping and the apparent bad location of the LWCO probe, it’s not going to help to turn it off.

    1. The LWCO seems really high
    2. The “header” is crazily low (plus small, plus the wrong configuration) and as @SeanBeans said, it is most probably throwing a lot of boiler water into your mains, exacerbating a false low-water situation (well not really false but rather the water where it shouldn’t be) possibly causing extra water to be fed.

    I’d spend this winter nursing it along and putting all my energy into finding a great steam pro and saving for a boiler. You aren’t in too bad a spot given its age. People come here with a situation not too different from yours, but having just spent thousands on a brand new boiler install.

    Or maybe the pro will discover you have a methuselah boiler that has lots of life left and deserves to have correct piping and LWCO position
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,518
    If your using a probe lwco I think u should toss it and get a regular mc donnel Miller 67 Float style And take it off the gauge glass assembly like it was from the beginning you can get a whole replacement kit the whole dealo .if that probe is not located at the bottom third of the glass it the wrong location and when the feeder is calling it’s flooding the boiler or just to high a water level for the boiler to perform properly and throws wet steam up in the mains no good . Another note auto feeds are not designed to maintain a 1/2 a sight glass they are only going to fill till the float rises or sensor is satisfied but they are not going to maintain the proper water level usually only a minimum operating level in most residential steam boilers . Again at that old nurse it along get a handle of the edr of your system and go from there next year ,get some one who will set it up for proper cleaning and service w the proper near boiler piping and main vent ,it won’t be cheap but in the right wrench spinners hands equipped with a good knowledge of steam and Nd you will be set for another 35 years god willing peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    ethicalpaul
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Guys - thanks for the advice. Sounds like I should just live with it for a while. I did find a local pro who I think knows his stuff (honesty its hard to tell but he sounds consistent with what I read here) and his advice was to just keep the piping until its time to replace everything unless I really want to throw money at it.

    It’s tempting to replace the lwco but it might not change much considering the piping.

    I was mostly wondering if there was any way to adjust the level of the current probe lwco. Sounds like thats a nope.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 11,163
    At 35 years old I wouldn't repipe it.
    You should either fix or stop using the autofeeder though.
    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
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,216
    @trivetman

    You can use the top tapping in the Y coming off the gage glass to skim with. Looks like at one time the boiler had a McDonnell Miller #47 lwco/feeder
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    @EBEBRATT-Ed
    I actually did skim from that Y not long ago. Almost forgot about it. It actually came out pretty clean at first so I didn’t do it for long. There is definitely sludge/rust in the water. When it gets boiling the water in the sight glass turns dark brown from everything being stirred up. But I think that is sediment that sinks to the bottom and doesn’t float to the top. Every month or so I'll drain a couple gallons to try to keep the sludge from building up.
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,692
    trivetman said:

    I was mostly wondering if there was any way to adjust the level of the current probe lwco. Sounds like thats a nope.

    I think the answer to that is yes. It looks like the probe is in a plate bolted to the boiler (hard to tell from the photo). If it is, your guy can make a new plate with a better positioned hole (or if you're really lucky, it can be rotated 180 degrees and be the correct height.)
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    It sounds like you need to drain and flush the boiler out to get the crud cleaned out. Skim after you refill the boiler. The water may look clean but look at it in the bucket and see if there is a shinny film on the surface. If so, that is oil and that is what makes it difficult for steam bubbles to break through the surface of the water, creating the turbulence/bouncing water line.
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    @Fred - complete drain empty all water?
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    trivetman said:

    @Fred - complete drain empty all water?

    Yes, shut the boiler power off, let it cool and drain completely. run your water supply with the drain valve open so that the water flow can flush any other loose crud out. Shut the drain valve and fill the boiler to its normal level and fire the boiler up. let the water get hot and skim.
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Ok I’ll give it a try
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    My two cents: suffer through the winter, then repipe as soon as you can. This is not just bad in terms of efficiency, having a steel pipe directly connected between the fittings on a sectional cast-iron boiler like that is going to gradually pry those sections apart, because steel and cast iron expand at different rates when heated, and the boiler heats up before the pipe starts heating, so it will expand first, straining the lower joints, then the pipe will expand and strain the upper joints. It's a wonder it's not leaking already.

    Regarding your water level, it looks like your probe is at roughly the right level, but the ultimate level the water reaches depends on how long the valve stays open. What model CycleGard is that? Are you using a VXT with it? It's been a while since I installed mine, but I'll see if I can dig up the manual and see if it has instructions for adjusting it.

    By the way, you should only use the auto-fill as a backup/safety device. Set the counter to "000" and make sure it stays there. Use the bypass valve (You do have a bypass valve, I hope.) to adjust your level. Don't trigger the auto-fill except to test it once a year. If you're losing significant water you need to find and fix the leak in your system or replace the boiler.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    I found a PDF of the VXT manual. It's attached to this post. See step 5. If you don't have a VXT, try to find the manual on the manufacturer's website.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,692
    Suggestion for those with vxt: don’t use the bypass. Use the manual fill switch on the vxt so you can track the volume of fill water over time
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263

    Suggestion for those with vxt: don’t use the bypass. Use the manual fill switch on the vxt so you can track the volume of fill water over time

    The display on the VXT reads in gallons, and while the VXT manual says it's okay to add up to 8 gallons of makeup water every month for a boiler like mine, I'd be surprised if I had to add a gallon all season, so I don't think it's really useful for tracking makeup water unless you're adding gallons at a time. You'd also need to separate makeup water from water added after blowdowns.

    Tracking makeup water sounds good in theory, but if you notice a gallon has been added since your last recorded reading, does it mean you have a leak, or did you forget to write it down last time you added water? I think it's more useful to set it to 000, so I'll know I've got a leak if it ever reads more than that.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    I don’t have a VXT or a meter. I am going to drain the muck out today and will shut the line on the autofill after refill and running a couple cycles. We’ll see if it is losing water.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    Whatever auto-feeder you have, there should be a way to set the water level by setting how many gallons are added at low water. If you have a manual, that should tell you how to set it. If you don't, you can probably find one online. It's important to maintain a consistent water level. Fluctuating water level is a leading cause of premature death in cast iron boilers.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Just when I am feeling good about operating on this system.....

    I drained flushed and filled it.. which is good cause the some of water looked like sludge as it came out of the boiler, and particularly oit of the wet return, which had a drain at the bottom of the mains.

    But after refilling and powering up, it won’t light up! Anything I should have done that would have caused this?

    I turned power off, put the pilots out, drained and flushed, refilled, pilots back on, power on, thermostat up. But boiler is not on.

    Anything simple to troubleshoot otherwise I’ll call for service in the morning.
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Pic of the interior in case it helps
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    edited November 2019
    @trivetman , did you turn the gas valve from "Pilot" to "on" ? Are you sure the power Breaker or fuse is on or good? Did the pilot stay lit after you let the gas valve button up? If the pilot won't stay lit, the thermocouple is probably bad. You can get a Universal thermocouple from anywhere, Lowes, Home Depot, hardware store. If the pilot is lit, check all your wire terminals to make sure none are loose. Do you hear the thermostat click when you turn the temp setting up? Is the thermostat set to "On"
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    edited November 2019
    Pilot stays lit and is set to on.
    The power is definitely on. Lights on the autofill light up.
    Thermostat is def on. I dont hear a click but i never do. I can check that voltage is coming through from the thermostat wire in a bit.

    And no loose wires that i see
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    Is there a Manual reset button on the Low Water Cut-off that may have tripped? push it to reset. It is also possible that the probe is really crudded up and needs to be taken out and cleaned with some fine steel wool.
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Thanks @Fred. The other thing I should ask about is this button in the pic. I pushed it like an idiot without really knowing what it did. It looks like it has something to do with the pilots. Could that have caused trouble?

    I did push the reset on the LWCO. The lights are on as normal. Is there a way to test whether its not letting the boiler turn on before taking it out to clean it?
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    That unit with the red button looks like some type of pilot adjustment. It could have something to do with the unit not firing. At what point did you press it? Before or after the unit would not fire? You might try to press it a second time and see if that makes any difference.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    trivetman said:

    Is there a way to test whether its not letting the boiler turn on before taking it out to clean it?

    Yes. Bypass the switch. If the switching terminals are close to each other, you can put a screwdriver across them. Otherwise you can use a piece of wire as a jumper.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Cant test that out now but I will soon. The LWCO is not triggering the autofill. If it was gunked up and not sensing water shouldnt the autofill come on?
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    trivetman said:

    Cant test that out now but I will soon. The LWCO is not triggering the autofill. If it was gunked up and not sensing water shouldnt the autofill come on?

    Yes, it should, but then, your boiler should be firing. :smiley:
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Good point
  • FredFred Member Posts: 8,432
    Is there a damper on the flue? If so, check that too. It may have locked out when you turned to power off. If it has a damper, there should be a reset on it. If the lights are on on the LWCO like normal, the probe may be ok. Something is most likely locked out as a result of turning the power off. You just need to check all the safeties and see if they need to be reset. That red button you pushed, in the picture above, for the pilot adjust, may have also locked out a sensor for the pilots. Did you push it again?
    Hap_Hazzard
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    Haven’t pushed the red button again. Not at the boiler right now but will be back at it in an hour or two
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    If the pilot's lit, I'd suspect something else. Either the LWCO, the pressuretrol/vaporstat or, as Fred suggested, the damper.
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    I dont think theres a flue damper. Theres no controls or adjustments anywhere near the exhaust. Anything else I should look for?
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    Did you try bypassing the vaporstat?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • trivetmantrivetman Member Posts: 81
    edited November 2019
    The vaporstat/pressuretrol/thermostat and also LWCO are functional. I undetstand how these components are working and all relays are closed.

    The red button component looks like its a Thermocouple based safety device connected to the pilots designed to stop boiled ignition if the pilot is out (googled the serial number). The gas line to one of the pilots (I have two) runs through this box as does the thermocouple to the same pilot. Assuming this is what’s keeping things from running, how to reset it? I’ve held it down both quickly and for over a minute but still not firing up
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