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Tilted water line

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SamG
SamG Member Posts: 20
A customer of mine bought an old building with heating issues and asked me to check it out. Apt on first FL radiators not getting hot. I have spotted several issue but can’t deal with them until I get boiler to make steam pressure. Short cycling due to tilted water line, but I have never seen it like this.
Peerless 211A. 5 years old. Near boiler piping appears to be correct
Feed water pump. All returns go to tank
Pump controller / lwco mounted front section

As boiler begins to make steam, controller float starts dropping, brings on pump, but continues dropping and the shuts off on low water. Gauge glass level in same section does not drop. I figured it was surging internally, and as it was late at night, added 2 cans of steam clean. No change. There is a skim tapping on the boiler. Is solution more than just cleaning the hell out of it?

Then I will move on to why steam supply piping only gets hot 2/3ds around building. I have already spotted some issues. 2 pipe steam with radiator traps and an air vent in radiator. No steam reaching radiator, or air venting even with air vent completely removed. Just some gurgling noises. No main air vent at end of main before it drops to floor for return to feed water tank. Radiator in hallway just before this apt hot but nothing further.


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  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
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    If the LWCO in a section senses low water and the gauge glass doesn't move... that's not a tilted water line; that's almost certainly the tappings for the gauge glass clogged or the valves shut off. Verify that the gauge glass is operating by manually lowering and raising the boiler water level with the boiler off.

    Two pipe steam with an air vent on the radiator -- and a radiator trap on the outlet? Someone was getting creative. The vent doesn't belong there. Presumably the outlet goes to a dry return? More detail on the steam piping is probably in order here, but the gurgling tells me immediately that water is being held in the piping somewhere. Check all your piping for proper pitch; condensate must be able to drain back to the boiler freely.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    What are the pipes in the first picture? If they are dry returns, joined above the waterline, that will present problems. Each should drop separately below the water line to the wet return.
    How is the air getting out of the system, as the steam begins to rise?
    What is the pressure on this? If there are any horizontal sections in the dry returns, slightly above the water line, they can become filled with water, as the pressure pushes up the water level in the wet return, and so the boiler is starved of water, and quickly, so that no condensate pump can keep up. This wildly fluctuating waterline can cause thermal shock in the sections, and is NOT a good thing for longevity!
    I don't think there is enough height from the water to the header, but that could wait.
    My 211-A one Mil gravity return boiler can heat 55 rads at 2 ounces, with no setbacks. I did have the symptoms you describe until I fixed the dry returns.
    A low pressure gauge, (0-3psi, graduated in ounces) would be a helpful addition here.
    Soon, the boiler should be drained of the 8-way cleaner, as it may contribute to blowing a lot of water up into the mains.--NBC
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,829
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    I would skim the hell out of it. Also I would check the piping on the #150 pump control and the gage glass tappings to make sure they are clean
  • SamG
    SamG Member Posts: 20
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    Thanks for your responses. I have checked the upper and lower cocks of the gauge glass and they are open. I checked the lwco /feeder pump control against the gauge glass by flushing the control drain and the water level in the glass drops accordingly.

    I am guessing that the feed water tank was added when the boiler was replaced about 5 years ago. There are both over head returns and along the floor. It appears that this was originally a standard Hartford loop system, then the returns were disconnected from the loop and routed to the feed water tank, creating a fluid trap before the tank. The pump discharge is connected to the boiler piping at the Hartford loop T.
  • SamG
    SamG Member Posts: 20
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    In the top picture, the 2 lower pipes against the wall have nothing to do with the heating system. The large pipe with reducing elbow is the end of the main to a floor return. The topmost pipe is a gas supply to boiler from meter.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
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    Chances are pretty good you don't need the feedwater tank... and the associated hassles.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
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    All that copper for the equalizer and returns is not ideal just recently replaced on a job ,state inspector required replacement of copper due to leaking and request steel be installed . Aside from possibly being dirty the piping using 1 outlet may be in the i n o booklet I highly doubt that boiler is producing dry steam w the present near boiler piping .i like others think that feed pump may not be required but one would ha e to take a good look and be sure . On those side outlet boilers it’s always smart to install a tee instead on a elbow on the supply and a tee on the return for washing out boiler. I find in some case it’s easier to use a wand and wash the boiler out instead of adding chemical and after a good section to section washing fill empty fill and fire and skim after that if the issue continues I look close at that piping .that being said you have clocked the meter to ensure that the boiler is not over fired ,a over fired boiler will tilt a water line but in most cases it’s water chemistry ,dirt ,pressure ,piping and water level a poorly piped boiler w a slightly higher then normal water level will also do strange things .have you checked the water chemistry tds ,ph ? How much make up water has the system been making up and are there any leaks I have had systems develop a tilted water line due to a good size leak be a detective and nose about . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • SamG
    SamG Member Posts: 20
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    Thank you for the advice. I always clock Powerflame burners upon set up, but rarely atmospheric. I will confirm firing rate.

    Not knowing the water content of the previous boiler, I’m guessing the boiler installer figured a feed water tank was in order.

    There is a skim tapping on the boiler, so while I’m cleaning it for a couple of hours, I’ll install a main air vent at the supply end and blow out the floor return to make sure it’s open.

    As I said earlier, I need to get this boiler making steam, and see what the system does before I start changing a lot of piping.