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Burnham Independence Section rusted thru - how to prevent again?

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jim_14
jim_14 Member Posts: 271
I recently replaced my 16 year old burnham IN4 boiler because of a hole above the waterline. Is there anything that I could have done to have prevented this from happening? I did take care of her, LWCO blow downs, etc.

I replaced it with a new IN4 boiler..





Comments

  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
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    How much water was being added to the boiler, weekly/monthly/yearly?
    steve
  • jim_14
    jim_14 Member Posts: 271
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    From memory, i added very little (manual fill) for the majority of its life.. However the last few years I felt that I needed to add just a little more then usual, but nothing crazy.. Nothing like what Ive read on here where others were adding large amount of water per day or per week.. Ive always added by hand.

    For arguments sake, lets say i needed to add water once every 2 weeks when it was new and it pretty much stayed that way for as long as I can remember...

    Maybe in the last couple of years , in the cold spells I was adding maybe once per week- i didnt keep track.. I had my share of bad vents, leaky shut off valves that I got around to fixing - but nothing that was a major leak or went unfixed for years (the vents I took care of pretty quickly)..

    It was only this year (starting in october when i turned it on) that I was adding more water more frequently until I had a day where I had to refill it within hours.. I guess it was slowly becoming from pinholes to the hole you see now.

    The only "change" in my heating pattern, is that in the last few years my house went from the thermostat always "up" with people home all day (and calling for heat) to the thermostat turned down with the heat off all day until I came home from work and turned it up for heat before lowering it again to go to sleep. I am talking no steam being made from lets say 10pm to 6-8pm mon-fri in the last 2 years.. Only the basement hot water loop firing up the boiler to 180 degrees stayed consistent during this time

    I am wondering if that sudden change in usage could of contributed to the rusting out of the upper section?

    thoughts?
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
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    To prevent corrosion and failure of cast iron sections in any cast iron or steel boiler one needs to know what chemicals are in the feed water.

    Secondly a PH value of 8.5 to 10 must be maintained to assure the water in the boiler is not acidic.

    The owner of the boiler must read the maintenance and installers instructions to assure that the manufacturers recommendations have been adhered to.

    The owner of the boiler must treat the boiler with appropriate chemicals to prevent corrosion.

    Should the owner not be able to perform the required steps to properly maintain the boiler the must then ask the service company to perform the required maintenance.

    Most boilers and burners are maintained by oil or gas service companies and for the most part these companies are qualified to perform this maintenance.

    Cautionary note:

    Should you require an boiler installation you as a consumer must hire a qualified installing company. m Remember when a boiler is installed you must marry yourself to a quality contractor and use their services at least once a year preferably at the start of the heating season.

    This contractor should be able to see if the piping system has leakage. One item here is the fact that some systems have underground wet returns that may have leakage. As the home owner it is your responsibility to check your water usage.

    Boilers have auto feeders and low water cut offs. To check for leakage of wet returns or other piping shut off the auto feeder and see how long it takes for the boiler to shut down.

    I(f the boiler shuts down for lack of water in three days you have some kind of leakage.

    Cautionary note:

    Make sure the low water cutoff is operable. To do this get a bucket, place it under the drain port of the low water cutoff and open the drain valve. At that juncture the burner will shut down the boiler.

    This is a low water cutoff test and should be done at least once per month. Additionally, by doing this you are assuring that no rust or other crud will prevent the float from hanging up.

    Jake
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    edited January 2020
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    The IN series boiler seems to have a 10 to 15 year life. As a matter of fact, a lot of boiler brands tend to die in the 15 year range. I doubt that it is/was anything you did wrong. I think manufacturers have perfected the "engineered Life" to a range they consider acceptable and one that ensures an on-going market share. They claim they have to make the boiler more energy efficient to meet federal guidelines and that entails making the cast iron walls thinner, along with other changes but I think they sacrificed life span to cheapen the product. I'm sure a case can be built that replacing a boiler every 15 years is nowhere near as energy efficient a one that last 40 or 50 years, even if the test ratings on efficiency isn't what the feds mandate.
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,280
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    @Fred 's pretty much has it. Boiler water chemistry does affect leaks developing below the water line -- but has little influence above. However, wall thickness has a lot of effect, and over the last few years there has been a lot of emphasis on increased efficiency, both in terms of regulation and in terms of consumer demand. There really are only two ways to improve the efficiency -- one is to make changes in the internal geometry of the boiler, but the other is to make the wall thickness less. I'm not sure that it's so much a nefarious plot by the boiler manufacturers as it is they are responding to either regulatory or consumer demand.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • jim_14
    jim_14 Member Posts: 271
    edited January 2020
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    I was afraid of that.. They just dont make em like they used too! My next door neighbors have steam boilers right around the same age (different manufacturers) and I know for sure they dont take care of them like I did with mine.. Will be interesting to see how long they last.. And 1 of the 2 of the boilers I know for a fact is"oversized" compared to mine since we all have identical row houses built by the same builder in 1950.. And if those other brands outlast mine by a significant amount of time then that its for Burnham for me forever.

    My first IN4 was installed in 2003. And I use NYC water.. I dont think we have any issues with pH and water quality here. Just eat our bagels, youll see

    one neighbor has I believe a WM installed 2004 and another neighbor has a crown installed in 2005. Identical houses, rooms,radiators, piping, even the hot water zone for the basement.

    I guess they are due for a failure anytime now... I will be watching

    So Burnham if you are reading this- if those other brands keep on going past the 20, 25 year mark........
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,115
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    @jim_14, start looking for the leaks, tighten the packing nuts on the valves. Check the union nuts on valves. Also, make sure that the main vents and radiator vents aren't leaking steam. Burnham recommends no more than like 2 gallons a year. Adding every 2 weeks might be to much.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,967
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    The only way to prevent an Independence from leaking is to not install an Independence
    SuperTechSTEVEusaPANew England SteamWorks
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,580
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    I guess after being used to having boilers last 25yrs or more (the one I replaced was 60yrs old) it comes as a shock when the replacements only last 10-15 yrs (my replacement turned ten two days ago).

    If I had to, I would replace like for like. Less pipework.

    However, the problem with engineering failure is that the residential boiler market is always shrinking ,as is ,the number of capable people who can install a boiler.

    I also have a furnace. A lot less expensive to replace.
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,159
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    Personally I like Peerless, Weil McLain or Crown for single pass boilers, Trio or Buderus for 3 pass. EK is my favourite for hydronic heating systems. I've seen more Burnham boilers fail before 15 years than any other manufacturer.
  • jim_14
    jim_14 Member Posts: 271
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    Thats a shame about the Burnhams... American made too.. Is it the quality of the cast iron? or is it just to thin?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    jim_14 said:

    Thats a shame about the Burnhams... American made too.. Is it the quality of the cast iron? or is it just to thin?

    Could be either but they know what they are doing. They make/sell the Megasteam boiler which everyone swears by. It is approved for oil fuel only which seems to be an issue no one understands either???
    ethicalpaul
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    Possibly they want people to buy their Independence models and replace them every 5–15 years?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,432
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    I do know that Burnham is starting to ship Megasteam boilers w/ Anode rods to help protect them.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,580
    edited January 2020
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    Their (usboiler) website actually recommends installing an anode rod to increase boiler life. But they dont say what kind.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,280
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    either zinc or magnesium should work...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832
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    SlamDunk said:

    Their (usboiler) website actually recommends installing an anode rod to increase boiler life. But they dont say what kind.

    @SlamDunk , can you post a link to this?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,115
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  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,159
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    A lot of their boilers have had issues with the castings. The V8 series is well known for this. I have no experience with the megasteam or any of their steam boilers, but I wouldn't recommend them for hydronic heating due to all the unusual early failures I have seen.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,580
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    On the the one tapping I have, I can't remove the plug. I have to look for places to install one this evening. I would try an anode rod.
  • jim_14
    jim_14 Member Posts: 271
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    How would an anode rod help with above the water line rust like what happened with my boiler?
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited January 2020
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    I'll look forward to the answers you get, but I think that it will still sacrifice itself before the boiler. It will have an electrical connection to the whole boiler so it should still work. I'm really interested in trying one in my new (future) boiler.

    I wonder if it will have a noticeable effect on the water chemistry.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • jim_14
    jim_14 Member Posts: 271
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    Where would one find an anode rod made for steam boilers? Would it go above the water line ? Below or both? I would image the steaming would really wreck havoc on it
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    jim_14 said:

    How would an anode rod help with above the water line rust like what happened with my boiler?

    I don't think it would do any good at all above the water line. The part of the end sections above the water line would be especially vulnerable to condensate running back into the boiler from the header and any other piping that allows a path back to the boiler, and condensate is essentially distilled water, which is pretty corrosive, and a sacrificial anode below the water line would have no effect. So if this corrosion occurred in one of the boiler sections that held the supply risers, the best way to prevent it from happening in the future is to pipe the new boiler correctly so that any condensate formed above the risers returns to the boiler through the return instead of the risers.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,580
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    It is a rod of magnesium or other metal and you would need to inspect it every year. It has to be below the water line. Boiling water wouldn't hurt it. Hot water heaters have them. I would pick one from McMaster.com. They have a good selection of material, length and diameter.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited January 2020
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    jim_14 said:

    How would an anode rod help with above the water line rust like what happened with my boiler?

    I don't think it would do any good at all above the water line. The part of the end sections above the water line would be especially vulnerable to condensate running back into the boiler from the header and any other piping that allows a path back to the boiler, and condensate is essentially distilled water, which is pretty corrosive, and a sacrificial anode below the water line would have no effect. So if this corrosion occurred in one of the boiler sections that held the supply risers, the best way to prevent it from happening in the future is to pipe the new boiler correctly so that any condensate formed above the risers returns to the boiler through the return instead of the risers.
    Maybe. But I think oxidation is not corrosion (I'm an amateur on this topic so take with a grain of salt). It's an electro-chemical combustion, so it's not a matter of "where the water hits it, it corrodes", it's a matter of the electro-chemical properties of the system.

    As evidence, look at sacrificial anodes that they use for steel structures that are both in and out of water such as piers and locks. The anode protects the whole structure (I think!)
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,280
    edited January 2020
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    Well... corrosion is just a fancy name for any of assorted chemical processes in which oxygen (or an oxidizer) combines with a metal to produce metal oxides -- most of which are somewhat soluble. To protect against corrosion with a sacrificial anode system, it is necessary that the sacrificial anode by more easily oxidized than the metal being protected -- and to be electrically connected to the metal. Zinc happens to fill the bill rather nicely. Cheap, easily worked, and be used as sacrificial anodes in various ways or can be plated (galvanizing).

    Since the interior of a boiler is always wet when it's not being fired (not separate droplets, but a film of water)-- even above the water line -- I think a sacrificial anode might well work, even if not perfectly.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England