Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.

If you've found help here, check back in to let us know how everything worked out.
It's a great way to thank those who helped you.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

Killing my boiler

This post was inspired by the article entitled , "How to kill a Boiler", Published: July 18, 2016 by Dan Holohan.

When my boiler and I met, she was about 45 years old. I have been the proud caretaker of the old girl for the past 30 years. She is now 75 years old, and still the only girl for me.
She is a simple girl. Just one pipe, no Hartford loop, no drop header, and no auto fill. She gets fired up, cuts out at 1.5, and cuts back in at .5lbs. Everything upstairs has always been quiet, and toasty.
A few years ago I began to notice that she was drinking more fresh water than usual. It did not seem like a real lot more, but definably more than I was accustomed to giving her.

I really don’t remember exactly how it happened. But It was pointed out to me that there was some water on the floor. It was behind her. Where I did not ever notice it. It was also being very quickly evaporated from the heat that surrounded her.
But there it was. a drip, drip, drip. It was coming from the very bottom of the dry return. All the way in the back, and all the way at the bottom. Right where the return connected to the boiler.

Then, like a miracle, from this steam web site, came Mr. Matt Sweeny (aka Mad Dog). Somehow, he managed to get access to, and cut out, the offending nipple. And then re-pipe the whole thing in brand new black iron. Leak stopped, boiler saved.
To this day I look back behind her. I look at the dry floor. I can see the new pipes that Matt installed. But what I am really seeing, is a work of art That's what it looks like to me.

So, why this long story.
I don’t remember how long I was adding excess water. I did not notice the drip, drip, drip. It could have been a few seasons. But I did notice a powdery white substance showing up on various parts of the old girl. It was some kind of corrosion, and it was showing up on some of the valves. In some places, it was forming, what looked like stalagmites.
Once Matt fixed the leak, The corrosion stopped. Or a least did not ever get any worse. I am still just a rookie, but I am pretty sure the leak, the adding water, and the white powdery corrosion, was all caused by the fresh water.

Well, once again the fresh water is going in. This time it’s a lot of fresh water. This time the leak is much faster, much worse. about 2 gallons a day. This time it’s the Low water cut off.

The LWCO is about 7 years old. It came with, and was installed with, a cork gasket. Very soon after it was installed, I noticed that the white, powdery, corrosion, had formed on the gasket. It did not seem like it was that bad. I also thought that it would stop getting any worse, because the leak was fixed, and that put an end to any further corrosion. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
The cork gasket never stopped corroding away. It just kept getting worse, and worse. I just left it alone, I did not touch it, and it was dry. Not leaking.

A couple of days ago that all changed. I noticed a little pile of white powder on the floor. Directly under the gasket of the LWCO. Then, a few days later, the leak began. The pile of powder was gone, and replaced by a bucket. Currently collecting about 2 gallons a day from the drip, drip, drip, of that failed gasket.

I am now adding two gallons a day of fresh water back into the boiler to make up for the loss. I have been told that the cork gasket is "no longer available". I have been told that the new gasket is an "O" ring. I was also told that this was a "common problem", and that's why they got rid of the cork gasket.

So, now I need the entire unit. The new one will have the "O" ring gasket. But, my biggest problem is getting the old LWCO off. It is attached with eight, 5/16 bolts. All of them are corroded, and rusted, beyond belief. Photos are attached.

I was told the heads might snap off. It looks to me like that is going to happen. I was told "drill, tap".
I was told "maybe". When I asked "what happens if the bolts do snap and the "drill and tap" is unsuccessful"
I was told "you will need a new boiler".
Well !
After all this boiler and I have been through. No way I am going to let a "safety device" stop us from ever seeing each other again. No way. I'm not breaking up this way.
There will be a day when I see the white smoke. But until that day, nobody is going down into my basement with a sledgehammer.
Even with this massive leak. She is still nice and quiet, and still keeping me toasty warm upstairs.
Today I am making a phone call. It's time to bring in the big guns.
73 year old one pipe system with original American standard boiler, oil fired becket, 2 inch steel pipe main, 100 feet long, with 8 radiators above.
ethicalpaul

Comments

  • retiredguyretiredguy Member Posts: 227
    By the way, that McDonald Miller low water control is a model 69. The repair kit is a #6667. Looking at the condition of that control, I would opt for the complete control since the approximate price is almost the same and the whole control will give you the complete replacement if the bolts snap off during disassembly.
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,505
    U could add any 67 lwco to your sight glass assembly and completely remove that low water cut off body and then plug the opening . I assume your on oil ? I know your going to keep her cause you love her but a new oil fired boiler would likely consume about 1/3 the oil then your girl . Just saying . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    STEVEusaPA
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,864
    The entire housing of that LWCO screws into a 2-1/2" tapping in the boiler section. I'd completely remove it, screw a 2-1/2x3/4" bushing into the boiler and put a probe-type LWCO in the bushing. No moving parts, no gaskets, and much easier to service.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
    GrallertSTEVEusaPAHap_HazzardNew England SteamWorks
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,088
    If you go with a probe type low water cutoff you will have to do some rewiring.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,864

    If you go with a probe type low water cutoff you will have to do some rewiring.

    Worth it IMHO.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
    Hap_Hazzard
  • coolfx35coolfx35 Member Posts: 42
    She is a leaker.. 2 gallons a day? Must be a huge leak above the water line.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,088
    @coolfx35

    "She's a leaker mama"

    You don't happen to be a fan of a certain U tube plumber do you? LOL
    ethicalpaulSuperTechluketheplumber
  • steam-rookiesteam-rookie Member Posts: 123
    Hello everyone, and thank you for the reply's. There has been so much going on, I am sorry for such a late update.
    Turns out that the LWCO would not come out. I tried soaking with penetrating oil over night. No Luck. I tried a 24 inch pipe wrench, with a 3 foot cheater pipe. Still would not budge.
    Long story short, I called my burner service co., and they cut the whole assemble out with a saws-all. I had to pay a lot of money to have this done, but cutting it out is above my skill set.
    The new #69 screwed right in, with no issues, and no more leak.
    Believe it or not, it is still not correctly wired up. The wires are currently joined together, thus bypassing the LWCO all together.
    So basically it is doing nothing, but the good news is its been quite a few weeks, and No More Leak.
    The service co. called to make an appointment to come back and wire it up correctly, but by then, the Covid **** had hit the fan.
    (I live in NY).
    I told him we would do it when the heating season is over. That's half of it. The other half is I don't want anyone in the house right now. To much risk with the virus.
    Now for the best part.
    My hot water storage tank blew a leak. Its very old, and rusted out at the bottom. So, now we have no hot water.
    I am going to start a new thread, with this new problem.
    Thank you every one,
    Steam Rookie.
    73 year old one pipe system with original American standard boiler, oil fired becket, 2 inch steel pipe main, 100 feet long, with 8 radiators above.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,947
    edited April 13
    Do NOT run that boiler without a functioning low water cutoff.

    JUST DON"T DO IT

    Br. Jamie, osb

    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
    ethicalpaulGrallertluketheplumber
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,969
    I can't imagine a "burner service" didn't have someone to wire that correctly. It seems a large liability on their part.

    But as the young "Luke" (inquiring on this site about an apprenticeship) has been advised by many to learn about control wiring, as that is lacking in many heating people.
    luketheplumber
  • SteamingatMohawkSteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 251
    Listen to Jamie.
    luketheplumber
  • steam-rookiesteam-rookie Member Posts: 123
    Thank you everyone.
    I have been checking the gauge glass every day, and every night. It has not lost a drop in many weeks.
    What I think might have happened:
    Maybe there was some kind of packing material on the float. He took the new one out of the box, and put it in so fast.
    I don't think he checked.
    But, for now. We have a much bigger problem. No hot water.
    I am about to post that new thread, with photos.

    73 year old one pipe system with original American standard boiler, oil fired becket, 2 inch steel pipe main, 100 feet long, with 8 radiators above.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,864

    Listen to Jamie.

    THIS!!!!!!!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,088
    @steam-rookie
    I would love to know there excuse for not wiring it up.

    I would seriously shut the boiler off call them and make an appointment to have this wired immediately. Leave the house before they get their if you are Covid concerned and when they tell you it's complete you can come back.

    If you run it without a working LWCO you are playing with fire

    luketheplumber
  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,166
    > @steam-rookie said:
    > Thank you everyone.
    > I have been checking the gauge glass every day, and every night. It has not lost a drop in many weeks.
    > What I think might have happened:
    > Maybe there was some kind of packing material on the float. He took the new one out of the box, and put it in so fast.
    > I don't think he checked.
    > But, for now. We have a much bigger problem. No hot water.
    > I am about to post that new thread, with photos.

    What happens when the glass gauge valve clogs up? What happens if boiler springs a leak below the water line 5 minutes after you go to sleep or leave for work?
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 1,344
    The thread is titled "Killing my boiler". Without a low water cutoff you definitely run a serious risk of doing just that. I strongly suggest that you follow the advice given by the Steam experts that posted here. Unless you really want to kill it.....
    New England SteamWorks
  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,166
    Killing the boiler is just one problem. killing the inhabitants of the building should be a bigger concern.
    New England SteamWorksCLamb
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,353


    I have been checking the gauge glass every day, and every night. It has not lost a drop in many weeks.

    Very possibly because the gauge glass is clogged. Your risk/reward ratio is off the charts...



    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • SteamingatMohawkSteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 251
    No one participating in this discussion has said you can safely continue to operate your boiler without a LWCO. If your gauge glass is not showing any water level change, there has to be something going on. Steam boilers use water. Are you sure both valves are open on the gauge glass and the lines are clear to the boiler? If not, you are taking unnecessary serious risk.

    I implore you to get the problem corrected before it is too late!

    JUGHNE
  • PerryHolzmanPerryHolzman Member Posts: 127
    I have personally seen the results of 3 blown boilers because of firing occurring below the low water cutoff point on a steam boiler (2 were home/small industry boilers, 1 was a 20 story tall power plant boiler - which took out the entire side of the boiler, and that side of the building with all kinds of other equipment and caused almost $100 million in damages, not counting a year of lost production to fix things).

    You literally are putting lives and your entire house in danger structurally (depending on the type of boiler, where it is located in your house, and your house structure design).

    You cannot imagine the damage a steam boiler explosion can cause.

    Please call someone (even another contractor) and have them connect your low water cut off IMMEDIATELY. You can live with cold showers for a while (my wife and I did for several weeks last year - and a cold house).

    Perry
  • retiredguyretiredguy Member Posts: 227
    Let me give you a description of a few boilers I have seen when the low water controls did no work for whatever reason. #1) an H B Smith 650 steam boiler in a high school in Pittsburgh, Pa. that melted the sections all the way to the outer jacket. This happened because some "MORON" installed isolation valves for the low water controls #2) An H B Smith 350S 14 that melted the sections. This was from a miss-wired low water control. These were cast iron boilers. #3)An old hand fired horizontal steel fire tube boiler, in a hospital near Ebensburg, Pa firing soft coal melted the 1st pass tubes and the stay bolts due to not enough return water. These are 3 that I remember and there are probably others, but you get the picture. Fix the low water control today for your safety.
Sign In or Register to comment.

Welcome

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!