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/.

Steam Boiler Surging

DCMA1DCMA1 Member Posts: 8
My tenant called to complain that their gas bill last month was way too high, and they thought the water in the boiler was too rusty/dirty. I lived in this unit for 10 years myself and sometimes had difficulty with surging. I always wanted to skim it but the skim tapping isn't installed and just drained it many times. Realized the tenants probably haven't drained it in a few years. I went over to look at it, opened the drain and nothing came out. Unscrewed the drain still nothing, could see a block. Put it back and ran a wire through it, got a good stream going, drained and filled until it ran clear. Added some boiler cleaner and had them fire it up. Wish I saw what it did before - it's totally short cycling now. Wonder if the cleaner made it worse? Runs for about a minute, water line plunges, a few bounces on the way down, until the LWCO cuts in. You can then hear water running back down through the header/equalizer until the level comes back and the boiler comes back on. Water quite rusty again after the first boil.

The skim tapping isn't easy to get to on the boiler, but there is a capped 1" long nipple coming off of the riser 4" above the furnace or so. Can I skim from that? I'd have to raise the water level quite a bit to make that work.

Hearing the water coming back through the equalizer made me think it might be a clogged wet return instead of a dirty water problem. The main vent also looks like it had dirty water explode out of it at some point, not sure if plugged. I tried to drain the return when I drained the boiler, but couldn't loosen the plug at the tee on the bottom. Probably could put more force into it, but I had a 30" cheater pipe over the 10" adjustable wrench and I was worried about breaking the fitting at that moment. I know I've cracked one of the cast fittings on the piping before, don't remember what I was doing/why though. But it made me gun shy.

I also thought it might be overfired? The flames are quite large, with a lot of orange over the blue. The Burnham manual makes it seem like there shouldn't be any orange? But my friend's boiler looks the same.

Looking for advice on what to try to tackle from these first, or something else entirely. I may need to do all of the above but hoping there's a clear first point of attack.



Comments

  • STEAM DOCTORSTEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,142
    Drain the boiler cleaner out of the boiler
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,703
    This ^^^ for starters. You have out of control surging there, and the cleaner isn't helping at all, although it was helpful to get the bottom crud mobilized I'm sure, and that's a good thing.

    Once you've done that, you may well want to skim, which is completely different from draining. In skimming you let just the surface layer (hence skimming) drain out very slowly -- and the oil and other crud comes with it. If you drain, that just winds up sticking to the sides of the boiler on the way down -- and comes back when you refill.

    Now... when you say the skim tapping isn't installed. Is the tapping for it not there (which would be odd) or is it that there is a plug in it rather than a handy pipe? If it's the latter, you might be able to get the plug out. Might not, too. One can skim through the upper tapping for the gauge glass, but it takes forever.
    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
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,571
    If you can stand it, send some pictures of the near boiler piping. I have to wonder if there's more going on than just dirty water.
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    STEAM DOCTOR
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,935
    @DCMA1

    Needs skimming for sure. You really need to fix this system. Continuing to run it this way you will surely loose that boiler.

    Summer is coming (I hope). You need to drain the boiler, flush the boiler and skim the boiler (and get that skim tapping plug out) the take apart the low water cutoff and clean that as well as the pigtail on the pressure control.

    Where are you located? Check find a contractor on this site maybe some can help you out
  • DCMA1DCMA1 Member Posts: 8


    Now... when you say the skim tapping isn't installed. Is the tapping for it not there (which would be odd) or is it that there is a plug in it rather than a handy pipe? If it's the latter, you might be able to get the plug out. Might not, too. One can skim through the upper tapping for the gauge glass, but it takes forever.

    Sorry for the confusion. There is a tapping there (I assume) but it's behind the sheetmetal, and the knockout there wants to open towards it, so you'd need to take the sheetmetal off, then loosen the 1" plug that's been there 19 years. I haven't had the best luck with that. I thought whoever put the 1" opening above the boiler might have used that. If it's not good to go that high, I'd take out the safety valve, it's only a little higher than the skim tapping but only 3/4". The pressure gauge is in a 3/4" tapping at the same height as the skim tapping but harder to use. The gauge glass is only 1/2" and even higher.

  • DCMA1DCMA1 Member Posts: 8

    If you can stand it, send some pictures of the near boiler piping. I have to wonder if there's more going on than just dirty water.

    Since I don't live there anymore, it'll take a while for me to get pictures, but I'll try.
    ethicalpaul
  • DCMA1DCMA1 Member Posts: 8
    I skimmed the boiler for 1:15 out of the safety valve, till it was clear and cooled. Drained and refilled. Got one of the plugs out of the wet return and drained. Seems much better now. I do have pictures of the near boiler piping - it looks ok to me?



    I'm not sure what happened to this vent? I think it is a Hoffman 75. Still seems to be working though.


  • DCMA1DCMA1 Member Posts: 8
    I also clocked the boiler and if anything I think it's a little underfired? 175,000 BTU boiler should be 175 cu ft/hr ? I measured 140-150ish. Was bothered by how orange the flames can be?


  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,703
    That is a Hoffman 75. They're bullet proof. It's almost certainly still working. If you feel the need for more main venting, though, you can add a T on there and an elbow or two and a couple of nipples and add a Gorton #2.

    The orange flames (if your camera is right) may be sodium -- from dust in the air. The only way you can be sure things are right, though, is to check the combustion with the proper gauges.
    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
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 276
    You can try skimming through what looks like a 2" nipple where the pipe leaves the boiler.

    You will also need to drain the wet return till you have clean water. Also you may have to disconnect the the piping from the boiler return side and flush all the crud in the bottom of the boiler. Additionally, the amount of yellow you show from the boiler flame indicates that you may need the fire side and flu passes cleaned and readjust the air and fuel mix.

    If you clean the internals get a contractor approved by your utility or use the utilities service company if they have one.

    Jake
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!