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Hoffman Watchman condensate pump motor repair or replacement

bkcbkc Member Posts: 13

Last fall I became a trustee in my church in northern NY, and was immediately assigned the weekly task of 'purging the schmutz' from our newly installed Weil-McLain LGB-8 boiler. Since then I've learned a few things about steam from Dan Holohan videos and this website. While I have questions about why the contractor set the boiler-cutout at 5psi, my immediate problem is a condensate return pump that is not working.

After noticing make-up water being added to the boiler before I purged it, I eventually found a 'stuck open' steam trap feeding an inoperative condensate pump. The condensate was spilling out the overflow pipe into a drain, along with filling that storage room with plenty of steam. The pump motor does not run. It is energized, but the motor doesn't start by itself. Though I can spin the motor 'by hand' using a screwdriver, it turns easily.

The thermal overload protection was cycling the motor coil on and off. I did de-solder the start capacitor and test it with an ohmmeter. As best I can tell, the capacitor is still good (high resistance, slowly decreasing to low resistance).

At this point, I think the start-circuit centrifugal switch is bad. Given the high heat in the room and the (weeks or months) of thermal overload cycling, I think the motor may need to be refurbished & tested, or replaced.

Unfortunately I cannot figure out how to remove the motor from the pump. Considering its age, and rust/decay, I hesitate to get aggressive with it. I don't have a parts diagram that could suggest how to disassemble the unit. We have tried applying WD40 to the head-to-case capscrews and they can be loosened now. But the motor doesn't seem to want to come out.

Given our church's financial situation, made worse by covid, I'd like to see what we can do ourselves before having a contractor tackle this problem. I fear they would suggest replacing the entire receiver, pump and motor assembly. Though that might ultimately be the best thing, given its rusty condition.

Another option is maybe I could install an electronic motor start switch, something like a Samusco ECS112PS . Would this be a bad idea? We just need a few more years of life out of this setup.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

Its a Hoffman Watchman WC-8-20 12 GPM 20 PSI pump.

With a Westinghouse 1/3 HP SF 1.35 NP45053-A motor:

Locked KVA - K
Frame 56C
Style LX-41765
Type FJ
Cycles 60
Serial JZ
RPM 3450
V 115
A 3.7
Thermoguard type A

Here are some pictures, and a video of my discovery.. The motor is hotter than the receiver


  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,203
    Dear me. That old girl doesn't owe you anything -- nor you it.

    Can you get us some pictures of your nice new boiler? Try to get pictures -- from all sides -- which will clearly show us both the boiler and, more important, the near boiler piping.

    Then turn the pressure control down. Way down. If it is the typical grey pressuretrol with just one scale on it (perhaps labelled "cut in") that should be set just a fraction above the lowest marking -- typically 0.5. Hopefully the differential wheel inside the case is set to 1... or, if you prefer, just take a couple of pictures of it and post them, too. One with the cover on, and one with the cover off.

    Now. The big question is... do you need that condensate receiver and pump at all? Wander around -- all through the building -- and make note, or better yet a sketch, of all of the steam piping. Note too if there are any vents on the piping -- and take a picture of them, if you find them. Is this one pipe steam (just one pipe going into each radiator)? or two? If it's two, proceed to trace all the return pipes. Where do they go? Do they go back to the boiler (most likely)? Are there vents -- or a vent, perhaps -- on them? Now having done all that, how does condensate get back to the condensate receiver? Are there drips to wet returns -- pipes below the boiler water line? They may come down from either the steam mains or the dry returns -- or both. Trace these wet returns back from the receiver. One really important thing you are looking for is their elevation relative to the water line in the boiler. They should be below it.

    Also look for any and all steam traps, and see if you can figure out if they are working. If it is a two pipe system, but there don't appear to be traps on the radiators, take a picture of both the outlet and inlet fittings and post them. If there are traps between the steam mains and an adjacent dry return, be very sure that they are working. If not, fix them. For that matter, fix any trap which seems to be suspect.

    Now to go back to the elephant above. If all the piping is correct, do you really need that condensate receiver and that poor old pump? Or to put it another way, play this game: if you were to pour water into any of the drips or the wet returns, could it flow entirely by gravity back to the boiler? If it seems that it can, and the dry returns (if any) and steam mains are at least 28 inches above the boiler water line, it is quite likely that -- with the correct boiler pressure -- you don't need it.

    Also while you are wandering around looking at the system (with, I hope, Dan's Lost Art near to hand!) look for leaks. You don't want any. A steam system in good condition shouldn't use more than a gallon of water a month, plus any blowdown water (some don't use any to speak of in a year!). A gallon a week in the colder weather is, perhaps, marginally acceptable -- but indicates a leak somewhere. Find 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
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,223
    If you feel confident enough to tackle the piping there is probably 5 connections to that tank. Vent and overflow, boiler feed, city make up water and condensate. You could order a new tank and install it.

    The other option is a replacement pump and motor they come pre assembled.

    The third option would be to take you old pump and motor to a motor shop and see if they can fix it
  • bkcbkc Member Posts: 13
    Hi, thanks for the responses.

    The building has 3 condensate return pumps, the condensate returns to the boiler room receiver using overhead lines, so gravity feed won't work. This particular tank/pump has steam in, overflow out and condensate output (pump) connections on it. Yes, its in very bad shape. A new Hoffman 12 gallon replacement looks like $1900+ (and then there's labor). I'm not a pipe fitter for sure.

    I don't have pictures of the boiler header but I'm pretty sure it's more than 2 ft and the steam flow and "water return" are both in the same direction.

    The building is mostly a 2 pipe system, but I did find at least one old single-pipe radiator in an unused stairwell. It was warm when I checked it.

    I have found at least one vent, which I discovered above ceiling tiles in the basement after hearing it. It was hissing a little and then stopped.

    There are a number of other issues I would like to review before heating season starts. But I wanted to discuss those in other posts to keep issues separate:

    a. the boiler operating pressure is one of those (cut in is set at 2 psi, differential is 3). The burner turns off when the pressure gauge reads 5 PSI and turns on at 2 PSI. This seems crazy high to me.

    b. I need to replace at least one spirax sarco B25 steam trap, wondering about using a Tunstall disc there or Barnes and Jones trap w/ new cover,

    c. I found a leaking 1" Sarco trap in the ceiling of the boiler room that looks like it was rebuilt using regular silicone as a gasket. Can I get a gasket kit and repair it myself?

    d. I found an in-wall radiator that leaks at a union but I cannot tighten it enough to stop the leak

    e. I found a pile of empty boiler water treatment boxes. Possibly they were used in the old boiler. There seems little point in addressing boiler water treatment (if any) until the condensate return is fixed.

    and more items to be discovered.

  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 378
    To repair that old timer requires some one to remove the pump and bring it to a repair shop. This is a close couple unit. Meaning the impeller is attached to the shaft of the motor.
    It appears that the pump seals are shot and need to be replaced as well as the bearings. Looking at the unit the impeller may be worn out due to possible cavitation caused by steam entering the pump set and heating the water to near steam temperatures.

    To save a few bucks replace the pump set with a steel tank instead of cast iron.

    I say this because money seems be an issue.

    As far as going crazy to figure out all quirks in the system you need to repair or replace all bad steam traps, this is needed to lower the condensate temperature as much s possible. Your returning condensate temperatures should not exceed 160 degree F.

    As to the steam pressure in the system, if you have only building heat on the boiler you can drop your steam pressure down to 2 PSI maximum with a one pound differential and see how the system responds in the winter. I do not know what the pressure drop is in the system, usually two times the pressure drop is the setting for operating steam pressure, if the steam pressure is to low you can jack it up another 1 psi operating pressure in increments until you hit the right operating pressure.

    Looking for system quirks needs to be done during the heating season
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 378
    Forgot to mention this. I am an old timer I prefer 1750 rpm pumps. They be a bit more expensive but they are real work horses.

    Additionally. You only measured the top of the pump, you need to measure the sides of the pump, that's where the heat of the stator is first felt. The top of the pump is where the cooler temperatures are because ambient air from the room is sucked up by the cooling fan to cool the stator.


  • bkcbkc Member Posts: 13
    Hi Jake, thanks for your comments. Do you think it worthwhile to get replacement parts (new pump and motor) and reuse the existing tank?

    I found this

    Based on '4 cap screws' and suction orientation I think we have a 'packed' pump. Though that PDF doesn't list '8 gallon' units, which is what we appear to have.

    I also found this page and (possibly not exactly what we need) but gives me a price range.

  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,169
    One condensate pump equals one headache, but three pumps probably equal nine! If the system is quite old, it may have been originally gravity return, which possibly could be restored.
    What age is the building and heating system?
    Boiler treatment can cause a similar number of additional headaches, especially if lots of makeup water is added with the treatment, causing a buildup of solids which can foul the pumps and boiler. A tight system will not need much makeup water in a year. High pressure will cause the condensate to be more (carbonically) acid.
    When tightening unions, it may help to lubricate the union faces with dishwashing soap, and rock the radiator while tightening, (easier said than done in a wall recess).—NBC
  • retiredguyretiredguy Member Posts: 270
    edited September 1
    Let me give you my take on repairing pumps and controls. When I got into the HVAC trade in the late 1960's we repaired everything in your truck or on a work bench. I carried parts for everything; gaskets, seals , screws and bolts, cams, floats. Later I found out that the replacement stuff was so much better than a repaired item. That pump you are asking about, YES, you can rebuild it yourself if you have the experience and the required tools but a new pump installed into that existing tank will give you way better service that the pump you try to rebuild. Every old guy on this site could probably repair the things I did but why, when the factory rebuild on replacement is so much better. I worked on everything that ever heated and most of it in an industrial setting, but the guys on this site know much more than me when it comes to residential heating. Listen to them and learn well. My 2 cents.
  • bkcbkc Member Posts: 13
    Thank you all for your comments so far.

    1. gravity return sounds ideal, and I imagine the original 1-pipe system and coal fired boiler probably was all gravity return. At some point radiators were added to basement rooms, and those returns are all overhead. Though this broken pump does handle some return from 1st floor radiators. I wonder why that is.
    2. This church building was constructed in 1903. The boiler was replaced in 2019
    3. I am getting the picture that 'new pump / new motor' at a minimum is probably the best way to go.

    We do have this Sarco F/T in the boiler room with an occasional drip. The contractor quoted replacement, including labor of about $650. I have found some rebuild kits for $150 to $200. Do you think a rebuild is reasonable in this case? Can we rebuild it in-place w/o disassembling the piping?

  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 378
    Rebuilding the steam traps with OEM parts is the way to go. The kit comes with all the internal parts and gasket. You have time now before the heating season starts. You may not need the float for the traps that will make the repair kit cheaper. This is not known until the trap is taken apart. Usually the only part that is needed is the thermostatic element.

    As far as making this a gravity return if at all possible depends on how you may need to run the return piping wet or dry. There may obstructions due the structure of the building that did not allow the installing contractor or design engineer to make the system a gravity return system.

    I did some church work years ago where a wet return was used to make it a gravity return. Unfortunately the piping was installed under the basement slab. To replace the piping would have required breaking up the slab and excavation.

    The most economical repair at that time was it install condensate pumps and run a common over head line to the boiler room.

    Also another problem is some thing called time lag. That is the amount of time that it takes for the condensate to return to the boiler. If the spent steam cannot return to the boiler as fast as the steam is produced you will need the boiler feed pump.

    Here is a suggestion, Replace the boiler feed pump with a new unit. Scavenge the old unit ( the cast Iron tank is worth saving ) Replace the old pump and motor with a new one and you will have spare unit if one of the old pumps fail.

    Years ago I had some customers always try to cut my prices to the bone.

    My retort was you can pay me now or pay me double later.
    A few of these customers chose to use a different contractor, unfortunately the repair that was made failed in the middle of the heating season and the repair contractor could not return the system to proper operation.

    I was called back and made the proper repair did not charge double but they paid twice for the same repair.


  • Joe_DunhamJoe_Dunham Member Posts: 46
    Hoffman watchman had 2 types of centrifugal pump configurations, one has the discharge 180 degrees opposite the suction and the other is 90 degrees. Unfortunately yours is the 90 degree one. Believe it is discontinued plus the motor is OEM proprietary. To buy it if you can find it is way expensive and repair probably even more between rewinding, bearings and the shaft will be so corroded the new seal wont seal. Best solution replace the whole unit. Sterlco, Vent-Rite , Hoffman, Mepco all have small inexpensive steel receiver units. You may even find something on E bay
  • GordoGordo Member Posts: 737
    edited September 3
    @bkc : Is that Sarco f&t trap you have pictured the one you are planning to rebuild? What is the model number? What is the pipe size? The reason I'm asking is re-build kits for older traps might not work, or may only include the thermostatic part (and the gasket, if you're lucky) and not the float part. Sarco is now Spirex/Sarco and their line of traps have undergone many design changes over the decades of their existence and they have ruthlessly eliminated any OEM repair kits other than their current models and tend to price those just a bit less than a whole new unit.
    Case in point: I am all too familiar with Sarco's 3/4" FTLC-00.
    The float mechanism is not available or even rebuildable and I could not interest either Barnes & Jones or even Tunstall (and Tunstall- bless them- is usually game for almost any weird rebuilding project I've thrown at them in the past just for the bragging rights!).
    If I was faced with a situation that would require removal of a thousand $ of asbestos to re-pipe, I could (and have) rebuilt the infamous FTLC-00, float mechanism and all. At the end of it, the customer still had an old obsolete trap that worked sorta meh.
    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.
  • bkcbkc Member Posts: 13
    Thank you all for your insightful comments. I just finished a call with 'an old timer' who confirmed that "in the 50s a major renovation project converted the basement space from storage to meeting rooms". That's likely when the condensate pumps were added.

    This particular defective condensate pump overflows into a drainage channel under the foundation. The power for the pump is supplied through a conduit that traverses this same channel under the foundation between the boiler room and the room with the condensate pump. I wonder if it would be possible to run pipe through this channel to switch from a pump to "gravity return". The lowest radiator return that feeds this pump is probably 2 ft higher than the bottom of the boiler room receiver.

    In the picture below, the lowest return is marked with a red arrow on the left, and the channel is under the red arrow on the right.
    In the lower left corner you can see diamond plate that covers part of the channel.

    I'm not sure that would be possible, its probably 30' or more, pipe segments would be limited to maybe 8ft each or less. I can't see how to support the pipe in the channel, there'd likely be dips. In essence the pipe would become part of the boiler room receiver and the "lag time" could be high considering there would be no slope.

    The picture of the 1" Sarco trap is the one that slowly drips. I think the trap works, but the appearance of silicone as a sealant makes me worry about experiencing a serious leak mid-heating-season. I don't have the model number right now.

    The heating contractor is coming over Friday morning to look at the condensate pump. I will try to find a model number on the trap at the same time. The 'old timer' told me that 2 or 3 years ago they received an estimate (from a different contractor) to replace the now broken condensate pump. The price, I think including labor, was about $3600.

    The current contractor is also providing us an 'annual maintenance contract' which as near as I can tell means they will 'check the system out' before heating season starts. I don't have a copy of the contract, but I would expect them to clean the burners and do a 'big blowdown' to clear the mud out. My task, what got me started in this project, is to blow down the boiler every week. At which point I get a fair amount of rust (until the water runs clean).

    But even with that, I notice the site glass has a lot of rust in it. Is this typical?

  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,169
    Any return under the waterline of the boiler will be generally unaffected by the slope. Copper can be used, including in this case, flexible pipe. A brass transition piece will counter any effects of corrosion between dissimilar metals.
    No pump to cut out with gravity!
    Have your water tested, and if normal, only treat it with Steamaster tablets if anything.--NBC
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 378
    Steam Master tablets are no longer available.

    That manufacturer makes the steam master chemical in liquid.
    When using ant chemical follow the instructions and run the boiler for 1 day.

    If the boiler water is unstable drain about half the water out and refill the boiler.

    The amount of chemical to use is based on the sq. feet of steam the boiler produces which is related to the water content in the boiler.

    The newer boilers use less water content than the older models.

    Sarco steam traps have not changed in design and parts are readily available.

    See Attachment

    Sarco Steam Traps Taken from my book
    Steam The Perfect Fluid For Heating And Some Of The Problems

  • GordoGordo Member Posts: 737
    edited September 3
    "Sarco steam traps have not changed in design...."

    I respectfully disagree with you, sir.

    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.
  • bkcbkc Member Posts: 13
    In the boiler room I found 4 'full' 8 oz bottles of 'ComStar steam clean, along with 1 empty bottle.

    I will ask the contractor's technician tomorrow morning if they had added any kind of water treatment, or even if they had skimmed the new boiler after it was installed. I imagine if any treatment chemicals/buffer had been added, it would have been lost through the broken condensate pump overflow pipe.. assuming the chemicals are carried in the steam. Are they?

    I got a picture of the top of the leaking Sarco F/T trap.

    Its difficult to read, appears to say FTL-00 904 15# 40268 E2
    Also might say Type P BM

    The OD of the pipe on this trap appears to be about 1.25", so would that be SCH 40 1" ?

    Maybe a Tunstall TA-2FP-SA-15 float and trap repair kit would work for this? The only mention I found of FTL-00 is in a Spirax catalog listing it as "obsolete". Also, it lists 3/4" pipe dimensions for FTL-00, which doesn't jive with the OD of the pipe (measured with tape measure).

    For wet return, it looks promising. The actual distance from the boiler room receiver to the broken condensate pump is 70'. The lowest return into that pump appears to be 22 inches above the floor (shown in earlier photo). In the boiler room, the top of the receiver is 28" above the floor and the 'float switch', appears to be in the middle of the square receiver tank (about 16" above the floor).

    The electrical supply for the condensate pump runs through the inside of an unused 3" iron pipe. The conduit enters the 'top most' pipe in this picture and runs under the building to the condensate pump. The iron to copper pipe shown in the lower right is a return from a small radiator that connects to the receiver.

    In the room with the pump, someone had previously jack-hammered through the floor. Possibly so they could pull the electrical cable through the iron pipe.

    Here is the cable exiting the pipe. We might have to cut off the end of the old pipe.

    The cable comes up through the floor through the same hole that the condensate pump overflow dumps into.

    How large of a pipe would we need for return? 1", 2" ? I suppose that depends on the volume of condensate we might expect to have.

    The condensate pump is fed by a 2.5 to 3" iron pipe. However that pipe itself is fed by a single 1" iron pipe and small return from bathroom ceiling radiators. That 1" pipe is in turn fed by one radiator (the one with the bad steam trap), and 2 F/T like traps that are fed from a 4 or 5" steam line and a smaller 3" line.

    Here you can see the large steam line on the left, and the smaller line is missing its insulation.

    I did find insulation on the ceiling tiles, can anyone tell if this is "the bad stuff"?

    Would 1" copper tubing work in this application? 100ft of Type L is $566 at Grainger. Would need fittings, cleanouts.. What about a check valve in the boiler room?

    Is there a problem with running copper tubing inside a rusty iron pipe? Should we use coated/jacketed copper instead?

    What about silicon hose or some non-metallic tubing?

    e.g. silicone SAE J20R3, 200 PSI, 350F, $200 for 25 ft. Is that a bad idea?

    Thanks for your thoughts!
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,729
    Looks like aircell asbestos insulation. i suppose you would have to have it tested to confirm, but i don't know of non-asbestos look alikes. The metal bands holding it together typically are only on aircell as well.
  • PumpguyPumpguy Member Posts: 426
    @bkc, Sorry, just viewing this thread today.

    This pump is fitted with a single phase 56 C frame motor. It is very common for the centrifugal starting switch on these motors to go bad, so your guess about why it won't start is probably correct.

    The pump suction flange bolt pattern (2.75 X 5) on your pump is common to several brands of similar condensate pumps so you should easily be able to find a pump & motor assembly that will fit your receiver tank. Some are even available with stainless steel housings. Due to the rust from all the leakage, there may be a problem removing the 4 bolts that hold the pump to the tank.

    These pumps in 1/3 HP are commonly supplied with 115/230 volt single phase 60 hertz 3450 RPM motors, so any source of single phase current with 7 amps or more available can be used to power the pump. It is very common to wire the line current through the float switch for the start/stop operation.

    Typical capacity of a 1/3 HP, 3450 RPM condensate pump like this is 15 GPM @ 20 PSI.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
  • bkcbkc Member Posts: 13
    Hi @pumpguy

    Thanks for the information. We met w/ the contractor's "rep" last week and asked for 3 items:

    1. cost to replace pump and motor (your observation about those rusted studs is spot on, I don't see any way of taking the nuts off and the studs appear to be part of the bottom half of the pump housing )
    2. asked about changing back to a wet return. I suppose they're going to need someone more experienced to comment on that
    3. asked for a detailed checklist of items they will do as part of our annual maintenance contract. I specifically want to know if the're going to drain/purge the mud lake(?), since my weekly blow-down has always been from a higher drain. The rep they sent didn't seem to think that was part of the annual service contract.

    Do you think in a pinch we could put an electronic start switch on this motor? I found a Samusco ECS112PS, I'm not sure it will work..

  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,729
    I'm sure if you want to be cheap enough and have free labor you could play machinist and cut/split the nuts off the studs and clean them up with a die or replace the studs.
  • bkcbkc Member Posts: 13
    Hi all,

    I finally received a copy of "The Lost Art of Steam Heating". A quick glance through the book makes me think there are more things to think about on the "switch back to " wet-return idea. I have some reading to do!

    Meanwhile, I haven't heard a peep out of the contractors. Job too small or too ugly maybe
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