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Inspection and cleaning shows new rust...

Our house is heated by a Burnham boiler installed by the previous owner circa 1995. Even years I remove and vacuum the burner tubes and replace the thermocouple (after having one fail when less than 3 years old at one of the most inconvenient times possible).

This year I noticed some corrosion on the sheet metal shell of the boiler and big piles of rust beneath the burner tubes. I think the corrosion on the sheet metal is new; I am sure the big piles of rust are new. Photos follow.

Facing the boiler with the service panel removed. Left is to the left of this picture; right to the right.

Interior lower left.

Interior upper left corner.

Interior lower right.

Interior upper right.

Bottom, with most of the burner tubes removed, and the piles of rust are clearly visible.

Bottom left.

Bottom right.

So, what is going on? There has always been a little rust on the burners, but nothing like these piles below. The spots on the interior panels make me think that either exhaust is leaking, or steam is leaking. But, I only work on this one boiler, and am not a trained pro. I would be pleased to hear from folks who have seen similar, and can tell me what that turned out to be.


    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,524
    It doesn't look too severe. Have you taken the smoke hood off the top of the boiler and checked the flue passages? This usually doesn't need to be done every year, maybe every 4 years or so. Also check and clean the flue pipe and check the chimney.

    Then I would get a technician to run a combustion test.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    My hat is off to your keen attention to your boiler! It’s so great to be able to see any changes and then look to correct them!
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Ken Johnson
    Ken Johnson Member Posts: 27

    I have not been ignoring your comment -- I was not completely sure what you were talking about, and it seemed like the first step was some study on my part. The 90-page manual that comes with the boiler takes some getting used to -- there are a number of options and it took me a while to figure out which ones to ignore. In parts of the manual I drew a pencil diagonal line through the parts that don't apply to my setup.

    (The smoke hood came off three years ago when the chimney sweep did a camera inspection of the stainless steel flue liner.
    The sordid story can be found in this previous post:


    Conclusion -- heat escaping through liner warmed rest of chimney enough to put old coal exhaust back into the air; leaky chimney (liner is there for a reason) allowed smell into house. Pulling quarter-round at base of walls and applying latex foam, and similarly sealing other wall openings around chimney solved the smell problem.)

    However, at the time my focus was up into the chimney, not down into the boiler. So, I could pull the hood and look down, but unless it is obvious, I probably won't know what to look for. Could take a picture for comparison down the line. I did notice that the distance from the top of the enclosure to the bottom of the diverter skirt is 8", vs. the 12.75 inches specified in the book for a 9-section boiler like this one. It is not a tall basement. It looks it it was dug down 8-10" once, probably when the first steam boiler went in.

    Check and clean the flue pipe -- that's between the hood and the chimney? How clean should it be? What would I be checking for?

    What is a combustion test?

    I have had technicians out two or three times, not to fix specific problems, but for general "Check system and make ready for heating season" visits. They have not done any of the things you suggest. That has a lot to do with why I have not done them, either. Don't be mistaken, I am not saying your advice is wrong. Just an observation of the state of things.

    Thanks for taking the time to help me previously.
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
    Just a shot in the dark.
    Have you cleaned the flue passes between the boiler sections?

    Looking at the the inside of the jacket it may be possible that the the sealer between the sections may be defective.

    Do you have a cover on the top of the chimney to prevent rain from going down the chimney?

    As far as the smell in the house you may have a negative draft in the house which causes the air in the basement to rise into the living spaces.

    The negative draft will pull moisture from the air down the chimney and possibly cause rust to form in the boiler flue passes and on the gas burners.