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Burnham Gas Boiler Leaking Water?!

tabeth
tabeth Member Posts: 9
Hello all!

I'm going to call an HVAC technician (or should I call a plumber) to take a look at my boiler which started to leak heavily today.

Is there anything I can do in the short term to stop the leaking?











Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,098
    Get a mop? Seriously, if it's leaking like that, it's probably toast -- and you may need a new one, pronto. It would be an HVAC person -- not a plumber, unless he or she is one of those plumbers who is also good with hot water heat. There are some.

    You might be able to limp along for a bit with some formidable stop-leak stuff, but that sometimes causes more problems than it solves -- and is not a solution to the problem.

    Be sure that a replacement is sized properly, and is not just like for like.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    1075NH
  • tabeth
    tabeth Member Posts: 9
    edited November 2020
    Thank you Jamie for your prompt response. I figured it has probably died since there's so much rust/corrosion. In the third to last picture (it's hard to tell without a video) there was actually water dripping from the top area near the silver to the bottom (the rusty bit).

    Does that mean there is some rust where the water is supposed to be held, just out of curiosity.

    EDIT:

    Assuming it needs to be replaced, should I get something similar (Burnham)? I've also heard of the condensing boilers that go on the wall. I'm not sure which one is better or lasts longer. This unit is 25 years old.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,955
    That looks to have been leaking for a while.
    Determining factors in changing to a condensing boiler include: what type of radiators you have....baseboard or old style cast iron.
    Also the condition of the existing chimney, as often a liner is required for the cast iron type of boiler you have now.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,098
    On the replacement -- as I said, step 1 is to make sure it is the correct size. Like for like isn't always correct! Your contractor should do a Manual J heat loss calculation to size the boiler.

    Then what make... well, Burnham still makes a very good boiler, but so do several other people. What is more important is that the person doing your install is familiar with and likes and is happy working with the boiler. There are indeed condensing boilers, but they don't necessarily just fit nicely in -- there are venting considerations, and sometimes the installed radiation isn't really suitable -- and they are more expensive, and are a bit more finicky to get set up properly. Some of them do fit on a wall -- but they may not have the power to handle your system.

    I'm sorry to say it, but it's unlikely that anything will last as long as that Burnham -- but a nice cast iron boiler in the same class will last longer than one of the more compact units.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • tabeth
    tabeth Member Posts: 9
    edited November 2020
    Thank you all for the information.

    I have three zones for heating approximately 1000sqft per zone, three showers and hot water baseboard. I've done a little research on this and apparently there are three popular options in my area:

    Burnham Alpine - $1500 rebate
    Navien NCB-240E - $1600 rebate
    Burnham Chimney Vented (what I have now I think) no rebate

    Apparently the Alpine is 97% efficient compared to the 82% efficient of what I have now. I'm not sure which to choose, or if there are better options other than these three.

    I'm also not really sure how reasonable these prices are for Massachusetts or which ones will result in the overall least cost including any servicing. From my experience my current boiler was very easy for people to service but is prone to corrosion over time.

    EDIT: Removed prices
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,098
    No prices please! That's one of our rules, for a variety of good reasons.

    All three are perfectly good boilers -- but you still have to do the heating loss I mentioned to determine which size might be best. It's not based on the size of the structure, but on the heat loss -- which can vary widely.

    I wouldn't count to heavily on achieving the high efficiency of the Alpine. Yes, you can, some of the time -- if it is suited to your radiation and your heat loss, but that needs to be carefully evaluated. Unless set up properly and piped and controlled properly, it will be no better than a regular Burnham.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • tabeth
    tabeth Member Posts: 9
    edited November 2020
    Oh my apologies Jamie, I was not aware. I have removed the prices but left the rebate amounts since that can help determine the overall value (though if that's also a rule I'll remove that as well).

    Heat loss and efficiency aside (since I need to have someone actually do that), are the Chimney Vented boilers generally easier to service and install? We're now into November and ideally this could be something that's replaced in a day, at most, including removing the old boiler. I imagine a properly sized equivalent Burnham Chimney boiler could basically be swapped out relatively easily?

    My area offers incentives for getting the more efficient boilers but I've read conflicting information on this forum to whether you can actually achieve those levels in practice and whether the extra complexity is worth it.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,955
    That 97% is only achieved with very cool water returning to the boiler. Baseboard heaters need high temp to heat well and therefore will not return cool water.

    Condensing boilers should be cleaned every year or two.
    I have changed major parts in cond boilers and the main board will cost more than all the components combined in a cast iron boiler.
    They have about 1/2 the life span of a cast iron.

    I have installed them where there are cast iron radiators (low temp return) and when the crumbling chimney would not even support a liner.

    There is a good chance that the existing boiler is oversized (very common). And you do not have to oversize because of the water tank.....it heats your house or your water...not at the same time.
  • tabeth
    tabeth Member Posts: 9
    edited November 2020
    Wow - it definitely seems like I should just get a Chimney Vented boiler then. Is Burnham the best brand for that? If and when I get a replacement, is there anything low cost I can do to extend its lifespan? Ideally I could get another 25 years of a new one.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,955
    One killer of cast iron is additional fresh water introduced because of leaks in the system and also the quality of your water you do have in the boiler.
    Your 25 year run is not a terrible record.
    I work on some commercial boilers that are 50-60 years old....but things of that era were build heavier but less efficient because of it.

    Sunday daytime is a slow time on the Wall here.
    Tonight or tomorrow morning others may express their option.
    This is just my personal observation.

    And where are you located?
    There is a "Find a Contractor" list in the header above.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,323
    Yes, where are you located? You mentioned Massachusetts. Try @Charlie from wmass he is usually very busy though
    Ironman
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,195
    Modulating condensing boilers save significant fuel no matter the system IF SET PROPERLY. My preference is Lochinvar. We can talk Monday, but it is a question of timing.  
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    Ironman
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,761
    I completely disagree that an HVAC tech is the person to call here. I can always tell when a boiler was installed by an HVAC company. It's always terrible. They can't solder.They don't know why they're doing what they're doing and basic principles of fluid dynamics get ignored. Plumbers deal with water-based heating systems and specialists with piping. I do agree that not all plumbers know what they're doing when it comes to boilers but you have to ask around or get a recommendation from either Burnham or a local supply house. Or from here, of course.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
    SuperTech1075NH
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,976
    JohnNY said:

    I completely disagree that an HVAC tech is the person to call here. I can always tell when a boiler was installed by an HVAC company. It's always terrible. They can't solder.They don't know why they're doing what they're doing and basic principles of fluid dynamics get ignored. Plumbers deal with water-based heating systems and specialists with piping. I do agree that not all plumbers know what they're doing when it comes to boilers but you have to ask around or get a recommendation from either Burnham or a local supply house. Or from here, of course.

    @Charlie from wmass seems like one of the best choices out there in my opinion.........
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,098
    I think we can all agree that what you don't want is someone who is focused on hot air. Which, it is true, a good many "HVAC" people are. Nor, however, do you want someone who is focused on DWV piping and fancy bathrooms. Difficult. And yes, if @Charlie from wmass covers your area, and isn't too dang busy, he's the one you want.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Ironman
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    edited November 2020
    JohnNY said:
    I completely disagree that an HVAC tech is the person to call here. I can always tell when a boiler was installed by an HVAC company. It's always terrible. They can't solder.They don't know why they're doing what they're doing and basic principles of fluid dynamics get ignored. Plumbers deal with water-based heating systems and specialists with piping. I do agree that not all plumbers know what they're doing when it comes to boilers but you have to ask around or get a recommendation from either Burnham or a local supply house. Or from here, of course.



    There’s a lot of truth here, but the term “plumber” can vary in meaning from one region to another. Around here, most of them just know how to run plastic pipe to bathrooms and are clueless about hydronics. The same for HVAC companies. And the plumbers can be the biggest knuckleheads about piping a boiler p/s because they can’t conceive how it makes a difference as to which port of a Tee a circuit is connected to. Up North, most plumbers deal with hydronic systems and some have a high level of expertise like you.

    I have a master’s license in plumbing, HVAC, gas, electrical and refrigeration. But none of those prove that I know anything about hydronics. It’s a different skill set. My partner is the best plumber that I know and he’s excellent on hydronics, but that’s not the norm around here.

    Thats why I always recommend that folks ask for a hydronics specialist whether calling a plumbing or HVAC contractor.

    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    Charlie from wmass
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,976
    To be completely honest, people call themselves a lot of things and it never means it's true.

    There are plenty of "heating contractors" that claim they do steam, but really they shouldn't.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Charlie from wmassSuperTech
  • tabeth
    tabeth Member Posts: 9
    edited November 2020
    Just a quick update on this:

    So to stop the leaking (which appeared to be occurring from inside the boiler itself, onto the floor) I turned off the boiler and drained all of the water from within it using the drainage valve.

    Obviously it's cold out these days but it was warm enough for most of the day. In the late evening I turned it back on and so this morning I noticed that there's no more leaking onto the floor.

    Now all the leaking is coming from safety relief valve. Fortunately because I happen to have a condensate pump for the hot water heater next to the boiler I've directed all of that water to the pump.

    I wasn't able to reach anyone today (albeit I only called a single person). I'll be making some more calls to get someone out here this or next week.

    Anyway, any reason why the leak stopped happening from inside the boiler to the floor? If there was a crack shouldn't it always leak? My guesses are:

    1. Maybe something else within the boiler leaks under high pressure and if the pressure is really high it leaks there instead of the safety relief valve? From my research this shouldn't be the case, but who knows.

    2. Draining the refilling the boiler clogged the leak spot somehow? This also doesn't make any sense since my understanding is that water is always recirculating within the boiler by design. On the other hand this boiler-leak has only happened once.

    Well I'll keep my fingers crossed - maybe I don't need a new boiler after all (though there's tons of rust on it so I'll definitely save-up in any case for the inevitable failure of the boiler).
  • 1075NH
    1075NH Member Posts: 34
    You have received a lot of good info here. The only thing i can add is regarding high efficiency boilers. The higher the efficiency the more important the installer is. It's critical they be sized properly and installed properly. And often times they can require more maintenance then conventional cast iron types. And lastly, they are always going to be more difficult and expensive to work on when they have issues. You can find parts for conventional boilers at virtually any supply house and even Home Depot. A lot of the exotic types you can't. I have a Viessman and despite their being half a dozen supply houses within a 70 mile radius to me none stock parts for them. A main control board for mine cost around $700 and needs to be special ordered. A standard cast iron boiler uses an off the shelf $230 Honeywell control that any supplier would have in stock and any decent tech would have in his or her van. That's the difference between you getting your heat/hot water back in a few hours vs a few days. When my Viessman finally dies (hopefully no time soon but it is pushing 20 years old) i am putting a conventional boiler in. The energy savings aren't worth the headaches that go with it.
    Charlie from wmass