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Water Level keeps dropping - Please advise

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steam2pipe
steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
edited November 2020 in Strictly Steam
In a previous discussion you helped me to realize that the piping from the gas boiler (steam heat) is incorrect - there is no header or equalizer and piping seems to go directly to two mains. There are 2 auto feeders - one disconnected and one connected but always reading "000". This weekend the water level in the sight water glass gauge dropped so low that the low water alert light started flashing red. The building manager added water, light went to green, heat went on and now less than 2 days later, the sight water glass gauge is 50% lower with water, lots of clanging when heat goes on and I am keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't drop to a much lower level. If it does, I think the manager and/or plumber will just keep adding water and the cause of the problem will not go away. If we hire a professional who understands how to properly pipe this boiler, we expect the cost to be over $$k because the entire boiler needs to be dismantled to re-do the piping. I have also researched what causes low water level. It could be the pump, or a leak (which was tested and we don't have) or something wrong with the heat exchanger or an electrical issue. If the mis-piping has caused one of these issues and we get that issue fixed as well as the piping, do you think the boiler will work properly? Please let me know if you have any advice. We are interviewing one more plumber mid-week and then making major repair decisions a few days later about who to hire to do what. Thanks.

Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    What is your location?
    Take some pictures of the near boiler piping, for more advice.
    I presume you flooded the boiler to determine if there is a leak?—NBC
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited November 2020
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    If I'm thinking of the right messed up boiler, I think my answer is that the water is getting thrown into the mains by the bad piping, which makes it look like you are losing water during a heating cycle.

    Did you observe the water level before the heat cycle, during the heat cycle, and after the heat cycle to see what the water level is like for each of those times?

    If the level drops dramatically (more than a couple inches) during the heating cycle, but then recovers, the bad piping is almost certainly the cause. You will have to fix the piping, or you can try to keep it from happening with the current piping by ensuring your water is clean with not too high a ph, and try a water level on the low end of acceptable.

    Adding water when it is low from this condition will just flood the boiler and give you even worse quality (wetter) steam.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    I did observe the water level. The sight glass was full to the line indicating proper amount on Saturday. Sunday it was 3/4 down. Then last night it had only 1/4 in the glass, then later 1/2.

    Thank you for your insights on this. I am more convinced than ever that bad piping is causing all of these problems. I don't want to see water continually added without resolving the underlying problems.

    Unless it is leaking underground where one of the pipes does go (below cement) we do not see a leak.

    Thanks.

    ethicalpaul
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    Hi NBC - Attached is a photo of the boiler. You had asked in a previous post to see the auto feeder reset button (which I am no longer pushing because this needs to be resolved). I really appreciate any thoughts.

    Thanks, too, Ethical Paul, for your help with this too.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited November 2020
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    OK thanks for that info. If the water level is truly going down that fast, then you have a leak. It might be in the boiler, or it might be in the buried returns.

    Have you done the test that @nicholas bonham-carter mentioned above where you fill the boiler up to about ceiling level and leave it there for some hours (with the boiler shut down of course) to see if water pools under it? This is the test for a rusted out or otherwise leaky boiler.

    If the water level drops but the boiler area is dry, that points to a leak in the buried return.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,061
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    Show us where the pipe comes out of the ground and is connected to the boiler....back up for full picture.
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    The plumber a year ago ran a test while the boiler was off to see if it was losing water and it didn't lose any. As far as the test that NBC recommended, I would need to ask a plumber to do that now to see something has changed.

    Attached are some photos of the pipes going into the ground. The darker ones are the best I could do given there was no light in the boiler room and I backed up as far as I could




  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    One more question - Does this pressuretrol and set up look ok to you?





  • roelandp
    roelandp Member Posts: 6
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    that near boiler piping is all wrong wow
    ethicalpaul
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    Thanks. This is not good news for us but we will have to deal with it. We're interviewing new plumbers now and all this info you all provide helps me so much so we can make a good decision.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,527
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    First of all the boiler does not need to be dismantled to fix the piping.

    What I would do with the boiler cold is mannually fill it ...over fill it until the supply piping coming off the boiler is cold. Let it sit for several hours over night is bette and look for leaks around the boiler. If you don't see any leaks on the floor or in the fire box after a few hours the boiler is probably ok

    After that drain the boiler down to mid level in the sight glass and mark the level with a sharpie. Again let it sit overnight the level should not drop. If it drops you have a leak somewhere perhaps underground
    steam2pipe
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    Ok, thanks, for this advice, Ed. Two plumbers have told us that they need to remove the entire boiler to re-pipe it properly. Thanks for your suggestion to check for a leak.
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    I also like the suggestion that the boiler is forcing the steam too fast into the two mains and without a header, there is water being sent out that way and creating 'wet' steam. The pipes clang too much when the boiler fires up at times. It's all trial and error. We just hope we can avoid any more errors. Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I welcome any others you may think of along the way.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    The important thing to put in the contract is that the piping be as the manufacturer specifies.—NBC
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    Ok, thanks, for this advice, Ed. Two plumbers have told us that they need to remove the entire boiler to re-pipe it properly. Thanks for your suggestion to check for a leak.
    I can’t imagine why they would think that
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    The folks telling you the boiler has to be removed to fix the piping probably don't have pipe threading machines and will just try and use copper for everything.

    Near boiler piping carrying steam HAS TO BE THREADED BLACK STEEL PIPE and at a minimum it has to meet the manufacturers instructions. If I paid for a repipe i would want them to go over and above the manufacturers minimum requirements - an extra hundred dollars is nothing compared to the cost of repiping a boiler.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    MaxMercy
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Many manufacturers can supply a piping kit for the particular model of boiler, which will ensure the boiler is piped properly.—NBC
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    Thanks so much. The contract to fix the piping says: "All items provided will be piped and sized to Weil McLain’s
    Manufacturer specifications. The entire boiler will be stripped down back to the boiler only. All of the near boiler piping will be replaced." So maybe he is not 'removing' the boiler just stripping it down and I misunderstood. Does that sound right? The contract also says "black steel risers'. We were also just told today that copper piping is a mistake and that is the piping going from the boiler into the ground.
    CLamb
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Another thing to make sure of is: threaded risers, and header at least. Welded pipes will put an additional strain on the sections of the boiler.—NBC
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    We were also just told today that copper piping is a mistake and that is the piping going from the boiler into the ground.


    Copper pipe below the waterline is OK
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,527
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    Yes copper below the boiler water line is not a problem
  • steam2pipe
    steam2pipe Member Posts: 59
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    Thanks, everyone. FYI -It is a proposal (not contract signed yet) that I quoted above. I don't see "threaded risers" just "black steel risers". There is a black steel header and black steel equalizing line with with Hartford Loop included. Good to know copper piping below water line is ok, too.