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steam boiler

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continue to show only 1/3 water in site glass on Burnham boiler. Yet feeder is adding a gallon or two a day. No leaks...Q; the boiler is up on 4" square blocks- that wouldn't make a difference?

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  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Could it be leaking down to the height of the Hartford loop?
    Has an overfill test been performed?—NBC
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 644
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    No visible leaks. Vents could be leaking steam. Any fogged up windows? Could be leaking valves. Any moisture around the radiator valves? Could be a fault in the boiler and you're venting the water up the chimney. Check the simple stuff first, like the vents on the radiators and the valves to the radiators. How old is the boiler and can you post pictures of it and the radiators?
    Miss Hall's School service mechanic, greenhouse manager,teacher and dog walker
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
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    I you're losing a gallon of water a day, you have a leak. What you need to do is find it. The folks above have given you some starting points. Any buried wet returns? Or hiding behind a wall somewhere?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    Grallert said:

    No visible leaks. Vents could be leaking steam. Any fogged up windows? Could be leaking valves. Any moisture around the radiator valves? Could be a fault in the boiler and you're venting the water up the chimney. Check the simple stuff first, like the vents on the radiators and the valves to the radiators. How old is the boiler and can you post pictures of it and the radiators?

    some fogged up windows...no leaks around radiators. no long term hissing of steam from any of radiators.
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    always sits less than 1/3..new Burnham block installed last week. last one cracked- steam up thru chimney. both, cracked one and new block, ironically settle site glass at the 1/3 mark?
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 644
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    fogged up windows is a very good indication of a leaky valve, vent or radiator. Very often the only clue to a leak is a foggy window or pealing wall paper. The steam will be invisible until it condenses on a cooler surface. A good tool to find that steam is a big cold spoon held near the likely suspects, Vents valves unions etc.
    Miss Hall's School service mechanic, greenhouse manager,teacher and dog walker
    ethicalpaulMark929
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    @Grallert thanks. could that be 1 or 2 gallons a week? it's been unseasonally warm in Boston- so heats gone on once or twice at night.. with leaky value do you replace or add soft tape?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
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    Mark929 said:

    @Grallert thanks. could that be 1 or 2 gallons a week? it's been unseasonally warm in Boston- so heats gone on once or twice at night.. with leaky value do you replace or add soft tape?

    Easily. You may be able to repair the valves -- once you find them. Soft tape is unlikely to help. Replacement is not as easy as it sounds.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Grallert
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    @Grallert when you say valve replacement- are you talking air valve device that regulates air and screws on down at bottom? i have a few extra.
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    found a small drip by radiator valve - drips next to big nut - is this something that can be repaired? tightened? How?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
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    Mark929 said:

    found a small drip by radiator valve - drips next to big nut - is this something that can be repaired? tightened? How?

    By big nut do you mean the union? If so, usually it can be fixed. Undo the union, clean the faces carefully (no abrasives!) and make sure that the radiator spud and valve are aligned up and down and angularly as closely as possible. Then some folks like to put just a thin smear of dish soap on the faces and put the union together, then tighten the nut -- it may help to rock the radiator slightly while doing that. Don't be a gorilla -- if hand tight plus perhaps half a turn won't do it, check the faces or damage or the whole thing for misalignmnet.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    leaking. uncertain is this a DIY? do you need to apply an substance?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
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    That's the union. Back it off as I said, and make sure the mating faces inside are really clean -- and again -- no abrasives or any kind! You'll have to shift the radiator or the valve slightly to get at the mating faces. Then line it up and, as I say, you may want to put just a little smear of dish soap -- nothing else -- on the mating faces. Then push it together making sure every thing is lined up and snug it up. Don't be a gorilla -- if just snugging it up doesn't stop the drip, more force won't help.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Mark929
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    so, simply by cleaning up the union area - it'll sit tighter and remove the leak? Seems simple. You're alway a great help. I should probably see less feeder usage i guess.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
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    One hopes. It usually works. No guarantees...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Mark929ethicalpaul
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    jamie by backing off the union will i be separating the radiator from the valve? or simple loosening it. Sorry Im not that technical want to understand. appreciate your patience.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited December 2020
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    You will completely disconnect the radiator in order to clean the faces of the union. So turn down your thermostat so it doesn't start steaming in the middle of your work (in case the valve is broken and unclose-able)

    Back off the union nut and spin it all the way off, then you are free to slide or swivel the radiator away from the supply. You will see the "mating faces" of the union, they are round and smooth.

    I just had to do this for one of my radiators. It was leaking about a pint a day just from dripping. My wife said "oh hey I think my radiator has been leaking" so casually after I don't know how many days :frowning:
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Mark929
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited December 2020
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    Extra hint: The arrow shows the direction to loosen. It's kind of counter-intuitive if you haven't done this before. Think of the nut as "belonging" to the radiator so it's "lefty-loosy" from the radiator's point of view.

    Extra extra hint: The riser may "drop" a bit after you disconnect it. Don't panic.

    I use an 18" pipe wrench for this but you can get away with a 12" if you are strong of arm. But as @Jamie Hall says, this is a game of finesse, not brute force


    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Mark929Grallert
  • Mark929
    Mark929 Member Posts: 72
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    OK. That's one radiator. The leaking one is in my daughter room. Leaks pint a day. Leaks from bottom. Can really see. Should I consider removing it and finding the whole and patching it up? Give it one shot- if not reorder a new one? Thoughts and advice always appreciated! You guys are the best!!
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited December 2020
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    You can:

    - Try to patch it. I have never attempted it. Maybe some JB Weld stuff might work.
    - Get one of a similar size used from Craigslist for $50-$100 (at least in NJ that's what they go for). This is what I've done.
    - Get a new one from one of several manufacturers who still make them
    - Try to disassemble it and remove the rusty section and reassemble it. This one is difficult.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Mark929Grallert
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,061
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    IIWM, (and I am aware of the above advice given by my esteemed colleagues ;)), I would try a nudge to tighten the nut. (better when pipe is hot). That would be putting the wrench on the top and pushing down. Even apply a wiggle to the rad as you tighten.......just a little nudge. The nut is brass and can crack or the threads can strip out.

    Sometimes that is all that is needed. If not then follow their advice above.
    Mark929ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
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    On the radiator with the leak. You can try JB Weld. I have, and sometimes it works... and sometimes it doesn't. If you can get the whole area around the leak really really clean -- you're looking for bare metal -- you have a good shot at it.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Mark929Grallert
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 644
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    Looks like you're finding your leaks and getting lots of great advice here. I have repaired a good number of radiators with a JB Weld type of epoxy. Probably a 70% success rate. worth a try. If you find it doeasn't work you'll want to find a replacement. You will also want to replace the valve assembly and save yourself the headache of discovering the joys of reusing old valves.
    Miss Hall's School service mechanic, greenhouse manager,teacher and dog walker
    ethicalpaulMark929
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 644
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    Mark929 said:

    @Grallert when you say valve replacement- are you talking air valve device that regulates air and screws on down at bottom? i have a few extra.

    Good to have a few of these around. Yes you might need to replace and the cold spoon trick will work for those.
    Miss Hall's School service mechanic, greenhouse manager,teacher and dog walker