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High water usage?

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neals
neals Member Posts: 55
I had posted this under my original "Eastman 20371" thread but then realized that's bad form and I should start a new discussion.

Anyway, I have a new problem -- my VXT-24 has been reporting two gallons a night ever since it got cold. What could be using that much water?  Could bad piping be to blame?  Maybe it's always been doing it?  (I admit I've had a "fire and forget" approach to this whole system until I started reading Dan's book, so I don't know what it did last year, but it reads 098 right now which seems excessive.)

This entire system was replaced around Thanksgiving last year and hasn't really been touched since.

Comments

  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,785
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    You are leaking steam or water . You have a leak .... How many gallons posted use on the feeder ? Anything over a few gallons you have a leak .. Dirty gauge glass you have steam leaks , clear gauge you have a condensation leak in the floor ...
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    I assume the 098 means 98 gallons since installation.  I've been keeping a log this past week and it's like this:

    11/29: 093
    11/30: 094
    12/2: 096
    12/3: 098

    Days with no entry (like today) mean it's unchanged.

    Glass is dirty, but where could steam leak be going?  You'd think I would notice that much moisture in the house. Could it headed down the drain near the furnace? Here's my rear piping: 


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,303
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    Where does that low return pipe go? That's the first place I'd look.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    It dumps into the sewer, I think. 
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    No, scratch that -- it's buried in the same concrete block as the sewer line but crosses, not connects. A bunch of pipes sprout from the other side and head up, then horizontally into part of the basement ceiling I can't get to without tearing up a bunch of nailed-together woodwork.
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    But still, if that were leaky wouldn't it show somewhere?  Also, it's not every night, just the colder ones. 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,303
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    That pipe is probably your problem. It's your wet return, and the odds are good that it's leaking like a sieve. Although it's quite possible -- even likely -- that there are other leaks in that ceiling area.

    And no, it wouldn't necessarily show anywhere. If it's near your building sewer, it could leak and follow the pipe to the sewer, then follow the sewer and it would go outside and you'd never notice it.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    How does that explain why it only leaks on certain nights?
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    If the water disappears only on certain nights of high steaming, then it’s probably steaming away some where.
    Have you done the overfill test?—NBC
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    No, but it sounds terrifying. I assume the test is to keep feeding water in until it fills the system up to the first floor radiators?
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    No, just like up to the header
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,432
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    This is a newer install correct? Any old steam vents that could be leaking? Including Main vents in the basement?

  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,785
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    To check for steam leaks one way is to show the thermostat all the way up and wait till the system is hot and fill . Check the radiator vents , packing on the shutoff valves and unions .. Small leaks can be detected with the fogging of a mirror . larger leaks you will hear . Down stairs check the main vents at the end of the steam mains. With finished basement it may be behind the wall . Gaining access for service would be a good thing ..

    Water used in the boiler contains minerals . If boils off in to the air it leaves behind the minerals , we call solids . Which would muddy up the boiler water. When there is a return leak the solids are flushed out . It is a quick check where to look for a leaks .

    You also want to check the top of the chimney when the radiators are hot and boiler running. Look for high levels of condensation . I know the boiler is new but it may be defective with a bad sand cast ..
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    Thank you all for your advice. It sounds like I need to start exposing pipes, then run the system at full power until the pressuretrol cutoff, then walk around listening for leaks.  If that doesn't reveal anything, then walk around with a mirror.

    How much leakage are we talking to make two gallons a night?  Would it simply be higher humidity in a room?  I have a couple of hygrometers I could relocate nightly.

    The boiler water is quite muddy, but that may be because we haven't flushed it since we got it in November 2019.  I've got a pro (found here) coming soon to take a look, hopefully he can evaluate the boiler setup and correct any localized issues.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited December 2020
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    The vxt doesn’t measure gallons, it measures time, so the number of gallons is an approximation. But having said that, it’s a huge amount of water loss regardless.

    I agree with @Jamie Hall that the buried return you appear to have is very “sus” as the kids say.

    it is easy to rule out. Before bed, turn off the power to the boiler and fill it to just below the top of the sight glass. In the morning see if the level has changed. If it has, your buried return is leaking. On my small boiler it’s about a quart every quarter inch. YMMV

    i just can’t believe in this weather you’re losing gallons per day up the chimney in a new boiler, or out a leaky vent from any age boiler. But a buried pipe leaks no matter how much the boiler runs or how old the boiler is. (Or is it buried? Or just hidden? Either way)

    do you hear the auto feed kicking in? Mine I could hear anywhere on the first floor, the running water in pipes sound was unmistakable 
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    Pipe is partly buried, and only for a short run. But for two days now there's been no loss, so if it's the return then it must only leak when the pressure rises (lately it's been milder weather so the boiler only fires briefly and is cut off by the thermostat rather than the pressuretrol).

    I'm on the second floor so I can't hear the auto feed. My mother-in-law on the first floor is hard of hearing but I'll see if she can detect it. That said, it seems to only happen overnight. 
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,653
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    You might want to turn off the supply and watch the level closely and see if it falls. Perhaps the feeder isn't feeding anything at all and a valve is turned off, a strainer is plugged or something is wrong wit the electric valve so it just keeps trying to feed once over and over again. If it is just timing when the valve is open then it could be that it keeps calling for the water that never comes over and over again.

    A more drastic and precise way to track the actual water usage is to put a water meter on the feed.
    ethicalpaul
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    I've been dumping a small amount of sludge into a bucket periodically, and that drops the level a little bit.  Sometimes the water in the glass rises overnight, so I know the feed is working at least part of the time. 
  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 552
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    Make sure you go around the house and check each radiator vent (and main vents) when your system is on a long run (like when it is really cold out or recovering from a setback). If during a cycle that is relatively short a steam leak through a vent may not materialize because the steam never reaches the vent. Thus steam loss during really cold periods and not during more moderate periods. You could just turn the thermostat way up and wait until all the radiators are hot all the way across for a while and then pass judgment on your radiator vents for steam leaks. Maybe in a room you don't go in much or happens in the AM before you wake up...
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,061
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    If you have, borrow or rent a FLIR gun.
    Then run the boiler up to a high temp in the house.
    If the pipe is not buried real deep you will be able to locate it with the gun. Good pipe would be a pretty straight line....leak would be larger blotch showing up.
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    Thank you all for the advice!  I am going to leave it alone until the boiler maintenance is done, by then it should be cold enough for some good hot runs so I can investigate further without baking my family.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,653
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    If it is really using that much water, figure it out relatively quickly, if it is really adding a gallon of fresh water every day or 2 that will quickly destroy the boiler.
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    How quickly?  I hope to have my pro visit next week.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,303
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    Next week is OK. Next month, not so much.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    I just thought of something -- until last month (when I started reading We Got Steam Heat) the Honeywell 3000-series thermostat was set to factory default, which led to a lot of short cycles. Could that be related?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,653
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    It may never or rarely have been running long enough cycles for the steam to reach wherever is leaking.
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    So maybe I should set it back until I can get it looked at?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,653
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    Was the house heating evenly before? is it heating evenly now?
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    It was much colder on the second floor and the first floor room farthest from the boiler. Now it's fairly even, the only real problem is a room with an undersized radiator shared with the room next to it (hole in the wall) and twice as many windows. So I'd much rather leave it as is and figure out the leak. 
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    This forum must be magic -- no water loss at all in the three days since I started this thread.  It's been below freezing, too. I'll never understand this system.
  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 1,085
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    you can test whether the automatic make up is not actually filling by letting the boiler stabilize cool and then draining enough water to noticeably lower the level below the kick in for the auto feed and seeing if it makeups up reliably in a discrete time frame. on a boiler that size wouldn't think more than a minute.

    also remember that to do a steady state warm night don't need the steam test on the return, you have to raise the level notably above the hartford loop which is going to simulate a bit of pressure albeit in the vapor range since you'd need 28 inches up for a pound.
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    Well, I have a clue as to where the water is going. After a good long run this afternoon when my MIL cranked the thermostat, all of my upstairs rooms were around 48% humidity according the little battery-operated meters I scattered around. Meanwhile the basement, which has no radiators, was 21%. So my theory is that since we know my boiler runs wet (still waiting for a proper skim) it's blowing water vapor out all the radiator vents. What do you all think of that?
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 918
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    It is easy enough to see if the radiator  vents close when steam hits them. They may reopen to vent more air a few times during a long run, but they should not stay open and vent steam. If they do, the vents are damaged, possibly by excessive pressure.

    Most likely your increased humidity is coming from a leak somewhere else. One trouble spot on some older systems is the packing around valve stems.



    Bburd
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    No make-up water for the past two weeks, and also my storage room humidity is way down. So I think I've narrowed down the leak location. Now I just have to wait for it to get nice and cold again and I'll go down there with a mirror. 
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 627
    edited December 2020
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    I had a small leak on a radiator that I fixed this year.  It would hiss a bit at pressure but really didn't sound that bad.  It would drip a little every now and then but still hardly anything.

    I would have to add about 5 gallons per week in the coldest months.  I was convinced my boiler was leaking steam up the flue because the radiator leak seemed so minor.

    Well, I've repaired the radiator and guess what....I'm not adding water anymore except a little to makeup for blow downs.  It's amazing how much water can be lost from such a tiny leak!
  • neals
    neals Member Posts: 55
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    Now why would they have put a reducer on that valve?  And what ill effect could it have?  (The line goes nowhere, so I assume the pipe is there to make sure blown-out water goes down to the floor rather than all over the place.)