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Cracked Utica Heat Exchanger (PEG150CDE)

daveo
daveo Member Posts: 15
Hi all,
After tuning up my single pipe system, replaced all the vents (using the helpful suggestions and calculations from Dan, Steve and Gerry, and a variety of helpful folks here), the heat in my 2 story has never felt better and more even. The radiators get nice and hot more evenly and all is happy...

Except, now I come to the next step in my journey. It turns out that the heat exchanger is cracked.


(I'm using the term Heat Exchanger because that is what the manual calls it)




The boiler looses about a quart of water per heating cycle and the house is nice and warm. I only have to top it off before I go to bed and maybe once during the morning hours. When it runs, I can see some steam come out when I bring a flashlight over and shine it on the crack.

My first, and most important questions is: how long can I expect the boiler to last before it can no longer be used? (and is this situation dangerous?)

Second, is there any way to repair a cracked heat exchanger, and would I ever want to do this?

I haven't opened the housing (beyond lifting the top cover) so I don't know exactly how long the crack is. Would it help to have more info on this for anyone to venture a guess on the above?

I'd like to ride this out until summer to replace it and I'd like to know if anyone has seen this type of situation before and have a bad guess on the likelihood. I am well aware that nobody can predict this and, at some point, I'll need to replace it. I'm just wondering.

It has been needing to be refilled "more frequently than normal" for this heating season. I suspected something last in last heating season when it started needing to be refilled maybe every other day.

And, while I'm on the subject, and these are sentiment questions, so speak your mind...
  • What are going opinions of Utica boilers?
  • Should I just get the latest version of the same unit?
  • Are there better options?
  • Are there any "religious wars" on the topic?
  • Should I take this opportunity to have the header moved higher than the standard 24 inches?
  • Should I take this opportunity to get the other side header connected?
The answers I have seen here have been valuable to me, even when I didn't ask the questions. Perhaps answers to these will be valuable to others.

Thanks in advance!

Comments

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,830
    @daveo , the most important factor is the installing contractor, who either does a good job or not. Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,516
    Patching it will do no good. This is what I would do, and don't rush into it or you will get a crappy job

    Keep an eye on it and make sure it has water in it.
    You have 2 more months of winter to nurse it along

    It may make it, it may not

    Start by sizing your radiators and getting the EDR of each radiator and then getting a total. That is the only way to size a steam boiler right.

    Find a contractor that knows steam (not the average guy) They all say they know steam, most know nothing about it and couldn't boil spaghetti

    Make sure they follow the boiler MFG piping diagrams (if the existing piping around the boiler has to be change to meet the mfg. requirements make them do it) and skim and clean the boiler (realize most of them will tell you they have been doing steam for 40 years and know everything) and they most of them either can't read or refuse to read the install manual. This site is full of horror stories.

    Get 3 quotes. As for boilers I like Weil McLain & Peerless. Not partial to Burnham but others have different opinions. The installer can be more important than the boiler. Don't buy anything with the steam outlets on the side.

    Check "find a contractor"on this site especially if you can't find a good contractor

    Let us know where you are located. Someone may know someone good in your area

    To bad this happened. Congrats on fixing up your system
    daveo
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,826
    Time for a new boiler. You should think about using something better than Utica you are replacing and designing the near boiler piping for the best performance

    Is this a DIY or are looking for a contractor?
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    daveo
  • daveo
    daveo Member Posts: 15
    @EBEBRATT-Ed, Thanks for the reply.

    Fortunately, I went through the full process of sizing the units I have and the total is actually a little lower than the current boiler's capacity. Even with the crack, the main vents quickly and all the rads start getting warm about the same time. Dan's "Greening Steam" book was a jewel as well as an easy read.

    I know that the header is the "recommended" 24 inches above the water line, and they only plumbed one side, not both. I can hope that a new unit won't need toooooo much rework on the risers, but I know that is only "hope". Also, just about everything below the main is copper. There on up is cast iron.

    I'm in Essex County, NJ (The Oranges), and definitely am interested in good recommendations. I can tell from what I had to replace and adjust that this system wasn't tended properly for a while. (I moved in 4 years ago)
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,275
    @EzzyT is in your area and one o the best in the business. Try him.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2daveo
  • daveo
    daveo Member Posts: 15
    @EdTheHeaterMan, I'm looking at both the boiler and the plumbing. As mentioned above, the header is at minimum and only one riser of the two side ports was used. I know nothing about various boiler brands, so happy to hear suggestions, especially in this venue.

    As far as DIY vs Contractor, I'm smart enough to know that I can offer sweat equity, but I wouldn't trust myself sweating a joint, so "contractor" is definitely in the mix. Do you know anyone up this way? I'm playing my games in The Oranges (Essex County).
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,295
    @daveo I have a lot of clientele in the Essex county area you can reach me at 2018878856.
    E-Travis Mechanical LLC
    Etravismechanical@gmail.com
    201-887-8856
    mattmia2daveo
  • daveo
    daveo Member Posts: 15
    @Jamie Hall, thank you, yet again. Your suggestions on balancing were very helpful. I'll look for a comment from @EzzyT
  • daveo
    daveo Member Posts: 15
    @EzzyT, Thank you, sir! I'll reach out soon.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,516
    edited January 2021
    @daveo
    You will be in good hands wit @EzzyT

    Looking forward to seeing the results
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 627
    Ouch.  Seems like a trend with Utica boilers on here lately.  You asked "is this dangerous?". Potentially.

    You are adding water twice a day.  If you forget, get hurt, etc. You could end up with a dry boiler and that could be dangerous.

    If you can get to the heat exchangers and can get access to the crack, clean it up as best you can and use some JB weld.  Might help, might not but would be worth a try.

    The only other thing is recommend is to make the boilers life as easy as possible for the next couple months.  Keep your pressure as low as possible.  Don't use a setback as those tend to increase pressure.  Keep the thermostat temp as low as you can tolerate and use some oil filled space heaters for comfort, they are safer.