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Amateur here: Should I be worried about no water in sight glass

Jacob_P
Jacob_P Member Posts: 7
I'm not a heating professional. Just someone who happened to buy a house with an ancient steam heating system.

Recently the system was serviced and a lot was done to it.

I'm not sure of the technical terms, but I occasionally empty some water from the system via a valve near the boiler. I've been told to do this till the water runs clear.

Today I went to do this, and very little water came out.

On top of that, I noticed that the sight glass was empty.

From my amateur perspective, it seems to me that the system is running low on water.

In the past, my understanding is that there was an automated system that would add water to the system when it ran low.

My questions are

1) Is this something I should be concerned about? Do I need to call the technician back?
2) If the answer to the above is yesr, is it possible or likely that the issue was caused by the recent servicing?

Any insight to this would be super appreciated.

Comments

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,008
    Yes, you should be concerned. You shouldn't run the boiler until you refill it, especially if nothing is coming out of the low water cutout's blowdown valve. some pictures could let us tell you how to do that.

    You may or may not have an auto feeder. of you were doing frequent blowdowns and the level didn't drop in the past you probably do. whoever serviced it may have left the valve to the feeder closed.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 9,014
    edited May 2
    Pictures will help us see what you have. You should shut the boiler off if you can't see the water level it's not safe to run
  • Jacob_P
    Jacob_P Member Posts: 7
    Thank you for the feedback. Working on getting a technician out now.

    if you were doing frequent blowdowns and the level didn't drop in the past you probably do.

    I was doing frequent blowdowns for at least a year or two... So yes, I am almost certain that we have auto feeder. Your assessment that the technician may have left it closed makes logical sense to me.

    In case it's of any value to further diagnose the issue, here is a photo as you guys mentioned. You can see both the view glass, as well as the valve I have been using for blowdowns.



  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 1,989
    Shut it off for several hours too cool down.

    Can you get a shot further away, from different angles? Need to see all the piping around the boiler.
  • Jacob_P
    Jacob_P Member Posts: 7
    Will do. Not there at the moment (though I can have someone else shut it off). I will circle back with pictures ASAP. Thank you.
  • Ctoilman
    Ctoilman Member Posts: 63
    If boiler runs with no water in site glass, that is really really bad.  Turn it off. 
  • Zipper13
    Zipper13 Member Posts: 204
    This could be a totally dumb idea from another Joe Homeowner, but the gauge glass itself has valves at top and bottom, right? might those just be closed?

    Also, the first time I tried to drain a little water to test pH in my boiler, I found out the 100 year old main vent still held its vacuum (especially immediately after ending a heating cycle) making it impossible to drain anything without, in my case, opening the valve on the skim port to break the suction. it was unnerving that first time as I feared it was running dry until I realized the vacuum.
    New owner of a 1920s home with steam heat north of Boston.
    Just trying to learn what I can do myself and what I just shouldn't touch
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,567
    Make sure both the top and bottom valves are open (full counter-clockwise) and are you 100% sure the glass is empty and not completely full?

    As was said previously, make sure the boiler is cool before adding water.
    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
  • Jacob_P
    Jacob_P Member Posts: 7
    Hi all, we got a repair person out. Diagnosis (received via text message) was "Your low water cut off got stuck causing auto feeder to not work." He told me he was able to repair.

    It seems like I caught this early, which is great. What I wonder though, for the future.... If I hadn't noticed this, would the furnace have just fired and heated with little or no water in it? Do some furnaces have safety systems in place to prevent that from happening?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,008
    Yes, that is why the lwco should be tested when the boiler is serviced. Could add a redundant probe type lwco.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,858
    Jacob_P said:

    Hi all, we got a repair person out. Diagnosis (received via text message) was "Your low water cut off got stuck causing auto feeder to not work." He told me he was able to repair.

    It seems like I caught this early, which is great. What I wonder though, for the future.... If I hadn't noticed this, would the furnace have just fired and heated with little or no water in it? Do some furnaces have safety systems in place to prevent that from happening?

    All steam boilers have safety devices called low water cutoffs which are supposed to keep them from dry firing. However, the diagnosis is chilling -- as it means that not only did the auto feeder not work, but it wouldn't have kept the boiler from dry firing either.

    Unfortunately, many residential boilers have only one low water cutoff -- it would seem that yours is that way -- and with those it is absolutely essential that the operation of the cutoff be checked at least once a week by opening the valve on the bottom of the low water cutoff and letting the water run until it is at least not murky (it may not be clear, but it shouldn't be muddy) ;while the burner is running. The burner should shut off when you do that.

    Otherwise, yes indeed the boiler could have -- and would have, eventually -- kept on firing with little and eventually no water in it. If you were fortunate, it might not have cracked before a fire-o-matic (if yo have one for oil) or some other safety (if you have one...) shut it off. Usually they do. Crack that is. You were also fortunate that no one added water to it while it was in that condition -- that would have cracked it at the very least, and quite possibly literally blown something up.

    That can ruin your whole day.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Jean-David Beyer
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