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Boiler "maintenance" in the off season

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roju1985
roju1985 Member Posts: 8
Hello all,

After my first winter in a house with single pipe steam I move into my first summer with single heat steam. I have found and received so much great info on this site so I have come looking for more. Is there anything I should be doing in the off season with my boiler? Draining muddy water and refilling? Nothing? Just trying to stay informed! Thank you for taking the time to reply.

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  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
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    Flushing the boiler and wet return piping until the water clean is the smart thing to do, and installing a boiler chemical to keep the boiler water clean is the next step. Check with the boiler manufacturer on what chemical they recommend.

    Before start up fire up the boiler and test all controls and repair or replace where needed. Additionally if you have a low water of that works with a float make sure you blow it down when the boiler is pressurized.
    This function shoud be done at least once a month during the heating season.

    Jake
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,310
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    If you do decide to drain and refill... which many of us don't... be sure to run the boiler up to full steaming for at least 10 minutes immediately after refilling, to drive off the oxygen in the water.

    Chemicals... mixed feelings. Less is better. None is good...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    Keeping the boiler PH up around 9 will slow corrosion greatly. The key with chemical treatments is to use just enough, do not go with the more is better mantra, in some cases the manufactures recommended dose is off the wall so looking for advice elsewhere is a good thing to do.
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    I put way more 8-way into my boiler than Rectorseal recommends as an experiment on the youtube video I have shared here before, and there was no surging at all, even at over 13 ph, but that was just for experiment's sake. I agree once you get the PH up a bit (9-11) you should be fine.

    I would leave the old water in there over the summer, then drain a bit from each drain and the gauge glass to let the mud out at the beginning of the heating season. And of course blow out the pigtail.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • roju1985
    roju1985 Member Posts: 8
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    Thanks everyone! As I don't really want to deal with heating up the house by running the boiler to heat up the fresh water I think I will follow ethicalpauls advice and give it a good drain at the beginning of the season and maybe re evaluate at the early end of next season. Thank everyone here for the advise!
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,265
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    I'm with @Jamie Hall on don't drain. In fact my 1957 Bryant manual actually says not to unless the water has become unusually dirty from some event. So I haven't...since 1992 anyway. I crack the drains at the start of the season just to be sure they still run letting out less than a gallon. The manual also says no chemicals except if feed water has some unusual problems. So I never did that either. There really is an argument that the same water boiled and condensed over and over thousands of times is in fact the best stuff to use.

    As for attic insulation - I have an open unfinished attic over the entire house with just the original mat insulation over the floor joists. Some wood based product that looks like a door mat. The structure is now pushing 100 years old. You look at the bare roof rafters and tongue and groove decking under the slate roof and can't help noticing it is all really happy with the setup. The last thing I am going to do is introduce some new scheme which may trap moisture somewhere or change the balance in some way. Upsetting the obviously good original setup and risking any damage would clearly not be worth even a 25% savings on a $1000/ season fuel bill. Even if current policies send the price sky high I'll be buying the gas. The dead men that designed this structure knew what they were doing.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • Paul3
    Paul3 Member Posts: 19
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    I’ve been draining the returns about every year on a two pipe system (large 130 year old house). I do this before the start of the heating season, top off the boiler, and then run the system till my wife complains the house is too warm. It’s also a good chance to check the vents and valves.

    Based on earlier reading of this site, seems okay. Comments?
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    I think this sounds fine. Draining all the returns each year is probably overkill...I'd be more inclined to just drain from the low points (hopefully that's where the drains are) until the water runs clear.

    I agree wholeheartedly with doing it at the start of the new season when you can easily run the boiler after refilling.

    I would also add enough treatment to get the ph up to about 10 after the refill but honestly it might not matter much especially if you are vigilant about not having leaks during the heating season.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Tom E
    Tom E Member Posts: 15
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    My boiler fill comes off my domestic hot water. Would I still have to run the boiler to lower the oxygen in the water going to the boiler? Thanks 
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    If you do it at the start of the heating season, the question is moot :)

    I can't find tables for water temperatures over about 110F but as the heat goes up, the amount of oxygen the water holds goes down so I think it's safe to say at hot water temp it will have less oxygen than cold water, but more oxygen than boiler water that's been heated to steaming.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Tom E
  • Sootmaster
    Sootmaster Member Posts: 14
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    If the sight glass etc. are getting dirty - how often are you adding water? A clean glass is the sign of a tight system. Pull the vents off the radiators and soak them in vinegar to keep them nice and clean - replace them if they aren't "snapping shut" when the system is up on pressure. Speaking of pressure, less is more (right Dan). Keep that pigtail cleaned out - if it is jammed up soak it in vinegar. It will turn it into snot and you can flush it right out. Haven't had it fail me yet out in the field. I know I'm like the guy with the Windex on my big fat Greek wedding. keep those mud legs drained. It doesn't take much if your doing it regularly. Bring it up to pressure and blast out the low water cutoff EVERY TIME YOU DO THE LAUNDRY down there. Steam is not a set it and forget it thing. Its like a pair of Italian leather shoes that needs to be loved and in return it will love you back. I have never seen a steam heated house try to keep up with the horrible weather or worse freeze up. Started when I was less than a teenager with my Dad, grandfather, brother, uncles, cousins. I'm in my sixties now. Eventually I'll be one of the dead men and that old system of yours will still be chugging along. Get the "Lost Art of Steam" if you really want to know everything about that boiler. Peace and Love
    BobC