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High water level after heating cycle?

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This is my neighbors first season with his one pipe steam system, and he’s running into a high water issues. The boiler in the house is new, and was installed last January by the previous owners. 

When the boiler is cold the sight level glass is at the manufacturer’s recommended level. However, right after the boiler completes its cycle, the sight level is very high, nearly to the top. Over time it goes down to the level expected. 

I’m not sure if this is related, but his system has been very inefficient. He is blowing through oil. I personally think this is due to poor radiator pitching and clogged, old vents. We are working on addressing that, but I wanted to mention it in case it factored into anyone’s thinking. 

I guess what he’s trying to figure out is whether the high water level after the cycle is over is a problem he should be concerned with, or if it is normal and he should ignore it. 

Thanks!

Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    If they are indeed getting "extra" water into the boiler, it's something I would want resolved. If excess water is getting in, but it goes back down, that's indicative of excess water feed, but also possible leaks "removing" the water. Both things are indicative of issues with the system.

    Poor performance could be bad piping, venting, combination of both.

    As always, pictures of the boiler and piping would help as a starting point.

    Are there any buried wet returns in this system?

    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    Sorry to have to say it, but I'd take "blowing through oil" as a very subjective assessment, particularly in a situation where the observer has no good comparative basis.

    However... is there an automatic water feeder on that boiler? Does it, by any chance, have a gallons added readout?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • merikus
    merikus Member Posts: 73
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    @KC_Jones I’ve added near boiler piping photos below. No buried wet returns that I could find. It’s a pretty straightforward system with two mains draining into one wet return. I’m wondering if the wet return may be clogged up in some way, but I’m not sure how to check that. 

    @Jamie Hall Fair point. I think the biggest issue here is just poor venting and unbalanced radiators. I already did an initial assessment of that and I think that will make the biggest difference in increasing their comfort. But the high water is something I’ve never encountered before, it’s very strange. There is a thing with a counter on the back which very well may be a gallons added readout. I’ll have to investigate that more closely when I next go over. What would be an expected range in, say, a day or week for a gallons added readout?

    Here are the pictures. Thank you all!


  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    No doubt there is wet steam, that boiler is piped wrong, painfully wrong.  That will definitely lead to inefficiency as well.

    On a side note, there is a picture in the damn manual!  This is so infuriating.

    That’s a do over, not even a fix this or that, rip out all the pipes back to the mains and reinstall properly.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,669
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    That umm..equalizer... looks very hopeful.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    Anything over a gallon a week is too much. Some would say way too much. I'll probably jinx myself, but the best system I care for -- Cedric, see my signature! -- runs less than a gallon a month.

    You describe an interesting combination of events. It is much more common for the level to be low after a cycle, and gradually rise to where it belongs -- and that is a pretty sure guide to slow returns. But -- for it to be high after a cycle and then subside makes me mighty suspicious of a wet return leak.

    The overall near boiler installation has some interesting idiosyncrasies, but I don't think that has much to do with the water problem.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    Somebody loves those bullhead tees! It's definitely pushing a lot of water into the system, by why the level goes up at the end of the cycle and returns back to normal before the next cycle (if I understand the situation) is a mystery. The timing is very strange.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • merikus
    merikus Member Posts: 73
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    While I feel I am competent in understanding the radiator side of steam, I am a complete novice when it comes to boilers and near boiler piping. Could someone help me understand what is wrong here so I can share that with my neighbor?
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,543
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    @mattmia2

    I don't see any equalizer. Gallons of water going up into that thing.

    @KC_Jones A homeowner or any person with 0 experience would probably know enough to read the manual on something he knows nothing about and make a better attempt than that.

    This is very bad for the industry. People get charged a lot of money to do HVAC work. I have no issue with high prices if the job is done right.

    I am so sick of these "so called professionals" who can't do **** right. They can't even read. They are probably experts at video games though.

    Oh crap!!!!! took another look and I see the "equalizer". Good grief!!


    The thing is the guy had "Some" ability to pipe, he got everything fairly straight and tied the 2 mains back in, it's not terrible looking but it's a WRONG.
    delcrossv
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    See page 6.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • merikus
    merikus Member Posts: 73
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    Wait—I think I get it now. 

    Page 87 of The Lost Art of Steam Heating, Revised gives a diagram on the order of takeoffs from the header. My neighbors is set up like the one that says “Never do this!”

    And the top paragraph on page 88 explains the rest of it, about sucking water out of the boiler. That could be explaining the water level. 

    Am I right in that?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    Took me a while to find that equalizer, too, @EBEBRATT-Ed . It is a bit unusual...

    But I don't think that that is the cause of the odd water level behaviour. My understanding of your description, too, is that immediately at the end of the cycle, or very shortly thereafter -- a minute or two -- the water level in the boiler stands high. Then, over a period of time, it drops to a more normal level.

    The only mechanism which can account for that slow drop is that the water is going somewhere else -- and there is nowhere else for it to go if the boiler isn't steaming, other than a leak somewhere.

    My first cut guess is that the water level at the start of a cycle is normal, or possibly slightly low. The boiler fires up and the water level drops, as it usually does. There may or may not be a slow return problem. In any event, at some point in the cycle the automatic water feeder senses low water and feeds. Then when the burner stops, the water all returns to the boiler -- including the newly fed water -- and the level is now too high. then it leaks down... rinse and repeat.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • merikus
    merikus Member Posts: 73
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    You are correct, @Jamie Hall. I’m going over there tomorrow and I have to look at the timing of the water drop. But it is slow and it does return to “normal” level. A leak makes the most sense but he only has one wet return that I can see, and there’s no water on the ground. Going to have to try to trace it tomorrow and see if I’m missing a return somewhere. 
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    The return piping is something we haven't seen. And whatever the "counter" you mentioned is.
    Look for buried wet returns.
    Two steam mains should have 2 return drops somewhere.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    merikus said:

    Wait—I think I get it now. 


    Page 87 of The Lost Art of Steam Heating, Revised gives a diagram on the order of takeoffs from the header. My neighbors is set up like the one that says “Never do this!”

    And the top paragraph on page 88 explains the rest of it, about sucking water out of the boiler. That could be explaining the water level. 

    Am I right in that?
    100%.

    As you look at those pictures, try to make yourself think like steam. Steam wants to get out of the boiler and find a nice, cool radiator where it can turn back into water, but it doesn't want any water from the boiler to tag along. You want to pipe the boiler in a way that makes it easier for the steam to ditch that water. If you put the header as high as possible, most of the water falls back down the risers. Then, as the steam moves through the header, it makes a 90° turn up the risers to the main, and the water droplets, being heavier, keep going in a straight line into the equalizer, but only if the equalizer is after the risers. Making the header a few sizes bigger than the risers slows the steam down making it easier for the water to fall out.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    mattmia2merikus
  • merikus
    merikus Member Posts: 73
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    @Hap_Hazzard Thank you! This makes it really easy to understand and explain to my neighbor. I appreciate it. 
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,543
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    @merikus

    If the boiler starts up with a normal water level and as it starts to steam it throws water up into the steam mains and into the system due to the bad boiler piping.

    This causes the boiler to get low on water and brings on the feeder although the "system" has the correct amount of water in it the boiler does not.

    When the condensate both "old " and "new" water drains back to the boiler the boiler is now over filled
  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 281
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    Could be the sight glass isn't working right. One possible mechanism is that Water is barely getting through the lower fitting. Water gets in through the upper fitting when the boiler is boiling and then takes a long time to filter out through the lower. Clean them out.