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It's possible this oil burner has not been serviced in over a decade...service recommendations?

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BroadwichCT
BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
edited December 2021 in Strictly Steam
Recently purchased a house with a lot of deferred and/or amateur maintenance. The residential oil-fired Crown burner was manufactured in 2007, and from what I can see on the damaged tag it might be a Kingston model. I learned by reading the manual last night that it's a problem that it was installed into a stone rock chimney with no liner, and the same chimney also vents the gas water heater.

The prior owners could not remember when they had the boiler serviced, and there was no service tag attached. The auto feed counter showed nearly 900 gallons. The mains are insulated (one thing done right!).

When I turned boiler for the first time Nov.1st, steam began leaking from both ends of the sight glass. I turned everything off and fixed the leaking gaskets. It appears to have been happening for quite some time due to the mineral build up around the glass.

After turning on the burner it began cycling every two/three minutes. I found this website and dove in, discovering swing settings. Unfortunately the owners had broken the setting button off the thermostat, but after opening the thermostat and fixing the button I set the swing to 3 degrees and a constant temperature of 68. This greatly improved the short cycling. I collected data on the water usage for the next few days and found it to be extremely high (15 gallons). After more research on this site I assessed each air vent on the radiators and found that each and every one of them was leaking steam or even dripping water and two supply valves were leaking. I fixed the leaking supply valves, purchased all new vents and after these fixes and installation, the new water usage (so far) is about 3 gallons a week.

After installing the new vents however, the short cycling returned. I learned that the boiler is extremely oversized, which is likely a factor in the short cycling I'm experiencing.

I cannot verify the function of the Pressuretrol as some dopehead used thread lock on the pigtail and given the method of installation, I can't apply counter torque to get it free so that I can verify the integrity of the pigtail. I have purchased a low pressure (3 psi) gauge that I am planning to try installing on the day I have our cleaning scheduled, just in case I break off the pigtail. By the way, the Pressuretrol is set at .5/1.5.

I did discover that I had two extremely undersized main line vents, unfortunately installed on an elbow, and neither was functioning. Figuring a functioning vent would be better than none until I could get someone to tap the pipe appropriately, I purchased a Gorton #2 for where I had enough clearance to put that size, and a Gorton #1 for the other vent. Unfortunately the Gorton #2 arrived defective (from everything I read on this site), verified by trying to blow through the vent but no air would pass. I purchased another, which just let steam pour out when installed. Again, I can't verify the pressure the system is running at until I can get the gauge installed.

So, given all this I realize that all the deferred maintenance leaking to extreme water usage has likely shortened the lifespan of the boiler. I accept that.

What I would like is recommendations on how to maximize my boiler cleaning/servicing. Is there anything I can do to maximize their time/make their job easier, given the lack of maintenance?

Second, how urgently do I need to get the chimney lined?

Thank you in advance for your expertise and advice. Typing all this out has made me realize how much I have learned in just four weeks...thanks to all who offer their assistance on this site!


Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Water usage at 3 gallons per week is still quite extreme, keep looking for where you are losing it. Are there any underground returns?

    If you have a main vent blowing steam it's defective, contact Gorton about that.

    I cannot comment on the oil burner side of things much, other than to say you should absolutely get it cleaned and serviced by a competent tech, that will do a full combustion analysis. If they are really good they may be able to down fire some if you truly are oversized. The manufacturer many times has a firing range on the boiler, if you are on the high end you should at least be able to go to the low end. I don't service them (another homeowner here), so I will leave it to others if there is anything you can do.

    If you want more comment about your system we always enjoy pictures.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    BroadwichCT
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,842
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    Try this with the stuck Gorton #2: Turn it upside down and fill it up with water. Then shake it a few times and dump the water out. I'll bet that frees up the plunger. This might work with the other one too.

    That first servicing is probably going to take a while. Here are some examples of what it might look like inside:

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/184249/you-can-tell-how-long-ago-this-was-serviced

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/164295/over-fired-3-pass-boiler

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/146509/quot-serviced-every-year-quot-we-were-speechless

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/132567/one-of-the-worst-maintained-oil-fired-boilers-weve-seen

    Looking forward to your pics!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    BroadwichCT
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
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    Yes it is against code and potentially very dangerous to fire any fuel burning appliance into an unlined chimney. The products of combustion can damage the chimney, specifically the mortar joints allowing products of combustion (Carbon Monoxide, etc.) to spill into the living space, and weakening the structure of the chimney. And a potential fire hazard.
    The best thing you can do is find a great steam person. They can advise you of any deficiencies, and how to maintain the boiler in between service (annual) intervals.
    And get the chimney lined.
    And don't wait another 10 years.
    steve
    BroadwichCT
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
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    KC_Jones said:
    Water usage at 3 gallons per week is still quite extreme, keep looking for where you are losing it. Are there any underground returns? If you have a main vent blowing steam it's defective, contact Gorton about that. I cannot comment on the oil burner side of things much, other than to say you should absolutely get it cleaned and serviced by a competent tech, that will do a full combustion analysis. If they are really good they may be able to down fire some if you truly are oversized. The manufacturer many times has a firing range on the boiler, if you are on the high end you should at least be able to go to the low end. I don't service them (another homeowner here), so I will leave it to others if there is anything you can do. If you want more comment about your system we always enjoy pictures.
    Thank you for letting me know that 3 gallons is still a problem.  I don't appear to have any underground returns.

    I did contact Gorton about the defect vent and Ken got right back to me.  Kudos on that.

    The ability to tweak the boiler despite being oversized is definitely something I'll check into.  Thank you again.  Pictures coming up!
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
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    Steamhead said:
    Try this with the stuck Gorton #2: Turn it upside down and fill it up with water. Then shake it a few times and dump the water out. I'll bet that frees up the plunger. This might work with the other one too. That first servicing is probably going to take a while. Here are some examples of what it might look like inside: https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/184249/you-can-tell-how-long-ago-this-was-serviced https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/164295/over-fired-3-pass-boiler https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/146509/quot-serviced-every-year-quot-we-were-speechless https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/132567/one-of-the-worst-maintained-oil-fired-boilers-weve-seen Looking forward to your pics!
    Thanks for the suggestion on flushing the Gorton.  I flushed it and shook up it...unfortunately no change.  Definitely worth a try!  I'm posting pictures in a moment, let me know if it would help to have different angles...
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    @BroadwichCT

    Your off to a good start fixing what you have fixed. I would check "find a contractor" on this site. And also post where you are located, someone may have a recommendation.

    Talk with friends family about a good contractor

    I am guessing your in CT, and good contractors there are a little thin. You may be able to get @Charlie from wmass you could pm him
    BroadwichCT
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
    edited December 2021
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    Yes it is against code and potentially very dangerous to fire any fuel burning appliance into an unlined chimney. The products of combustion can damage the chimney, specifically the mortar joints allowing products of combustion (Carbon Monoxide, etc.) to spill into the living space, and weakening the structure of the chimney. And a potential fire hazard. The best thing you can do is find a great steam person. They can advise you of any deficiencies, and how to maintain the boiler in between service (annual) intervals. And get the chimney lined. And don't wait another 10 years.
    I was afraid of that.  I'll definitely take action.

    I called in late August to get appointments for servicing the boiler, right after purchasing the house, and the first I was able to get was mid December.  I'm experiencing that with all kinds of contractors.  

    I'm in SE Connecticut, and just found the New England Steamworks, but still waiting on when he's able to get to my area.
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
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  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    The steam piping is creative, definitely not right. On point of clarification, see the picture I attached. I did red for one set of connections and blue for the other. Do I have the piping traced properly? If not could you take another picture from the other side to clarify?


    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
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    @KC_Jones

    Good question.  Here are some additional photos from: (a) directly behind the piping in the photo you highlighted (b) as well as a shot looking from the side and upwards.  If the light and/or angles are still problematic just let me know.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    That clarifies it. At first I thought you didn't have any kind of equalizer. It's piped entirely wrong, but there is "something" there at least. You will definitely get wet steam with that set up. I don't think that is your primary concern though, by your description. If it was me and the longevity of that boiler was in question (900 gallons of make up water), I'd leave the piping as is and just save up for when the boiler is replaced, then have it done properly, knowing you may only get this set up "so good".

    I'd concentrate on getting the burner serviced, finding the leaks, and getting the venting squared away, in that order.

    For leaks, it might not be water most likely steam. Steam is invisible so it can make it tough. radiator valve packings are one place, old vents are another. Use a mirror, or I like to use a metal wrench (chrome plated) and put it close to suspected leak points, then look for condensation. If you get condensation, you have a leak. Valve packings IMHO, aren't too bad and fairly DIY friendly, as are vent replacements.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    BroadwichCT
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
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    @EBEBRATT-Ed. Thank you for the recommendation.  I'll pm him.  Thank you also for the encouragement that I'm off to a good start.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    @BroadwichCT

    If you can get @Charlie from wmass or @New England SteamWorks you will be in the best hands possible. Too bad the installer didn't pipe it right. The fix shouldn't be that bad.

    I agree with @KC_Jones

    Fix up as many leaks as you can find and work on the venting. I would also calculate the EDR of the radiation connected that way when you get someone their they can determine if the burner can be downfired which may calm the system down a little bit
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
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    @EBEBRATT-Ed

    @KC_Jones

    This sounds like a good plan of action. 

    You don't know how much I appreciate these recommendations and referrals.  I moved out here from another part of the country and unfortunately I don't really know anyone in the area to get referrals. 

    Is there anything I should do (or not do) immediately prior to the service to make their job easier? Such as, run the boiler for x number of hours, don't run the boiler for x number of hours, anything along those lines? 

    @KC_Jones I like the recommendation of using something like a mirror to collect condensate. Smart!
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,266
    edited December 2021
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    I cannot verify the function of the Pressuretrol as some dopehead used thread lock on the pigtail and given the method of installation, I can't apply counter torque to get it free

    Red Loctite can be "unlocked" with 500F heat. Blue Loctite is supposed to be unlockable with two big wrenches (one for backup), but a little heat might help.
    https://www.loctiteproducts.com/en/know-how/build-things/threadlocker-red-or-blue-which-ones-right-for-you.html#C
    I DIY.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    @BroadwichCT

    your boiler is the patient waiting for the doctor. could be worse. your running for now, try and get the vents to work if you can that's about it
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,841
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    WMno57 said:
    I cannot verify the function of the Pressuretrol as some dopehead used thread lock on the pigtail and given the method of installation, I can't apply counter torque to get it free
    Red Loctite can be "unlocked" with 500F heat. Blue Loctite is supposed to be unlockable with two big wrenches (one for backup), but a little heat might help. https://www.loctiteproducts.com/en/know-how/build-things/threadlocker-red-or-blue-which-ones-right-for-you.html#C
    A large screwdriver through the eye of the pigtail makes a nice lever as well. 
  • BroadwichCT
    BroadwichCT Member Posts: 22
    edited December 2021
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    @WMno57 the heat worked for removing the pigtail!
    HVACNUTWMno57