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Steam Boiler Replacement Water

kub1080
kub1080 Member Posts: 10
Hello - I have a Thermoflo GSA 125,000 BTU steam boiler installed in 2014 when we moved in. I have a question on how often the boiler should need replacement water. I filled the gauge glass to about 1/2 way up 2 days ago and noticed today it dropped to almost a 1/4 of the gauge glass.  We have an automatic feeder and the counter only increases about 2 gallons an entire heating season so I was surprised when I saw the water level drop in 2 days.  I don’t usually check the boiler water level daily so I’m not sure if this is normal.  I checked all the radiator valves and air vents and didn’t notice any steam leaking out anywhere.  It has been very cold here recently and the boiler has been running a lot.  Could be that just be normal water loss?  
New Jersey

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,766
    It could be, but it seems unlikely. But before you become concerned, make sure that you are checking the water level with the system in more or less the same condition -- that is, when the boiler has been off for at least 15 minutes. Somewhat slow returns can make the water level appear low when the boiler has just been running.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    edited January 12
    Jamie, thank you very much for the advice. I refilled the boiler gauge glass to halfway and made a mark where I filled it to.  I’ll try checking it in the next few days after the heat has been off for at least 15 minutes.  I’m not sure it was off for 15 minutes when I looked at it today with the cold weather we’re having in the northeast. 
    New Jersey
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    It could be, but it seems unlikely. But before you become concerned, make sure that you are checking the water level with the system in more or less the same condition -- that is, when the boiler has been off for at least 15 minutes. Somewhat slow returns can make the water level appear low when the boiler has just been running.
    Hi Jamie,

    I took your advice and checked the water level today after the boiler was off for a bit. I filled the boiler yesterday halfway up the sight glass to the black line and then checked it today when I got home from work. I turned the boiler off and waited 30 minutes and there was some water loss. The first photo is from yesterday after I filled it and the second is today. Do you think I should be concerned about the water loss or could this just be normal?

    New Jersey
    sophia123
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,766
    Honestly that is more water loss than I would expect from a day of running -- even in cold weather. Time to go looking for anywhere and everywhere there might be a leak. Keep in mind while you do this that there is no such thing as a trivial leak: even one drip every 10 seconds will add up to a gallon in a day!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kub1080ethicalpaul
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    Honestly that is more water loss than I would expect from a day of running -- even in cold weather. Time to go looking for anywhere and everywhere there might be a leak. Keep in mind while you do this that there is no such thing as a trivial leak: even one drip every 10 seconds will add up to a gallon in a day!
    Thanks for the advice!  I checked all the radiator  air vents and valves and I didn’t see any leaks.  I have my plumber coming on Friday morning so hopefully he’ll have some ideas as I’m not really sure where else to check. One thing I did notice was that there was a lot white smoke coming from my chimney this morning. I assumed it was just condensation because of the cold weather. Could this possible be the steam from a leak in the boiler? We had the boiler installed in 2014 so it isn’t that old. 

    New Jersey
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,766
    That doesn't look too bad. But it would be worth checking. I should last longer than that -- but we all have seen boilers which failed sooner, often from installation issues.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kub1080
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,367
    Just checking, but you are looking for leaks during long calls for heat, as opposed to when the boiler isn't firing, correct?
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    kub1080
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    Just checking, but you are looking for leaks during long calls for heat, as opposed to when the boiler isn't firing, correct?
    Hello- I have been looking for the leak while the boiler is running. I bumped the temperature a few degrees and waited for the steam to reach the  radiators and then checked the air vents and the radiator valves. I don’t have any buried pipes in the ground and haven’t noticed any signs of moisture on any of the walls where pipes may be hidden.  I’ll try looking again after letting the boiler run a little longer like you mentioned. 

    Any suggestions on where else to look to find the possible leak?
    New Jersey
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,126
    @kub1080

    You can use a small mirror to check for steam leaks. Steam can leakand you can't see it. Hold the mirror near the air vents and around the radiator supply valves . If there is a leak the water vapor will usually condense on the mirror
    cross_skierkub1080
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,766
    sophia123 said:

    Honestly that is more water loss than I would expect from a day of running -- even in cold weather. Time to go looking for anywhere and everywhere there might be a leak. Keep in mind while you do this that there is no such thing as a trivial leak: even one drip every 10 seconds will add up to a gallon in a day!

    Really helpful advise.
    About the best I can do. Chasing small leaks, particularly in older systems, is one of the most frustrating tasks I can think of!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kub1080ethicalpaul
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 12,096

    sophia123 said:

    Honestly that is more water loss than I would expect from a day of running -- even in cold weather. Time to go looking for anywhere and everywhere there might be a leak. Keep in mind while you do this that there is no such thing as a trivial leak: even one drip every 10 seconds will add up to a gallon in a day!

    Really helpful advise.
    About the best I can do. Chasing small leaks, particularly in older systems, is one of the most frustrating tasks I can think of!
    I suppose you could remove all of the air vents and plug the holes and then pressure test the system with air at 10 PSI or so and go around listening and using soapy water.

    That's probably the fastest and most sure way if you have the time and know how.

    On my system I had a union leaking but it was only noticeable when steam first got to it as it would make a slight sizzling noise, but then it'd stop and anything wet dried up immediately.

    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
    kub1080ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,766
    One of the most annoying leaks I have found was a very minor drip way out in the wilderness on the threaded connection between a riser and a horizontal run on a dry return. About a drip every 20 seconds. Accounted for a solid gallon per day...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kub1080ethicalpaul
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    One of the most annoying leaks I have found was a very minor drip way out in the wilderness on the threaded connection between a riser and a horizontal run on a dry return. About a drip every 20 seconds. Accounted for a solid gallon per day...
    I’m really hoping I might be able to find the leak with the mirror trick that was mentioned by EBEBRATT-Ed. We have a finished basement and outside of the boiler room all the steam pipes are hidden. The steam pipes you can see are encapsulated since they have asbestos insulation.  I checked the boiler again this morning after it was off for 20 minutes and the water level looked about the same as last night. I marked it with some tape to see if it drops some more today.  I am thinking if there was a leak in a hidden pipe it would show some moisture on the wall or ceiling since a small leak could amount to a gallon a day like you said.  
    New Jersey
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    I think I have found the leak. It’s a small drip.  My plumber is coming tomorrow morning so hopefully this is an easy fix. I better check all the valves again since I missed this the first time I checked. 

    https://youtu.be/RFsihfcVnc4

    Do you think this small drop could account for all the water loss I’m seeing? 

    Thanks for the help,
    Dan
    New Jersey
  • cross_skier
    cross_skier Member Posts: 147
    Yes I do
    kub1080ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,766
    Let's run the numbers... 1 drop, say 0.5 ml, every 3 seconds or so. 10 ml per minute. 0.6 litres per hour. 14 litres per day... almost 4 gallons... yeah. Although I may have overestimated drop size and underestimated frequency... but even so, and even if it only does it when the boiler is running...

    Yeah.

    See what I mean by even a small drip can account for a lot of water?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kub1080ethicalpaul
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    Let's run the numbers... 1 drop, say 0.5 ml, every 3 seconds or so. 10 ml per minute. 0.6 litres per hour. 14 litres per day... almost 4 gallons... yeah. Although I may have overestimated drop size and underestimated frequency... but even so, and even if it only does it when the boiler is running... Yeah. See what I mean by even a small drip can account for a lot of water?
    When you put it that way it makes sense.  Thanks for your help with this. 
    New Jersey
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,367
    nice job on the find, so satisfying!!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    kub1080
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    edited January 15
    The leak is fixed!  Turned out the nut was loose. It is a very tight space where the connection is made, but my plumber was able to tighten the nut a half turn and the leak stopped. 

    One other question.  This morning I heard what I thought was the usual sound of air coming through a few of the air vents.  However, the heat was on a long run after being lowered at night. They weren’t spitting water but when I held a mirror it instantly fogged right up. Is that a definite sign it is leaking steam?  I had tried this test earlier in the week and saw nothing on the mirror from any of my radiators, but that was in the evening after heat was on maybe 15 minutes. 

    I don’t see any steam coming out of the vent but the entire radiator was warm from the boiler running for a while. Just wondering if I should replace the 3 air vents?  I’ve been using the Varivalve Ventrite #1 which I liked due to their adjustable setting. 

    New Jersey
  • kub1080
    kub1080 Member Posts: 10
    Now that I had the leak repaired on Friday morning 1/14, I lost maybe an 8th of an inch or less of water as of this afternoon 1/8. I am assuming that this is what would be within the limits of normal water loss for four days. Would you agree?




    New Jersey