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Repair or replace a water feeder?

bipbap
bipbap Member Posts: 191
edited January 2022 in Strictly Steam
My plumber said I need to replace our McDonnell & Miller mechanical water feeder. It did not shut off once and has had some issues before which a whack on the side seemed to correct.
However, to replace it will cost $800 just for the part so I'm trying to find out if there are other options like servicing or repairing it in any way. I just don't know if that's reasonable with a part like this but that's just a lot of money to find in the budget.
Attached photos show the system- its a single pipe gas steam boiler system.
He also suggested eliminating the water feeder and just keeping the LWCO but I think I'd like to keep the water feeder in case I'm away and the system needs water.

Thanks for any advice!

Comments

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    edited January 2022
    Please edit your post to remove the pricing of what I presume is the job cost. We can talk about prices of retail products available for sale, but not the job price.

    Is this a multi-family scenario?

    I ask because you have a probe type LWCO plus also possibly a weird old float-type LWCO that seems to have the weird old autofeed on it, and I don't know why you'd have both unless it was mandated by some regulation or something. Plus you also have two pressuretrols which makes me also think it's multi-family.

    If it were me, I'd just do away with the autofeed and check my boiler every couple weeks. The only water loss you won't see during a periodic boiler check is a very catastrophic one and the water feed is not likely to help you there anyway (and may hurt). Also, a feeder tends to hide extra water usage from people and extra water usage is the killer of boilers (due to corrosion). Since budget is a concern you can just disable the autofeed for now and see how you like not having it for awhile.

    but back to your original question, let's presume there is a way you could refurbish the autofeed...that is likely going to increase the labor cost vs a replacement and I think the majority of the cost of the job either way is going to be labor so I don't think it will be any cheaper to go that route.

    The best water feeder is not very expensive: https://www.supplyhouse.com/Hydrolevel-45-026-VXT-24-Water-Feeder-24V
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    edited January 2022
    Edited out labor cost- thanks.

    Yes it is a 4-family multifamily building.
    I honestly don't know exactly what parts are mandated in NY but thats what's always been there.
    I believe we have a pressuretrol and a vaporstat, I don't think there are 2 pressuretrols but I can't say for sure.

    The system does lose some water (which I realize is another issue I should prob address first) so I had wanted to keep the auto feeder since I'm not always around but I might consider eliminating it since you brought up those points. I didn't know fresh water kills boilers.

    Is there a reason why my expensive water feeder is being used when this cheaper and better one you suggest is available?

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    edited January 2022
    Sorry I wasn't accurate enough before. Don't list the cost of the part from your plumber either. I don't know exactly which auto feeder your plumber is recommending...I just named the VXT because it's well thought of and very common.

    If your plumber knows about your water use and hasn't said anything or tried to fix it for you then it's time to find a new steam professional, especially since you're responsible for 4 families' heat and not just your own, IMO.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    edited January 2022
    Oh no, that was the price I found when I looked online for a replacement of the same water feeder (47-X) we have- that was not my plumber's price.

    And yes he is trying to figure out the water loss, but this issue with the water feeder came up and seemed more urgent.

    Can the VXT be swapped out into a system like mine? Is it compatible?

    Thanks for your help!
    ethicalpaul
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,830
    @bipbap , unless there is some reason that 47-2 is there, I'd just hook up a VXT to the existing probe-type LWCO.

    If your plumber isn't really a steam guy, you can look here for one:

    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/state/NY
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    edited January 2022
    Ahh OK I see, thanks for that clarification.

    Your unit is a float-type LWCO with feeder all in one unit. That's a lot of metal and engineering, and probably still exists just to support the replacement market, so that's why it might be higher.

    I can't answer to your specific requirements there, but in modern boilers, there would be a probe-style LWCO (which you also have), connected to a VXT style separate feeder (MM makes this style of feeder too).
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    edited January 2022
    Thanks- he actually IS a steam guy, that's why I'm working with him but I'm just trying to educate myself and he's been very busy with the cold weather and hasn't been able to get to me yet.

    So I would be game to try your suggestion and eliminate the water feeder which is basically what I've been doing since it filled too much and I worried it would flood. So I turned off the water supply to the water feeder (but didn't disconnect it or do anything more) and have refilled it to mid-sight glass with the manual valve as needed.

    The only issue that arose then was after doing that the whole boiler went off a day or so later. Only when I pushed both buttons on the pressuretrol did it start back on. The boiler has then turned off every few days since then and I keep pressing the buttons to get it going again.
    I don't know what is causing that.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    edited January 2022
    OK. Because you have a multi-family unit you have a manual-reset pressuretrol which I believe is required (I mistakenly thought from the photo you had one automatic and one manual reset pressuretrol but you corrected me that you have a vaporstat and a pressuretrol--they perform the same function of stopping the boiler when the pressure gets too high).

    Also because you have a multi family unit, I wouldn't touch that boiler myself--you should only let licensed and bonded professional contractors touch it. Just tell your plumber you'd like to try it without the feeder as he suggested (I have no idea if a feeder is required by regulation however). Feeding more water to it might be allowed.

    You can keep an eye on the water level to see if it is dropping. I think the water loss is of high importance especially if it's shutting down your boiler every few days.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    The odd thing is I don’t think it is the loss of water that is turning off the boiler. When I go down there and notice that the boiler has gone off, the water level has not dropped significantly. I just restart it and it runs for a couple of days fine.
    So while I do need to address the water loss, I think that is not related to it shutting off.
  • PEvans
    PEvans Member Posts: 116
    Make sure your LWCO is really working. Test it -- run the water level down while the burner is on and watch it shut off. And just because it works once doesn't mean it will be working a month later.

    If you are going to hand-fill, find some way to chain yourself to the valve handle and watch the gauge glass while the valve is open. Literally. Otherwise you WILL walk away and accidentally overfill your system.

    Ask me how I know.

    Also, irrespective of the foregoing, I agree with ethicalpaul. I get educating yourself, I did it. But it was my house and I was not responsible for anyone else's safety or property.

    ethicalpaul
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    Oh yeah, I watch it fill when I've been handfilling it- I never leave it.

    Just so I know- when I test my LWCO and run the water down while burner is on, the boiler will just shut off- but then what will I need to do to restart it again?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
    Could you post better pictures of the 2 pressure controls you have there?

    If one is manual reset, it should be set high up to 7-8 PSI and most likely never trip unless there is some serious problem.
    ethicalpaul
  • PEvans
    PEvans Member Posts: 116
    bipbap said:

    Oh yeah, I watch it fill when I've been handfilling it- I never leave it.

    Just so I know- when I test my LWCO and run the water down while burner is on, the boiler will just shut off- but then what will I need to do to restart it again?

    On my 47-2, when the LWCO is working the burner just comes back on when I raise the water level past the setpoint. To be sure, it doesn't talk to any of the other controls, it just interrupts the power to the primary control. So there is nothing to reset.
    ethicalpaul
  • PEvans
    PEvans Member Posts: 116
    Regarding the OP, here is my $.02. First, you can tell from my posts that my 47-2 is also not working, neither the feed or the LWCO. So this is not good.

    I read somewhere that the manufacture says these should be replaced after ten years and mine is far older than that. Further, I know from the parts that were strewn around my basement floor that the stories of these filling up with sludge and/or having the floats waterlog are not just stories.

    So I think piecemealing it is a bad idea.

    I really wanted to replace mine with an electronic unit. However, the closest thing I have to a steam guy is firm that the 47-2 worked for a long time and replacing it like-for-like is a better path. His buy-in and the cost of any labor are big considerations.

    So for these reasons, I will probably replace it with another 47-2 since they are still available. I would like to add a meter that shows how much feedwater has been used and clean up the wiring, but nothing more. This will be warm weather work, too.

    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,275
    One comment here -- multi-family building will require two LWCOs and, in most jurisdictions, one of them must be manual reset. The other one can also operate an automatic feeder, and in a multi-family which is not attended by a building super, my feeling is there should be one. However, it should be one similar to the VXT which has been mentioned, so actual water use can be monitored.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    Ok thanks for that info.
    And how big of a job is it to install a VXT to my setup?
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 903
    If that were my building I would replace the 47-2 with the same control and then look for a leak in the system. That 47-2 control should be serviced every year as should the whole system by a competent HVAC company just to be safe.
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    How does the 47 compare to the VXT?