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steam boiler lost water to stop working

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PatB
PatB Member Posts: 40
Please help...
I have a Peerless boiler 63 series for two floors. (total about 9 radiators). It loses water regularly. I couldn't find any leak. In cold weather, it loses more water. In NJ, last night was very cold, the water run below the level, so the safety cut off kicked in. However, yesterday afternoon, I checked the water level, it was about 60% in sight glass.

Could anyone help me figure out what is wrong?

many thanks

Pat

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    You have a leak. Well, that's an obvious enough statement. The question is -- where? How much water does it regularly lose? Anything much over a gallon a week is cause for concern; anything approaching a gallon a day is a cause for definite action.

    If the loss rate is significantly worse when the boiler is working hard, then the problem is most likely (though not inevitably) to be on the steam side. Start by checking all the vents to make sure that they are, in fact, closing when they get hot. Also check all the valves to make sure that they are not leaking around the stem of the valve (very rarely they also can leak at the bonnet to body joint). Check all the unions to make sure they are not leaking. It is very uncommon for a steam main or runout to develop a leak -- but dry returns (if this is a two pipe system) can, particularly at joints, and these will be worse when the system is working hard. The next unhappy possibility is a leak in the boiler itself, above the water line. Usually, but not always, you may see steam billowing out of the chimney -- but that isn't a guarantee. You probably won't see a puddle under the boiler, as if the leak is to the outside of the boiler like that, and it is steam, it will dissipate in the air in the basement (you may, however, notice that the basement is more humid than you expect. In warmer weather -- when you can turn the boiler off long enough to cool it down -- leaks above the water line in a boiler can be found by overfilling it.

    Now if the rate isn't much worse when it's working hard than when it's not, you have all of the above possibilities -- but you also need to consider leaks below the boiler water line. These may be in the boiler, but the most common source is in any wet returns..

    In the meantime, be very happy that your low water cutoff is working...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703
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    go look at your chimney while the boiler is firing,
    is there a large plume , of steam?
    if you're unsure, post a picture of your chimney while steaming

    post a general picture of the boiler, floor to ceiling, showing the pipes above,
    also, post pictures of the pressuretrol and it settings,
    and of the sight glass,

    has the pigtail been serviced?
    is it clean and clear breathing all the way back to the boiler steam chest?

    pictures , , ,
    known to beat dead horses
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,295
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    @PatB where in NJ are you located? 
    E-Travis Mechanical LLC
    Etravismechanical@gmail.com
    201-887-8856
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    I will take a picture of chimney soon. However, I don't see any leaked water anywhere, not under the boiler.

    It is less than a gallon per week to add, but during extreme cold weather, it needs add water daily. Otherwise, it will shut off. (probably less a gallon)

    I checked the manual of Peerless 63, it states the head pipe should be at least 24 inches about water line. from the picture, the head pipe is less than 24 inches. Could it be the cause of loosing water?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    Bad piping as such might simply throw the water up into the piping, it will not make the water disappear. It would eventually come back to the boiler.
    If the water feeder adds some water because of slow returns you would end up with an overfilled boiler.

    Do you have any pipes connected to the boiler coming up out of the floor?

    Is there any piping you cannot see?

  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    JUGHNE said:

    Bad piping as such might simply throw the water up into the piping, it will not make the water disappear. It would eventually come back to the boiler.
    If the water feeder adds some water because of slow returns you would end up with an overfilled boiler.

    Do you have any pipes connected to the boiler coming up out of the floor?

    Is there any piping you cannot see?

    there are no pipes coming up out the basement floor, all pipes go up from the boiler. All people on the two floors don't see any leaked water; the boiler doesn't lose water during non heating season.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,539
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    @PatB

    @EzzyT is the guy you need. PM or call him. That boiler does not look very old. How old is it?
    Snowmelt
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    @PatB

    @EzzyT is the guy you need. PM or call him. That boiler does not look very old. How old is it?

    it is only 8 years old, could it be possible to have a hole in the boiler for only 8 years?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    PatB said:

    @PatB

    @EzzyT is the guy you need. PM or call him. That boiler does not look very old. How old is it?

    it is only 8 years old, could it be possible to have a hole in the boiler for only 8 years?
    Yes. It shouldn't, but that is not to say it can't happen.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    Welcome fellow NJ steam maker-

    Your original post confused me...you seem to say the water level returned after some time?

    But then you also say it is using water.

    Can you clarify that?

    Also it's kind of a shame that the installer didn't utilize some of that available height for the steam supplies, weird.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    cross_skier
  • cross_skier
    cross_skier Member Posts: 201
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    I believe Peerless steam boilers come with a 10 year warranty if the boiler was registered, installed properly, and owner occupied. 
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    Welcome fellow NJ steam maker-

    Your original post confused me...you seem to say the water level returned after some time?

    But then you also say it is using water.

    Can you clarify that?

    Also it's kind of a shame that the installer didn't utilize some of that available height for the steam supplies, weird.

    Sorry for any confusion. It is gas steam boiler which uses water to generate steam. The not so cold days, the boiler doesn't loose much water. It takes cycle of heating and no-heating sessions. During colder days, it works almost non stop or stop, then starts very quickly. The boiler loose lots water during the colder days to the level unsafe so the cut off device to kick in to stop the boiler. It happened last night. I tried to find out where the water leak is. It seems there might be a hold inside the boiler.
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    I believe Peerless steam boilers come with a 10 year warranty if the boiler was registered, installed properly, and owner occupied. 

    thanks for the info. I will look into it.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    OK let me try to clarify some terms because I think there is still a disconnect here and I'd like to understand your situation.

    "Using water" and "losing water". Yes the boiler uses water to make steam, but all the water should return at the end of the call for heat. So when we ask if the boiler is "using water" or "losing water", we mean, is the water level dropping and remaining dropped some time after the call for heat has ended.

    Now from your last reply I get the indication that the water level is dropping during a call for heat, rather quickly, and then after the call for heat ends, the water returns to the boiler.

    If that is the case then we aren't talking about "losing water" from a leak, we are talking about something like the water getting "carried over" into your steam pipes due to causes such as oil in the boiler (which you may have), or piping issues such as too low of a header (which you definitely have).

    What happens is gallons of water gets "pumped" into the steam pipes, dramatically dropping the water level (much fast that what would happen from a typical leak), causing the LWCO to activate. Is that what you are experiencing?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    OK let me try to clarify some terms because I think there is still a disconnect here and I'd like to understand your situation.

    "Using water" and "losing water". Yes the boiler uses water to make steam, but all the water should return at the end of the call for heat. So when we ask if the boiler is "using water" or "losing water", we mean, is the water level dropping and remaining dropped some time after the call for heat has ended.

    Now from your last reply I get the indication that the water level is dropping during a call for heat, rather quickly, and then after the call for heat ends, the water returns to the boiler.

    If that is the case then we aren't talking about "losing water" from a leak, we are talking about something like the water getting "carried over" into your steam pipes due to causes such as oil in the boiler (which you may have), or piping issues such as too low of a header (which you definitely have).

    What happens is gallons of water gets "pumped" into the steam pipes, dramatically dropping the water level (much fast that what would happen from a typical leak), causing the LWCO to activate. Is that what you are experiencing?

    thanks for explanation and question. I want to say "the system loses water, in particular colder weather. Have to add water, otherwise, LWCO activates. I added water yesterday morning, this morning, about 24 hours later, the sight glass was empty and the low water light was not on but the boiler was not working. When I started to fill water, the low water light blinks once, then, not light up anymore. I couldn't tell how much water was put in, but I would say a gallon? This only happens during colder (under 20 degrees) weather.

    Other days, I see water fluctuate a bit in sight glass or sometimes water was very low in sight glass but once boiler stop heating, the water gradually returns to the sight glass.
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    tommay said:

    Are you sure you are getting a correct reading in the sight glass? If it was empty and the LWCO light was not on but the boiler wasn't working....somethings up. Like ethicalpaul mentioned twice, losing water or using water? Slow, dirty returns? I would drain/flush/refill and make sure everything is turning off and on as it should first and foremost, while observing the condition of the water while being drained. Clean the sight glass stuff and check pigtail thing while you at it...

    Thank you for your thoughts. it is for sure losing water since I have been adding water to the system. Slow return, yes. Dirty return, not too much since I try to flush it weekly. when the water is being drained, the only initial water came out with some brown color, then, it is mostly clear. I don't see any steam out of chimney when the heating cycle is on. The sight glass is not dirty and pigtail was cleaned about 4 to 6 weeks ago.
    ethicalpaul
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703
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    is all your return piping above the floor?
    nothing running under the slab?
    known to beat dead horses
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    neilc said:

    is all your return piping above the floor?
    nothing running under the slab?

    everything is above floor, nothing is under the slab.
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    tommay said:

    If it's slow, then it's dirty somewhere along the line or else not pitched.....it's not a bad thing to overfill the system up to the first floor, then drain, to make sure all lines are clean....

    I wonder overfilling the boiler would make the water leak out of the air vent somewhere? thanks
  • Snowmelt
    Snowmelt Member Posts: 1,415
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    Yep
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,539
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    @PatB call Ezzy sooner than later you dont want to risk loosing the boiler
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    Don’t do that
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    cross_skierKC_Jones
  • Chris_L
    Chris_L Member Posts: 336
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    tommay said:

    Ethicalpaul, why not? What happens if a boiler feed fails or somebody doesn't turn off valve tight enough, or water feed keeps kicking in and the system fills completely? Wouldn't it be nice to know that there aren't any leaks that are going to flood your house. If you have a 3rd story, head pressure will/should open relief valve. You hear that open/close or see water in your basement or in your bucket below the relief, good indication the system is full.....if you can't tell the sight glass is full.

    @tommay ever done this? I doubt it.

    First of all, the vents will always leak. They are not designed for holding line water pressure. (Most of them can't even reliably and completely keep in low pressure steam.)

    Also, most third floor radiators, unless they are on the ceiling, are not going to produce enough head to open the pressure relief valve.

    For anyone thinking of doing this, here is a real example of why you shouldn't. Years ago, my sister had a neighbor minding her boiler while her family was on vacation. The neighbor added water to the boiler but then turned the fill valve the wrong way to turn it off. Then left. The result--tens of thousands of dollars in flood damage to the home.
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    Really very simple, @tommay . The overpressure may destroy the vents and traps. In fact, unless you are exceedingly fortunate, if it gets high enough to operate the pressure relief, it will destroy them. This is a nuisance.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    In addition to the excellent reasons above, water flooding a radiator can wash junk into a vent making it no longer seal. We see this a lot when boilers are carrying over water into the mains.

    Trust me, I'm all for doing things for science, but this one isn't advised. Suit yourself though! I just wanted the thread to indicate that some folks think this would be a bad idea.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    KC_Jones
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    Vents -- and traps -- have a small bellows in them filled with fluid, usually alcohol. They respond to temperature by that fluid evaporating and that pressure expands the bellows and closes the vent or trap.

    Now. What pressure to you think it might take to crush that bellows? The manufacturers generally rate them to operate --that is be able to open and close -- at no more than 3 psi, and to be able to withstand, without permanent damage, 10 psi.

    So your relief valve opens at 15 psi. What pressure do you think the vents and traps have been exposed to? Um... ah... 15 psi. What pressure do they fail at? Um... ah... 10 psi.

    Oh dear.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    bburddelcrossv
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    Oh, dear, I don't understand half of what have been said about "overfill" the system. Nonetheless, I won't overfill it. There was an incident, the tech left the water fill valve open after tuning up several winters ago, then water spit out air vents. Another plumber came to find the open valve. Shut the water valve off, replaced couple air vents. Cost couple hundreds dollars. Of course, I didn't know much about steam boiler then. At least, now, I can replace air vent myself and know the water valve is open. Have learned something, still much more to learn.

    Thank you all for sharing your knowledge. Very much appreciated!
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    I just found out the tenant removed cap of the air vent from two radiators. Could the removal of air vent cap be the cause of losing water?
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    No. What that would have done is cause the steam to flow very quickly to that radiator and then the vent would close....so it would either heat up the radiator quickly, or paradoxically, it can cause the radiator to be closed to steam before it heats up, possibly causing it to be cooler than others.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • PatB
    PatB Member Posts: 40
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    No. What that would have done is cause the steam to flow very quickly to that radiator and then the vent would close....so it would either heat up the radiator quickly, or paradoxically, it can cause the radiator to be closed to steam before it heats up, possibly causing it to be cooler than others.

    thanks. to follow up, will the steam escape the uncapped air vent? I thought the cap on the air vent is to close the pathway out so that the steam can stay inside. ???
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    No, on that vent, the cap is to provide a resistance to air flow prior to closing. It is what determines the "size" of that vent. "small" vents have a small hole in that cap, and "large" vents have a larger hole in that cap.

    The closing mechanism is inside the vent, below the cap.

    You can remove the cap from any Maid o Mist and it makes it the same "size" as a D or #1 (which are the same)
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el