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Boiler Issues - dealing with issues

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Cto
Cto Member Posts: 13
edited March 2022 in Strictly Steam
I posted previously on these issues. My apologies for my lack of real technical knowledge and I'm kinda weak in the industry lingo.

So... my less than one year old boiler surges, calls for what is now about a gallon of water a day when it is being used very moderately, sounds like there's a river of water in my radiators and supply pipes to radiators. I think that the call for water has to do with the fact that the steam is very wet (sounds like a running faucet in my pipes) and not returning in sufficient time and there may be losses from vents/valves (but that seems minimal). I can't tell if there is steam coming out of my chimney or vapor and I am not in the frame of mind to flood the boiler to find out. I am inclined to believe not because my prior boiler was replaced and it was like a locomotive engine - it does not look like this now. My house is heating but clearly, these are problems and need to be addressed for good operation and longevity of the boiler. I reached out to the installer today and was told I am overthinking it and there's nothing wrong.

He says that it is calling for water because I am not keeping the heat on. He says that if I kept the boiler on all day at a consistent temperature, everything would be fine. I told him I think that the near boiler piping is wrong and is causing wet steam. I think at worst, there is something defective about the new boiler and might be leaking steam through an above water line crack/hole. He seemed confused about that concept. I even pointed out that the header according to the manual is supposed to be 2.5 inches and it is 2 inches, which is for a smaller boiler per the Utica manual. I literally asked him to confirm this 4 separate times: Surging and the gallon of water A DAY (which is now at 42 for this heating season) is totally normal. I haven't misinterpreted everything I've read that tells me that these are not good operating characteristics, right?

He told me that my reading books is not "real world" and that I should stop being on the internet. Ha, I mean maybe the latter is true. In sum, he told me I am wrong. He absolutely refused to come to even investigate what might be wrong other than bad piping. I'm a young woman so I kind of anticipate this type of response even when I was cordial the whole time.

I paid so much money with the belief that I wouldn't have to learn so much about boiler installation but apparently, I expected too much. So, I'm going to try to remedy this with someone else.

I have attached pictures of the boiler. Assuming there is nothing wrong with the boiler itself, which I have not yet confirmed, if all of the near boiler piping is to redone, what's the most reasonable way to deal with these issues.

Grade my homework: I seem to think that a drop header that elongates the path the steam takes out of the boiler to a NEW 2.5 inch header, removing the "old header," installing an equalizer and connecting directly to the mains might fix this? Easy peasy right?






Comments

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,533
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    With a boiler of 225,000 input either he oversized the boiler or you live in a pretty big house. I didn't look up the piping requirements for that boiler yet but I know it's piped wrong.

    Water is coming back down into the boiler supplies.

    1. You need to measure all your radiators and calculate the EDR load of each radiator, add up the total and compare it to the "square feet of steam rating" on the boiler name plate. We can steer you in the right direction it's very easy. I can't see the "sq ft of steam rating" it's hidden by a wire in the 4th picture down


    If you don't think your contractor will respond to fix anything try "find a contractor" on this site and post your location. Someone may have a recommendation.

    Your probably using too much water.

    Do you have any return lines under the basement floor?
  • Cto
    Cto Member Posts: 13
    edited March 2022
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    I am in a 2800 sq ft house. I don't think any of my return lines are buried but one is behind a wall.  There is no obvious indication of leak through the wall there. 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,313
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    I think I remember this one... The boiler piping isn't, as you have already quite correctly surmised, not ideal. There are things which could be done to make it better. However, do they really need to be done? Perhaps not. Your saving feature is that the header ties into the old big steam drum (that big silver thing). That, too, could have been done better -- there seems to be a reducing elbow leading to it, and it almost looks as though there was a reducing bushing in the drum inlet. Lazy. Not necessarily fatal, but lazy. There can be no doubt that a good deal of water is getting into that steam drum. However, at this point I think I'd leave that be.

    There are two things which you can do quite competently yourself, however. First, make sure that the pressure control is as low as it can safely go. I can't see it's scales, but it looks from what I can see of it that it is the sort where there is a scale on the face for cutin pressure -- that should be set down almost to the bottom of the scale, often marked 0.5. Don't go all the way -- there is a little screw inside which can come adrift, which is a bore -- but just a smidge above that. Then you can take the cover off it you like, and there will be a white wheel inside which sets the differential -- the difference between the cutin and cutout pressures. Make sure that is set to 1.

    The second thing is the surging. I would not be surprised if the boiler needed to be skimmed more (if it has been at all). Not hard: he did one thing right, and that is that you have an easy way to skim it. On the left hand side (the side with the sight glass) there is a cap on the steam outlet What needs to happen is that that cap needs to be taken off and the boiler brought to a simmer -- not boiling (you'll have to turn it on and off by hand) and let just a trickle of water slide out of that into a bucket (don't get the controls wet). You'll have to add a little water from time to time to keep it just at a trickle. And keep doing that... for an hour or two (get a friend to spell you!). Longer if you can bear it.

    The coloour of the water in the sight glass suggests to me that there is too much additive in the water as well. Skimming will dilute that somewhat -- but if it doesn't fade to a very faint green there's still too much, and you will need to actually drain some water out and refill to correct that (bring the boiler up to a nice full boil immediately after you do that).

    Both of those measures may help the surging -- maybe even a lot -- which will help some of the other problems.

    What I wouldn't leave be is that you are losing WAY too much water, particularly for a new installation. Since your installer seems to think that that is normal, he is clearly not knowledgeable in steam heat. That he attributes it to your turning the heat down and up just reinforces that.

    So... since you clearly know at least as much as he does -- likely a good bit more -- you are going to have to do some sleuthing to figure out where that water is going (we can worry about why there is water in your piping -- there shouldn't be, of course -- later). This is a bit of a detective game. First, turn off the autofeeder for the moment. Let the boiler cool and note the water level on the sight glass -- I find a spring clothes pin is just about perfect for that. And let it sit, off, for a while (over night, if we ever get some warm weather). If the water level drops, there is a leak either below the water line in the boiler -- which is unlikely -- or in some pipe connected to the Hartford Loop and the wet return. Follow all the pipes which are below the water line, everywhere in the basement, to check. Particular villains are any joints. Remember that even a leak as small as one drip every 10 seconds adds up to close to a gallon a day! so disregard nothing. If that's OK, then the leak or leaks are above the water line somewhere, and these can be really hard to find as if they are steam or even very hot water, they tend to evaporate almost immediately. Any threaded joint is a possibility, but so are all the valve stems and vents.

    And last here -- don't ever let anyone con you into thinking that being a young woman is a problem, and don't believe it yourself, even for a moment. One of the best car tuners I know is a lovely young lady of 19, and some of the best pilots I've ever known have been "girls". It makes no difference (well, except when it comes to turning a four foot pipe wrench -- but not always even then).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2CLamb
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,660
    edited March 2022
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  • Cto
    Cto Member Posts: 13
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    I did find someone who is coming next week to look but it remains to be seen how things go. 

    Do you think that the piping could account for at least some of that water? The boiler sight glass is very very full and I while there may be some loss during cold weather, I recognize that that mystery needs to be solved.  


  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,660
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    Does this water that is feeds come out somewhere as steam or liquid water? The near boiler piping is very wrong and there is a lot of some sort of additive in the water.
    Cto said:

    I posted previously on these issues. I reached out to the installer today and was told I am overthinking it and there's nothing wrong.

    He says that it is calling for water because I am not keeping the heat on. He says that if I kept the boiler on all day at a consistent temperature, everything would be fine.

    This is just a bald faced lie. I suppose the check has already cleared.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,660
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    Looking at the pictures some more, I suspect that your main issue is water quality. Has the boiler been skimmed? I suppose from the installer's response that they never came back and skimmed it. I would skim it, then drain and refill it to get rid of that chemical, the run it a week or so and skim it again. The piping is wrong, but I think the water would settle down and drain back to the equalizer in that drum leftover from the old system if the boiler were steaming properly.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,313
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    Cto said:

    I did find someone who is coming next week to look but it remains to be seen how things go. 

    Do you think that the piping could account for at least some of that water? The boiler sight glass is very very full and I while there may be some loss during cold weather, I recognize that that mystery needs to be solved.  


    If the sight glass is very full, that's part of the problem with the wet steam -- but NOT the water loss. Nor will the somewhat dubious near boiler piping. The water level should be half to two thirds of the way up. That type of boiler is very sensitive to being too full.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,660
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    This got me thinking, are you sure the water is going somewhere other than up further in the system? Drain it out in to a bucket until you get down to where it is supposed to be on the sight glass and see how much water comes out.
  • Cto
    Cto Member Posts: 13
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    mattmia2 said:
    Looking at the pictures some more, I suspect that your main issue is water quality. Has the boiler been skimmed? I suppose from the installer's response that they never came back and skimmed it. I would skim it, then drain and refill it to get rid of that chemical, the run it a week or so and skim it again. The piping is wrong, but I think the water would settle down and drain back to the equalizer in that drum leftover from the old system if the boiler were steaming properly.
    They came back and skimmed it but I don't think they did a good job.  The water now when the boiler is going is the color of tea.  When the boiler cools, it has that clear green color.  
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 508
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    Cto said:

    I am in a 2800 sq ft house.

    An older home? My Colonial is about 2700 and I'm using a 120K input boiler, and that short cycles more than I'd like on anything except very cold days. My house though is fairly modern with 2X6 fiberglass insulated walls and double pane windows in Zone 5.

    If your house is older with single pane windows and no wall insulation or in a zone 6 or 7, you'll need more.


    ted4653
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    The riser should be a mim of 24 inches before the header ,do u have that height? I think that being piped into the bottom of the header drum with out have mim riser height for header piping may be your issue . Even w a drip and if the drum is pitched to the drip/ equilizer . What’s the height from your water line to the bottom of the drum ? I think the non height of the boiler supply risers is partially to blame . I think I would have used that steam drum for a boat anchor and repiped it all properly being w that steam drum kinda prevents you from having tall risers or a real header . I image that the cost for removing and re piping correctly would have been a bit more money being there would be more work ,time and materials involved . At least that’s how I would have approached it always figure why do some thing half butted and then look stupid and then proceed to lose some money re doing it for free ? I do like the idea of that drum , slow down the steam and letting condensate separate leaving some dry steam but I believe that piping into the bottom is the deal breaker unless it was way higher and had a real header and equilizer w a take off piped to the steam drum also if it had the connection on the top like a real steam drum which would be the ideal layout but your stuck w what’s there . The way its piped I would suggest trying to set the water level about a 1 inch lower this may help w surge water into the header and drum . As for the green chemical I would be believe it surge master not to much of a heavy cleaner it helps prevent priming and surge in dirty blower but also contains a corrosion inhibitor and helps to keeps oils of the surface which helps prevent to some degree foaming and priming to some degree but will never correct poor piped steam boilers . I use it for it corrosion inhibitor it seems to keep mud and rust from the steam chest of the boilers from heavy accumulation and-it also has some oxygen scavenger and I fell corrosion inhibitor aren’t a bad thing either . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    Another question how many sq ft is your home at 180 mbtu output and say 3000 sq ft home your looking a close to 60 btu per sq ft . That’s close to heating a barn at that many btu s . I think a edr of your radiators are in order to ensure they even installed the correct size boiler and if it’s over sized you should call them out on it and have the correct size installed correctly . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    mattmia2
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703
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    that steel drum,
    unless there's an internal baffle, which is totaly doubtful,
    steam is likely shooting right across the drum from the boiler riser(s) to the system main take off,
    header drying action minima!
    known to beat dead horses