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high water in boiler

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maddydad
maddydad Member Posts: 11
Last year in a duplex I have owned since 2013, I had a bathtub surround repaired and renovated. Due to a wall issue, a radiator had to be moved 3 inches. The renovator kept the pipe pitch the same and cut out 3 inches of pipe in the basement below. Additionally, I had the guy look at a radiator that was only heating ½ way. He removed the air valve/vent and there was a rush of water and anything else in the water that went down the pipe. It fixed the heating of that radiator but soon after the pipes in the basement on that side of the house made hammering sounds and the boiler water was high at the very top of the glass or above it.. I have had 3 different plumbing and heating guys come to look at it. The first cleaned the burners and changed the thermocouple. (not sure how he thought this would help the problem). The second plumbing guy came to check it out and had the LWCO replaced in case the float was corrupted due to sledge in the slush of water that returned from the fixed radiator. The hammering persisted as did the flooding. As far as I know the automatic water feeder is not leaking into the boiler. I had shut the system down for a period and it did not gain any water. Additionally, today when I was down there, I lowered the water level to the middle of the glass. The boiler came on soon after that and after 20 minutes of on and off the water level went below the LWCO and the automatic feeder kicked on for a second or two. This happened several times before the house reached the thermostatic temperature. Does this mean there is sludge in the pipe preventing the condensate from returning? When I start up the boiler, I can hear the rumble start in/near a couple of the pipes, the ones where the change for the bathroom was made and the one where the water returned from the fixed radiator. It sounds like there is water in the pipes being sloshed by the steam.

It is a one pipe system and I had gone down and purged the LWCO valve once a week. I now go down every day to make sure the water level does not stay above the glass.
The third guy checked all the radiator vents and that the condensate would be running towards the supply valve. All the supply valves were open except one that has been closed since I have owned the house. That radiator is not needed. Last season I changed the air vents on the radiators that were attached to the pipes that were making the hammering sounds. I also changed a main vent because it was dilapidated. I put a Hoffman 45 on.
The boiler is a Crown Jamacian II boiler. Its manual states not to use any chemical additives for cleaning. The cut-in is set at .5 PSI and Cut-out is set at 1 0r 1.5 PSI. My pressure gauge shows it cutting out at 2 PSI. It used to cut out at 2.5 to 3 psi but one of the guys lowered the cut-out.


Some questions:
Should the cut-out be higher?
Is the condensate being cut off from returning causing both the water hammer (plus sloshing sound) and the auto-feeder to put more water in the boiler before the condensate has fully returned. (This is what I am thinking) If so, how do I get the sludge out of a pipe if it is stuck in a pipe? The piping in that area is copper, can it be cut to remove sludge and the couple it back together, keeping the same pitch.
Is it overfiring causing it to pull water into the pipes?
Is the noises caused by wet steam? Not sure what wet steam is? Will have to look it up again.

I have been trying to deal with this for a little over a year now. I have read Dan’s book to try to be knowledgeable about steam heat and have learned some but ugh.
I haven’t been too pleased with the plumbing/heating guys so far. Where can I find someone who wants to take the time to fix the problem?
Considering going to heat pumps- might only need 1 per floor. Right now I pay the heat, with heat pumps I could have the tenant be responsible. However, my understanding is that they become inefficient at below 40 degrees and the duplex is in Ithaca NY. Winters get cold.
I am getting frustrated. Please help me

WDYT?

Comments

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    There's a lot to unpack here, so here are my random thoughts:

    - no do not turn up the cutout pressure. The guy who lowered it knew what he was doing (at least regarding that)
    - Wet steam is water, possibly gallons of water, being carried up into your steam system along with (and by) the steam. You can take pictures of your boiler and its nearby piping and there's a good chance that's where the cause lies.
    - Disable your autofeed until you get the other problems sorted out. Overfilling will just complicate everything.
    - Your radiator problem may be a real thing or it might have just been caused by the overfilling
    - Copper isn't great for steam pipes. Send pictures of the problem radiator and its pipes
    - A modern heat pump can be good down even below 20f but I don't recommend that. Steam is too good a thing to throw away.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Don_175
    Don_175 Member Posts: 126
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    I can’t speak to your specific problems, but as Paul said, water is getting into your piping, then LWCO kicks in. And autofeed adds water and overfills boiler. My autofeed has a time delay that allows water to return to boiler before adding. I think mine is set for 30 seconds. Also, did you see the find a contractor link? There is a company in Elmira listed there who specializes in steam. Good luck
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    All of @ethicalpaul 's thoughts, random or not, are good. To which I might add. Double check the pitch of all the piping -- especially that piping that got changed and any pipes attached to it. How big is that copper pipe? it may be smaller than it should be, in which case it will need more pitch to drain properly.

    It is rare for steam pipes to clog. It isn't unheard of. Because it is rare, it can be very difficult to flush them out, since they aren't provided with any fittings to do that. One thing you can do, however, is take the bonnet off the valve for the offending radiator and pour water down it -- as fast as you can. It should flow freely. That's kind an if all else fails thing, though.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaulBobC
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Thanks for input. The copper piping was there when I bought the house and goes from the boiler to steel piping. 
    I saw the guy listed in Elmira but it is 30 minutes away so I was reluctant but I think I will give home a call. 
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    My mom lives in Ithaca, and I try to get up there to work on her house over the summer. If you don't get it resolved by then I can stop by and look over your system. I can't work on it, but I can give you advice and help you find a contractor in the area.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    maddydadethicalpaul
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Just posted pictures of the system
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    It’s really hard to tell but is there no equalizer?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    That boiler is actually a re-branded Dunkirk. These boilers lack a steam chest, and the near boiler piping is absolutely critical. While they don't require two risers on boilers with fewer than five sections, it wouldn't be a bad idea. Neither would a drop header. You need to replace the copper anyway, so you might as well do it right.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Not sure what an equalizer is
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Copper had been working for 9 yrs that I’ve had the house with no leaks. Don’t want to change unless absolutely have to due to expense. 
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    Yep, I didn't say rip it out, I said it wasn't good. Just for your knowledge.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
    edited March 2022
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    maddydad said:

    Not sure what an equalizer is

    Sure, no problem. It is a pipe that helps prevent the boiler from pushing all of its water out due to steam pressure. In the diagram below (which shows how your boiler was supposed to be piped), it is the vertical pipe located above the short pipe labelled "CLOSE NIPPLE".

    If you don't have this connection, steam pressure will push the water out the bottom of your boiler into the returns and if the pressure is high enough, all the way upstairs to the radiators.


    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    An equalizer is a pipe which goes from one end of the header back down to the Hartford Loop or the inlet to the boiler. I think that actually you do have one, although I can't see the bottom of it. That said, the piping is unfortunate, but since it has been working prior to this problem coming up I see no point in spending large dollars to do it right. Next time...

    Now. I doubt very much that the near boiler piping is the problem. The way it's arranged is going to make clearing the return lines very difficult, however.

    You note that this problem really appeared only after that radiator got moved. I think the very first thing I'd do -- as I think I said before -- is check every single pipe which could possibly have been moved -- sideways, up, down, whatever -- in the process of redoing that radiator. The comment about their being a rush of water when the air vent was removed tells me that that radiator wasn't draining properly before -- there should never be more than just a little water left in a radiator. You just may not have had occasion to notice. So, having checked every inch of pipe to make sure that it is at least pitched properly to drain, and fixed any issues, the next step is to take the bonnet off the radiator valve and check that that valve is working properly, and that it really is open when you think it is. Then pour water down the feed line, as fast as you can without making a mess. It should drain completely freely, at least as well as a bathroom sink (Note: if this works, you'll raise the boiler water level, which you will want to lower again).

    Button everything up and try the system again to see if there is any difference.

    Your automatic water feeder has no way to change the time delay on feeding. You need a time delay, so you might consider a better feeder, such as a VXT. That would also tell you how much water you are feeding, which is useful to know.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
    edited March 2022
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    Now. I doubt very much that the near boiler piping is the problem. The way it's arranged is going to make clearing the return lines very difficult, however.

    I hate to disagree, Jamie, but can you show me where the water is being separated from the steam and forced to return to the boiler? With the supply tapping barely above the water line, and maybe even partially below it when the boiler is producing steam since there's only one supply, an 18" riser isn't going to do it. The header is too small to slow the steam down, and then the equalizer gets even smaller, so all that water is going to go right up into the mains.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    ethicalpaul
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Again, thanks. Keep letting me know if you think of anything else. 
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,544
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    @maddydad

    You say you bought the house in 2013. When did your problems start? Was everything ok prior to the bathroom remodel or has this been an ongoing issue since you moved in??
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Since beginning of January 2021. 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    maddydad said:

    Since beginning of January 2021. 

    Which is kind of my point, @Hap_Hazzard . I quite agree that the near boiler piping is not good -- and that water level problems in the boiler are going to make things much worse. But... what changed? And see if there is something (I'm suspecting a latent problem in that radiator and it's piping which got aggravated) which needs attacking there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
    edited March 2022
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    Well we have precious little information about timing of all the various events, and no first hand knowledge of it of course, but I find it difficult to ignore that massive failure of the water leaving the boiler and being replaced with new feed water so I too am looking hard at the near boiler piping.

    The OP needs an actual steam professional in a bad way I think we can all agree.

    (I don't honestly see how a radiator issue no matter how severe could cause the water to leave the boiler)
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Hap_Hazzard
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Could it be that some sludge or what not came down the pipe from the radiator that had a vent changed last yr, to get the whole radiator to heat, thus causing slow condensation return, thus causing auto feeder to add, and the water is being pulled into pipe or never fully leaving pipe causing noise?
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    And high water once system turns off 
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    There's no sludge in a normal radiator of any significance. If I were betting on it, I'd say the whole radiator thing is the opposite--the boiler pushed water into it.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    Possibly, during the remodel, 1 or 2 of these problem rads had their valve shut off and then back on. The disk or parts could have come off the bottom of valve and went down the supply.

    This obstruction would allow steam to pass and block/slow down condensate returning. Especially if new piping was not reamed.

    The valve bonnets can be removed to see if parts are missing.
    As stated above you should be able to pour just about any amount of water down that valve.....but it will end up in the boiler, needing to be drained down after the test.

    In an old 1 pipe system feeding 2 stories I did find several parts of old valves in the return dirt pocket/leg at the bottom of a 2 1/2" pipe. 30' below the top floor.
  • maddydad
    maddydad Member Posts: 11
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    Called the guy in Elmira listed in finds contractor. Waiting to hear back from him.