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VERY old, 1925 Burnham furnace issues

Hello all. I'm hoping someone can help. I brought a old house 7 years ago and it still has the original Burnham furnace that looks like the blob. Each year before I fire the thing up I notice that the sight glass is empty since it was last on before the summer. I fill it up with water until I see it in the sight glass. After I fire it up and let it get going, I come check on it to find that the sight glass is filled ALL THE WAY UP where I have to start draining water to bring it down to the marked level. Once the level reaches the proper level I crank it up again and it does it's thing. When I turn it off and come check the sight glass again, it's empty or so I think. If I put more water in the same thing happens where it fills all the way up as if the water level is fine but it's draining out of the sight glass until I fire it up again. This thing was built in 1925 so you have to mess with the water levels until it gets to the proper level and stays in the sight glass. I want to upgrade this thing so bad but it's expensive and I'm light on coin right now. Any thoughts as to whats happening with this old behemoth?

Comments

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,623
    Some pictures of the boiler and the piping around it would be great. The problem is probably something not right in the system, not the boiler.
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,254
    Water expands as it heats up. The first day of heating season your water is starting at maybe 55 degrees. During heating season the water before a call for heat from the stat is starting at a much higher temperature.
    So less expansion.
    But post up some pictures. We love old boilers here, and may be able to give you additional advice. Old boilers are low maintenance, but NOT no maintenance.

    I DIY.
    rconkling
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,513
    I would remove the gauge glass and maybe the upper and lower gauge glass valves and flush them out. Make sure you have some spare parts.

    Do you have any returns run under the boiler room floor?
  • blackshadrack
    blackshadrack Member Posts: 6
    Here are some pics:








  • blackshadrack
    blackshadrack Member Posts: 6

    I would remove the gauge glass and maybe the upper and lower gauge glass valves and flush them out. Make sure you have some spare parts.

    Do you have any returns run under the boiler room floor?

    I don't think so
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,623
    Those try cocks will also tell you where the water level is, but the first step is to make sure the gauge glass is clear and it looks pretty dirty.
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 902
    edited October 2022
    If i were you, I would do as @EBEBRATT-Ed recommended and remove the sight glass and clean or replace it. At the same time you should remove the sight glass shut off valve stems by loosening the packing nuts and turn out the stems. Stick a small metal rod into the hole access where you removed the valve stems, flush out those access points to make sure that the access is not plugged. Re-install the valve stems and the sight glass (tube). Have on hand the metal washers, rubber seals, and a new sight glass. You do not have to remove the gauge glass valves to clean them. Also, as ED said, check any return piping that may be under a floor for leaks. You should also consider adding a low water cut out, if one is not presently installed, to provide safety against a low water problem. A new steam safety valve may also be a good addition.

    Please excuse my next comment, but this boiler looks like an "accident waiting to happen". Protect yourself and family and have this boiler made as safe as possible.

    my 2 cents
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,254
    I don't see a Hartford Loop.
    I DIY.
  • blackshadrack
    blackshadrack Member Posts: 6
    Hey guys. I have a pro here now looking the system over. This isn't something I want to fool with. I'm going to dig deep and replace this relic. I tell you one thing though.....when this bad boy gets going the heat in the house is unmatched!
  • blackshadrack
    blackshadrack Member Posts: 6
    edited October 2022
    retiredguy said:  Please excuse my next comment, but this boiler looks like an "accident waiting to happen". Protect yourself and family and have this boiler made as safe as possible. my 2 cents
    I appreciate the honesty and I'm going to do just that regarding making it safe until I can replace it.
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,254
    Glad to hear that. You made the right decision. I like old boilers, but to make yours safe would require putting too much money into it. The new boiler should be sized to the size of your radiators, NOT the size of the house, or the size of the old boiler.
    Ask your Pro to measure your radiators. If he says that's not necessary, he doesn't know steam and will likely make other mistakes. If so, you need to find another Pro.
    I DIY.
    bburdblackshadrack
  • blackshadrack
    blackshadrack Member Posts: 6
    Thanks guys! You all seem to know your stuff.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
    Save that gauge!
    steve
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
    At a glance aside from your water issue maybe you could have some one replace the stack switch relay for your burner w a standard cad cell relay a much safer and more realizable control . As for the water level issue aside from what other have stated I would take a look in the fire box and inside the boiler ,I have seen these type of boiler have small leaks which run down the inside of the boiler and evaporate under the chambers tub or fire brick and going unnoticed until the boiler is removed and you find a crack in the slab under the boiler which the leaks drains to . I would also think from my experiences that the bottom of the boiler unless flushed Is full of mud . Ones similar to your which I be replaced in the past showed a fuel usage of about 30 to 40 % less fuel over the old beast .
    I would say at 100 years old ,everybody got there money worth out of her but in these times aside from every body being tight on money ,the limited amount of steam boiler available and the rising cost of fuel including oil waiting even longer only means the cost for replacement will be even higher due to the above and the limited amount of people out installing them properly makes it even tougher .
    Personally I don’t think I would go nuts flushing it out you may end up removing crude which is sealing a leak then you de be replacing . That’s a ancient bird which should have been removed upon the first opec oil embargo close to 45 years ago but they just most likely moved it was cheaper .
    Planning on a replacement is better then being forced to replace in the dead of the winter plus as I always hear we plan on moving which stoped working years ago on trying to do repairs on something g 100 years old best of luck only some one w no sense of liability would touch . Be serious and look into abatement and replacement unless you still be a riding horse or model t and still desire to shovel coal nothing lasts forever including that boiler . What about being green saving the planet and all ? Out the window
    Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    BobC