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Buzzing Boiler

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AshlynDL
AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
edited October 2022 in Strictly Steam
The YouTube video link below shows my boiler with the shield removed. There is a  very apparent and pronounced buzzing sound. The boiler was running for about 20 minutes before this sound started. It ran yesterday without a sound. It ran a few days ago and made this sound about 20 minutes in. Any ideas? I am concerned it is a safety issue. Thank you in advance. 

Comments

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,061
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    There look to be only 2 components in that compartment.

    I suspect the gas valve, can you feel the vibration/buzz when it is on?

    The transformer in the upper right might buzz, but it is energized all the time.

    Just so that when the buzzing stops and the gas valve closes, does the flame go completely out, other than the pilot light?
    AshlynDL
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
    edited October 2022
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    @JUGHNE To be honest, I was worried to touch anything as I’m not a professional. Everything seems to go out and shut down when I turn the thermostat to off. I had a professional come out the other day and, of course, it did not buzz when he was here. 
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 1,131
    edited October 2022
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    Hello AshlynDL,

    This is coming from a novice, but it sounds like a stuck solenoid.

    Is this steam boiler using a manual ignition system to light a pilot light for the steam boiler?

    The transformer that is on the right side of the boiler should not make any noise.
    If the noise is coming from the gas control valve which I think it is, it should be looked and possibly replaced.

    AshlynDLreggi
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
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    @leonz thank you so much for offering your expertise. How can I identify if it is a manual ignition system? Do you recommend keeping the heat off completely until the gas control valve is replaced (as mentioned, it doesn’t “buzz” all the time)? Supposedly a sensor and gas valve were replaced in 2020 (according to the previous owner whom we purchased the house from). Is this a safety issue? 
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 1,160
    edited October 2022
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    Sounds like a bad solenoid, must be in gas valve (item in center). 
    If you have a screwdriver you can use as makeshift but effective stethoscope.   Pace the screw tip on the metal body of the relay (away from wires) and position you ear close to the handle. If the gas solenoid is making the noise, you will clearly hear it. If the valve is silent, repeat for the transformer on right. 
    AshlynDLMikeAmann
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 1,131
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    Hello AshlynDL,

    I am not much of an expert but there should be no buzzing at all. Ashlyn, I would have it replaced if it were me.

    If the steam boiler has a gas pilot light/flame it requires you to relight it manually ONLY if it goes out.


    If its anything like my old 30 gallon water heater gas pilot lighting system the red button is depressed
    for 30 seconds and you light the pilot gas jet with a match held in a match holder, long matchstick or a long handle butane lighter.

    If you can find the owners manual for the boiler or if the builder's plate is visible you will have the information you need to identify it and to talk to someone about the boiler.

    If you can see the builders Identification plate it will have the manufacturers name, the boilers serial number, firing rate which is the British Thermal Units (BTU's) burned per hour and the steam heating square footage the boiler is rated for.

    Copy all the information on the builders plate so you have it in front of you when you call the plumber as ask them to come by for a service call because of the buzzing.




    AshlynDL
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
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    @PC7060 thank you for these next steps! I will certainly try it and report back. Hopefully when I turn the best on next, it will make the sound (it’s inconsistently been happening). I want to verify, there is no danger in me turning the bear back on?
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
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    @leonz thank you so much for all of that information - much appreciated. I will gather as much of that information you recommend as I can. We will move forward with replacement and hope that solves the issue. Fingers crossed!
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,061
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    You have the most basic of gas valves.
    It is for a standing pilot light with thermocouple (sensor) safety system.
    Old school, should have lasted more than 2 years though.

    You can touch it with the back side of your fingers and maybe feel the buzz.
    Those wire are only 24 volts.

    I take a rubber handle screwdriver and "thump" the side of the valve with the rubber part of the handle.
    That sometimes will stop or start the buzz.

    Again make sure the flame goes off when the boiler is off.
    Do you see the main gas stop valve?
    If you shut it off the pilot will also go off and need relighting.

    You can post a picture of the entire boiler.
    Show all the components from a distance back.
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 1,160
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    @JUGHNE has a good point, surprising the gas valve would fail. Wonder if the transformer is failing to put out full 24vac?
    JUGHNE
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,840
    edited October 2022
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    Facts
    1. New gas valve in 2020.
    2. Reason for replacing the valve in 2020 is unknown.
    3. This is on a steam boiler according to the owner. (can't tell from the pictures and Homeowners sometimes make mistakes on what is and is not steam)
    4. No other relays are involved on this boiler (which is a possibility on steam boilers)
    5. 24 volt transformer
    6. 24 volt thermostat.

    If all this is true, then the gas valve is the source of the noise. I agree that this type of gas valve is basic and should last longer than 2 years. Assume that the previous gas valve was replaced because of the same noise, then perhaps the old valve was not the problem.

    The transformer may be the source of the problem, or the wires from the transformer to the thermostat and back to the gas valve. One of those wires may have some corrosion buildup or some other reason for providing abnormal resistance and less power than necessary to fully open the valve. Once the valve uses up the restricted energy, the valve fails and closes, allowing for the restricted energy to try to open the valve again. The restricted energy condition still exists so, when the valve tries to open again the valve fails to fully open again and the condition repeats. This happens rapidly over and over again like an alarm bell or buzzer might be designed to operate.

    This partially open and closing valve may allow enough gas to the burners to have a fire that might heat the home, BUT it is vary annoying. The safety part of the valve will is not associated with the electrical side of the valve, but there are other things that can go wrong.

    Now if the problem is in the wires from the thermostat to the boiler, and you replace the transformer and the gas valve. the problem may not be resolved. A good technician may be able to rule out the wires one at a time by using a jumper to bypass them one at a time. This will be time consuming and they will need to be paid for their time. But this is the only way to find the problem.

    Unrelated and off topic but to the point.

    After 3 years of trying to solve a problem with an oil burner with plugged nozzle problems that included new filter, new fuel lines, even a new fuel tank, I finally found the nozzles were being plugged by the rust from the high pressure tube that connected the high pressure line to the nozzle adaptor. This is located after all the filters and parts that I changed over the previous 2 seasons.. The customer did not have a lot of money and really could not afford all that unnecessary work. I felt so bad about my incompetence, I did not charge for the actual parts that I needed to replace. I also did not charge for any service call or maintenance for the next 5 years.
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    MikeAmannPC7060AshlynDL
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
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    @PC7060 @JUGHNE is the transformer something that can be changed? Here are some pictures:
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,840
    edited October 2022
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    I see that there is an electronic Low Water Cut Off (LWCO) in the system. That adds more fun to the mix. Is there a possibility that the LWCO control has something to do with the reduction of the power to the gas valve? Could the noise be coming from that control? Could the control also have a similar noise that is not as loud? When was the last time the probe for that control checked for cleanliness. (it is right next to Godliness if you are looking). Recommended every 5 years for this inspection.
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    AshlynDL
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
    edited October 2022
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    @EdTheHeaterMan the probe was cleaned last season - in fact the entire LWCO was replaced in 2020! The sound did not appear to be coming from it at all, but I will check again. 

    Wow! I just read your previous response. Thank you so much for being so thorough; I truly appreciate it. So, if you were to triage our situation, would you replace the gas valve first? Is the transformer separate and can it be replaced? Or would you test the wires first? It’s strange that it does not make the noise every time.
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 1,160
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    @AshlynDL - changing the transformer is probably one of the easiest things to do. But @EdTheHeaterMan is correct, you need a tech with some knowledge and a voltmeter to get a better understanding of the problem. 
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703
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    oh let's try another thought,

    when did this buzzing start ?

    any chance you changed a thermostat to a modern, wifi, remote control, nest, type?

    has anything else been changed when this started ?
    known to beat dead horses
    MikeAmann
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    If you know the person who installed this boiler, never let them in your house again. They should lose their license, if they had one.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
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    @ethicalpaul it was installed long before we purchased the home. Please advise regarding what needs to be changed! We don’t want our safety compromised! 

    @neilc we changed the thermostat location to a walk about two feet from where it originally was (kitchen renovation). Same thermostat. Didn’t run the heat this season prior to the location change to know if that’s what triggered. 
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,840
    edited October 2022
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    AshlynDL said:

    @EdTheHeaterMan the probe was cleaned last season - in fact the entire LWCO was replaced in 2020! The sound did not appear to be coming from it at all, but I will check again. 


    Wow! I just read your previous response. Thank you so much for being so thorough; I truly appreciate it. So, if you were to triage our situation, would you replace the gas valve first? Is the transformer separate and can it be replaced? Or would you test the wires first? It’s strange that it does not make the noise every time.
    There are those that will change parts until the problem goes away. They are called "parts changers" and have no real business doing repair service. They usually don't have a full understanding of how exactly the part they are changing actually works. The true tech understands the inner workings of the part and can perform tests to diagnose if that pare is actually the reason for the problem. Replicating the problem is the first step. Then, once the problem is happening, doing the tests to rule out possible causes. We do that with tools and meters to prove the fault source. Then we recommend the proper repair for the problem.

    Some are very illusive, as you can read with my oil tank customer, I started with the lowest cost obvious causes then eventually ended up with a very expensive repair. I missed one of the easiest repairs for 2 years.

    I would start with checking every wire connection. the thermostat connections behind the wall, all the limit switches, all the wire nuts and all the screw terminals. every wire i can get my hand on would be pulled and shaken to see if I could get the wire to break, be loose or make a better connection. That is all free (no Parts) to the technician doing the diagnosis. Only labor and that can be completed within 1 hour on that boiler. (Since you will be paying a minimum service call fee, all that testing should not be costing much more).

    If nothing is found in the wires, then I might do the transformer first and the gas valve second. Then perhaps a new LWCO as a last resort. (that is in the order of cost of the repair) There are those that will be able to pinpoint the problem before the "guessing which part to start with" version of this starts. I would hope that I have learned to be one of them, but that is after over 40 years of doing this stuff. A good tech with 3 years experience might not have ability to do that and will get the the part changing sooner than later.
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    AshlynDL
  • MikeAmann
    MikeAmann Member Posts: 997
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    Do the screwdriver as a stethoscope trick. This will pinpoint where the buzzing is coming from.
    AshlynDL
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,840
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    I just can't resist...
    Did you check to see if there is a beehive behind the inspection door?
    https://media.giphy.com/media/SCa5tmBGJgRTnBxShG/giphy-downsized-large.gif

    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    AshlynDLPC7060
  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 552
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    5 years ago at start of heating season I got the buzzing noise from my gas valve. It ws intermittent and just before I was about to do something it stopped doing it for the rest of the season. The next year again at the start of the season it started buzzing but was a bit more persistent. Had the valve replaced (nothing else) and it has been fine ever since. Recently on this forum another individual seemingly had the same thing. Link below:

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/189260/utica-peg112did-steam-boiler-not-firing-super-loud-buzzing

    My thought is that the intermittency and perhaps more important the seeming improvement with use after start of heating season (that first year) could be consistent with a sticky solenoid in the gas valve, but, I am not a pro or expert. Just speaking from my experience. May just be a lot of poor gas valves out there.
    AshlynDL
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703
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    AshlynDL said:

    @neilc we changed the thermostat location to a walk about two feet from where it originally was (kitchen renovation). Same thermostat. Didn’t run the heat this season prior to the location change to know if that’s what triggered. 

    so that thermostat, and location change, becomes suspect,
    post a picture of the stat on the wall,

    are there batteries? are they fresh?
    are there additional wire nuts( as Ed questions and suggests under my 1st reply)
    double check all wire nuts that you can
    was a new wire run?

    some modern stats are power consuming,
    and might be stealing from the required power to keep that gas valve quiet,
    can you check voltage at the valve, while it's chattering?

    (for Paul)
    can we get a better look at the pipes above the boiler?
    one or 2 shots, boiler to ceiling,
    I don't suspect unsafe, but, perhaps sloppy and not to spec
    known to beat dead horses
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
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    What @neilc said:
    so that thermostat, and location change, becomes suspect,
    I would try disconnecting that thermostat and see if the buzzing goes away.
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
    AshlynDL
  • AshlynDL
    AshlynDL Member Posts: 32
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    I will upload some more pictures @neilc! Thank you ALL so much for all of this wonderful advice! @Alan (California Radiant) Forbes the thermostat was brand new last season because we had a short cycling issue that ended up being tied to our previous thermostat! A very very basic model. 
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703
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    even very basic models can be power stealing nowadays,
    if it's a nest, we won't hold it against you,
    but we kinda need to know what it is to help you along,
    picture?

    and the idea to disconnect the stat wire at the boiler, and to jump it there to rule out the stat or wire is worth the try,
    known to beat dead horses
    Alan (California Radiant) ForbesMikeAmann
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    Any relay or solenoid has a lower voltage limit for pull in, if the voltage drops below that the device will chatter.

    Years ago I worked on a series of radar power supplies that used chunky 30A relays and some of those would chatter if turned on at the lower limit of their voltage range. When testing these supplies you ran them at the lower and upper limit of the input range (=/- 10% commercial or +/- 20% military). On a production run these devices will have a range of operation that distributes itself along a curve from low to high. We ended up having to select relays at the upper range to make sure they would pull in if snapped on at the test low voltage.

    Your relay or solenoid may may just be at that upper range of the operational curve, mechanically tired, or your incoming power may be dipping low and causing the problem. You would have to measure the voltage across the coil to determine what the problem is. Gas valves do exhibit this operation more than relays.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    Yeah sorry I didn’t want to distract from this thread about buzzing except to make sure you weren’t working with the installer, who piped it without a header at all. If you have banging or water getting to your radiators or shooting out of your radiators start a new thread for that and post some pictures of the big pipes near the boiler
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el