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Pre-heating season maintenance?

bipbap
bipbap Member Posts: 191
I waited a little long and can’t get a steam guy out to look over my boiler before the weather turns cold.

For many years my Dad just flipped the switch and that was it but I’ve been trying to be more attentive to it.

It’s a single pipe gas steam system, a approx 25 year old Weil McLain boiler serving a 4-apartment building. Tags says total gross output is 360,000 BTU.

What kinds of things can a total novice do to make sure things will run well?

One buddy of mine said he always drains his boiler empty and refills it. Is that needed or good to do?

I still plan to get the heating guy out as soon as he’s free to look over everything but I  just got to get the heat going in the meantime as the weather dips this week.

Thanks for any advice.

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,380
    edited October 2022


    Do you know if the boiler has been flushed in the past few years and does the water in the sight glass look dirty? Flushing every few years should lessen the buildup of crud in the boiler, before emptying the boiler overfill it (till you feet the boiler steam pipe turn cold) and leave it like that for several hours to check for leaks. Turn the boiler on and let it run while emptying, the low water cut off should stop the boiler when the sight glass is about to empty. If it doesn't that LWCO may be faulty and that can be very dangerous - it has to be serviced immediately for the safety of all involved and the preservation of your wallet.

    You should also empty a gallon or so of water every few weeks (till it runs clean) during heating season especially if you have a float type of low water cut off. Empty it further once in a while to be sure the LWCO is still working. If the sight glass is badly stained or etched it sb replaced, you may prefer to let a tech do that for you.

    If it's a gas fired boiler with burner tubes underneath turn off the power and gas supply and clean those tubes of any dust and dirt. On an old boiler you may have to light the pilot after shutting the gas off. I would not remove the tubes if you don't know what your doing. Make sure the flue damper is free and can move easily.


    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
  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    edited October 2022
    Thanks for the tips.

    It’s definitely not been fully drained in many years. It has been periodically drained over each season of a few rusty gallons as you suggested but that drain handle is like half way up the boiler so not really ever draining the stuff at the very bottom.

  • bipbap
    bipbap Member Posts: 191
    Is draining it fully between seasons recommended?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,380
    Some do drain each season but I don't think it's necessary. I drain every 3-4 years and when I refill i add a Steam Master tablet to keep the water PH in the 9-10 range. You do have to run the boiler up to steam after refilling to get rid of the oxygen in the fresh water

    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
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes Member Posts: 3,504
    edited October 2022
    Some lwco’s should be drained weekly to prevent sludge buildup and fouling of the float. Do you have a copy of Dan Holohan’s, “We Got Steam Heat”?

    https://heatinghelp.com/store/detail/we-got-steam-heat-a-homeowners-guide-to-peaceful-coexistence
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,913
    edited October 2022
    bipbap said:

    Is draining it fully between seasons recommended?

    NO

    A picture of the boiler from far enough back to see the floor and the pipes that go into the ceiling. From at least 2 different angles. More would be better.

    With those pictures we can help you with the whole process of what the homeowner should do and what the pro should do and how often.

    For now... you should just turn it on, test the Low Water Cut Off (LWCO) and wait for the pro to do the maintenance and go over the system with you. If the technician is 23 years old, he probably doesn't know about steam and you should ask a lot of questions (Like can you show me the Hartford loop?). If he can't answer them, then don't pay and ask for someone that knows about steam.

    And get that book!
    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes