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Regularly occurring boiler problem

We have 2, Burnham boilers installed 3 yrs. ago. They replaced 2 old Kewanee boilers. The problem we are having is that occasionally they quit functioning normally and go into this weird cycle where they fire up and steam is starting to be produced, the water level in the site glass is surging and then all of a sudden the level in the site glass will gradually drop below the low water cut out and keep dropping sometimes almost out of site. Of coarse the boiler shuts down and starts all over again only to repeat the cycle over and over again. The last time this happened they went through 450 gallons of water before I came in in the morning and shut them off, not to mention wasting all of the boiler chemicals. We have tried a number of different things but solar hasn't helped. One other installer not the company that installed them said he believe the steam line from the boiler were installed improperly. This issue will happen on start up as well.


  • jhewings
    jhewings Member Posts: 135
    This post is unusual... The weirdness happens occasionally? How often? Can you post some pictures of the boilers? Do you have underground returns?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,184
    So where did this 450 gallons of water go?
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 642
    Photos from a distance would be helpful.   Sounds like water may be backing up through returns. Not sure your boilers hold 400 gallons, combined. 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,760
    "Boiler chemicals"? I think that might be your problem. Flush the boilers completely, refill with just water, and see if they do better.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,136
    Need pictures. Size of new boilers and edr rating of the heating system. Were the boilers ever skimmed?
  • Mitch7459
    Mitch7459 Member Posts: 3
    This weird cycle will happen on start up, but may only do it a couple of times and then the boiler will take off and operate normally ( We only run one boiler at a time, with the exception being start up) The other times this weird cycle happens is that the boiler will be running fine for a good number of days and then I will come in the next morning to find it stuck in this cycle and I can't get it to function normally. Usually the way I get it work again is run both boilers on low fire through many cycles eventually they will start to run normally again. In my opinion all the water that cycles through goes right up the steam line into the radiators and back down the condensate lines into the feed water tank which over flows and goes down the drain. Another boiler company not the one that installed them said they thought the steam lines from the boiler were improperly installed. see pictures below.

  • jhewings
    jhewings Member Posts: 135
    The near boiler piping does appear to be not what the drawing indicates. The drawing shows the steam risers come off the top. It looks like there is a vertical tee in one of the risers off the top which becomes an "equalizer". It looks like the same boiler also utilizes what I would think is a skim tapping for steam. Same with the other boiler. I don't get it.
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 713
    First rule of installing a steam boiler installation. FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURERS PIPING PLAN WITH THE PIPES SIZES SPECIFIED.

    You also have an issue will two steam boilers piped to a common header.

    You should have had this installation engineered as two steam boilers can get tricky. Require additional devices to manage water level and to control boilers

    Call a mechanical engineering firm that can draw up correct measures. It's not gonna work correctly and none of the pictures give full view of both boilers and piping arrangement.

    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,136
    It's all piped wrong. It needs to follow the MFG. requirements.

    The Contractor that installed that had no idea what he was doing.

    Piped by a "hot water guy"

    It will never work the way it is
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,967
    edited October 2022
    This looks like the original installer needs to solve the problem, if he does not want to pay for lawyers. But that will be a judgement call. Will the lawyers cost less that the labor to correctly install the near boiler piping?

    It depends on how much he is willing to pay for legal fees and how much he is willing to pay for Tuition.

    I also like that
    "all of a sudden the level in the site glass will gradually drop".
    That reminds me of the 96 year old man who died suddenly. Sounds more like it took 96 years to me. Nothing sudden about that!

    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 3,567

    Where are these boilers?
  • Mitch7459
    Mitch7459 Member Posts: 3
    Your comments are confirming what I thought was the problem. Just to answer a few more of the questions, these boilers Are in a church which has three levels and about 70 convectors. I've added one more picture so the header up on the ceiling can be seen. Thanks for your input on our problem.