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Gas Burham Independence Steam Boiler questions

binary Member Posts: 7
Hi all,
Hi all,

I recently converted from oil to gas, now the steam are being boiled from a Burnham Independence boiler.

I have the following questions. Thank you in advance for answering them.

1. From what I read so far, draining the boiler once per month is bad. But I should blow down the bottom water once a week - open the bottom tap and let out approx 1/4 gallon of dirty bottom water. How often do you think blow down the bottom water is necessary and how much water do you let out?\?

2. I am worried about the auto water feeder either fail or constantly gets the feed signal from low water cut off that will dump so much water in the pipes and coming out of radiator vents and ended up flooding the house. According to this article, https://www.gwgillplumbingandheating.com/webapp/p/500/the-peril-of-automatic-water-feeders
you can install some sort of pressuretrol on the steam pipes to monitor the downward pressure. But when I think about it, the steam pipe will already have a pressure from the steam. What are your guys thoughts on this? Do you have it installed on your system as another layer of fail safe? I can not live without an auto water feeder due to I am frequently away from home during the winter seasons.

3. I have McDonnell and Miller Uni-match WFE-24 for an auto water feeder and CycleGard CG400-2090 for Low water cut off. Are they reliable? Is there anything that needs to be done to them during the annual maintenance call besides adding chemicals?

4. Do you guys insulate the steam pipes? I was told not to do it by the installer company stating the insulation will just trap moist air in and end up rusting the steam pipe faster. Is this true or false?

thanks for the feedback.


  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,261
    1. You only blow down if you have a float type low water cut off, otherwise do nothing on a weekly or monthly basis. I only drain water to exercise my valves and make sure they are clear and that is once a year or maybe every other year.
    2. My previous boiler had a first generation Hydrolevel probe type low water cut off and automatic feeder, they were 32 years old when the boiler failed and still working perfectly. From my perspective these devices are quite reliable.
    3. I can't speak to the McDonell Miller, but the Cyclegard is basically a variation of the Safegard and as said in #2 I think they are quite reliable.
    4. Uh I'm not sure what they are talking about to be honest. Recommending not insulating the pipes is a strange recommendation from a contractor. The question I have is what would be the source of this moisture? Steam makes them hot which would dry any potential moisture. In the summer when the pipes cool the insulation would help prevent condensation from forming. And if condensation from a moist basement was a concern, you should absolutely use a dehumidifier as a solution for that.

    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 664
    1) Keeping feed water to a minimum in your boiler is the best way to prevent corrosion to your heating system. Blowing down requirements are for float style low water cut-off. Draining the boiler is an annual maintenance issue, not monthly.

    2) I have been installing steam boilers for 30 years and have installed over a hundred steam boilers (it helps when your a sub contractor for the local gas company). I have installed the water supply with manual feed and auto feed. And in all this time i have only seen one automatic water feeder fail and flood a system. it was on a commercial boiler with a m&m #150 lwco and feeder. But i have seen more people flood a system with a manual feed because they can't tell if the site glass is empty or full. So having said that this is one mans opinion that water feeders get a bad rap for flooding. I find that they fail to add water way more than flood.

    3) yes, they are reliable. That why most manufacturers install the on their steam boilers before they are sent out. Who told you to add chemicals?

    4) I think you need a new boiler company. all steam systems that i know of were designed with insulation when steam was king. You want the steam in the rooms. Not your boiler room. And how does moisture get trapped between the insulation and piping when the piping temperature is above 212 degrees. The reason that we see piping with no insulation is that the old insulation was most likely asbestos and was removed or repairs were done to the piping. I'm afraid to ask what your near boiler piping looks like.
  • binary
    binary Member Posts: 7
    Thank you KC Jones and pedmec for your comments. It is highly appreciated.

    2. on point 2, both of you seems to be in agreement what the article quoted suggests something that will be rare. With that being said, is the solution proposed by the article valid? In other words will that solution indeed add to another layer of failsafe?

    3. on point 3, the conversion company told me that the maintenance should be done once per year. The maintenance that they did consists of draining the boiler and adding chemicals called Hercules boiler and heating system cleaner. I did not see them took apart or clean the LWCO or Auto feeder. As a professional, what do you perform on the yearly maintenance for your customers? And how much should these services should properly cost?

    4. on point 4, I saw everywhere that people advise to insulate the steam pipes, especially in the basement. So what I did was order a bunch of fiberglass pipe insultations to be put on after the conversion. The conversion company saw those and warn me not to do so due to their belief of insulated pipes will lead to faster pipe rusted out since the moisture will be trapped in. The pipes I have in the basement are all iron I think and used to be insulated in abestos that have since been removed when I renovated. Currently all steam related pipes in the basement are just bare metal.

    thank you both for sharing your experiences and follow up with me.

  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,036
    Keep/ add insulation on the steam supply piping.
    Chemicals will give you more issues w/ your system than they will help... all you need is clean water flushing out a system yearly.
    Did the new installers skim the boiler? or just add chemicals?
    Curious if they piped the system according to the mfg. specs...
    Got pix?

    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,658
    The 3 above posts are good advice
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 664
    GARBAGE. That's honestly how i feel about that article. i don't think i read it all because its the stupidest article regarding low water cutoffs i can think of. If i read it properly it sounds like hes trying to sell you some device. i'm sorry i couldn't make it to the end. It was that bad. I don't tend to talk like this about another contractor as i feel this field is hard to begin with and has so many specialty segments to it that its hard to know about everything. But really, that's what your trying to scare people with.

    Our maintenance would consist of:

    1) low water cut-off blow down with boiler making steam for proof of operation. make sure it shuts boiler down in a low water condition and feeds water on demand.
    2) remove screen and clean for water feeder.
    3) remove and clean burner tubes.
    4) replace or clean thermocouple or if spark ignition clean igniter and flame sensor.
    5) check draft.
    6) check combustion.
    7) propose corrective measures if anything is deemed defective.

    No on chemicals. Not on residential. in commercial, yes. But i leave that up to the chemical treatment companies that know that stuff a lot better than i do. Adding chemicals can clean your boiler but also can clean corrosion of off pipes and fittings that are preventing things from leaking out in your system. You have to be smart with that stuff. This is about the time i regret failing chemistry in high school lol.

    I believe you really should find another company. you really should post some pics. unless your afraid of what we might see.

  • binary
    binary Member Posts: 7
    edited November 19
    @kcopp @pedmec sorry about the long delay, i got some pics. I had to heavily edit out portions of the pics due to parts of my basement being embarrassing - non plumbing related. Anyways, please see the following album.

    1. When the conversion company came out and did the maintenance, she dumped a bottle of Hercules Boiler and Heating System Cleaner in the boiler, let the boiler go to work for about 20 min, and then flushed out the boiler. Most of the piping on the boiler was a couple of years old, so within that 20 min the chem hopefully didn't have enough time to get to the really old pipes everywhere else.

    2. I didn't know there is a screen in the water feeder. Do you have to take the part off to clean it? I just find out that my boiler doesn't even have an air filter.

    3. From what I see, my CycleGuard CG400-2090 is not a plunger low water cut off, hence I should not be skimming a couple of qts of water every week. Only flushing it once per year. Is this correct?

    4. Is there anything out there that have a higher reliability than the MM Unimatch WFE 24? What is your favorite make and model of auto water feeder? Why?

    5. The consensus on this forum is that by putting fiber glass insulation on the pipes will not cause the pipes to rot out faster. I have a 1 pipe system, but I did find a pipes that looks like it's for drain only and feeds back to the boiler. Does that pipe gets insulated as well?

    I want to thank everyone for taking their time and give me a response. It is much appreciated and you have my gratitude.