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Potential sight glass or automatic feed issue

My neighbor has a one pipe steam system that I have previously posted about: https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/186033/high-water-level-after-heating-cycle#latest

We’re now in a new heating season and he continues to have problems with high water level in the sight glass. He told me that every day he is going into the basement and seeing the water level at the top of the sight glass and having to drain it back down to the manufacturer’s recommended level. 

I asked him to show me. What I saw was the water starts at nearly the top of the sight glass. When it gets just below the middle level, the low water cutoff light comes on. A few minutes later, the automatic feeder comes on, bringing the water back up to the top. Here is a photo of the exact moment the light came on:

It appears to me that there are three possible problems here:

1. The headers are installed incorrectly, causing wet steam. This was discussed in the link above from my last post on this system.

2. The low water cutoff is installed incorrectly, causing it to call for water when it is not needed. 

3. The sight glass is clogged (as per all that sediment that appears to be in it), thus causing us to misread the water level. 

I am leaning towards 3 as the present problem. That said, why would all that sediment be in there in the first place? His boiler is less than two years old. Mine is like 30 years old and has no sediment whatsoever, and we are next door to each other and on the same water. If all this sediment is in the sight glass, what do things look like in the boiler? Is this an even bigger problem?

The installing company has told him “that’s just how steam is sometimes” and has advised him that they feel everything was done correctly and he should just drain it daily. This is clearly absurd but we have no idea what to do. We are incapable of fixing the headers ourselves. But maybe we can at least clean the sight glass and get a better sense of what’s going on? Sadly, there are few companies in our area and it would be difficult to get a second professional opinion. 

Thank you all in advance. Please let me know if you need additional information. 


  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
    The company the neighbor is working with are basically incompetent on steam, they should basically be dead to them. "That's just how steam is...." No, no it's not. I enjoy silent warmth at my house daily, it doesn't have to be this way.

    I'd agree with you and start with #3. Looking at the manual the probe LWCO is positioned properly, but to my eye does seem a bit high. I would also look at cleaning the probe to ensure it's working properly. After that it might be worth checking the settings on the feeder. It could be that running a delay will help with this issue.

    All that said, the bad boiler piping is almost certainly contributing here. If enough water is getting sucked out, it can contribute to these types of issues. Given how bad the piping is, for me all bets are off as to what might be going on there. I would be looking into what it would take to get the piping fixed. As stated in the other thread, everything they did, and maybe the person before them did, is wrong.

    That installer would be getting a piece of my mind, or the mind of a lawyer. It gets tiring seeing the garbage installs on here when there is a very clear picture in the manual of how it's supposed to be.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,275
    Two questions. First, what type of low water cutoff and automatic feeder control is he using? And what type of automatic feeder?

    The low water cutoff and feeder control should, if it is working properly, request the feeder to come on -- and then at a somewhat lower level, shut the burner off. Is it doing that? if it is, it's working correctly. Now as to the level it's set at, that may be changeable -- or may not. But if it trips within the range of the sight glass -- preferably in the middle third somewhere -- it's not a real problem. Some boilers run much closer to the top of the sight glass than others; some tolerate that better than others.

    Now the automatic feeder. Some feeders -- not all -- have a set of control "dip" switches in them which control the time delay after a call for water before water is allowed in, and also control the amount of water which is fed for each call. Playing with those can sometimes help a lot. Check the manual for his feeder, and if it does have such adjustments, try having it feed less on each call if possible -- and try having it have a longer delay.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,516
    How is the water level when the boiler is steaming? It should move up and down not more than 3/4"-1".

    Did the installer skim the boiler after it was installed? I suspect not.

    A bouncing water level will drive a low water cut off and feeder nuts
  • merikus
    merikus Member Posts: 73
    Thank you all for your feedback, and I’m sorry for the delay in responding. Life got in the way. 

    @Jamie Hall: he is using a Cycle Guard low water cutoff and the feeder is made by the same company, I believe. I checked the dip switches on it and it all makes sense. 10 minute delay and a low call. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary there. 

    The low water is turning off the boiler, so that’s all working properly. 

    I honestly wonder if the sight glass just needs to be unclogged—but of course that makes me worry why it’s clogged in the first place. 

    @KC_Jones: I hear your frustration but we live in a very small town. I just wish we could get the installer to admit they messed up the install and fix it. It’s a really big challenge. 

    @EBEBRATT-Ed: water isn’t moving too much, but it’s at the very top of the sight glass so hard to see. 

    Thank you all for your help!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,275
    The sight glass could be clogged. Wouldn't be the first time. Unhappily, sight glasses are fragile -- so if you are inclined to have a go at it, have a replacement glass handy, and also replacement gaskets.

    Then it's a matter of taking the sight glass tube out -- careful, as I say they are fragile -- and then making sure that the openings into the boiler are really free. You probably will have to take the valves off to get a straight shot at them. It's all pretty obvious to a mechanically inclined person.

    On the water level -- one of the boilers (Cedric) I maintain is supposed to have the water level in the middle of the glass. Right. He works best when the dead cold level is only two inches below the top -- but he has very long slow returns. So on water level -- whatever works; if there is a decent header setup top outlet boilers can run very high (side outlet boilers are another matter!)
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England