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Steam radiator copper pipe has a crack. Fixable?

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One of the 2” copper pipes running from the boiler to the radiators has developed a crack and is leaking water and steam. I noticed a weird hissing sound coming from under the floor today and our plumber shoved himself into the crawl space and took a video of it leaking. He said they don’t have the tools to repair it (they only can do pipes up to 1.5”) and to contact a commercial plumber who specializes in steam. He said the pipe might need to be replaced and it’s about 30-40ft long running from the boiler at the back of the house to one radiator at the front of the house. 
It’s 13 degrees tonight and we are without heat now. Plumber said the job could be over $12k. We rent & love our house and don’t want to move but I don’t know if our landlord will want to do a $12k repair as this house was bought to be torn down and he’s letting us live here in the meantime. 

Anyway, my question is - has anyone ever patched or welded shut a crack in a copper pipe? I’d like to hear other opinions on if this is fixable or if a whole pipe replacement is needed. It’s in a pretty inaccessible spot where the crawl space is only about 2ft high and you have to go in on your belly. 
Also, could we possibly turn off the radiator the pipe is running to in the meantime, and turn back on the heat? I don’t know how unsafe if is to run the heat at all right now. 
Freaking out and any advice is welcome. 

Comments

  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    Hi Buddy. DO NOT HIRE ANYONE YET. We have a policy of NOT discussing actual pricing. Can u provide more pictures?  Mad Dog 🐕 
    emaydeoh
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    Don't freak out. We got your back!   Mad Dog
    emaydeoh
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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    Here’s a video the plumber took of the pipe. You can see some water on the dirt below ir
    https://youtu.be/mxPTrqVWKcg
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    First of all, just because its leaking doesn't mean you can't still run the heat for tonight.  As long as your low water cutoff is working and no one will be physically harmed by the leaking steam, you can run the heat for tonight.  If u put up some pics of boiler I'll show u what the Low water cutoff looks like.   Repair can definitely be made.  Unless EVERY joint on the run is leaking, you can repair piecemeal as needed for now. I'm up reading and studying code for some upcoming exams so, don't hesitate to send some pics and I'll try to get your fambly some temporary heat if its deemed safe..  Mad Dog. 
    emaydeoh
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    He shut your heat off for that??,  please take a picture of the boiler and controls. Ill show u which is the low water cutoff. Mad dog 🐕 
    emaydeoh
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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    Low water cutoff pics 
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
    edited February 2023
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    Ok. It looks like you have two low water cutoffs. Very good thing if they are working. Can u take a better picture of black box controls Mc Donnell Miller. MD
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    Dunkirk. That's a Buffalo NY company.   Are u in NYS?  MD
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    That boiler has been neglected.   The water column Guage glass looks very could and hard to see the true water level.  Anyway,  If you really want to see if the low water cutoffs are working.  You need to do a few things...you up for it?  MD
    emaydeoh
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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    Do you mean this black box’s controls? 
    I’m located in Denver, CO actually!
    how is one able to tell if the low water cutoff is working? The green light seems to be on & boiler was recently serviced a month ago 
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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    Yes I’m up for it! If the low water cut offs are working, it would be safe to turn on the heat tonight?
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    Yes.
     1) Shut off emergency switch to boiler.
    2) Drain out boiler entirely
    3) flip switch on but keep your hand on switch in case u need to shut quickly 
    4) Either add water w the feed valve or if yiu have an automatic feeder (lemme look again) it will refill on its own.
    5) Once switch is back on, lights on low water cutoff should flash for about 90secs or so.  THEN it will begin to feed water OR if u don't have an automatic feeder it will kill power to boiler and you'll get a red light on black low water cutoff. 
    6) this means Low water cutoff is working and therefore u are safe to run the boiler. MD
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    If you need to call feel free. I'm up 516.322.2881. Matt. (Mad Dog) 
    reggiLarry Weingarten
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    I don't see an automatic feeder on it. Can u get a picture of the 1/2" copper pipe feeding the water in to the boiler?   MD
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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    Thank you so much for this. I have never tried to work on a boiler before and have to go to bed soon, but will try to attempt when I get home from work. Quick question, how do you drain out the boiler? Also, which thing the a feed valve and how do you force it to add water? Sorry again a total boiler newbie!
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    No worries there will be drain cocks at the low points of the boiler. Like an outside water spigot that sticks out if your house.  Open it in to a bucket or hook a house up and run to a floor drain if yiu have one. MD
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    Take a picture of the other side or back of boiler. There should be a drain cock.  Also of that copper pipe and valve. MD
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    When u send pictures of where the small 1/2" copper water line connects to the boiler piping i can show u.  If I don't reply for awhile, gimme a wake up call..I nodded out. Mad Dog. 
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    You have an automatic feeder. Good. You also have a drain. Mad Dog
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,103
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    The near boiler piping is a bit whacky.. I see the guy silver brazed which is cool but we don't like Copper on the steam side.  MD
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 914
    edited February 2023
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    Here are a couple fixes for small leaks and pipe cracks that you may be able to do.They can be used on any metal pipe carrying almost any heating medium even low pressure steam.

    #1); If you are good at soldering, you can clean up the spot of the split with a clean wire brush and sand cloth and silver solder or braze the crack closed.

    #2) Get some red rubber or some kind of flexible rubber or neoprene about 1/8" thick and hemp rope. Wrap the flexible rubber around the pipe, add a piece of tape at the end of the wrap just enough to hold it in place and then wrap the hemp rope around the rubber. Start at one end and wrap it tightly all along the length of the rubber. Make sure that the rope is wrapped close and tight so when you are done you will not see any of the gasket.

    #3) Go to a good hardware store and ask for a rubber gasketed pipe repair clamp. clean the pipe at the split, install this repair kit, and tighten the holding bolts or screws

    I have used all 3 of these fixes over the years. The first "fix" is permanent and the next 2 are usually temporary but could last a lifetime.


  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    This is exactly why we don't use copper for steam piping. Any of the fixes @retiredguy suggested will get you through the heating season, but then you need to repipe that bad boy. Start looking for a qualified steam contractor in your area, or maybe someone who feels like travelling this summer. (I wouldn't mind a trip to Colorado, but I'm not a contractor. Just sayin'.) Use the "Click here to Find a Contractor in your area" link at the top of the page to see if there's someone near you.

    If you can't find a good steam professional, we can probably talk you through doing it yourself. I personally find black pipe plumbing easier than sweating copper pipes, and I've been able to do a lot of work on my system with the help of the pros who contribute to this forum.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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    Thank you all so much for your help. I’ll look into the fix @retiredguy suggested! We have another plumber coming Monday so will see what he says too. It seems many here aren’t super competent in steam heat. And the spot is extremely inaccessible so may have to pull up the floor. The piping is in a 2 foot tall crawl space only accessible on your belly literally squeezed under the floor boards. I’m hoping they can at least mend it for now. If they replace the entire pipe, I know copper isn’t correct for steam, but can you replace just one pipe and leave the rest of the copper ones for now?
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,883
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    Looking at the video, is that copper?

    see if a magnetic sticks!
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 922
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    There is always the option of cutting the leaky pipe off and capping it. You would need to provide some other source of heat for the affected room, but the rest of your steam system could continue operating.

    Bburd
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,889
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    I think @Dave Stroman is in or near Denver.............
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • emaydeoh
    emaydeoh Member Posts: 57
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    @bburd that’s actually a really good idea. We have a 2nd opinion plumber coming Monday, if they say it isn’t fixable or that the whole pipe has to be replaced, I may ask if they can just cut it and cap it. We don’t really need this radiator as the rooms next to it put out enough heat. 
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 914
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    If my soldering and silver brazing was as bad as the guy that did those joints my boss would have given me the boot. Did he not have any pride in his work?
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,772
    edited February 2023
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    Some of the joints look brazed, but the others look like soft solder and they look cold. Little strange, that a guy that could braze somehow couldn't get the joint hot enough for soft solder? Unless two different people did it at two different times.


    @retiredguy The brazed joints don't look bad to me, hell my torch couldn't braze 2"+ copper, I have a hard enough time with 1". But I'm still using a acetylene turbo torch so no O2.

    But the soft soldered joints...........I don't know what that sad disaster is. It looks like someone brazed up to that tee and then someone else took over with a hand held propane torch.

    I'm confused.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,613
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    If you have a soldered joint that leaks you can clean it as best you can and braze over it. That is probably what they did.