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Steam system flooded!!

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My 1.5-year old steam boiler (one-pipe), which I have tweaked to perfection thanks to studying all of Dan's books and reading all of your advice, ran into a problem last night. I came home to find that the boiler and ALL the pipes had filled, right up to the second floor of the house, and flooded nearly every room of my house. (This all happened during the day, when the thermostat was not calling for heat). My first guess, of course, is that the McDonnell automatic water feeder went out of control - I also looked closer and for the first time noticed the feeder had been piped on a vertical pipe, when the specs call for horizontal mount. But, could this be a problem with the LWCO? I can change either myself- I just don't know what the proper action is (other than shutting off the water supply for now and feeding manually). Thanks. (also, some of you helped me last year after I had this boiler installed - turned out it was piped COMPLETELY wrong then - with no return drip off the header - they had to re-pipe it - thanks to you all). lastly, a friend needs a knowledgeable man to install a replacement steam boiler in Queens soon - any referrals?

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  • Motivated Amateur
    Motivated Amateur Member Posts: 20
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    Steam system flooded!!

    My 1.5-year old steam boiler (one-pipe), which I have tweaked to perfection thanks to studying all of Dan's books and reading all of your advice, ran into a problem last night. I came home to find that the boiler and ALL the pipes had filled, right up to the second floor of the house, and flooded nearly every room of my house. (This all happened during the day, when the thermostat was not calling for heat). My first guess, of course, is that the McDonnell automatic water feeder went out of control - I also looked closer and for the first time noticed the feeder had been piped on a vertical pipe, when the specs call for horizontal mount. Could it be that, or the feeder went bad, or could this be a problem with the LWCO? I can change either myself- I just don't know what the proper action is (other than shutting off the water supply for now and feeding manually). Thanks. (also, some of you helped me last year after I had this boiler installed - turned out it was piped COMPLETELY wrong then - with no return drip off the header - they had to re-pipe it - thanks to you all). lastly, a friend needs a knowledgeable man to install a replacement steam boiler in Queens soon - any referrals?
  • Dave DeFord_3
    Dave DeFord_3 Member Posts: 57
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    Are you sure the Auto-feed is working right?

    If this boiler is piped properly the only way you could flood the boiler is to have a leaking auto-feed or a leaking by-pass (I'm assuming you have one), or a leaking domstic HW coil. If you have a shut-off upstream from the auto-feed I would close it until you find out for sure what the problem is. If there is any way you can break the connection between the auto-feed and the boiler (say at a union) you can check the auto-feed by breaking this connection and seeing if there is water coming out of the auto-feed side of it. MAKE SURE THIS BREAK IS NOT BELOW THE WATER LINE OF THE BOILER. If you have domesitic hot water in your boiler you may also have a leak in that system that is flooding the boiler. Again if you have a shut-off for that I would shut it off. Drain you boiler down to the normal water line, and then turn on each system one at a time to see where the water leak is coming from. It may take several hours for the water line to rise enough for you to notice it. Be patient and work slowly but from what you said this seems to be a relatively large leak.
  • Motivated Amateur
    Motivated Amateur Member Posts: 20
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    Thanks for the advice, Dave. I already shut off the main feed, and I'll see if I can break the feed-boiler connection. (I have a separate HW heater). What you said makes a lot of sense, especially given that the auto feed was installed, I believe improperly, on the straight vertical water supply line, with the bypass diverted off of the main line. A leak in the auto feed would dump the water straight in, with gravity pushing it. As long as the break is above the water line, I may have it solved by tomorrow. Thanks again.
  • Motivated Amateur
    Motivated Amateur Member Posts: 20
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    Dave,As I could have guessed, when the boiler was piped in last year, they included NO breaks from the auto feed or water line. It dumps directly into the return pipe. Do you know of any other way to check for the leaking auto feeder or bypass? Either way, i know it was piped incorrectly, so I'll have to take it apart anyway. In the meantime, I'll just feed it manually, like I used to do in the original 1931 Burnham boiler I never should have replaced.
  • Bob W._3
    Bob W._3 Member Posts: 561
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    "Do you know of any other way to check for the leaking auto feeder or bypass?"

    Install an inexpensive water meter. We did on our new boiler and it works really well. We can measure the water going in, either from the feeder or manual feed after the weekly blow down, and also when we skim the boiler.
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