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This was a 12 year old boiler. WTH?

Shalom
Shalom Member Posts: 165
edited December 2019 in Strictly Steam
Long long saga of my boiler, going back 3 years. You can probably see some of it in my post history. I got one of the Wall guys local to me to come and give me an estimate, back in 2017, now I gotta see if I can get the money together to get it replaced.

In the meantime I got a jar of some kind of leak-stop from the local plumbing supply to see if I can eke out a couple more months from it. (I gather these work about as well as the ones they sell for car head gaskets, but it was less than $20 so I figured worth a shot, right?) It said to fill to above the crack with water, heat almost to boiling, then pour the stuff in through the top opening for the safety valve, close it up and steam it up to 2PSI. Well that's fine and good if there's just a crack, but it came gushing out like a hose.

So I finally did what I shoulda done three years ago, I took apart the casing and pulled off the smoke box, and looked down inside... this is what I saw.

How does a 12 year old boiler get that cruddy? (9-year-old really, it's been leaking for 3 years now)

So what I'm gonna try to do, I'll scrape off as much of that scale as I can, let it dry, see where the actual hole(s) is/are. and see if I can JB weld them. (The other side section has a big pile of scale between it and the next section the size and shape of a large mouse, there's probably a hole under that as well.) Then I'm going to have to get the smoke box back on (how does that stay on? High temperature silicone, or what? I had to cut through a lot of rubbery stuff to shift it. I'm nervous about getting combustion products leaking out and not going up the chimney where they belong. Might let a pro come in and do that if I can get the thing to seal properly.)

This is all obviously a stop gap, I'm hoping to get the thing entirely replaced over the summer,

(I can get an entire block. all four sections assembled, for less than $1200, but I can't find anyone willing to install it,)

Meanwhile the other boiler for the first floor is 56 years old and has never leaked a drop.

Comments

  • CantabHeat
    CantabHeat Member Posts: 33
    Two words: water chemistry
    kcoppMilanD
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,725
    Is the system leaking so it is adding a lot of makeup water? adding a lot of fresh water with air dissolved in it will rust things up pretty quickly.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,751
    Did it rust from the inside out, or the outside in I wonder.

    What make/model is it?
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
    Utica PEG112CDE.

    Obviously I[ve been adding water, lately it's up to every 2 hours (no auto feeder, I have to go down there and turn the handle). but it always heats up afterwards, so that should drive out the oxygen, no?. Also that bit is above the water line, so the only thing touching it is steam, it's not like that part of the block is marinating in oxygenated water.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,059
    Are you on city water or well water?
    What's the PH?

    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
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
    edited December 2019
    City water. I drink the stuff on occasion, and it doesn't taste sour or bitter, so ought to be around neutral to slightly alkaline, but never tested it with pH paper. Where do you buy that?
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,755
    Aside from the hole you found you must have leaks in your system for a 12 year old boiler to rot away . Buy a total dissolved solids meter or hardiness test strips and ph strips and check your boiler water and your feed water . If your tds are high and your taking on fresh water there is your answer why you have a hole in your boiler . When your boiler was replaced where your main vents and radiator vents changed ? Where there any buried returns and where they checked and flushed ? Last but not least where all raditor supply valves checked for leaks .i always tell customers and check what I have listed above when on a service call or a replacement job and when I do a boiler replacement all vents and rad vents are changed .i have also of recent started add a califee demineralizing filter to lower the tds ,just about every manafacture includes specs on water chemistry take a read it would be advised . Last but not least was the boiler maintained in the last 12 years like skimming and wanding personally I would chaulk it up to excessive feed water . Take a look at possibly at peerless boiler there’s a little bit more cast and weight to the sections ,not to say there bad but Utica for steam is not my 1 st or 2 second choice for steam Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,751
    edited December 2019
    Oh interesting it’s the same as my boiler, but mine’s from 1993ish I think. Northern NJ here. When I bought the house in 2017, every vent and several valves were leaking so I'm sure mine it not long for this world, I'm replacing it preventatively.

    You wouldn’t be able to taste the ph I think. You can get reliable litmus strips or a fancier electronic tester from amazon.

    Your location can have an effect due to ph or road melt chemicals.

    You want higher than neutral which will reduce or even nearly halt oxidation. 9 or 10. But much higher will promote foaming.

    When @mattmia2 mentioned adding water due to leaks, he meant leaks elsewhere in the system prior to your leak in the boiler itself. These can cause a lot of oxidation because fresh water added to the system brings a lot of oxygen which promotes…oxidation.

    As you noted, If your system isn’t leaking steam or water, then makeup water is minimized. After water is boiled, dissolved oxygen is driven out. Or so they tell me!

    Of course once you have a block leak there’s not much you can do about makeup water.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    Shalom said:

    City water. I drink the stuff on occasion, and it doesn't taste sour or bitter, so ought to be around neutral to slightly alkaline, but never tested it with pH paper. Where do you buy that?

    Any pool supply store.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,092
    Shalom said:

    Utica PEG112CDE.

    Obviously I[ve been adding water, lately it's up to every 2 hours (no auto feeder, I have to go down there and turn the handle). but it always heats up afterwards, so that should drive out the oxygen, no?. Also that bit is above the water line, so the only thing touching it is steam, it's not like that part of the block is marinating in oxygenated water.

    The driving off of oxygen is important, but what is more important is not adding excess water. On a boiler that size i would suggest you shouldn't be adding water more than once per month during the heating season. And when you do not more than ~1 gallon of water. An auto feeder with a water meter is actually an important diagnostic tool IMHO, at minimum a meter on a manual fill so one can monitor the volume of make up water.

    Re: above the water line.

    That may be, but when the boiler is steaming that water line is all over the place and the boiling action means that entire block is getting wet. Even so, it's the oxygen not the water that rusts the cast iron.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,751
    edited December 2019
    I hadn't before thought of this point that @KC_Jones made above, but thinking back, it might appear in Dan's book...

    If you add a bunch of water over time and the oxygen gets driven off...where does it go? It goes in the boiler.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,092
    Also, these are open systems, air is always coming in.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,751
    edited December 2019
    I agree, but I was wondering if the additional oxygen that gets released from the water causes increased oxidation which is why adding fresh water is bad (especially since it comes at times of high heat).

    I mean, if it doesn't then we could say "it doesn't matter how much water we add, the systems are open to the air".

    I think in my mind the increased damage from the fresh water was under the water line, but cases like this make me think otherwise (and the heat is really high above the water line I understand)
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,059
    Chlorine...............

    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
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    I'd be more concerned about accumulating scale from hard water minerals from frequent water changes. These minerals come out of solution when the water is heated and look for places to deposit themselves, and they like to hang out with their friends, so if there's already some scale on the suface, it gets thicker every time you add water and heat it.

    A few years back someone posted a picture of a boiler that suffered from this. It looked like it had been filled with concrete.

    At the other extreme, soft water likes to dissolve any minerals it can find, like iron, and the oxygen would help it do this by turning the iron into a soluble oxide.

    Either way, frequent water replacement is bad.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    ethicalpaul
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
    edited December 2019
    clammy said:

    . When your boiler was replaced where your main vents and radiator vents changed ? Where there any buried returns and where they checked and flushed ? Last but not least where all raditor supply valves checked for leaks

    All radiator vents were changed, one main vent replaced and the other was added (wasn't one to start with on that main). The new ones were Gorton 1's, I've since replaced with Big mouths. System was checked for leaks, no buried returns all dry returns which are exactly the right height over ground for me to keep smacking my head on.

    We checked for leaking valves, Didn't check for leaks inside the walls.
    was the boiler maintained in the last 12 years like skimming and wanding
    Nope. Didn't have Dan's book yet, didn't know from such things. I did let out a little water each week during the heating season until it ran rust-free, and then put more water in to bring it back up to the water line. This was what we did when I was a kid with the massive boiler in my parents house that dated to 1938.
    personally I would chalk it up to excessive feed water .
    See above...
    Take a look at possibly at peerless boiler there’s a little bit more cast and weight to the sections ,not to say there bad but Utica for steam is not my 1 st or 2 second choice for steam Peace and good luck clammy
    Pretty sure the one I've got for the first floor (installed by the mayor-to-be of Hasbrouck Heights in 1963) is a Peerless. Still works fine, even during blackouts.

    @HapHazzard: the water isn't particularly hard here, I have an air pump hot water pot, and it's scaling, but very slowly. I'd expect it to be much worse by now if it was hard water.
  • Zipper13
    Zipper13 Member Posts: 223
    Water chemistry....
    I work for a civil engineering company. My town has a call for bids out for work at our water plant. The guy sitting next to me in the office is a construction estimator and went to see what's what at the pre-bid. He got talking to the operator who explained that the very expensive and only 5 year old ozone filter (designed and installed by a competitor) was not playing nicely with some other part and was producing finished water that was super saturated at 120+% O2 !!!! It was also dissolving too much chlorine too (not a violation, but not good for the system). They've since bypassed the ozone filter and are disinfecting with something else now, so the water is now within a more normal range but meanwhile, that water had been pumped out for the last 5 years like that and now that brand new filter system and (probably soon to be my boiler too) is trash.

    The longer I work here, the more I see that incompetence is not rare, unfortunately.
    New owner of a 1920s home with steam heat north of Boston.
    Just trying to learn what I can do myself and what I just shouldn't touch
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,059
    > @Zipper13 said:
    > Water chemistry....
    > I work for a civil engineering company. My town has a call for bids out for work at our water plant. The guy sitting next to me in the office is a construction estimator and went to see what's what at the pre-bid. He got talking to the operator who explained that the very expensive and only 5 year old ozone filter (designed and installed by a competitor) was not playing nicely with some other part and was producing finished water that was super saturated at 120+% O2 !!!! It was also dissolving too much chlorine too (not a violation, but not good for the system). They've since bypassed the ozone filter and are disinfecting with something else now, so the water is now within a more normal range but meanwhile, that water had been pumped out for the last 5 years like that and now that brand new filter system and (probably soon to be my boiler too) is trash.
    >
    > The longer I work here, the more I see that incompetence is not rare, unfortunately.

    That's true anywhere.
    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
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,384
    @Shalom the stop leak that you purchased should work as long it was made specifically for boilers. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions to the letter. If you add too much you can potentially plug holes that you do not want plugged, ie. gauge port, relief valve etc. It should buy you the time you need to replace the leaking boiler.
    I wouldn't bother taking apart any of the sections eather, or using jb weld. That could be a big costly waste of time and money.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    With all due respect, I think we have taken the added oxygen about as far, over the top as we have taken steam pressure. Instead of a pound or two of steam, we obsess over keeping the pressure down to an ounce or two. Instead of realizing that Under Normal circumstances adding a quart or two, maybe a gallon of fresh water per month to a boiler that has 10 or 12 gallons of boiled water in it and realizing that the boiler is going to fire up and produce steam in the next 20 or 30 minutes, anyway, we tell people to fire the boiler immediately, as if there is some imminent danger of rotting through the boiler block. If we are shutting the boiler down for an extended period or for the season or we suspect there is a problem with water chemistry, precautions need to be taken. The 20 or 30 minute impact of a gallon of fresh water on a boiler, not so much.
    And then, when we tell a poster to immediately fire the boiler to remove excess oxygen on a boiler that has already rotted through in one or more sections, that's over the top. The boiler is shot. Timing may be less than ideal but it is what it is. Bite the bullet and find a way to replace it and, in the process, find out if there is a chemistry issue, with the source water.
    Intplm.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,321
    edited December 2019
    Is this a natural gas boiler (or LP)? If Natural, the utility may have access to some kind of financing. Check to see if a local contractor that understands STEAM is also registered with the gas company for offering Financing. If you get approved for financing, you may be able to get the boiler sooner than later
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
    edited January 2021
    Yeah I can get financing for 24 months from PSE&G. Only problem is, their price is higher even than the wall guys, even before the finance charges, and I have no assurance that they'll do the job right like he will. I'd rather take out a loan and let him do it.

    In any case, I think I can tell you why it lost its integrity where it did.: The pigtail is plugged solid. G_d knows what pressure it got up to in there. Also I just found that the safety valve wasn’t holding when I tried blowing through it, and I doubt I generated 15 pounds of pressure (especially with post-COVID lungs), so there’s another place for the steam to get out.

    So I got a new pigtail, I got a new safety valve, I got some magic sawdust (see my other thread) and maybe I can get this going again at least temporarily.
  • SlowYourRoll
    SlowYourRoll Member Posts: 125
    edited January 2021
    newbie question (possibly a dumb question)...

    can anyone explain to me why the right side of the chamber (in the picture) has all of the rust and accumulation, while the left side is essentially free of all but minor rusting?

    based on what some above have said, i was expecting to see the rust/accumulation equally distributed around the whole heat exchanger. seems to me like the drastic difference between the sides should be some sort of clue as to what's happening. but as i said, i'm new and don't really know what's going on, it just strikes me as odd. maybe one of you have a good explanation.

    (edit: looking more closely at the picture, the camera angle makes it hard to tell, but it kind of looks like the third section from the left might also have minimal rust/accumulation, so that only the rightmost section had accumulation/rust)

    (second edit: at the risk of becoming the "galvanic corrosion guy" around here, i do want to point out that another clue is that the only cast iron section with rust/accumulation has what looks to be a steel rod connected to it up at the top of the boiler section. if so, steel touching cast iron in the presence of an electrolyte (ion-heavy steam from boiling make-up water) would be all the ingredients needed for galvanic corrosion localized to that boiler section instead of evenly distributed throughout)
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 165
    edited January 2021
    Good eye, That steel rod has a hook on one end that holds onto the boiler, and a thread on the other end for a nut that holds the (sheet metal thing, I don't know the name of it, that the chimney connects to) on the other.

    There are four sections, and the one at the other side (which isn't in the picture) also has that hook and also had one leak, although not as bad as this. Maybe you're onto something. Except that the rust is between the sections, and the steel is at the outside? Also steel is mostly iron, with some carbon and other stuff. You tend to see galvanic corrosion when you have iron and copper, or copper and aluminum. I don't know if there's enough difference between the plain iron and iron-with-stuff to make that much corrosion.

    It may also have something to do with that the take-off for the pigtail going to the pressuretrol is right opposite that.

    (edit: the risers come off both sides, so it's not a sloping waterline.)
  • SlowYourRoll
    SlowYourRoll Member Posts: 125
    edited January 2021
    Shalom said:

    Good eye, That steel rod has a hook on one end that holds onto the boiler, and a thread on the other end for a nut that holds the (sheet metal thing, I don't know the name of it, that the chimney connects to) on the other.

    There are four sections, and the one at the other side (which isn't in the picture) also has that hook and also had one leak, although not as bad as this. Maybe you're onto something. Except that the rust is between the sections, and the steel is at the outside? Also steel is mostly iron, with some carbon and other stuff. You tend to see galvanic corrosion when you have iron and copper, or copper and aluminum. I don't know if there's enough difference between the plain iron and iron-with-stuff to make that much corrosion.

    It may also have something to do with that the take-off for the pigtail going to the pressuretrol is right opposite that.

    (edit: the risers come off both sides, so it's not a sloping waterline.)

    there isn't usually enough of a voltage drop between cast iron and normal steel, but there's a big drop between cast iron and galvanized steel. the zinc used in GS is highly anodic. that's why they use zinc bars for sacrificial anodes on ship hulls and such. and you would see the accumulation just on the cathode, which would be that cast iron section.

    i dunno, it's just a guess. i'm hoping someone can explain why it's just on that section though. seems like the previous suggestions having to do with oxygen or chloride would've affected all the sections roughly equally (but again i'm no expert, just a curious homeowner trying to figure this stuff out)

    (edit: also you just have to have the two metals in electrical contact, so if that steel rod connects right to some aluminum housing for the boiler or vent hood or something, you could have galvanic corrosion that conducts through that steel rod, with the cathode being the CI and the anode being the aluminum)
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,751
    That steel hook isn't exposed to boiler water or steam (well it was after the leak existed of course). It's on the exterior of the boiler chamber, right?

    This area is where a leak first appeared. Maybe due to a casting issue, maybe due to high heat there. But regardless, some area has to fail first. When a leak appears, water (both liquid and vapor) are going to be hitting that area which is going to dramatically accelerate the corrosion, which both increases the size of the leak, and attacks the area directly surrounding the leak. That damage happens way faster than any other non-leaking area of the boiler and shows dramatically.

    it may be that other areas of the cast were "just about" ready to leak also, but we can only see that from the inside.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    SlowYourRoll
  • Bill_Kitsch69
    Bill_Kitsch69 Member Posts: 32
    It's hard for me to believe this is even being discussed.
    The boiler is shot.
    At worst, you will kill somebody with carbon monoxide.
    Replace the fricking boiler!
    Slumlord?
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 311

    It's hard for me to believe this is even being discussed.

    It's being discussed because some of us are interested in failure analysis. Also, the OP needs to address the root cause if he wants to get more than 12 years out of the next boiler
    SlowYourRollMaxMercyethicalpaul
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 291
    edited January 2021
    Shalom said:


    So what I'm gonna try to do, I'll scrape off as much of that scale as I can, let it dry, see where the actual hole(s) is/are. and see if I can JB weld them.

    JB Weld is really just another epoxy and won't help you. Epoxy hates heat, and there's a metric crapload of heat that will come into contact with it.

    Borrow money if you have to but get that boiler swapped out.

    EDIT: just realized this goes back more than a year. I'm sure this has been resolved.