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Need help diagnosing auto-filler problem please

DanPikeDanPike Member Posts: 5
My 7 year old Burnham steam boiler is working flawlessly except for a brand new intermittent glitch that just started a week ago. The automatic filler usually runs very rarely, and when it does it usually runs for 3 seconds or so. Last week it ran for about 2 seconds and then shut off. 10 minutes later it ran for another second or so and shut off. 12 minutes later it happened again. I turned off the valve to the auto-filler. With the auto filler valve closed, I no longer hear water flowing into the boiler.
The sight glass is about 2/3 full, a little higher than normal. There is no legitimate need for more water.
At the moment I am okay leaving things alone and checking the water level manually, but I am (wicked old and) concerned that if I get real sick and can’t manage this process then it will be difficult for my wife. I would prefer not to bring an additional person into the house, times being what they are.
Can you suggest how I might diagnose the problem? Is it the low water cut-off mistakenly calling for water? Is it the solenoid that opens the fill valve operating with a mind of its own? Is it some problem that I haven’t even thought of?


  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,116
    edited March 26
    It's possible your return line is gunked up, restricting condensate return, and putting you into a low water condition that calls the water feed.
    It's also possible your feed needs to either be flushed out, or replaced.
    Would be helpful to stare at it with the feed off to see if slow condensate return is calling the feed during a run cycle.
    If you don't want anyone in the house (basement entrance?) and you only use the boiler for heat, leave the feed off, if your low water cut-off is working.
    You'll know (visually and comfort-wise) if your boiler runs low on water and shuts down.
    Check it during the run cycle, wait for better times to have a tech come out.

    If you do have an outdoor basement entrance, unlock/open the door when the tech pulls up, before they get to the house. Leave them to do their work. When their done, go sanitize the door knobs and the controls, or anything you think they touched.
    Most experts are saying the virus is spread via airborne, and less likely from surfaces, unless you touch a surface then touch a mucous membrane. But you have to do what you feel is comfortable and best for you.

    Odd place for a boiler drain...
  • DanPikeDanPike Member Posts: 5
    Thanks Steve,
    Please forgive this Steam 101 question: Is it possible for there to be low water in the boiler when the sight glass is 2/3 full?
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 1,393
    The better question is If its adding water why isn't the SG going up?

    You need to check the low water cut off and se if its working properly.
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,116
    DanPike said:

    Thanks Steve,
    Please forgive this Steam 101 question: Is it possible for there to be low water in the boiler when the sight glass is 2/3 full?

    If it was blocked on the bottom with crud (going back into the boiler, the water line in the sight glass wouldn't drop.
    Another way would be if the water was surging. I recall one of Dan's books shows this scenario.

    Many things easily checkable by a steam pro. If you start to try to take that apart to clean it, and break something, you'll make your situation worse.
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