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    New Burnham Steam boiler-Help! (32 Posts)

  • Green Green @ 8:22 PM
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    New Burnham Steam boiler-Help!

    Hello!  I am very new to this forum so not sure whether someone can help me with it.  The beginning of November I had a new Burnham steam boiler installed in my house.  In the beginning, it seems pretty quite when it runs but then starting last week, I kept hearing the hammer noise when it runs for the first 1.5 hours in the early morning and also at night it makes SSSSsss from the radiators.  In addition, the water in the glass gauge was completely gone when it runs and I can see the muddy thing(what is this?) sticking inside the glass gauge.  So I added a little bit of water to it then I found out that when it cools down, the water level resumes in the glass gauge.  Tonight I found a few drops of water dripping in the bottom of the glass gauge before it was on(maybe I shall pay more attention to the boiler?). Also water dripping in the pipping connection between the pressuretrol and boiler.   The radiators are becoming hotter.     Also if you know any maintenance tips or care for the burnham steam boiler, please share with me.  I really appreciate any help you can provide!!
  • BobC BobC @ 8:43 PM
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    Call the installer back

    The boiler has to be skimmed, that removes any oil or dirt from the boiler water. With clean water the boiler will be a lot better behaved. It sounds like the installer did not do a very good job by your description. call him back and make him repair the leaks and skim the boiler. You usually get a one year warranty on a new boiler install.

    post some pictures of the boiler and the piping around it so we can see what else he may have done wrong. Steam boilers have to be piped per the installation manuals piping diagram or they just don't work correctly.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • Paul48 Paul48 @ 9:05 PM
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    Any bets?

    No equalizer.....Poor venting.....Pressure way too high..
  • Green Green @ 11:23 PM
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    Thank you

    Thank you! I called the plumber guy many times but he said he will call me back but I never heard from him. He still have the trash bags, wiring sticking out, big hole in the chimney pipe that not fixed. I will take pics tomorrow and let you guys check it out. Btw, does it require to have a chimney liner?
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 10:56 PM
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    All and more

    If only everyone would come here for advice before the boiler was put in!--NBC
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 6:29 AM
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    Hole in chimney?

    That sounds very dangerous! Do you have a carbon monoxide alarm?--NBC
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 6:29 AM
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    Hole in chimney?

    That sounds very dangerous! Do you have a carbon monoxide alarm?--NBC
  • Green Green @ 1:02 PM
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    Pics

    No, we don't have carbon monixide detector yet since the plumber said he will put one in once he finish the job.  The job started beginning of Nov and he hasn't come back since then..I called him many times but no reply then finally I worried about it  last night and called him, told him, and he asked me to remind him again tonight.  Please see pics..The bottom of glass gauge has water dripping when boiler cools off.  Also the piping connection(brown stuff with the copper piping) between limit and the boiler has water dripping when boiler runs..As you can see the water in the glass gauge is completely gone when it runs and then resumes when it cools down.  So the maintenance of the boiler is skimming? 
  • Charlie from wmass Charlie from wmass @ 1:57 PM
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    ugh

    Pressure is way too high, that chimney would make me not sleep at night, and I am guessing no permits were pulled or inspections were done. If they were pulled and this was inspected call who ever oversees that inspector.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • BobC BobC @ 2:51 PM
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    This is criminal

    Hopefully he installed a chimney liner in that chimney so the boilers exhaust is being vented safely outside the house so it can't get into the cellar. GO OUT AND BUY A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR NOW! Better safe than sorry.

    That large bottom nut nut can be tightened down by about a half a turn to stop the leak.

    That boiler has to be skimmed, the installer should have installed a skim port to do so. For now you can wait till the boiler is relatively cool and drain all the water out of it - make sure the power is OFF. Then close off the drain valve and refill it to the normal level and next adjust the right hand top screw on the top of the pressuretrol down to 2 PSI and the left hand top screw on the pressuretrol down to 1.5 PSI, that should let the boiler cycle between 0.5 and 2 PSI. Turn the power back on The boiler still has to be skimmed to clean it out, but that should work ok for a couple of days set up like that.

    Where do you live, is it in an area affected by the hurricane, I can't believe the installer left a boiler operable in that condition. Next call up the installer and tell him your going to call the towns building inspector because you think the install is dangerous, that should wake him up.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
    This post was edited by an admin on November 29, 2012 2:53 PM.
  • Green Green @ 9:02 AM
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    He is a licensed plumber

    My friend told me about this plumber and she said her other friend told her that this plumber did a good job in installation a new boiler for her  so that's why I took her word for it.  I also met with this plumber twice and that time he made me feel that he is competent and responsible and I couldn't believe that how bad he is now.  He is not charging cheap.  He also said after he finish the work he will have the inspector to check it.  Now I think he is totally irresponsible.  I left him a message and going to keep calling today and tomorrow..Eventually if everything fails, I will let him know that I am going to have the inspector to come in and check his work.  I know winter is here and it is a busy season for plumbers but it is not for someone who gets pay and only done a half way job.  I have never encountered someone like him.  Anyway I learn my lessons. 
    This post was edited by an admin on November 30, 2012 9:32 AM.
  • Green Green @ 9:23 AM
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    ??

    Thank you bob for the instruction!  I think I will have the installer to tighten the nut in the glass gauge, I don't want to break the glass gauge myself.

    What is PSI?  Sorry I am new to this.  Also when you say screw the right hand top screw to 2psi, are you referring to the top screw on the white "Main" plate?  I think white plate has 4 PSI now.  Then you say adjust the left hand top screw on the pressuretrol down to 1.5
    PS, are you referring to the silver "DIFF" plate?  I think the silver plate has 1.5PSI now.  What is boiler cycle between 0.5 and 2psi?

    FYI, this is a 3 family house and sharing the same boiler.  I live in the East coast.   My old gas boiler was converted from oil to gas with no liner and had a inspection done 12 years ago.  The plumber also checked my chimney and it looks ok.  I asked the plumber whether it is required to have a chimney liner and he said that depends on the town inspector sometimes.

    Thank you so much!
  • BobC BobC @ 10:08 AM
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    low pressure

    Residential steam boilers should be run at 2 PSi (pounds per square inch) or less, higher pressure wastes fuel and makes all problems worse. The round gauge on the front of the boiler shows what the pressure is inside the boiler.

    You want to adjust the screw above the MAIN plate (on the top of the case, not inside) so the silver tab moves down to read 2 on the MAIN scale. The screw is on top of the pressuretrol case above the MAIN scale and  just out of the view of your picture, not the screw on the MAIN scale itself. If the DIFF is already set to 1.5 PSI you can leave that as it is. That will let the boiler work at lower pressure.

    If that chimney has no liner you are taking your life in your hands by operating it. You have to put a carbon monoxide alarm in there before someone gets killed. That boiler has to be skimmed and he should install a skim port so you can skim it yourself in the future. Don't pay the installer the rest of his money till that boiler works correctly.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • Paul48 Paul48 @ 10:59 AM
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    Another

    tee'd main, and an easy fix. Where the main is teed above the boiler, and heads off in either direction, should be fed by 2 risers.
  • Charlie from wmass Charlie from wmass @ 11:27 AM
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    not a big deal

    The way the tee is is fine, not ideal but it is not a bullhead tee. The reasn for seperating this would only be if the square footage on the two pipes was larger than what the riser could carry. I am a plumber by trade and I have no issue installing steam. The issue here is not that you hired a plumber, it is that you hired a careless trades person. The chimney NEEDS lined. The local inspectors want a current inspection in writing before they allow the system to be fired. The way the Mass code is written they say a liner if needed, it is seldom no needed. Also as the natural gas exhausts up the flue it cools and mixes with the soot and creates a nice acid bath that starts taking apart the chimney.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Green Green @ 10:52 AM
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    He is almost fully paid

    Thank you Bob for the advice!  He is almost fully paid because I trusted him enough to pay him in the beginning.  Only a few hundred dollars left unpaid.   I am sure that's why he is taking advantage of him.   I called him this morning and he kept telling me that he will come this weekend..Anyway my patience is running out and if next week he hasn't come yet..I am not nice with him again.  We have a large community and words of mouth is important. BBB and internet are definitely something he might not want to know about it.
    This post was edited by an admin on November 30, 2012 10:59 AM.
  • Paul48 Paul48 @ 1:24 PM
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    Steam

    heating requires a special set of skills and knowledge. This plumber lacks those skills. That chimney, left like that, is complete incompetence. I suggest you bring in a good chimney company, and have things done properly. I'm afraid you would be "throwing good money, after bad" by trying to have that plumber fix things that he is completely clueless about.Try the Find a Contractor tab at the top of the page to find a steam pro. Where are you located?
  • vaporvac vaporvac @ 4:43 PM
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    Don't wait for CO2 Detector!

    I'm just a homeowner like yourself, but the people answering your posts are experts and I would take their advice.  Get  a Co2 detector TODAY...don't wait for that installer to come back. The fact that he's was willing to let you live in house with the boiler attached to that chimney tells me he either doesn't know or doesn't care. I think both.
    I've seen a lot of wonky, crazy installs since I've been reading this site, but this has to be the most dangerous situation I've seen.
    Even if code didn't require a liner, you should still install one as that chimney is a wreck. I normally don't post to threads not immediately concerning my system or something I've encountered, but this is an outrageous situation affecting your safety. He should have had to pull permits. I suspect he didn't. . In my experience, you can't get those inspectors out of your house once they know there's a project going on. I doubt he ever intended to  "inform the inspector" when it's done. Who even knows if your burner is set correctly. Call the inspector Monday and let your guy know you are doing so. Good luck with this. 
  • Green Green @ 12:48 PM
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    Mass

    I live in Massachusetts.  I have already left the guy a message in his cell phone  that I will call the inspector next week and also take any law enforcement against him if he hasn't reply back to me.  If no reply from him, what shall I do? 

     I have gotten a carbon Mon detector.  I will try to get a chimney guy too.  Thank you for so much for your reply!
  • Steve Nichols Steve Nichols @ 7:04 PM
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    He might be gone....

    If you're paid up with him, he may not come back.  If he's not returning your calls, that should be telling you something.
    ASAP, contact the town's inspector of plumbing/gasfitting and let him know what's going on.  The contractor should be pulling permits.  If he isn't that's a strike against him. If you can get the inspector to listen, he may be able to provide some sound advice.
    I'd be looking at hiring someone else to finish the job (again, maybe the town inspector can suggest a good "STEAM" professional.
    You say he's licensed, so you could file a formal complaint against his license. It can be looked up on the commonwealth of mass. website under the division of professional licensure. 
    You can try to go the small claims court route.  It doesn't take much time to write up the paperwork but the dollar amount you can sue for is limited (again, check the commonwealth of mass. site) and if he doesn't show, you don't gain anything except possibly having a warrant out against him for failure to pay the "judgment amount".
    You're in a tough spot, but with heating season here, get that chimney lined to make sure CO doesn't get in the house.  The fact that he left the system this way is negligent to say the least.
    Good luck and keep at it.
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/164/Steam-Piping/2730/Drop-Header-by-Steve-Nichols
  • Green Green @ 6:06 PM
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    surging

    Thank you, everyone! 

    Here are the updates of my new boiler, the plumber had fixed the hole in the chimney, installed a CO Monixide detector, and drained all the water out of the boiler(came out all dark water) then it was fine for a few days then the boiler started surging(when the boiler turns on for  20 minutes then within 20 seconds all the water in the glass gauge are completely gone)then the water resumes when the boiler cools down. 

    Here is what is going on for the 3 family house  the first few days after the first skimming, third floor bedrooms were not getting enough heat, although I touched the radiators and they were not very hot.  However the third floor livingroom (where the thermostat resides)was getting to the temp, the first floor and second floors were all getting enough heat..Then things started heating up when the boiler started surging, the 3 floor was getting enough heat and I could hear the SSSS noise from the radiators and of course the first and second floors were much hotter too.  Yesterday the plumber came and did a second time skimming(the water was dark again) and I had asked him whether he should adjust the  pressuretrol down to 2 PSI and the left hand top screw on the pressuretrol down to 1.5 PSI but he told me that there was no need to adjust it because there is no pressure when the boiler runs so he just leave it as it is(factory set up)..He had already set up tomorrow appointment with the inspector and today he called me to ask me how the boiler is doing and I told him it usually takes a few days to start surging..He said if skimming doesn't work then I might have to replace all radiator valve and vents..He insisted that he would not redo all his pipping..  Also he asked me to pay him the rest of the money tomorrow and I told him that I will have to wait till end of the month to see whether the surging will resume again.  I talked to my other friend about his work and my friend believe that if all the radiators are hot and receiving heat then it is not the problem with valve and vents, is that correct?  It seems like surging is not easy to be fixed looking at all the posts here.  Scary!  =(
  • BobC BobC @ 7:03 PM
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    Skimming takes time.

    Skimming a boiler takes hours and hours. You have to let the water trickle out so it takes a couple of hours to fill a 5 gallon bucket so it would take four hours to fill two buckets. I had a new boiler installed in early October and it took me 4 skimming sessions to get things the way I wanted. What does the pressure gauge on the boiler read when it is making steam?

    It sounds like your boiler still has a lot of oils that have to be skimmed out so it will perform the way it should, sometimes it takes 3 or four long skimming sessions to get it right. That boiler has to be cleaned until the water is clean and then it will stay clean, you might get some sediment working it's way down but one the oils are gone you'll be ok.

    Your installer should clean that boiler till it does not act up again because of dirty boiler water. If you have a skimming port you can do it yourself, if necessary.

    Did he replace the main air vent on the steam main? What kind of main air vent do you have? Take a picture of it and post it here.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • Green Green @ 7:59 PM
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    skimming looks easy?

    I thought skimming is pretty easy based from the way the plumber showed me.  It took him half an hour to drain 2 buckets of dark water.  He  opened the drain valve and the dark water came out.  He open one drain valve after another.  It doesn't sound like you have to wait for the water to trickle out..See the pics above and you will notice that there are 3 drain valves with 2 red and 1 blue colors.  It feels like you just turn on the drain valve and water is coming out like from a water faucet.  Hopefully after a few skimming my boiler will work properly.  I am crossing my fingers on it.

    What do you meant by main air vent?  He didn't install any main air vent.  He closed the hole in the pipe connected to the chimney.  I looked at the pressure gauge when my boiler runs and I don't see the meter move a bit. 
  • BobC BobC @ 8:12 PM
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    A drain is not a skim port!

    When he drained water like that he did not fix the problem, you cannot skim a boiler through the drain valve - it won't work. You cold do that every 3 days from now till July 4th and it would not work.

    That boiler has a skim tapping on it, the plug has to be removed and a nipple and full port valve put on it, if you look at the manual they identify the skim tapping (1-1/4 or 1-1/2"). To properly skim the boiler will take hours to do it properly and it will probably have to be repeated a few times.

    I would not pay him till he installs a skim port valve in that skim tapping and he should skim the boiler, but at that point you could do it yourself.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • Green Green @ 12:22 PM
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    DIY skim port valve?

    I talked to my plumber about having him to install a skim port valve and he said he will not do it. It is not on the contract. He asked what is the difference between draining all water out of the drain valve vs skimming? All water has to be taking out of the boiler. Is it easy to install DIY skim port valve? Thanks!
  • TomM TomM @ 8:14 PM
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    skimming

    skimming is defined as cleaning the oils that collect at the top of the water, and blowing down is removing the sediment at the bottom.  most boilers have a port at the waterline max fill level that you can skim from.  (Think of the skimmer on a pool 'skims' the stuff that floats on the top.)I think on the independence it is on the right side under the jacket, but i could be wrong, and is plugged from the factory.
    beautiful Conshohocken PA
  • Green Green @ 9:56 PM
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    Where is my skimming

    I have looked at my manual( hard to understand) and no where it says how to skim. Also I can't find the skim tap too. My boiler is burham pin6sni-he2. Thanks!
  • BobC BobC @ 10:16 PM
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    Port location

    The skim port is on the right side of the boiler. the installer has to install a pipe nipple and a full port valve, he has to take the boiler jacket off, remove the plug on the casting and add the nipple and the valve so the boiler can be skimmed. The drawing below shows it's location.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • Rod Rod @ 10:49 PM
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    Skim Port

    Hi -  Bob's picture shows the out side location on the cabinet and if you look on page 6 of the manual at Table 1. The skim tapping is "L" . This shows the size of the boiler port.
    Attached is a picture of different boilers showing the fittings that have been added to the skim port.  A ball valve with a cap on the end for safety works out very well. I've also attached an article on skimming.
    - Rod
    This post was edited by an admin on December 14, 2012 12:17 AM.
  • Green Green @ 11:19 PM
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    Thank you!

    Thank you so much! I will talk to my plumber tomorrow. =)
  • JohnNY JohnNY @ 9:37 AM
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    nevermind

    deleted text
    (I thought this was a rapid repair job due to Sandy.)
    This post was edited by an admin on December 14, 2012 10:40 AM.
  • Rod Rod @ 2:41 PM
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    Skim Port

    Hi- Wow! This guy sure doesn't know much about steam!  Oil (from the new piping, joint compound etc.) floats on top of the water so how does one remove that by draining from the bottom of the boiler?! 
     Why does one have to remove the surface oil? -  Ideally when the water in the boiler boils, it "fizzes" to the top of the water like small bubbles like in a glass of champagne. If there is an oil film on the surface of the boiler water, the tiny bubbles collect together until they are large enough and have enough buoyancy to break through the oil film. When they do break through the surface, this throws water droplets up into the steam which results in what is known as ":Wet Steam".  Wet Steam should be avoided as it is much less efficient than "Dry Steam".
        Normally installing a skim port and skimming should be part of the installation. However since this guy doesn't know what they even are, I doubt he has made an allowance for that in his bid, so being fair, you might want to ask him how much he would charge to install a ball valve on the skim port. It's a thing that you could install yourself but since he has the tools and the know how, you might want to have him do it. The skimming is easy thiough time consuming and you can do yourself.
    - Rod
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