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PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS

Furnace -- missing water

So I have a bit of a mystery.... the water in my furnace is disappearing.

When I fill the furnace up, with the system entirely off, the water is almost gone in under an hour. I say almost because their is still a little left in the glass tube marker thing.

Normally, I would think there must be a leak but that would be a lot of water and I don't see any puddles or leaks anywhere and the furnace is at the lowest point as far as the pipes are concerned.

I am wondering if anyone has seen anything like this. I will most likely have to call in the plumber but would like to have a better idea of what I am dealing with first.

thanks~!
--
1/22/2012 Delegate Count
Newt 25 | Romney 14 | Ron Paul 10 | Santorum 8


PSWired

join:2006-03-26
Annapolis, MD
Is this a steam boiler? We'll probably need a model number and description of the system, and pictures if available.

If no leaks visible, you could have a cracked heat exchanger.


nunya
LXI 483
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
reply to PhoenixDown
I hope you mean boiler system.


PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
reply to PhoenixDown
Click for full size
Click for full size
Ya, a boiler system. I am not sure of the make/model, I can probably dig that up tomorrow but here's a photo.

bemis

join:2008-07-18
Reading, MA
Reviews:
·Comcast
reply to PhoenixDown
Is this a raised ranch, or do you have any heating pipes in a slab?

Former house was a raised ranch, used traditional baseboard heaters, but pipes leading to them were embedded in the slab. After 40 years they started leaking...

Interestingly, it had an auto-fill valve so the issue was only found because the water bill became abnormally high for over a year.


PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
reply to PhoenixDown
It's a traditional house.

Radiators on the 1st and 2nd floors and baseboard heating in the basement.

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
Reviews:
·Callcentric
said by PhoenixDown:

It's a traditional house.

Radiators on the 1st and 2nd floors and baseboard heating in the basement.

Can you see all of the pipes, or are some of them buried (even for a short distance) in concrete? My former house had hydronic heating and the family room, behind the garage, was built on a slab. Its pipes had to run through the slab to get to/from the baseboard convectors in that room.

The other place where you wouldn't see a leak is if the heat exchanger is leaking. A slow leak there would likely allow the leaking water to boil away as fast as it came out.


ArgMeMatey

join:2001-08-09
Milwaukee, WI
kudos:2
Reviews:
·voip.ms
·AT&T Midwest
·Time Warner Cable
reply to PhoenixDown
I realize many systems are not built this way, but if you have zone valves, and zone drains, you may be able to screw a hose-threaded pressure gauge tightly on the zone drain, open the zone drain to pressurize the valve, then close the zone supply and return valves. Then you can see which zone is dropping fast.

If there is any piping under concrete, have you checked for unusual warm spots? I know a couple of slab-dwellers who have accidentally found domestic hot water leaks by walking around in bare feet.
--
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tp0d
yabbazooie
Premium
join:2001-02-13
Carnegie, PA
kudos:6
Ok, looks like you have a converted steam boiler there.. I say that, because typical hydronic heat doesnt have a sightglass, or a pressure switch (off the top of the sightglass), and you do have a Taco pump in the bottom right of the photo. And baseboard is almost never used for steam heat.

So, you should never see any air in that sightglass, should always be full. Actually, both valves should be shut off to prevent a possible leak thru the sightglass, because its only made to handle 2-5psi max, not 30psi of a hydronic system.

You should turn on the water filler valve, and bleed all the air out at the radiators. System pressure should be 12-15psi. (should be a gauge in the back right top of the boiler).

If you are losing water, I`d look for a hidden main, or possible underground return line.

Whoever installed that boiler must have liked painting. Thats some old school work there.

good luck

-j
--
if it aint broke, tweak it!!
currently on FiOS (kick aZZ!)


PSWired

join:2006-03-26
Annapolis, MD
Are you sure it's not a steam boiler with a circulator grabbing hot water from below the waterline?


mackey
Premium
join:2007-08-20
kudos:13
reply to PhoenixDown
said by PhoenixDown:

Normally, I would think there must be a leak but that would be a lot of water and I don't see any puddles or leaks anywhere and the furnace is at the lowest point as far as the pipes are concerned.

Actually it's not the lowest point. You can see in the 2nd picture that the drain valve line is T'd and goes to that Taco pump before taking a 90 and going down to the floor. As that piping looks to be below even the concrete base the boiler's sitting on, the boiler's most definitely not the lowest point in the system. I'm guessing that the entire baseboard heating part of the system is below the boiler water level.

Do those baseboard heaters have a drain valve anywhere?

Does it hold water if the valve just before the Taco pump is closed?

/M


PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
reply to PhoenixDown
I'm obviously not good with plumbing as you can all tell lol

We have radiators on the 1st and 2nd floors which use steam. It was originally a coal powered furnance/boiler that was converted to natural gas and later replaced with the unit in the picture.

Around that time, iirc, baseboard heating was installed in the basement to help keep the chill out.

I don't keep the auto-fill on (never have) so I just fill 'er up once or twice day as needed. The water will drain out to about an inch on the sight glass with this issue.

Appreciate everyone's help. I am going to call the plumber tomorrow and have him come in and check it out but at least I have an idea of what to ask/talk about.
--
1/22/2012 Delegate Count
Newt 25 | Romney 14 | Ron Paul 10 | Santorum 8


tp0d
yabbazooie
Premium
join:2001-02-13
Carnegie, PA
kudos:6

1 recommendation

Half steam, half hydronic? Wow.. havent seen anything like that..

yea call the plumber.

-j
--
if it aint broke, tweak it!!
currently on FiOS (kick aZZ!)
Expand your moderator at work


whizkid3
Premium,MVM
join:2002-02-21
Queens, NY
kudos:9
reply to PhoenixDown

Re: Furnace -- missing water

I have the exact same steam boiler (without the added hydronic portion). It is a single-pipe steam system. Water boils, steam rises; steam cools down and returns to the boiler.

said by PhoenixDown:

I don't keep the auto-fill on (never have) so I just fill 'er up once or twice day as needed. The water will drain out to about an inch on the sight glass with this issue.

Problem #1 is that you don't have auto-fill on. What do you think its for? Running a steam boiler low on water is dangerous. Turn the auto-fill valve on.

Problem #2 is that you are losing water. Its leaking out somewhere. Follow the piping around the house and you should eventually find out where. If its leaking out in the steam system, you should be able to hear the hiss where it is leaking. (Yeah, there is often also a hiss where the air is being pushed out of the system; but there will also be a noticeable hiss if you have a leak.) If its leaking in the baseboard system - not sure what to tell you - you should check the piping. Its going somewhere.

FYI - my basement is heated by running the steam piping through the basement; and also when needed, using a portable electric heater.


cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7
reply to PhoenixDown
said by PhoenixDown:

I don't keep the auto-fill on (never have) so I just fill 'er up once or twice day as needed.

I've always lived with a gas forced air system, so hydronic and steam systems are a bit foreign. But aren't both of those sealed systems, meaning that you shouldn't have to add any water on a regular basis, let alone once or twice a day?


whizkid3
Premium,MVM
join:2002-02-21
Queens, NY
kudos:9
Single-pipe steam is not sealed. As the heated steam rises, it pushes air out through the system via vent valves located at each radiator.


cdru
Go Colts
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join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7
said by whizkid3:

Single-pipe steam is not sealed. As the heated steam rises, it pushes air out through the system via vent valves located at each radiator.

Thanks. I guess I thought steam just eventually rose, condensed, and ran back down. Probably works a little faster if the room temperature air can just be pushed out instead.


bbrcat
Cancer Sucks
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join:2000-12-09
NH
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Reviews:
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reply to whizkid3
said by whizkid3:

Single-pipe steam is not sealed. As the heated steam rises, it pushes air out through the system via vent valves located at each radiator.

...and too much venting will/may lead to drop in water level and knocking in the system.
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PSWired

join:2006-03-26
Annapolis, MD
reply to PhoenixDown
OP said the water level in the boiler drops even when the system is shut down. Sounds like the basement hot water loop or the heat exchanger is leaking.

Is there a domestic hot water tank hung off the hot water loop as well?


jack b
Gone Fishing
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
kudos:1
reply to tp0d
I meant to reply to PhoenixDown...

It's hard to see the whole boiler room with just the close-up photos. There are a couple of places to look, if any condensate wet piping is buried, that's the most likely culprit. If air vents don't shut after the radiator is hot is next. Lastly there could be a hole in one of the boiler sections above the water line and steam is simply shooting up the chimney unnoticed when the boiler is firing.

said by tp0d:

Half steam, half hydronic? Wow.. havent seen anything like that..

Hydronic heating using condensate on a steam system is actually fairly common. If piped correctly the radiation can even be installed 30' above the boiler water level!
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PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
reply to PhoenixDown
We found the problem, the return pipe under the concrete in the basement rusted away. It was about 100 years old. We're going to have the entire section back to the boiler/furnace replaced.


PSWired

join:2006-03-26
Annapolis, MD
That'll do it. Thanks for letting us know what the problem was.


Pacrat
Old and Cranky
Premium,MVM
join:2001-03-10
Cortland, OH
kudos:2
reply to PhoenixDown
$$$$$$$ ???


PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
said by Pacrat:

$$$$$$$ ???

Oh yeah


ropeguru
Premium
join:2001-01-25
Mechanicsville, VA
reply to PhoenixDown
Any way at all to re run above slab??


PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
said by ropeguru:

Any way at all to re run above slab??

Not really ... its going from one side of the house to the other and there would be some logistical challenges to doing so.
--
1/22/2012 Delegate Count
Newt 25 | Romney 14 | Ron Paul 10 | Santorum 8


tp0d
yabbazooie
Premium
join:2001-02-13
Carnegie, PA
kudos:6

1 recommendation

See if you can have the plumber run it with heat-pex. will have to backfill with sand, but the pipe will not rot in the future... much easier install tho, other than the sand. use 4" on all sides.

-j
--
if it aint broke, tweak it!!
currently on FiOS (kick aZZ!)