new homeowner, questions about my boiler

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Old 01-08-12, 03:25 AM
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new homeowner, questions about my boiler

Hello all! First time homeowner here, just bought my first house. It has a hot water boiler for baseboard heating. I have some question that hopefully you guys can help me with, with patience. I've done a lot of searching and googling but can't seem to find answers to these questions.

First off, house was built in 1960. The boiler looks ancient so I'm assuming it is original with the house. It says Bryant on it. One part of it, a red box, looks newer and the color doesn't match. I think this might be the "circulator".

Any way, someone told me if I shut off the main water to the house, it can cause the boiler to explode if I don't properly bleed the lines afterwords? Is this true? I actually had to shut off the main water supply 2 days ago, because I had a plumbing problem under the bathroom sink, and the shutoff underneath the sink is busted (hehe, found that out the hard way after 2 inches of water in the bathroom. Not to go off on a tangent but the sink is busted on the hot water side and no hot water was coming out, so there was no way of knowing that the hot water shut off didn't work. I'm not that stupid!)

So I've done research and I can't come to any conclusions about boilers exploding after not bleeding the lines after shutting off the main water supply. So is this true or not?

I'm panicking, because when my boiler is done firing up (natural gas burner), after the flame shuts off, I hear a very fast dripping sound coming from inside the boiler, like something is leaking. The dripping sound slows down over time the longer the burner has been off.

Thanks for any help!

Also my other question would be, if anyone has any suggestions to what I can do about the wire on it. It is exposed and kind of just hanging out. My kitty's litter box is about 2 feet from the boiler (only spot in the house I can really put his litter box) and he has a habit of chewing on wires. I fear he will do this. I was thinking of boxing in the boiler or something but no idea how to without damaging it.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 06:33 AM
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To shut the water off for servicing the sink or anything else in the home should not affect the boiler at all. If the check valve, keeps water from going the wrong direction in a pipe, is bad you could lose pressure in the boiler. To be safe you can look at the gage to verify there is 12 - 18 psi on the gage, shut the valve that feeds water into the boiler making a note to turn it back on when the water is turned back on.
The dripping sound could be caused by metal contraction, mineral build-up in the boiler or an actual leak.
As far as the wires, by code, although may not have applied when that boiler was installed, is required to be in metal. They call this metal coating MC, BX, Conduit or flexible conduit. Today it is illegal to use 120v plastic coated wire, romex, around boilers. 24v can be wired without metal coating. I would suggest you go to the building supply stores and get the pre-split wire covering. You just open it and slip it over the wire to keep the little kitty teeth off the actual wire. It comes it different sizes. My calico has left her teeth marks on my laptop charger plug when she was younger.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 08:15 AM
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hot water boiler systems for hot water rads/baseboards is a sealed system with that RED assemblt valve on the boiler maintaining 12psi constantly if you don't see water in the home or in the basement boiler area the noises are expansion and contraction of the metal and water cooling off.

[NJT edit: Sminker, not all "Pressure Reducing Valves" are RED! There are Green ones, Brown ones, Gold ones... ]
 

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Old 01-08-12, 09:23 AM
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RED assemblt valve
[Sarcasm on]
I don't have one of those.
Mine is a different color.
Do you think i should worry about the the boiler might blowing up becuase it's not a RED one?
[Sarcasm off]

Peter
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-08-12 at 10:34 AM.
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Old 01-08-12, 10:19 AM
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You should not worry about the boiler blowing up. I don't know who told you that it would, but they don't know what they are talking about. Your boiler should have a back flow preventer on it. If your domestic water supply was shut off at the meter and then drained for work like you had mentioned, then the black flow preventer would stop any water in the boiler system from leaking out into the domestic supply side. Check to make sure you have one. You can also shut off the valve between the boiler system on the domestic. That would stop flow in either direction. As rbeck mentioned, checking your boiler gauge to make sure you have a minimum of 12 psi when the boiler is cold will tell you if you have enough water in your system. Adding a low water cut off will also add another level of safety. This is now being required for all new boiler installations.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 10:46 AM
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With a name like Photog0411, I'm willing to bet that you are good at taking pictures?

Set up a FREE account at Image hosting, free photo sharing & video sharing at Photobucket and upload the pics there. Come back here and drop a link to your PUBLIC album and we'll take a look and advise...
 
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Old 01-09-12, 09:53 PM
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Here are pics requested. When boiler is off, PSI seems to read about 11.9 PSI. When it's on and burning the flames, jumps up to about 16 PSI.



When it first kicks on, flames shoot out of the bottom of the front! I'm scared. If you look in 2nd pic with wires, you see burn marks on the boiler, it's from when the flame shoot out the front below where the wires are. It's only for a split second when burner first ignites, but I'm scared if my kitty was sitting there and get roasted like a pheasant. I know, call me stupid for putting kitting litter box 2 feet from boiler, but it's really only place in this house I can put it. The boiler is in a small 8x10' laundry room with washer and dryer, water softener (which is busted and leaks) and water heater. Everything else in house is living space we can't have smelling like cat litter.







 
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Old 01-10-12, 03:55 PM
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When it first kicks on, flames shoot out of the bottom of the front! I'm scared.
This problem requires immediate attention. Your boiler appears to not have been serviced in a LONG time! When flames shoot out the bottom, not only do you have a fire hazard, but you also have a very strong possibility of CARBON MONOXIDE entering the home. As you know, CO will KILL YOU.

Your boiler needs to be disassembled, properly cleaned, combustion checked SOON! like NOW!

The pressure gauge is either NON functional, or you have no pressure in your system... you really need to have a good technician come in and service that unit before there is a much bigger problem.

PLEASE tell me that you have CO detectors all around the home!
 
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Old 01-10-12, 04:43 PM
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Look at the first photo. It looks to me like you have two burner tubes, and the inlet to the one on the left is catty-whampus - at an odd angle, possibly broken or bent.

If the gas company comes and sees this situation, they will shut off your gas at the meter, and lock it with a padlock.
 
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Old 01-10-12, 04:49 PM
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Yep...

Did not your 'home inspection' reveal that this heating system was in pretty sad condition?
 
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Old 01-11-12, 12:05 AM
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My home inspector didn't say anything really about the boiler other than it might need some maintenance in the future. He did detect a gas leak in a pipe above the hot water heater (not the boiler), and as far as I know the gas company (national grid) actually came and fixed the gas leak. I say as far as I know, because that's what the seller of my house told me. I did drive by 2 days after that, and did see a national grid truck parked in the road in front of this house. So I have partial verification. The pipes don't look new though, so my guess is they just snugged something down.


To NJ trooper, I have to check on the carbon monoxide detectors. I know there's a smoke alarm in the hallway that is so old it sounds like a fax machine and not an actual alarm, I was planning on replacing it. I think there may be one carbon monxoide detector in the hallway that leads to all the bedrooms.

UPDATE: Yes there is a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway that leads to the bedrooms. Not any in the actual bedrooms though.
 
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Old 01-11-12, 12:32 AM
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Here's more pics I took with my iPad. I don't know if they will help. I still haven't unpacked my real camera, lol. Does anyone know a good reputable nationwide boiler service I can call to come look at it? I'm leary about local people that might want to rip me off and have a whole new boiler installed which can cost like 3 grand after labor. I tried searching for boiler servicemen but could only find boilers, like industrial boilers in factories.







 
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Old 01-11-12, 05:00 PM
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Does anyone know a good reputable nationwide boiler service I can call to come look at it?
I don't believe there is such a thing... there are a few large 'affiliate' companies around... but in this case, if you want to find somebody that will repair if possible and not give you the 'hard sell' about it being too old to fix, etc... then I think you would want to find a smaller independent family business. I think they might tend to treat you as more of a 'person', than a 'sale'.

You want to look for 'heating contractors' in your area. Tell them up front that you are looking for a complete inspection and cleaning AND COMBUSTION TEST with proper INSTRUMENTS!

Shop your service guys real carefully, and CHECK any references and stuff. If the guys are honest and upstanding, they will be happy to provide them. Don't let anyone fast talk you... if you 'smell scare tactics' steer clear! Boiler salespeople are birds of prey... (deepest apologies to any HONEST boiler 'salesnicians' out there... )

Have the heat exchanger inspected ... and brushed out.

BURNERS removed and cleaned.

PILOT BURNER checked, cleaned if necessary.

Entire fire side of boiler needs brushing and vacuum.

It would be a good idea to have the flue pipe inspected now, and soon, when the weather warms a little (if not sooner), have the CHIMNEY INSPECTED also.

The gas pressure setting on the valve should probably be checked with a MANOMETER.

The PRESSURE RELIEF VALVE should be replaced if it's more than five years old.

The 'Pressure and Temperature' GAUGE should be checked and made to work properly.

The EXPANSION TANK (which I can't see in any of your pictures) should be checked for proper operation and serviced as needed.

The DRAIN VALVE on the boiler, to the left of the burner looks pretty tired... probably replace.

How much more of your money can I spend?

By the way... that site you've got your pics loaded on is AS SLOW AS MOLASSES! I think they have that server running on a Commodore 64!
 
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Old 01-11-12, 05:07 PM
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PLEASE have something done soon... I REALLY don't like the flame rollout issue you mentioned... seriously... and those last pics showing the 'sooty' deposits on the front... very disturbing... where there's SOOT, there's CARBON MONOXIDE!
 
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Old 01-11-12, 05:53 PM
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And all of that work Trooper describes, which you should absolutely have done ASAP, will probably take 3-4 hours and consume maybe $150 or so in parts.

Shop your contractor carefully. Do not be surprised if you find only 1 out of 4 or 5 that aren't knuckleheads.
 
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Old 01-11-12, 07:37 PM
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With a gas-fired boiler, I wonder where all that ash seems to be coming from, as shown in the pix.
 
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Old 01-11-12, 09:34 PM
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What's a fair rate per hour for this service?

I also have some electrical problems with this house, NOTHING MAJOR except one thing (power lines to house from utillity pole are about 5 feet above the deck and can be touched by children easily. amazed that bank passed this when I bought house. Inspector even said a kid might want to swing from them and play tarzan, then they would be fried to a crisp.) Most electricians quoted me for about $180 to $220 per hour of labor. I also have some plumbing issues (again nothing major, the pipes goes to water softener sprays out tons of water if you engage the bypass. Also one sink is broken, and the shut-off valve below the sink is broken so I can't fix the sink myself. These are copper pipes, I don't know how to weld the joints on.) Most plumbers quoted me about $140 to $170 per hour of labor.

If the boiler people are gonna charge this much ouch... 3-4 hours of work you say? That's gonna be like $800 for just the labor, not including the $150 in parts you said. OUCH.

Looks like I need to sell my car to fix up my house. LOL
 
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Old 01-11-12, 09:39 PM
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one other issue I might add. When the boiler is on (both burning and not burning), it makes a really loud buzzing noise. Sounds electricial. Kind of like, hmm a huge flourescent light kind of buzzing? Am I thinking the right type of noise? Maybe like the buzzing noise on a clothes dryer, just a little quieter?
 
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Old 01-12-12, 03:29 PM
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Sounds like a relay buzzing... might not be a 'real' problem... they do that sometimes.

There may be something that could be done to quiet the buzz, but get that other stuff fixed first! Stop delaying, this is serious!

The CLEANING should be done first.
 
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Old 01-12-12, 07:34 PM
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Ok I have a technician come to look at it Tuesday morning. They are charging $70.00 to come out and do inspection, then determine what needs to be done. I hope this doesn't get pricy.
 
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Old 01-12-12, 08:04 PM
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Just don't let them talk you into anything with fear tactics... I'm not saying they won't find anything bad, but there's no reason that I can see in the pics that they can't clean that thing up and get it running safely for you...
 
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Old 01-13-12, 12:35 AM
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thanks for all the help guys. i'll keep you posted
 
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Old 01-21-12, 12:59 PM
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update..

technician came, inspected boiler, and cleaned it out. As he was taking it apart, parts from inside just started falling off (they weren't secured). He had to drill out screws to put everything back together, screws and bolts just snapped in half. Valves are corroded, like the shut off valves. The flame-guard has a hole burnt through it which is causing the flames to shoot out the front when it first turns on. 2 inches of ash underneath boiler from the melting metal. Burners not in good shape. Water pressure was "ok" but not as high as it should be. Temperature gauge was not working. Relay on it's way out, causing the humming noise. Only thing that was working fine was the pilot light.

Basically speaking, the boiler works, just doesn't work well. It heats the house. But it's a ticking time-bomb.

He said it's not even serviceable. Will cost more to service it than get a new boiler. Not happy! But glad I got it inspected.

He quoted me about $3,200 for a new boiler including installation. Said my set-up and zone system would be very easy to put a new one in. Does that price seem reasonable? I will surely shop around.

Is it much to put a new one in myself? With help from family? Or should I not mess around with gas lines and all of that?
 
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Old 01-21-12, 01:15 PM
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He at least cleaned the thing out and left you with a working boiler, correct? Didn't tear it apart and leave you with no heat, did he?

He said it's not even serviceable. Will cost more to service it than get a new boiler.
Yeah, they all say that. More than $3200 to vacuum and replace a few parts?

Does that price seem reasonable?
Around here I would think the guy quoting that price was smokin' crack... DEPENDING on the boiler he plans to install, it's not a bad price...

Is it much to put a new one in myself? With help from family? Or should I not mess around with gas lines and all of that?
I don't think I would recommend it... there's just too much to learn in a short time... margin for error is too great.

By the way... to keep kitty away... you could use some wire garden fencing around the boiler.
 
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Old 01-21-12, 01:24 PM
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The flame-guard
What exactly is a 'flame guard' ?

causing the flames to shoot out the front when it first turns on.
Not 'causing', but ALLOWING maybe... the CAUSE is a plugged up boiler...

melting metal
Ummmmm... the boiler doesn't get hot enough to MELT metal. RUSTING metal, yeah, maybe...

Burners not in good shape
They probably just need cleaning...

Water pressure was "ok" but not as high as it should be.
That's got nothing to do with the boiler itself. That is a function of the 'pressure reducing valve' aka 'auto fill valve' aka... several other names.

Relay on it's way out, causing the humming noise.
Just because a relay hums does NOT mean it's 'on it's way out'. There's an easy fix for that... usually.
 
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Old 01-21-12, 01:31 PM
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I meant to ask ya, but forgot... what is that piece of green garden hose for ?
 
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Old 01-21-12, 06:28 PM
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I meant to ask ya, but forgot... what is that piece of green garden hose for ?


I'm not sure. It comes from the back of my water softener which is unplugged, off, and empty. But water does still drip out of the green hose into the drain on the floor. It's actually not garden hose, it's a clear green tube, about 1/2 the diameter of garden hose. There's also another one attached to the water softener but no water comes out of that one.

Well, the service guy said the boiler isn't serviceable because the shut off valves and such on the pipes are all corroded and would have to be replace, and all the other valves. He says the time and labor to fix those issues before he can get to the boiler and take that fully apart will add up (plus the needed parts) and be about just as much as a new boiler which will work better than this 50 year old one.

I'm not saying I trust the guy, but I have a feeling just about any company I call to service the boiler will tell me the same thing and try to sell a new boiler. I can't fix it myself, so I might be out of luck. I heard that some green energy program will give you loans for energy-efficient boilers at 2% interest rate. Maybe I should look into that.

My biggest issue right now is I just opened the door to the laundry room and smelled gas, bad. Obviously a leak. Either from the boiler, or the hot water heater (that had a leak during the home inspection, seller said they fixed it.) The best thing to do is call the power company? But I'm scared with what was said earlier in this topic about power company seeing boiler and shutting off the gas at the main. We have a gas fireplace, and gas oven, gas hot water heater, and gas dryer. So if that gets shut off (15 degrees fahrenheit here) we won't be able to live here. And it might be a week or two before I can scrape together the money for a new boiler.

Um as far as flame guard, I don't know. My memory fails me but I think that's what he said it was called. He showed it to me and it was a flat piece of steel plating with a 4" burnt out hole in the middle. The "melting" was my word, sorry. He actually said it "burnt a hole through" not "melted a hole through."
 
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Old 01-21-12, 06:43 PM
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My biggest issue right now is I just opened the door to the laundry room and smelled gas, bad. Obviously a leak.
As you must know, this is a major hazard!

Step 1: Call a qualified service-person, and pay him overtime to come out ASAP.

Step 2: The other alternative is to call the gas company - they will come right away, at no charge, and verify the leak - and then shut off your gas at the meter. Then go back to Step 1.
 
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Old 01-21-12, 07:44 PM
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2nd to gilmorrie.
Dont mess with a gas leak.
True, it doesnt take much to smell gas.. way before it gets to explosive mix levels..
BUT.. you cant tell that with your nose ! Plus, the more you are exposed to it, the less sensitive your nose will become to it.

Once you reach 100% of LEL (lower explosive level which isnt 100% gas, but the level at which it will ignite at), all it takes is an ignition point.. an appliance motor, a light switch, a smoker, etc etc
Gas leaks have blown houses into lumber bits.

Call the gas CO. If its a nice tech, and they find something simple, they might even fix it for ya (loose fitting etc).
 
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Old 02-09-12, 04:36 PM
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Kind of worrisome that photog's last post on the thread was talking about a gas leak, and nothing since... I hope all is well!
 
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Old 02-09-12, 05:45 PM
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I think it would have been in the news.
I hope he called for tech help and all is well.

Peter
 
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Old 02-09-12, 05:53 PM
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I'm not in NY to hear the local news, but maybe he was blown up? Hope not. But, anyway, like Elvis, he seems to have left the building. I suspect we'll never hear from him again here - even after trying to help him.
 
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