Dino of Montgomery Wards Boiler having issues, help!!

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Old 12-11-12, 10:14 PM
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Question Dino of Montgomery Wards Boiler having issues, help!!

Ok, I only know it's a montgomery wards boiler (model #SHL7126C) heat system (water, not steam) because of the plate. Can't find a lick of info on this bugger. We inherited the house, and my better half has the mechanical mind of an overripe banana. Nothing. So, here I go... It's bubbling and gurgling like mad. We've had the house for 14 years since dad died, no troubles, and the boiler is the original to the house. What we don't know if it was new when the house was built (1962), as this house was built with recycled leftovers from the restoration of the old First Bank building from downtown St. Paul, MN. Hey, grumpy was into recycling before it was cool... Anyway, we have 3 zones, one for the bedrooms, one for the living spaces, and one for the basement. We never ran the basement zone, it just plain stayed warm enough down there. We ran it for the first time in at least 15 years this fall, which resulted in the bubbling. I've bled the system until my fingers have fallen off (baseboard heating). It has a metal expansion tank (no isolating valve to allow me to drain it, but there is so much air in the system that I don't think that is the issue). I've also tried bleeding directly from the expansion tank (highest point in the system) and it seems to have let a good amount of air out, yet there is still a good amount of bubbling and noise. I don't know much about boilers, but want to be very well educated before I let some 20 year old in again to mess with it because the last two visits have left us with much more problems. Argh! Ok, maybe you ask questions, and I answer, not sure what I should put down. Any help would be appreciated.

Here's some pics: Boiler Photos by Trooperchix | Photobucket
 
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Old 12-12-12, 12:15 AM
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I'm not the boiler pro......just making some observations. One of those guys will be thru later.

That THING in your second picture is a valve with service drain port. It appears that the valve handle is ATM. (among the missing)

Looks like the T & P valve on top of boiler could use replacing. Pretty rusty and no discharge line attached.

Looks like the wire is falling out of the circulator pump.

Looks like the water supply to boiler is shut off and I don't see any auto fill water valve.

I'm not a big fan of copper pipe on the gas water heater. Make sure the copper doesn't touch other metal items.....like the exhaust vent line.

I'm not sure how that B & G Airtrol works.

I don't see any expansion tank in the system.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 12:40 AM
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PJ has made excellent observations. He missed the flex conduit falling out of one of the zone valves.

The Bell & Gossett "airtrol" fitting is a vertical in-line air separator and the smaller pipe (right hand side) goes to the expansion tank.

I can just barely see the pressure gauge if I download the picture and then enlarge it. It appears that the pressure is low but since I cannot see it clearly I cannot state that as fact. If it IS low then you need to add water to the system and bring it up to at least 12 psi with the boiler cold or maybe 15 psi with the boiler hot.

You should NEVER release air from the expansion tank. IF, and only if, the pressure in the system is going high will you need to do any service on the expansion tank...unless of course it is leaking due to corrosion.

Take a few more pictures and include the expansion tank and all of its fittings. Show a good clear shot of the pressure and temperature gauge as well.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 11:44 AM
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That THING in your second picture is a valve with service drain port. It appears that the valve handle is ATM. (among the missing)

Are you speaking of the pressure valve on top of the boiler itself next to the pressure guage? I've tested it, and it works like a charm. I intend to replace it this summer (it's single digits weather outside right now). I also intend to replace the pressure gauge as well. It's old, and I can't be sure it is accurate. Pic below:



If you are speaking to the weird nipple looking thing (pic below) up on the piping to the expansion tank, please tell me more. I spent a great deal of time using a wire brush cleaning that bugger up, and I don't think it is functional. Methinks it is to vent air out of the system? The plumber kid said he wasn't sure it was functional and didn't know what to do with it. He spent a lot of time on the phone consulting with other plumbers, but gosh forbid someone come help the guy. I need to replace it and don't have a tinker's fart of an idea how to go about that or what would work.




I will also be replacing the what should be flexible metal conduit at that point. That lovely change happened when the snot-nosed kid plumber came (twice) and took a bunch of parts off the boiler, with no explanation. I suppose, plumbers aren't electricians, but he could have bent some conduit and lengthened it to where the circulator pump is now.

Looks like the water supply to boiler is shut off and I don't see any auto fill water valve.
He also took out the auto fill valve, saying the old bell type was no longer up to code, but didn't replace it with a new one, hence the hand valve. I'd think a boiler tech worth his salt would have replaced it with something that was up to code. It was never offered as an option. I have some serious anger issues with the plumber kid, we shelled out a ridiculous amount of money for him to guess at what he was doing. Yes, that yellow handle is the manual valve for new water. Funny thing? There are two of those manual valves to control the water to the pump, sitting about 2 feet apart. Not sure why he had to add the second one where he took the bell out.



I'm not a big fan of copper pipe on the gas water heater. Make sure the copper doesn't touch other metal items.....like the exhaust vent line.

They aren't touching at all. The copper that appears to be so close is the gas line, and they are a good 12" apart at least. Ah, the limits of 2 dimensional pictures.



I can just barely see the pressure gauge if I download the picture and then enlarge it. It appears that the pressure is low but since I cannot see it clearly I cannot state that as fact. If it IS low then you need to add water to the system and bring it up to at least 12 psi with the boiler cold or maybe 15 psi with the boiler hot.
We were told to keep it at 20 psi, but when we should measure that was not made clear. Cold or hot? I've been keeping it between 17 and 20. Now, what I remember Grumpy telling us, was to keep it at 15, but Grumpy was a bridge builder and not a plumber, so who knows. This is why I'm looking for the manual to this old dino. I can get variance numbers, etc.

Ok, I will take the additional pics you requested. Nothing much fun to look at except for a big expansion tank mounted in the top of a closet. No valves cut off the expansion tank, just the valve on the tank itself to drain it. Just a pipe from the basement to the expansion tank. No float window to show how much water is in the tank either. Works well though, my winter coats are always warm.

You should NEVER release air from the expansion tank. IF, and only if, the pressure in the system is going high will you need to do any service on the expansion tank...unless of course it is leaking due to corrosion.


I'm with you there, and it worked. I wasn't woken up every time the system cycled. My pressure maintained, no fluctuation. I can still hear little bubbles in the system going through the airtrol, but not the behemoths that was there to begin with. I figure a good thorough system bleeder by bleeder run around the house to be sure there is enough water in the system would be in order. Woke up warm this morning in spite of Minnesota's best effort to freeze us. Oh and yes, the area has been cleaned up.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 03:03 PM
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Hey! are we related somehow?

That THING in your second picture is a valve with service drain port. It appears that the valve handle is ATM. (among the missing)
He means this:



And that is what's left of a valve. The square part on the end of the stem is where the handle would have gone. The little round thing on the end is I think what's left of a screw. That valve was leaking from the 'packing' around the stem for a long time. It needs replaced, yes. I would replace it with a FULL PORT BALL VALVE. Don't use one of them cheap chinese ones from the big box store, you need a REAL valve that will work when you want it to.

By the way, I would not be at all surprised if you look around there, you might find the handle for that valve. Might be hanging on a nail in a corner... it was probably removed to discourage anyone from accidentally closing that valve while the system was in operation, which would cause the pressure to go nutz and the relief valve to spew, and someone might have extra laundry to do.

It is a good idea when the valve is replaced to do the same, remove the handle and hang on a nail. And to put a prominent tag on the valve itself what it's purpose is and to not close when boiler is in operation.

My recommendation would be something like this:



50623 - Webstone 50623 - 5062 Series 3/4" CxC Full Port Forged Brass Ball Valve w/ Bleeder

That valve is used to isolate the tank from the rest of the system so that the tank can be drained when (or IF) it becomes waterlogged.

What condition is the tank in the closet? Rusted?
Is there a drain valve on it? [yes, I see you did say that there is...]

Can you show us a pic of it?

That gold Airtrol is a good thing.



It is an 'air separator'. The pipe on the left that carries the water to the system actually 'dips' down inside this thing, below the water line inside it. Any air that makes it's way through the system floats to the top and is passed back to the expansion tank where it belongs. The water going to the system is relatively air-free because it's taking water from below the surface. Those old things worked very well. Keep it!

In this picture it can also be seen that it appears there may be a leak at the fitting on the top of the pump... that greenish whitish crusty stuff usually means a leak... or a 'weep'.
 

Last edited by NJT; 12-12-12 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 12-12-12, 03:12 PM
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I do NOT like that gas line, not one little bit! IMHO that is just WRONG! That might be the first thing I would have fixed.

Elbow straight down the wall to a 'drip tee' in black piping, and then into the water heater gas supply. It would be OK to use a flex line from the pipe into the water heater as long as it's a code accepted one. [ usually YELLOW plastic coating on them ]

Like this:


image courtesy nachi.org

Me personally probably wouldn't mess with the gas myself. I don't trust gas and don't recommend that homeowners mess with it.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 03:31 PM
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This pic shows that possible leaky connection at the pump flange.

If that is repaired, I would advise that an 'isolation flange be used:



I can't really tell what size pipe that is, maybe 1-1/4... so these may not be the right size, but you get the idea.

SF-100S - Taco SF-100S - 1" Sweat Shut-Off Freedom Swivel-Flange Set

I like these particular ones because they are very 'forgiving' on alignment because the flanges are free of the valve and can be rotated as needed.

Using these valves makes a 15 minute job out of a pump change that might otherwise take HOURS or more because it eliminated the need to drain the system.

This photo also shows a SAFETY PRESSURE RELIEF VALVE is very bad condition, and mounted improperly.

That valve should be mounted UPRIGHT. When replaced, an elbow needs to be used so it can be mounted properly. It also needs to be piped down to within 6" of the floor so that no one can be injured in the event anyone is standing near and it happens to go off for any reason.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 03:50 PM
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I do NOT like that gas line, not one little bit! IMHO that is just WRONG!

Why? May be an LP system. Its quite common....As long as proper flare connections. Even if NG whats the issue?

If that is repaired, I would advise that an 'isolation flange be used:


Dont like them...Just my opinion....
 
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Old 12-12-12, 03:52 PM
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Funny thing? There are two of those manual valves to control the water to the pump, sitting about 2 feet apart. Not sure why he had to add the second one where he took the bell out.
Actually, that's a GOOD THING.

Now, in order to install the new valve, along with a Watts 9D backflow preventer, you just close both valves, install the new stuff between, and open the valves again.

He may or may not have known what he was doing, but even if he didn't, he inadvertently made someone's life a lot easier!

I always recommend an 'upgrade' when installing this stuff... because these regulator and backflow preventers can be fouled by 'debris' in the water, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE SCREENS IN THEM, I would recommend that you also add a WYE STRAINER upstream.

Before installing any new valve, FLUSH THE BEJEEZUS outta that line! You don't want a brand new valve ruined by crud getting into it.

And, since I believe that domestic plumbing 'dead ends' are a BAD THING because without regular water flowing dirt and debris can collect in the pipe leading to valve failure, and not the least, creepy little bacteria can grow in dead ends like that, to add a hose spigot ahead of the WYE STRAINER in order to occasionally FLUSH that line out.

Here is what I did with my recent new boiler install here at home:



Since this pic was taken, I've also added a small ball valve to the plugged fitting on the bottom of the wye strainer to periodically flush that screen out.

There is another ball valve shut off down below on the water line, and that fancy valve on the left has a shut off too... same as yours in function. Anything goes wrong, I can isolate that section and repair as needed...

On the right you can see the hose spigot, next to the left the wye strainer, next the 9D, next the pressure regulator.

Oh yeah, you can see the circulator isolation flange up above too...
 
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Old 12-12-12, 04:00 PM
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In this pic, and Furd mentioned the 'zone valves' earlier, and the one with the cable popping out of it, it makes me wonder if you might have 120VAC zone valves. It would not be 'normal' to use that metal sheathed cable for low voltage wiring... nothing wrong with doing so, but it just isn't seen. Usually if you see that type of cable you should assume that it is 120 VAC. BE CAREFUL! 120VAC can KILL YOU! but see if you can SAFELY get make/model information off those valves.

[ How odd that your block foundation walls are 'straight stacked' ! ]
 
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Old 12-12-12, 04:05 PM
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whats the issue?
Prone to damage, accident waiting to happen. Way it's installed too easy to bump and cause leak, all that torque on the pipe... un-workmanlike installation.

Can't see the gas valve end, but I just BET there's no drip leg there, and with the age of those pipes how long do ya think before those rust flakes clog up that brand new gas valve?

T'chix, can ya take a pic of where the copper connects to the gas valve on the WH?

Not so much the fact that it's copper which some ppl take exception to, just the way it's installed. Just my NSHO!
 
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Old 12-12-12, 04:06 PM
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Dont like them...Just my opinion....
Why? what's the issue?
 
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