Steam boiler problem - How do I tell if glass is full or not? It's cloudy and

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Old 02-11-13, 08:32 PM
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Exclamation Steam boiler problem - How do I tell if glass is full or not? It's cloudy and

I had a few problems with the boiler.

First, I turned up the thermostat for the heat to come up.

I drained some of the water from the boiler since I hadn't done that in a while.

A little while later, the pipes started banging like crazy along with one of the upstairs radiators.

I shut down the boiler , and cleaned up the water that had come out of that upstairs radiator.

I bought a new valve for that radiator and installed it, thinking the problem was fixed, and turned the boiler back on.

The valve above the boiler (I never noticed this one before) started spitting out water.

I shut off the boiler again, shut off water coming into the house, and kept draining water from the boiler. I finally got it to stop spurting water but I still have trouble The sight glass is kind of cloudy and it's hard to tell whether it's full or empty. It looks likes it's full, but I'm not sure.
 

Last edited by NJT; 02-11-13 at 09:17 PM.
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Old 02-11-13, 09:15 PM
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Chris, it sounds to me as if this system is new to you? Have you just moved into a home with steam heat?

I believe that you have 'flooded' the system.

The gauge glass can be taken apart and cleaned...

The water is only supposed to come about half way up the gauge glass tube. A steam boiler should NEVER be 'full' of water!

I think you need to learn about how to run your steam heat system.

Tell us the history you have (or don't have) with this system.
 
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Old 02-12-13, 05:25 AM
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Before you go taking it apart and messing with the glass's O rings and face the risk of cracking the tube, try this if you dare. It'll leave you with cleaner water in the glass tube and show you if it's flooded.

On the underside of the glass tube assembly there's a small drain valve, it looks like a nut. It unscrews to open, water drains out from the tube. Don't remove the nut, just loosen it.

Close the bottom gauge valve, open tube valve to drain water that's only in the glass tube, close tube valve, open gauge valve to fill glass tube, repeat. Close the bottom gauge valve, open tube valve to drain only the water that's in the glass tube, close tube valve, open gauge valve to fill glass tube and repeat again. You'll be changing the water in the tube and flushing it; that ought to make the level a lot easier to see. Might take several cycles but should work.

With the glass tube drained, and just after you reopen the lower gauge valve, if the water level in the gauge shoots over the top of the glass tube for sure it's flooded.

Hope this is understandable.
 
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Old 02-12-13, 06:27 AM
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Good idea OldGuy, should help with little/no risk...

The valve above the boiler (I never noticed this one before) started spitting out water.
This is what makes me think it's flooded, I believe this may be a main steam vent...

Chris, tell us the make/model of the boiler.

Before you go messing with that glass, you will want to have replacement seals/O-rings on hand, the glass tube is fairly expensive, so you might not want to keep a spare, but it's not a bad idea to have one on hand.

I believe that you will also benefit from reading this book:

Heating Help

This is probably the best $25 you could spend on your heating system.
 
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Old 02-12-13, 07:04 AM
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I'm not disagreeing with you NJT, contrary actually, but it sounds like removing or replacing the glass for any reason wouldn't be an ideal proposition for this member. It needs to cut to length, the nuts turned just so... you know the drill. Based on his comments that might not be wise.

I could only visualize the glass tube breaking as it's removed from a flooded boiler.
 
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Old 02-12-13, 08:17 AM
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I understand OldGuy, no worries, and I agree.

The risk of damaging something sounds quite high... and mid-winter is not the time to attempt to acquire a new skill set by experimentation.

Still, the boiler can't be run if it's flooded.

Perhaps the best advice to give Chris at this time is to find a STEAM QUALIFIED technician to come and bail him out so that there is heat in the home.

While the tech is there, ask him to show the things that a homeowner needs to do in order to keep the heat running...

The one thing that needs to be stressed is that a steam heat system is not a 'set it and forget it' type of heating system. There is routine maintenance that must be learned and due diligence taken to keep it running properly.
 
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Old 02-13-13, 04:13 PM
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The Steam boiker

It could be that your low watwe cutoff/ automatic make up valve chamber is full of mud, and causing the float in there from reaching the bottom of itt's travel. and causing the biler to slowly to over fill. To check this. try to open the drain valve om the bottom of the LWCO and see what comes out. If nothing comes out, then while you have the valve open, push a medium size screwdriver, or a stick, or anything no thicker than 1/2 inch, and see what comes out. Be carefull not to get scalded with hot water.As for the guage glass, even if it is cloudy, you should see the water level. If you still have trouble maintaining the water level, you can shut off the watr supply to the boiler, and check it daily to be shure the water level is good [about half way in the glass]. The low water cutoff should be opened, and cleaned out,after the weather warms up a bit. When you drain/flush the LWCO, it might be enough to get you through the winter. It's not rocket science, as every home heating systems years ago were ethier steam, or gravity hot air and just about everyone took care of them themselves. But buy the book, or find an old retired plumber and pick his brain, you know the drill.
Sid
 
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Old 02-13-13, 04:16 PM
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Chris is a 'fly-by'. He posted his question and never came back... oh well.
 
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