Small leak in main boiler area??

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Old 12-30-13, 07:34 AM
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Leaky Boiler - dripping from overflow/pressure relief pipe

I just purchased a house and the hydrotherm boiler looked like it had never been serviced in 40 years. It was working but I figured proactive was good. I called a company to come clean and service. They apparently bled the system and in doing so somehow created a leak. The pipe that comes off the side where the pressure relief valve is now drips. My question here and reason to post is to figure out if the expansion tank is bad or the pressure relief is bad. SO far I have tried to determine it but have not come to a conclusion.

I checked pressure at the expansion tank, about 18-19 PSI with not the best bicycle tire pressure gauge. System was cold. No water came out. Valve is facing the ceiling, writing on tank is upside down.

Tap test - difficult to tell what is what. Best guess top of tank sounds full when warm, not full when cold.

Current state of things, incoming cold water valve before regulator is CLOSED. Leak does not happen in this state.

Opening incoming water valve causes leak to happen.

Pressure relief valve is almost certainly 40 years old. Expansion tank appears newer. Model 30 . Date code 5101038 . Not sure how to decipher this yet.

So... any clues as to how to figure if the issue is expansion tank, pressure relief (or regulator?) Thanks!!!

The plumbing supply place I went to said he would sell me the pressure relief but 9 times out of 10 its the expansion tank... I dont know and would like to save my knuckles (bit of work to get it out) and 40.00 he told me the pressure relief cost.

A few images attached for your viewing pleasure.
 
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Old 12-30-13, 08:29 AM
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For starters, you've read this, correct?

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...sion-tank.html

and this:

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...ure-gauge.html

What is the PRESSURE/TEMPERATURE gauge on the boiler reading?

You will NOT get an accurate pressure reading on the tank if there is any pressure at all in the boiler.

I would probably recommend replacing all three... tank, relief, reducing.

The tank for the simple reason that if the air charge has not been maintained, that bladder inside is in bad shape. I don't know how to decipher the code either, if it even is a date code, but they haven't used that style of label for quite a few many years now.

The relief valve for safety reasons. They're cheap.

The reducing valve because it is probably 'leaking through' and over pressurizing the system.

This is what happens to valves that don't get exercised and maintained.

BEFORE INSTALLING THE NEW REDUCING VALVE

You MUST FLUSH THE WATER LINE coming into the valve THOUROUGHLY! Guaranteed that there is 'crud' in that water line and if you don't flush it that crud will get into the new valve and screw it up. You'll be back where you started.

Devise some method of connecting a garden hose to it and run it FULL BLAST for several minutes to clear out that line.

I would advise that you upgrade while you are at it... add a BACKFLOW PREVENTER, a new BALL VALVE at the inlet side, and a new BALL VALVE at the outlet side so that future service won't require draining the boiler.

--domestic supply--ball valve--backflow preventer--reducing valve--ball valve--boiler--

0386463 - Watts 0386463 - B911, 1/2" Bronze Combination Fill Valve & Backflow Preventer, Threaded

It looks like you have plenty of room on that horizontal pipe run to do so.
 
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Old 12-30-13, 08:31 AM
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By the way...

The plumbing supply place I went to said he would sell me the pressure relief but 9 times out of 10 its the expansion tank...
Absolutely correct.

But if you are going to drain the system to replace the tank, there's no point in not doing it all at once and save the trouble to have to do it again.

Even though the tank is technically mounted 'upside down', you still should place the optional valves between the boiler and the tank as shown in the thread above.
 
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Old 12-30-13, 10:11 AM
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I cant believe missed it, but I did not release enough water to put the pressure at zero. I will do this the right way this time and check pressure on the expansion tank. Whups.

Pressure/temp on the boiler gauge was/is reading about 22 and 100. Pressure dipped down though to about 18 last night when temp came up to something like 140. Bucket was dry this morning, but the valve is still closed.

The side of the expansion tank says "Date of manufacture" or "date code" something like this. That led me to think this would tell me the year of manufacture. I guess it could be original then.

All the backflow and upgrades leads me into the next question and another thread I will post in a few minutes. Supposedly, I have a small pinhole water leak in the "guts" of the boiler.

Right now, Ill work on the expansion tank I think. The pressure relief valve seems to at least funtion well. When pressure got up to near 30, water was really coming out of the overflow. It never did get over 30. Makes me think its doing its job still. I may do both at the same time I guess.


Thanks for the advice.
 
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Old 12-30-13, 10:26 AM
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Small leak in main boiler area??

I had my hydrotherm serviced and the guy looked at it and said I have a very small pinhole type leak somewhere inside and I need an entire new unit. Well maybe. Apparently, the deductive reasoning used was there were stains on the front of the boiler, appeared to be from leaking over time. I did not see water and have yet to. I do not think the service person did either. I do see stains, and tons of crud about everywhere. I even see stains on other parts where at some point there was a leak.

Question: Is there definitive tests or probable tests I can do to get more information on if this is really leaking? I am fairly handy and given some steps and what to look for, I feel confident.

Barring any testing, I think I am going to roll the dice. If its leaking, its been that way a good long time and seems to heat and work without issue. At some point I guess it will stop working or leak real bad and I will need a new one. Any advice from the experts here?

Thanks!!
 
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Old 12-30-13, 10:27 AM
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Pressure/temp on the boiler gauge was/is reading about 22 and 100. Pressure dipped down though to about 18 last night when temp came up to something like 140
Something weird here...

22 PSI @ 100F

18 PSI @ 140F

Should not be.

Pressure MUST go up with hotter temps.

So, maybe you do have leak in boiler... better keep an eye on that pressure gauge if you're running with fill valve shut off!
 
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Old 12-30-13, 10:28 AM
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EDIT: Reply is in the wrong thread...
 

Last edited by tomf63; 12-30-13 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 12-30-13, 10:33 AM
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I had my hydrotherm serviced and the guy looked at it and said I have a very small pinhole type leak somewhere inside and I need an entire new unit. Well maybe.
BE VERY CAUTIOUS!

These days part of technicians job is to develop sales leads. They get commissions!

Is there definitive tests or probable tests I can do to get more information on if this is really leaking?
Dan, I'm going to combine your other thread with this one since a bit of the information is going to 'cross over'.

If you run the boiler with the fill valve shut for a period of time and carefully monitor and log the pressure and temperature readings, you would see if you are losing pressure, and thus a leak somewhere.

One thing to keep in mind with this though is that if fresh water has been added, there will be some air in the system. As that air leaves the system via the vent, the pressure will drop some... but if it drops drastically over the course of a week or two, you should have an idea about leaks.

The only sign of leakage that I can see on the OUTSIDE of the boiler is where the automatic air vent had been leaking, but now replaced.

By the way, that cap on top of the air vent should be LOOSE to allow air to escape, if it's tight and leaks when you open it, it needs replaced again.
 
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Old 12-30-13, 11:50 AM
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I think I am seeing the overall picture now. My understanding of this is.. The system should function normally with fresh water shut down, as its a closed system and theoretically shouldnt need additional water. However... leak(s) will change this dynamic and if I get very low on water in the system, very bad things happen. I should monitor and if pressure gets down to something low, maybe like 5 or something, I need to turn the water back on and refill the system before things start burning or breaking. (pressure is an indication of water level I assume?) Further, if pressure does go down low like 5 (random number, feel free to correct me) this is a good indication I have a leak somewhere, likely the boiler, and time for a new one.

If however, pressure stays fairly sane, somewhere roughly near 18-25 (feel free to correct these), then likelihood of a leak is minimal and I should be in good shape.

Do I have it??

I am going to throw a bit of a monkey wrench in here and ask about replacing the parts. I am thinking now to wait a week or so to replace any pieces to see if I have the "real", unrepairable leak.

Also, would the bad expansion tank account for fluctuations in pressure?


Ill post some images of the lower front part of this unit where the supposed leak is. Its a bit out of the camera image.

Thanks!!!!
 
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Old 12-30-13, 12:35 PM
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something low, maybe like 5 or something
I would monitor often... morning and evening at the start... and if pressure dropped below 12 I would add.

pressure is an indication of water level I assume?
Well... sort of... but not really.

A closed system is always to be FULL of water, so there is no level to speak of.

Pressure is pressure...

if pressure does go down low like 5 (random number, feel free to correct me) this is a good indication I have a leak somewhere, likely the boiler, and time for a new one... Also, would the bad expansion tank account for fluctuations in pressure?...
I wouldn't trust any pressure reading though... until I knew for 100% certainty that the expansion tank was properly charged, and the PRESSURE GAUGE on the boiler is accurate.

Might add that I wouldn't say MOST LIKELY the boiler... in fact, I might count that as LEAST likely.

Inspect the entire system carefully, as much of it as is visible. Look in particular for elbows, valves, fittings, that have greenish-whitish 'growths' coming from them. Leaks on a heating system won't be 'wet'. Water evaporates before you see it. When it evaporates it leaves behind mineral deposits and corrosion.

roughly near 18-25 (feel free to correct these)
25 is high...

When the system is COLD you want a MINIMUM of 12 PSI, and this setting would/could be maintained by the pressure reducing valve.

When the system is HOT, meaning at HIGH LIMIT (180F) you might see as much as 10 PSI higher (22) but typically more like 5 to 8 higher, depending on the water volume in the system. The more water, the more expansion, the higher the HOT pressure. Systems with a LOT of water in them require larger expansion tanks.

I am thinking now to wait a week or so to replace any pieces to see if I have the "real", unrepairable leak.
I think you should at least check and charge the expansion tank right away, and verify the pressure gauge is accurate.

You need to get to a 'known state' before making any judgements.
 
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Old 12-31-13, 06:42 AM
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Point taken. Will get to a good known state. I did monitor the pressure and temp though yesterday and this AM. Pressure about 18 at 140. Turned up controller a few degrees and pressure went up to 22 and 180. Not a drop of water coming out the overflow. Seems to have disappeared, though the fresh water incoming is still off. I assume it will reappear once the water is turned on.

I took some photos of the supposed leak area and attached a bunch here. I did also pick up a new expansion tank and will put that on tomorrow (happy new year?)
 
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Old 12-31-13, 06:52 AM
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That don't look good, but I'm unable to gain any 'perspective' as to where that actually is...

Is that the burner area? Looks like burner tubes in second photo?

That plate with the hole rusted through is the flame inspection cover above the burners?

It's possible that it's not a leak but flue gas condensation issues and the condensate that forms dripping down out of the heat exchanger.
 
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Old 12-31-13, 06:57 AM
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Dan, what does the system vent into? Masonry chimney?

What does the connecting flue pipe look like? Any white streaking down the side? Rusted out from the inside? recently replaced?

What type of radiation in the home? cast iron radiators?

Can we see the rest of the water distribution piping also? Huge pipes? converted gravity system?
 
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Old 12-31-13, 09:55 AM
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"..Dan, what does the system vent into? Masonry chimney?"

Yes, a masonry chimmney.


"What does the connecting flue pipe look like? Any white streaking down the side? Rusted out from the inside? recently replaced? "

Recently replaced piece. The exhaust gases were venting back into the basement, and not going up the flue. Former owner hired someone to repack the exhaust pipe where it exits the wall. That did nothing as far as I could tell, so the next step was to replace the "elbow" piece of the flue pipe (backdraft diverter?). I checked exhaust and it was in fact going up the flue. Assumption that it was fixed. I will look for stains on the remaining piece. Memory does not show me any stains though.

"What type of radiation in the home? cast iron radiators? "

Baseboard hot water. The white long finned metal with the hot water pipe running through.


"Can we see the rest of the water distribution piping also? Huge pipes? converted gravity system? "

Can get images tonight/tomorrow and post. They are not huge pipes. Average sized. Assuming gravity feed. Do not know the answer however.
Its a three zone system with outdated "roundish/cylindrical objects". The rest is my best guess from memory. They are wired into the boiler on the outflow side of things. I think these are control devices, opening and closing.

The images are all of the burner area. All images sky/ceiling is on the top of the images, ground is bottom. Image 1 with the cracked window is looking somewhat angled into the burner area (and yes that does seem to be an inspection cover in front of the burners) at the bottom of the boiler. The left side of that image is the left side of the boiler. Second image is the very bottom of the boiler, right side looking deep into the boiler. Pipe is what I will call the "burner pipe". 3rd image is similar to first, though more of a side shot. The left side of the boiler is mostly in view, the cracked window is the front of the boiler.

What I was trying to capture was the dark streaks/lines on the rectangular metal piece. The tech told me those were water stains from years of leaking. Not sure I buy into that.

More info and images to come in the next few days.

EDIT: Added photo to give good perspective.
 
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Old 12-31-13, 11:15 AM
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a masonry chimmney
Was it thoroughly inspected?

Baseboard hot water
Water dripping likely not a flue gas condensation issue then... good.

They are not huge pipes. Average sized. Assuming gravity feed
Probably not gravity... those pipes would be like 2-4" diameter if it were!

OK... if I'm not mistaken, the area of concern is directly below the circled area on the top. What it looks like to me is that the water leaking from the vent went inside... along that seam on top... and ran down.



Grab one of the wife's 'beauty mirrors' and a flashlight and take a look UP and see what you can see.
 
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Old 12-31-13, 12:52 PM
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Chimmney was inspected and I may or may not need a new flue liner. Hoping not. I will be addressing that sometime sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, you are assuming correct in the location. Here are two more images that will help I am sure. I will look up in there. Many items to locate from the move, including some of my tools and mirror. Hopefully tomorrow..
 
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Old 12-31-13, 02:57 PM
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Yeah, I don't think you are going to find a leak. I'm fairly conviced that what you are seeing is 'legacy' marks from previous leakage of the vent.

Happy New Year!
 
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Old 01-02-14, 05:02 AM
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So far pressure and temp remain in balance. Not one drop of water leak either. I did snap some more images of the entire system. Looks kind of scary. Have not installed yet the new expansion tank. I need to get to it then report what happens next.
 
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Old 01-05-14, 12:25 PM
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Good news is putting on new expansion tank was simple. Bad news is it did not stop the leak. I am guessing now regulator is needing replacement. Pressure at 100 was about 28. Have not fired up yet but planning on it soon. Regulator next step?

Also.. I noticed my electrozone controller valve leaking on the bottom of only one. This hPpened to be screwed all the way in whereas other zones look screewed all the way out or much much further out than the leaky one. Is it just a simple thing of unscrewwing more???

Images below. Note images upside down.
 
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Old 01-05-14, 12:34 PM
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Pressure at 100 was about 28. Have not fired up yet but planning on it soon. Regulator next step?
Yes. Looking closely at pics it appears that has been leaking too... take a look around the ring of screws holding the 'bell' on.

Good news is that you CAN run the boiler with the manual shut off closed...

AS LONG AS YOU DO DUE DILIGENCE IN WATCHING THE PRESSURE GAUGE!

Close the manual shut off and open a boiler drain to bring the system pressure down to 12 PSI, then close the manual shut off valve. Run boiler to HOT.

You should not see the pressure go much over 20, if that.
 
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Old 01-05-14, 12:40 PM
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I noticed my electrozone controller valve leaking on the bottom of only one. This hPpened to be screwed all the way in whereas other zones look screewed all the way out or much much further out than the leaky one. Is it just a simple thing of unscrewwing more???
No... I don't think so.

I'm not at all familiar with those valves other than what I've read recently on the net after looking at your system.

It seems that they are DC operated valves, whereas 'normal' valves run on AC voltage.

That 'controller' next to the valves is a DC power supply for the valves.

I suspect that when a valve is OPEN that shaft will be in one position, and when CLOSED another.

When you looked at the valves was one of the thermostats calling for heat?

Turn both t'stats all the way down... look at the stems... turn both all the way up, look at the stems... is my guess correct?

It also could be that those knurled knobs will MANUALLY open and close those valves.

All a mystery because I can't find any documentation on them.

Images below. Note images upside down.
I'm REALLY glad you said that because I was going to ask how the laws of gravity had been defeated at your home! Drips don't drip UP!
 
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Old 01-05-14, 12:44 PM
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I'd really like to learn more about those zone valves and the controller.

I can't read the labels in the pic... would you be so kind as to get close up shot, or transcribe ALL of the information from those labels, and anything you can find on the controller?
 
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Old 01-05-14, 02:02 PM
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First things first..a serious thank you is in order. next can I disassemble the regulator, cut a new gasket clear any crudd i find? Or is it really a replacement job?

I tried your theory. Excellent thought but the zone I turned heat up on the screw did not close. Hot water was flowing through the zone pipe. I took one step further amd turned the heat off to the closed screw zone thinking maybe it would open. Did not happen. I actually do think one or valves arnot working quite right. Temp in housd does not line up with tstat settings. Usually higher.

Pictures below. Inside cover schematic and images.
 
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Old 01-05-14, 03:38 PM
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next can I disassemble the regulator, cut a new gasket clear any crudd i find? Or is it really a replacement job?
I wouldn't even try... in past years I've actually bought rebuild kits for some pressure valves hoping to save the trouble of replacement. Didn't work... get a replacement... a BRONZE one (some are cast iron)

It does sound like a bad valve... not closing maybe...

Going to look at pics now.
 
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Old 01-05-14, 03:58 PM
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Note that it says:

"To open manually turn bottom screw in until tight"

It could be that the valve wasn't working and at some point someone did do just that.

All my best Googling couldn't come up with anything, so apparently the company is out of the business, no replacement parts... nada...

Best bet I think at this point is plan on some rework in the spring with some modern zone valves.
 
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