Steam heat boiler system


Old 12-03-02, 02:21 PM
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Angry Steam heat boiler system

We purchased our home 1 year ago. The heat is radiators with a steam heat boiler system. Radiators were never completly on all last winter, so we had them bled. That didn't seem to help much. About a week ago, the pipes starting banging loudly enough to wake us all up at night. This morning we smelled a burning smell like burnt sweet potatoes in the house. We realized it was coming from the boiler system (no smoke, just the smell), so we shut the gas and electrical supply off and called our gas company. The gas man told us it was indeed our heater smelling. He suspected it was because there was no water in the system. He drained the system on the side of the boiler into a bucket and nothing but gunk came out with the water. He then told us to remove the glass tube on the side and clean it out so we would be able to tell how much water was in the heater. It was so filled with gunk that it didn't even look like glass! He then told us how to refill the heater manually using the automatic feeder. We filled it to the water fill line, but since then we have not heard any water being put into the heater. The tube is only about a quarter of the way filled with water now. Some heating people we called told us a new automatic feeder was $1000. Another man told us it may need to be cleaned out. Someone is coming on Friday to clean the system. In the meantime, how do we keep the heater filled with water? Manually? And how often should we do it? Should the heater be on or off when we fill it? Sorry about the length of this letter but I would appreciate any help anyone can give!!!!! Thanks!!!
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Old 12-03-02, 03:55 PM
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: new jersey
Posts: 100
a couple things...

First let me preface this by stating that I am NOT an expert on steam heat. I'm actaully in a somewhat similar situation in that I'm new to a house with steam heat. Fortunately for me, I haven't had the problems you seem to be dealing with, but I can share some of the stuff I've learned.

1st, go to the web site. It has a significant amount of info on steam heat to help you get an idea of what the basics are of steam heat.

I don't have an automatic feeder for water, I add water periodically if the water level seems low (1/2 full or lower). The water level is supposed to be 1/2 to 3/4 up the glass tube. If your automatic feeder is not working I'd suggest adding water periodically to keep the level in this range. That being said, don't add to much water to the boiler at any one time. If you add too much water to the boiler you could crack it, because the water your adding is cold and too much cold water at once to a hot/warm boiler could cause such a dramatic temp change in the boiler it could crack. That being said, I've added water a few times now (always when the boiler is NOT firing) and haven't had any problems. The frequency with which you'll have to add water will depend on how tight your system is. The more steam/moisture that escapes (through air vents/loose joints/etc) the faster you're going to be needing to replace the water.

I can't really help you with the sludge issue, but I can't imagine that it's helpful. The banging you've been hearing is probably water hammer (not good), but there's a ton about it in the heatinghelp site and you'd be better served getting your info there than from me. There's lots of variables in getting your system to work correctly and balaced, but once you do (and I'm still working on the balancing thing) it doesn't seems that bad.

Good luck


P.S. you might want to wait until a more experienced person posts so they can debunk anything I might have told you that's wrong, but so far I've managed not to break my steam system.

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