Leak from oil burner after freeze this past winter


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Old 08-17-09, 09:21 AM
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Leak from oil burner after freeze this past winter

My mother-in-law's unoccupied house had a freeze this past winter when the oil co. neglected to deliver fuel automatically. She had burst pipes, water everywhere, the whole magilla.

A few weeks after the repairs, which was the next time the house was checked on, there was a new flood. A lot, I mean a lot, of water had leaked from what appears to be the bottom of the oil burner. That is, one can't see what's leaking, just that the water had come from under the sheet metal shell covering the unit.

I am only just getting involved now, months after the fact. I haven't seen the unit myself and the principals don't know what make the boiler is. Its the type that also would provide the domestic hot water. They were able to tell me that the leaking water was rusty. The supply water has been shut off.

I'm going to contact a service person from that area (I live 3 hrs away) and meet him there. Before I go I was wondering, from a generic perspective, what inside the boiler may have started leaking, and since it wasn't leaking (maybe) at the time of the original repairs could something have failed later but still have been a result of the freeze. And by repairs I mean the burst pipes. I don't think anything was done to the oil burner except that which would have been necessary to get it going after having run out of oil. New filter, etc. I suppose that the leak could have been there at the time of the repairs but slow enough at that time not to have revealed itself and that the volume of water was a result of the time that had elapsed before anyone checked on the house again.

Sorry I don't have more specifics, which I will after I get down there, but I wanted to be somewhat up to speed of the potentials, if possible, before I get there.

Thanks for any clues you may have.
 
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Old 08-18-09, 06:06 PM
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Leaking(?) Boiler

The boiler could be cracked, rusted out, or have a bad seal. If any of these are indeed the case, you are most likely looking at replacing the boiler. It is highly unlikely the freeze, unless the boiler itself froze, caused the problem. If the boiler froze, I certainly hope the people who started the boiler didn't do so while it was frozen. I also hope they stayed with the boiler long enough to make sure hot water was returning to the unit. Thermal shock caused by ice cold water being returned can crack a cast iron boiler.
 
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Old 08-19-09, 12:34 PM
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With that information in hand I will further question my other half. She was there when the boiler was re-started.

Would an unattended house, with the outside temp in single digits and no heat get cold enough for the water in the boiler to freeze?

The part that has me scratching my head is that it appeared that it didn't begin to leak for some time after having been re-started. At least there was no water coming out of the unit immediately after being re-started, otherwise they would have seen it at the time. Unless the rate at which the leak began was slow and either got worse over time, or the interval before she went back was great enough so that much water leaked out at a slow rate. I'm not sure (neither is she) how long it was before she checked on the house again. Some weeks anyway.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
gary
 
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Old 08-19-09, 04:15 PM
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Single Digit Temps

Depending upon how long the house was without heat, it is possible for a boiler to freeze in those temperatures, especially if the boiler is not in the basement.

If there is telephone service to the house, temperature triggered dialers are not expensive. Honeywell makes a device called a winter watchman which will turn on a light if the temperature drops below the set point. If you could make arrangements with a neighbor to call you if they see the light (usually a lamp placed near a window and having a colored bulb such as a yellow "bug light").
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Patriot Supply - S483B1002
 
 

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