Slightly OT : Get to know your rig

precaud Posted By precaud, Jun 20, 2006 at 2:18 PM

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. precaud

    precaud
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jan 20, 2006
    2,305
    41
    Loc:
    Sunny New Mexico
    Thought I'd pass on this story. My house is 76 years old and has a steam radiator system with an ancient Bryant boiler. At the very end of last heating season, the boiler started flooding, so I shut it down and the woodstove carried us through the last couple weeks.

    Last week, I had two plumbers come out to assess it and quote the repair. One guy I've dealt with several times, he's been reliable and honest. The other is the local "expert" on these old steam systems.

    Both did simple tests (though they didn't break any unions to isolate the issue) and both said that the feeder valve was bad. They recommended replacement of it, the low water level controls and, "while we're at it", all the pipe that connects it. Neither one would quote it firm, but estimated $1200 and $1500. The "expert" also suggested that, rather than dump money into this old thing, I might want to consider a new, more efficient boiler. 5 grand plus for that.

    I cringed. This can't be. Since I'm relying more and more on wood for heat, I didn't want to dump this kind of dough into the boiler. So I studied the water feed system. Thank god for the internet. Found the manual for the auto feeder valve and read it. Did the tests they suggested. And it sure looked to me like the feeder valve was fine, but the bypass valve might be the culprit. So I pulled it, put a new washer and o-ring in it, reassembled, flushed the boiler, and refilled. Voila. The water came up, the feeder valve clicked, and the water level stopped exactly where it should. And stayed there. Yesterday, despite 94-degree heat, I fired the boiler up to make sure the level held. No problems.

    Total cost of repair: $2.18 .

    It certainly pays to overcome the intimidation factor of these big systems and learn how they work!
     
  2. Shane

    Shane
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 21, 2005
    1,831
    3
    Loc:
    Casper Wyoming
    The true test of honesty would have been to hire one of those guys for the job and see if they tell you the truth or if they went ahead with replacing the feeder valve. Of course thats only if you have an extra 1500 to pay them :) I've ordered a control board or two in my time that turned out to not be the problem, you just have to eat crow and stock it. It's embarrasing to tell your customer you've misdiagnosed the problem. They're usually really happy if it costs less than anticipated, but if it's more.... That's awesome that you were able to fix it yourself for so little though.
     
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson
    Mod Emeritus 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 18, 2005
    5,875
    147
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    That's a great story precaud. Congratulations.

    You're absolutely right about getting to know your physical plant. It's hard to describe the satisfaction you feel when you do something like that. And given the amount of free information available on the internet, there's really no excuse for not trying to sort these things out yourself if you want to. Like here, there are pros on some of these boards who will help you diagnose just about any problem and walk you through the repair.
     
  4. precaud

    precaud
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jan 20, 2006
    2,305
    41
    Loc:
    Sunny New Mexico
    You're absolutely right, Eric. My 'lesson learned' : exhaust my own resources and efforts (with the help of the internet!) BEFORE calling the pros next time.
     
  5. wg_bent

    wg_bent
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 19, 2005
    2,248
    7
    Loc:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Yes, I agreee totally. A few years ago, I had a guy come in and tell me that my Burnham boiler (for hot water baseboard) furnace was shot an needed replacement for a cost of 6500 bucks to remove the old and install new. NFW!!! so I started digging a bit, and found that If I removed the internal rock wool combustion chamber and replaced it with a wetpack, life would be good. About 3 hours later and 70 bucks for the wet pack, my furnace was very happy.

    2 years later, another furnace "expert" again suggested I spend the cash to replace it because my hot water flow was poor. After an acid wash through the hot water coil, it's running at peak efficiency, and the latest "expert" claims I'd only get an increase of about 3% if I replaced the unit. I don't think so!!!!!

    The only thing I see is that since installing the Osburn, the furnace is only doing hot water duty, and that's not what it's most efficient at.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page