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Thread: Bad DIY

  1. #1
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    Bad DIY

    Lifted this off one of the diy forums. It became so much of a dangerous situation that the diy mods closed the thread and instructed the guy to call a contractor.
    The danger that this guy put himself and others in by trying to work on something he admittedly knows nothing about.

    Please forgive my ignorance but I can't figure out how this system works.

    For starters, it is a Burnham boiler, oil fired (Carlin) and I would guess that it dates to around the 1970s. It provides hot water to the sinks and bath as well. The house is small, single story. It started as a bungalow and rooms were tacked on over the years. We bought it less than 10 years ago. I never really liked it but it was what we could afford. There is no basement, just a rather small crawl space that is very difficult to move around in. Some parts of the crawlspace under the additions are nearly impossible to access.

    I have gotten pretty good at servicing the oil burner. I can understand how it works and have taken it apart and put it back together several times. I took apart the circulator pump once as well, cleaned up the impeller and lubricated the motor.

    Sorry to be long winded but here is how / when this started: It was several years ago during a particularly bad cold spell with temperatures down in the single digits (Farenheit). I was sick as a dog with the flu or something flu-like. I was asleep most of the time and no one else noticed that the oil had run out and no one did anything about it until the house temperature was in the 40s and the women were complaining that there was no hot water for their hour long showers. Then the toilet overflowed and the sinks wouldn't drain.

    I'll spare you the grim details of how I crawled under the house, still not fully recovered from the flu, searched to no avail for broken pipes then stood in the sub-zero temperatures and cleared the line to the cesspool with a rented power auger.

    We have been heating the house with space heaters since then. All the boiler does now is heat water for the sinks and bath. The pressure gauge reads 0 and when I open the bleeders on the baseboards, nothing comes out - not even air.

    As I said, I looked for leaks both in the crawlspace and in the house baseboards. I had assumed that one of the baseboard pipes that run under the floor has frozen and cracked but I can't find anything. I do not understand why the system does not fill the baseboard pipes with water.

    I'd really like to get this thing working without calling in someone. We are on a tight budget and the money I would pay a pro will buy a lot of home heating oil. I fix everything else around the house. I should be able to fix this.

    It's been running this way for several years. There's water in it. It's just not getting to the baseboards. See what I mean about not understanding how the thing could work this way? I'll try to put up a picture later. We have to pop out right now to visit a sick relative.

    If there was no water in it, there wouldn't be water coming out of the hot water taps. Remember this boiler heats water for the sinks and shower / bath. There is either a double tank, a heat exchanger or some other system at work.

    I hooked up a garden hose to the tap in the baseboard pipe that comes off the boiler. I ran the other end to a cold water tap. I opened both valves. There was an etude of gurgling and surging sounds. I kept at it. At one point the pressure relief valve blew out a spout of water.

    I turned the thermostat up to 80 F and got the circulator pump to kick in. I then opened the bleeder valves in three spots. Quite a bit of air came out of each. I kept doing this, systematically. The pressure in the boiler dropped to 0 a couple of times and I refilled with the garden hose. At one point the pressure was up to 40 psi. Eventually, I became satisfied that the majority of air was out and the pressure stabilized at 20 psi. The radiators got nice and hot. I think I fixed it. I set the thermostat to 70 F and turned off all the space heaters.

    I'm going to keep it this way and see if it holds overnight. How all that air got in there is a mystery to me. My best guess is that the component that automatically refills the baseboards has malfunctioned.

    Thanks for the advice. I just wish someone could explain exactly how this thing works.
    Id say hes out of luck at this point, probably used it up running a boiler with little to no water for years then hooking it to city water and cold filling a hot boiler.
    I havent failed. Ive just found 10,000 ways that wont work. - Thomas Edison

    Its not whether you get knocked down, its whether you get up. - Vince Lombardi

    "In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics" - Homer Simpson

    Local 486 Instructor & Service Technician

  2. #2
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    Happens all the time, especially with oil. People seem a little more reluctant to diy with gas.
    Hope those flu symptoms weren't CO
    If I do a job in 30 minutes it's because I spent 30 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.

  3. #3
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    Thread Starter
    I’m less worried about CO with this one, really bad results can come from running the boiler low on water for years, and then dumping cold water at city pressure into a hot boiler.
    I havent failed. Ive just found 10,000 ways that wont work. - Thomas Edison

    Its not whether you get knocked down, its whether you get up. - Vince Lombardi

    "In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics" - Homer Simpson

    Local 486 Instructor & Service Technician

  4. #4
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    I feel I notice it on this forum as well, people more silly to try and work on gas furnaces than ac.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  5. #5
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    Maybe DIYers feel a oil furnace/boiler is easier than gas, A/C as all you need is not much more than couple crescents and a screwdriver and due to the simplicity of oil, not to mention the opening of the transformer ( like a car hood ) to get to the good stuff helps with confidence.

  6. #6
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    Im
    Surprised the house is still standing. All that from a failed fill valve more than likely. Couple
    Hundred bucks and he would be well on his way.


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  7. #7
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    Once you retire, you never have to deal with smarter people than yourself with these kinds of problems.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by icesailor View Post
    Once you retire, you never have to deal with smarter people than yourself with these kinds of problems.
    Long time no post! Hope retirement is going well for you.
    If I do a job in 30 minutes it's because I spent 30 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.

  9. #9
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    That 150# Well Extrol could be part of the failed equation.

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