Ancient Boiler Issues

21 Replies

General Question:
Several of my rentals have boilers across the spectrum of quality and age.  My oldest boiler is in a 5 BR 2 BA house.  It's been producing a LOT of carbon monoxide, so much that I feel like it's a hazard to go into the basement to work on it.

Does anyone have any ideas about how I can 1) reduce the amount of carbon monoxide produced or 2) better mitigate?

You're letting people live in a house you know has an incredibly dangerous boiler?  Including (presumably, in a 5 bdr) children?  You'll end up in jail.  Sometimes you need to bite the bullet and have a professional fix things, and replace them if necessary.

Thanks for the advice.  The boiler is currently off (based on the advice of a hired plumber), so there's no danger to anyone in the house.  I'm trying to figure out if there's any way to fix it before I go all in on a new boiler.  I'm fortunate enough to have a tiny window of time to try and perform some due diligence here.

Not a DIY job, unless you actually know what you are doing.  You're going to kill someone.  This thread is literally scary.

Jeremy,

Call in a Plumber to take a look at teh boiler. It could be several different things, including the boiler not being properly vented.

Are we talking steam, hot water boiler? Furnace? How old are we talking?

Don't take a chance, not worth it. HAve it looked at by a professional.

regards,

Chris

I am having a second plumber come in and look at it today.  I don't know enough about 15-yr old (Steam, i believe) boilers to know whether or not I'm about to get rooked.

Richard, I'm categorically disinterested in DIY in this case, so rest easy.  Any work that's to be done will be carried out by a professional.

Once I hear back from the plumber, I'll post updates.

Good, not meaning to be insulting, but this stuff kills people.

While it is not running, take a close look at the vent pipe, especially the underside or side closer the basement wall.  Make sure there are no holes.  They rot, especially in wet basements.  If you are lucky, that is all it is and it should be about $120.  

Finally got word back from my plumber.

Option #1: $900 repair, replace several boiler internals (Expected to 'solve problem' for three years).

Option #2: $2000 replacement, just hit that reset (warrantied)

I'm leaning toward option #1, not simply because it's cheaper, but because it puts me on the clock to replace the boiler with something else (cough cough furnace).  If I but in a brand new boiler, I'm going to expect a minimum of 10 years of good service out of it.

A Boiler isnt that complicated. Essentially, it heats water ( whereas a furnace heats air). Steam is more annoying than hot water, ive found, due to pressure and recirculation issues, in addition to how hot the radiators actually can get vs hot water, where burning someone seems almost inevitable.

Did the plumber tell you what the problem he was fixing is???? I wouldn't agree to anything repair wise until he shows you whats required to be done and why....if you have a co problem youve got a ducting/ventilation issue and 900 seems awfully expensive

Or a cracked heat exchanger, for which $900 is not bad.

I'll post details of the estimate once I have it in hand, so far i've only had a phone conversation about it.  I'm not authorizing the work until I'm 100% on board with the plan and the reason.

Don't know about the CO mitigation but that is likely the burner.  Do you plan to put in another type of heat system altogether eventually?  You might want to get an idea of how feasible/expensive that is while you are this path before you decide repair vs replace.         

And from experience I can tell you not all plumbers are equal.  The plumber was clueless on the boiler and  we had to get a heating company to do repairs. Very competently and reasonable but not a plumber,  I would assume you have two experienced guys for quotes.

Originally posted by @Jeremy Pace:

Finally got word back from my plumber.

Option #1: $900 repair, replace several boiler internals (Expected to 'solve problem' for three years).

Option #2: $2000 replacement, just hit that reset (warrantied)

I'm leaning toward option #1, not simply because it's cheaper, but because it puts me on the clock to replace the boiler with something else (cough cough furnace).  If I but in a brand new boiler, I'm going to expect a minimum of 10 years of good service out of it.

 Jeremy:

Take a long-term operational view for a moment.  How much more efficient is the new boiler versus the old ...15%, 40%... more?  Factory you ongoing operation costs into your decision and determine the length of your payback on the $1100 difference.  Up here we we have long and serious winter, going from anything 20+ years old (75% efficiency) to a newer 85 - 95% efficient boiler would payback in 3-5-yrs

1(506) 471-4126

Chances are the heat exchanger is corroded and plugged up.

I read (internet) that muratic acid and water 50/50 mix can clean it. If a yearly clean was done this probably would not have got this bad. Take the advice of the plumber over mine, he is actually looking at the boiler. If they get too corroded you may be better to just replace it.

Updated over 3 years ago

It is probably a corroded or plugged heat exchanger. There are methods on the internet to clean them. A yearly cleaning is advised. Use the advice of your plumber because he is actually inspecting the boiler.

Sorry I tried to change my ealier post but it only updated it.

I am in no way giving advice on how to clean the boiler.

Heat exchanger needing repair + age of boiler equals replace. 15 year old boiler suffering from all that heat induced expansion/ contraction already in need of heat exchanger work means a crack isn't far away.

I hate boilers. Water is a constant hassle and destroys everything. Do yourself a favor and save the money to put forced air in. Run some ductwork and a furnace, scrap the metal and radiators, and never have to think about the pure evil known as water again.

Diagnosis: bonnet are some other components are badly corroded and need replaced.

Updated over 3 years ago

bonnet and**

I love steam - and it loves me. <g>  Steam systems purr like happy kittens for me.  Most people these days are ignorant of steam and so always condemn it.  But steam heating is wonderful, simple, quiet, and reliable.  And no circulator pumps.

Someone earlier mentioned 15 years as when a boiler might need to be replaced.  This is nonsense.

What is a "bonnet" ?  I have been working on boilers for 40 years and I have never heard of a boiler or heating system part with that name.  Maybe it is a regional expression?

stephen
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Originally posted by @Jeremy Pace :

Diagnosis: bonnet are some other components are badly corroded and need replaced.

A normal byproduct of combustion is Carbon Dioxide.  The abnormal byproduct of combustion;  Carbon Monoxide, results from burning fuels in the presence of insufficient oxygen.  So the short answer is that your boiler has either too much fuel - or too little air.  When was the last time that it was cleaned and fully serviced?  And I mean:  REALLY cleaned? <g>

How about the chimney service?  When was that last done?

Is this boiler gas or oil fired?

stephen
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Originally posted by @Jeremy Pace :

General Question:
Several of my rentals have boilers across the spectrum of quality and age.  My oldest boiler is in a 5 BR 2 BA house.  It's been producing a LOT of carbon monoxide, so much that I feel like it's a hazard to go into the basement to work on it.

Does anyone have any ideas about how I can 1) reduce the amount of carbon monoxide produced or 2) better mitigate?

@Stephen S.

The man who owned this house before me did a very poor job of maintaining this boiler, and he allowed the air in the basement to be damp, which made it even worse.

The 'bonnet' is the part in this picture that looks like a mushroom sitting on top of the boiler (this is not my image, i just google image searched it)

http://www.merrypad.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11...


Thanks for the pic.  That item is called a Draft Hood by boiler manufacturers and everyone that I know of.  

Chimney's create an updraft within themselves - a negative pressure.  Sometimes a great deal of draft.  And on a gas fired heating appliance of that type very little actual draft is actually required.  The draft hood is open on it's underside so that any negative pressure, beyond the minimum required by the boiler, sucks in only room temperature air - rather than sevevel-hundred-degree flue gas, which you have paid to heat.

A barometric damper on an oil fired unit accomplishes the same task but a Draft Hood has no moving parts.  




Originally posted by @Jeremy Pace :

@Stephen S.

The man who owned this house before me did a very poor job of maintaining this boiler, and he allowed the air in the basement to be damp, which made it even worse.

The 'bonnet' is the part in this picture that looks like a mushroom sitting on top of the boiler (this is not my image, i just google image searched it)

http://www.merrypad.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11...

Because of the issues I've had with this boiler (which has since been replaced with a furnace ._. long, expensive story) I've established an annual pre/post season cleaning and inspection process for all of my other units with boilers.  I'm hoping that I can prevent the others from sharing the same fate.

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