Steam Boiler - Leak In Pipe?

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LCF

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I was hoping for some advice on a leak I just found in my steam boiler. I have only been in the house for a year and this is the first steam system I've ever owned so I don't know much about how it works or what each pipe does but I was hoping for some help.

I am attaching 3 photos. The first photo shows the leak, and it looks like a pinhole. The second photo shows where the pipe joins another series of smaller pipes, and the third photo shows the box on the floor that all those pipes go into.

I noticed it leaking when my boiler was not on and don't know if this is pressurized and I will have a serious problem or not. The oil company that services my house told me that these sort of leaks are not common as water doesn't actually sit inside of the pipes so I am not sure why it's leaking.

Is there any way to patch the hole? If not, do I need to have this pipe replaced immediately or can I wait until spring? Thanks!

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John Gayewski

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I was hoping for some advice on a leak I just found in my steam boiler. I have only been in the house for a year and this is the first steam system I've ever owned so I don't know much about how it works or what each pipe does but I was hoping for some help.

I am attaching 3 photos. The first photo shows the leak, and it looks like a pinhole. The second photo shows where the pipe joins another series of smaller pipes, and the third photo shows the box on the floor that all those pipes go into.

I noticed it leaking when my boiler was not on and don't know if this is pressurized and I will have a serious problem or not. The oil company that services my house told me that these sort of leaks are not common as water doesn't actually sit inside of the pipes so I am not sure why it's leaking.

Is there any way to patch the hole? If not, do I need to have this pipe replaced immediately or can I wait until spring? Thanks!
Can you circle the leak on the other picture so we can see where it is in relation to the condensate receptor?

It looks like you have dry returns which would mean your condensate pump might need some work or your water line might be too high. It all kind of depends on where this leak is in relation to everything.
 
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LCF

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Can you circle the leak on the other picture so we can see where it is in relation to the condensate receptor?

It looks like you have dry returns which would mean your condensate pump might need some work or your water line might be too high. It all kind of depends on where this leak is in relation to everything.
There is only the one leak circled in yellow. The other 2 photos show where the leaking pipe leads to. I am guessing the box on the floor is the condensate receptor?
 

LCF

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Can you circle the leak on the other picture so we can see where it is in relation to the condensate receptor?

It looks like you have dry returns which would mean your condensate pump might need some work or your water line might be too high. It all kind of depends on where this leak is in relation to everything.

The leaking return pipe is several feet above the boiler water line. Does this mean it's full of water and shouldn't be? I am also seeing steam coming out of the condensate receptor vent and never did before today.
 

John Gayewski

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The leaking return pipe is several feet above the boiler water line. Does this mean it's full of water and shouldn't be? I am also seeing steam coming out of the condensate receptor vent and never did before today.
It's hard to say. You said your boiler is off. If the boiler is off how could you see steam coming from the vent? To me the boile being off means the gas is shut off and there's no power to it.

If your boiler is on and your seeing steam during an off cycle that should be normal. The steam in the system returns to condensate during the off cycle.

I think I would be sure there are no sags in the pipe, be sure you have good slope, and put a band aid on it. If it is actually rot from normal operation then it won't take long for more holes to develope.
 

LCF

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Sorry about that. By "off" I just meant that the oil burner wasn't firing. So if steam is coming out of the condensate vent when it's not firing I am guessing that is normal?

I have ordered a stainless pipe repair sleeve from SupplyHouse but I still don't know why water would be driving. Is it normal for water to be in that return pipe 30 feet from the condensate receptor?

Thanks
 

Sylvan

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Spring time replace all the black piping on the steam return

Reason being the piping is already starting to give up the ghost

As water is heated the condensate is more acidic then the feed water

This is why the return lines usually fail faster
 

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Fitter30

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Steel pipe isn't smooth it traps water doesn't dry out all winter then pipe rusts out after 20 years and its wet all heating season long. Boiler treatment helps but water chemistry has to be correct to keep the the boiler from priming where the water in the site glass fills and leaves over and over filling the boiler and system with water. Oxygen in the water in detrimental to the boiler and piping.
 
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LCF

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Thank you all for the input. I put a 5 gallon bucket underneath the pinhole and it was overflowing when I woke up this morning. Is 5 gallons of water in less than 24 hours normal on a return line? Where does the water go once it gets back to the condensate receptor?

Regarding boiler treatment, I am assuming that the system keeps replenishing itself with water as water inside of it is lost. I see water piping going some valve beside the sight glass. We already have low PH water from our well and I run it through a neutralizer (not a softener) that raises the PH up to 7.

I ordered a stainless pipe patch sleeve that was supposed to be delivered today but we have a bad snow storm so I am guessing it will be here tomorrow.
 

John Gayewski

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Thank you all for the input. I put a 5 gallon bucket underneath the pinhole and it was overflowing when I woke up this morning. Is 5 gallons of water in less than 24 hours normal on a return line? Where does the water go once it gets back to the condensate receptor?

Regarding boiler treatment, I am assuming that the system keeps replenishing itself with water as water inside of it is lost. I see water piping going some valve beside the sight glass. We already have low PH water from our well and I run it through a neutralizer (not a softener) that raises the PH up to 7.

I ordered a stainless pipe patch sleeve that was supposed to be delivered today but we have a bad snow storm so I am guessing it will be here tomorrow.
The water for your steam boiler needs to return to the boiler. If it doesn't the fill valve puts fresh water into your boiler. This is really bad. Your boiler will have a hole eaten in it in no time.

PATCH THE HOLE.
 

LCF

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Will patch as soon as it arrives. Regarding treatment, is this something I should be doing? If so, do you recommend a specific product to help keep the water inside the system alkaline and also to prevent corrosion? The previous owners of the house never did anything as they didn't live here full time so I am finding a lot of things that need to be corrected.
 

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Will patch as soon as it arrives. Regarding treatment, is this something I should be doing? If so, do you recommend a specific product to help keep the water inside the system alkaline and also to prevent corrosion? The previous owners of the house never did anything as they didn't live here full time so I am finding a lot of things that need to be corrected.
A closed system shouldn't need anything unless there is a measurable imbalance. Once the water has been turned into steam one time it's been treated. The mud that forms on the bottom of the boiler needs blown out regularly.
 

LCF

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A closed system shouldn't need anything unless there is a measurable imbalance. Once the water has been turned into steam one time it's been treated. The mud that forms on the bottom of the boiler needs blown out regularly.

Thank you John and everyone else. Invaluable information! My last question is about the mud draining. There is a valve that my oil company told me to open every week or two into a bucket. If I open the valve while the boiler is firing water just keeps coming out non stop and it never turns clear (it is very rusty). If I open it when the boiler is not firing, it glugs a little bit and some nasty water comes out but not a lot. Should I only drain it when the boiler is not firing, or should I drain it when it's firing until it runs clear?
 

John Gayewski

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Thank you John and everyone else. Invaluable information! My last question is about the mud draining. There is a valve that my oil company told me to open every week or two into a bucket. If I open the valve while the boiler is firing water just keeps coming out non stop and it never turns clear (it is very rusty). If I open it when the boiler is not firing, it glugs a little bit and some nasty water comes out but not a lot. Should I only drain it when the boiler is not firing, or should I drain it when it's firing until it runs clear?
Are you using the boiler of domestic hot water?
 

John Gayewski

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I think blow down in the fall/ winter when you start it up and that would be it. Judy my opinion.

The point is to NOT have fresh oxygen rich water entering the boiler. You want the deleted h20 in your boiler or else your just asking for more mud.
 

LCF

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If I open the valve to drain it while it's firing, won't it add more fresh water? My boiler company said to drain it weekly if possible. The other day I drained about 5 gallons of nasty water and it didn't turn clear. I'm assuming that more water was added because I drained it.
 

Sylvan

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You should post a few pictures as you maybe draining the automatic feeder and the blow down is at the bottom of a boiler

Also if you drain too much water there is a possibility of thermo shocking the boiler

As stated all fresh water contains oxygen and this a steel pipe and boiler killer
 
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