My hot water oil furnace has been giving off really obnoxious fumes for 8 years. It's something I've had to learn to live with (coughing, watery eyes, etc) because my oil company can't find the cause. As the fumes aren't positive for CO, it's never been a big emergency to them.
The company that's been servicing the furnace and supplying oil is the same company that installed it new in October of 1997. The old one was one of those huge old iron ones from the early 1900's, and they didn't remove it, so they had to install all new water pipes to the new one.
When the fumes first began in 2001, they first told me I needed a chimney liner. So, $2500 later, when that made no difference, they told me that moisture was somehow getting into the furnace and creating massive amounts of scale, and that might be the problem. But no one could find the source of the moisture. I was put on 'special' service contract, where I paid an extra $100 per year to have a scaling/cleaning done every year instead of every 3 years.
This past year I did a great deal of traveling for work so wasn't ever around long enough to having a servicing done. It's now been well over a year since the last one.
Last week I went down into the basement and almost had a canary when I looked at the furnace. There's a water valve located directly above the furnace, and it was dripping - badly - directly down into the furnace. The valve is on the water pipe that comes out of the top of the furnace and extends out to the pipes upstairs. It had been dripping so long that it had burned a big hole in the flue pipe coming out of the top of the furnace.
My question is this: does it make any sense whatsoever to install a valve in a water pipe directly above the furnace? There was plenty of space elsewhere on the pipe that the valve could have been installed so if it did ever drip it would drip onto the floor. Is this improper installation? Could this be the reason for all the fumes?
The only valve that would or should drip is the pressure relief valve. That's a safety valve in case the boiler malfunctions and the pressure in the hot water lines gets to high and pops the valve. Here code is a Relief valve has to be piped so its below the unit or 2" off the floor.
Does this valve have a little metal tag on it and a flip lever?
Many valves are above or around a boiler. Can't avoid it at times.
Describe valve in detail. Its it out of the valve or where it connects to the pipe?
Is it like a big thick tee or a big 90 fitting Brass ? A flow control valve? Does it have an arrow on it?
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It makes no difference what kind of valve it is since the valve is causing a problem. Get it repaired or replaced pronto and have any damage flue pipe replaced (not patched or repaired). Escaping flue gas/CO can make you sick or in heavy enough consentrations kill you in your sleep.
Valves can be placed anywhere as long as they are not concealed in a wall space or covered over to prevent access with out a identified access plate.
While this could be the cause of the water problem I am sure it would have been noticed before by the service company or yourself. Not knowing the exact brand and model number of your boiler keeps me from looking it up to see if the manufacturer has posted a design flaw/recall for water leaks. Post the brand and Exact model number if you would like that info.
Thank you both for your replies - I'm answering you both:
1. The pipe that the leaking lever is on might not be to the pipes upstairs - it might be the water intake pipe. There are 3 pipes coming out of the boiler: #1 from the lower front, which separates into 2 and has knobs and faucets (I'm assuming these go upstairs - I think they're purge faucets). 2 pipes come out of the top: #1 is capped off, and #2 is the pipe with the leaking valve. This one is also attached to a large round grey cylinder.
The leaking valve has no faucet or round knob (as the 'purge' ones do). It's just a long red plastic-covered lever that looks like it could be turned horizontally (I didn't want to try it). It's attached to a brass hexagonal nut which is attached to the pipe. It's unmarked - no tags. No arrows on it.
I can't tell where exactly the 'drip' is coming from. It's dripping down into the boiler from the hexagonal nut, but since the nut is the lowest point, it could be from the pipe and leaking down onto the nut.
2. The boiler is a Peerless Boiler Model No. WBV3 section complete (with no external hot water heat exchanger). Exact model number: WBV-03-085-W
When I discovered it, I patched the flue pipe with metal tape to cover the hole in the flue, and wrapped the leaking valve in a towel to absorb the water. My oil company is coming on Monday to repair & clean it.
The smell in this house is horrendous -- but again, my CO detectors are detecting nothing. The fumes aren't constant, but when they arrive, they're really nauseating. Aside from making me sick, I haven't been able to have people in for the past 8 years for fear of making them sick too. I hope one - or both! - of you can help...
CO is not the only nasty particulate that oil burners create and CO detectors will not go off unless it is a CO problem.
Improperly running or vented oil burner units can cause watery eyes and many other symptoms with out a CO reading.
The file below will tell the service people Exactly how to tune and set your boilers oil burner depending upon the type installed during manufacturer. Have them check there work and nozzle size etc during there visit.
To cool of a return water temperature can and will cause condensation in that old boiler. You need to know the return water temperature. Anything under 140 degrees is a warning point with 130 degrees being a true condensation point that can and will cause boiler problems. (note this temp can vary from install to install but not by much) This is the problem I believe you might have.
So here is what you need to post
The type of radiant devices you have or how the heat comes out in your home.
Baseboard,cast iron radiators,fan coils,or in floor heat are a few posibilitys so post the type you have.
Next we need the return water temperature taken after the boiler has been running for at least 5 minutes with all zones flowing.
Finally is this a close picture of the boiler you have?
And here is a service set up list for your boiler with the different style burners. Have the service men check the specs against what you boiler is adjusted to and nozzle size.
You're right about the fumes - they really are obnoxious, even though apparently they don't contain CO. I'm coughing and my eyes water constantly...
I'll give the service people the sheet you sent me. This has been an ongoing problem for 8 years though, so I know they've experimented with different nozzle sizes to see if it would help - it hasn't - and the draft in my chimney (where the boiler vents) has always been right where it should be.
I have 1 zone only and it's all baseboard heating.
I assume the 'water return temp' is what's on the gauge on the front of my boiler. Anyway, after the boiler ran for 5 minutes the psi was just under 20 and the water temp was 180.
Yes, the photo you attached looks like the same type boiler - I've attached photos of mine, as well as one of the valve that's dripping.
Do you have a gas water heater? It looks like it in the picture and it also looks like both units boiler and water heater use the same flue? Not good since one is a powered burner (oil boiler) and the other is gravity.
First picture shows water/condensation marks on the flue pipe. The water temp reading you are giving is the temp of the water in the boiler. To measure return temp it is the pipe on the right side with the pump on it should be the return.
Second picture looks like condensation (liquid) has been running down the outside of the pipe and if that is so then it is also running down the inside of the pipe.
Third pic is of a standard ball valve. It is a bit unusual for those to leak at the stem but I have seen it before
I do have a gas water heater, and yes, both the water heater and the boiler vent into the same chimney liner in the chimney. I've never been told by anyone (the oil company or my plumber) that venting these together into the same liner could be a problem. If the draft reading is where it should be, is this still something they should look into?
Should there be a gauge to measure the return water temp? The only gauge on the boiler is the one on the front. How do I measure the return water temp?
The water/condensation marks shown on the flue pipe are very likely from the dripping water coming from the ball valve (pictured) directly over it. The metal tape covering a large part of the flue pipe was put on by me to cover the hole in it created by the dripping water. When I spoke to the head of servicing yesterday, he told me that any water dripping down from that valve into the boiler would burn off before it reached the boiler so it wouldn't be a problem. Is that true?
If that ball valve has been dripping - very slowly (no one seems to have noticed it before, but it's dripping excessively now) - into the boiler for a long time, could that possibly be the reason for the excessive scaling in the boiler and the fumes?
The venting of both oil and gas appliances into the same chimney is allowed as long as there calculations said the chimney flue area is of sufficient size and a liner is installed if necessary. Seems like you are covered from what your previous post said.
Quote: 2006 INTERNATIONAL FUEL GAS CODEĀ® CHIMNEYS AND VENTS -
"503.5.7.4 Combination gas- and oil fuel-burning appliances. A listed combination gas- and oil fuel-burning appliance shall be permitted to be connected to a single chimney flue. The chimney flue shall be sized to properly vent the appliance."
When the boiler is not running both in the winter and especially in the summer the water dripping can accumulate in and around the boiler and when the boiler fires the water will turn to steam and evaporate. It is possible some of this water is finding its way into the burner chamber area and the scaling could be caused by that. Also basements always have moisture in them and that can also be part of the problem.
The return water line does not have a temperature gauge on it and the temperature has to be taken with a water temp meter or gauge attached to the pipe for accuracy. Have them check the temperature for you when they arrive as part of there service.
The leaking valve could be part of the problem but that remains to be seen. Post back after your service is performed and post what they have done to eliminate not only the water drip problem but also your complaint about the fumes you smell and the problems they cause.(coughing, watery eyes, etc)
Number one I would put a chimney cap on ,that's a ton of condensation comind down that flue and are you sure they used flue pipe not light gage duct pipe and the front of the boiler is all burn't I'd like to know the flue temp below the damper seeing all that condesation and there saying there is a negative .01 over the fire and -.03 in the breach I'd like to see those readings and what does the combustion analyzer read that will tell you the story. Mikie D.
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