|Leaking Boiler Tube|
|Written by John Abbott|
|Tuesday, 30 November 2010 07:02|
My project list is so long, I figure I will never die. But, this Thanksgiving break I was knockin'em down. Pictures hung. Telephone wires run. Toys glued back together. I was sailing along. The Traeger was in need of cleaning as well. I usually put it off until I get a little bit of smoke smell in the basement and that was happening on Saturday. So, Sunday morning it didn't get its ration of pellets. I let it burn out and by afternoon it was cooled off. I pulled the lid off the smoke box and went to work with the shop vac. Then, started pulling out the turbulators. Or trying, I should say, because about half of them seemed stuck. It wasn't until I got to about the sixth one that I started getting a clue what was going on. It came right out, but it also came out wet.
A wet turbulator means the boiler is leaking. Horrible news. It was not a happy moment. I went ahead and cleaned it up, noticing the brush came up wet each time I ran it up and down the tube. You know how it is when you sweat copper pipes and sometimes you will have a very small pin hole leak. I don't know about you but I tend to just leave those leaks. A couple of days later they tend to seal themselves up. Maybe not for the next hundred years, but long enough for me. I was really hoping that if I put fire back to this boiler, this leak would be the same way. Hey, I guy has to have some hope in life, right?But, not surprising to at least a few of the visitors of this site, there are no such miracles. If anything it seemed like it was leaking worse. Opening up the firebox door and looking up at the underside of the boiler, drips were coming about every second. Many of them were going straight to vapor. Some were leaking down into the fire pot. Many of them were hitting beside it and the ash was growing wet.
I took to the forum where I posted: http://www.iburncorn.com/forum/33-pinnacle-stoves-traeger/909-guessing-this-is-really-bad-news The consensus was pretty clear. It was repairable, but not where it sat. It was going to have to come apart. And a day's worth of labor no matter who does it, I was looking at doing it myself. I asked for advice on the forum.Now sort of to qualify their customer my advisors asked me if I felt confident in taking something like this apart. And, if I had ever taken something this complicated apart before. I replied to the positive. It was only after I was a-ways in to disassembly, it came to me a more salient question would be "Have you ever put something this complicated back together". I documented everything, took lots of pictures. I am sure there will be pictures missing, that I wished I had, when I go to put it back together again, but I think I got most of it.
I have to thank Sting, who haunts the Traeger topic here at IBC. Nothing short of a set of instructions was mailed to me by Sting. I followed them well. I have a few modifications to these instructions along the way, but it was an outstanding breakdown of what I had to do, the order I had to do it in, and where to begin. Amazing he was able to produce this just out of his head, without seeing my situation. Again, I thank you.
Sadly, my boiler was not installed with sufficient thought to future trouble. Even though I own two boilers, there is no boiler bypass on either unit. So, I didn't have the ability to just toggle some valves and fire up the other boiler. Instead, I have to cut and solder together 1-1/4" pipe to build a bypass now.There were also no unions in the copper pipe. In the back of the boiler, it wasn't a big deal because the pumps in a way act as a union. A place where the pipe can be pulled apart. In the front however I needed to resort to a hack saw. Also note how low the shut off valve is. I have to cut below that valve unless I want to drain all my radiators. So, I have to cut here, below this valve, then plumb back up to the ceiling with 1-1/4. If the valve was up high, I wouldn't have to do that. from this valve going down, I will plumb in a T for the bypass, then a cap for now. Eventually it will have a union, then down into the boiler.
After the water is disconnected I first pulled off the hopper. There was a double row of sheet metal screws inside the hopper up near the top. Then there four bolts around the base. I am not sure this hopper really would have had to be removed separately. If there are two of you working, I would just disconnect the hopper auger assembly from side of the boiler. Supporting it from underneath with some wood blocks and a person on each side, it would save you a step.Ok, so thats what I did. But, I think the better thing to do first is to unwire it. Detach the wires up from the low limit snap disk up on the smoke box. All you have to do, is remove the cover plate and pull the wires from the spade connectors sticking out from the snap disk. I photographed the order of the wires but I don't think this component it really makes a difference. Then, open the cover to the aqua stat. Here it is critical to record the position of the wires. I used my digital camera. …Ahem, that is to say, I used The Wife's digital camera… That I gave to her for Christmas last year and I use 90% of the time… to photograph the wires before I detach them. Let me say again. Here, it is critical to get these wires back in the right positions. You can't go by my photos either. Things change, wire colors might change, there might be more wires. Your setup might be different than mine. Record them now, however you need to, be it photo or pencil and paper, or you are going to be reading the Traeger manual schematic and hoping you understand it.
If you do this first, you will be sitting good here. If you remove your hopper, the next step is to remove the feed system. In my older boiler, this is also the location of the draft fan. This whole assembly can be taken off as one chunk. Just remove the four nuts around where this square feed tube enters the boiler. It can be slid out. It isn't really too heavy. But, like I mentioned, if you are going to leave the hopper attached, you need two people, and some degree of caution. Supporting the assembly from underneeth would allow you to slide it out more or less square, until it is free.
This would also be a good time to clean everything up with the shop vac. It is also a good time to look at the end of the feed tube and the end of the auger. Sometimes carbon buildup occurs on the auger end. In the photo, you can see my feed assembly with hopper detached. You can also see my draft fan which is located in the base of my boiler. Newer ones have this draft fan connected to the smoke box. A much safer configuration, because if the feed stops for any reason the fire will be less likely to burn back up the feed tube. Something that occurs often in my burner. The only thing protecting me is the heat sensor in the feed tube that cuts off the draft fan.
Now you have basically a square box of a boiler. The next step is to remove all the sheet metal covers. Life is good if you have a socket. My quarter inch socket was missing so I had a wrench. An electric socket would make really fast work of this. You have to remove nearly ever sheet metal screw on the exterior surface. The cover on my boiler was all interlocking. So before any of the larger cover pieces could be removed, all the screws had to be out. I wrote on the back of all the small black trim pieces with a Sharpie marker, where they came from.
With all the sheet metal off, remove the smoke box. Good luck. I couldn't get mine off. The bolts in it seemed to be 10mm. Or they had corroded evenly. They didn't want to budge. By the time I got to this point I was tired. I didn't try any WD-40 on them. Nor did I try to get them off with a vice grip. So, they might be able to be removed yet.
I had to move on to the next step. With my respirator in place, I un-wired and then removed the boiler insulation. Mine was aluminum taped just above the firebox door. Take that tape off before you unwrap the insulation. There is a lot of dust. Don't breathe it. I took the shop vac and cleaned the insulation dust off the outer surface of the boiler.There are four bolts just above knee high that connect the boiler tank to the firebox base. Pull the four nuts off and the boiler tank can be lifted off. I called in number one son and his friend, along with myself we were able to get the tank off.
So, it is all a-part. Next step I will have it sand blasted and it will be determined how extensive the damage is. That will get me a cost to repair. Then, I can compare prices to a replacement part from Pinnacle/Traeger.I installed this boiler in 2004. So six years. Not a very long time. But, I am sure it is out of warrantee. I feel like one problem I have with my setup is my boiler temperature will sometimes drop considerably when the main heating zone calls for heat. It can go from two hundred degrees to the bottom of the gauge in a fairly short amount of time. If I had a buffer tank (basically a large tank of hot water beside the boiler) the drop would be considerably less/slower. I know that sort of temperature change is hard on boilers, but six years seems like a really short time to me. Last year Natural gas prices were so low we didn't run it at all. So five burning seasons. Once it is sand blasted we should be able to get a better idea. If it is pitted on the wet side, inside the boiler where the water is it could be electrolysis, water PH, or water conditioning. But, more likely it will be on the fire side, so it could mean I didn't clean it well enough for the off season. I should find this out in the next couple of days.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 23 December 2010 02:01|