Published onJune 30th, 2022
How to Maintain the Automatic Water Feeder for a Steam Boiler
Keeping the commercial boiler running smoothly is a top priority for management in New York City’s many condominium and co-operative buildings. Not only does the boiler provide steam heat for radiators, but it often supplies hot water as well. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how the boiler system’s different components work. Here’s what you need to know about maintaining the automatic water feeder for a steam boiler in your property, so you always have the heat and hot water your occupants need.
Keeping Your Steam Boiler Automatic Water Feeder in Top Condition
Pay attention to normal fluctuations in water demand
One of the easiest things you can do to maintain your automatic water feeder is to pay attention to the daily ebb and flow of water demand in your building. The feeder should operate more often when the need for steam heat is highest, such as first thing in the morning and around the time folks are returning home from work.
If you find your feeder running more than expected, it will run up your water bill and potentially cause the boiler tank to overfill. Also, it puts excess wear and tear on the feeder itself. If the water feeder is activated more than normal, check to see if it’s due to one of these issues:
- Leak in the boiler causing water loss
- Problem with the condensate return lines
- Low-water cutoff malfunctioning, triggering frequent activation
- Settings on the feeder controller in need of adjustment
If these don’t yield any obvious answers, it may be that there’s a mechanical problem with the feeder that needs attention from Calray Boilers or our partners at Antler Pumps.
Repair boiler leaks
If your boiler has a sizable leak, it stands to reason that the automatic water feeder will need to run more frequently to make up for lost water. So, it’s important to repair boiler leaks or replace the boiler entirely if it’s in bad shape. This will also save on water consumption. Typically, worn spots in the boiler tank that develop into holes are caused by corrosion (see next section).
Treat boiler water to correct pH
Water that is too acidic is a common problem for commercial boilers. You can correct this by using additives in the water to bring the tank water to the proper pH. This process also helps eliminate other unwanted material in the boiler, even at the microscopic level, so the water is cleaner and doesn’t leave buildup on the boiler’s interior tubes that can reduce its efficiency and shorten its lifespan. We are happy to help you develop a boiler water treatment plan that’s right for your boiler and water chemistry.
Ensure your condensate return lines are functioning well
Boiler systems in New York City channel condensate from radiators back to the boiler to be reused. This helps keep the boiler and water feeder running for years longer. The condensate is warm, so it doesn’t take much to turn it into steam again, and it decreases the frequency with which the water feeder needs to run, thereby reducing wear and tear on this part of the system.
Common Steam Boiler Automatic Water Feeder Questions
Why do boiler automatic water feeders fail?
There are a number of reasons why your steam boiler automatic water feeder may be failing. Some of the top ones we see are:
- Water feeder is old and reaching the end of its normal lifespan
- Improper settings for feeder controls
- Water feeder clogged by sediment or hard water buildup (can be fixed with strainer or filtration system)
- Mechanical problem with feeder (broken valve, pump motor malfunctioning, etc.)
- Poor regular maintenance of boiler system
How are the low-water cutoff and automatic water feeder connected?
By law, your boiler is equipped with a low-water cutoff. This device prevents dry running of the boiler in case it fails to fill properly with water. Dry running can be catastrophic for the boiler and even cause life-threatening explosions.
If the low-water cutoff is not working properly, it could either not trigger the automatic water feeder when it should or it could activate the feeder too often when it’s not needed. For this reason, you must also keep your low-water cutoff in perfect condition and check it if there is a problem with the automatic feeder.
What if the automatic water feeder won’t turn on or shut off when it should?
As discussed above, a water feeder could be erroneously triggered or heeded by a faulty low-water cutoff. Also, a malfunction of the steam return system could result in the automatic feeder running continually. Other causes of failure to turn on or stop running include:
- The feeder model is not up to the demand placed on it and must run constantly to compensate.
- Electrical problems (shorts, frayed wires, electrical panel failure) are causing the feeder pump not to turn on.
- Faulty air valves in steam radiators are causing problems with the balance of steam/condensate that should be returned to the boiler system.
- There is not enough of a time delay between the return of condensate to the boiler and activation of the automatic water feeder.
- A power loss, blackout, or brownout causes false triggering of the low-water cutoff, which in turn activates the feeder to overfill the boiler by running endlessly.
Is it worth upgrading your steam boiler automatic water feeder?
In many cases, we find it advantageous for properties to upgrade their automatic water feeders. Newer models have better fail-safes and more precise controls that only activate the feeder when needed, so you don’t waste water or put undue wear on the feeder. Some also have alarms or lockout mechanisms that alert you and prevent boiler overfilling or dry running if there is a problem with the low-water cutoff.
If your building’s automatic boiler water feeder is overdue for a professional service check or needs to be replaced, Calray Boilers welcomes the opportunity to assist you. Call us at 212-722-5506 to schedule an appointment at your convenience. Now is the perfect time before heat season starts up again!