Boiler Blows Up

Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: hophead On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 8:56 am

Yesterday the local paper reported a womans furnace blew up. I think they meant boiler. Any how it was said to move the house off the foundation mushrooming the first floor putting the carpet and throw pillows up to the first floor ceiling. Sounds like she had some water feed problems. As a retired HVAC person I urge all who read to make sure your boilers water feed is working properly and have your system serviced by a quality heating contractor each and every year. The things I've read that some of you do makes me cringe. Blatent plumbing and code violations. Going to numerous schools and seminars throughout your working life in this buisness is a must. Do you operate on yourself too. Think about it. This person probally had some shmuck down the street or an all knowing relative work on her boiler.
Stove/Furnace Make: efm520

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: Matthaus On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 9:55 am

I agree whole heartedly with your words of caution (all of us need to use this incident as cause to review what we are doing), however just because a person is a professional doesn't mean they can't make a mistake. I have been involved with too many incident investigations to believe that hiring a professional assures no problems. ;)
Stoker Coal Boiler: Leisure Line WL110 Dual Fuel, natural gas
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Leisure Line Lil' Heater (rental house)
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Buckwheat Anthracite

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: LsFarm On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:05 am

About the only way to develop that amount of expansion or explosive force would be for the PRV, Pressure Relief Valve to be blocked, clogged or plugged. Then have the boiler run way past all the normal safety overrides and get so hot that the water all flashed to steam,, and the steam pressure exceeded the boiler's limits..

Getting a plumber to work on our old systems is a problem.. most plumbers only want to work on new instalations, just sawzall out the old, throw it away and install new... for a fat proffit.. This forces many people with older but perfectly servicable heating appliances to get whatever service that they can from who ever says that they will work on it..

The Heating industry has it's share of rip-off artists just like so many other fields.. auto mechanics, automatic transmission facilities, Tire and Brake 'repair' shops. I've seen with my own cars/trucks and my families cars/trucks way too many instances of pure rip-off.. Unfortunately, this mentality also is wide spread in the heating and cooling industry.. The 'duct cleaning' services.. that charge Hundreds to lift up a few duct covers and wave a vacuum hose down the first few feet of a duct... I'm sorry,, the ONLY way to truely clean ducts is to dissassemble at least part of the ductwork to provide access to the long runs. Unless sophisticated robotic vacuum sweepers are used... and they are not.

Heating and cooling guys who point out a bit of surface rust on a boiler or furnace cabinet, and use this as an indication that the unit is 'corroding away'.. well most basements are damp,, and the paint quality on metal cabinets is not great.. so of course it rusts.. But the internals are fine.. This is pure rip-off scare-tactics used to remove cash from homeowners pockets.... Hell, the rip-off installers usually SELL the removed unit as a 'removed for upgrade' unit, with the explaination that the house had an addition added... I've seen this exact proceedure at work several times.. I even bought one of the 'replaced for upgrade' units... it was only 7 years old, and had zero rust internally,,, just a few spots on the cabinet..I knew the house that it was removed from.. the scare tactics were sucessful. And a perfectly good unit was removed, sold to others as servicable, and a new unit installed... for a substancial sum of cash..

Anyway.. Safety comes first.. PRVs must work, if they leak, replace them.. Use CO detectors, and test them. Your family and your health come first... money and convienience second..

Sorry about the rant..
Greg L
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

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Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: Freddy On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:22 am

Might have been a propane or natural gas explosion? Hard saying not knowing.

I like the idea of a low water cut off on boilers. It's law here, but not in most states. About $100 and you get some peace of mind. I know they're not perfect, but one more safegaurd isn't a bad idea.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 130 (pea)
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Reading piece o' junk in the barn (rice)
Coal Size/Type: Pea size, Superior, deep mined

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: Sting On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:30 am


Recall your kind words to me regarding the dead beats of the industry:

Lets stay positive here!

Other Heating: BurnHAM=NG-gas

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: hophead On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:46 am

I do think I said quality. Also educating yourself to the level that you don't get ripped off is your responsibility.
Stove/Furnace Make: efm520

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: LsFarm On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:52 am

Hi Sting...

Well I pointed a finger at TWO of my own professions too: I'm a certified truck/car mechanic... and have been for decades..AND I rebuild custom truck automatic transmissions... I also have built several houses from the hole in the ground up, and have rebuilt several houses too... So I'm quite familiar with the problems in the industry...

And don't even get me started on inspectors... !!

The bottom line is that just calling in and following the advice from an unknown plumber is like stopping by the first 'auto repar' facility and opening your wallet... not smart..

Plumbing requires the same integrity that most professions do,, and often that integrity is missing... Too bad they don't hang horse thieves and rip-off auto mechanics, transmission 'rebuilders' and plumbers .... I think integrity would be default or attrition.. :)

Remember, when you make a 'gun' with your hand and point the index finger at someone,, there are three fingers pointing back at you !! I think of this whenever I start 'pointing' fingers...

Take care,, Greg L.

Note,, I hired a very good plumber to assist me in my work on my system.. he has a wonderful truck.. full of everything needed, and is very fair with pricing,, and I only had to bribe him a 'little' to help me once he saw the existing plumbing in my basement...I think that 'Rube Goldberg's ' nephew was the plumber on this old place,,, and i think he had a bad hangover on the days he did the plumbing on this 1849 famrhouse... first indoor plumbing was probably in the early 1900's... who knows.. it has had at least 4 different heating systems that I can see remnants of... :D :lol:

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Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: Rick 386 On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:21 am

Here's the link to the newspaper article about the explosion:
This link is broken, either the page no longer exists or there is some other issue like a typo.

Notice that it does state that she had been having problems with the boiler for the past 2 years !!!!!!!!

Rick 386
Stoker Coal Boiler: AA 260 heating both sides of twin farmhouse
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: LL Hyfire II w/ coaltrol in garage
Coal Size/Type: Pea in AA 260, Rice in LL Hyfire II
Other Heating: Gas fired infared at work

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: Sting On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:57 am

LsFarm wrote:Hi Sting...

Remember, when you make a 'gun' with your hand and point the index finger at someone,, there are three fingers pointing back at you !! I think of this whenever I start 'pointing' fingers...

Take care,, Greg L.]

I like this one - Most likely Ill plagiarize it :lol:

And I recall that fine picture of your system - its not the only rats nest of pipes out there! Important thing is if it works - pretty is non essential -
Other Heating: BurnHAM=NG-gas

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: charlie On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 2:13 pm

So glad that I'm on this forum in the summer when there is still time to be proactive!

I'm associated with two industries. While one is always "safety first" the other tends to be "run it and watch it" til something goes wrong (mining and agriculture, respectively). Sadly, my boiler always falls into that later catagory.

In the years I've been running the Prill, it has become more difficult to get anyone to come work on her. The furnace guys don't mind phone consultations or lending tools, and the plumbers have much more pleasant things to do than roll around in my boiler room in our still-booming economy. My experience is that it's tough to get good advice and good work from people who truly believe my best option is to tear everything out and start over with something that doesn't quite meet my needs. I've gotten to where I can hear them roll their eyes over the phone! Yet, I have a list of people who want the Prill because a bituminuos bin-fed stoker boiler is hard to come by around here.

Some of the work that has been done by professionals around here isn't the greatest ("heck, I coulda done that"), so it's evolved to me doing the work myself, which is perhaps not the safest option. Thanks to all of you who are dedicated to this forum and don't mind helping out those of us that need more information to become more responsible. It is greatly appreciated! Keep those safety reminders coming...
Stove/Furnace Make: Prill and Tulikivi
Stove/Furnace Model: 200 BF and TTU 2700

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: stoker-man On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 3:41 pm

Heating and cooling guys who point out a bit of surface rust on a boiler or furnace cabinet, and use this as an indication that the unit is 'corroding away'..

"Hey, I'm just a young single girl. What do I know about heating equipment" Halfway through the conversation, she blurted this out.


She had her oil burner cleaned in November. A few months later she saw some soot on the top of the cabinet. She called out the company who cleaned the boiler and the guy said that her boiler was shot. She said she didn't have enough money to replace it and wanted to know what was wrong with it. The guy said, "If you can't afford to replace the boiler, you should at least replace the oil burner". The cost: $1600. At that point she called efm and talked to me. I gave her the phone number of a dealer that I know is honest. They went out and the only thing that needed replacing was the air tube, about a $20 item.

I feel sorry when I hear some of the calls that I get. So much fraud, unknowledgable technicians and parts changers.

The company that tried to rip the girl off was a large, well-known, flat rate company and she was one of their customers.

I keep a list of dealers I know are honest and whenever I get a call, I give their names.
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: 1981 efm wcb-24 in use 365 days a year
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite/Chestnut
Other Heating: Hearthstone wood stove

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: Steve.N On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 5:44 pm

Last season Myth-Busters did a segment of water heater explosions. To say that it was impressive is an understatement. Not only did they totally destroy a garage the heater punched a round hole right through the roof. Heating water is dangerous if you don't follow the precautions.
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman mkII
Stove/Furnace Model: Axeman Anderson 260 at store

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: rberq On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 9:13 pm

The hospital where I work had a boiler explosion a couple years ago, a really BIG boiler. We saw tape from a surveillance camera a couple days later. We knew just when it blew, and we could see the 10ths of seconds flashing by on the film while a maintenance guy was puttering around the boiler room. He got up from his desk, picked up a few tools, headed for the door, turned around and went back for a clipboard and looked at some papers. It was like watching a monster movie when you know where the beast is hiding, and you're yelling at the guy in the film, "No! No! Don't open that closet! Run! Run!" Then he opened the door, disappeared into the corridor, and a few seconds later ka-boom!
Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machine 1300
Coal Size/Type: Nut -- Kimmel/Blaschak/Reading
Other Heating: Oil hot water radiators, propane

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: coalkirk On: Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:18 pm

I agree with Greg. As long as you have a properly installed pressure relief valve, it's virtually impossible for a boiler to explode, at least not from pressure issues. Like someone pointed out, there are other sources of explosions in heating equipment. I also agree with Hophead that the installation of heating equipment, especially boilers is not a job for a novice.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Harman VF3000
Coal Size/Type: antrhcite/rice coal

Re: Boiler Blows Up

PostBy: ScottD On: Wed Jul 02, 2008 5:46 am

I like Freddy's idea of a low water cut off. One night while I was sleeping, my wife asked me why the baseboard were gurgling on my oil boiler system. I didn't notice it. Next morning I checked the boiler figuring I had air in my system but couldn't get the purge valve to purge. After several minutes and just about to walk away to get a new valve, I noticed no pressure in my boiler! The water feeder got stuck. One tap and it started filling the boiler and sure enough the purge valve worked fine. I pulled it apart and cleaned it. Works fine now. I f I was not paying attention that would have been bad! A low water cut off would keep my boiler from exploding.
Stove/Furnace Make: Alaska
Stove/Furnace Model: Hearth Stoker

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