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  1. #1
    Jeff Allison's Avatar
    Jeff Allison Guest

    Default Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Its 88 degrees in Phila. Row house.

    Fire the boiler for the 30-35 minutes or not?

    Its not a summer/winter hook up. They have a hot water heater. This unit is inactive in the summer.

    Its a natural gas fired unit.

    Homeowners have been there for 35 years and have never replaced the unit or ever had it serviced per the disclosure sheet.

    Thanks.

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  2. #2
    David Banks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Allison View Post
    Its 88 degrees in Phila. Row house.

    Fire the boiler for the 30-35 minutes or not?

    Its not a summer/winter hook up. They have a hot water heater. This unit is inactive in the summer.

    Its a natural gas fired unit.

    Homeowners have been there for 35 years and have never replaced the unit or ever had it serviced per the disclosure sheet.

    Thanks.
    You should fire it up make sure it is working and check all the rooms for heat.
    No Service in 35 years is a real safety concern to me. It is more than likely burning inefficiently and is a carbon monoxide safety concern. By your post it sounds older than 35 years. It is also getting up in years and I would recommend it be replaced as it is reaching the end of its usefully life/fully depreciated and not very energy efficient.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Fire it up,

    check for leaks,
    air in lines (air scoop present?)
    Circulating pump works
    zone valves open & close

    Do a compete inspection; that's what you're paid for...

    Darren www.aboutthehouseinspections.com
    'Whizzing & pasting & pooting through the day (Ronnie helping Kenny helping burn his poots away!) (FZ)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Quote Originally Posted by David Banks View Post
    No Service in 35 years is a real safety concern to me.
    If that statement is held to be true and believed, and I am not disputing it, then it would be prudent to *not* fire it up, but to recommend an licensed and competent HVAC contractor "fire it up" "after servicing it", then advise all corrections necessary after adjusting the unit for "best operation".

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  5. #5
    Jeff Allison's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    I talked to the realtor and had a few things clarified for all of us.

    The realtor communicated with the owners about when the last time the unit was serviced and they said "he" services the unit each year after what he was being charged 15 years ago, he thought he could do it himself and has been doing it ever since. I have no idea what the guy does for a living.

    I told the realtor I would like the homeowner to have started the unit before I got there meaning he was to turn the gas on, light the pilot and make sure the boiler and pipes had water and the water line on. All i want to have to do is call for heat with the stat to see the unit fires, watch the circulator start and begin checking the radiators thoughout the inspection.

    Thinking legally here I was worried about starting a unit that was completely shut down and my liability of starting the unit without knowing exactly why the unit was shut down. Who knows, they may know it leaks, may know there is stuff broken, radiators unhooked, etc... that I may be liable for by starting the unit up.

    If the unit was not as old or has been serviced I would not have a problem, I had the problem after reading the disclosure and seeing they lived there for 35 years and have no idea how old the unit was and not certain when it was last serviced by a pro.

    Thanks again for your imput.

    Jeff


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    If something is completely shut-down 'for the season etc'. I am not going through the motions to turn it on. I don't 'know' that it is really only shut-down for the season.
    If it is only partially shut-off, I will look it over to see if it looks relatively safe, turn operate the unit for a few to check flame color, leaks, etc, the usual.
    Beyond that it is all BS.
    If it is 20+ years old, I'm telling my client to replace it no mater what. I am not implying that any/every old unit is defective/hazardous or anything of the sort. Some are some aren't. I have seen old units like that in incredible condition.
    My point to the client,
    1) it may work another day or another 10 years
    2) it won't fail in May, it will fail in January and therefore cost more to replace
    3) the unit costs too much to operate; the install cost of a new unit can be recovered in a few years +.
    Get rid of it now.

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  7. #7
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    Wink Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Jeff,
    I had to inspect one recently also, however I was lucky and there was no propane in the tank to fire it up. Needless to say, I rescheduled the inspection of the boiler for first thing in the morning when it was cooler.

    RJDalga
    http://homeanalysts.com
    Kalamazoo, MI

  8. #8
    Harry Rezaei's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Markus, couldn't have said it better myself

    Harry


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    If it is 20+ years old, I'm telling my client to replace it no mater what. the unit costs too much to operate; the install cost of a new unit can be recovered in a few years +.
    Get rid of it now.

    If you're referring to a boiler, you would have to switch to a very efficient condensing boiler to gain a lot of efficiency over a 20 year old system. For the average efficiency boiler, there's no way to recover the initial cost in just a few years.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Weil-Mclain and others make a 90+ boiler, that is essentially the size of a tankless hwt. That 20+ year old boiler is running 60-70 %, which in our area works out to $400+/- a month for an average house. A thousand a year in savings adds up in a few years. Total install 5-8K. Obviously install is more if you call big ad guys.
    It is the high end of a few years, nonetheless in isn't a 20 year capital investment.

    www.aic-chicago.com
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Boiler should be serviced by qualified serviceman prior to close of title. Throw the onus on behalf of the purchaser back to the vendor.

    A thirty-five year old unit with no servicing or within 15 years, and past its life expectancy - the unit should be budgeted for replacement. Also newer boiler would be much more efficient.

    Personally speaking I would not entertain the idea of starting the unit up.

    Cheers,


  12. #12
    christopher bittner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Im inclined to go with common sense. My job is not to do other peoples jobs. This component needs an inspection prior to closing, good!. A recomendation to replace as it is past it's usefull life span,good! and don't operate the component as it's present state is uncertain,good! I get
    into trouble when I think I need to be operating/checking/recommending more than
    is nessesary to professionaly serve my client. I'm not an engineer. I don't want to go to places over my head.
    Chris Bittner
    Home Inspections


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Christopher,

    Its called risk reduction.


  14. #14
    christopher bittner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Thank You Raymond. How are things in Ontario? I liked Montreal and Quebec when I visited. So much so that I learned to speak French. Chris


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Chris,

    Although we are a bilingual country, I do not speak french. But have a limited understanding of a few words. (road signs, cereal boxes, ... )

    Quebec is a beautiful city. You feel like you are in Europe without having to leave Canada.

    This summer Quebec celebrated its 400th anniversary. (1608-2008)

    Cheers,


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Who says a cast boiler has a 20 year life expectancy?

    Can you should me that in writing?

    Darren www.aboutthehouseinspections.com
    'Whizzing & pasting & pooting through the day (Ronnie helping Kenny helping burn his poots away!) (FZ)

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    If the boiler has adequate standing pressure and is ready to fire if the thermostat is turned up, I see no reason not to test it, regardless of its age or service history. 30+ year old boilers are the norm in Philadelphia and I see old ones all the time. While it's true that time will not be on it's side at 38 years old, it may still have servicable life left in it (I also see 50+ year old boilers). Unless some condition can be noted that makes testing of the system unsafe or could result in damage to the unit, test away. I have been in houses where it has been so hot inside the house that the thermostat doesn't have a high enough temperature setting to allow the boiler to activate. In these cases, I've made note that the ambient air temperature inside the house was higher than the maximum set point on the thermostat, the system could not be tested, and it should be serviced by a hydronic heating pro and all repairs made as needed prior to the close of escrow.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Hot water boilers are a closed loop systems and they are stored up wet. As long as they didn't drain the boiler you can start it up and make sure it fires and that the pump is working with no leaks. Check the sight glass on the expansion tank for water. You need to let the system warm up and get at least 140 deg or so to check for leaks after expansion takes place in the system. Make sure the pressure regulator is working to maintain 12 psi on the system. Just make sure it cycles and check for CO during operation. I would test the boiler system if it were me. You can call me if you need to.

    Dan Hagman
    Altoona , Iowa
    ProSite Home Inspections
    515-229-2342

    Formally Hagman Heating and Cooling

    Last edited by Dan Hagman; 09-25-2008 at 04:41 PM. Reason: Add Phone Number

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    How long does it take to bring the water in the boiler up to operating temp of 140?
    Who checks for CO spillage?


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Hagman View Post
    Check the sight glass on the expansion tank for water.
    Where is the sight glass on an expansion tank for a hot water boiler?


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    I can't remember the last time I saw a sight glass!


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    Here is a boiler that was approved as okay by the licenced heating technician. It was off for the summer, and there was no way I was going to start it. It had a leak at the circulation pump and valves and it wasn't even running! The boiler was just over 20 years old.

    It was beyond me how a licenced heating tech could approve this given its state.

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  24. #24
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    Exclamation Re: Inspecting a boiler in the summer

    "I can't remember the last time I saw a sight glass!"
    Sight glass tubes are used on steam boilers to see the water level. The amt. of sediment in the tube is one indicator if the boiler has been maintained. Part of the annual service is to clean or replace this glass tube as needed after flushing the boiler and LWCO.

    Just as with inspecting chimneys, you guys have to decide how far you need to take inspecting HVAC equipment and discuss it with your attorney. HVAC is one of THE biggest interests of homebuyers. They can understand if a roof leaks 6 months later but not a boiler dying. You have two choices in my book:
    You can do the cursory inspection such as, yep it's a boiler, it has fuel and water and yep it fired and the stove pipe was sorta connected to that hole in the wall that I think is a chimney or,
    you can perform a detailed inspection system by system. Understand a "detailed" inspection would actually include various forms of "testing" such as combustion analysis, measuring fuel pressures, testing for gas leaks or CO spillage, draft pressure, water temp, Delta T, etc.

    You could inspect wiring for correct polarity, lack of bootleg grounds, etc. Where does it stop? HVAC techs agonize through the same choices. They know a lot more about heating equipment than their annual inspection/ service suggests. They have to make a decision as to how far to take it. A large part of that decision is having the knowledge, training and experience to recognize the Red Flags.

    For instance, if you see 0 psi on the gauge, you might consider opening the feed valve to see if water fills the boiler or not. Maybe the strainer is clogged or the valve's bypass does not work. However, if you fill cold water into an empty boiler that's firing, you can crack it. Gotta know what you're doing. That may be a case where you decline to fire it because it would possibly dry fire the boiler so that inspection is deferred to the HVAC pro and let him perform the detailed inspection and testing.

    However, many balk at the rubber stamp referrals to trade professionals such as electricians and HVAC on every case. I would offer that of all home systems, HVAC is the most complex involving a myriad of inspection, performance testing, interaction with other systems, measurements, etc. .

    When inspecting a DHW heater, how do you tell the age of the anode rod or if it has ever been replaced? Ususally never, right? Do you offer a blanket replacement warning because you know it could go at anytime? I heard of one the other day that lasted 46 yrs. and was not really leaking--just old! I've also seen 5 yr olf WHs dripping tears from neglect where they have poor water.

    It all begins with knowledge, training and experience.
    Bob

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

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