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Steam Boiler- Venting


Neal Lewis
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I was talking to a couple of fellow inspectors today and the subject of steam boilers came up. It seems that these guys are so hung up on inspecting to the minmum regs that they don't even drain the low water cutoff or operate the fill valve for a steam boiler. Their argument-If the valve leaks, they may have to pay for fixing it. (If it creates that much of a problem I'd friggin pay for the fix). They recommend getting a heating contractor to demonstrate the valves to the new owner, and of course service the system at that time.

Now, we're in steam boiler country here in the NorthEast. Operating these valves is a normal bi-monthy routine for the owner. I've opened low water cutoff's that were totally clogged and probably wouldn't protect against dry fire. Not operating these normal controls for this type of system almost seems negligent and is certainly giving the customer the short shrift. I'd be embarrassed to stand there and tell a client that the regulations prohibit me from demonstrating normal operating controls (or lift ceiling tiles, etc, etc). OK I'll admit to going way over the norm by overfilling a steam boiler a few times to see if it leaked.

One guy even mentioned that he doesn't operate an outside hose bib in the middle of the summer, with the hose attached!!(inserts appropriate CYA comment)

The typical argument goes that if you inspect above the minimum regs for one thing, you'll be expected to go above the regs for the rest of the inspection (and what above-the-regs standard would that be??). I say that's bunk and an old wifes tale. I've never been presented with that argument from a client or attorney after doing this for 24 years. Of, course I could be wrong.

Seems to me this is the kinda stuff that gives inspectors a bad name.

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This inspector will open/operate/shut off anything the owner is expected to handle. If you need a license to install/repair/replace---I'm out of it.

Just visual!!! [:-banghea

How about removing the cover on an electrical panel? The owner isn't generally expected to remove that, yet you don't need a license to do so.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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. . . The typical argument goes that if you inspect above the minimum regs for one thing, you'll be expected to go above the regs for the rest of the inspection (and what above-the-regs standard would that be??). I say that's bunk and an old wifes tale. I've never been presented with that argument from a client or attorney after doing this for 24 years. Of, course I could be wrong.

Seems to me this is the kinda stuff that gives inspectors a bad name.

The typical argument that you mention is complete crap. It's the fall-back position of the lazy, the incompetent, & the fearful.

That said, I believe that each inspector should consider his own abilities & comfort zone when deciding what to do once he's stepped beyond the standards. In my own case, for instance, I'm happy to break down a furnace into its constituent parts when I suspect a crack in a heat exchanger (or just for the heck of it). On the other hand, I probably wouldn't dare to operate a low-water cut off on a steam boiler -- heck, I might not even be able to find the low-water cut off on a steam boiler because I only see one every 10 years or so. In those cases, I tell the customer that I'm about as familiar with steam boilers as I am with polar bears. I've read about them in books & seen them in the zoo, but as for first-hand experience, well, they need to bring in a polar bear keeper for this one.

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. . . The typical argument goes that if you inspect above the minimum regs for one thing, you'll be expected to go above the regs for the rest of the inspection (and what above-the-regs standard would that be??). I say that's bunk and an old wifes tale. I've never been presented with that argument from a client or attorney after doing this for 24 years. Of, course I could be wrong.

Seems to me this is the kinda stuff that gives inspectors a bad name.

The typical argument that you mention is complete crap. It's the fall-back position of the lazy, the incompetent, & the fearful.

That said, I believe that each inspector should consider his own abilities & comfort zone when deciding what to do once he's stepped beyond the standards. In my own case, for instance, I'm happy to break down a furnace into its constituent parts when I suspect a crack in a heat exchanger (or just for the heck of it). On the other hand, I probably wouldn't dare to operate a low-water cut off on a steam boiler -- heck, I might not even be able to find the low-water cut off on a steam boiler because I only see one every 10 years or so. In those cases, I tell the customer that I'm about as familiar with steam boilers as I am with polar bears. I've read about them in books & seen them in the zoo, but as for first-hand experience, well, they need to bring in a polar bear keeper for this one.

RE steam boilers, it's gratifying to hear you say that. I read some of the boiler threads, here, and have no clue what people are talking about. I see a boiler about every five years, and unfailingly tell my clients to get it checked out by someone more in the know.

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Valve flusher and valve opener here........

It's really so very simple and easy, everyone should know how. If I showed anyone a low water cutoff just once, they'd be able to find it on any boiler anywhere.

99.9% of the time, they're McDonnell. McDonnells's work. They don't break or leak.

Anyone so lame as to not check out a low water cutoff shouldn't be in the business. It's safer than opening a hose bibb.

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