: Boiler issues - breaker pops advice?


ChuckD
10-26-2012, 11:42 AM
I have an off-peak electric boiler for floor heat in my home. With the cooler temps I fired up the heater and I found possible issues.

The boiler temp gauge indicates the water will only heat to about 130F max. It used to quickly heat almost double that normally.

One of 2 30A 220V breakers that supply power to the boiler pops after 30 minutes. This electric power line that pops shuts down the entire power to the boiler, regardless if the other "hot" line breaker is energized.

I cannot flip the breaker back and re-energize on after it fails; it usually takes an hour before I can flip the switch and re-energize the line and turn the boiler back on.

Both 220V breakers get very slightly warm to the touch on the electric panel as the boiler heats up, so they are both working.

I'm guessing one of the elements is shot in the boiler?

Bad breaker?

I'm not sure if the off-peak system is allowing a full charge to the system due to warmer temps above 32F? My last off-peak thermal storage heater would not give a full charge until temps were below 20F.

(History: This boiler worked great all last winter. The fluids were low in this boiler and I filled the system to the appropriate pressure before I turned it on)

1860Angler
10-26-2012, 12:55 PM
My guess would be a bad heating element.

KoolBreeze
10-26-2012, 12:58 PM
ChuckD, I think your breaker is performing normally. You probably do have a bad element and it's most likely the lower one in the tank. Is your boiler very old? You might have a large build-up of sediment if you've never drained it before. The sediment may have reached the level of the element thus causing problems. After removing ALL power to the boiler, disconnect one lead of each element (assuming there are 2) and compare the ohmage across each element. Ideally they will be the same if the elements are are the same part #. When you do get it fixed, please give us WC'ers some feedback so we can all learn from it. Good Luck, Chuck.

ChuckD
10-26-2012, 01:21 PM
Boiler is 6 years old.

My Ohm meter isn't operable at the moment. I made a boo-boo on a setting and burnt the internal fuse. Doh.. I'll look at this boiler more carefully. Any idea how difficult it is to replace an element?

I've replaced elements in thermal storage heaters, but boilers are new to me.

1860Angler
10-26-2012, 01:27 PM
I have an Electro Industries 13.5 KW boiler that one of the three elements went bad in when it was still under warranty, it has one 30 amp breaker and one 60 amp breaker. On my boiler all I did was turn the auto-fill water off, shut off the breakers, disconnect the wires from the bad element, I borrowed an element wrench from a buddy but a big channel locks would have worked, unscrewed the bad element, put a bucket below and let it drain, screwed the new one in, hook back up the wires, turn the water back on to fill up the boiler to the proper water pressure, turn the breakers back on and you should be good to go. It took me 15 minutes at most.

REW
10-26-2012, 02:11 PM
Chuck,
If you do find that one of the dual elements have failed and need replacing; it would probably make sense to change them both at the same time.

Also, as others have posted - be sure that all sediment has been cleaned from the boiler as well.

Another thing to consider;
If the circuit breaker has popped a number of times; it is now; very likely derated. So, when you replace the element, if you find it bad; it would also make sense to install a new circuit breaker in your breaker panel.

A circuit breaker is really only good for a rather small number of thermal trips before its value begins to change.

I just did that for a neighbor. He had an air conditioning issue. We fixed the air conditioning issue, but he still had a breaker popping issue. So, we then also swapped in a new circuit breaker and the entire issue was finally resolved. Again, too many pops on the breaker which derated the breaker to a lesser pop value.

Take care
REW

ChuckD
10-26-2012, 02:27 PM
In a new twist of events, I found out that this boiler has had the elements replaced before by the previous owner a few years ago. Supposedly the system ran low on water volume/pressure and burnt the originals.

REW- I agree. I think I am going to try a new breaker, just to see if the life of this one was compromised due to the latest info. If it pops once, then it's time for the boiler elements to be tested and replaced...if that's the issue. If not, time to call a professional.

1860 - Is there anything obvious to look for if the element failed? My previous experience with a thermal storage element was a total meltdown. No mistaking that was the issue!

Thanks for the help!

1860Angler
10-26-2012, 03:00 PM
In a new twist of events, I found out that this boiler has had the elements replaced before by the previous owner a few years ago. Supposedly the system ran low on water volume/pressure and burnt the originals.

REW- I agree. I think I am going to try a new breaker, just to see if the life of this one was compromised due to the latest info. If it pops once, then it's time for the boiler elements to be tested and replaced...if that's the issue. If not, time to call a professional.

1860 - Is there anything obvious to look for if the element failed? My previous experience with a thermal storage element was a total meltdown. No mistaking that was the issue!

Thanks for the help!

The element itself looked fine, mine was an open circuit, so with the ohm meter is showed an open, yours sounds more like a short, like was stated before, check all the elements with an ohm meter, the element that is connected to the breaker that keeps popping will give you a different ohm reading if it's bad. You will need to disconnect the wires from the elements before testing.

REW
10-26-2012, 09:38 PM
You will need a good low ohms scale to check the heater elements. It would be quite common to have the good element read a value that would be in the 5-15 ohm range. It just depends on the wattage of the element to determine the actual good resistance of the element.

By the way, you likely don't actually have to disconnect the wires from the element. You just need to have the circuit breakers off, unless, there is some sort of switch around circuit on the elements which is not typical for a water heater. Normally, the elements are simply a direct connection to the power source through a switch.

Be safe
Roger

AllenW
10-27-2012, 07:18 AM
You have a brand and model, maybe I have a manual here.

Al

ChuckD
10-27-2012, 07:50 AM
It's a Thermolec 23kw B-23 model. I see it has a 10 year warranty on tank and elements. Testing will have to be done to find the issue. There are 8 elements in this unit? I also found some kind of leak on the top where the elements are. Oil-like and light red in color soaked into the insulation on top of the boiler tank near the elements...possibly anti-freeze? Think its best to call a pro on this...too complicated. ;).

AllenW
10-27-2012, 11:14 AM
Nope, nothing, sorry.

Ya, pro might save ya some grief.

Al

REW
10-28-2012, 08:34 AM
===================

ChuckD
10-30-2012, 08:30 AM
Thought I would share an update since I was asked to do so.

Had a heating company out to thoroughly test this boiler and all electrical parts (elements, relays, whatever misc. switches, etc) tested ok. No issues found.

I reported I found a bad leak on top of the boiler tank. When I inspected the boiler I found insulation on top of the boiler tank, and it was soaked. After I removed this insulation and ran the boiler I did not trip the breaker in 2 hours of run time, so I'm guessing that was the major issue why the breaker tripped. I ran it to make sure the leak was coming from the boiler or somewhere else.

New seals are going to be installed on the tank and elements to fix the leak.

One thing I find odd is the boiler will not heat the water over 120F after 2 hours of run time. This unit heated water to at least 180F last year at max temp setting. I found the installation manual online for this boiler and the manufacturer says 172F is max for this unit with an absolute minimum of 118F at max setting.

There is no outdoor sensor for this boiler, so this should heat according to the setting on the boiler, not according to the outdoor temp.

Repair guy says 120 degrees is fine and anything higher is bad for concrete floors. I find it hard to believe, and I still think something is not right..

Is it possible to have a bad element that tests OK?

RistoRap
10-30-2012, 09:12 AM
Chuck,

Give EP Sales a call @ 952-854-4400 they are the Rep for Thermolec equipment that we buy from. Dave or Andy can probably help get you pointed in the right direction or get you a contact @ the factory.

Unfortunately I do not know much about the boiler line, as we deal more with their electric duct heaters.

The tech is correct that you don't want to supply water much higher than 120 to infloor radiant, 180 degrees is typical for baseboard heat.

ChuckD
10-30-2012, 09:58 AM
Ristorap,
Funny you mention that. I contacted EP sales yesterday before I made contact with a HVAC repair. They offered to help me, but I decided a pro would be best than bother EP sales. Those guys are great! They have also helped me with an air exchanger concern in the past...interesting how my home has products they represent. I have had difficulty making contact with the manufacturers directly.

I contacted them again and they seem to agree that this boiler has something wrong (it should heat to 180F at max setting) and we will further test it.

Thanks for the advice!