Steam systems

In this system, a water line showing the level of water in the boiler should be visible in the level gauge. Look for the gauge. If it is dirty, it must be cleaned. A gauge that is completely filled with water indicates too much water in the system, and an empty gauge indicates an insufficient amount of water in the boiler. When the water level in the gauge is unsteady (rising and dropping), it indicates a problem condition that might reflect an excessive grease and dirt buildup in the boiler or that the boiler is operating at an excessive output. In either case, it should be corrected.

Check the heating unit to determine whether it has all the required safety controls. A steam system should have a low-water cutoff, a high-pressure limit switch, and a relief valve. If any of these items are missing, record the fact on your worksheet. Look for the low-water cutoff. Is it the built-in type or externally mounted? If it is externally mounted, you should test its operation. This is a normal procedure that the manufacturer recommends the homeowner perform periodically. If the relief valve is old, then as a precautionary measure it should be replaced after you take possession of the house.

Look for the condensate return line to the boiler. Is it a wet or dry return? If it is a wet return, it should be connected to the boiler by means of a special piping arrangement, a Hartford loop. Is there one? If not, the installation of a loop should be considered.

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