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I'm a new plumber. I was asked to restart a burnham gas fired steam boiler in a fire damaged apartment. The boiler was drained last winter along with the radiators but was not winerized. I am their plumber but I don't know how to clean, test or restart the boiler to see if it works. Please help.

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1. You need to fill the entire system with water before you fire it, boiler AND radiators... Then, you would normally vent as much of the trapped air in the system as you could... It's not like you are only going to fill just the boiler and then pump that water through the pipes.

There is a temp setting on the boiler, but I don't think that's a solution. Remember that the water in the system is going to begin circulating as soon as you start the boiler. So, it will start circulating when it's cold, and then gradually warm up.

Your problem is not the sudden rush of hot water, it's going to be filling the system in the first place, and getting the boiler started before the system freezes up ...

I don't really have any suggestions for you though, other than perhaps renting one of those construction heaters ... and bring the building temp up a bit. But there's certain dangers associated with them too... Carbon Monoxide for one, fire is another (if used improperly).

Just thought of something: Fill the system with glycol based anti-freeze solution that's designed for heating systems. That oughta do it...

I'm guessing there's not a functioning water heater either at this point, is there ? If there was, you could possibly rig something up to fill the system with lukewarm water, and fire it before it freezes up.

2. You don't have a lot of choice. You have to fill the system, fire the boiler & wait.
It is going to take a long time to get the system up to temperature. Instant circulation is a double edged sword. The upside is you get a little bit of heat into the water & have it moving making freezing less likely. The downside is, it's hard on the boiler with that much cold water coming back you are likely to have condensation.

Posted on Apr 22, 2009

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