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FAQs about water feeder valves on steam heating boilers:
Diagnostic, repair & maintenance questions and answers about the various types of manual and automatic water feeder valves used on steam heating boilers, including questions and answers about when and how to add makeup water to a boiler, questions on keeping the proper amount of water in a steam boiler is a critical function for both safety and to avoid damaging the boiler itself, and questions on leaky or mal-functioning water feed valves.
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Recent questions & answers about steam boiler water feeders & LWCOs originally posted at WATER FEEDER VALVE, STEAM - home.
On 2017-01-13 by (mod)
Sorry Chris I'm a bit confused about what equipment and valves we're discussing.
Typically we use the word "boiler" to refer to a water filled heating device that is used for building heating - making hot water that circulates through baseboards or radiators, or making steam that circulates to steam radiators.
A "water heater" is in simplest case, a physically separate heating device that makes hot water for washing and bathing.
If a valve is leaky or broken often it can be replaced, but if the heater is old and badly rusted or corroded it might be that the tapping into which the control valve screws is so damaged, rusted, corroded - making it impossible to remove the old valve without damage to the heater or making it impossible to screw in a new valve to a successful seal: that repair is not economical.
There are some hybrid systems that you can read about by searching InspectApedia for
TANKLESS COIL HOT WATER
INDIRECTE FIRED WATER HEATER
RANGE BOILER HOT WATER
On 2017-01-13 by Chris - McDonnell Boiler Control 25psi 47-2.
Hi again, is the water heater valve part of the boiler control I have a McDonnell Boiler Control 25psi 47-2.
Would the valve be in this, if so can it be repaired or should the whole unit just be replaced? thanks for the help Chris
On 2017-01-13 by (mod)
This sounds to me as if your water heater valve is not working correctly and needs repair or replacement.
On 2017-01-13 by Chris - Is there a way to adjust the level on the water feed to keep it in the middle?
My boiler water level has just started raising and the whole system is knocking, etc. I flushed out the system and refilled the boiler but it keeps going way past the usual spot about half way up the glass display on the side to about the top of the display.
Is there a way to adjust the level on the water feed to keep it in the middle? I figure something must have broke since this just started happening along with excessive steam from the radiators. thank you
On 2017-01-10 by (mod) - Is it normal to have to add water to water tube on furnace when it is very cold outside
In a sense, yes.
It is normal for steam heating boilers to consume some water at each heating cycle. That's because even in a steam heating system in perfect operating condition, some water is lost in the form of steam at steam vents at each radiator at the start of each heating cycle.
Rising steam pushes out air in cold radiators, forcing the air out through a thermostatically operated steam vent on each radiator. At the end of that "force the air out" portion of the heating cycle a bit of steam escapes along with escaping steam before the steam vent closes.
And some steam heat systems whose steam vents are not working perfectly may continue to let steam (and thus water) escape longer into or even all during the heating cycle.
So in sum, part 1, all steam heat systems use some water each time the system goes through a heat-on cycle.
Now in cold weather a steam boiler will run more often, as the house is losing heat faster, so it needs more heat from the steam heating system.
When steam heat runs more often, more water is consumed or "lost".
When more water is lost, make-up water will have to be added to the steam boiler more-often.
You are not adding water just to the "water tube" (search InspectApedia.com for STEAM BOILER SIGHT GLASS for details)
You are adding water to the steam boiler itself.
If your steam boiler has an automatic water feeder valve it will do this for you.
If your steam boiler's automatic water feed valve is not working it's time to call for service and repair. Failing to do so can damage the steam boiler.
Watch out: also in times of frequent on-off cycling of the steam boiler its low water cutoff valve, a critical safety device, will need to be flushed or cleaned more-often. Search InspectApedia for STEAM BOILER LOW WATER CUTOFF VALVE for details.
On 2017-01-10 by Joan
Is it normal to have to add water to water tube on furnace when it is very cold out
On 2016-09-27 by (mod)
Please see details about the VXT at WATER FEEDER VALVE, VXT-24 FAQs - https://InspectAPedia.com/heat/VX-24_Steam_Boiler_Water_Feeder_FAQs.php
On 2016-09-27 by tess
I have a vxt automatic water feeder that won't shut off amd keeps humming. The readout sais L90..from what I've read there arethings I can do to troubleshoot before calling a repair man.What do you think it means and how do I do this?
Does the automatic water feeder on the steam boiler add water slowly to the boiler and if you have to add water manually should you add slowly when the boiler is not running. - Mary Jo Barranco
If your steam boiler has an automatic water feeder it will add water whenever the level drops enough to drop the float in the sensor. It doesn't feed water continuously.
The water feeder will add water frequently enough, and in small enough doses, and at a slow enough rate that even if the boiler is hot the makeup water won't damage the equipment.
You can take a look at the water level in the boiler by noting the sight gauge - that vertical glass tube.
There may already be a normal water level mark - if not, just put one on with a magic marker. If you should see the water level in the boiler fall say half way between that mark and the bottom of the sight glass, then I suspect the auto water feeder isn't. Otherwise it should come on by itself and restore water to the boiler as needed.
My new steam boiler has an auto feeder that cycles on frequently, even when the boiler has been off for hours, such as overnight. Is that normal? I am considering changing the DIP switches to change the dwell/feed but need your advice. Can you tell me if increasing the feed time would add more time between cycles?
What does "initial dwell" refer to? There is no marker on the sight glass but the water generally lays at one third the twelve inch glass. I think that is low but even if I add water manually, that level is maintained after a while. - Bob Q from Brooklyn
When a steam boiler is and has been cold for a while no water should be leaving the boiler, and therefore I wouldn't expect the auto water feeder to cycle on. Even though your steam boiler is new, it's likely that your steam piping, condensate return lines, etc. are not. I'd look for a leak around the boiler itself.
You can miss a small boiler piping leak when the pipes are hot because the leaking water just evaporates. Check carefully when the system has been cold and off for a few hours or more.
I understand the temptation to adjust the automatic water feeder, but those adjustments wouldn't be expected to make the device feed water when the system has been off and cold.
When you feed extra water to the boiler it will eventually be consumed (steam losses in the system - all steam systems consume some water) and since you fed it manually, the system will naturally return to the water level being maintained by the automatic water feeder.
About whether or not the set level of water is too low, look on the boiler itself - many of them have a "water level" line marked or riveted on the boiler side by the manufacturer.
If you send me (use the CONTACT link on our pages) the brand and model of your water feeder I'll dig up the instructions to see what further advice we can offer.
You advice on looking for a leak in the return lead me to a length of pipe that looked like swiss cheese on close inspection.
The system is over 100 years old and the old return in the basement behind a wall was leaking where I couldn't see it. I had the pipe replaced with copper and all is well. No more low water cycling. Thank you for your good advice. - Bob Q from Brooklyn
Thank you for the follow-up Bob, your report will help other readers who are trying to track down steam boiler water loss problems.
How do I know if I have a 120V Solenoid or 24V Solenoid? - Evan.Penalba
Evan, take a look at the information labeling on your water feeder or other device: the operating voltage will be shown. If the label has become lost you'll want to take a look at wiring and installation instructions for the device.
If you don't have the installation and wiring manual for the device you (or we for you) can find that information from the manufacturer if you can identify the brand, model, or other information for the water feeder or other device.
Finally, if the device is already installed and wired, just take a look at all of the wires entering the water feeder. 24V electrical wires are typically very small in diameter - typically 18-20 gauge while 120V electrical wiring will be the size of normal building electrical wiring - typically #14 or #12 copper wire. You can see photos and tables of electrical wire sizes and diameters at SE CABLE SIZES vs AMPS.
I have a one pipe steam system with two Hydrothermal boilers. The make up water tank has a Watts Boiler Water Level Control Type D132A Model M.
It is connected to the water gage and it is the device that triggers the Asco solenoid valve to add fresh water to the condensate tank. I was draining the system as part of the maintenance and knocked the valve and the body with a wrench, and as I suspected some malfunction, I could see an spark inside the electric box that controls the chamber.
The box has two electric wires that are regular electric wires going in and inside there are three cables (multiple tiny hairs of copper-not solid conductor like regular electric wires).
One of this cables became loose. The other two cables seem to be connected to one end on a sealed small tube containing the mercury and which acts as a trigger or contact.
I managed to connect the cable to one of the other two terminals and it does open the solenoid valve, but it will not close it, then I am connecting it in a permanent open position and have no way to figure the circuit out. I presume it connects with the other two cables to the end of the tube. If that is the case, can it be repaired?
This is an old system, but working perfectly, other than for this aging wiring. If you have a guide on the circuitry or any suggestion, I would appreciate it. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. Robert.
Robert I'm sorry but I don't think I have a clear enough understanding of the condition of your water feed valve - it's a critical part for safe operation of the steam boiler, though you could, of course, shut it down and feed water every day or two manually - not at all convenient. If there is any doubt about the condition of the valve, I'd replace it.
i have a problem with my water feeder a mcdowell & miller when it calls for water it sends it but it will not stop do i need a new water feeder??? thanks - Will
Will, you might need a new automatic water feeder, but it's an expensive part to buy and install. I'd try flushing the valve thoroughly to see if that clears up the trouble. If that doesn't work, before replacing the valve ask your steam heat service tech if s/he can open and service the valve.
I have a gas boiler Bryant model 234-55. The problem having is have to fill glass sigh everyday, which was every 4 plus days before..
So I used the manual fill and filled glass sight up full, and beyond, water started running out of boiler, but could not find out from where.. But boiler works and heat, but uses a lot of water. No leaks in pipes or valves on radiators. Hope you can help me, Thanks, - Mike
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with the boiler piping, water feeder, condensate return, or other components that might explain the "leak" you report.
That said, here are some things to consider:
I have a mcDonnell LWCO and its a gas fired unit (Burnham), what auto water feeder should I get?
Should I get the mcDonnell to match the LWCO?
I installed the McDowell & Miller water feeder, and the unit is getting power, but won't automatically feed the water when the LWCO is active. I know there is supposed to be a small delay, but even after 5 minutes, the unit is not feeding the water. The water feeder does have power, and can be manually fed if I push the button. Seems like the LWCO is not giving the signal. I have tried all the different settings on the water feeder, without luck. Any ideas? - Evan 11/28/12
Is there a support number for the mcdonnell & miller water feeders? - Evan 12/15/12
Sure, Evan. You probably had a little trouble finding the McDonnell & Miller website because of a series of name changes, additions, and modifications. McDonnell & Miller, ITT McDonnell & Miller, or McDonnell & Miller a Xylem Brand can be contacted at the company's website page dedicated to McDonnell & Miller heating system controls:
http://unitedstates.xylemappliedwater.com/brands/mcdonnell-miller/ - general products
http://unitedstates.xylemappliedwater.com/brands/mcdonnell-miller/low-water-cut-offs/ - low water cutoff products
where you can find literature about contemporary products such as the
At the web link we give above you can find product literature about these and other McDonnell Miller controls & products. But good luck finding a technical support telephone number directly at McDonnell Miller's new website. Instead the company is going to direct you to a local sales and service provider - that may be your best bet. If you get somewhere better calling the company at the numbers we give below let us know as that result will assist other readers too.
The McDonnell Miller corporate headquarters is now at XYLEM Global Headquarters, 1133 Westchester Avenue, White Plains, NY 10604, Tel: +1-914-323-5700, Fax: +1-914-323-5800
(Jan 3, 2013) mgrant said:
help i have 3 year old peerless stam boiler. i use to fill with water maybe once a day. now im filling this boiler every 2-3 hours! i see no leaks no smoke . i even filled the boiler turned it off and came home from work to find the glass valve showing only 1/4 full! where is this water going?
(Jan 25, 2013) Lani said:
I have a Weil-Mclain gold oil system. Think it's pretty old as it is manual fill. (Bought house in August) I know I also have a tankless hot water coil.
When tank goes out. (I'm assuming that I'm not filling this often enough.) I then flush the system & fill the water level up in sight line. Then within about 4 hours it shuts itself off again and have to re-boot the thing. This has happened every time the system shuts off. Probably about 1 a month.
Also--I noticed that after I fill sight line, turn back on-the sight line water level fluctuates heavily. What does this mean?
Also am I suppose to maintain some kind of psi pressure even when I have the tankless hot water coil? I dont know how to maintain this. It's usually at 0 then after a episode it might go to 2-3 psi.
(Jan 26, 2013) Luther Giordano said:
Newly installed (within the last week) Williamson OSB -3 Checked the sight glass, there is a misshapen piece of metal in the glass. It looks like it might be solder that broke loose. Should I call the installer on an emergency basis? This is Saturday night.
(Jan 27, 2013) Giovanna said:
I have a steam boiler. The problem. After a day the sight glass is full to the top with water. I have to drain 2 pales of water out of the boiler everyday just to bring the sight glass back to the half way level. The next day the same thing. The sight glass is all the way full. Now I flushed the bioler, it did not work. Next I replaced the waterfeeder, it still did not work, and last I replaced the low water cut of part. And it still does not work! What else can it be? What else can I try.
(Mar 23, 2013) Lisa said:
I just bought a home and in the inspector's report it says that I should the boiler is equipped with an automatic water feed unit.
It goes on to say that this type of unit is prone to malfunctioning and could cause flooding of the system if not cleaned and checked periodically. My question is, how often should I have it checked? or cleaned?
Everyone: see STEAM BOILER FLOODING REPAIR
It sounds as if an automatic water feeder on your steam boiler needs cleaning, adjustment, repair or replacement.
I'm surprised that a home inspector would suggest that an automatic water feeder is a bad idea on a steam boiler - the device is a significant safety improvement as well as one that reduces the amount of homeowner maintenance and attention to the steam boiler.
But she is right if the inspector told you that the system needs periodic inspection and flushouit. Usually the low water cutoff valve or LWCO is flushed on a residential steam boiler once a week; some homes can go longer, some need more frequent attention. The difference depends in part on how much water your boiler system consumes and thus how much new water is fed into the system.
If I were buying a new home with a steam boiler I'd ask my heating service company to send out one of their steam experts to go over the boiler with me, giving me a more clear explanation than I seem to have gotten from my (your) home inspection report as well as to give advice on how often this particular boiler should have its LWCO flushed.
(Jan 30, 2014) Archie said:
I have Burnham steam system by gas. Recently a valve which 3/4 inch fitted on the top of black nipple and nipple is screwed to 3" pipe. This 3" pipe is coming from the H system, vertically about at 4feet and bends at 90 degree. Right at this bend is the valve attached to the pipe and the valve.
This valve is constantly blowing steam whenever the heat is called for by the thermostat and water has to be added once or twice or three times a day. I have not seen any other water leak or steam leak from the radiator valves. What is your feed back? This is Archie
I'd like to see a photo of the piping and the valve you discuss - I'm not sure what we're talking about. If there is a label on the valve tell me what it says; Or use the CONTACT link at page bottom or top to send me some sharp photos.
Watch out: The system is unsafe: You may be seeing a pressure relief valve blowing, or it may be a steam vent; I can't tell, but it sounds as if one of these is stuck open. (Or is doing its job because the system is not working properly).
(Feb 8, 2014) Anonymous said:
my plumber tells me a auto fill for my boiler will cost $275 for valve plus $125 to install
Anon: presuming we're discussing a steam boiler, here are two price examples to keep in mind if one were to buy an automatic water feeder:
A programmable Hydrolevel steam boiler water feeder retails for around $200.
A McDonnel & Miller Model 101A electric water feeder for a steam boiler retails for around $250. Mechanical McDonnel & Miller water feeders can be in the $500 - $800. range.
Even if the plumber is selling you the part at his cost (thus being paid nothing for the time, trouble, & cost of obtaining or stocking the item) there are bound to be some additional small expenses for plumbing fitting & supplies.
Sounds to me as if you are being charged a modest price.
Hope this helps.
(Oct 7, 2014) Anonymous said:
my steam residential boiler keeps overfilling what can be cause
Look for a stuck water feed valve that has not been properly cleaned / maintained;
Also check for a water pressure-reducer that's failed.
(Nov 29, 2014) Ryan said:
I have a Williamson boiler just installed but the water level continues to go below level and I have to manually feed the water into the boiler. Left house for 2 hrs came back and house was only 58 and theremin stat was set at 68, boiler turned off and had to manually add water again. Not sure why boiler isn't holding the water .
Water loss at very high rate from a steam boiler suggests that there is a leak somewhere, most likeley in a condensate return line. I'd also check every radiator in the system for signs of condensate leakage.
A second possibility is that a condensate return line is blocked and water is just not returning to the boiler.
(Dec 4, 2014) Mh said:
I can't seem to get the water to rise to heat the home
You are writing pn a steam heat page but I think your question is about hot water heat. If not let me know.
What is the boiler prssure when it is cold, and when it is up to full operating temperature? Look for at least 12 psi cold and under 30 psi hot if this is a hot water heating system.
Check for an air bound heat system,mair bound piping or radiators.
Checjpkmthat circulatory are working and that the thermostat is calling for heat.
Check that radiator valves are open.
(Dec 13, 2014) Anonymous said:
I have a McDonald-miller 101a-120 automatic water feeder and it started making noise while feeding. I replaced the cartridge & screen buy it continues. cant figure it out. email@example.com
It may be necessary to further disassemble and clean the unit. But first check to see if the noise is an artifact of the water feed speed - try just slightly changing the stop valve ahead of the water feeder. Let me know what happens to the noise.
(Dec 18, 2014) Tom said:
Hi. After turning up the heat, I waited for the furnace to reach temperature, and turned down the thermostat. The auto water feed came on, even though the return condensate more than filled the furnace. I drained it down to a proper level, and the auto feed came on again. Also, the green light on the feed control is flashing, and so is the red "manual reset" light. Any suggestions? Oh, and the pilot stays on, as well.
Tom do you think the auto water feeder is not properly sensing boiler water level? Debris clogging can be a cause.
8 Jan 2015 craig said:
we have had a new steam heating system put in and the water pressure has gone to 0 cannot figure out how to put the pressure up again so heating will work any advise would be great thanks
Craig where are you reading pressure. The normal operating pressure of a residential steam boiler is well under 1 psi.
(Jan 31, 2015) Sean F. said:
When water gets low in my steam boiler, I can hear my McDonnell Miller Auto-Feeder turn on, the green light glows, but water doesn't flow through to the boiler.
I've cleaned the filter/screen at the hex plug below the feeder, but it wasn't dirty at all. The water valves at either side of the feeder are open and water flows fine when the hex nut is open. It's just that no water flows when the electric feeder turns on. Any suggestions for simple maintenance or repair, or am I stuck with replacing the whole feeder unit?
Temporarily you'll have to use the bypass valve and piping to keep water in the boiler. It should be possible to clean the water feed valve - see notes in the company's installation and service manual for your unit. Or if you don't have one, give me the model number and serial number and I'll help you look for one. Or your service tech can install what you need faster and easier than a DIY project.
(Feb 1, 2015) Sean F. said:
I have the manual. I just need to dig it out, and find the cleaning details. I wasn't sure if that was user serviceable. Thanks for the tip.
(Feb 11, 2015) Anonymous said:
The automatic feed turns on every 4 minutes on my steam boiler to add water. Is this too frequent? Do I have a leak?
Yes, something is wrong: either the feeder is not actually feeding water or there is a leak. Check the water level in the sight glass.
(Feb 13, 2015) russ said:
my gauge broke on the boiler and i have a leak and heat will not work
Wow - this is more than one can fix by an e-text. You need an on-site service call to see what repairs are needed for your steam boiler.
(Feb 15, 2015) Edd said:
consequences of having too much pressure in a gas boiler (refill tap left on )
that sounds unusual; on a steam boiler if there's a leak that's losing water that fast it'd most likely be close to the boiler. If you don't find a leak I suspect a debris-clogged water level sensor or a failing switch; I'd call for service. Also check the level in the boiler.
Some things to check
Blocked condensate returns
Condensate return leaks
Steam vents that do not close when the radiators are hot
Mar 7, 2015) Simon Gorodnitsky said:
what's the difference between black and blue covers on vxt-24
(July 29, 2015) eugene saura said:
how can i operate the boiler in manual operation?
(July 29, 2015) Anonymous said:
because that is my report..in myschool
We cannot answer the question - it's too vague. Certainly some boilers cannot be operated "in manual mode" safely if that means subverting critical safety controls.
I suspect you are supposed to be asking something else such as manual water feed or automatic steam boiler water feed bypass. Better go back to class.
(Oct 2, 2015) debbie said:
What can you do if there is too much water in glass tube.. how can you drain the water to appropriate level
With the boiler COOL so as to avoid SCALDING BURNS the boiler drain might work.
Watch out: even touching a boiler drain that hasn't been touched for years can be a catastrophe: you may open it and find it won't close again.
(Nov 28, 2014) Kathe said:
My VXT water feeder usually has a reading around 190. It is now 344. What does this mean?
just installed a VXT-24 auto water feeder from hydrolevel company in the make up water line on a Pennco steam boiler. it has a mcdonnell LWCO and its a gas fired unit. i'm having trouble getting power to auto feeder. It is a millivolt system. Do i need a transformer? I'm not a wiring or controls guy, can you please help - Dan G
(Dec 3, 2015) Rama said:
My VXT programmable water feeder started making noise. I don't know why, I'm very new to this, any help would be really appreciated
(Jan 7, 2016) Eric said:
Can you use a VXT-24 to feed a millivolt steam system? If so, HOW!
(May 19, 2016) Louise J said:
I had a VXT programmable water feeder installed two years ago to automatically feed water to the boiler for oil fired steam heat furnace. What do the numbers in this feeder's box mean? When the unit (along with a new cut off valve unit) was installed, it read 66 in that box.
It has risen now to 70. The water level in the glass tube has never been as high as the level I used to fill it manually before the system was installed. I would like to know if the rise in those numbers is a sign of something not working right? The flush out valve is opened weekly or no more than every two weeks until water runs clear. It DID have one incident when the water would not turn off from filling boiler and had to hae repair man at that time to clean and reset.
That was one month ago.The little box at that time read 66 and now reads 70, concerned!
2016/09/27 tess said:
I have a vxt automatic water feeder that won't shut off amd keeps humming. The readout sais L90..from what I've read there arethings I can do to troubleshoot before calling a repair man.What do you think it means and how do I do this?
Please see WATER FEEDER VALVE, VXT-24 FAQs for questions & answers about this device and for information about contacting the manufacturer or obtaining instruction or installation manuals.
(Dec 7, 2015) Anonymous said:
Can you use a line voltage automatic water feeder with a low voltage low water cutout?
Yes - provided the controls are installed following the manufacturer's instructions for ALL of the devices involved.
(Dec 9, 2015) Anonymous said:
I just got a new boiler. The automaic water feeder used to read 200 a week later reads h00. What's that means?
I don't know; perhaps a burning out LED or perhaps a counter that's reached a limit and needs to be re-set. If you know the brand and model of water feeder you can obtain the manual for it and can decode the display.
(Jan 1, 2016) Anonymous said:
Why does my led programmablr water feeder blinking
I'd need to know the water feeder brand and model to find an exact answer to what various lights, colors, and blinks mean on the device - that information is in the installation/operation manualf or the water feeder. If you don't have that information we can help you find a manual but we need to know what equipment we're researching.
(Jan 3, 2016) Dan said:
I have a M/M 101A water feeder and a Series 67 LWCO. When the cutoff activates it, the feeder goes on for a couple seconds and then the float turns it off. Sometimes it rattles on and off. Is this the feed or the cutoff problem?
I wish there was some type of setting to put so much water in.
I believe the newer ones have that?
It might be that the LWCO needs cleaning; some models include an internal screen that is cleaned - that's a step beyond the standard regular LWCO flush-out.
(Nov 4, 2015) ishkhan said:
what cause errer maseg on steamboiler
Error messages are device dependent. Tell us the control or brand and model and we'll help you find the manual and its troubleshooting section that will decode error messages.
Watch out: If you are in the slightest doubt about the safe normal operation of your boiler, turn off your heating system and call for repair as there are life safety hazards involved.
Continue reading at WATER FEEDER VALVE, STEAM - home, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see STEAM BOILER SIGHT GLASS
Or see STEAM BOILER FLOODING REPAIR where we explain the causes of water too high in the sight glass or in the steam boiler.
Or see STEAM HEATING SYSTEMS & CONTROLS - home
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Please see the steam boiler water feed valve questions and answers in the article above.
Please also see WATER FEEDER VALVE, STEAM FAQs
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