How to Troubleshoot a Burnham Steam Boiler

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
You may be able to troubleshoot your boiler.
Image Credit: Yliya Zhuravleva/iStock/GettyImages

Burnham produces boilers that run on gas, electric and oil fuel power for home heating needs. When Burnham boilers do not function properly, issues can arise that affect the integrity of the boiler and the heating system in general. This can cause extensive damage to not only the boiler, but the piping system, possibly causing water damage. This could cost thousands of dollars to repair along with the price and hassle of cleanup, so it pays to know how to troubleshoot your Burnham steam boiler.


Video of the Day

Boiler Will Not Turn On

Step 1: Check the Float Switch

The float switch on the side of the boiler sometimes gets stuck, and a good slap on the side will lower it. If it was stuck and you're able to shake it loose, you will hear the feed pump motor kick on and the water level gauge will begin to rise. If not, check the power to the boiler at the electrical panel and make sure the gas line is on.

Step 2: Remove Boiler Cover

Remove the cover of the steam boiler by removing or loosening (depending on the model) the cover screws with the screwdriver and pulling up and out. Set the cover to the side.


Step 3: Raise the Thermostat Temperature

Turn the thermostat as high as it will go and go back to the boiler system. The boiler heat exchanger should be heating up and the flames in the manifold should be burning. If they are, return your thermostat to the desired temperature and re-install the cover.

Step 4: Evaluate the Wire Connections

Check the wiring on the thermostatic control board in the boiler. Ensure the wires are connected properly by lightly tugging on them. If they are not connected, tighten the fastening screws on the wire connections for the thermostatic control board with a screwdriver.

Step 5: Evaluate Water Level

Locate the water level site gauge on the side of the steam boiler. The water level in the gauge will determine the level of water in the boiler. If the water is too low, the automatic shutoff will trip and the boiler will not turn on, even when the thermostat calls for heat. Consult your Burnham steam boiler manual for the trip level. If you do not have a manual, check the sight glass. If it's less than 1/4 full of water, the level is probably too low. Press the pressure relief valve on the top of the boiler to allow water to come back into the boiler. Excess pressure can restrict water coming back to the boiler for reheating. If the boiler water level rises, it should restart.


One Room Is Not Heating

Step 1: Check Radiator Function

Turn the thermostat on in the area of the home not receiving heat. Go to the steam boiler and check if the supply pipes to the radiating system are warm. If they are, go to the room or rooms and open the pressure valves on the radiators with an Allen wrench. These are located on the side of the radiator where the supply plumbing pipes in. This should release any back pressure and allow the steam to push through the radiator, making it warm. The radiator should be warm within one to three minutes.

Step 2: Check Radiator Shutoff Valve

The shutoff valve is located next to the radiator. Turn it to ensure it is on. If it was not on, it should start to heat up in one to three minutes.


Step 3: Check Boiler Steam Pressure

Look at the gauge on the steam supply pipe above the boiler. There may not be enough pressure for the steam to get all the way to the radiator and is bypassing it, turning to water too quickly. Locate the pressuretrol next to the water level gauge. You will see a set screw on the back of the pressuretrol. This will adjust the pressure of the boiler. Turn the screw a half-turn clockwise with your screwdriver to add pressure and turn on the system. If there is water sitting in the radiator, the air vent should hiss as the temperature and pressure from the steam races through the radiator.

Step 4: Check Booster Coil

Check the supply line for auxiliary heating equipment like a booster coil. A booster coil is an electric device that heats the pipe because the system is not strong enough to keep the heat and pressure hot enough for a steam process. Turn the temperature to its maximum setting with a wrench to test the coil. You should be able to feel the heat radiating from it. If the booster coil is not hot, it needs to be replaced for this portion of the system to operate properly.



Adam Yeomans

Adam Yeomans has been writing professionally since 2010, with his work appearing on websites such as eHow. He works in the construction industry as a builder and as an energy efficiency consultant.