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Reversible decommissioning a Morso Squirrel boiler in situ?


Alexa62
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Hi All,

I'm a relative newbie to narrowboating (one year living aboard at Peartree Bridge Marina in Milton Keynes, and cruising since last July) , and a complete DIY ninnie, and am seeking some advice regarding my Morso Squirrel back boiler. I love the stove, and relied on it throughout my first winter in the marina, but the back boiler part, even when it was working, was disappointing at best. It allegedly drove two small rads in the bathroom and bedroom, at the opposite end of my 57 foot boat, but even when it was working great, the results in the radiators were disappointing. I tried bleeding them, think I succeeded, but they still stayed tepid at best, even with a roaring fire going in the saloon. Also, the previous owners had the water circulated by a mains operated pump. That was fine when I was Marina bound, but as I am cruising away from marinas now, I needed this replacing with a 12 volt pump, which I had done whilst in MK as part of a general refit of the boat for it's new post Marina life.

Since the replacement, the thing has never worked properly: either the pump speed has to be set so high it is screaming very loudly, or the water is pushed round so sluggishly that the system starts - 'kettling' - is that the word? - Making scary 'bags of hammers' noises at the stove, anyway, like it's about to explode, whilst vomiting central heating fluid from the expansion tank all over the engine room. 

So scary is all this in fact, that I've decided I can't risk using the stove at all til this problem gets fixed. I've found it impossible to find anyone competent to sort it out in my new area of operations around Burnley, Lancashire, on the Leeds and Liverpool, and with money now being very tight, I thought the simplest thing to do in any case would be to de-commission the back boiler part myself, reversibly, in place. 

What I had in mind was emptying the central heating system (though I don't know how to do that either), leaving the input and output valves to the boiler open, and simply cut the copper pipes to them, taking out about an inch, and capping off the pipes, so I can just use the stove without fear of explosion or central heating fluid disasters. My thinking is that if I leave the valves on the Squirrel open and the stove side pipes of the boiler uncapped, air can expand and contract safely through the boiler during use, and I can just use the stove as if it had no back boiler. That way, any future owner who wants to make use of the rads can simply hook up the pipes again, and do battle with the pump.

Is this a safe plan? Will the stove operate safely without fluid in the back boiler? Will the boat be okay for the BSS exam if I do this? What should I think about regarding making sure the operation is reversible? All advice appreciated.

Alexa

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Alexa Welcome.

 

I understand some of the earlier Morso squirrel boilers were glass lined, so running without water in could cause damage. The later ss ones, i'm not sure.It is often advised that if you want to keep the boiler in situ, then one method is to fill it with sand.

A well designed system shouldn't need a pump, ours, running three rads doesn't.

I assume the system has enough water in to circulate? Hopefully you will get some pointers to get the thing working properly from some of the clever forum members (I'm not one of them)

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  • Hi, thanks, I didn't know that about the glass, and sand. Something new to worry about! :) The boat was commissioned in 2013, I've got the specs for the stove somewhere if it helps any experts out there? I'd also gladly take any references for a plumber or heating engineer in Lancashire who actually knows boats and is interested in getting the thing working properly, if that is an option. But that would have to be something done without ripping up half the boat to get to pipework. I'm reluctant to throw much more good money after bad on something I can happily do without.
Edited by Alexa62
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11 minutes ago, Alexa62 said:
  • Hi, thanks, I didn't know that about the glass, and sand. Something new to worry about! :) The boat was commissioned in 2013, I've got the specs for the stove somewhere if it helps any experts out there? I'd also gladly take any references for a plumber or heating engineer in Lancashire who actually knows boats and is interested in getting the thing working properly, if that is an option. But that would have to be something done without ripping up half the boat to get to pipework. I'm reluctant to throw much more good money after bad on something I can happily do without.

If I didn't want/need it I would drain it down. Disconect pipes at rear of stove and leave pipework in place so easy to refit. The boiler can then be removed from the stove WITHOUT stripping the stove into its component parts. You will then just need to blank the two holes in the back plate of the stove and put a set of new firebricks in. 

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It is possible to remove the back boiler completely, and put the baffle plate back in.  It's a messy job though :)

If you don't have the baffle plate, I have one you can have (I'm in Lancashire too.)  

I would recommend sorting out the central heating if you can though, or you end up with one end of the boat too hot and the other end too cold.

If the expansion tank keeps overflowing it might simply be too full, so next time it overflows don't top it up.  Can you set the pump to somewhere between too fast and too slow or is it only a two speed pump?

Back boilers sulk if there is any air in the system, so make sure all the radiators are bled.  Can you post any pictures of your pipes at the back of the stove?

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The symptons you describe (screeching pump, spurting header tank and bangs caused by parts of the water circuit boiling while others remain cool) point to a system that still has air in it.  It can take quite a bit of patient fiddling to get rid of the air.  I recommend auto-bleed valves on the radiators and an auto air vent plumbed into the highest part of the system.  (Google Altecnic 502649 15 mm Auto Air Vent Robocal)

41YggqJNQ2L.jpg.e17ed4747194cb4fe43191a2de2474e7.jpg

 

Ah. I see TheBiscuits has the same thought.

Edited by koukouvagia
picture added
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23 minutes ago, koukouvagia said:

The symptons you describe (screeching pump, spurting header tank and bangs caused by parts of the water circuit boiling while others remain cool) point to a system that still has air in it.  It can take quite a bit of patient fiddling to get rid of the air.  I recommend auto-bleed valves on the radiators and an auto air vent plumbed into the highest part of the system.  (Google Altecnic 502649 15 mm Auto Air Vent Robocal)

41YggqJNQ2L.jpg.e17ed4747194cb4fe43191a2de2474e7.jpg

 

Ah. I see TheBiscuits has the same thought.

That is a beautiful device. I must have one.  Or two. (just in case I get a radiator.)

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2 hours ago, system 4-50 said:

That is a beautiful device. I must have one.  Or two. (just in case I get a radiator.)

 

No it isn't. That particular one is horribly prone to failing and dribbling water out. I don't use those any more. 

The best one is the Flamco Flexvent. Still not bombproof though.

s-l300.jpg

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1-2-Flamco-Flexvent-Floatvent-c-w-shut-off-valve-Automatic-Air-Vent-BNIB/172961052155?hash=item28454835fb:g:ttYAAOSwEaBZ-1SJ

 

  • Greenie 1
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2 minutes ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

No it isn't. That particular one is horribly prone to failing and dribbling water out. I don't use those any more. 

The best one is the Flamco Flexvent. Still not bombproof though.

s-l300.jpg

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1-2-Flamco-Flexvent-Floatvent-c-w-shut-off-valve-Automatic-Air-Vent-BNIB/172961052155?hash=item28454835fb:g:ttYAAOSwEaBZ-1SJ

 

Do Maplins stock them? :giggles:

Joking aside, they look a much tidier unit than the bottle vents.

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Thanks all for the help so far, especially the diagnosis re what might be causing the problem, the very kind offer of a baffle plate, and the suggestions re the additional air vent thing. I believe the rads I've got are supposed to be 'self bleeding', (?) I've never heard of automatic air vents, but I'm game to get one and have it fitted if it will help... except I can't find anyone who knows what they are doing to do it, hence my despairing idea of cutting the whole thing out. If it were an option to get it working, then of course I'd go for it, but that requires someone who knows what they are doing. I don't. :(

So: Any recommendations re a competent boat plumber in the Lancashire area? (Preferably prepared to travel to the boat, currently in Burnley)? I'd like someone prepared to stick around long enough to test everything before disappearing, as I made that expensive mistake before...

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1 hour ago, Alexa62 said:

So: Any recommendations re a competent boat plumber in the Lancashire area? (Preferably prepared to travel to the boat, currently in Burnley)?

I think I know someone who might be able to help.

He's a Gas Safe engineer with the additional Boat certification, and he lives on a boat just off J3 of the M65, so about twenty minutes from Burnley.  

When you have replied twice more (5 posts) you can use the messaging facility here, so keep chatting and we will soon get there!

Are you at Reedley?  There are a couple of people there who might be able to help too.

 

  • Happy 1
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21 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

When you have replied twice more (5 posts) you can use the messaging facility here, so keep chatting and we will soon get there!

Since the site update you can PM with less than 5 posts.

Edited by Tumshie
for sense
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Just now, TheBiscuits said:

Are you sure? You can do 5 posts in 2 minutes :P

 

Ooops.;)

Yes that made better sense before I hit submit.

You only need to have posted twice before you can PM.

I'll pop off back to sleep now.

Good luck Alexa.

 

 

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I wonder if the size of pipework might be a factor in your under performing system? If you wanted to simplify things you could reinstall one gravity fed radiator with 28mm pipe, this would do away with the need for a pump.

11 hours ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

No it isn't. That particular one is horribly prone to failing and dribbling water out. I don't use those any more. 

The best one is the Flamco Flexvent. Still not bombproof though.

s-l300.jpg

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1-2-Flamco-Flexvent-Floatvent-c-w-shut-off-valve-Automatic-Air-Vent-BNIB/172961052155?hash=item28454835fb:g:ttYAAOSwEaBZ-1SJ

 

Haven't seen these before, will give one a go as the bottle type I have been using is a biannual replacement!

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On 2/22/2018 at 08:55, BWM said:

I wonder if the size of pipework might be a factor in your under performing system? If you wanted to simplify things you could reinstall one gravity fed radiator with 28mm pipe, this would do away with the need for a pump.

Haven't seen these before, will give one a go as the bottle type I have been using is a biannual replacement!

If there's space how about fit a vertical dead leg with a normal bleed screw on top?

Doesn't the little screw on a bottle vent let you seal it when enough air has been bled out?

Edited by smileypete
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