The Dirty Portafilter

My corner of the Internet, mostly espresso related but occasionally life will interfere.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Faema Rebuild Project, Boiler

Now that the groups are clean, it is time to disconnect the boiler. Once again I was relatively lucky and none of the boiler lines were stuck. Everything disconnected relatively easy and without much additional pressure. The only things that needed disconnected were the heating element electrical, pressurestat, boiler level sight glass and HX input lines. The boiler itself just sat on two supports, so once disconnected it just lifts out of the frame.

The heating element was the only part that required any effort to remove. The two element bolts needed a squirt of penetrating oil. A half hour later they released with a bump of the palm on the ratchet. The element itself was not in bad condition but I am still going to replace it. One of the ceramic element insulators had a crack in it. While it would probably work, why take the chance. Elements are only about $50.

The element markings were a bit puzzling. The element end-cap had a Faema stamp on it, but it only showed 1300W at 220v. That can’t be correct. A little math (volts X amps=watts) tells me that this should be running around 2600W given the amperage rating on the machine. The element was 390mm long and matches up perfectly to another Faema element, that just happens to be rated at 2600W, what my math suggests it should use.

Now it is time to descale the boiler. I had thought about capping all of the fittings and simply fill the boiler up and let it sit for a day. Metric plumbing fittings are nearly impossible to find in Dayton so finding plugs could take weeks. So I just decided to leave it as is and submerge the entire thing in descale.

I managed to find a drum at work that was the correct size. So I put twenty gallons of very hot water into the drum, added and dissolved my descale powder (yes, twenty gallons of water takes a LOT of descale agent) and submerged the entire works, including all of the other copper lines on the machine. If you submerge a boiler like this, you must rotate the boiler to make sure all of the air pockets are out of the lines and HX. Half way through the soak I flipped the boiler so and remaining air would shift and expose the entire works to the solution.

Five hours later it was clean as a whistle. I was quite surprised it went that quick. So now it is time to drain the drum and rinse everything off. So I put on my jacket and elbow length chemical resistant gloves and drag the entire thing to the end of the driveway to empty it out.

About half way through draining the drum it happened to dawn on me. It is 11pm, dark, I am standing at the end of my driveway warring a jacket and large black chemical gloves emptying out the contents of a big red drum that is emblazon with big yellow letters ‘HAZARDOUS WASTE’. If the police drive by, they may not find the humor in the situation. So I quickly empty the drum, grab the garden hose and thoroughly flush out the boiler and lines, rinse out the drum and get back into the garage.

I now have a very clean boiler. Not a spec of scale in it. I was going to wash the exterior a bit more with some Joe-Glo but there is really no need. I plan on insulating the boiler and there is just no need to have it spotless on the exterior.


  • At 10:48 AM, Blogger Os-Q-R said…

    Hey, can you tell me how you got the heating element out of the boiler? I'm also renovating a Faema machine. Only one problem: I can't get the element out of there, it's stuck.


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