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Dead men rolling in grave
I'm thinking of making some changes to my steam heat system, so I thought I would put this on the wall for some recommendations from the experts. I've been in my house for 22 years. When I bought the house, it was a two pipe steam Trane Vapor System with the original coal boiler which had been converted with a gas burner. It was piped just like shown in all the diagrams with direct return trap and check valves. In 1996, I had the boiler replaced with a weil mclain. The near boiler piping was changed and the direct return trap scrapped ( I was told I didn't need it anymore). I was told I would save money with the new boiler, but the bills probably went up slightly. I've had heat in all the rooms over the years and never gave the system much thought until recently when I discovered this website and began to analyze how it was working.
The boiler fires and begins to make steam quietly. Air is purged through the end of steam main vent and the condensate return vent. Gauge pressure is about 8 ounces. After 10 minutes, steam has circulated through the steam main loop in the basement and reaches the end of main vent, which closes. Over the next minute the steam progresses to the boiler, then refluxes up the condensate return until it hits the condensate return vent, which closes (11 minutes). Steam continues backward horizontally in the dry return line at least 10-12 feet where the pipe disappears into the wall and I can't feel it anymore. Air can no longer escape from the system. The boiler continues to fire for another 8-9 minutes for a total cycle of 20 minutes. With the vents closed the pressure rises to 2.5 to 3 psi. The boiler shuts off because the thermostat is satisfied. Pressuretrol appears to be set for cut-out at 8 psi and cut-in at 6 psi. With the outside temperature 25-30 degrees, the boil does not fire again for one hour and 50 minutes. Most radiators only fill half way with steam. When the boiler shuts off, the gauge slowly shifts to a vacuum of 5-6 inches as steam condenses.
My initial plan was to replace the original steam traps which I presume have failed open. I was also considering a vaporstat. The way the system is set up, steam never reaches the traps and a vaporstat will probably just cause short cycling.
I've posted pictures of the return piping and can think of four possible solutions. 1). Put a check valve between the steam return and condensate return. 2). Lower the condensate return below the water line with +/- check valve. 3). Number 2 with an additional check valve and direct return trap like in the original design. 4). Leave it alone. It works
Pictures to follow