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Please help with banging steam pipes!

cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
Greetings,



I have a 1964 Peerless steam boiler. The pipes bang

mercilessly and it's creating a problem for sleeping, particularly for

my wife. I realize that the banging may be caused by several factors,

but before re-pitching my radiators or replacing the boiler or any other

expensive and invasive procedures, I'd like to know if the furnace is

actually functioning properly.



I've attached close-up of the

current controls and a wider shot for your convenience. The heat is currently off so the boiler is "cold."



Any help would

be very much appreciated--my marriage may depend on it!
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Comments

  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,266Member ✭✭✭✭
    Probably not the boiler's fault

    if the pipes are banging, the problem is in the system.



    I see you have a Vaporstat..... is this a Vapor system?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    two-pipe

    I don't really know anything about the specs, just that it's a two-pipe steam system and the boiler is 50 years old. We've been living with the banging but it's gettin out of hand. I saw somwhere that improper settings may contribute to banging and high bills--which we also have.
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,266Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2013
    It's probably Vapor

    Post pics of a few rads, including their shutoff valves and whatever devices are on the radiator return connections. Also any devices mounted in the piping around the boiler. See if you can find any names on them. This should point us in the right direction.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    edited November 2013
    No specific equipment

    There didn't seem to be any special devices, but here are more pics. This radiator looks mostly like the rest of them. I can get closer if you need me to.



    Also, if you look at the pressure controls, one of the indicators is up to 4. Is this too high?
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  • BobCBobC Posts: 2,757Member ✭✭✭
    edited November 2013
    3.6 PSI?

    Is your pressure gauge broken, does it read zero when the boiler is cold?



    I'm not familiar with that pressure device (Vaporstat?) but if it is the only one on the boiler it seems it's set to about 3.6psi with an 8oz differential. If that is true it sounds much to high for a 2 pipe steam system. Try turning that left control down to 1 lb and see if it helps.



    I would replace the glass in the sight glass so you can better see what is going on and then flush and perhaps skim the boiler. If you flush and skim do it when the boiler is cold or just warm, you don't want to add a lot of fresh water to hot boiler. Bring the boiler up to steam after filling it with water the last time so you drive all the oxygen out of the fresh water.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    edited November 2013
    I can adjust

    Thanks for the advice. I can easily adjust the psi and differential if you think I should.



    I can see the lens fairly well, and I try to keep it at half-level. I've been having to fill it up every day, though. There is a small leak in the basement, but the bucket that's trapping the water doesn't seem to collect nearly enough to have to re-fill every day.



    The pressure gauge is not at 0 when cold. It's still at 10 now and has been off for hours.
    ·
  • BobCBobC Posts: 2,757Member ✭✭✭
    Adding water daily is bad

    Are any of your return pipes buried under the cellar floor? On a cold day while the boiler is steaming go outside and see if you can sea any steam coming out of the chimney.



    If looks like the sight glass has a leak and that probably indicates a gauge glass washer is shot. If you try and fix this make sure tou have a set of guage glass washers and a new sight glass because it's easy to break them when removing them.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    Return pipes

    All return pipes are accessible from the full basement. There is no indication of leaks anywhere in the house, and we've been using the system for 18 months. THere is one leak from a pipe that I wrapped in a towel, and the water collects in a bucket on the basement floor. It's not a huge volume, though. The chimney begins in the basement and does not have any pipes running through or near it.
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    More Photos

    Here is every device on or near the boiler.
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  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,266Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2013
    Looks like you have an Orifice Vapor System

    the simplest form of steam heating there is. It has no traps or other moving parts on the radiators. There are orifices in the radiator supply valves which meter the incoming steam. If the pressure is kept low, steam will only fill the radiators to about 80-90% of their capacity. This keeps steam from reaching the dry return.



    If the steam gets into the dry return, it can cause the banging you hear. It's likely that the pressure is too high or that one or more orifices are missing.



    It is important to vent the steam mains quickly on this system, so the steam will reach the ends of the mains and then rise toward all the radiators at the same time. The dry return must be well vented too.



    Crank that Vaporstat down as far as it will go. You should only need a half-pound or so, with about a 4-ounce differential if your vents are right. You can get orifice plates that you drill out to the proper size from Tunstall.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • BobCBobC Posts: 2,757Member ✭✭✭
    Chimney

    The reason I asked you to look at the chimney is if there is a leak in the boiler it might be leaking into the fire chamber and the flame is turning the leak into steam so you might not spot a leak at the base of the boiler. Is there a lot of rust at the base of the boiler?  Make sure it's a cold day and the boiler is actively making steam, if you see white smoke it's probably steam and there is only one place that steam can be coming from.



    At some point your pressure gauge should be replaced so you know what's going on in the boiler. You might want to a a second 0-3PSI gauge onto your existing pigtail that is feeding the vaporstat because that system should probably be operating at ounces not pounds of pressure.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    RIght now?

    Should I do that immediately, and then turn the system on? Is a half pound really enough? I'm happy to take your advice, it's just that I don't have a thorough understanding of what you said. :)
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,266Member ✭✭✭✭
    Sure

    then tell us what effect it had.



    To see if steam is getting into the dry (overhead) return lines, simply feel them. You'll know if they're steam-hot ;-)
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    Before I do,

    Before I turn it on, I just want to be clear: is this the setting you recommended?
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  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    Tried it.

    I did as you said. The boiler operated normally--and the banging started like clockwork. Should I run it a few cycles to see if it helps, or should the problem have been solved immediately?



    I'm happy to hire a heating expert to solve the banging problem, but I'm concerned that they may recommend a new system, a water conversion, or even ducting--all of which have been suggested by so-called "professionals."



    As an aside,  even if we don't get the banging figured out, should I still leave the boiler set at the new levels you suggested? What are the benefits of doing so?
    ·
  • SteveSteve Posts: 234Member ✭✭
    Insulation

    Besides the other excellent advice from the pros here I would add pipe insulation. Bare pipes go thru a large temp range which causes a lot of thermal expansion and contraction which in turn can cause a lot of banging. Insulating the pipes with 1" thick pipe insulation also increases system efficiency. Insulate the joints too.
    ·
  • vaporvacvaporvac Posts: 1,050Member ✭✭✭
    edited November 2013
    VaporVac?

    That radiator is exactly like mine with the orifices and no traps. I have a Trane Vaporvaccum system. Steamhead is one of the bast pros on this site (I"m a fellow homeowner}, so feel happy he's giving you advice. Low pressure is necessary regardless of your system's other issues. The Empire State building works between 2-3 lbs.

    However, i'm chiming in because I'm seeing the reading as 10 on vacuum, It's hard to get a good look, but I think one side is pounds and the other says vac. That's also how mine is, so if that's true you may have a vapor vacuum system which is considered the Cadillac of steam systems and known for its even soft heat . However, it should read zero when cold and if it doesn't budge from that it's probably clogged. This is well worth the time to get it right; don't consider replacing it. Do the valves on the rads have a name on them? Ditto for the insulation and steam coming out the chimney.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    valves

    The valves have either been painted over or have broken handles, necessitating the use of a wrench to turn them. They work, though.



    Of course, I'd be happy to keep the boiler if I can, but the heating bills are enormous and the banging is becoming a real quality of life problem for us. I realize the boiler itself doesn't make the pipes bang, but the cost is also killing us and it's fifty years old.
    ·
  • MDNLansingMDNLansing Posts: 297Member
    Square One Question

    You say you have owned the place for 18 months. Has it always been banging, or is this something new that just started this year?
    ·
  • MDNLansingMDNLansing Posts: 297Member
    Pics

    Also, could you take a picture the shows the near boiler piping from top to bottom. Stand so the picture includes the main at the top, and the top and bottom of those long pipes that drop down and have the U (the 2 90s with the close nipple between them and that little leg that goes down from it) on the bottom. Try to get as much of that into one picture as possible.
    ·
  • MDNLansingMDNLansing Posts: 297Member
    BTW

    I have this same gague on my system. It should read zero when cold with no pressure. Needle moves to the right when the system has a positive PSI and is pressurized. Readings to the left of zero indicate inches of hq vacuum, not PSI. So, in this picture it is sitting at 10" or vacuum.



    If it sits like that by default when the system is cold, you should remove it, clean it, and calibrate it. If its exactly the same as mine (it looks exactly the same but I dontt know if they made different models with the same identical look or not), you can clean it out and adjust the zero point by turning a ring and shaft on the probe coming out of the back of the unit. Most likely though, you have gunk built up around the probe and stem and cleaning it real good will make it return to zero on it's own.
    ·
  • BobCBobC Posts: 2,757Member ✭✭✭
    How does it heat

    It appears that reducing the pressure did not quiet your anvil symphony.



    How does the system heat (aside from te chorus), do all the radiators heat up and do they all heat up at about the same time? If there is a radiator that does not heat and the valve is open it might be wise to inspect it's supply pipe to make sure there are no sags that might have puddles in them that would collapse the steam and could cause water hammer.



    When you ran the boiler after setting the pressure lower did you notice any difference in the operation of the boiler. Did it cycle on pressure or did anything sound different before the chorus master set up his hammers?



    Another issue is you have a non-functioning pressure gauge so we don't know if the pressure in the boiler is 0.5 pounds or 5 pounds. I would get that gauge working asap and i would make sure the pigtail on your vaporstat is not clogged. We have to know what the pressure is inside that boiler and we have to know if the vaporstat is doing it;'s job.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    Yes

    Yes, the pipes have been banging since day one. We tried ignoring it,

    and then it got warm and we forgot about it, and then we never got

    around to calling a heating technician. Now I'm about to pull my hair

    out because it's such a blow to our quality of life. Imagine having

    roofers coming over every night at 1 am, 3 am, and 5 am and banging the

    crap out of your house. It's terrible.
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    To answer your questions:

    The system heats well. All the radiators in the house get hot, including the two in the attic.



    After changing the pressure, I did not notice a difference in the operation of the boiler. The banging started at the same time it always does--approximately 7-10 minutes after the boiler has turned on.





    I would be glad to have a pro replace the pressure gauge, but it's so hard finding somebody who actually know what they're talking about vis-a-vis steam heating systems. Any recommendations for somebody in Buffalo, NY?
    ·
  • Boiler wrestlerBoiler wrestler Posts: 29Member
    edited November 2013
    Marital bliss

    Take heart and don't get discouraged, your problems though loud and annoying are not "normal" and can be resolved with some work. The high fuel bills and banging are symptoms of related problems.  Lots of good advice given already. 



    Check the pressure(guage, pigtail clear) If the pigtail is plugged adjusting the vaporstat will do nothing as it can't see the pressure in the boiler. Are all hand valves still orificed? Is the main venting functional?



    I would like to see more pictures on the near boiler piping and any main vents you can find in the basement ceiling.



    Have you tried the "Find a Contractor" link above?
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    ?

    I'm afraid I don't know what you mean by the "hand valves being orificed." I also don't really know what you mean by vent.



    I sound like a rube. I'm pretty handy, but steam heat systems are way beyond my expertise.



    What do you mean by "main vent?"



    I've attached as many photos as I could.
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  • steamedchicagosteamedchicago Posts: 46Member
    orifce valves

    Orifice valve means that there's a plate in the valve, or between the valve and the radiator.  A hole is drilled in the plate.  The size of the hole depends on the size of the radiator, and the design operating pressure. Instead of allowing the full diameter of the pipe to supply the radiator, they limit the amount of steam that reaches the radiator.  That means there doesn't have to be a thermostatic trap on the return, because the rate of steam flow into the radiator is slow enough that the radiator will condense it all.   If steam reaches the return side, bad things can happen, including lots of banging. 



    A main vent is a thermostatic air vent on the stem mains in the basement.  Look at Steamhead's signature picture up the thread.  That's a whole bunch of them (presumably in a pretty big system...).  The purpose of the main vents is to let air out of the mains, so steam can get to the radiators faster and more evenly. 
    ·
  • SchenleySevenSchenleySeven Posts: 24Member
    Buy the book

    You need to buy the book The Lost Art of Steam Heating in the Shop section, to learn about your heating system and to understand the advise from the pros here. Consider it a Christmas present to your house, and to your wife!
    One pipe steam, 1970's Columbia COU700 boiler (188K btuh & 785 sq.ft. steam), Beckett RF with 2.00 80A nozzle, Pressuretrol cut in 0.5 with 2.0 diff, 3 mains (two are vented with Gorton #2, third has no vent!), pipes mostly insulated, 32 radiators.





    Bock 32E water heater, Bock M-SR burner with .75 80A nozzle.
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  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,266Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2013
    Those were the right settings

    since that didn't seem to help, there are other problems we haven't found yet.



    The gauge is bad and needs to be replaced. That's pretty straightforward though.



    Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • MDNLansingMDNLansing Posts: 297Member
    Starting Simple

    When the boiler is running, do you hear air been expelled from the vents in the basement? If so, do they spew water? Do they shut off and stop venting air after a certain period of time, or do they expel air for the entire boiler cycle?



    How long does your boiler run during a cycle? Does the cycle complete because the thermostat is happy, or because you reached the high pressure limit? Test this by turning the thermostat way up and watching the boiler. How long does it run before it shuts off? Does it shut down at any point or does it just keep running endlessly? If the boiler is able to reach cut out pressure and shutdown, how long does it take before the boiler fires back up and run again? What does you pressure gauge say during these boiler cycles?



    When it is running, doe the water in your site glass bounce up and down like crazy? Does the water line drop way down and stay there, like you are running low on water? While the boiler is running doe the autofill ever kick in and add water to the boiler?



    I know this is a lot, but it will help a great deal to assist with finding the problem. Your near boiler piping is really configured poorly, but we might be able to get the system running better and with less noise and banging. With this extra info we can start to offer some theories and suggestions.
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  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    answers

    I do not hear any air being expelled, nor do I see any spewing water.



    The boiler seems to run continuously, but that was when I was at almost 4PSI. Of course, it shuts off when the desired temperature is reached, but it does occasionally shut off and on during the heating process. The pressure gauge seems to be broken, so it's constantly at 10.



    When it is running, the wated does bounce but only a bit. When the rads are completely hot, the water level is low. When they're cool, it is where it's supposed to be. There is no autofill, so I have to manually add water. I usually have to do this once every day or two during the winter--total pain in the ass. However, I can't imagine where the water is escaping, as there are no indication of leaks in walls, ceilings, etc. except for one leak in the basement, which drips into a bucket. It's not a big enough leak to account for the water loss though. There is one additional steam leak--in the downstairs bathroom. I usually wrap a towel around the valve and it mitigates the water loss. However, steam does escape into the bathroom.
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  • BanBan Posts: 76Member
    edited November 2013
    Vapor leak

    I imagine, as others have stated, that you could be losing steam through your chimney via a cracked or rusted boiler. Check to see if you are seeing excessive water vapor coming out of the chimney when the system is on. Please take a photo of the chimney when the system is on. Attached is a photo of excessive steam coming out of the chimney due to a cracked boiler.
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    Richard Ban





    Detroit, Michigan (Dunham 2-pipe vacuum)
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  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    Nothing

    System is on, just checked the chimney, and there's nothing coming out of it--but it's not a particularly cold day today.
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    New information

    I have some new information.



    Since turing the psi down to 0.5, the system seems to be heating slower than it normally does. The furnace is shutting off and on more than it used to (at 4 psi), but the time it takes to heat the rads seems to be much longer than it used to be. It would stand to reason that the longer it takes to heat, the more fuel I'm using. This concerns me, as the banging and high bills are the two things I need to solve.



    Any thoughts?
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    yes

    Also, I tried the find a contractor button, but there doesn't seem to be anybody listed that's near me. I'm in Buffalo, NY.
    ·
  • SteveSteve Posts: 234Member ✭✭
    Vents

    Do you see any vents on the pipes that drain back to the boiler? (see link) Could not see any in the pics you posted. If you do not have any or the ones that are there are clogged then that would explain a lot of your problem. Without them it would be like trying to breath thru a straw with the end blocked. Higher pressure from the boiler is trying to push steam thru the rads.

    There are other styles besides these.

    http://bellgossett.com/steam-specialties/vents/steam-vents/
    ·
  • BanBan Posts: 76Member
    Water loss

    Your still losing water. Why? It is either leaking out of a pipe or being lost in water vapor.
    Richard Ban





    Detroit, Michigan (Dunham 2-pipe vacuum)
    ·
  • cbscinta1cbscinta1 Posts: 46Member
    Don't think so

    I don't see any vents like that. Here is a photo of some return pipes, as well as the only radiator in the house with a valve on the left hand side.
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  • SteveSteve Posts: 234Member ✭✭
    Vents

    The vent on that radiator is upside down and will not vent that way. Unscrew it and with it pointing up blow thru it. It may allow air to pass thru AND steam which would be a bad thing and would explain why it was turned upside down.

    The radiator that is leaking steam in the bathroom is stuck open and should be replaced.

    Judging by your woes I would replace all the radiator vents. Gortons are a favorite here and are what I have in my house. But do not put new vents on the rads until you have fixed the venting problem on the return pipes in the basement (assuming there are any to be found) It is possible that vents were never installed (or removed) from the return pipes. Perhaps a plumber long ago figured the rads could handle it.



    The Gorton #1 & 2 would be used in the basement. The others are for radiators.

    http://www.pexsupply.com/Gorton-Air-Valves-302000



    http://www.gorton-valves.com/specify.htm
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  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Orifice Plate

    Hi- Attached is a picture of a valve with an orifice plate.

    - Rod
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