Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Next step in balancing steam heat

Pete_18 Member Posts: 197
Here's what I've done so far to troubleshoot my high heating bills and unbalanced heating issues (1-pipe Steam/1980 Waltham oil boiler). Unfortunately, I'm still troubleshooting.

Unfortunately, I still have two radiators that don't heat anywhere near as equally as the others (they barely get warm), even with their vents removed (does not appear to be a localized venting issue at the specific radiator from what I can tell). The other radiators in the house all heat very well given enough time for the boiler to produce steam.

One of the radiators that doesn't heat well is pitched properly and I know that it does operate because when I began this process there were other radiators in the house not heating because their vents were painted shut and this radiator (the one now having issues) heated all the way across.

If I slow down venting on other radiators that are heating up faster, should I somehow expect this to help the radiator that isn't heating up enough or will this only slow down these specific radiators without 'redirecting' steam to other needy radiators?

I have not yet gone to each of the radiators on the first floor and put smaller vents on them because I have not been very impressed with the adjustable vents and the Gortons that I buy aren't returnable once I've tried them, even if they don't fix my issue and turn out to be the wrong size. I'd hate to spend yet another $150 on vents that are the wrong size that I can't return that don't solve my problem.

I have purchased the e-book that talks about balancing the radiators based on proper venting but I am finding information lacking, for example, I am not finding enough information to fill in the formula to determine what size vent I should be using on each radiator.

One of the radiators that barely heats up is on the 2nd floor and the other is on the top (3rd) floor. One of the knowledgeable Steam folks I had come out believes that the run to the 2nd floor room that isn't heating is actually the closest run off of the main, not at the end of the main. It is almost like it's own mini-main (it has a dedicated dry return at the end). While I did not have this mini-main vented, I did try a Gorton D on this radiator with minimal (if any) improvement.

What has been done so far:

- All basement steam pipes are now insulated with 1 inch fiberglass on the mains and 1/2 inch on the radiator feeds. Progress - Basement is no longer 40 degrees warmer than the rest of the house

- The two long main runs now each have one Gorton 2 (were previously unvented). Progress - no longer hear air pouring out of the radiator vents. However: Not seeing a drastic improvement on heating time or any progress in evenly heating the radiators having issues.

- New thermostat installed/set for steam setting. Progress - no longer causes system to short cycle (run for 3-5 minutes every 15-30m). It's not terribly cold out this week, but I am finding that it will run for a good 35-50m and then stays warm enough where it doesn't run again for many hours. It is taking at least 15-20 minutes to even begin to get steam moving (seems to take much longer since lowering the pressuretrol).

- Pressuretrol was set to 2.5, now set to 1.5 (does not go any lower)

Known issues.

- Boiler chamber dirty - scheduled to be replaced next week. Perhaps this is causing the system to take longer than it should to produce steam.
- Water hammer due to poor near-boiler piping. Skim port used to take steam out of the boiler right above the water line on the left hand side, header is only 17 inches from the water line vs. 24+ (do not have manual to know what mfg recommendation is for this unit). Have not done anything about either of these issues yet - holding off until Boiler chamber is replaced and I finish troubleshooting the other issues.

Any help is greatly appreciated, the wife is wondering why this is taking me so long to fix. :)


  • Vent the mini-main

    how long is it, and what pipe size?
  • ed wallace
    ed wallace Member Posts: 1,613

    Pete if the chamber is being replaced start spraying the bolts on boiler front with wd 40 today and maybe they will come out with out breaking off the problem with your boiler is the near boiler piping and no amount of fairy dust will fix it i sent you info on drop headers thats what your boiler needs

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
  • Pete_18
    Pete_18 Member Posts: 197
    Main lengths

    Approximate lenghs:

    1 run is 3 inch IPS - approximately 18 feet (not including hartford loop)

    The other run is 2 inch IPS - approximately 30 feet (not including hartford loop)

    Previously unvented, now each is vented with a Gorton 2.

    I no longer hear my radiators choking on air when the system is running, but the radiator that doesn't heat properly isn't any better without a vent attached.
  • Pete_18
    Pete_18 Member Posts: 197


    Thanks for the advice.

    I will get the WD40 out now and pray that the bolts come off nicely. :)

    Unfortunately I have to wait another week before the Oil company comes out, so I need to continue to suffer and wonder until then before deciding what to do next. It really makes me curious how the former owners of the house lived with this mess for 30+ years. They told me they set the temperature in the whole house to 55 degrees and even so, their oil bills weren't that cheap.

    Replacing the chamber is covered under the Oil company's 'service contract' and given how filthy it is (probably has never been cleaned in 25 years of being 'serviced') and how the fire appears to be bouncing off the wall of crud, I figure I might as well get it out of the way before I move on to the next step of replacing the near-boiler piping or something more drastic.

    Steamhead, what do you think, you've seen the pictures. 17 inches from the water line to the header and the skim port on the left is being used to take steam out of the boiler -- barely above the water line with the wonderful water hammer just below it to the left where it meets up with the dry return. I'd love to check the owners manual, but it's nowhere to be found. Do you expect drastic additional dry steam production from the drop header and capping of the skim port?

    Would you be concerned that no longer getting steam from the skim port on the left and only from the single tapping on the top right will somehow negatively impact the current steam output?

    One of the two radiators that appears to now heat the least is believed to be one of the closest to the boiler, down its own mini-main (1 1/4 inch- 3-4 ft in length and then up to the 2nd floor), the other is on the 3rd floor and I have no clue where it comes off the main. Removing the radiator vent is not making it heat any more.

    The other radiators in the house seemingly heat fine although the system as a whole is definitely taking its sweet time for all of them to heat (I need to time it). This seems to have gotten worse since the pressuretrol was lowered, but it's tough to know since it's no longer constantly short cycling and when it does need to fire back up based on temperature, it has been a couple of hours and it is a fairly cold start, so it takes a while to produce steam.
  • Pete, when Ed comes

    to re-do the near-boiler piping have him look at the piping to those rads. 3-4 feet of run-out shouldn't cause the problems you're having. If the mini-main were something like 10 feet long I'd say vent it, but 3-4 feet is normal.

    It's possible the return from that mini-main is clogged and water has backed up in it. This would stop the steam and probably cause banging.
This discussion has been closed.