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Help a steam brother out!

JoeV_2 Member Posts: 43
Crime Steam Investigator! Oops sorry for the double post.


  • Sweetandlowjoe
    Sweetandlowjoe Member Posts: 2
    Someone Help a Poor Steam Brother Out!!!

    Okay, quick history... Dream house yada yada, Steam heating system first sign of trouble; house inspection. Inspector was pleased the boiler brought the heat up so fast, my Mom pulled me to the side a little alarmed and said "your radiators shouldn't be blowing steam out of the vents after running only 5 minutes!" Second sign... Insurance inspection, called the company that installed the system 3 years earlier won't say their name, but it rhymes with Four Seasons! They sent a contractor who told me there was no equalizer, no Hartford loop and the pressure was up too high. Luckily the home I moved from had an old oil burning hot water radiant system, so I wasn't completly ignorant, but lets just say I wasn't quite as prepared as I would have liked to be... After initially trying to tell me I have a "smaller boiler" and they don't need equalizers or Hartford loops (a few calls to New Yorker cleared that misconception up for them) Four Seasons agreed to come back out and correct the installation. Over winter, the system worked better, but I still have banging pipes on one side of the house and occassional heat on the other!
    So, tomorrow (Friday 8/31/07) Four Seasons is sneding their "best steam guy" not really sure why this doesn't fill me with overwhelming confidence...
    I am posting some pictures, I have studied the installation manual like I am taking a final, but would love some "expert testimony" for the prosecution! Any suggestions or observations are welcome.
    All pics were taken today.
  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 958
    piping issues

    It late, even for me.. But I see several things right off the bat. BTW, this is good news since this is not a mysterious problem. Look at the instructions books; Look in the Library here for Header, Dropped header.

    1) Whatever, the way this is piped now, the steam flows AWAY from the equalizer. This is WRONG. Visualize the steam coming out of the boiler, and both flows turning away from the equalizer. There's no way that the droplets of water in the steam are going to look at their GPS and magically turn the opposite way of the steam flow and drop into the equalizing pipe! What does this mean? None of the entrained water will get separated and will then be carried up into piping--causing water hammer and heating problems due to flooding.

    2) Study the Hartford loop carefully. Looks kinda like whats in the book, doesn't it? NO IT DOESN'T. Its backwards. Equalizer should drop straight down, the wet return line is the one thats supposed to come up and 90 into the close nipple that T's into the equalizer. And for heavens sake make sure that that close nipple is below the water line so it doesn't lock up and hammer at the boiler whenever it stops firing.

    3) I don't think its an illusion. That sight glass is full. either its plugged with grunge or the boiler really is overfilled. Or both. Now, why would it be overfilled?

    a) The new piping has contaminated the water, and the painstaking process of cleaning and skimming the boiler was not done or is incomplete. This triggers the automatic fill, raising the water line. Then all the condensate stuck up in the system (where its supposed to be mostly steam) comes back to a freshly refilled boiler... Yay. Now its over filled. So the next cycle crams mostly water and a little steam to flood the piping, causing poor or nonexistent heat in some areas and water hammer in others that can wake the neighbors.

    b) The boiler water is carrying over into the steam mains because of "a" AND the incorrect piping AND the Hartford connection is holding back return water in the piping.

    Finally, vents that blow steam are broken. DO NOT replace them until the above problems are rectified. Water shooting up there and flooding radiators can and will damage the float type radiator vents. Which may be what happened. They should vent only air and close when the steam hits them.

  • JoeV_2
    JoeV_2 Member Posts: 43

    Crime Steam Investigator!
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,752
    Steam boiler piping

    Love the attention to detail and how the install manual was followed.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Another small detail...

    The pressure relief valve is piped incorrectly. The spindle the relief valve should be pointed up, i.e. the discharge of the valve should be horizontal and THEN the drip tube should have a 90 degree turn down to the floor...like it says in the instructions...

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  • Perry_3
    Perry_3 Member Posts: 498
    Buy and give to the contractor...

    The lost art of steam heating. It is in the store (get a copy for you and the contractor).

    You may find some other guides usefull as well.

    Note that I hate having to educate the contractor. I had to do that for my mod/con boiler as well.

  • Spudwrench
    Spudwrench Member Posts: 47

    I bought a two-flat with a four-seasons installed hot water boiler. (Are you near Chicago?) It's not a terrible job, but it could be a lot better; no boiler condensation protection, boiler propped up on cinder blocks and one of the shutoff ball valves simply will not turn; I suspect they either baked it or solder dribbled down the inside when they were soldering it.

    Somehow, I think you might be better off writing off Four Seasons and just trying to find a steam expert. If they couldn't do it right the first time...
  • Joey B_2
    Joey B_2 Member Posts: 24

    I havent installed or worked on a lot of steam boilers but love to learn about it. My old boss used to install weil mclain golds all the time and I do remember we needed a min 24in from, I believe, the water level to the bottom of the header.
    Is this only the case for weil mclain or is this a near boiler piping standard?
    I cant really tell by the picture but the header looks kind of low.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,897
    A true........

    Amateur did that job....whatever ever fittings they had on teh truck that day. Mad Dog

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  • Fittings on fittings

    Mad Dog,

    I was thinking the same thing.

    Besides installing the pipes wrong, it looks like he did not own a pipe threader. He just used any nipple and fitting he had on the truck to make it go together.

    That install looks like a caricature of what a steam pipe system should look like.

    Unfortunately, the only solution I see is to tear out all of the near boiler pipes and start from scratch to do it right.

    Ed Carey
  • It's pretty much standard

    check the instructions for any new steamer and I bet you find it. Most boiler manufacturers have I&O manuals on their Web sites so you can view or download them. Note that this is a minimum dimension- taller risers are better. The height keeps water from reaching the header.

    If you need more riser height you can use a drop header, as shown on the SGO in the photo. The drop header is also easier to put together, where the boiler needs two or more risers to the header.

    On this job, a Kriebel system, Gordo and I ran the steam from the 3-inch drop header into the 5-inch header that served the original boiler. This resulted in bone-dry steam!

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  • Agreed

    SweetandlowJoe, that's the only way out of this piping situation. Have it repiped.

    Then check the main vents to see if they're sized properly. Measure the length and diameter of your steam mains and tell us what vents (if any) are on them.

    Try the Find a Professional page of this site to locate a steam man near you. It's on the Resources menu at the top of this page. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like you're near Baltimore.....

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  • Steamhead


    Good work.

    There is something nice about knowing that in 50 or 60 years, when someone looks at that pipe job, they will say, "A real pro did that"

    Ed Carey

  • V8toilet
    V8toilet Member Posts: 71

    Your near boiler piping has bull head tee's, which is causing the water that rises up with the steam to not get to the equalizer. It should be piped like in this sequence, riser from boiler to header, steam takeoffs to steam mains, and then equalizer to bottom of boiler.

    Your riser and header also seem a bit small so the steam entering it may be at a too high of a velocity causing boiler water to be sucked along with the steam. Check the boiler manual and see if you have the right diameter riser and header pipes. They also need to be insulated to keep the steam from condensing in the near boiler piping. It’s obvious that allot of your problems are caused by the near boiler piping. It’s all done way wrong!

    You need to get at least the “We Got Steam Heat” book by Dan. It will help you understand what you are dealing with.
  • yourchizzler
    yourchizzler Member Posts: 10
    blue block gone wild, crying shame

    Hi guys, I've read all posted, and yes start over, I live in westchester NY and see and install a lot of steam boilers and as we know some pro's do the right job and some do a job like seen in the pic's posted. the crying shame of it is that they got paid for that job. So read the manual, get a well known expert plumber with a pipe threader and get piping, and don't use the blue only 2 PSI man not 200. good luck on your boiler, I feel for you and the others that used that company. godspeed brother in need.
  • RichP
    RichP Member Posts: 1
    yourchizzler - do you do work in Rockland County?

    I need someone familiar with steam heat to install a new boiler in my house in Suffern, NY.

    I see yourchizzler lives in Westchester. Can you email me and let me know if you work in Rockland County?


  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111

    i see your in suffern ,i am located in mahwah here's my e mail RDEUZA@aol.com ,if you would like e mail me and i'll take a look at your system ,here's a photo of one of my install peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
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