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Lazy heat in two pipe system

ed wallace
ed wallace Member Posts: 1,613
Andy please save your steam system it will be easier and cheaper to fix the steam

Comments

  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    Lazy heat in some areas in two pipe steam system

    I recently moved into a good sized house which has a two pipe steam system. Some modiifcations were made to add two radiators. one works well, the other steam, baseboard in master bath, usually knocks and gurgles and only heats ,and not always, if there is a 4 degree setback put in overnight. I noticed it has a trap on it and then two floors below where it goes back into the main return there is also a trap. Is the double trapping blocking the smooth flow of steam?

    In another area which we keep closed off with danfoss valves unless we have guests, one large radiator hardly heats unless the boiler is working hard. This sub main has a 6" downturn in the basmenet with a drip leg,about 15' frm the boiler to get through a foundation wall and the it rsumes its upward pitch. Does that laziness mean the drip is plugged? and the steam is slowed up? No knocks on this line.

    in this same guest area there is another radiator in the bath which is always hot, even in moderate weather. That's the way all radiators should work right? That radiator is fed off a different sub main.

    The boiler is new, replaced about 2 yrs ago before I bought the house. The boiler is in the geographic center of the house . The house is long and narrow.
    The main vent is above and behind the boiler it sighs ocassonally when the system is running. There is evidence (rust stains) that it has pumped water on some occasions.

    What do I do? I have spoken to a a few local "experts' but the answers range from change to hot water to add chemicals to the system . Others say, that's typical for steam. Those folks sure give me confidence!!! There must be a sensible cure. The radiators which function(most of them) without noise are super. It seems that all the above several types of steam flow problems.

    My location is a few miles west of Boston MA Many thanks for your input.
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    Some thoughts, Andy

    Pretty good initial assessment, Andy.

    Let me try to address your points in order:

    The baseboard may not have adequate pitch. (There is a limitation on how long a run you can have but in a bathroom I kind of doubt that it is over the limit which is about 9 feet.) The knocking and gurgling says "trapped condensate" to me. I would check the pitch with a good level.

    The possibility of two traps in series is also strongly suspect. Assuming these are thermostatic traps, they respond to temperature (of course). The second trap does not have the luxury of ever seeing steam so it would tend to back up. The stacked head of condensate is probably the only motive force at work on this one. I would try removing it and see what happens. I do not know why it would need a second trap, but a "float and thermostatic" (F&T) trap would respond to both temperature and the rise in liquid level in the trap body. My hunch is that you do not need it, but without seeing it, I cannot say for sure. Someone put it there for some reason, well-advised or not.

    The 6" sub-turn with drip- only way to see if it is blocked, short of opening it and rodding or blowing it out, is to feel it during firing. Does it get as hot as quickly as the other piping?

    I would also check the venting of that bedroom radiator and the sub-main itself. If there is any "trapping" in that sub-turn, the air being allowed to escape and/or the vacuum to be broken on the down-cycle, could allow the water to flow more freely. The Danfoss valve has a vacuum breaker built-in so that is a great feature on the radiator side of things. It allows "breathing" even if the valve is closed while the room is satisfied.

    The bath radiator that is always hot? That may be an ideal situation in most baths :) Seriously though, all radiators should come to temperature at about the same time (because we like equal comfort, not "Walking Comfort", right?

    That radiator might be said to be vented too quickly or at least ahead of the others. (One might argue that it is in fact "properly vented" and the others are "inadequately vented", which is where I would fall.)

    That the boiler is new means far less than if it was installed correctly. Near-boiler piping is really "a part of the boiler that they could not ship with it". Done incorrectly and you do not have the factory-promised performance.

    That the main vent shows signs of having vented water means that it could well do so again. Such a condition indicates a damaged vent and a condition that would damage future vents. Perhaps it is on the end of the run and not held back from the end, thus takes the brunt of a water slug?

    The fact that it now "sighs" is good- not hissing so much as easing air out. It may be OK now, but long-term deserves a look. Sighing is one thing, does it "pant"? (breathe back and forth?)

    Panting could indicate that there is some condensate trapped in the system which collapses the steam, causing a panting motion. That or your vent has taken up Yoga.

    The local experts who say "change to hot water" are probably not well versed in steam (maybe not even hot water, I do not know them). Adding chemicals may be in the cards but that is not a solution, any more than taking aspirin helps a brain tumor. Remember the definition of "expert". "Ex" from the Latin for "has-been". "Spurt" meaning "a drip under pressure". :)

    I am in Boston myself (Roslindale and Auburndale). If any time frees up, maybe give me a shout.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    brad white and steam system

    Hi Brad,
    would you please send me your phone # to my email: [email protected]
    I'd like you to have a look at my system . I have time this coming week.Thanks Andy
  • ed wallace
    ed wallace Member Posts: 1,613
    steam heat

    Andy please save your steam system it will be easier and cheaper to fix the steam
  • What Ed and Brad said

    There's nothing wrong with this system that can't be readily fixed. I think it's actually a Vapor system- which was the Cadillac of heating in the day and is still one of the best out there. There are so many things that could go wrong by converting to hot-water, and no real efficiency to be gained, that it's not worth it.

    Help us ID your system by posting a few pics of the boiler area, radiators, that dip in the main etc. Also, have you found any names on any of the system's original hardware, such as valves, traps and odd-looking devices near the boiler?

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  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    photos

    Thanks guys. I intend to keep the system, I justneed help in making it more efficient. By comparing it to another rental property I own, I think this house is wasting at least 30% of the fuel-all due to the heating system flow, not heat loss.
    I will make some photos today.

    Per previous post I am considering changing the boiler fuel to gas, but I think rectifying the inefficiencies/blockages is the priority.

    How do I upload photos to this site- or does it go to somebody's email?

    I will photo a typical radiator & then around the boiler & main vent/loop piping. Thanks Andy

  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    photos etc

    I sent a lengthy description and 12 photos to Steamhead's email. Maybe he can post the pix back here for you all. Thanks Andy
  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    posted photos

    I am attempting to post photos. The two adjacent rads my office and spare bedroom are 3 feet apart separated by a riser in a closet. the spare works great, mine is slow and bangs. Get a laugh at the downturn and drip, as I broke the plug after heating it-its plugged with a nice piece of white pine. The other funny rad (back hall)was a replacement & they insisted on putting that vent on it. it works, but was that necessary. I sent a long email to Steamhead decribing more details. I missed a couple of pix will send later.Thanks Andy
  • ed wallace
    ed wallace Member Posts: 1,613
    steam piping

    Andy what you have is an old vapor system you need a vaporstat which runs on ounces of pressure
  • Here is my reply to Andy

    from the e-mail:

    Andy, you have a Webster Type "R" Vapor system. This was a very nicely engineered and durable system, and once it's set up properly it will give you years of efficient comfort. Many of the Webster systems we encounter are just now starting to need trap repairs and other maintenance items after all these years.

    The important thing to remember when dealing with these systems is that the symptom and the actual problem may not be in the same place. For example, a radiator with a bad trap might heat up fine, but other radiators in the system might not though their traps are working fine. The way to ID bad traps is to feel the dry (overhead) return- it should never be steam-hot. Very warm is OK, but never at steam temperature. A trap that leaks steam will pressurize the dry return and impair the flow of steam into the radiators. Follow the steam temperature back until you get to the radiator where it comes from, and repair the trap thereon.

    Also check the "crossover" traps at the ends of the steam main. One of these is shown in the pic "kitchradsbfltrap"- this is NOT trapping the rads but is venting the steam main into the dry return. It works just like a main vent, except it sends the air into the dry return, and if it leaks it will pressurize the dry return as described above. If there are no traps on the kitchen rads, this is part of your problem.

    It's probably best to rebuild all the traps, since they're all about the same age. You're right, the B&J replacement has an attachment method that looks tenuous, but it works. Once all your traps are in good shape, if you're still having trouble with some radiators it will be easier to troubleshoot them.

    In the pic "mainvt&fttrap", the vent is actually a Webster Air Trap. This trap does not close against steam, so if there is steam in the dry return it will escape from this unit. There is probably a small vacuum check in the top of the air trap- it should be removed, since vacuum only works well with solid-fuel boilers. The unit you call the F&T trap is actually a Boiler Return Trap, a.k.a. Alternating Receiver. It is basically a pressure-powered pump that can force water back to the boiler if its pressure gets too high. The two check valves in the pipe below this unit often get dirty and should be checked to make sure they are clean and not stuck. If you have the book "The Lost Art of Steam Heating", this equipment appears in chapter 15- the system they use for illustration is a Dunham, but your Webster works the same way.

    Regarding the boiler installation: That header looks kind of screwy. Though Smith does allow the use of a 2-inch header on the 8 series boilers, on a system like yours where the original header was bigger we should stick to that original size. This will allow the steam to expand as it passes thru the header, and lower its velocity so any water that got this far can drop to the bottom of the pipe and drain back to the boiler. I've attached a pic of a similar boiler we installed on a one-pipe system. As you can see we put the boiler at right angles to the original 3-inch header and elbowed into it. We also rose above the level of the original header and dropped into the new extended header. This setup makes some real dry steam! Also, the Pressuretrol is the wrong control for your system. You need a Vaporstat, Honeywell #L408J1009, to keep the pressure from exceeding 8 ounces or so.

    And get rid of the vent on that one radiator. The "eggspert" was wrong.

    Let me know how you make out. Have you tried to locate a real steam man near you?

    "Steamhead"


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  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    STEAMHEAD BOILER PIX

    Hi Steamhead,

    Can you post any more pix of that boiler piping. & relationship of the Hartford Loop. It looks like you upsized right out of the boiler from their 2" to 2.5 or 3?

    Also what make is that gas burner? I might switch over from oil after all the retuning /trap replacement is done.

    I will be adding the vaporstat and placing the pressure guage next to it on the same pigtail. The sight glass water, when near the low point is barely above the top of the Hartford loop. So yesterday we raised the water 1.5" and also turned the pressure controller to just above its bottom setting. I swear the rads are hotter faster. Thats low pressure rising fast and not slowing by compressing, right? Thanks Andy
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Try this one

    it shows the Hartford Loop and the other end of the header.

    The risers from the boiler to the header are 2-inch. The header itself is 3-inch, and there are three mains leaving the header.

    The burner is a Carlin EZ-Gas, which we got from Smith with the boiler. If you decide to switch, get the burner from Smith as we did and it will match right up.

    And you're right about low-pressure steam moving fast!

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  • Tom Hopkins
    Tom Hopkins Member Posts: 552
    Steamhead more pix of Andys system

    Hi here are 3 pix. In ch 15 of Dan's book fig 56 is Hoffman system. That is exactly how this webster set of parts is installed. Look at my mains ends(mains 1&2) pix just like Hoffman with drip at end to lower line on floor & up thru "air trap" to dry return. My third main just ends as a dry return in the pipe frame by the main vent. It is 35" + above the boiler water.

    Now my header:I agree that having the front end of boiler outlet piggyback into a 2" next to the aft 2" end &then to a 3" increaser & then up appears counterproductive, but at the time must have been "easier". It seems that those two outlets could be piped into an extended header(the one which now is horzontal & has a little insul on it).

    We would have to extend the header over the front of the boiler & change the 3" drip elbow to a 3" T so that the boiler outputs hit either side as drop downs as you show in your new boiler photo. I assume the copper drip can be eliminated, as the end of the proposed new header would be fitted to connect to that boiler return as it does now. That copper pipe is never even warm. Do you think that this piece of piping is worth doing? Is it clear that repiping this jam will add significantly to the flow & production of 98% dry steam? Its a lot of work. Its easy to plan it.

    Finally the pix of the two check valves. Just like Hoffman. Those should be opened and cleaned of "mud", but not eliminated-right?I am guessing one of those must have jammed briefly a couple years ago causing the water to go out the air vent above.

    I think I now have the system figured out, and so far no steam hot returns except where those two mains end and drop down. Those drops are hot til they reach near the floor.

    Those Dead Men must have spent days planning these jobs- not like the slap and run we see for a lot of work today.

    Cant wait til that vaporstat is put in. Andy
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Hard to tell from the pic

    but is there a crossover trap at the end of each steam main before it goes to the dry return? There should be- you don't want steam in the dry return.

    At the boiler, you also want to get rid of that bull-headed tee where the one riser from the header splits into two steam mains. Each main should have its own connection to the header, and if piped right that copper drip will not be needed. This means you'll have to completely rebuild the header- so be it, it's the right way to go. You'll have bone-dry steam when it's done.

    Yes, make sure the check valves and the piping around them are clean, and the flappers in the valves move freely.

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  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    Crossover traps

    Hi Steamhead,

    Yes there is a crossover trap at the end of mains 1&2. The very top of each of those 2 traps is basically plastered into the orrigial wire lath and plaster. They will be fun to change someday. Thanks for all your advice . Might have to wait on the header till warmer weather. Andy
  • Tom Hopkins
    Tom Hopkins Member Posts: 552
    pressure gauge source for vapor system

    We will put in the Vaporstat on friday. Does Steamhead or anyone else recommend a gauge that measures ounces ?the one on the Smith boiler does not look too accurate. Got a reliable source.?Thanks Andy
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    low pressure gauge

    hope this helps
    http://www.gaugestore.com/prodinfo.asp?number=33041
  • Gary Segal
    Gary Segal Member Posts: 37
    low pressure gauge

    I just installed a low pressure gauge on my 2 pipe system and it was an eye-opener. I also bought mine from the gauge Store. Delivery was quick. I bought the lower mount gauge, because it worked better with my piping arrangement: http://www.gaugestore.com/prodinfo.asp?number=33020

    What I found once the gauge was installed was that the calibration of my Vaporstat was not as precise as I had thought. I was cutting out at 4 oz and cutting in at close to 0. I also was able to measure how long it took to build each .1 psi of pressure and how long it took to lose the pressure once the boiler cut out. The gauge has been a wonderful tool for understanding system behavior!
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Well, based on Oscondoles' post

    I would say the Gauge Store is as good a place as any to get these low-pressure gauges.

    Also, if the Vaporstat is a mercury type (older style) make sure it is properly leveled. If not, it will affect its accuracy.

    "Steamhead"

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  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    pressure gauge

    Thanks guys. I ordered that one. The ones higher up in their list which have ounces such as 3013 are not compatible with steam sytems, according to Gauge co tech.
  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    vaporstat and gauge update & misc info

    The first vaporstat was defective,(non functioning switch) but was quickly remedied by Patriot Supply. Just installed today. The new gauge was put in a few days ago.

    The gauge with the old controller never rose over 2psi. After the boiler shut off, the gauge which does not have a peg would go negative, signifying a vaccum. When we put on the new Vaporstat today, indeed there was a vaccum after the boiler had shut off and we unscrewed the old controller.

    I set the low point at the min 2 oz and the max right now about 3.5oz. The boiler has never produced so much heat! and so rapidly. I think it was short cycling with the old pressuretrol and never producing real hot steam.

    I plan to keep the steam pressure low, as the boiler would be firing a long time to get up to 8oz/.5 lb. Doesnt seem necessary, unless somebody here says otherwise.

    I assume that regardless of the vaporstat limits, if the thermostat is satisfied before the upper limit is reached, the boiler will just shut off.

    Now does all this mean the system will be more efficient? or put another way,
    which is the optimal way to set the vaporstat?

    I have a recent electronic thermostat, I know the old ones could be adjusted to adjust the sprd of temp requird to make it cycle. Is there any point in replacing the thermostat(It also runs ac in the summer)

    We replaced a trap cage on one noisy and poorly heating radiator in my home office. Its now totally quiet and heats like a champ. That cage is the only non original I have found yet.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    I think you nailed it

    let us know how much less fuel you use.

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  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    Vacuum question

    Thanks Steamhead, but here is a question. This am after the night set back kicked off, the gauge registered about .2 psi be fore shutting off and then the needle dropped way past 0 to what I wuld guess is a vacuum of 8 oz/.5 psi
    Outside am temp about 14F, it seems the harder it has to work, the greater the vaccum.

    Is this the way the system was designed? What exactly is the vaporstat doing?

    When it fires, the gauge moves quickly back up to about .2psi


    I have photos of the gauge movements& vaporstat settings

    Thanks Andy
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Is there any delay

    between the time the Vaporstat clicks back on, and the time the burner actually fires (as for pre-purge or valve-on-delay)?

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  • Tom Hopkins
    Tom Hopkins Member Posts: 552
    Steamhead delay question

    Hi Steamhead,

    I am not sure the vaporstat makes an audible click on. I think I hear the taco SR501 switching relay switch click, then the burner starts immediately. As far as I can tell, the vaporstat, which is set just below 4oz cuts off when the psi pressure gauge reads around .02, which is about the equivalent vaporstat setting.

    The system is heating very well. Even the incorrectly piped baseboard in the bath gets hotter quicker & longer than ever. When the boiler fires, the gauge wil fluctuate until the air vent is finished, then it rises steadily to the cut off point.

    Why does the vaporstat have the diff setting. what does it do? Can you explain the theory of it to us?

    I will send some pix later today showing the gauge & vaporstat. The wiring of the Vaporstat is different than manual shows, but both steam guy and a skilled electrical contractor I know say its ok.

    Thanks Andy
  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    pix of controls, wiring note

    Here are three pix of controls. Two show progress of vaccum after a more or less cold start and then shut down. usually vac is about -.1psi between cycles. Third pict is just before shut down, approx .2psi/ +/- 4.0z

    Only 2 wires present in old pressuretrol. Top lead is hot, bottom is the other (neutral?)

    system seems much smoother & responsive- incredible heat & fast warmup after 3 degree nite setback

    It is fairly cold outside 18-25 & system handles it well. I think it is less even in moderate 40-50 degree outside temps as the steam production cycles are much further apart.

    Thanks for your comments Andy
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Is the vacuum check

    still screwed into the top of the air trap near the boiler? If so, your vacuum readings are normal.

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  • Tom Hopkins
    Tom Hopkins Member Posts: 552
    Vacuum question

    Hi Steamhead,

    We have not touched any piping behind the boiler. If you saw that part in my pictures from a couple weeks ago, it is still there.


  • Andy_24
    Andy_24 Member Posts: 12
    fuel consumpt & noisy rad

    Hi Steamhead,
    Its hard to be exact, but I think we are using about 20% less fuel! It will take another month to calculate.

    I still have one noisy 6' baseboard which was put in new 2 yrs ago by someone who thought they knew what they were doing....(It replaced a high rad but had to be repiped somewhat). I changed the trap cage once last year, I have changed shims, its level now. I had it high on the supply side & low by 1/2" on the condensate side. Makes no diff. I think the rad has permanent water in it if that is possible: it bangs loudly sometimes, sometimes the banging is in the ceiling below, sometimes it seems the banging is in the rad just before the trap. then always sounds like water sloshing, some times sounds like water dripping. It heats up eventually, and much better than before, but not in moderate weather. I would say it bangs less than before we put in the vaporstat. Thus I conclude the steam has a "hard time" getting there.There must be an "obstruction".

    Does this mean take down the ceiling below & check the supply side piping for pitch? This would be a last resort procedure- highly disruptive& expensive.

    Just before where this rads condensate connects to the return there is a trap which I noted way above somewhere in this thread. We removed the cage. I was hoping to find a column of water, but it was just dirty. Another rad from the first floor wyes into the same line downstream by 1" of the disassembled trap & then goes into the return along with whatever comes through the stripped out trap.

    The fellow who helped me with the vaporstat & cleaning thinks I should change the 2 cross over trap cages just as preventative maintenance. I doubt those have anything to do with the complaint above, as the kitchen rads are downst(r)eam of the noisy rad & work perfectly; and the other one serves a different main.

    Everything else is puuurfect! The laziness is gone in all parts of the house, even in moderate weather.

    Thanks Andy, and many more kudos for getting us this far!!
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