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\"worn out\" pressuretrol OK?

gina_2gina_2 Posts: 4Member
My plumber is telling me that my pressuretrol is "probably worn out" but does not need to be replaced and that it should be cranked up as much as needed to heat all of the radiators. I am wondering if this sounds right?

My boiler seemed to be working fine but my radiators were not heating up on the bottom floor and on the side of the building farthest from the boiler this morning. My plumber checked the air vents, which were all ok. He replaced the main air vent on the front side of the house where no radiators were heating but this didn't help. I then decided to crank up the pressuretrol from .5 where I normally keep it to 2. This seemed to work, the steam pipe slowly got hot in the front of the house but only one of the radiators, and very slowly. Then I cranked it up to 3 and more radiators are getting hot.
I called him and relayed the above pressuretrol adjustments and he said that was fine, and it was probably just getting worn out but didn't need to be replaced. He advised me to crank it as much as needed to heat all of the radiators. Is this good advice? Will my gas bills skyrocket?


  • Bob_121Bob_121 Posts: 22Member

    not a plumber or a pro. but as a long time lurker on the wall and i have read all three books from dan, turning up a pressure is a NO NO.

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,653Member

    do not wear out. Either they work or they don't. What can happen to a pressuretrol is that the pigtail -- the pipe connecting the pressuretrol to the boiler -- can get clogged. If there is a suspicion of that happening, have your plumber replace it with red brass.

    Then crank the thing back down where it belongs and see what happens. That might be all that's wrong.

    However, it may not be. If a radiator isn't heating, it's because steam isn't getting to it. Steam can't get too it, regardless of the pressure, if the air can't get out of it. So... Either the vents aren't venting (is this a two pipe or one pipe system?) or something else is in the way of the air getting out -- or the steam getting in. But my guess, based on what I hear right now, is still a venting problem -- what kind and size of vent did you plumber replace your main vent with? The other possibility is a bad trap; that does happen, but only on two pipe systems.

    Tell us more...

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Kool RodKool Rod Posts: 175Member

    Gina- You need to get somebody that really knows about steam to take a look at your system for you. Go to the Resources Tab at the top of this page and click on find a professional. There are some exceptionally good "steam pros" listed there.

    Few people know anything about steam heating and obviously your plumber`isn't one of them. With steam, Less Pressure = Better. If your Pressuretrol is indeed bad, it needs to be replaced as it controls the pressure in your boiler and as such is a safety device.

    I would also suggest to you that you get Dan's book, "We Got Steam Heat"

    It's easy reading, written for the homeowner and in an evening or two you will know more about steam heating than your plumber does. It pays for itself very quickly as you will then understand what repairs you need and not be lead around by someone incompetent.

    - Rod
  • gina_2gina_2 Posts: 4Member

    Thanks Jamie,

    It is a one pipe system. I took off all of the air valves and blew through them and put them back on the radiators; They were all working. The main valve worked but was still replaced, not sure what size, it was one of the bigger brass ones not the smaller silver ones that typically reside on radiators.

    The radiators that were not heating on the 2nd and 3rd floors in the front of the house did eventually heat up (very slowly) but only when I cranked up the pressuretrol.

    Also, it seems that the boiler is not cycling often anymore. Any more thought?
  • gina_2gina_2 Posts: 4Member

    Hey Kool Rod,
    I have that book, it is awesome. That is the main reason the plumber's explanation seemed off. I will have a look at the resources tab.

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,653Member
    Kool Rod

    has the right idea -- find someone who really knows steam to look at your system. Try 'Find a pro'. And in the meantime, study Dan's books and I'll bet you can figure it out!

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Another potential issue...

    You may also have contaminated water in the boiler which will not allow proper steam production at lower pressures. A good boiler skimming and flushing could be all you need.


    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert

    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
  • gina_2gina_2 Posts: 4Member

    The problem was the gas valve, it was defective and not allowing enough BTUs so the flame was too low to produce enough pressure.

    Thanks for the ideas. gina
  • Kool RodKool Rod Posts: 175Member

    Hi Gina-
    Great! You have the book! That makes things a lot simpler as we can reference you to it. As Jamie has mentioned your slow heating radiators are a result of a lack of venting. You need to get the air out of the pipes so the steam can get in.

    What I would do, is do some exploring down in your basement. (I'm presuming that's where the boiler is located.) Take a look at the pipes leading from the boiler to the ceiling where they will connect to the steam mains. The chances are you have several individual steams mains. These will usually be going in different directions ( to heat different parts of the house) There maybe (not always) a smaller sized pipe going running along side each main. This is the "Dry Return" and is the path where the condensate (water) from the radiators returns to the boiler. What you want to do is use a flashlight and follow the main away from the boiler and observe where the radiators at attached to the main. These will be smaller "branch" pipes leading off the main and going up into the rooms above to the radiators in that room. Try to get a visual picture in your mind where each branch pipe leads and to which radiator.

    What you are trying to figure out is what radiators connect to which main. We are also trying to locate the Main Vent for that individual main. ALL MAINS should have their OWN individual Vent(s). These vents should be located after the last radiator on each individual main, usually close to an elbow where the main attaches to the small pipe (the "Dry Return". (see the picture on page 8 of "the book" and read what is there on main vents-Dan puts it far better than I could) These maybe missing/removed so look for a possible previous location if you can't find a main vent.

    On a multiple floor house, main vents can be located in the attic. Look in the attic above the radiator in the room below and you may find a Main Vent. If there is a pipe leading up to the attic near a radiator this is almost a sure sign of a main vent being located in the attic.

    Main vents may look very similar to the vents used on your radiators but in fact their venting capacity is many times greater. The main vents used by most ofthe steam pros are made by Gorton and are named Gorton #1 and Gorton #2. A Gorton #2 has 3 times the venting capacity of a Gorton #1.
    As you want maximum main venting I'd use a Gorton # 2 model for each of my main vents. If you find you need more venting, you can use multiple Gorton # 2s (See the site for pictures - You might also want to take a look at other parts of this site as it great pictures and info.)

    Let us know what if you can find the main vents and then we can go from there. It's not a bad idea to take some paper and sketch out a rough diagram of your steam system for further reference. Also if you come to a fitting or some pipe you don't understand take a picture and post it and we'll try and decide what it is.

    - Rod
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,653Member
    That'll do it!

    Thanks for letting us know what it was -- we appreciate it!

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
This discussion has been closed.


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