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Violent noise/not simply waterhammer

I read Dan H.'s book (homeowner edition).  I know what water hammer is.  And while I DO have that also, my question here is about two other VERY LOUD and VIOLENT sounds. Within 10 minutes of the boiler starting, I hear what sounds like rocks tumbling in the pipes within 10 feet of the boiler.  Next couple minutes there is such force and banging, that the side of the house is literally shaking.  Next, as the steam travels to the other side of the house, I hear classic water hammer.  I have a 2 pipe system.  Three story house.  One zone.  All radiators heat evenly.  Noise occurs as steam travels the basement and first floor, then subsides somewhat.

These issues started 4 seasons ago and have gotten progressively worse each year.

Boiler is fairly new Burnham (2002).  I have had two steam heating contractors look at it since this began.(The original installer is no longer available.)  I have replaced traps, used 8 Way, had the boiler drained and refilled, have had my yearly maintenance. 

Your thoughts????

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    How are you sure

    that what you have is not a water hammer?  Not to sound doubtful, but sometimes water hammer does sound like someone pounding on the pipe with a hammer -- and other times it can be much, much worse, particularly in steam mains as opposed to risers and such.  And it can be violent enough to shake the whole piping setup, and indeed the house. 



    What concerns me here is that you have water hammer at all.  Somehow either you have wet steam or -- or possibly and -- water is not being properly removed through drips or whatever from those steam mains.  You need to really check your system and make sure that condensate can get out of those mains and get back to the boiler where it belongs -- don't just eyeball things, use a very good level along the whole length of all the mains.  You mention that the major noisemaker is getting worse.  If it is a violent hammer, that doesn't surprise me much, as a really healthy hammer can move pipes and hangars all over the place.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • room3300
    room3300 Member Posts: 9
    Violent noise/not simply waterhammer

    I can certianly check the mains.  The odd thing about the system is that when the new boiler and piping was put in, the installer left a Barnes and Jones Condensator  (I think marked  No. 2.)  It is shaped like a heart and stands about 6 feet vertically off to the side.  The first heat guy tried to replace the trap for that, but it is so old that he wasn't able to find one. 

    Curiously (to me anyway) the rock noise occurs at the beginning, and the condensator doesn't get warm until the steam's been moving a while.  It does have its own sight glass, and I see water dripping in it.

    Also, the sight glass on my Burnham boiler jumps like crazy and there's foam at the top third of the water.  I can see the water level drop almost down to empty.  I have an automatic cutoff, which hasn't had to shut down anything yet, but that doesn't seem right to me that it gets SO low.  I have been checking at the end of the heating cycle, and the water settles at the original 1/2 to 3/4 point.  The water is a rusty color.

    Thanks.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    not good...

    If your boiler water glass jumps like crazy, and there's foam in it -- your boiler desperately needs skimming and cleaning.  The manual that came with the boiler has directions for this (as does "The Lost Art of Steam Heating") but if you're not comfortable with that, get a pro. to do it.  But do it.



    There is just no way that you are going to get quiet heat until that problem is solved -- you can't help but be getting wet steam, and that's not good.  At all!  In fact, it may be the whole problem, believe it or not.



    I am a little concerned about the Barnes & Jones Condensator.  I can't find any literature on it (maybe one of the other folks can, I hope), but often those contraptions were meant to get condensate back into the boiler.  If it isn't working properly you may be getting condensate backing up into the mains -- and that will also cause Big Time water hammer, particularly later in the cycle.  There are several possible solutions to this one; without actually seeing the system I wouldn't care to venture a guess as to which one would work best.  You don't say where you are; have you tried Find a Pro to see if there is a steam guy nearby?  That, in my humble opinion, would be the best bet at this point. 



    One thing you might check right away, though: what pressure is your system running at?  If you have a pressuretrol pressure controller on the boiler, it should be set pretty much as low as it will go -- typically a cut in of 1/2 pound and a differential (additive) of 1 pound.  And even that may not be low enough, but it might help.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 944
    violent water line 'n foam

    Foam is NOT normal. There is some kind of contamination creating the foam. Blowing out the base of the boiler will never remove a buoyant contaminant as it stays on the top of the water surface. Skimming the boiler is a good start.



    Better yet, find the skim port and install a nipple, elbow and a service valve, perhaps with a hose bib so you can run a straight length of decent hose to a floor drain. You may also choose to run some cool water into the floor drain to temper what is about to go into it. Skim the boiler first as per Library articles on this subject. Next, I would do a surface blow off, explaining the hose and the tempering water. Simply run the boiler normally with the valve partially opened and add water as necessary to keep it running normally. Eventually the the remainder of the contaminants driven into the system will return to the boiler and out the surface valve. Many industrial boilers run with some level of continuous surface blow off for the purposes of maintaining foam-free dry steam. In your case, you should find a point where the water line becomes stable and the system quiets down. Close the valve and cap the bib to prevent wayward hands from opening it under steam.



    Then you can determine if the system has any other issues.



    -Terry
    terry
  • room3300
    room3300 Member Posts: 9
    Violent noise/not simply waterhammer

    I certainly appreciate your input.  I will have to make those suggestions to the heating contractor  (I am now dealing with the owner, who has the most expeirence) as they are too technical for me to do on my own.  I called today to set up an appointment.  I thought it was skimmed when the 8 way went in last year.  Do you think it should be done again?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    Yes!

    What you are describing is a seriously dirty boiler.  You should follow the complete procedure as outlined in the Burnham manuals -- which is a good bit more than just skimming, and takes a while -- like it can take all day.  And then, if that doesn't seem to be cleaning things up, they recommend cleaning all the returns as well...



    Then we shall see what we shall see...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • while all the

    While all the prevoius suggetions are true, however, how do we know if the boiler is piped in properly? Best to take pictures of the boiler and near pipings... yes, for sure, get that boiler skimmed. One time may not be enough..
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    Oh quite...

    but one thing at a time... !
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • room3300
    room3300 Member Posts: 9
    Violent noise/not simply waterhammer

    I have an appt for Friday a.m.  I will ask to have boiler skimmed.  If it's done once, and still noise remains, do I then go the expense of a second skim?  OR do I go to the possibility of incorrect piping?  I'll take and post some photos.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    Skimmed and cleaned

    Yes, get that boiler skimmed AND CLEANED properly -- it's not just a little water out the top.  Read and follow religiously the Burnham manual, and do it right.  The quote you get for cleaning the boiler should be for cleaning the boiler.



    Do get us some pictures of the installation, too, while you're at it.



    But let's worry about the near boiler piping (and possible other issues) after we get that dang boiler cleaned up!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Unknown
    edited November 2009
    Skimming

    Since you are having a guy come out and work on your boiler why not get him to install a skim port so you can skim it yourself? Good skimming is a long s-l-o-w process and you may have do it multiple times. Having someone else do this and the necessary standing around doesn't make sense to me.



    When the water` is contaminated the contaminates increase the surface tension of the boiler water and instead of bubbling off with small bubbles like champagne in a glass,the steam has to collect together until the bubbles are big enough to bust through the surface tension of the contaminated  boiler water. This can be quite violent and carries water vapor up into the rising steam which cause "Wet Steam".  Even though you drain and flush the boiler, skimming is necessary to remove the surface contaminates that stick to the inside of the boiler when it is drained.



    I'm a believer in cold skimming as I think heating the water helps it emulsify the contaminates. (think of washing your hands, you use hot water as then the water will remove the grease/dirt into the water)  With the boiler cold, the idea is to add water to the boiler so the water level just drains out the skim port, taking with it the surface contaminates.

    The slower the water drains the better. I fill a 5 gallon bucket in about two hours so that gives you an idea of how fast you should skim the boiler.  I usually then run the boiler for a day or two and then repeat the operation. It usually takes two or three times before the boiler water settles down. With a skim port in place this makes it an easy operation. If you note in the drawing I've attached, you should cap the port off as an extra safety precaution when you are finished skimming. After skimming adjust your water level back down to the boiler's operation level by draining off a bit of water.



    The consensus seems to be against using boiler additives and I try to avoid them though I have had good luck with Rhomar`produsts.   http://www.rhomarwater.com/products/residential-steam-system/

    I agree with Jamie, get your boiler water straightened out and then address any boiler piping issues. Pictures are always a BIG help.

    - Rod
  • room3300
    room3300 Member Posts: 9
    Violent noise/not simply waterhammer

    More to tell.  Had appt on Friday morning.  The guy immediately hit on what a big part of the problem is.  I had 3 check valves on the system, which caused wet steam to get into the main steam lines.  He devised a way to keep them open rather then repiping the system. That resolved about 65 percent of total banging noise, and completely solved the "violent shaking" of the side of the house.  The foam was reduced by about 90 percent.  I'm going to wait another week for this fix to settle in.  Then I'll move on to skimming. 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    Ooh...

    out of place check valves cause all kinds of havoc!  Three cheers for your man to find them -- and to you for persevering.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
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