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No steam

We have a Weil-McLain EGH-85 gas fired steam boiler. It seems to produce very little steam pressure, nothing register on the gauge as it once did. It would show maybe 2 lbs. which it think is correct. Now thing shows and we are not getting steam to any of the radiators above the first floor. There are 3 floors here.

Today I changed to pressure gauge and found the manifold it is on plugged. It is now clean but still nothing shows on the gauge. I took the gauge out and fired the furnace and still no steam or pressure.



Do we have a leak or is the boiler plugged. If plugged what can I do?

Comments

  • jpf321jpf321 Posts: 1,562Member
    edited November 2009
    some obvious questions that may help diagnose...

    If you are getting steam to 1st floor but not above first, I would check all rad vents where steam is NOT. The may be water logged. Unscrew them and drain them out then try again. DO NOT UNSCREW WITH STEAM IN SYSTEM/SYSTEM ON .. WAIT UNTIL 1st Flr RADS ARE COOL.



    If you have been running on such a high pressure, perhaps you damaged

    the rad vents and they are stuck closed, this would prevent steam from

    entering pipes without working vents.



    Also check your rad pitch and rad valves while you are checking all rad vents.



    As I understand it, rad vents should be replaced every 5yrs or so..maybe a new set of Gorton Vents all around would be useful. And while you are at it, you can balance your system by properly venting based on EDR and Piping of each rad. The only place to order Gorton Vents online is www.pexsupply.com.



    My 1-30psi gauge never moves. Steam should be at 2psi MAX for domestic (not normally but at MAX) and the lower PSI the better, I now operate below 1psi (4oz-12oz) so my 1-30psi gauge does not move .. but my new 0-3psi gauge moves :-)



    How long is the burner running before you determine 0 pressure exists?

    To check for boiler leak, when not running, flood boiler to top of sight gauge and see if any water spills out where it shouldn't be. DO NOT RE-FIRE UNTIL YOU BRING WATER LEVEL BACK DOWN TO NORMAL.



    I hope this helps.
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • jpf321jpf321 Posts: 1,562Member
    edited November 2009
    recommended reading...

    You may want to read this article to understand why you should try to operate at lower pressure than 2PSI. [url=http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/11/Hot-Tech-Tips/128/A-Steam-Heating-Primer]http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/11/Hot-Tech-Tips/128/A-Steam-Heating-Primer besides it saves you money (since burner has to run less) and wear-and-tear on the system parts (valves, vents, etc.)
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 12,136Member
    If you are getting heat

    in your first floor radiators, your boiler is producing steam.  That's the only way the heat can get from the boiler up there, after all!



    The pressure differential to make a steam system work at all is very small -- the dead men often figured on half a psi for all the piping losses, plus half a psi as a margin.  So all you need is a maximum of 1 psi -- and it is unlikely that you will see a 0 -30 gauge move (but that gauge is required by code; it has to be there).  The pressure loss going to additional floors with steam is negligible, unlike water.



    Therefore... your problem with no heat on the upper floors is neither the boiler (unless it is radically undersized or underfired -- not likely, particularly if it ever worked) not the current pressure.  It is not immediately clear whether this is a one pipe system or a two pipe system.  If it is a one pipe system, I agree with jpf -- step one is to check the vents on the radiators which are not working.  They may well be stuck shut, particularly if you ever ran over 3 psi.  Not hard to replace -- but as he said, do it when the system is cold.  Steam burns -- very very badly.  If it is a two pipe system, there are other possibilities -- so can you enlighten us on the type of system?



    And in the meantime, if you have a pressuretrol set the thing to half a psi cutin, and a 1 psi (additive) differential.  That will be ample.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    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
  • Racer_AlRacer_Al Posts: 3Member
    Thanks for the reply

    This is a one pipe system and about 12-14 years old. I have owned the building for the last 6 years so I do not have a complete history of the boiler.



    While I did say there was no heat on the upper floors there is actually some. Very, very little but some. At the ends of the runs the radiators do get steam but so little that you really don't heat them. The vents are new and working but even taking one out you still get no real heat.



    What I did find today is the the manifold that contains the pressure cage and other controls was plugged. Not a good thing at anytime. In my original post I commented that I was concerned about the boiler being plugged. Our water is not the best when it come to minerals and I wondering if the boiler can be flushed and with what? I drain the unit a couple of times a year, once before the heating season and then right after. The water is always brown when I start but is clear when I finish.
  • jpf321jpf321 Posts: 1,562Member
    a plug would over-pressure

    I would imagine that a steam system PLUG (as well as clogged vents) would lead to an over-pressure event. Perhaps, as Jamie Mentioned, you are underfiring..perhaps plugged gas jets? Maybe you need new igniters or something else having to do with the fire. I once had a gas oven that barely got over 150degF even though it was on (blue flame and all) because I needed to replace the igniters which limited the flow of the gas.



    You never provided provide a time of burner run before you decided that there is no heat. Is it running 30mins? 2hrs? Certainly it is different than you are used to but giving an indication of how long it is running without results may help.



    Did you try a flood test on the boiler to check for leaks above the Water Line?
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • No Steam

    I guess I'll ask this first- Did the system ever perform satisfactorily - that is heat the whole building?

    Since it sounds like the annual maintenance, if performed, hasn't been done properly. The first thing I'd do is have a professional look at your system and make sure the burner is working correctly. Try the "Find a Professional" button at the top of this page to see if there is steam pro near you.  This "do it yourself" is fine for some things but a pro has the knowledge and the equipment to test your burner and clean and adjust it if necessary. Burners are an item that should be left strictly to the pros!



    You need to get  a properly working pressure gauge. As mentioned the 0-30 PSI gauge must be retained to satisfy code/insurance requirements though since it is practically useless for measuring low steam pressures you will need to add a low pressure gauge. You can get these on line at the Gauge Store.  Most people get the # 33020 model 0-3 PSI.  Here's a link to the page:  http://www.gaugestore.com/prodinfo.asp?number=33020

    You should have a "pigtail" between the boiler and the gauges /pressure control. If you don't have a good source locally, try McMaster Carr  http://www.mcmaster.com/#

     I would get one made of red brass (sometimes called "bronze") as these are less likely to corrode and plug up. As has been mentioned steam systems run better at low pressure. 2 PSI is about maximum for most systems and most run a lot lower. (The steam system in Empire State Building in New York city runs at under 2 PSI)

    Once you know your burner is running correctly and the gauge is working, you are then ready to deal with other problems in your steam system.

    - Rod
  • DavidK_2DavidK_2 Posts: 124Member
    I'm no expert,

    but as others have said, 0 reading on a 30psi gauge might be "normal". The only time my system shuts off on the pressuretrol (set at .5-1.5) is when I'm recovering from a large setback and it is cold.



    I think I have a problem similar to yours every fall. Especially in a "mild" fall like we have had so far this year. I think it is the way my piping is layed out, and perhaps due to not having properly balanced venting (or perhaps not enough main venting). Here is my theory, FWIW: The thermostat calls for heat, the boiler starts delivering, but before the upstairs radiators can see much steam the first floor thermostat is satisfied and shuts off. I haven't figured out a solution to this, which is in part why I'm visiting this site. I'd put bigger vents on the upstairs radiators, but then they overheat when it is COLD outside and I'm recovering for the nighttime setback (which I happen to like - I run 60 deg night and 68 deg day - some say this is too much for a steam system, and they might be right). I wonder sometimes if this is because steam systems are designed to run all the time on a fire that would naturally die down at night, but never go off - maybe an intermittent fire just does not work (well) for steam if you like to use a nighttime setback?



    I think the problem is that the pipes to upstairs never really get hot when the weather is mild, and the burner is intermittent, so they condense the steam before it reaches the upstairs radiators.



    One thing you might try is setting the thermostat several degrees warmer than normal, does that get steam upstairs? If so, you know your boiler can deliver the steam. . .
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 12,136Member
    DavidK

    does have a good thought -- if the thermostat is shutting the system off before the upstairs radiators don't get steam... however, I would note that in a well-balanced steam system this really shouldn't happen to the extent you are seeing it (it will happen to some extent) -- so you might, after you make sure your pressures are correct, try cranking the thermostat up five or ten degrees (just for the experiment, mind you!) and seeing what happens.  If that suggests that if you let the thing run long enough, then the solution may be additional venting on the risers or the mains or both.



    Rod has a good point too -- it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a pro come and check the operation of the burner.  They do go west, now and then...
    Br. Jamie, osb

    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
  • Racer_AlRacer_Al Posts: 3Member
    Lots of help

    I have done the leak test several times this week and there doesn't seem to be a leak. There is one thermostat in the whole building and it is on the first floor. Yes we do crank it up on the first floor to a least get some heat on the third floor. That is where I live. The second floor is mostly storage and is not a problem.



    I does take almost an hour to be able to have any steam on the top floor. By then it is so hot on the first floor that it does kick of the thermostat that is set at 72 degrees.



    I did notice water in the manifold for the pressure gauge and and control boxes.



    I have a good friend that is one of the better steam guys in this area. I hate to call him for simple problems so I try to make sure I do the basic before I call him. He has been in the business since he was 15 years old. I was a couple of years ahead of him in school and now he is in his lower 60's. I was his best man at his 1st marriage ( he is on #5 now). He has been true to the business and like I have said he is good. He is also very busy and I want to make sure I have done what I can before I call.



    Listening to everyone that has helped so far has been good and I have learned at great deal. One thing I have learned from you guys is that maybe now is the time to call and get the pro. I will call my friend in the morning and have him take a look. One of the extra with this guy is that his current wife is in the candy making business and he always bring be something. I'll let everyone know what the problem was once we get it fixed. Thanks again for the help and great advice.
  • jpf321jpf321 Posts: 1,562Member
    please do follow-up...

    good luck.
    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • DavidK_2DavidK_2 Posts: 124Member
    It is nice

    to have an ace up your sleeve :)



    Please let us know what you find out. It might be helpful to others. Thanks.
This discussion has been closed.

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