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Unusual Hartford loop and near boiler piping

DavidK_2 Member Posts: 129
Hi all,

    I'm trying to sort out my gas fired, single pipe, steam heating system (in part because I'm considering renovations, and want to see if I can keep using it to heat the whole house, and in part because I just like figuring things out)

    Yes, I have the books, and am slowly working my way through them. Interesting and fun read.

    This boiler was installed about 22 years ago, just before I bought the house. The house was built in 1938. The install is different than the examples in Dan's books.

1) The "Hartford" loop comes in well above the water line. (you can see it coming in about level with the top of the boiler casing near the rear of the boiler.) Looking at the piping system I think I know why they did this. There is a wet return that goes the length of the basement wall just below where the Hartford loop is tied into the equalizer. If they had put the Hartford close nipple below the water line this previously wet return would have become dry (giving dimension "A" problems and likely nasty hammer)

2) The "header" is is the same size as the boiler risers, and main supplies. Normally I guess the header would be a place for the steam to slow down, and perhaps drop some liquid. In this install the furnace risers more or less shoot straight into the mains. The header, basically only serves as a take off for the equalizer (and a radiator on the second floor - that is the pipe you see coming off the top of the equalizer),

The way it is piped is not typical, but it seems to work OK.

I think I know why it was piped this way. They could not raise the boiler (and water line) because then there could be less than 24" to the header (right now it is 32", but the header is not really being used in the normal sense). They could not lower the Hartford close nipple because then the wet return would have become dry (causing untold problems)

So was the installer brilliant, lazy, lucky or all three?

Any other comments on this arrangement of Hartford loop and near boiler piping?

In the pics, the painted pipes I assume are original, the black are new.


  • No Header

    Hi David - First of all I'm a HO not a pro so don't have the experience to critique the "unusual" piping on your system. As it lacks a header and the header's major role is to dry the steam, I imagine that your steam isn't as dry as it should be. I read a great quote the other day that the benefit of dry steam is that "it allows more BTUs to get on the steam train" so without the header, your system is probably losing efficiency.

    If you planning to do a renovation it might pay you to get a steam pro to look at your system and makes recommendations. There are a lot of good pros listed in the "Find a Professional" section at the top of this page.

    - Rod

    Here is a picture of a boiler similar to yours which were piped by a pro.

  • jim s_2
    jim s_2 Member Posts: 113
    Doesn`t look right

    Doesn`t  look right to me,no header to speak of and bushings on the outlets of the boiler.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    The manual shows how it should be.

    the pipe leaving what we could call a header is simply wrong. The dry return should drop seperate from the equalizer. I would say it is not working,  You just think it is.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • DavidK_2
    DavidK_2 Member Posts: 129
    I was afraid

    it was all wrong.  My definition of "works" is pretty simple - all the radiators get hot, and it doesn't bang and clang (well not too much). It does work, but probably does not work properly. If I decide to renovate I guess I'd better budget for some new piping, and perhaps a new boiler while I'm at it. Darn.

    Thanks for the comments so far. What do you think about the Hartford loop coming in so far above the water line?

    I suspect perhaps the system was modified once before, when the second floor (it is a Cape style house) was converted to living space, they might have "tacked on" two radiators (the piping for the other one also looks "non standard"). When they added an addition to the rear, I suspect they pulled the radiators from the kitchen (and perhaps bath - I'm not sure where the third radiator in the basement might have come from) - and they put electric radiant in the addition - arrg. I guess it is probably all a mess - but at least it keeps my family mostly warm :)

    I'm thinking about putting a dormer on the back roof, and adding a room (so would need heat up there), and would really like to use steam in the existing addition.

    Charlie, you are listed as the nearest Steam Pro to my house. Is Albany NY too far away for you? If so, do you know any steam people near Albany?
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    I am going to slingerlands tommorrow David.

    So the answer is not you are not too far away. Call we can check it out for you and maybe even be able to have steam in the new addition too. Boiler may not be dead yet but I would know better seeing it in person.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,937
    You win, DavidK

    Charlie's one of the best and most creative around.  Grab him!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • DavidK_2
    DavidK_2 Member Posts: 129
    edited December 2009

    glad you service this area. First we (wife and I) need to figure out when, where, what, if, we are going to remodel. When we do, I'll call and ask you to visit and give us an opinion.

    Even if we do nothing, I'd like an opinion on adding steam to the existing addition.

    But first it seems to make sense to figure out what we want to do with the house

    before we try to figure out to heat it (then obviously coordinate)

    I was thinking probably this summer.

    But if you are going to be in the area tomorrow, and have time, perhaps I can take some time off work and meet. I'd even be willing to pay for a service visit, since this boiler probably needs a proper servicing anyway (which again, I was going have done next spring - I only recently learned these things should be professionally serviced every year or two - and figured winter was probably not the best time for that!).

    I don't know how often you get to this area, or whether it is worth trying to coordinate something on short notice. I can call you if you think so.
  • DavidK_2
    DavidK_2 Member Posts: 129
    good idea

    :) sounds like a plan :)
  • Hartford Loop

    Hi David - There is a modification of the Hartford Loop suggested by Henry Gifford. Your Loop looks somewhat similar but I suspect was probably done by accident rather than on purpose. I have attached an article on the Gifford Loop.

    I'll second Jamie. You are very lucky to be in Charlie's service area.There is a group of probably the best steam pros in the whole U.S. on this board and Charlie is one of that group.

    - Rod
  • DavidK_2
    DavidK_2 Member Posts: 129
    Thanks for the pdf

    of the Gifford loop. It seems to go in just above the water line. Mine is WAY above the water line. But the principle seems to be basically the same. And might actually be a good thing, even if mine did occur by chance.

    Based on reading what Charlie had posted on this board I'd already decided he was going to be my first call when I wanted somebody to come visit. It is nice to have confirmation from others who's opinions I respect based on my short time here. I'm glad I am in his service area. I must be on a lucky streak :)
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