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Downstairs warm, upstairs cold

I moved to a house with steam heat in July 2008. In January 2009 I replaced some of the radiator vents because of the noise I was getting from the radiators in some of the bedrooms (especially mine). I took out Gorton No. C, Angle Vapor Equalizing Valve in favor of Hoffman 508 Hygroscopic. I was happy with the results. Over the summer, I replaced all the vents with the Hoffman (three were not Gorton, they were similar to Hoffman 71A, 1/8" Straight Steam Convector Air; those were in 2 bathrooms and under the kitchen sink).



Now winter is back and the some of the rooms upstairs are very cold, especially one of the bathrooms. The only thing that was a problem during the valve replacement was that in one instance I had a lot of trouble screwing in the valve, almost as if the thread was worn. I did manage to install it but I was unable to have the hole point straight up (more like a 10:30-11:00 position rather than 12:00). Also, I do hear a soft but audible hiss from it that I don't get from the others. My only other guess is that I have to adjust the opening of the valve (more to the left?).



That's all I have for now. Any help will be appreciated. Getting tired of going to bed in sweat pants and a sweatshirt.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    That slight angle

    shouldn't hurt things much.  Do try opening the vents some.  If that doesn't help, come back!
    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
    I'm no expert,

    But I thought the vents had to be pretty much straight up - otherwise they might bind and get stuck. Probably varies from model to model how important it is, but, I'd try to get that vent as close to vertical as possible.



    Edit to add the usual questions. How much pressure are you running in your boiler?

    Are the main vents functioning? Is the cold room the one with the crooked vent?



    If you changed venting sizes when you changed the vents you might have thrown the system out of balance.
  • Gordo
    Gordo Member Posts: 813
    Main Steam Pipes

    Do you have big enough vents  (or any vents at all) on your steam mains?  Are your steam mains insulated?  Is the near boiler piping done properly?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Radiator Vents

    I think I'd change to Hoffman 1A adjustables. Here's a link to the Hoffman Specialty catalog.

    http://www.hoffmanspecialty.com/HS-General-Catalog.asp#3    Most radiator vents have floats in them (Varvalves don't) so that they shut off if too much water is present. I'm not familar with the Hoffman 508 Hydroscopic but the hydroscopic vents that I am familar with  work on the principle of that they absorb water and swell. This shuts off the passage so water can't escape. They don't open until the hydroscopic vent material  drys out.  This might  work okay on a  hot water radiator but I'm not sure how well it would work on steam. Hoffman has them listed for steam convectors but not for radiators. (see above mentioned catalog)  I think I'd go back to the Gortons or use a more conventional vent. Some of the vents you mentioned are straight vents. Most radiator vents have to operate in the vertical plane.

    - Rod
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,968
    My bad

    missed that they were the hygroscopics.  Have to change my glasses or something.  Those really aren't appropriate for steam... sorry.  Better to use a real steam vent.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • DavidK_2
    DavidK_2 Member Posts: 129
    When in doubt

    go back to what you had - especially if it mostly worked - then change ONE thing at a time .
  • Antjav
    Antjav Member Posts: 7
    Follow up

    First of all, thanks to all who have replied. I should try to be more more specific:

    - 7 rooms upstairs (4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 office), each with a radiator.

    - The guest bedroom, my daughter's room, master bathroom and office all are warm (though the office rad is the one slightly tilted/hard to screw in vent)

    - Master bedroom, son's room and second bathroom are not so warm (this bathroom is the worst of all rooms)

    - Inexplicably, my son's room has gotten warmer over the last week, despite me not doing anything to it.

    - I did turn the valve counter-clockwise a bit yesterday on the master bedroom and the bathroom but too early to see what that did, if anything.



    I changed the old valves for the particular ones on the advice of a friend who seems to know about about this sort of thing. I'm learning as I go (my previous house had hot water heat and never had a problem). If these valves are wrong for my needs, then how come they work so well in most of the house? Also, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with the knob/valve on the other side of the radiators. Turn them all the way counter clock-wise to allow steam into the rad?



    Some of you (DavidK, Gordo) asked questions to which I do not know the answer at this time. And, stupidly, I threw out the old vents a few months back. I do have a service contract with a company to service the boiler but I ahve been unable to get him to come and help me with this (though their service on other instances has been great).



    Again, thank you for your time and comments/suggestions.
  • Unknown
    edited December 2009
    Vents

    With the vent I'm assuming that this is a one pipe steam system? (That means there is only one pipe going to each radiator.) The valve (Tap) on the pipe should be all the way open (counterclock wise) and left that way. These valves operate either all the way closed or all the way open,never half way.



    Main vents - I've attached a drawing of a typical one pipe steam system which should help you determine where the vents should be.  The main vents will be attached to the top of the pipe either at the end of each main or at the end of the dry return. They will look like a big silver bullet pointed upwards or like a can of cat food on its side. Look around your basement and see if you can find them.



    Radiator Vents- With the steam system turned off why don't you swap one of the working vents with one of those which is not working and see what that does.



    Since you are new to steam you might want to get a book that is offered on this website. It's called "We Got Steam Heat". It's written for the home owner, is easy humorous reading and in an evening or two you'll know a lot more about your steam system.

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/products/Books/5/61/We-Got-Steam-Heat-A-Homeowners-Guide-to-Peaceful-Coexistence

    - Rod
  • Antjav
    Antjav Member Posts: 7
    Follow up #3

    Yes, it is a one-pipe system. And, yes, the radiators are like ones in the picture (though the image is very hard to see). I will check all the valves and make sure they are open all the way and if that does not help the situation, switch and/or replace the vents in the problem rads.



    Thanks for the book tip. My brother-in-law just moved to a steam house himself so it might make a good Christmas gift for him as well.
  • Paul Fredricks_3
    Paul Fredricks_3 Member Posts: 1,557
    If

    If you click on the picture it will open up and be easier to see.
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    enlarging pictures on this site...

    i normally RIGHT-CLICK and say open in new tab or new window .. then I can often click the resulting image to enlarge it further .. it all depends on the picture size and the size of your screen .. i find that clicking it from the actual post often times the picture spills over the screen edges and I cannot scroll it to see top or bottom .. just a tip.
    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
  • Antjav
    Antjav Member Posts: 7
    Duh!

    Thanks for the tip
  • Antjav
    Antjav Member Posts: 7
    nothing so far

    Yesterday in NY the temp reached 50 degrees, so it was hard to tell whether any of the adjustments had an effect. I did open all the way the valves in the three problem rads. The bathroom one is still not heating up. I removed to cover and put my hand on it. You could feel the slightest hint of heat but not what it should be. I will exchange it vent with that of another working one (like one from downstairs) this weekend.
  • Gordo
    Gordo Member Posts: 813
    edited December 2009
    Your System

    Your system should operate at oz./ in2 of pressure, not  pounds/in2.    Verify this is so as soon as possible.



    Your steam should be reaching the end(s) of your steam mains in the basement before it reaches any of your radiators.  This is done by making sure your steam mains are properly vented.  Look for those vents.  Verify they are there and/or are working.  They may be clogged, too small,  plugged off, or simply not there.



    Those hydroscopic vents may not work so well, especially if you are generating "wet steam".   One of the causes of wet steam is improper near boiler piping.  Find the manufacturer's manual for your boiler.  Check the drawings therein against the piping at your boiler.



    How is the water level in your boiler?  Is the water in your boiler clean?



    Are your steam mains insulated?  This should be easy to check, unless your basement is completely finished.  If there is no insulation,  put it on.  That way, there will be more steam for your radiators.



    Once you check these things, then you can worry about balancing your system radiators.   It is trickier to balance a system if there is not enough steam to begin with.



    You also have a hole in your boiler.



    "The problem and the solution are very seldom in the same room"
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Antjav
    Antjav Member Posts: 7
    Progress

    The heat in the master bedroom is much better and the same is true for the bathroom after opening the valves all the way and "opening" the vents a bit more. How much to turn the vents counter-clockwise is what I find confusing. Right now the trial-and-error approach seems to be working. I'm also confused as to how much "hiss" I should hear out of the vent. I guess I should hear a bit at the beginning when the steam pushes out the cold air but after that? I also noticed/heard a hiss coming out of the valve in the rad in my son's room. What can I do about that?



    Gordo, the steam main are not insulated. The previous owners left then exposed to provide heat for the basement (my guess), though I have read and understand just how inneficient that really is. Insulating them is in the works. I empty a lot of water out of the boiler once a week to keep it clean (it does come out very dirty). I believe the steam mains are properly vented but I am not 100% certain of this. I say this based on the fact that last winter we had problems with the boiler (on 2 occasions we had no heat for more than a day) and the company that fixed it agreed to offer us a service contract when another one would not. LIke I said before, I'm still learning here.
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    when you add new water...

    1) when you add new water to the boiler .. make sure you make steam immediately thereafter to eliminate dissolved oxygen in the new water. O2 promotes corrosion.



    2) boiler service contracts, at least in my area, do not include any water parts .. only fire parts. just so you read the fine print.
    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
  • Unknown
    edited December 2009
    Vents

    Hi - I've already mentioned the book  "We Got Steam Heat" and hopefully you have ordered it. I apologize if I seem to keep pushing it. It's just that I know how useful it will be to you as a lot of us have been in the same position as you are presently in and the knowledge in the book is like being in a pitch black room and then having  a bright light turned on.



    We maybe having a bit terminology problem.  The word "Valve" is used for the "tap" on the inlet pipe bringing steam into the radiator and is also sometimes used for air vent on the side of the radiator which allows the steam to escape and closes when steam reaches it. This use of the same word for two different items especially when they are both on the radiator, can sometimes  lead to confusion. In the following, the word "valve" is used for the "tap" and the word "Vent" is the used for the "Air Vent".

    Valves -The Valve (on the pipe) is the one that needs to be fully open (counter clock wise) otherwise the entering steam and the exiting condensate (water) collide.

     Radiator Vents - Your Air Vents may or may not be adjustable. Usually on an adjustable vent there are numbers marked  0 to 5. Since you seem to have a source for Hoffman vents, I'd suggest a Hoffman 1A 1/8 Inch angle vent would be a good one to try.  If your source doesn't have them, Pex Supply www.pexsupply.com has them.



    Insulation - Usually the reason that the mains are uninsulated is that the original asbestos has been removed and hasn't been replaced. I was told the same thing, "You don't need insulation as it will warm the basement and then the heat will rise warming the house" which was when I realized that the knucklehead  "heating pro" I was talking to didn't know anything about steam and that I really needed to learn more. Adding insulation to the mains made a huge difference! Economically the biggest "Bang for the Buck" is using insulation one inch thick. I've added a measuring chart to help you figure out you pipe sizes and also a chart done by Brad White on the benefits of different thicknesses of insulation.



    Main Vents-  The job of the Main vents have is to vent the air from the large main pipes so that steam can fill these pipes and move through the system.



    Radiator Vents - Their job is to vent the air from the radiator and the pipe leading from the main to the radiator. If the radiator is "hissing" a lot this may mean that their main vents are not doing their job and the radiator vent then has to do the job of both the main vents and its own which maybe too much for the radiator vent and result in a cold radiator. This is why having abundant main venting is so important. It's pretty well impossible to over vent a main.

    - Rod
  • Antjav
    Antjav Member Posts: 7
    Thank you

    for all the info. At times it seems overwhelming but I feel more educated than a few days ago. Plexsupply.com, by the way, is where I got the varivents. Right now, trial and error (in baby steps) seems to be the best way to go. At least when I went to bed last night, the room was warm and this morning that bathroom was warm. The other bathroom/office did not feel as warm by comparison. In both spots the rads in question are built into the wall. The one in the (master) bathroom has 2 vents (the only one in the house like that). The office one is the one with the suspect (tilted) vent.
  • David Nadle
    David Nadle Member Posts: 624
    Insulation chart

    Not for nothin', but I made that insulation chart...
  • Insulation Chart

    Hi David - I apologize. Some time back I saved the chart and since the name Brad was on the chart, I was under the obviously false impression that he had something to do with it. I have made a note as to you being the author and will credit you in the future if that is okay.  - Rod
  • David Nadle
    David Nadle Member Posts: 624
    Attribution

    Brad supplied data from a software insulation model he has. I plotted it alongside data from Knauf. I don't care if the chart is used with attribution or not. I just want it to be clear that if the chart has an error it's mine, not Brad's.
  • Graphics Credit

    Just  to further explain - On the old Wall when I saw a useful graphic I saved it and the link it was on. If I read a question where I thought the graphic might be useful to the person asking, I gave them the link and then they could read the author's original post and see the graphic for themselves.  With the new Wall the old posts are somewhat still there but can't be found with the old links and in any case the graphics weren't apparently imported to the new Wall. So now if I felt a graphic might be useful in an answer I've taken it out of my collection and have tried the best I could to credit who I thought was the originator.  Speaking of Brad White, He hasn't posted here in quite while. If you are in contact with him please pass on the best wishes of myself and I'm sure a lot of others on this board. I really miss his humorous comments! - Rod
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,568
    interesting graphic...

    Rod -- I was thumbing through a books .. I came across the following chart that reminds me of the one you have posted previously .. it has the same info as your plus some additional data .. enjoy...

    image
    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
This discussion has been closed.