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Thanks to Dan Holohan, 6 years later (sorry for long post!)

Eli Member Posts: 42
This post has been in my head and overdue for some time! I wanted to take a moment to send out a thanks to Dan and the wall-ers.

Over 6 years ago, I purchased an 1880's, 8-unit apartment building outside of Philadelphia. The 2-pipe system was a mess. Using TLAOSH, the wall, and original VECO literature generously offered by Dan, I was able to cut fuel usage by 40% and, more important, balance the system and dramatically improve tenant comfort. Being high-end rentals, I have no excuse for sloppy heat. It's run beautifully for 6 years.

The past couple weeks have brought the system to the front of my awareness (cracked section pissing water last Friday, the night of a 28" snow-fall... epoxy patch + stop leak... no heat on Wednesday (today) of our next 20+ inch snow-fall... clogged pigtail... etc.). Spending a lot of time around the system made me aware of just how trouble-free it has been for the intervening years. A nice two-pipe vapor system with its minimum of moving parts (mechanical traps, no thermostatic elements) is a real pleasure from a property management standpoint.

I returned to the wall a few nights ago to get some ideas regarding the cracked section. The next day, everyone running slow due to the snow, I had a very pleasant coffee and conversation with my plumber (72 years old and going strong... if he hasn't seen it, it hasn't happened!). He was familiar with most of the wall tips for stopping leaks (and added one: he swears that the old timers when he was young used horse manure to patch boilers... maybe the same as oatmeal, just having been through the horse once). This chat made me a little pre-nostalgic for this kind of passing on of wisdom. It occurred to me that we've largely lost the guild system and structure whereby younger apprentices learned, day-by-day, the wisdom of the old-heads; the age-old system of passing down a trade. However, I reflected that at the same time, we've gained tools like the wall, a repository for all that knowledge. And it's better in some ways, certainly more egalitarian and more broadly available. If you've ever posted to this forum, you've helped memorialize your knowledge/wisdom/experience for the rest of us; thank you.

I've used the education from this, Dan's creation, to help straighten out several friends' steam systems and to help with a couple other multi-family steam systems. Hopefully we are all passing it along and paying it back (karmically speaking).

Here are a couple quick thoughts If you find yourself the new owner of an old system:

-Read the book (The Lost Art of Steam Heating)

-Understand how your system was DESIGNED to work (unwind the indignities of the years)

-INSULATE all your pipes

-Smile; all the hard work was done 100 years ago for you!

Finally, here's an idea for an easy to live with, low maint. system based on a two-pipe system... do you think it will work? Replace each thermostatic trap with a simple water trap (build at each location with a series of copper street 90's). Drill and tap each radiator and install one (or two on large rads) adjustable one-pipe vents. The vents will allow the radiators to purge on start up. The traps will allow the condensate to pass but hold back the steam. And you can tune the system with the vents.

If you've gotten this far, thanks for following my thoughts on this snowy, wintry day. I thank the dead men for keeping me warn today.


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  • Ray  Binder
    Ray Binder Member Posts: 11
    no traps--

    Thats really nothing new. old vapor systems with orificed valves worked with a small flapper, or internal water trap in the return elbow. No traps!  The trick is to control what is coming into the radiator. there has to be just enough steam to travel the radiator and then die at the last section. easy to do with a slow burning coal fire, a little harder with an all or nothing gas or oil fire. It can be done. A vapor stat and a control valve with an orifice set for the size of the radiator are the important elements.
  • tmw
    tmw Member Posts: 56
    Arco Model K orifice valves..

    These are shown on p.268 of LAOSH.  Any idea of how to adjust the orifices to the size of radiator?  The book says that the valves should let in 80% of the radiator's EDR. I guess one would need to calculate the size of the orifice first, then the amount of steam that could pass through it.

    Any idea of how to do this?
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,606
    Thanks for the kind words and fine story, Eli.

    Much appreciated!
    Retired and loving it.
This discussion has been closed.