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Major problems since new boiler install single pipe steam. Need recommendation for plumber. PLEASE!

PeteyPetey Member Posts: 7
Good day! I am at the point where the tears are starting to well up in my eyes every time the heat comes on. I am a single dad with two kids living in a 200 year old house with a single pipe steam sytem. It worked fine for 22 years with the vintage 1985 boiler. Last year the boler died and I had it replaced (Weil McLain) and it's been a living, frustrating nightmare. When the boiler comes on, the system bangs like crazy, water spurts from the terminal end of one of the main lines (one line seams to work fine), two radiators don't heat, etc. I gave up on the guy who installed it (if you're nervous about having a certain person in your house when your not home but your daughter is, that's a bad sign). I dealt with the problem last year, but with the start of the heating season this year, I'm losing my mind. Yesterday I had a plumber (an honest man), come in and he broke into the main line, and found it clean and dry. He then replaced the main line vents and some radiator vents with adjustables. I woke up this morning to banging that was just as bad, and water spurtng from the main vent on the problem leg (and $500 less in my pocket). I called him and his answer is to put on all adjustible vents and try to balance the system. After purchasing and reading Dan Holohan's book, I somehow feel that that is not going to be the solution. From reading the book, I know it could be anything from poor boiler sizing to the bad near-piping. I hear the gurgling and the wave action but I can't make a diagnosis. Before I go broke with well intentioned people experimenting with possible solutions, I'd like to have someone come in who knows what they are doing when it comes to steam. I'll bet that they could figure it out in two minutes. So I am asking anyone out there who knows of a contractor (I'm 25 miles southwest of Boston), who can help me, PLEASE let me know.....I'd be forever grateful, and so would my kids who wake up multiple times a night due to the banging. I wish my old tiny boiler never was trouble free until it rotted away. Thanks for taking the time to read this entry. Happy New Year! Pete


  • noise

    can you post some pictures of the boiler piping, and your pressuretrol which is set far too high, i bet.

    have you tried the find a pro here? apparently, the zip-code feature doesn't work as well as using town names. good luck.--nbc
  • PeteyPetey Member Posts: 7
    Yes, I'll take pictures

    yes, I'll take some photos tonight and post. The pressure is set at 1. Thanks, Pete
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,848
    Not to put

    too fine a point on it, but... when a system works well for 22 years, and then something is changed and it doesn't work well, the place to start looking is the change.  That new boiler install.  If the system bangs like crazy, and you are getting water where there shouldn't be any -- the odds are that the new boiler install has problems.  It isn't that unusual, just very frustrating.  Boilers have very exacting requirements for what is termed the near boiler piping -- that is, the risers which take the steam from the boiler, the header which connects the risers together, the equalizer from the header back to the boiler water inlet, the way the system returns hook up to the equalizer, and the way the steam mains hook up to the equalizer.  The reason for the fussiness is to make sure that water droplets carried up with the steam don't get into the system and make trouble.

    If it isn't done right, you get the results which you have.

    As nbc suggested, do take some pictures of the boiler and the near boiler piping and post them; we may be able to spot some problems with that.  In the meantime, make sure that the pressure isn't too high, as he suggests (maximum of 1.5 psi to 2.0 psi -- with the usual pressuretrol, this means that the outside scale needs to be set, basically, as low as it can go -- below 1 if possible).  Make sure that the boiler isn't too full of water -- the water level in most Weil-McClains is about half way to three quarters of the way up the gauge glass; no more.

    Your plumber's answer about vents just isn't going to fix this one; sorry about that.

    I don't know of a good steam man in your immediate area, but Charles Garrity (look under Find a Contractor under Massachusetts, town of Lee) has been known to go as far as where you are, and is one of the best in the business.  Might try giving him a call.  He is not cheap, but he is inexpensive...
    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
  • PeteyPetey Member Posts: 7
    Photos of my System

    Hello again. I have attached some pictures of the single pipe sytem. Now that I look at the near-piping closely, I think Moe, Larry, and Curly may have done it. Anyway, it was another night of banging and clanking. The noise is definately emanating form the terminus of the line that goes to the right of the boiler. The run on the other side of the house seems fine. I have included a closeup of this tereminus where the laterals branch and the vent is located. Water sometimes spurts from this vent. The laterals also branch at this point. The vertical lines from this point never get warm. I have also included a photo of my first floor where 2 verticals run up to the 2 upstairs radiators, which never get hot. When I put my ear to the closest vertical in the photo on the first floor, I hear what sounds like gurgling water - sort of like waves at the ocean. The vents on the two radiators upstairs and the one in the first floor photo seem to be "breathing". I am at wits end....any help would be appreciated. Pete
  • FJLFJL Member Posts: 354
    No Header?

    Where is the header?
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Boiler Piping is Wrong.

    Hi Pete - The photos are a big help. As was already mentioned the piping connecting the boiler to the mains is configured incorrectly. What is the make and model of your boiler? (You'll find this info on the manufacturer's plate attached to your boiler) Also could you take some pictures of where the piping is attached to the lower part of your boiler. I'm kind of busy today but will try to get some info posted for you tonight or tomorrow.

    - Rod
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,107
    edited December 2010
    Installation manual?


    I sent you a private email yesterday with the name and number of someone who might be able to help, have you been able to contact him?

    That install was not done correctly, it has to be done per the manufacturer's install diagram or all bets are off. Do you have the install manual for the new boiler? In that manual you will find the piping requirements for a steam system. Compare that diagram  and what you have now and you should be able to spot the problem. If you don't have the installation manual just give us the make and model number of your new boiler so we can look it up on line for you.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • PeteyPetey Member Posts: 7
    Mored Photos and Model No.

    The bolier is a Weil-McLain PEG 35. The plumbing does not look like the plumbing in the manual. I left a message for the installer......we'll see what happens. I attched more photos of the lower near-boiler plumbing. I have received a couple of references from some of you and it's most appreciated. Hopefully I won't need them but we'll see. Thank you very much to all who have responded. Pete
  • DelDel Member Posts: 52
    way off

    Wow, it look like whoever did that does not know anything about piping a steam boiler.  It also appears that he does not own a pipe threader due to amount of couplings he used.  This is minor, but there should be more boiler drains installed so that you can flush the system periodically, especially on the return line.  In addition to referencing the manual, here is a link to a site with some steam piping basics so you can educate yourself! He probably did not skim the boiler, so there is oil and other crud in the water....not good for a steam system. I hope you can work something out with the original installer, but I think your best bet would be to hire someone who knows steam so it will be fixed the first time.
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    edited December 2010
    Boiler Installation

    Hi Pete-

        It would seem that your system is a 1 pipe counterflow system with 2 mains which I have labeled Main “A” and Main “B” in the attached picture. In a counterflow system, the mains slope back towards the boiler. The steam travels from the boiler up the slope to the radiators and the condensate flows back down the slope to return to the boiler. This is why it is called a counterflow system. At the other end of the main from the boiler, each main should have its own main vent.

    I’ve attached a drawing of a one main, 1pipe, counterflow system. Note the “Drip Line” in this drawing and the Drip Lines in your picture which I marked Drip “A” and Drip “B”.  The purpose of the Drip Line is to catch and divert the returning condensate (water)  and return it to the boiler by way of the Wet Return. If you didn’t have drip lines the condensate (water) would flow straight into the upcoming steam flow rising from the header. The steam and water would collide and result in “Wet Steam” which is very inefficient.

    Boiler Piping- Refer to your boiler's Installation manual

    I modified Fig 20 to accommodate a counterflow system. The Drip Lines “A” and “B” drop from the their mains and attach into the wet return as marked.   Piping sizes are from Table 7, Page 14 in the installation manual.

    Note that on Table 7 at the bottom of the table it says that it should be a “24 inch minimum from the waterline to the header”. Dan recommends that you should use the 24" minimum measurement from the top of the boiler to the header to ensure dry steam. Note”Z” in the drawing is referring to this.  

    I marked where tees should go and marked them “clean outs” where you could attach a drain cock to flush out the boiler. You might also want to replace the elbow on the wet return with a tee as it might make it easier to clean out the wet return if needed. I didn’t see where the make up fresh water line was attached to the boiler. A good place to connect it is to where I labeled it Note “W”

    Other Notes- Use the diagrams on pages 14 ,15 and  16 for reference.

    In the photo Note “X” refers to the vent piping. I know very little about the burner vent piping end of boiler installation but most I have seen need to have a damper and I don’t see one in the picture. I would check with some one competent on this as I believe  a lack of a damper can cause serious problems and possibly incomplete combustion and carbon monoxide which is very dangerous.

    In the photo Note “Y” refers to the safety valve which doesn’t look like it has a pipe leading down to near the floor. If this doesn’t have a pipe to direct the steam to a safe direction anyone near the safety valve could get badly scalded if the safety blows off.

    All my remarks are just to give you some ideas . Looking at the installation now it is fairly obvious that who ever did it really doesn’t understand steam installation. I would strongly suggest you search out a qualified steam man and have him go over the whole setup as there may have been other things that were installed improperly.

    - Rod
  • ed wallaceed wallace Member Posts: 1,613
    major problems

    from your pictures I can see the problem boiler is not piped according to the manufacterers direction do you have the install manual if so compare the piping diagram to the way it is piped
  • ed wallaceed wallace Member Posts: 1,613
    major problems

    from your pictures I can see the problem boiler is not piped according to the manufacterers direction do you have the install manual if so compare the piping diagram to the way it is piped
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,123
    Even the backflow preventer is

    put in wrong. every time the system does get to pressure it will push water out of it. You do need simply a proper piping job. As poorly as it is piped I would suggest checking to see if the boiler is even close to the proper size.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • PeteyPetey Member Posts: 7
    Rod - Thanks for your help - Question?

    Rod, thanks for taking the time to do this. I have another plumber (a good one) coming in on Thursday to repipe the boiler. He said he would install per the manufactiurer's specs. i noticed that you modified Figure 20 in your drawing. The manual says that that is for a parrallel flow sytem, but I think you said I have a counterflow system. Suppose he plumbed it according to figure 19, which it says is for a counterflow system? I really don't understand figure 19, becasue I don't see any condensate return lines.  I just want him to do it the way it should be done. There is a damper on the flue, it is somewhat hidden in the photos. Thanks, Pete
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    edited January 2011
    Counterflow System

    Hi Pete- First of all I must qualify myself, I'm a retired homeowner, not a steam professional.

    To answer your questions- Figure #19 is the manufacturer's recommendation for piping a single main counterflow system. As you can see there are no drip lines, condensate flows right back to the boiler where the piping is configured to separate the condensate from the steam.

     On your system you have two mains where the condensate runs back to a common tee and then down to the boiler. Without the drip lines on each main, the two returning condensate streams would collide together at the tee and mix with the upcoming steam from the boiler. You can easily imagine what the result would be. The drip line's job is to remove the returning condensate from each main before it reaches the common tee so the collusion doesn't happen.

    Look at all the drawings the height of the header above the boiler is especially important and also the header should have a very slight slope so that water coming up from the boiler with the steam drains off through the equalizer.  Observe all the pipe sizes and height measurements.  I've attached a couple of pictures of a counterflow system with drips, done by a very experienced Rhode Island steampro, Steve Gronski. As you can see it is similar to the modified Fig. 20 drawing.  Also note the copper fresh water line attached to the Wet Return and the numerous drain valves located at strategic points to facilitate the cleaning of the boiler and piping.

    - Rod
  • PeteyPetey Member Posts: 7
    Problem Solved!

    I just want to thank everyone who posted on this thread and emailed me with suggestions on my banging boiler problem. My plumber (not the installer) increased the diameter of the equalizer (?) pipe and increased the height where it connects to the main riser so that it is >24 inches above the boiloer top. It no longer bangs at all. So those who said that the installation was not per the manufacturers specifications were correct. Thanks again.Pete
  • jpf321jpf321 Member Posts: 1,562
    can you post

    corrected pictures of the final work?

    glad to hear everything is better
    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
  • PeteyPetey Member Posts: 7
    Photos of fix

    Here are the photos of the re-piped system. One other question for you experts....should I drain the brown crap from the boiler on a weekly basis? Seems to run pretty clear after a quart or so. Pete
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Member Posts: 1,759
    I guess it doesn't have to be correct to work.....

    I can seem some difference in your piping, and the biggest factor now...  It is not banging the way it was before,  However, I never cease to be amazed that a plumber, that has enough experience to put a complicated series of black iron fittings together, cannot follow a simple diagram, the shows exactly how the piping is supposed to be installed.

    Your new plumber has NOT followed the manufacturer's instructions. 

    Somehow this reminds me of the old saying....   You buy your kids books, you send 'em to school.  What do they do?  Chew on the covers!
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
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