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Piping is wrong, but does it need to be fixed?

AlexTAlexT Member Posts: 23
So after reading through everything here, reviewing the boiler manual,

etc. I can tell my piping configuration is wrong.  This install was done about 20

years ago and is a single pipe steam in a 2-family house.  I've been here two years and I'm trying to sort through the random issues I found.  Boiler is a Peerless G-561. 

According to the manual I found, the suggested config is to have only one riser pipe and no header.  Mine has two risers and the header is connected to the main incorrectly.  Everything is done in copper and looks pretty decent outside of the configuration problem.  The system generally behaves well, but I suspect the steam is "wet" as I get gurgling noises in some of the radiators (especially if they are aggressively vented.)

Is this worth having a pro repipe it?  Part of me figures it's lasted 20 years so maybe just leave it alone.  (Photos #1 and #2)

Some other random questions:

- I've read that I should insulate the "near boiler" piping.  Does that include the risers, Hartford loop, etc?  Am I causing any problems by insulating them?

- The copper to cast iron thread joint is leaking a little steam, is that something that can be done as a DIY project? (Photo #3)

- My pigtail goes from the LWCO to a pigtail to the Pressurtrol.  Can I add a tee and an elbow and add a low pressure gauge inline?  My pigtail is cast iron, I don't know if I need to find a cast iron gauge? (Photo #4)


  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    edited December 2010
    Piping needs to be reconfigured

    Hi- I would change header piping to the proper configuration as the steam stream coming up from the boiler are colliding causing wet steam and inefficiency. The proper configuration will most probably also save you fuel. (See attached diagram)

    Insulation- The pipes that carry steam are the most important to insulate.

    Guage- You can tee off the pigtail line. You might want to get a new pigtail as the iron ones tend to "crud up" and it is easier to just get a new one than clean them. Also I would go with a red brass /bronze pigtail as they aren't as likely to plug up. You can get pigtails in all shapes and sizes from Mc Master Carr on the internet. Gauges - You can get those from the Gauge Store.Here is a link to the 0-3 PSI gauge that a lot of people are using.

    A very Happy and Prosperous New Year to you!

    - Rod
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,866
    In my opinion,

    ideally, yes the piping should be redone -- in black iron, with threaded joints, which almost certainly does mean a pro.  On the other hand, you do have two risers -- which is a plus.  Even though the manual says you only need one, another one doesn't hurt anything.  I can't tell the pipe diameters from the photo, though, but as an example -- if the boiler manual calls for one 3", and you have 2, 2" risers, the one 3" will give slightly dryer steam (steam velocity will be lower).  Two 3" risers would be even better!  On the other hand, the arrangement with the steam main coming off the middle and the equalizer on one end is almost guaranteed to give relatively wet steam.

    All that being said, though... unless you have real water problems (water hammer) in the system, it may not be worth the money to have it redone.  As you so aptly note, it's lasted 20 years without problems, so... if it ain't broke, why fix it?

    The leak where the copper joins the iron might be an easy fix.  Might not, too.  Unless there is a very handy union or flange on the iron, it could turn into a real bear just getting it apart enough to find out why it's leaking.  You could try JB Weld or some similar goop on it -- get it good and clean and cool first -- and see if that stops it.

    The gurgle in the radiators, particularly when they are aggressively vented, may be an "incurable, endurable" class problem -- although it could also be a wet steam problem.  Make sure the mains are well vented, then you may be able to cut back on the radiator venting enough to reduce or eliminate the gurgle.
    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
  • AlexTAlexT Member Posts: 23

    Thanks for the info.  This site is great.  If I have a plumber come in for the leaky copper to cast iron connection I might have him quote out a repiping of the near boiler section.  When I look at it now I have a hard time ignoring the bad configuration.

    Sounds like I will spring for a new pigtail and gauges and chuck the old cast-iron one.  Think this is a good summer project.

    Any thoughts on insulating the risers and such?  I don't see any posts on this site about that, so not sure if it's a good or bad choice.

    Can anybody recommend a plumber near Arlington, MA?  I checked the list on this site but hard to narrow down to who is the best.  Seems I should get a good relationship now, especially since I have an 85 year old "Puritan" snowman hooked up to the other unit that I'm fearing will stop working one winter day. 
  • David NadleDavid Nadle Member Posts: 624

    You can't go wrong insulating every pipe above the waterline from the boiler jacket all the way to the radiators.  Large diameter copper can't be heated enough to make a good joint with your typical  DIY (non-acetylene) tools. This would be a good opportunity to vet the pros in your area for the eventual boiler replacement. The ideal person will understand exactly why you want the header fixed and hopefully know the best way to achieve it without sinking too much money into a 20 year-old boiler. Your pigtail is undoubtedly steel, not cast iron. Red brass is better.

    Everyone loves the guagestore, but if you're cutting out at 1.5 PSI or less, I think a 0-30 oz/in^2 gauge is a much better choice. McMaster-Carr has them, and brass pigtails, too. 
  • AlexTAlexT Member Posts: 23
    Good Advice

    So I ordered a new gauge (0-3), which was a better choice in the end as my Pressurtrol is way off on the high setting and cuts out at 2.5psi. I'll take your advice and find a pro to redo the pipe. I think you're right that my propane torch won't be enough to take on a big 2" copper pipe.

    When I took off the 20 year old cast-iron pigtail I was surprised to find it wasn't clogged. It had a lot of gunk in it, but still clean enough for liquid to flow. I might transfer the cast iron one to my ancient snowman, which currently has a Pressurtrol hooked up via a straight pipe and is missing the pigtail.
  • AlexTAlexT Member Posts: 23
    Anybody done a DIY boiler repipe?

    A while ago I had a local plumber redo the copper connection that was leaking steam. He didn't sound as informed as some of the people here, but if I specified the details for him it sounds like he could redo my system correctly. Unfortunately his price tag make the math unfavorable with a 20 year old boiler.

    Since I've posted this I keep hearing various minor water hammers in my system which keep bugging me. It's gotten me thinking if I can repipe the thing myself. Have any amateurs out there done extensive near-boiler work on their systems? In my case I'm talking replacing all the existing copper above the water line with new cast iron and installing a proper header. The gas lines, controls, LWCO etc. would largely stay the same. I have the original manual for the boiler so I have the specs to work from.

    If you have DIY tackled it how many days did it take you to finish? How much in materials did it cost? I feel like I could take it on given what I've learned from these boards but I'm not sure what kind of commitment I would be taking on to do it.
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,123
    Or you can email me Alex.

    It may be a drive but I would only need to do it once. Drop me a line I am out your way quite regularly.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
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