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still unbalanced

day 6 and still using 20-30 gal of water...cleaning out the pipes ...but ...still need help... what went wrong?  real customer service   that the heating team has not called since friday to see if its working....

everything upstairs is still the same. some rads heat...others still stone cold.

frustrated in fargo where winter is 5 months long and heat is not a luxury.


  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,573
    edited March 2011
    chilly in fargo

    i think that the connection to the main steam line should be changed so that it is not between the 2 risers.  check the mfg's piping diagram for compliance with your piping layout, as to riser/piping diameters etc. your present layout will push lots of water up into the system-not good.

    it's hard to see, but, what is your pressuretrol set for? if you were to have an over-sized boiler, and an over-pressure situation, then the main vents may have trouble letting the air out. what sort of thermostat do you have, and is it compatible, and set right for steam. the desired result of capacious main venting is to fill the mains first, and then the radiator vents will allow the air out, and the steam into all radiators simultaneously. if the thermostat is satisfied to soon, and there is imbalance, then the burner will be cut before the steam arrives at the farthest rads.--nbc
  • Steam header is piped wrong

    so that is one problem.  It looks like you had an installer that was not trying to cut corners, just didn't arrange the piping correctly.
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert

    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,573
    repiping burnham boiler

    now would an easy job for them to correct this by moving the second riser connection over so that it is next to its mate on the wall side. this will keep the main drier especially if using a drop header- an easy fix, with only a few additional parts/pipes needed.

    have them check your main vents while they do this.--nbc
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Piping Configuation Problems


    Riser position on the Header - As mentioned, your present piping arrangement has the riser to the steam mains coming off between  the risers coming up from the boiler. This causes very wet steam.(see attach pictures /diagrams)

    The whole idea behind the configuration of the riser pipes coming out of the boiler and of the header pipe, is to separate water from the steam stream and produce “Dry Steam”  It would probably be better to change the name of the header pipe to “ the Water Separator” as then its function would be more clear.

    Boiler Risers- As configured now your boiler risers would be much better if they went full height and entered the header from the top. (See Diagram) As it is now the “jog” in the piping will collect water which will be held in place by the up coming steam stream until the quantity of water overcomes the upcoming steam at which time the collected water will run back down the riser pipe and mix with the upcoming steam resulting in very wet steam.

    Additionally with the risers now being attached to the bottom of the header, condensate from the header will flow back into the risers coming ups from the boiler rather flowing back to the boiler by way of the equalizer. This will of course add to the collected water in the horizontal pipe “jog”.   

    Right now your riser /header configuration is a “wet steam machine”. On the up side, from what I can see, it would be fairly easy to get it straightened out after which it should produce nice “dry steam”

    - Rod
  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10

    thanks for your comments ...i will forward these to heating contractor and see what their response is.  i had the lost art book out for them during the install and printed off lots of pages and thought the head was screwy but thought i would wait and let the experts do it.

    i hate to be right sometimes.
  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10
    low p

    have the pressuretrol set at 1 lb and all the way down for the diff.

    should i consider a voporstat amd a mm 150 md low water cutoff instead of the supplied ones?
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Whatever you do,

     isn't going to change much, until you correct the near boiler piping.  I drew a rough sketch for you to give you some idea how it should be.  Its hard to see behind the water heater chimney, but it appears the wet returns may be incorrect also.  Research "Drop Header" here at heatinghelp.  Instead of just one riser up to your main, consider having 2 risers, going 2 directions, forming 2 separate loops.  Where are the main vents? 


  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10

    main vents and makeup side
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Now I get it

    The "barf bucket" 20-30 gallons per day.  I was remembering that from the other post when you first arrived. 

    Is it coming out clean yet?
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    barf bucket

    What a peculiar custom.  Are you going to have to put up with that forever?  Most of the systems around here run on gravity.  No pump.  That looks like a 2 pipe system, what do the radiators look like?  Maybe someone here can Identify what kind of 2-pipe you have.
  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10
    8inches of snow

    thanks to you all for  your quality feedback.

    out here in the hinterlands these oe vapor systems are totally unknown.

    thermostat   new honeywell round set to steam   1 lb diff....no actuator...digital?

    at the end of the 2 "zones" are 8 foot loops. they have some pressure in addition to the column of water in them when i bleed them.

    the water is still dirty dirty. im trying a magnet on the sight glass to accumulate and then flush out thru the mm. should i have a bigger  low differential one and a vaporstat?

    arent they technically dry returns ?...each side has a hoffman 76 that looks like they added  in the 70s along with the 3 steam traps upstairs. 2 trane b1 and a hoffman 17c.

    side note.   now even at 2 below i notice the steam or smoke coming from the chimney top is much less...that would explain the cracked previous well mclain leaking from the top by the safe plug side...and the condensate up the chimney  ///only noticeable as a thicker cloud on a cold day...not that i knew what it meant.

    installer is to call tomorrow to "clean the strainer" will give him the results of your suggestions.
  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10

    from the best i can tell

    2 pipe

    arco rads

    thermostat still same place as orig...no mod..... historic house.

    oe and hoffman valves

    all "original" except one bathroom replaced with fin and trap and one moved rad..close

    obviously a coal fired 1923 deluxe vapor system as you say.

    i was hoping the makeup water could be added if needed in super cold long fires not to be the constant source, to feed back in by gravity unless it needed more...like it was plumbed b4!

    i tried to show the installers the book and ideas,,,but they knew better.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    In light of new information

     I am not sure 2 separate loops is a good idea.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,573

    can you draw  a layout of your system? i am not sure what these "zones" are.

    i really do not think that tank should be necessary, and may be an inpediment to proper operation. after all would this system have had this sort of pumping system when first installed?

    has the system been really skimmed in the burnham approved way?--nbc.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    O E Perfect System

    I found something in the library here that I am sure you will be interested in.

  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10

    been thinking on this.

    they came thursday and drained the make up tank , put a tee on top of the tank vent , cleaned chunks out of strainer( good idea) and  set the makeup  back so it wouldnt shut off the first cycle.

    "you got heat upstairs?"   yes but not all and some still slow/cold,

    "any banging? "   no

    "  we would have to pipe out another 2 feet into your workshop.  that would run about...  $ for the fittings."  but its not right

    "weve got 30 inches so the steam has to be dry "   why is so much wet coming down in the sight glass?

    will burhman warranty it if its piped wrong to their directions.?


    they were gone.

    so i guess i talk with the office monday and see.

     theres no local second opinion. no way to see how efficent the loop is or if the recommended alternatives would improve the system.

    cleaning the valvet tops and checking the oe elbows....will replace the 3 traps with new  tunstall's after the heating season,
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,991
    The O-E system

    runs on ounces, not pounds. So if you have the usual Pressuretrol that came with the boiler, you must replace it with a Vaporstat. The Honeywell part number is L408J1009. Also, if the pigtail under the pressuretrol is steel, replace it with a brass one that won't rust up.

    The condensate tank is not needed. There's plenty of static height in those drop lines to get the water back to the boiler at ounce pressures. I'm sure you could sell it on eBay.

    Air vents from the rads in this system thru small holes in the return elbows. You can probably fix cold radiators by clearing the holes.

    See chapter 15 of "The Lost Art of Steam Heating" for more on the O-E system.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    I don't know how

     you are going to wiggle out of this mess, but I wish you good luck.  I know, from my own experience that it's tough to find people that have time.  From the looks of the job you got, there are some fine connections, but for some reason, the order of things are not done to manufacturers specifications.  Having the system riser between the two boiler risers is a big NO NO.  You might be best to get a vaporstat, and set the pressure real low, (like 6 or 7 ounces) and ride it out until summer.  Maybe your contractor will have more time then to make the corrections needed to get you up to spec. 
  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10
    thanks will update

    thanks for your support...will let you know  what goes down.

    come on up to  rollag minnesota to see the other side of steam power at the western mn steam threshers reunion in sept 2011.  wmstr.   all the old tractors and engines are running and it gives me some hope that this great country can survive if we read our history.

    when you see what we built 100 years ago ... still working....(with scheduled maint)

    imagine the oe system ...no particular moving parts and the thing lasts 50-100-150 years with old ladies and me as an operator.   if my ipad was so obproof.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    The Header Configuration needs to be Redone

    Hi - I think I would concentrate on getting the contractor to change the header. The diagram I attached in an earlier is out of a Peerless boiler manual.  (See Page 8 in the attached PDF)  I would think that since a major boiler manufacturer doesn't condone the riser to the main installed between the boiler risers, it would add some weight to your argument.

    Also the contractor should  be expected to follow the manufacturer's piping diagram. You might want to contact Burnham and find out who their rep is for your area and contact them.

    I don't think they would approve your header setup as it is now and they maybe able to put some pressure on your contractor.

    Steamhead who is a very experienced steam pro, and an expert on vapor systems,  says that you shouldn't need the condensate tank so you may also want to think about removing that is it would make your system far more reliable. While I think you might make some headway your contractor on the header as it is definitely wrong and is documented as being wrong, getting the contractor to change the tank might be harder.

    As Steamhead mentioned, vapor systems like yours run on ounces rather than pounds of pressure. If the contractor used a pressuretrol (rather than a vaporstat) and the system was running at a abnormally high pressure, this would back water up into the returns and that coupled with the bad header producing wet steam, would probably account for the lack of water in your boiler.

    - Rod
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,253
    First listen to Rod and Steamhead!

    Second too much fresh water leads to corrosion. Strainers, pumps and pressuretrols on a vapor system show me your installer is familiar with industrial steam not vapour systems. The best answer for steam is the simplest answer. Even before you repipe I would drop the pressure, get rid of the pump and make sure you have proper venting on the return. The header is wrong but would go by with little notice if everything else was right. That said a proper insulated header will make you more comfortable in two ways. one save you fuel dollars and too even out the heat by providing drier steam. Best of luck.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • heliostudio
    heliostudio Member Posts: 10
    will do

    Contractors are aware of your comments and will look into. They are reasonable and as you see do good work...this is just an art project i guess.

    i agree they got me heat when it was still cold and did install the boiler.

    thanks to you all for your logic, common sense and wisdom

    hopefully  we can correctly rejig this system to its potential.

     havent insulated yet because of re-pipe concerns.

    as a typical moron owner of one of these rare birds...i had no idea of what a cool machine it was.  foolproof must invite fools.   oh i blew it down and such, added some goo  and thought i knew what was going on inside.  

    will get a pipe refit diagram and run it by you for your approval in a  few weeks.

    i agree with your ideas to swing the 2 riser around so it avoids the bullhead and remove the tank + replace the hoffman main vents(2)...i think they are #76   other ideas?

    retrap  with tunstall (3), finish the releveling of the rads (2) and all valves spring  and top and outlet elbow clean.(16)

    will let you know the next twist in a few weeks...thanks again
This discussion has been closed.