Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Installation of Flush Valves in Condensate Return Lines..

First Off, I hope everyone enjoyed a happy, Healthy Thanks-Giving with Loved ones....

Guys, I own an 80 year old home w/ a Gas-fired Burnham Independance Steam Boiler. The previous owners replaced it in 2007. I suspect that my return lines are clogged from the boilers of yester-Year. The 1 inch return lines have no Drains and I am looking into the possiblity of installing a Tee with Boiler drain and Full-Port Ball Valve right befor the Hartford LOOP (As per Dan's advice on this website) I have looked into previous posts and I have found some good advice. Luckily for me the Horizontal gravity returns are NOT buried (they are partially accessible from a closet in my finished basement). The HARTFORD LOOP unfortunately, is located BEHIND the Boiler/Water Heater (making it really hard to work on) Is it possible to physically move the boiler without disturbing its construction? (i can definitly move the water heater (no sweat) the boiler however, seems much to HEFTY!

can anyone advise me the best location for the new drains? (would installing a TEE with a Full Port inside the closet (where the line is easily accessed)  make sense? (Its about 10 feet before the Hartford Loop, adjoining the mini "Boiler Room") Any HELP/ADVICE GREATLY appreciated...



  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Boiler Problems

    Hi- Is there something about the operation of your boiler that makes you suspect the returns are a problem?  Could you take a picture of your boiler from farther back so we could see the boiler including the boiler piping?

    - Rod
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,188

    I wouldn't move anything unless you want a new hobby fixing leaks. 

    If your returns are 80 years old, they should be changed, not flushed.  The amount of work you put into cutting and threading the pipe and installing fittings is more than it would take replacing the returns with copper. 

    Been there done that a hundred times.  Steel returns have earned their retirement. 

    If you want to flush them, remove the vent from the end of the main and stick a hose in it...
  • Shuttle
    Shuttle Member Posts: 24
    New Return Line

    HI Guys, I had issues trying to Log in the website.

    To Rod: I will try to post a better pic showing the Near boiler piping (It just shoots straight up and make a 90 degree turn) I believe the drains are a problem for the following reasons:

    1) (really old house, some neighbors tell me that there boilers are over 30 years old (we all have the same setup in this particular row of houses here in Queens) I really dont believe these returns have been serviced regularly (there is no draincocks piped into the lines

    2) I have followed Dan's work on these forums and I have read some of his archives as well as "we got steam" and "pocket full" the stuff kinda points out to these return lines being clogged

    3) I "listen" to my boiler. It just seems slightly sluggish, I hear slight tapping and water hammer right about the time when the steam starts hitting the main run. The water in my glass looks clean, but gets a little Murkey and it bounces maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch during the cycle. It shows recent evidence of "specks" visible at the top

    4) during the last couple of years I have used the knowledge hear to make minor "homeowner improvements" like pitching the radiators, balancing system with new/properly sized vents, draining boiler, added insulation, replaced Main with DOUBLE Gortons etc..... I just never got around to "flushing these return lines and I believe my system would benefit Greatly if I did....Is it worth the hassle?

    To LongBeach: I did not know I can use copper for the return lines,,,Thats a HomeRun! But I thought that it was NOT a good idea to use copper in STEAM systems due to "twisting" and Corrosion problems when connecting pipes of different metals (I read that someplace on thes boards) I still believe thatbreaking an ELL and installing a TEE is less work that breaking Sheetrock, pulling out the old Pipe and adding new pipe is less work....Can I lay new copper ontop of old pipe (leaving it in place??) I would still have to drill holes into studs etc.....But the start of the returns are pretty accesible
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,188
    Copper Returns

    Copper is often used on piping that carries condensate today, below the boiler's water line.  In many ways it's superior to the steel it replaces.  If and when you remove the steel, you'll see why we say that.  Condensate eats the stuff for lunch, as Mr. Holohan would say.

    You'll probably find an 80 year old steel return hopelessly clogged with scale and rust and threads by the elbows worn very thin. Flushing may liberate the mud, but the rust and scale isn't going anywhere.  We also find that they start to leak at their threads after about 60 years. 

    Joining copper to steel is done every day.  The proper way is to use dielecric unions, though finding a domestic product that doesn't fall apart in a year is difficult.  We simply use brass couplings between the metals, and haven't had any problem with joints made thirty years ago this way.  The inspectors approve this practice too.

    Cutting and threading an 80 year old return to add a drain would be a waste of good time and labor, and the strain and vibration could open leaks in a pipe that undisturbed would have served for a few more years. 

    As we said above:  remove the vent and stick a hose in it -- you'll be flushing the return without breaking a sweat or an 80 year old pipe. 

    Now what was that stuff about moving the 30 year old boiler somewhere?
  • Shuttle
    Shuttle Member Posts: 24
    Will Try to change Return Lines

    To LongBeach:

    Thanks for the info, I think I am gonna go the Copper Route. I will Cut open a 6 inch trench along my basement sheetrock and build the Copper right over the steel Pipe and just leave it in place. The boiler is about 4 years old, Not 30 sir!

    I was asking if it was possible to temporarilly move the boiler so I can physically fit behind it to make the necessary repairs (There is very little room for the Hartford Loop behind it (maybe six inches) check out the foto guys..
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,188
    How's it Working?

    Is it shutting down on low water?  Is the water line jumping around?  Is it heating the space well?   Is the system free from noise?

    If so, you may consider just leaving the thing alone. 

    But if you'd like to move it to work on the returns, you can probably open the 2-year-old union on the riser and heave the 420-pound Independence over a bit.  Is there a union on the gas line after the valve to disconnect that?  

    We usually do whatever we can to avoid moving them because it's such a difficult task. 

    It also looks like the installer reused lots of old pipe.  That's not good.  Is there a header on that boiler?  Match it up with Burnham's installation instructions and see if it was piped correctly. 
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    New Wet Return

    Hi- As Ed has mentioned if your boiler is function reasonably well at the moment, this isn’t the time of the year that you want to consider doing piping modifications. Copper shouldn’t be used for pipes that carry steam but can be used for return piping and is less likely to plug up than a steel return.  I have no idea as to what your access situation is but it would seem to me the easiest way would be to remove the old steel return pipe and  put a copper one in its place. The outside diameter of a one inch steel pipe is 1.315 inches and the outside diameter of a one inch copper is 1 .125 so it should slip easily into place where the old steel one ran.

    From what I could see from the pictures you posted, your boiler seems to lack a header pipe and that was the reason I asked for another photo of your boiler piping. Ed also mentioned that you may have a header problem.

    A properly piped header is very important as it produces dry steam. Dry steam is quieter and more efficient than wet steam. Here’s a link to a video of Dan’s on boiler piping.


    If you consider installing a proper header you would want to do it as the same time you were replacing your wet return as the location of the Hartford Loop might need to be changed to accommodate the new header piping.

    - Rod
  • Shuttle
    Shuttle Member Posts: 24
    edited November 2011
    Near Boiler Piping

    I have recieved such great advice from all of you huys thanks! It seems like Near Boiler piping with a real Hartford with intelligently located Valves seems like the best route ( I will wait it out, it heats up the house rather well)

    It definately seems like OLD PIPES were REused (check out the old elbow with the repair putty on it!) what a danger huh?

    To answer LongBeach Ed's Questions: 1) it only makes slight noise during start of cycle at the main Pipe. 2) YEs, it heats the space well 3) There is a union to remove from gas line & 4)There is no HEADER   (I guess my best course of action is to leave it alone, at least till March 2012, when the season is ending) I will flush with a hose like u said

    TO ROD: What can I say dude, you hit it right on the nail! That was an eye-opening video! But check out the pictures u requested (I had trouble logging in the website)


    Guys let me know if you have any observations/Suggestions..Ken
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,188

    There are certainly issues there with the boiler piping.  It's not what the manufacturer recommends, that's for sure.   But half the boilers we remove are piped incorrectly and many of those jobs work fine.  It depends entirely on the system. 

    The cost associated with re-piping the boiler isn't low, and the potential of payback isn't guaranteed.  It's hard to imagine that installing a header and equalizer wouldn't help your system, but you may do all that work and achieve nothing.  

    There's no warranty on the boiler as it was installed incorrectly and you aren't the original owner. 

    A header is always recommended as a space to slow down the velocity of the steam leaving the boiler.  The slowing of steam permits the water to fall out of the steam and produces dryer steam which will heat the home more efficiently than wet steam. 

    A long vertical riser out of the boiler can often accomplish the same thing.  The problem with that configuration is that the water dropping back down the riser is negated by the exiting steam.  In the recommended configuration, the header drains the water out through the equalizer or "bleeder". 

    Is wet steam costing you money or performance?  Only you can tell. Is your water line's steady, your house heating and the mains not knocking?  You'll have to decide weather you wish to invest a substantial sum on a chance of improving performance but with the possibility of no perceivable improvement.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    Combustion air?

    That boiler looks like it's in a closet?

    Where do you get combustion air?

    Also the drywall on the vent pipe is not a good idea.
  • Shuttle
    Shuttle Member Posts: 24
    Near Boiler Piping

    To Ed, I agree with you 100% I will invest some tax return money sometime in March or April for proper near boiler piping and king Valve ETC

    To AbraCadabra: It is not in a closet. This is just a finished basement and the previous owner hid the boiler "out of sight" the boiler apparently gets fresh air from a 3 inch flue pipe that goes outside to the garage, then out to an exterior Wall (This pipe meets the Flue and the chimney) I guess this works?? Also, the doors in this "closet" are slotted "saloon Type" see through (I guess this permits air)

    I also agree with u on the sheetrock meeting pipe comment, But I guess I am just waiting for it to crumble
This discussion has been closed.