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Do I need a condendate tank

GeorgeV Member Posts: 16
I have a two-pipe gravity fed steam heating system in my new home (built 1929). As part of bathroom renovations we had some radiators relocated. The general contractor brought in the reputable commercial steam contractor because they were suppose to have the most knowledgeable about steam. In the end, one of the radiators they moved does not work because the feed and return lines turn up for about 2 inches before they head to the basement (pictures say a 1000 words). Of course everything is covered in tile now and cannot be accessed.

The steam contractor is now suggesting a condensate tank (at his cost) because it will make the entire system more efficient and will likely allow the faulty raditor to work. He states that he cannot believe that a tank had not been put on earlier and that my system defintely needs one. Based on what I can find, it does not seem that this is the correct way to go. Furthermore, it seems that an electric pump is part of a condensate tank system. I currently can operate my system without electricity and do not want to limit that capability. Can anyone give me some advise. I have doubts on what the expert is telling me. Thanks in advance.


  • JK_3
    JK_3 Member Posts: 240
    edited December 2011
    "Turn Up"

    What do you mean turn up? Are you saying that the piping or the radiator are not able to drain completely out (holding 2" of water)? If that is what is going on then it is never going to work. posting some pics of the untouched rads and the new or relocated rads including the piping and inlet/outlet of the rads may help? Also I find it very unlikly that you need a condensate tank but I cant say for sure without more info?
    Life is Good !! Enjoy it !!
  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 940
    I suspect

    that the heating contractor wants to install the tank/pump in order to separate the return system from the boiler so that he can crank the steam pressure UP in order to force the steam through the mis-piped radiators.

    This will decrease the efficiency of the system.

    Furthermore, it is doubtful that such a fix will work quietly, and will more likely cause water hammer in that area and possibly other areas you didn''t have troubles in before.

    A condensate tank in and of itself has no impact on the efficiency of a steam heating system.   It is often necessary for other reasons, typically in large installations with far-flung zones of heating, grade differences, etc.  If it works well with gravity, that is absolutely the best way of operating the system.  I have removed them more than installed them.
  • JK_3
    JK_3 Member Posts: 240
    I agree

    I have also removed many more condensate tanks then I have installed. Usually because some thought that installing was was the answer to a problem when the answer was to correct the problem.
    Life is Good !! Enjoy it !!
  • GeorgeV
    GeorgeV Member Posts: 16
    Picture of faulty piping

    Here is a picture of the supply and return lines. The problem area is against the exterior masonry wall where they connect to the old pipes running to the basement. Obviously the lines are getting water logged and the steam cannot push the water up and over the hump.

    As part of the attempt to find a fix they disconnected the return line in the basement and ran a hose to a drain to "simulate the system with a condensate tank". With that in place, the steam will push the water over the hump but makes a lot of noise doing so. 
  • GeorgeV
    GeorgeV Member Posts: 16
    edited December 2011
    Close up picture

    Here is another version zoomed in on the problem.
  • JK_3
    JK_3 Member Posts: 240
    Professional ??

    Wow   I don't know what the heating professional could have been thinking but there is no way for that piping to work on a steam system. I would not allow them to install a condensate pump as this will not work. The contractor should be responsible for the needed repairs but that will be a whole other fight. Any steam professional will tell you that this piping is not just not ok but cannot work. The connections to the old piping needed to be made below the floor with enough room to pitch the pipes up toward the radiator.
    Life is Good !! Enjoy it !!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,021
    JK's right...

    A condensate tank will  be of no use at all.  Don't let them do it -- throw them out of the house if they insist.

    And that piping arrangement won't work.  Even if you could raise the pressure enough under some condition or other, "pushing the water up and over the hump" just isn't the way to go.  And even if you could somehow get it to work, it would hammer like mad.

    No, the only way to fix this is, oddly enough, to pipe it correctly in the first place... funny how that works.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Tim P._3
    Tim P._3 Member Posts: 50
    more than steam to worry about

    Aside form the steam issue..

    I guess you'll be getting air admittance valves (aka studor or provent) installed under both your sinks as there are no vents.

    The angle brackets the carpenter installed on the sides of the joists do not provide the minimum 1-1/2" bearing required under the joists (maybe there is bearing there.. but usually those angles are not installed as an "extra")

    Is it just me, or does the closet flange come up in the middle of 3 joists?
  • GeorgeV
    GeorgeV Member Posts: 16
    Thanks for the help.

    I appreciate all of y'alls insight into this issue. The only conclusion I can come to is that the heating contractor was lying to me when he insisted that condensate tanks were normal parts of today's gravity fed steam systems. He will not be doing any more work in my house.
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