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Pops
Pops Member Posts: 5
I've just started working with a charity that was given an old church building when the members essentially all died. It has a low pressure steam system with at least four motorized control zones and a condensate pump. I've read the Lost Art of Steam and Dan is amazing. My guess is that the radiator traps (Illinois Engineering Co. No. 1) have not been serviced in over 15 years and the same for the main traps. There is no insulation on the pipes and only one zone is used to heat to normal temperature, the others are set to 50 degrees. While the oil fired boiler is only from 1997, it hasn't been well maintained. I'm exploring going to a natural gas gun as replacing the boiler is out of our price range. The heat isn't great with some radiators not putting out any heat - probably failed traps. With the charity, every dollar we spend on this is a dollar that doesn't go to someone who needs to eat. I was hoping to get replacement parts for just the traps on the zone we really use but have read that one bad trap is all it takes to ruin the rest. It's unclear how long we'll be able to afford this "free" building. Thus my question in the title. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,416
    Unfortunately

    free often isn't.  Especially when it comes to getting a building into some sort of usable condition.  That being said...



    Where to begin?  First, check the pressure the system is running at.  If it's over 1.5 psi, turn it down to about 1.5 psi.  Second, insulate every steam main you can find.  If you can't afford proper insulation, you can use fiberglass building insulation with the paper backing, although it doesn't work as well.  Third, you can start on looking at traps.  A trap which is failed open will show itself (usually) by the fact that the pipe after the trap is just as hot as the pipe or radiator going into the trap.  These are the first traps to look at.  While it is true that one failed open trap may ruin the rest, it doesn't always happen, so you might as well look for failed open ones and fix them first.  On radiators which don't heat, first thing to do is sometimes overlooked: make sure the valve is open.



    Then there is the question of venting.  You need to have decent venting.  However, tackle the above stuff first...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Pops
    Pops Member Posts: 5
    Thanks

    Thanks for the note. I'll get working on these points.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,572
    Free church

    While you are looking at the system problems, don't forget to put an accurate low-pressure gauge on so you can see if there are any spikes of pressure above 1.5 psi as it is steaming. Many old traps will work fine at low pressures, but have problems with high pressure.--NBC
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Radiator Orifices

    Hi- Have you looked into orifices?  
  • moneypitfeeder
    moneypitfeeder Member Posts: 249
    I second orifices

    Way more cost effective than replacement traps, and if you find after the fact you need to kill some heat to an over-active rad (oversized) you can switch to a smaller size orifice to fit your needs better.



    http://www.heatinghelp.com/search/results?search=orifice+plates



    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/183/Plumbing-Mechanical-articles/2105/Paul-and-Joe-June-2011



    Getting your boiler professionally serviced and cleaned, especially now that heating season is winding down might be a good place to start. If the heart isn't pumping blood it doesn't matter how strong the extremities are, they won't go far. Even not being well maintained your boiler isn't ancient history, so it might not be as cost prohibitive as you think. Please post some pics of the boiler from as far away as you can get and from as many angles as you can so we can help you more. Insulation is really the last thing I would worry about in this case, some may argue that, but your boiler really needs to be up to speed first. You'll probably be here on the site a while picking away at things, welcome aboard and good luck with your project!
    steam newbie
  • Pops
    Pops Member Posts: 5
    replies

    These replies have been great.  I'll get some pictures posted in the next few days now that I have a better understanding of what might be interesting to post.  Where does one get orifices and if the answer is make them, what material is suggested and does anyone have a tried and true way to make probably 20 or more of them?

    Thanks.
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,047
    we generally make our own,

    using hole punches and believe it or not, the best material we have found is a beer can or pepsi can..its pliable and molds to the shape of the radiator stub easily..we just did 26 radiators in a big house that way.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    edited March 2012
    Radiator Orifices

    Hi - I wouldn't jump into orifices until you know your steam system better and have other things like boiler, controls, and main venting squared away.   Attached below is an article on orifices. Pre drilled orifice plates are available from Tunstall  http://www.tunstall-inc.com/tunstall-steam/inlet-orifice/

    You'll need to survey all your radiators and determine the EDR of each one. If you supply the operating pressure and EDR, Tunstall will determine which size orifice plate you need to use.  The traps that are now operational will work okay with the orifices but you will need to remove the innards of the traps that are stuck shut. Using an impact wrench is the easiest way to loosen the trap covers.

    Edit: Gerry Gill is very experienced steam pro so please pay particular attention to his advice. You can also learn a lot about steam by visiting his website http://www.gwgillplumbingandheating.com/

    He has a lot of good info there.

    - Rod
  • Pops
    Pops Member Posts: 5
    trouble posting pictures

    Is there a special trick to posting pictures on this site?  I want to send some pictures but don't seem to be able to get them to attach - all that seems to copy in is a link to my computer.

    Thanks.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,787
    No trick

    Some people just seem to have trouble with it. The name of the file input element isn't exactly kosher. There might be some browsers that don't deal with it as well as others. See if you have better luck with a different browser.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Formats for Posting

    Hi-  This website only accepts files in pdf or jpg format.  There are several jpg formats for pictures.  Make sure the ones you submit are in the older "plain vanilla:" type.

    - Rod
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,787
    png works too

    All the pictures I've posted have been png files, so we can add that to the list. I haven't tried gif yet, but I'd be surprised if it didn't work too. I wouldn't expect bmp or pict to work because they're not cross-platform formats.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Pops
    Pops Member Posts: 5
    Thanks and some pictures

    Thanks to all for the suggestions.  I'm thinking them through and reading everything that you recommend.  Attached are some pictures showing the boiler and piping system.  Remember I've only been "on the job" for less than a year but it's sad that this is the condition of a boiler that was "only" installed in 1997.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
    All

    the mains should be between the risers and the equalizer.Everything leaving the boiler in the same direction. With that configuration you're pushing very wet steam.
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