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Why Real Steam Pros Don't Use Copper for Steam Piping

SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
cause the joints start to leak after a few years!



This is a Columbia CSFH-4150 steamer in Martinsburg, WV, about two hours from Baltimore. The piping was not only leaking, but was so badly configured that they had to down-fire the boiler so it wouldn't send water up into the system, where it caused banging.



Another problem was that the run of the copper tee where the two mains were connected was sending most of the steam to the shorter 2-inch one. So the longer 3-inch main was quite slow.
All Steamed Up, Inc.
"Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
Oil & Gas Burner Service
Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc

Comments

  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    When we were done

    not only did the steam distribute more evenly, but we shaved 10 minutes off the time between the burner starting and the appearance of steam in the radiators- without re-tuning the boiler. The system already had proper main vents- we had done them some time ago.



    See what proper piping will do?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,675
    Nice

    I'm really happy to say that the first pictures look like jobs my OLD companies would do.



    What's the deal with that one "bullheaded" tee?
  • JohnNYJohnNY Member Posts: 2,370
    Steamhead, this is a beautiful and necessary post.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    We pros come across disasters all the time and yet, still, some stand out and are even more gratifying than others when we get to fix them and see the result of our education and skills.
    For installations, troubleshooting, and private consulting services, find John "JohnNY" Cataneo here at :
    "72°F Mechanical, LLC"
    Or email John at [email protected]
    John is the Boilers and Hydronic Heating Systems Course Instructor at NYC's Mechanics Institute, a professional Master Plumber, licensed by The Department of Buildings of The City of New York, and works extensively in NYC while consulting for clients in and out of state.
    John also oversees mechanical installations and maintenance for metro-area clients with his family's company, Gateway Plumbing and Heating along with his brother/business partner.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited September 2012
    Copper Steam Supplies:

    I like the exposed asbestos.

    This is no commentary for against copper steam supplies. But, it appears to me that every pipe used in the new steel main is a stock off the rack pre-cut and threaded nipple. It is a rare application that you can't pipe something around a boiler without using plain stock supply house nipples and couplings and not need a power drive.

    That said, the copper work is pathetic. Who would be stupid enough to use a 2" DWV copper fitting with a 3/4" insertion? And I'll bet that they used 50/50 solder. The fitting is almost a face to face solder joint which is a sure place for a leak. Especially on a corner. I gave up using 50/50 solder and only use silvabrite non lead solder. It has a higher melting point and fills better. I find that with 50/50 solder, I use it so seldom, that I might have leaks. It is easy to overheat a fitting, and it may move when cooling. With the higher no-lead solder, it cools quicker and when I wipe it with a rag, I can tell immediately if it was hot enough. And I'm not talking 95/5. That has such a high melting point that if you get it on you, it will really burn. I use non 95/5 no lead plumbing solder. I'm down to only having 50/50 solder for soldering brass wiping closet flanges to solder the brass closet/floor flange to a piece of 4" lead waste. The main use I use my power drive is to make crooked threads to bring crooked tapping's into alignment. And make a nipple that I don't have with me and save a trip to the supply house.

    Another nice steel piping job. Nothing like it.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    Technically it's not bullheaded

    it's an elbow with a side tapping. That was the only way we could get it to fit. If the tee was turned the other way there wasn't room for an elbow to line up.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    You're right, Icy

    those were all pre-cut nipples. We typically have seven or eight crates full of nipples and fittings on these jobs, plus the longer ones that won't go into crates. Makes it real easy when you just have to grab the right one.



    We just looked at another job that will need repiping- this one used what looked like pre-cut nipples, but the know-how was sorely lacking.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • MikeyBMikeyB Member Posts: 696
    Nice job

    Nice job as always Frank & Gordo, I do have a question, were you able to pitch the new section of pipe/pipes off the header toward the mains or did you have to pitch them back to the header? I have seen it done both ways, just curious what other guys do.  I figure if you can pitch the pipe/pipes off the header toward the mains the condensate will flow along w/the steam to the end of the return, instead of flowing back down onto the stem coming out of the boiler.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    edited September 2012
    In this case

    the new piping had to pitch down toward the boiler, so as to leave room to install insulation. The high point is where the two mains join to the new 3" pipe from the header. Everything pitches down from there.



    In many cases this method works fine. The key is to make sure there are no low points for water to collect.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 1,578
    Another exemplary job

    I'm almost finished with my own new header, so I'm in a good position to appreciate the skill and expertise that goes into this. It's a little embarrassing how many times I've had to pull this thing apart and put it back together because, despite all my careful planning and measuring, things didn't go together quite the way I expected them to. I got the whole thing together Friday night and noticed that I'd walked the boiler a couple of inches off the slab while wrestling the pipes into place to hook up the unions, and it's not going to sit right unless I swap two of the 3" nipples around, so that'll probably take me most of the day.



    I knew there was a learning curve, but I didn't realize how long and steep a climb it is, and just when you start thinking you're almost there, you realize you overlooked something.



    The other thing I'm starting to appreciate is that this requires a lot more than mechanical ability. I was a pretty good mechanic, back in the day, but this is a whole different challenge, and now I see why Dan called one of his books The Lost Art of Steam Heating. There are a lot of different ways you could put pipes together to carry steam from point A to point B. Only a few are going to work well; even fewer do it elegantly.



    They say perfection is an ideal, and nothing real can ever be said to be perfect, but when you can look at something like this where changing any part of it will make it a little worse, how much closer can you get?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,675
    Agreed

    ...and well said. You really do need a superior imagination to do this kind of work. In that way, it really is an art.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    edited October 2012
    Thanks, all

    from Gordo and me.



    Hap, be sure to post some pics when you're done!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 1,578
    You know I will!

    I am really looking forward to getting everybody's feedback. There's still time to do it over before it gets cold. :-D
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    edited December 2012
    Update, from the customer

    got this e-mail this morning, and here is the critical part:





    "Basically, from a cold start, we get heat in 25 minutes, good steady heat, not just a semblance. That's down from 40-45 minutes. If heat had been on, shave ten minutes from start up time if it has been five hours between heat cycles.  Very pleased with the results!



    But then, r  u surprised?O:-) "



    Not really surprised that it works better, but this is way better than expected. We had already done the main vents and fixed some other piping issues, which improved things, so we didn't change any of that this time.



    The boiler had been downfired to reduce the banging from the improper piping... we might bump it up a bit next time we're there. And if we get fuel-savings figures, we'll post them.



    Anyone want to guess how much fuel we'd save if all steam boilers were piped properly?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
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