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follow up to Boiler Piping problem

AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
Now it's knocking like an angry crack head!

Hello. I did get the work done and was very happy, though it knocked a

bit more than before.  Then last year it was worse, and this year OMG!!

It gets consistently worse the more it is used, and it's only October


The heat is even and every room is warm, I got a new thermostat but am

still having trouble setting it--it still goes down more than a few

degrees before it comes on. I don't get it. I have a digital one that I

can't get to work, so there is a manual cheapy one that I have played

with alot in the last year or so to get it right, and still no cigar.

The gas bills are a lot lower than they were before it was re-piped.

Somehow I think the company broke the auto feed for the water, only a

few days after they were here it quit working and I have to manually

feed the water.

They didn't calibrate the return line, and it's obvious the return is a

bit higher when it comes to the new piping, thus i believe why I have

such terrible knocking. But why would it consistently get worse every

year? The old piping system didn't knock near as much, just a few gentle

knocks and that was it. Once in awhile there was a louder one but it

was bearable, but the new, this is driving me absolutely crazy! Why is

it like that? If it even stayed the same as 2010/2011 it wouldn't be so

terrible, even though it was noisier it was tolerable.

I'm trying to send some pics but no internet connection on the phone for some reason.
Love my Steam heat!


  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,451
    edited October 2012
    Is the boiler water clean?

    I copied this from the old thread "Boiler-piping-problem" so it would be easier to follow.

    Not having an automatic water feed can be a blessing because it will not

    mask a possible leak, just make sure you check the boiler water level

    every few days.

    You mentioned the returns might not be right, it is important that the

    returns join together below the water line of the boiler (assuming you

    have more than one return). If they join above the water line it could

    well be contributing to the anvil symphony your hearing.

    What does the wter in the sight glass look like when the boiler is

    making steam? It should be clean and should not bounce around more than a

    1/4 inch or so. Has this boiler been skimmed to get rid of any

    impurities in the water caused by working on the pipes?

    Post some pictures when you can so we can see what everything looks like.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
    It is not scaring me out of a sound sleep now

    Hi Bob! I did post a reply in Boiler Piping problem, and couldn't find this one until now. Funny, the search isn't working for me anymore.

    I did try cleaning it, letting water fill up high then letting it out. Did that several times, and it is quieter. The symphony has been muted, though it is not silenced. lol. It seems the water in the glass is bouncing now, and it wasn't before. There is a thin line of what I am guessing is oil that is on the top of the water. Water runs clear, I am checking it at least every other day, normal black stuff for a few seconds then it is clear after that.
    Love my Steam heat!
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,451
    needs skimming

    The boiler needs to be skimmed. You have to find a fitting at or above the water line and put a pipe on it that can dump into a bucket. Then you crack the water feed  (manual feed not the auto feed) and slowly trickle the water in so it slowly floats that water and oil off the top.

    This should be done cold and hot - don't let the boiler make steam just nice and hot. the flow of water should take a couple of hours to fill a 5 gallon bucket.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
    Was afraid of that

    Someone working on the boiler had walked off with the skimmer part that I had to replace when I bought the house. Would one of those big box stores have them? I don't even know what it is called, or the size for an IN4.
    Love my Steam heat!
  • Steve NicholsSteve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    you should

    be able to use the port that is occupied by the safety valve on the RS of the boiler if you are facing it from the front cover.   There is a dedicated skim port under the jacket, but I don't know how deep you want to get into this.

    I have an IN5 and the thing was just put in.  It was super dirty and I'm still cleaning it out. 

    If you choose to use the port that the safety valve is in, you will need to unscrew the safety valve and attach a 3/4" ball valve (female ended) as I am guessing there is a short bit of piping coming out of the boiler to which the valve is attached. I can send a picture of my setup if that will help.

    If this boilder already had a skim port visible, you need to find the proper size piece of pipe and ball valve to screw into it.  I think the Burnham documentation lists the size of this port.

    Also something you mentioned.  If you fill the boiler and then drain, the oil will just cling to the sides of the boiler as the level drops.  Think of soap scum on top of the water in a tub.  As you drain it, the water drops out from underneath and the film coats the tub.  Oil does the same thing. 

    The crud and stuff tends to settle in the drain valve and in the bottom valve of the gauge glass (less turbulent area). So, that's why you get that initial kick of dirty water then it runs clean. Ask me how I know!?

    You want to do as BobC has suggested.  He knows his stuff and has been very helpful to me.

    The best thing is if you have any pictures of the boiler and the near boiler piping, that allows folks to see what you got and note any potential problem areas?

    Clear as mud?
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....
  • gennadygennady Member Posts: 680
    near boiler piping

    Near boiler piping is not done properly on your boiler. Who did re piping? Did you do it yourself? RTFM.
    Gennady Tsakh

    Absolute Mechanical Co. Inc.
  • Steve NicholsSteve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    Have you

    posted over on the "Strictly steam" section of the board?  That is specifically focused on your type of system.  Some of the frequent posters there do shoot over to the Main Wall, but your best best is to post stuff over there.  They are all very very helpful and giving with their time and knowledge (JStar, BobC, Crash2009, NBC, Steamhead, ChrisJ, etc.).. I guess I spend some time if I can rattle of their names without looking back, eh?

    Like gennady said, check that near-boiler piping as that is where many sins are born but can be fixed.
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....
  • gennadygennady Member Posts: 680
    near boiler piping

    Just look at first picture. There is no near boiler piping at all.
    Gennady Tsakh

    Absolute Mechanical Co. Inc.
  • Steve NicholsSteve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    can't see pictures

    all I get are red X's, so I can't see any of the posted pics.
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....
  • gennadygennady Member Posts: 680

    This steam boiler piped as plain vanilla hot water boiler, pipe in pipe out.
    Gennady Tsakh

    Absolute Mechanical Co. Inc.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Piped Wrong:

    If not for the "old" insulation, it almost looks like a hot water system, connected to a steam boiler. If not for that big steam vent in two of the pictures, I would think so. But, who in their right mind would futz around with all that asbestos insulation.  And where did the asbestos insulation come from?

    Maybe this boiler has been this way for years. From the pictures, nothing looks very new.
  • AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
    ?? hot water pipes?

    You're kidding--this is NOT a steam set up? What can I do then? They piped it in 2010. Al's plumbing from Michigan did it, and they were recommended from the board here.

    The asbestos insulation is old, the only thing new is between the boiler and main, larger pipes. Some of that insulation is brand new non-asbestos, it has the black tape on it.

    I am absolutely devastated; with all the trouble I had to find someone to do this and the many cold weeks I dealt with, only to find now the piping is not set up properly. Is that where my problems are coming from? If so, it's just going to have to stay that way. I can't afford anyone to come out and do the work properly.
    Love my Steam heat!
  • Paul PolletsPaul Pollets Member Posts: 3,022
    Near-Boiler Steam piping

    The boiler must be piped according to the manufacturer's instructions or it won't work correctly.

    Here's the link to the manual. See page 17. If the Near-Boiler piping doesn't resemble the schematic, both in critical dimensions and pipe sizing, it will need to be redone.
  • AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
    more pics

    Here's a few photos of the side of the boiler, the others were above. Please tell me this makes a difference. There is no way I can afford to have someone come to fix it, unless I can get Al's to come out and re-do it and it has been 2 years now. 
    Love my Steam heat!
  • AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
    If you can't see photo here

    Go here to the photobucket page:
    Love my Steam heat!
  • Steve NicholsSteve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    Here is the piping diagram for your boiler

    Anne, the unfortunate part about the piping aspect is that plumbing inspectors don't really look at it, at least not up my way.  They just want to make sure the gas line, shutoffs and chimney venting is proper.

    As folks have pointed out, that boiler is not piped correctly at all for steam.  I am attaching the Burnham near boiler piping diagram for the IN4 as I was doing research on this boiler before mine got changed.  At a minimum, you should have one 2" riser from the boiler leading to the header, not to mention the Hartford loop.

    Worst case....if it ran and produced heat over the past winter or two, you can probably nurse it along and have it repiped over the summer (if money permits).

    I don't really know what recourse you have regarding the install.  If permits were pulled you could perhaps talk to the town plumbing/gas inspector and see if you can gain any traction there.  Maybe the BBB can help?

    How you fare will depend on how reputable the installer was who did the job and if any guarantees were given in the contract (seldom beyond 1 year warranty from what I have seen).

    I'm sure folks on here can give you the best advice available.   I'll weigh in if I can help as I had an acquantance going through a similar situation.
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....
  • AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
    No permit

    didn't pull any permits for this. Was told it wasn't necessary because it is a pre-existing boiler so I went with it.

    I just cannot believe this--the company that did this work is supposed to be pretty good at steam systems, now I am going to have to put up with knocking and clanging until I can get it fixed properly? I'm actually heartbroken at this. I don't even have a hartford loop? what about the loopy thing near the bottom by the red water valve, isn't that the hartford loop where the copper water line is going in?

    At least the gas bill is less. Will this also cause my vents to whistle and sputter? Hopefully that is a separate problem that can be fixed with a little vinegar in the summer.

    I wish i would have posted the pics when they did the job. I was very happy to have heat and it wasn't making a lot of noise then, seemed everything was fine, though it did seem to hammer more as the cold season went on. The noise gets consistently worse as it is used, though some did clear up when I did a bit of cleaning of the water. 
    Love my Steam heat!
  • Steve NicholsSteve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    Try main venting first


    From my understanding, anytime anything is changed within a house, a permit must be pulled.  That is for the protection of the town and believe it or not, the homeowner as they contractor must abide by local building codes regarding the changes being made.

    The whistling and sputtering may be two separate issues but I'm sure the pros will weight in here.  Whistling in the radiators is a sign of inadequate main vents.  When boiler first fires up, and steam is produced it must push all the air out of the mains and if the main vents do not allow the steam to push the air out easily, you waste fuel as the steam traveling from boiler fights against the air in the mains.  The bigger the venting, the faster the main vents empty.  That makes the steam fill it much quicker.  The only air left in the system then is located in the risers to your radiators.  The rad. vents can take care of that. The better the main venting, the quieter the system is.  I barely hear my rads vent.  I just hear the "click" of the vent closing. 

    If you can get to the main vents and are handy with a wrench, you can probably attack this for a relatively short price (no prices can be discussed here, but is a good site for this kind of equipment).

    Sputtering can be a sign of wet steam.  If properly piped and if boiler sized properly for your total radiator load the steam should be less than 2% water (IIRC). Wet steam causes problems likey you state.  Uninsulated pipes can also cause this as the steam will quickly condense and coat the pipe walls and when new steam comes through it either pushes the water along with it or the cooler water causes the steam to rapidly condense, producing "hammer"/clang.

    Yes, I think I see a hartford loop behind the red handle of the water valve.

    I'd start with making sure your Pressuretrol (ifyou have one installed) is properly set.  We can help you with that.

    It is possible that the banging and clanging may be due to the pipes being improperly pitched.  If they didn't keep the existing main piping at the proper height when they installed the IN4, they could be pitched the wrong way.  Any sagging pipes will cause hammer also.

    As has been suggested in the past, get a copy of Dan's books, "Homeowner's guide...and "We got steam....".  They're a great read, easy to understand and will have you looking at your system in a whole new way.

    If the company is good at steam, why not call them and see if they will do anything.  May be a long shot, but you never know.

    Did you find them off of the Find the Contractor section here?  If so, maybe Dan can weigh in on this and provide advice. 
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....
  • AnneAnne Member Posts: 37
    Someone gave me their info

    Thanks Steve. I will try the venting and see what happens with that.

    The company actually found me, I was contacted here by someone when I first began posting; I didn't have the pipes hooked up to the boiler. Let me see if I can find the thread.

    I hope it is the vents, omg this hammer is driving me nuts! I fell asleep on the couch and woke up to that terrible knocking.
    Love my Steam heat!
  • Steve NicholsSteve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    Forward Progress?


    Will the company come back out and properly do the near boiler piping?   I know the main venting will "help"  but it may cause other issues to crop up as the system is "fixed".  There are calculations that can be done to determine the size of the main vents needed to get the air out of them quickly.  If you need help with those there are many here that can assist.  I did my own calcs and things seem to be going okay.

    Proper main venting  saves fuel and eliminates the possibility Pressuretrol shutting off the boiler if the high limit is reached.

    Freeing up the venting may cause other issues to show up so dont' be discouraged.  If you can get the near boiler piping redone as per the Burnham recommendations, you are well on your way.  For an IN4, a minimum of one 2" riser to the header is what is called for.  Two is even better b/c it will produce even drier steam but I wouldn't expect them to do that as is requires a bit more piping/fittings.  Make sure the equalizer pipe is 1.5" as well (again minimum recommended).  Note, these dimensions are all inner diameter sizes so the 2" pipe has an outside diamert of 2.37" and the 1.5 equalizer has an outer diameter of 1.9". 

    Sorry if I'm overloading you with information. Basically, make whoever does the repipe agrees to  follow the pipe sizing requirements, height of the header above the center of gauge glass, etc..  This is all spec'd in the manual on that page.

    One thing to try to do if you're awake already with the hammering is trying to pinpoint where it is coming from.  Typically, this is due to condensed water pooling in sagging pipes and improperly pitched radiators.  It may be tough do do since metal carries sound very well but give it a try. 

    I may have some information incorrect, but did the system hammer before you replaced the boiler?  Was the boiler replaced?  If the hammer was already there, you are probably looking at existing conditions in the piping and not necessarily the boiler itself.

    If your condensate returns connect above the normal waterline of the boiler before entering the hartford loop, you can develop water hammer at the close nipple in the hartford loop, so you should be able to sense if it's coming from there as well.

    Keep writing in with questions.  I'm happy to help as others have helped me and the knowledge base here is exceptional.

    The more pics you post (and the clearer and more comprehensive they are) the better we all can diagnose from the Web!  Keep at it!
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....
  • Steve NicholsSteve Nichols Member Posts: 124
    I'm curious

    Since it's been a while since the last update, I wanted to ask how things are progressing on your boiler.  I'm hopeful that the contractor came back out and redid the piping.  Were you able to tackle those main vents?
    striving for peaceful coexistence with an oversized boiler....
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