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multitude of questions on my system

I recently just bought a forclosed house and like most people, I knew hardly anything about steam heat. I used to have it when I was a kid but my dad assured me that the banging noises were just air and that it was fine. Anyways, I've done some reading and have found out my system seems to have a few weird quirks about it. I have a 1300 sq ft home built in 1913 with a one pipe system, newer utica boiler in the basement, radiators in the top floor, and convection radiators in the downstairs.



1) My main line doesn't have any air vents.



2) I think this is directly related to #1... my system seems to be at or near 5psi, even when off, and because of that my pressuretrol needs to be set to 5psi or else the boiler wont kick on.



3) I also don't have a wet return line coming off of the main line. There are some retro fitted copper pipes under the header which as far as I can tell are dumping the rest of the water back into the boiler and probably at the same time sucking some water into the system to create the water hammer because over time the boiler over fills itself and the water hammer gets more noticeable.



What are my options on all of this?

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,471
    Pictures?

    what does the pressure gauge read when the boiler is off and cool?



    Look at the steam main and see if there is anyplace near the end that might have once held an air vent. Does the steam main slope down from the boiler feed point or up away from it?



    post some pictures of the boiler and the piping around it so we can see what you have.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Ant425
    Ant425 Member Posts: 4
    Reply to BobC

    Pressure gauge seems to read about 5psi when cool and about 6.5 psi when on. There are two capped areas in the middle of main line that are side by side, is all I can find for areas that might have had vents. All of the lines seem to have the correct pitch back towards the boiler.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,471
    edited November 2012
    problems

    If the steam mains start above the boiler and slope up and away from the boiler the system is a counterflow system. If the main started high above the boiler and sloped down away from the boiler it would be a parallel flow system.



    The main vents are usually located towards the ends of counterflow mains while parallel flow mains sometimes have return pipes running below the level of the main that slope back towards the boiler or sometimes drop down below the boiler waterline and go back to the return of the boiler (main vents are towards the end of these mains as well.



    Your pictures indicate the boiler piping was done wrong, the steam takeoff to the mains should not be between the two boiler steam feed pipes because this causes a collision that can result in wet steal and some banging in the pipes. The pipe feeding the steam main should be between the the two boiler risers and the pipe going down to the boiler return. Also the pipe feeding the steam main looks like it is leaking. How many radiators are on this system, it looks like the steam is feeding both wats from the main but I can't tell for sure.



    You need main vents so your not using fuel just to get the air out of the system. Then the radiator vents just have handle the wadiator and the pipe feeding it. Can you make up a simple diagram that shows each steam main, the radiator feeds of them , and where it looks like you might have access to a fitting that might let you put a main air vent on. Also what kind of vents do the radiators have?



    If the gauge reads 5PSI when cool and 6.5 PSI when making steam it indicates your main gauge is bad, it should read zero when the boiler is cool. The pressuretrol should be removed and the pigtail should be cleaned out and then be reassembled. Then The prssuretrol should be adjusted for a 1.5 PSI cutout and a 0.5PSI cut in, that should save some fuel and let the system operate better. the pressure gausg has probably failed so I would install an auxilliary 0-3PSI gauge to let you know what is going on, steam systems work best at low pressure (2 PSI or less).



    Your system needs work, you are going to have to get someone in to work on it or you can do some of it yourself with some knowledge. If you want to tackle some of this work yourself but "The  Lost Art of Steam Heating" that is for sale under the SHOP heading above. A few nights reading that will give you all the information you need and it will save you a fortune along the way.



    The pictures below will give you an idea about how the differnt systems are piped and note the main vent locations.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    edited November 2012
    The proper way to pipe that boiler

    is here. The diagram assumes it's a parallel-flow system, so your counterflow system would use a different method of returning condensate:
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    And when we install a boiler

    we use a drop header, which is much easier to install and takes up expansion better:



    http://www.heatinghelp.com/files/articles/1341/255.pdf
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
    edited November 2012
    Near-boiler Piping

    The near-boiler piping is wrong, and will have to be taken care of, for the system work correctly. It's a steam no-no to split a main like that, even with a counterflow system.The stresses of expansion of that header are being directly applied to the sections of the boiler, and can rip the boiler apart.
  • Ant425
    Ant425 Member Posts: 4
    Reply to BobC

    Those leaks at the main are old leaks that have seem to have sealed themselves and are no longer leaking.



    I probably won't be able to make a diagram, but, if this helps: going to the left side of the house there is one convection radiator downstairs, one old cast iron radiator upstairs, and one newer style radiator also upstairs. Going to the right of the house are two convection radiators downstairs and two cast iron radiators upstairs. The upstairs radiators all have adjustable vents. The downstairs convection radiators have the round style vents.



    The end of the mains aren't an option for vents because there are no ends on the mains and since I don't have a parallel system I can't use the dry return. The mains on each side reduce and/or tee off into one of the pipes that feed the radiator. Those individual pipes that feed into the radiators run very tight with my foundation walls (even up into the foundation in some cases) and up through the floors for access upstairs.



    I adjusted the pressuretol accordingly, will that work right with a broken pressure gauge?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,471
    As long as the pigtail is clear

    The system should work, the gauge is just there to monitor the pressure so you won't really know whats going on with that gauge; just make sure that pigtail is clear.



    Does the system usually stop and restart before the thermostat is satisfied? Not having vents on the steam mains is costing you fuel (and oil ain't cheap), you should see if someone can cut in some vent locations for you.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    Your Best Option

    I'm an avid do-it-yourselfer who just finished repiping my boiler and building a drop header and repiped the returns last year, but, even with that experience under my belt, and all the knowledge and support I've gotten from the pros on this forum, if I were in your shoes I'd hire a good steam man to do this job. It looks way too challenging.



    Near-boiler piping on the Utica boilers is critical, and given the lack of headroom, a drop-header is imperative. The counterflow mains are another problem. The boiler's steam chest is very shallow, so maintaining the water level is critical. This is very difficult with a counterflow system. The pipes have to be bigger and the pitch needs to be twice as steep to allow the condensate to flow back to the boiler while the steam is blowing out the mains at 50-60mph.



    Even if all these problems can be solved, there are some basic questions that should be answered before even starting on a major job like this. Was the boiler even sized right in the first place? When someone makes so many mistakes you really can't assume they did anything right, so you can't take anything for granted. You don't want someone to spend a lot of your money on repiping and then turn around and tell you the boiler is too big or too small and it will never work right anyway.



    Since this is something that might end up costing a lot, you might want to think about waiting a year, doing your research and saving up for it. After you've suffered through a year of banging pipes and high heating bills, you'll have a good baseline to evaluate how much your investment is paying off.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
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