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any tricks to working on wet return


1 pipe steam system,  with 1 radiator that is acting up, still second floor and unfortunately the babies room.  the radiator that is acting up comes off the header in the basement,  makes a few little turns, then goes horizontal for 6 feet, goes up/vertical for 12 feet, then horizontal again for 8 feet before coming up through the floor to feed the problem radiator.   The only thing unique about this radiator is the fact that any condensate from this radiator and the piping that supplies it will actually go back to the header and then back to the boiler because my header is pitched the wrong way as best I can tell.  ALL other lines in my house, including my mains, are piped in such a way that they go to a wet return in order to get back to the boiler.     

I have the opportunity to interupt the horizontal leg that is in the basement and can put a vertical drop in that would take any condensate returning from this problem radiator and piping into the wet return instead of allowing the condensate to travel those last 5 or 6 feet back to the header. 

The question is,  does anyone think this will help cut down on the wet steam symptoms, hammering, noise, water coming out of the vent of the problem radiator?  OR, once the condensate makes it all the way back to the basement and has traveled that far, the damage is done?.   My theory is that i should try to keep the condensate out of the header and this piping and radiator are the only source of any condensate that could be in the header. 

Here is a pic of my near boiler piping.  The line coming down the middle is the one I want to interupt,  although i'd be doing so in the background of the picture,  not where you see it is tying back in.  The other two mains that come toward the camera in the pic on the left and right are both pitched away from header.   the arrows depict which way things are pitched.   my riser off my boiler is on the left and my wet return piping is all on the right.   That is why i think my header is pitched the wrong way,  but regardless of how that is pitched,  the only condensate besides that condensate created in the header itself that comes back to the header is from that middle line, which feeds the problem radiator only and has no wet return.     



  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    edited November 2012
    Problem Radiator

    Hi- I read over this post and a few of your other posts and have a few questions?

    Where does the noise seem to be?

    Does this radiator work properly (heat) at any time?

    How much slope does your header have (in the wrong direction)?

    What is the make and model of the radiator vent?

    - Rod
  • puff_puff_hiss
    puff_puff_hiss Member Posts: 59

    The boiler is a gsa- 150n-s

    The hammer seems to be on that horizontal leg in the basement on the piping that goes to the problem radiator, but not every time the boiler fires.... Seems to only be when recovering from a big setback.

    Then upstairs at the radiator, you get a very long air vent noise (hiss) followed by a few ounces of water coming out of the vent, followed by the radiator heating up. This radiator and one other radiator on the second floor make a boiling water noise in the radiator for most of the heating cycle, but only this radiator spits water. The boiling water noise wouldnt be classified as loud, but i dont think its right either. The rest of the house is silent and comfy.

    All the pitches are now gradual pitches and have been confirmed to be in the right direction. the heater is performing light years better than when i moved in when every cycle was hammer at multiple locations and multiple radiators spit water. The header has 1/4 inch over two feet pitch in the wrong direction mraning back toward the riser that comes out of the boiler instead of towards the drop to the wet return side of the boiler.

    I think the heater might run great when it gets cold enough to be running most of the time, it seems to do better on the few cold days we've had.

    I do think i have wet steam though.... Aside from the gurgling noises, the 1 inch of bounce i get in the sight glass, i also have seen the steam coming out of the vent just prior to the vent shutting and i read that if the boiler is working right, the steam should be invisible.

    I truly appreciate all the help. With no experience, i have taken this heater from the mess it was to almost perfect all because of reading dan's book and getting help here.

    If you read my other post describing my three main setup where two mains are pitchedaway from boiler to wet returns and the third main, being theroblem all along has no main vent and no wet return. Someone early on in my questions suggested that this third main was raining condensate back into the header, and that isnt that far from the truth. Its not raining, but its certainly running and probably running hard back into the header.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Slope & Drip

    Hi- That's a pretty long radiator lateral!  You really need to fix the header. It should be fairly easy to do by just lengthening the piece of pipe on the boiler riser just above the union. Headers are supposed to take remove the water from the steam and one that slopes the wrong way is just adding water to the steam.  Fixing the header slope and adding the drip to the problem lateral should go a long way to getting things straightened out. Be sure to use a full sized tee on the drip and reduce the pipe below the tee using a short nipple and a bell reducer. How did the removing the plug on the skim port go?

    - Rod
  • puff_puff_hiss
    puff_puff_hiss Member Posts: 59
    Skim port plug

    I was unable to remove the skim port plug on my first attempt... But i have the right tool now that i'll pick up over thanksgiving and i suspect it will be a breeze once i have it. Dont quote me on that.

    Thanks for the advice on the header, i think ill start there instead of the drip leg since that would take condensate from the problem radiator intothe wet return.

    If i get the threads cut and they use cutting oil, should i clean the pipe with something special before installing so i dont add oil to the system?
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    A Simple Pipe Wash Saves a Lot of Skimming!

    Hi- Yes, remove any cutting oil and preservative oils with hot water and a good detergent.  Since the pipe is small, you can just wash it in a bucket. Use a piece of old towel soaked in hot soapy water and push it through the pipe using a broom handle.

    On the first piping job I did on my boiler I was dumb and didn't wash the pipe before installing it and that resulted in me having to skim multiple times over several weekends before the waterline finally settled down. The Teflon pipe dope will give you plenty of lubrication on the threads.

    - Rod
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