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my ancient pressuretrol doesnt work...Honeywell P404A no wonder my gas bills are through the roof

So today I got my new Gorton G2's, i installed all three, a single on the short main, and a double on the long.

I let the boiler cool off for several hours, and then i went to test the pressuretrol. My system has been going up to 10psi (on the 0-30guage) and i have been really freaked, so i wanted to see what was going on during a cycle.

I removed the pressuretrol and took the pigtail off, it was clear, it had a little rusty water in it, but otherwise no junk. Put the pigtail back on, - are you supposed to fill it with water -? then reconnected the pressuretrol and set the dials for 1.5 lb cut in 3 lb differential.

let the boiler fire, at start it was at 2psi on the 0-30 gauge. after 3 minutes, the pressure stayed the same, the ptrol didnt budge. after 5 minutes all were the same. after 10 minutes the pressure had jumped from 3psi to 7, the ptrol didn't budge. after 15 minutes the boiler was, well, boiling, and the guage was at 10psi, and the ptrol didnt move a milimeter.

now, this device is ancient, but, can they be fixed? what could cause it to stop working other than being old?

i lucked out and found a new old stock replacement for 50.00 on ebay, so i ordered it, but in the meantime i'm nervous about the system, so if there is anything i can do to clean i the old unit or maybe un-stick it id like to try...

FWIW, the electrical contacts on the ptrol work, if i manually tip the mercury bulb, it will shut the boiler off.

last thing, when i get the new ptrol, i want to add a 0-3 or 0-5 psi gauge, do i simply put a T fitting off the boiler where the pigtail is connected and install the pigtail and ptrol on one side and the gauge on the other?



thanks again...

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    Plugged base or bad linkage?

    Look at the base of the pressuretrol inside the brass  fitting and see if that little hole is clear. If that hole is plugged the pressuretrol won't see the boiler pressure. Is the pressuretrol mounted level? Does the mercury bulb ever show any sign of tilting under pressure? Are you sure the 0-30 gauge works correctly, they do fail in all kinds of ways and are probably less reliable than the presssuretrol is.



    The bellows and diaphragm are at the base of the pressuretrol and there is linkage that connects up to the mercury bulb assembly and see if anything looks out of place. If the bellows or diaphragm has a hole or crack in it the thing is toast. Nothing lasts forever but it's a shame to lose one of those mercury pressuretrols.



    To add a low pressure gauge you put a T on top of the pigtail and run one side to the new gauge and the other side to the pressuretrol (using and elbow to orient it correctly.



    good luck,



    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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    edited November 2012
    picture of the ptrol

    thanks again for your help bob.

    I will have to look at the ptrol again, and see under better light whats going on in the fitting, i didnt see a hole so im wondering if thats it

    there was ZERO sign of tilting on the ptrol during this test.

    last question, do i need to prime or fill the pigtail after i remove the ptrol, and after i cleaned it, or does the boiler fill it?



    ok, on the setup of the gauge i totally had it wrong huh...

    so boiler-->pigtail-->T-->nipple on each side of the T-->90deg elbows and then the guage and ptrol on top of each elbow.



    you guys here are so great, thanks for the help



    on the main guage, no i dont know if its working, im aassuming its off to some degree, but regardless, it still showed an 8psi or so rise in pressure, so even tho it may be off, the ptrol is def not working...



    UPDATE

    the hole was definitely clogged, so i pushed a tiny wire thru to open it up. i tried to get it to move by blowing thru it, no luck, would that even be possible? LOL im losin it in this old house...
  • pigtail orientation

    don't forget to turn the centerline of the pigtail at a right angle to the plane of movement of the mercury bulb. if it's the other way the heated up pigtail can tilt the whole unit, throwing off the pressure regulation.--nbc
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    Dump a little water into it

    Maybe you'll get lucky and find a piece of linkage out of place when you have the pressauretrol off and on the bench. You should see some movement while your adjusting the screw to set the pressure.



    Just add about an ounce of water to fill the trap in the pigtail, sometimes I forget to do it myself but it has to help.The pigtail has to isolate both the pressuretrol and the new gauge from the boiler. and make sure the pressuretrol is level when hot. It will be a little out of level when cold but it doesn't matter.



    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
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    It would be nice to win one

    It's got a good chance of working now - put it back on the boiler and fire her up!



    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: 2,787
    Pressuretrol

    First, yes, you fill the pigtail about halfway with water.



    Any number of things can keep the pressuretrol from cutting out. First, is it wired correctly? Some had SPDT microswitches so they could be used in unit heaters. If you have one of these, you need to make sure you've connected to the NC terminal, not the NO terminal.



    Next, there is a push-rod that comes up from the diaphragm and pushes against a rocker that actuates the switch. If you push down on the end of the rocker that contacts the cut-in adjustment sscrew, you should hear the switch click. If you can make it click manually, check and see where the click is occurring. If you need to put a lot of pressure on it, you need to adjust the push-rod.



    Set the cut-in as low as it will go, then get a long .05" hex key and fit it in the end of the push-rod. Turn the push-rod clockwise until you hear the switch click. The contacts should now be open. (Check them with a multimeter.) Now turn the push-rod counterclockwise until the switch clicks again. Stop turning immediately when the click is heard. Remove the hex key. You have now set the cut-in point so the boiler will operate, but you will need to fine tune it under pressure.



    Fire the boiler with the Pressuretrol cover removed and wait for the pressure to rise. The contacts should open at or near the cut-out point, which is the cut-in plus the differential set on the switch. As the pressure drops, if the burner doesn't fire at the cut-in point, turn the push-rod counterclockwise until it does. You may need to repeat this several times before you get it consistently cutting out at the set point.



    Once this adjustment has been made you can set the cut-in point with the adjusting screw.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    will do...thanks

    wow, this is great info, i will definitely do this, i have to let it all cool down though, I did a test now and the ptrol didnt move after about 10 minutes and a rise in pressure. the mains vent so fast, i did a crude timing and the steam was moving at about a foot every 17 seconds on the long main. not having filled the pigtail though may have affected the device.



    thanks so much for your help
  • 1foot every 17 seconds

    That is pretty slow. Is there a sag in the main somewhere which is blocking the air?

    When you have the low-pressure gauge, you can see how easily the air is getting out, and I suspect there is some impediment somewhere on your mains which is requiring the gas company to pump out the air at your expense. Can you see any sags in the pipe?--NBC
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,787
    Water in the pigtail

    is just there to protect the diaphragm from the steam. It doesn't affect the performance.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    hmmmm....

    so far i havent been able to get the ptrol to work...the boiler works fine, but the ptrol doesnt budge. will keep trying to adjust it.



    As for the mains, a sag? i dont think so...i'll look again, but they seem pretty straight to me. I dont see how anything could get int here that would be big enough to cause that kind of issue...im sure i could totally be wrong, but this one is hard for me to wrap my head around...
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    hmmmm....

    so far i havent been able to get the ptrol to work...the boiler works fine, but the ptrol doesnt budge. will keep trying to adjust it.



    As for the mains, a sag? i dont think so...i'll look again, but they seem pretty straight to me. I dont see how anything could get int here that would be big enough to cause that kind of issue...im sure i could totally be wrong, but this one is hard for me to wrap my head around...
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    Bob

    What pressure is the boiler reaching and how long does it take it to get there, also how long does it stay at that pressure before the thermostat is satisfied?



    Is the water in the sight glass bouncing around a lot?



    Are the vents making a lot of noise and are they all working?



    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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    ...

    What pressure is the boiler reaching and how long does it take it to get there, also how long does it stay at that pressure before the thermostat is satisfied?



    It goes up to about 10psi on the 0-30 gauge, is the gauge accurate, i have no idea, probably not as it looks original. IT takes about 15 minutes to reach that PSI. once the boiler stops after the thermostat is satisfied, the pressure will start to drop after about 10 minutes, but honestly i haven't timed this part, so consider this an estimate.



    Is the water in the sight glass bouncing around a lot?

    YES IT IS BOUNCING A LOT



    Are the vents making a lot of noise and are they all working?

    The vents all work, i have removed and checked all rad vents. many had water in them, but they are all in working order. They will only make noise if the boiler burns for a long time trying to satisfy the t-stat, like if we set the t-stat back to 67 for a day when we are away, the boiler burns longer than it should because of the p-trol, and so the pressure builds enough to exploit old pipe couplings on a few rads as well as the vents. now that i am aware of the ptrol issue i havent been setting the t-stat back, trying to keep it at one temp.



    So one thing i noticed since putting the new Gorton main vents. there are two radiators in my den, which is right over the boiler room. 1 rad is ont he short main (front) and the other on the long main. naturally, these would get heat first and sometimes overheat the room. one radiator in the room is big at 7'long by 2' tall and is on the short main. tonight i noticed after the boiler shut off from about a 20 minute burn, the two radiators in this room were COLD but all the others int he house were hot...i refired the boiler with both rad vents removed, and they both got hot eventually, but it did take about 10 minutes for the big one to vent. this had never been an issue before. with the Main vent 30 feet down the line from this big radiator, did installing the G2 throw me off balance on the short main? im also wondering if there could be a blockage here...



    i'm also worried that i'm chasing gremlins that are figments of my imagination, and thus creating new issues! lol
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    Figments can be great companions

    if you are bored.



    I could be wrong but I suspect your gauge is bonkers because steam at 10PSI would have the vents screaming in agony. That said, it does seem your pressuretrol is toast.



    You have the Gortons on the main but what are the radiator vents? The radiators should be vented slowly while the mains are vented quickly. If the radiator venting is to quick it can lead to the type of imbalances you are seeing.



    When do you expect the new pressuretrol?



    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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    ..

    unfortunately for me, there is a variety of vents of all size and type...some vari vents, some hoffman adjustable, some maid-o-mist and even a few gorton. I knew i was going to have to change some rad vents, but i don't want to buy tons of em...

    my house has two levels with radiators, the basement is heated by portions of uninsulated mains. the radiators are all of varying sizes, probably very few rads are the same. the boiler is at the far right side of the house, the short main goes to the front, long to the back, the back tends to have the colder areas, again two areas have insulation issues with pipes going thru exterior walls and even a crawl space, and i know they aren't insulated properly one on the second floor, and two rads in the kitchen have a crawlspace. all these things things were done when i just moved in and had know idea what the heating system was all about...



    so lets just say i have small medium and large radiators, do they all get the same size vent, or are we still varying depending on size of rad and distance form boiler, just picking a slower vent than usual perhaps?
  • Through the roof

    Those high gas bills are probably a result of inadequate main (not rad) venting. If you have a good low-pressure gauge, you can see how much resistance there is for the escaping air in the back-pressure as the system just starts to make steam.

    If you can fill the mains with steam before the steam rises into the radiators, then all the radiators will receive steam at the same time. Having higher resistance radiator vents like the Hoffman 40 enables the mains to fill without any riser receiving steam before the others.

    Where a larger radiator vent is needed would be in a radiator with a long riser from the main, such as a 3rd floor which is slow to heat.

    Of course, lower pressure from a fully functioning pressuretrol helps keep the steam uncompressed and travelling more quickly through the pipes. It cannot do much about an over-sized boiler.--NBC
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    edited December 2012
    Bouncing water

    The water in that boiler is probably dirty and that does not help matters. The boiler should be skimmed to float off the dirt and oil. If you don't have a skim port you can drain the boiler completely and refill it to the normal water line. Do this when the boiler is cool or just warm and make sure the power is off. As soon as the boiler is filled turn on the power to make some steam. It's important to bring new water up to steam to drive off the oxygen in the water so it doesn't attack the cast iron. See if the sight glass movement has lessened but be warned this may only be a temporary fix for the water problem, you probably really need a good skimming.



    When you get that new pressuretrol take the pigtail off the boiler and make sure there isn't a gob of dirt and oil just inside the boiler by using some wire to scrape the inside lip of the boiler tapping.  A flap of dirt and oil may get pushed into the pigtail tapping when pressure starts to build.



    Most pressuretrols are set as low as you can on the main scale and then the dial inside is set to 1, that allows the boiler so cycle between 1.5 and 0.5 PSI. If your boiler never shuts off on pressure and it never gets above 10 psi, the boiler may be pretty well sized. My boiler will cycle on pressure (at 12 oz using a vaporstat) in 10-12 minutes if it's still somewhat hot and about 18 minutes if it's stone cold. It will then cycle between 4oz and 12 oz till the thermostat is satisfied.



    The radiator vents should be sized so steam fills all the radiators at about the same time. It's important that the mains fill with steam fast and at about the same time so the radiator vents are only dealing with the runout pipe and the radiator air. The radiators nearest the boiler on the first floor are usually vented very slow and higher vent rates are using for distant radiators especially on upper floors. You may be able to swap your vents around to balance things out.



    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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    thank you...

    bob and NBC, you guys are sooo helpful, thanks so much. Since the hurricane last month, all the available plumbers are busy 24x7 in the most terribly affected areas of Long island, so im trying to do what i can by myself. Im enjoying the learning process, and i wouldn't be able to do this without you guys, so a huge thanks!



    so in my AM travels cleaning out the kids playroom, i noticed that one section of the main had come loose form one support hanger to the ceiling., this was just before a 90deg bend, so it could have been the sag that you were referring to, i could imagine water pooling in the 90 deg elbow. i re screwed the hanger to the ceiling joist and we'll see what happens, its kind of mild so the heat hasn't kicked on yet. all in the pipe probably moved about 1/4"



    I'll keep plugging away this week, the p-trol should be here early in the week, so i need to order the low pressure guage and some new rad vents. Can you guys possibly recommend some rad vents for the large and far radiators, and for the close and small?



    also, there are valves and openigns all over the boiler room on various pipes, if you could elaborate on "skimming", or point me to a link that explains it, it might be something i can do too.
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    edited December 2012
    pics...

    this is what i have to work with, im hoping this is a skim port
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,752
    Not a skim port

    that's an old tankless coil for heating your hot faucet water.



    What model is your boiler?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    boiler

    the front plate says:

    HB Smith

    No. 100-1100-150-1500

    Smith-mills boilers



    i cant snap a pic, my son has kidnapped my iPhone



    there are 2 spigot areas, but they are down low:
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    skimming

    When you skim a boiler you use a port in the upper part of the boiler and very slowly use the water feed valve to raise the level inside the boiler so the water trickles out of this port. It is preferable to use large size port but if nothing else is available you can replace the gauge assembly with something tat gives you direct full port access into the boiler (mount the gauge assembly off pipes and T's and use the upper one for skimming); when not skimming this is capped off so the boiler can be used to make steam and heat the house.



    Your boiler sounds a bit long in the tooth so I would be VERY careful about trying to get any pipes out of it in the middle of a heating season lest something goes very wrong. You might need to get a good steam pro in there to set something up 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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    agreed...

    she's waaay old, but has been working OK for the last few years.  I did some reading on skimming last night, not something i want to do myself. 

    I'll try to clean it out using the water drain, would i be better off using either of the drains that are at the bottom rear of the boiler in the picture i posted, or shoudl i just use the output that is part of the hi-lo cutoff that i would normally use to drain water....

    is there any special process to this other than drain, refill, heat...repeat



    Do you have any recommendations for radiator vents?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    Use a low drain

    Any drain low on the boiler will work, the low water cut off drain is to high up. If it's been a long time since it was used you may find it blocked with debris so treat the valves with some care, you don't want to break anything if you can avoid it.



    Just drain the boiler down, close off the drain fill it back u and make steam; repeat if you think it's warranted but make sure you build steam afterwards. If you go through the threads you will find mention of something called Steam Master tablets that can be used to clean (at high doses) or treat (at low dose) the boiler water. To use them you need a way to open a port high up on the boiler so you can drop them in.



    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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    Update

    Low pressure gauge came in, so I setup my new T off the pigtail even though the new p-trol didn't show up. Are these gauges plug-n-play . Boiler ran for 30 min at least and it didn't even move, it just twitched ups and down.

    The low drain didn't even work, the valve opens but nothing comes out, so I drained and filled it twice from the lwc. I also think I located the skim port, at least I found two knockouts on the side behind the pressure relief downspout, one is about 2-2.5", the other is right below it and is half as large.

    P-trol should be here tomorro
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    It will read if there is pressure

    If there is any pressure that gauge should indicate, I assume the other gauge was still indicating high pressure. Did you fish around that pigtail tapping to be sure there isn't any gunk that might be waiting to plug that port?



    What is the nameplate rating in sq ft of steam and how much EDR do you have connected? Post a picture of the boiler showing the pigtail, pressuretrol, and gauge glass.



    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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    ...

    damn...i forgot to remove the pigtail and do that, i'll remember tonight when i install the new ptrol.



    as for the info on the front label, i'll have to write it down or take snapshot tonight.



    this is a oic i snapped last night, the flash muted the gauge tho, i'll have to get another tonight...



    thanks for all your help Bob
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    Well matched?

    If the boiler and EDR are very well matched the boiler might never build any real pressure unless it's on for a very long time. Did this boiler ever trip off on pressure to your knowledge and did you ever see the mercury bulb move?



    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
  • John_141
    John_141 Member Posts: 54
    ...

    I never got this deep into the boiler. I messed around with radiator and main vents, that's about it...

    New pressuretrol is now installed, wild to see the original 1941 packaging and instructions

    I'll keep you posted. When I compared them, the pressure port in mine is a pinhole the rest is rusted up, the new one has a much m less restricted port obviously.



    Next up seeing what's behind the knockout, it has to be the skim port.

    Anyone know what a licensed plumber would charge to do a proper skimming job?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    edited December 2012
    It's going to cost

    Getting that plug out of the boiler after all these years is going to be a job and a half, between that and the skimming your looking at 6-8 hours of labor.



    Right now I think it's more important to get a drain working on the boiler and that could take a few hours as well because the biler and the return might have to be snaked out and a new valve installed for the drain. Flushing the boiler out is probably more important than skimming right now in my opinion.



    Let us know how that new pressuretrol works out. Save the documentation it's really a peice of history



    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
This discussion has been closed.