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No pressure? (and a few other questions)

Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
Hi all,



I have been following the forum for a while now and I have learned quite a bit.  I also bought copies of "We got steam heat" and "the lost art of steam heat."  I have gotten to the point now where I have a few questions that I hope some of you might have answers for.



First of all, I have a one-pipe steam system.  The boiler is a NG fired Weil McLain EG65.  I have two separate loops coming off the header, one for the north half of the house, one for the south half.  Main vents are located at the end of the dry returns.

We have 11 radiators of various sizes spread out over 3 floors.



When we bought the house the system didn't work very well.  I have taken a number of steps to try to improve the situation:



1. Increased main vents using the "antler" technique. (pictured)  Each loop now has two Gorton G1s and one of the main vents I found on there (some chinese-made thing).



2. Took off pigtail, completely cleaned, replaced 0-30psi gauge with a 0-5psi



3. Replaced most of the radiator vents.  Now mostly heat-timer varivalves and dole varivents with a few hoffman 40s on the rads that got too hot.



4. replace junk thermostat that would only allow the option of 8 cycles per hour with a nice honeywell one set to 1 CPH.



5. Started (but haven't yet completed) insulating basement steam pipes with fiberglass pipewrap



6. Had the steam mains with asbestos insulation fully encapsulated by EPA certified group.



7. Increased pitch on kitchen radiator (previously didnt work at all)



Now for the questions:



1. As you can see from the picture we have a Honeywell Pressuretrol.  The system has never once cycled on pressure.  I was concerned about this, thus the installation of the low pressure gauge.  I have sat there through the entire burn cycle and the needle never moves.  If you stare closely, you could maybe imagine it quivering a bit, but we are talking less than 1 oz of pressure. Steam is definitely being produced and the rads are getting hot.  On these cold days lately, some of my 18 section rads are getting hot all the way across. 



What does lack of movement of the needle mean?  Is it not moving because I am still pushing air out of the system even by the end of the boiler cycle?  Is there a leak somewhere that I am missing?  (low water cutoff rarely/never cycles). Do I need more main venting or faster rad venting?



Of note, the Gorton G1s close at about the 15 minute mark (which I think means steam has reached the end of the main).  Is this too slow, do I need even more venting?



2.  What do you all think about the design of the header/equalizer?  It is an unusual shape that I have not seen in any other pictures on this forum.  The header itself seems to be a custom made piece with a plug next to the two risers for the mains.  What is this for? A pressure gauge? A vent?



3. Who do you recommend as a HVAC contractor with steam expertise in the St. Louis area? I am willing/have done a lot of work on the system myself, but there are some tasks I would prefer be done by a pro.



Thanks! I look forward to all of your comments!
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Comments

  • SWEISWEI Posts: 7,356Member
    Dimension A

    What is the distance (in inches) from the lower header pipe to the normal waterline?
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    best way to measure?

    i'm not 100% sure.  should I measure from the bottom of the lower header pipe to the level of the water in the sight glass?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,548Member
    On the pressure etc.

    A lack of pressure simply means that the air is getting out of the system.  Further, you should remember that as the steam hits the radiators it condenses -- which actually reduces the pressure at the radiator.  If a boiler is well matched to the heating load it may not raise much in the way of pressure at all, or if it does it will be way at the end of a heating cycle.  If your radiators are getting hot, you're getting steam and if all is quiet, you're fine.



    15 minutes is, perhaps, a little long for steam to hit the main vents, but if that is measured from when the burner fires and not from when the boiler starts making steam its probably quite reasonable.  If you're not getting a pressure rise, you have enough venting.



    As to the header, I've never seen the like -- but if it works, don't fix it.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • SWEISWEI Posts: 7,356Member
    from the bottom of the header

    to the middle of the gauge glass, or the NWL marked on the boiler.  Where on the gauge glass does your waterline usually sit?
  • Steve_175Steve_175 Posts: 234Member
    I'd bet some donuts

    that header needs to be redone. A pro will chime in with an opinion soon. The Q of venting the mains depends on the volume of each loop. What size are the pipes and how long is each loop?

    I would also be willing to bet the boiler has never been skimmed. If the header needs to be redone then skim after, if not do it now.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,965Member
    That header

    is not the way it should be, but I agree with Jamie that if it's working ok leave it be.When the boiler has to be replaced you can have it done right.



    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
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    probably never been skimmed

    We bought the house from a 90+ year old guy.  I don't think he spent much time in the basement with his boiler, so undoubtedly it has never been skimmed.



    To be honest I don't think there is a port for skimming currently installed.  Should it go in the plug next to the pigtail? (see picture).



    Will I see any improvements in the performance after skimming or is this a maintenance task to keep the boiler going longer?
  • Steve_175Steve_175 Posts: 234Member
    Yes that plug

    Next to the pigtail.

    You should see some performance enhancements. It should help a little with drier steam and less bouncing of the water line.

    If you do it it should be done when the boiler is cold and not running. It should come out as a very slight trickle over a number of hours.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    Header

    I see a real problem with the way the two risers are connected together. This is maybe the worst example I've seen on a boiler that was still working, and I have to disagree with the "let well enough alone until you need to replace the boiler" advice because, unless you change this you WILL need a new boiler pretty soon.



    The cast iron sections of your boiler expand at different rates and at different times than that pipe that's binding them together, so at the start of each cycle, when they try to expand, they'll only be able to do so at the bottom. When the pipe finally gets hot, it will expand and push the sections apart at the top. Then, at the end of each cycle, the sections stay hot longer, because of the hot water, while the pipe can cool fairly quickly, and it will pull the tops of the sections together again. The constant wrenching action will eventually make the sections start to leak. If caught in time it can be fixed, but if corrosion occurs, sections will need to be replaced, and at that point it might be cheaper to just replace it.



    Boiler risers should always be connected to the header via swing-arms that allow the boiler and the header to expand and contract independently, without exerting pressure or tension on the boiler sections.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    You need the 0-30 PSI Gauge

    Hi- The 0-30 PSI gauge.also needs to be installed as it is a code / insurance requirement. It is also handy to have if there is a malfunction and your steam pressure shoots up. 

    If the old one isn't operational,  new Burnham 0-30 PSI gauges are available from Pex Supply.

    - Rod
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    edited January 2013
    how serious are we talking

    A serious enough problem that I need to take the boiler out of commission while the low temperature outside is in the low teens or something that could wait until warm weather?



    Second, how should the near-boiler piping be done? I think the main issue is that the risers for the main are located in the same plane as the risers coming out of the boiler.  The drop header design that seems to be popular on this forum would put the header either in front of or behind the risers to the mains.  The other issue is that the riser for main #2 seems to be directly over the riser coming out of the right side of the boiler.



    Third, what type of cost are we talking about to redo the piping?  Is this something that I should be calling the installation company to come and fix for free?  The boiler was installed about 10 years ago and by the previous homeowner. Should they stand by their workmanship and fix it?



    I have attached a sketch of the current design.  I also attached a sketch of an alternate design.  Would it work?



    edit: sorry pictures upside down!
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    just verifying

    So I need to remove the plug, add a nipple and a valve. Next, I should open the valve and allow it to drain slowly for several hours.



    Do I just allow the automatic water feeder to periodically add water as needed to keep the water level up?  Also, you mentioned skimming while boiler is cold.  Other places I have read that the boiler should be fired, just not to steam.  Is one way better than the other?  How does one keep the water in the boiler between 180-200F?
  • Paul48Paul48 Posts: 4,492Member
    edited January 2013
    responsibility

    It is the installers responsibility to install the boiler to manufacturers specs.That would usually involve them opening the manual that came with the boiler. They obviously did not.Look at the manual yourself. It should have been left with the boiler, as well as the documentation for every component used.
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    need more parts

    I do need to add that back, I need to buy another little brass tee so that I can put it under the pressuretrol.  haven't gotten around to that yet.
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Boiler Piping

    Hi- In answer to your questions:

    1.I would wait until the weather has warmed up

    2. One of this website's rules is we DON"T discuss pricing!

    3. Your alternate piping diagram is far worse than what you have now as the steam streams coming from each boiler riser collide!

    4. I doubt that after 10 years that you would be able to have it redone.

    - Rod
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    A few more questions

    1. Good to know it can wait

    2. I'm not talking about a price quote, just ball park.  Are we talking $100 $1,000 or $10,000?

    3. I made a new diagram.  Definitely not a drop header, but I am struggling how to design something that swings away from the boiler risers, when it has to come right back to that plane again to attach to the main risers.

    4. I hate that someone's poor workmanship 10 years ago now adds cost and hassle to my life today.
  • Paul48Paul48 Posts: 4,492Member
    edited January 2013
    Wheel

    There's no need to re-invent the wheel. The manufacturers diagram can be made to work with your system. It is in the manual.And....."NO" on any of those drawings.
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    from the manual

    I have attached a picture from the manual of the recommended piping.  obviously not even close to what my piping looks like.  My issue is still that the risers to the mains are in the same plane as the risers coming out of the boiler.  Every "proper" header design seems to place the header at least a few feet in front of or behind where I need it to be. 



    Is it acceptable to use 90 or 45 degree elbows to bend the risers back over the header and into the position of the mains?
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    see diagram

    see diagram
  • Paul48Paul48 Posts: 4,492Member
    edited January 2013
    Steam Pro

    That is the difference between a Steam Pro and a schmuck. They will do whatever is necessary to install the boiler properly.If you look at some of the pictures of their installs, it's amazing the simple solutions they come up with.I'm not sure about the spelling of "schmuck", but you get the idea.
  • Paul48Paul48 Posts: 4,492Member
    edited January 2013
    LOL

    Thanks Steve.....And sorry guys.....It says I shouldn't use it in polite company.
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Boiler Piping

    The fact that the boiler exit ports are right under the header pipe is problematic. One option would be to just “bite the bullet” and move / reorientate the boiler which in most cases will be easier and result in a better outcome than “pretzelling” the piping. The other option would be moving the header pipe and redoing the risers from the header pipe to the steam mains. However not having pictures of the steam mains and piping taken from different angles, I’m not sure how practical this second option actually is.

    - Rod
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    disappointing

    Well this has been disappointing.  I was hoping to hear a few tips about improving my venting.  I certainly wasn't expecting to hear that my near boiler piping is so bad that my boiler is going to break apart at any minute!



    This still leaves me with two questions:

    1. What is the rough cost we are talking to fix this? $100 $1,000 $10,000?

    2. Who is recommended in the St. Louis area?
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    edited January 2013
    Boiler Piping

    Here are the board rules: "Please be nice; don't discuss pricing, and don't post advertisements!"  so discussing pricing is out! There are good reasons for this as it can causes misunderstandings between the local pro and the homeowner.

    As for a steam pro in St. Louis there doesn't seem to be one listed in the "Find a Contractor section at the top of this page.I would take a look on the website of your boiler manufacturer and find out who the local rep is and contact him for a reference.

    - Rod
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    Repiping the header

    Zach,



    First, I want to apologize for upsetting you. I wanted to get your attention, but I didn't mean to make you panic. If your boiler has worked like this for ten years it should see you through the heating season, but this is something you should fix if you want to keep this boiler to a ripe old age. Keep your eye on the water level, but don't lose any sleep over it.



    I would never advise shutting down your boiler to repipe a header in the dead of winter. If you decide to do this over the summer you'll see why. I did mine this past summer, and it was a real learning experience. Even after carefully measuring and calculating and ordering parts I had to tear it apart and order more parts on more than one occasion. It wouldn't have been near as much fun if I'd been slowly freezing to death the whole time.



    I don't see any reason why you can't build a drop header for this boiler. It might look a little funny, but if you do it right it should work great. I'd be happy to sketch it out for you, but I think it will give you more satisfaction if you figure it out yourself, and you have plenty of time between now and spring. Once you get your head around how headers work, they really aren't that complicated. They're all about separating water from steam, but when you look at all the ingenious and creative ways steam men have accomplished this in the face of various obstacles, you'll begin to appreciate the art of steam piping.



    This site has all the information you need, and as you explore it you'll find out a lot of stuff you weren't even looking for. You'll not only be able to design a header that works; you'll learn other ways to get life out of your boiler and more comfort for your heating dollar.



    Here are a few links to get you started:

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/107/Steam-Heating/118/Steam-boiler-near-boiler-piping

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/325/Piping/38/Pipefitting-Drop-Header

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/77619/Drop-Header

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/111314/drop-headers

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/129630/Drop-Header-on-a-Steam-Boiler

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/130487/Does-steam-look-like-this

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/134358/Drop-Header-Q

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/135363/Drop-header

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/139644/Drop-Header-Sizing

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/140318/Burnham-IN11-Header-Question

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/140885/How-High-The-Header

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/142101/Drop-Header-Questions
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    few more pictures

    Thanks again to everyone for their help.  As long as we are identifying piping issues, I figured I should share more pictures to see if there is osmething else that needs to be fixed.



    Picture #1 is a side view of my near boiler piping.  You can see that the "S" shape is not entirely stacked flat.  Also you can see where the two mains approach the boiler (bottom pipe is North Loop, top is south loop)



    Picture #2 is a picture of the right side of the boiler with my Hartford loop. Left pipe is drip return from north loop, center pipe drip return from south loop and right pipe is connected to header.



    I have decided that the best repiping approach is to do a drop header which points towards the back of the boiler.  The mains can be extended horizontally a little further then connected with a 90 degree elbow to the header.



    I contacted the company that installed the boiler and asked them to come and fix the terrible installation.  They haven't called me back yet.



    Another question, is this something I really could do myself or should I hire a professional?
  • Do it yourself

    Start in the spring, and keep going. If you can find a retired plumber to help, then so much the better, as he will be able to measure the final pipe fittings.

    You will feel so proud when you have finished!--NBC
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Extended Header

     After looking at your latest pictures and seeing that the boiler riser isn’t directly under the header pipe, I think you could probably “wiggle” by the header using a 45 degree elbow coming off the boiler.  You could then go back to the vertical using another 45 degree elbow. Perhaps use the same setup (two 45 degree elbows ) on both boiler exit ports. Keep in mind the height figure (usually 24 inches) specified above the waterline is the height of the risers and not the header height so you can extend the riser pipes above the header and drop back into the header. That would give you nice tall risers that would allow the water to settle out.



    Header - If you turned the 90 degree elbow now on the header horizontal to the boiler (parallel to the front of the boiler) and extended it out including a tee facing up and ending with a 90 degree elbow facing up, you would have attachment points for the two boiler risers. You’d want to put unions in both riser pipes to facilitate attachment to the extended header.  It might look a little bit strange but it would give you very dry steam.



    Can you do this yourself?- Most probably. You might think of getting a local plumber to help you as he should have the large wrenches needed.  Pipes nipples are available in all lengths so there should be no need for cutting and threading. You could also have him put the piping together under you direction if you can’t spare the time to directly participate.

    - Rod
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,052Member
    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 Posts: 1,349Member
    Something along those lines...

    but I was thinking he could take the swing-arms out past the system risers, drop to a typical drop header, then make the header to a U-turn to pick up the risers on its way over to the equalizer.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    how about this

    i put together a 3D sketch of what I am thinking of doing.  I haven't checked the measurements to see if this will fit, but I am more concerned about the general concept, rather than specific measurements.



    The unions represent where I will tie the old boiler risers to the new piping as well as extended the horizontal run of the mains to meet the new header.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,965Member
    That won't work

    because the steam from the two boiler risers will be fighting each other. Riser 1 has to connect to riser 2 then you have the takeoffs for the steam mains and then the pipe turns down to the boiler return. This way everything is going the same way and you should have nice dry steam.



    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_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    Nice drawings!

    I did something similar when I designed mine, but yours look a lot better. You'll find it a lot easier--and cheaper--to change your design when the pipes are made of bits than when they're made of steel.



    Now the problem: you never want to take the system risers off between the boiler risers. As the steam flows in from both directions, any water that falls out will be trapped between the risers where it will accumulate until it starts to work its way up the risers. The force of the steam is such that it really has no other way out.



    What you're trying to achieve is a flow of steam that forces water down the equalizer and into the boiler as the steam continues up the system risers.



    "Be the steam, Zach. Be the steam." :-)
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    ok, here is a reworking

    here is a different version, with the boiler risers meeting on the header before the system riser.
  • Zach_2Zach_2 Posts: 41Member
    starting to wonder

    After looking more at my system, I am starting to wonder if it is piped the way it is because they couldn't figure out how to get the old header off.  Looking at the pipes, everything distal to the elbow with the arrow looks substantially older than the stuff proximal to it.  Looking at the two unions in the middle and lower horizontal part of the "S" I can actually imagine how they put it together.



    Since I will likely have the same issue, I guess I now need to figure out how to incorporate the old header and that elbow into the system.  Hmm...
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    That will work.

    Now what can you do to decree the velocity of the steam through the header? The slower it moves the less water it can carry.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • SWEISWEI Posts: 7,356Member
    edited January 2013
    old header

    Did you have a chance to measure the "A" dimension?



    If the unions can be unscrewed and separated the remaining pieces should be able to be unthreaded.  If not, it's time for the Sawzall.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,349Member
    Breaking pipes is always a tough job.

    Just because one guy decides it's too much trouble to take those pipes apart doesn't mean you have to settle for the same decision. It's never easy to separate pipes with fossilized thread sealant in their joints, but it can be done. We'll all share our favorite pipe-busting tricks, but in the end it just takes lots of force. Think of it as a piece of exercise equipment for your summer fitness regimen. You'll be pumping some iron this summer!
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
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