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Need Help in Bergen County, NJ

dcha Member Posts: 50
Hi everyone!

I have an 80 year old house with single pipe steam heat. In the last 2 heating seasons, I've started to get some water hammer. In the hopes to fix this before this heating season, I read Dan's book and got to work on the things I felt comfortable doing:

(1) replaced all my radiator vents with Hoffman 1A and Gorton D and C

(2) set my pressurol to 0.5 psi and 1.0psi cut-in cut-out

(3) bled my return pipes (whatever that's called)

(4) made sure water level wasn't too high

(5) insulated any uninsulated piping I had access to with 1" thick fiberglass insulation

(6) made sure all my radiators were at the correct pitch.

I think my water hammer has improved a little, but still there. It typically starts clanging closer to the beginning of the cycle.

I noticed that I do NOT have any main vents, so my radiators hiss a little.

So I'm hoping to find a local expert here that can install main vents and possibly make some minor pitch adjustments (I'm hoping that will do the trick).

I appreciate any additional advice that you think I could try myself, but I think I've done it all and so I'm really looking for a professional to do the aforementioned things.

Please Help.

Cha - Ridgewood, NJ


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,416
    I would say

    the next thing to do -- and it is something which you may well be able to do yourself -- is to check the pitch of all of the steam pipes.  Every single one; mains, pipes going out to radiators, the whole lot of them.  And check all along their length, not just end to end.  Use a really good level.

    It isn't that uncommon for an older house to say a little in places, and it's very common for that sagging to either through the whole length of a pipe off pitch or, even more often, to create a low spot in the piping somewhere.  That will collect condensate, and will create water hammer early in the cycle -- which is what you are noticing.

    Worth a try, anyway.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50
    thanks Jamie

    Thanks Jamie. I'll check it out but I don't feel comfortable adjusting those hangers on my own.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    I service all of NJ. Call me any time and we can set up a free assessment of the system. 732-494-4357 ext.2.

    Sounds like your system has a lot of potential for fuel savings with just a few simple fixes.
  • Water hammer in Bergen

    You need main venting, and plenty of it, as the radiator vents are not designed to handle that much air escaping from the system. You also need a 0-3 psi gauge (gauge store.com). Watching the pressure at certain phases of steaming will tell you if you need more main venting, and also if your pressuretrol is allowing the pressure to rise above the set point.

    A good steam man will show you what to do with the routine maintenance, and diagnosis of system problems.--NBC
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50
    Spoke to Joe

    He's coming by Monday night. Thanks for all your suggestions. I tried to use a level and check pitch but it's hard to do with the insulation on there. I do think I might have identified the "problem area" though.
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50
    Joe came by last night

    Very nice guy, who was really generous with his time and clearly very experienced with steam heat.

    So the source of the water hammer doesn't appear to be the pitch of the pipes. The hammer seems to be coming from the piping right above the boiler. Turns out that the piping is completely wrong (copper too). When we ran a cycle, he noticed that my water level in the sight glass went all the way down (to the point the low water cut-off kicked in). I actually thought this was normal. Obviously wrong. I also need some main vents, which is a small project, but unlikely to fix the water hammer problem. 

    So because of all the bad copper piping, I'm getting water hammer, wet steam, and massive fuel inefficiency.

    The boiler is 30 years old and seems to be running fine other than the aforementioned knucklehead piping. To redo the piping will be big bucks.  I have trouble justifying thousands of dollars to invest in a 30yr old boiler. Payback period for estimated fuel savings would be 10 years (I don't even know if the boiler will last that long).

    The other option is to replace the boiler and have the installation done right with the correct piping. Again, big bucks.

    Would love your advice. Joe is a great guy and I want to give him my business. But this is a big ticket investment for my family and I want to make sure there aren't any more economical interim solutions I might be missing.

    Thank you.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,572
    Decisions decisions

    Why not post some pictures here of your boiler, for us all to see.

    If your boiler so frequently cuts off on low water as it is steaming, then I would say that it's remarkable it has lasted so long. The unstable waterline puts excessive thermal shock on the sections, causing micro cracking, leading to rust. Either the water is being blown out of the boiler as wet steam, or up into the returns.

    You could fix the piping now, which could be arranged so that later a new boiler could be more easily installed using most of the same header, but the real savings will come with a new boiler, properly sized for your system, is installed. Would a 30% reduction in fuel costs help with the big bucks? Luckily you have access to an extremely competent steam expert for this-not many are so lucky! If you look at his posts here you can see how careful the installer must be to make sure everything is properly done.

    The choice you have is whether to do something about this now or wait until New Year's Day morning when it fails (happened to me!)

    Is there any indication of leaking?--NBC
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50
    No leaking

    No leaking in my boiler and I think you give some sound advice here. I will try to get a picture up tonight, but I trust Joe when he says that it's "completely wrong".
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,379
    edited October 2013
    Think about it

    Your probably on borrowed time with that boiler and it's burning more fuel than it should. I'd think hard about biting the bullet and installing a wet based boiler with a gas gun (if you have gas available) and let the fuel saving pay you back over the next 15 years or so.

    If the header is not done right your making wet steam and that is not at all efficient. Piping is a big part of the labor on a properly installed boiler so adding a boiler into the mix now will be more cost effective than having to do it in 5 years.

    My setup saved me over 40% last year, a lot of that was because i went from oil to gas but there is no doubt this boiler is substantially more efficient than the 16 year old V75 it replaced.

    In any case post some pictures so we can see what your dealing with.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50

    some pictures of the boiler
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,787

    I think you'll be able to re-use your piping when you replace your boiler, especially if Joe does the work with that in mind. He can set you up with a nice drop header that can be adjusted to fit your new boiler. You might need longer boiler risers, as newer boilers tend to be shorter, but that's pretty minor.

    Newer boilers also tend to have smaller steam chests, so Joe can make sure the header is big enough to compensate, giving you a system that's essentially future-proof. Then, when the time comes to replace the boiler, he'll be able to drop it in and get you going with minimal effort--minimal for the job, that is. Installing a boiler isn't a piece of cake, but planning ahead will make things go relatively smoothly.

    So don't think of this as a temporary fix. Think of it as phase one of a major energy-saving upgrade.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    We'll be replacing the boiler, and the piping, in a couple weeks. I'll post some pictures when we're done. Then we'll update on the fuel saving as the winter rolls on.
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50
    edited October 2013
    I'm psyched.

    Thanks to everyone who took the time to chime in. Looking forward to proper steam heat! Love this site.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,572
    A wise decision

    Your new boiler will be entered in the "steady water-line" contest, and probably win!

    When a steam system is done right, it will perform silently, so you may not be able to tell when it is running from upstairs. A new thermostat like the Honeywell visionpro, with a display telling you when the system is on or off will be the only way to tell. It has the added advantage of having a remote sensor capability, so if the present location is not ideal, the sensor can be located in a better place.--NBC
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50
    water line

    Currently, I probably win the "mysteriously disappearing water line" contest.
  • Bio
    Bio Member Posts: 278

    Boiler was installed wrong !!  they installed it upside down!!      =)
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
    Day 1 of 2

    Out with the old....

    No header. One main tied directly into one side of the boiler. All copper.

    We haven't upgraded the venting yet, but did get the heat working. The pressure went from 0 to 10 ounces in about 30 seconds after a hot start. It cycled on pressure every 5 minutes. Adding/upgrading venting should help this. We had to pin the new Vaporstat at 16oz just to keep it running for a long enough cycle.

    Pictures of the new boiler coming tomorro.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    Here's the new boiler. PEERLESS 63-04. 3" boiler riser. 3" drop header. New main vents, Vaporstat, etc.

    Once the boiler was skimmed and cleaned properly, the pressure and water level was rock steady. Looking forward to a hefty reduction in this year's fuel bill.
  • dcha
    dcha Member Posts: 50
    Joe did an incredible job.

    Joe did an incredible job. He is super-professional, knowledgeable, and very responsive to my many questions. So far so good. No more water hammer. Waiting for the water to clear up and things to stabilize. Ironically, I find myself rooting for the weather to get cold so I can really test it out!
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,776
    Another one done right

    Excellent job! Gonna make very dry steam with that drop header and oversized pipe.
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
  • Bio
    Bio Member Posts: 278

    Very nice installation, that hartford loop looks from the angle of the picture looks like a gifford loop, is it?
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    It's below the waterline. The pictures are always deceiving.
This discussion has been closed.