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New Boiler old pipes

Hmrj323 Member Posts: 13
Please help. Need some advice quickly. My natural gas Weil EG55 one-pipe steam boiler has cracked. Unexpected expense and little money. For some reason the previous home owner thought they were a DIY'er and  installed this used unit and stepped it down to a single line coming out of the boiler. They also stepped down from the 3" to a 2" riser to 2" mains. No drop header or vents on the mains! I know now after quick research bad idea. I am ashamed of myself for not educating myself sooner with the system that keeps my family warm and comfortable!

Due to lack of expenses at the current moment and winter in SW PA approaching fast I need to get a boiler installed quickly. Already had 6 contractors in the area flat out say they do not do steam. So I am intending on doing the work myself, but will have someone inspect it before I fire it up. If anyone knows someone about 30 miles east of pittsburgh they would recommend, please send along their info.

After alot of research and help from this site I have decided to replace it with a Slant/Fin Galaxy GXH-230. This calculation was based on sq. ft of radiators X 15% piping and an additional 15% for pick-up factor.

My questions to the experts are:

1. since this unit is a single 2.5" can I safey run this new boiler with the existing 2" mains? I intend on adding in a 3" drop header and vents on the mains. I will replace all the mains after the winter to the 2.5" and run them in a more efficent manor. Unless a miracle happens then I will do all the mains now too!

2. I am having trouble finding the 2.5" piping anywhere local. Who would of thought that would be an issue in the pittsbugh steal area!  So my pricing for all new mains and drop header is based off of McMaster- Carr, is there some place to purchase the piping and fittings for a considerable amount less? I am looking at a ball park of 4K (based on their prices) just in piping and fittings to replace everything and add in the 3" drop header.

3. Is there a calculation sheet to go by to figure out the correct vents for the mains?

I have attached my new planned main run and the price breakdown. The current run is not this neat. Many tees and branches added into the two mains where they obviously added radiators over time, there layout also has four return lines thoughout the run.

Many, many thanks to all who offer help. Too save people some time in there responses I am ordering 3 of Dan's books too, but I don't have time to wait for them to get here and read them!


  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,477
    edited October 2013
    mains are probably fine

    The existing 2" mains should be fine as long as they have the proper pitch and the radiator load is about what it was when the system was installed. Most of these systems were conservatively designed so you are probably ok.

    The purpose of the 2.5" riser and a 3" header are to insure dry steam. You can tie the output of the header into the existing mains but try not to use any bull headed T's because one of the mains in a bull head situation will probably not be happy. If you have any questions about the current mains piping post some pictures.

    The main vents should be able to expel the air in a main within a couple of minutes. Figure out the volume of air in each main and that will tell you what size main vents you need.

    Pexsupply.com sells fittings and pipe nipples of all sizes, they offer two grades of pipe and fittings - you makes your choice and pays your money. I don't know how their price compares to McMaster but It's worth checking out.

    Buy the way if you match the EDR of the radiators to the sq ft of steam rating of the boiler you should not have to add any pick up factor. Steam boilers are best sized by EDR not BTU's.

    keep us posted and don't be afraid to ask questions,

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    Source of steam pipes

    Every medium to large town should have a plumbing supply house, such as fergusson, which should have the various pipes, and fittings, and their prices may be better than ordering from far away.

    The drop header configuration is easier for the amateur, because of it's flexibility. Good luck, and order enough main vents to make the system function properly.--NBC
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Finding Fittings

    Hi- You should be able to do most of your boiler’s piping using prethreaded pipe nipples.

    I wouldn’t use Mc Master Carr as a source for fittings. They are a good general hardware company with very good service, but they don’t specialize in pipe fittings. I used to use their prices when I was working out a rough bid as I knew using their numbers was “safe” as I could get fittings from a major pipe supply usually at around 50% of what McMaster charged. Fitting cost also depends a lot on whether you use domestic or import fittings. I’m sure if you look around you’ll find some big pipe supply houses in the Pittsburgh area. As Bob mentioned you might want to check Pex Supply.

    I’ve attached a table that might be of help to you as it shows how much pipe “bury” you need to add to the distance between fittings. Dan’s steam books will give you the information you need as to pipe specs etc. to make the system work. ‘

     While you mentioned you couldn’t find a local heating pro that does steam, I’m sure you could find a good one that could help you by doing the gas, electrical and chimney vent hookup as this part of the installation is the pretty well the same for hot water as it is for steam. Also a pro knows what the local codes are and what the local inspector requires.

    Don’t hesitate to ask questions and we’ll do our best to answer them.

    - Rod
  • Hmrj323
    Hmrj323 Member Posts: 13
    More questions

    Thank you for the input and the time to share it. I was fortunate enough to come up with additional money for new piping. So phase one is complete, removing old boiler and piping.

    I beleive I found the problem for the first in line on one main of my radiators. Broke open the pipe and two gallons of water came out of it. That would explain the one radiator sounding like a sink hole opened up beneath my house and two others only heating one section on the end of that run.

    So with this in mind, what is the standard pitch I should use for the mains? Is it 1/2" per 10'?  My one main branch is going to hit three corners of my basement. Does everyhting need to pitched in the same direction to the return line? I would like to keep all piping as close to the ceiling as possible because I use this basement regularly. So I guess what I am asking is can the first corner be pitched to head back towards the drop header and for corners two and three be pitched towards the return line? My basement layout leaves me no choice but have the mains coming from the drop header crossing into the main walk way. Ceiling is six foot and I am six foot, pipes have crushed me more than once!

    Is there a preferred place in the runs or returns to add a cleanout. I noticed alot of heavy sludge in the returns closest to boiler. Those are obvious spots, but is it worth putting them in other places to possibly flush out the mains. If so, how often should that be done to protect the boiler of build up? I noticed the slant fin has a skimmer built in which seems like a very nice feature to keep good clean water.

    Last question for now, what is the preferred brand of pipe dope to use on the connections?

    Many thanks.
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    edited October 2013
    Look at a wet-based SFIntrepid!

    First, off, I'm no expert, just an interested homeowner like yourself who has researched ad nauseum, a similar install. I notice you are considering the SF Galaxy. which is an atmospheric boiler. The wet-based SFIntrepid, which you may not have considered as it's listed for oil, CAN be used ( and is approved for use) with a gas conversion burner. It's really no more expensive and is a lot more efficient and longer lived due to its design. Installation is similar in that you need to follow the manufacturer's specs at minimum. If you can do the one, you can do the other. They are also a lot smaller if that helps you out.

    The 591 edr for the Galaxy (which I think is INCORRECT since you included pick-up factors) translates to the Intrepid 40. I'm installing 2 TR50s presently, so email me if you'd like info on where I got them and the various gas burners I researched for them. Since you have the opportunity to go start over, you might as well go for the most efficient.

    Also, check out this video for hints on proper piping including clean-outs.


    P.S. I didn't see any attachment as you mentioned. Could you post some pics of your system?
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • Hmrj323
    Hmrj323 Member Posts: 13
    Moving on to second stage!

    I am thumbing through old pics of the house, but unfortunately by the time I read your response I was already hard at it and it is now in boneyard heaven! This has not been an easy project as of now. I haven't even started yet, just located a large enough pipe threader to thread all the new pipe.

    I sarted a new thread for the pipe runs titled "Main and header questions". Really it is more of my layout plan for the runs and design of the drop header. Just wanted to verify that they look correct before I move forward. All fittings, vents and hangers should be here tomorrow. I did however look into your mention of the intreped, but the distributors in this area all said it is not approved! I have read on here many times that it is, but couldn't get one to sell it to me knowing I intend to use it with gas. I am sure it is to cover their own butts. So with the 30 degree weather hitting this weekend and three kids at home I have to continue to move forward!

    I am shocked that the distributors are not aware of this and that Slant/Fin hasn't promoted its use this way. The first thread I found on it's approval was back in 2010 and the Slant Fin site still has not updated it.
  • Hmrj323
    Hmrj323 Member Posts: 13
    Finished Install

    Finished the Install of my new Galaxy GH-230. After some minor tweaking

    to pitch of mains and a couple blown out gate valves I have got it

    working perfectly. Huge difference after learning so much from everyone

    on this site.

    This project turned into a nightmare fast, but after replacing all

    piping throughout the whole home from 2" mains to 2.5", adding in 3"

    drop header, Gorton #2 main vents, and installing unions to all

    radiators from the main everything is working great. All radiators heat

    evenly (first time all radiator sections get warm), not a single knock,

    bang or gurgle. Adding in the 2.5" ball valves allowed me to properly

    heat the boiler to skim it and after only 8 days I finally got rid of

    the oil smell from the vents of the radiators. Basement still a little

    funky from burning off the black coating on all the new piping.

    Built in skimmer on the slant fin greatly reduces cleaning time and

    water consumption. Hopefully my gas bill will reflect the

    upgrade/repair! I will say this too, I have a whole new respect for pipe

    fitters!!! This was a bear of a project, especially with no help at

    all. Total pipe installed on the system was 140' of 2.5" mains and 140'

    of 1-1/4" rad lines.

    Thank you everyone for your knowledge and support. Below I have attached

    some pictures of the boiler and drop header. Let me know what you think

    of it. I unfortunately ran out of money to insulate the pipes, so that

    will be next year, but right now I am getting some pretty good dry

    steam. I am sure next years addition of insulation will only increase it

  • Pipe insulation

    Even fiberglass batts will improve the supply piping, and with the money you will have saved on fuel, you can get the more professional pipe insulation for next year!--NBC
  • Bio
    Bio Member Posts: 278
    Hartford loop

    Is your hartford loop connecting to the equalizer? you may need to post more pictures of the returns
  • Hmrj323
    Hmrj323 Member Posts: 13
    Thank you for reponses

    NBC - I will get some sort of wrap for now. I am already saving up for the professional insulation to get it as soon as I can.

    BIO- I will get some better pics of the returns for you tonight.

    Another question - I have a Tee that has a small pin-hole leak ( no steam escapes) but a small drip. It is not in a location that can be easily tightened or removed. Any old school tricks out there to stop this. It of course has to be directly above our washing machine! I was told an old school trick was to take a nail punch and gently tap on the Tee to shape the metal of the tee to the threads. I was told to exercise extreme caution to not damage the threads and be sure I am only getting the metal of the Tee.

    Does this sound legit or risky?
  • Hmrj323
    Hmrj323 Member Posts: 13
    All is well

    I just wanted to take a moment and thank all that have replied to my

    posts. I have finally received my first months gas bill and it has been

    reduced by over 50%. Comparing to last years bill we were actually 1

    degree colder this year and my fuel consumption was 59% less than the

    previous year. I would expect this number to increase next year when I

    finally have the money to install the pipe insulation. I do not have a

    single knock or leak throughout all 300'+ of new piping run through two

    floors and 11 different radiators. They are all heating evenly and the

    venting perfectly.

    If it was not for the support from wonderful

    folks on this site I would never have been able to complete this

    project. I have learned a lot from here and I hope that I may be able to

    help others based on what I have learned from doing this ground up

    restore/new install to my home.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    Good job

    Congratulations on a job well done!

    Many thanks for the follow up on your project.--NBC