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Oil to Gas conversion 2 pipe steam system low heat

We just plunked down $6g to convert our 1920 home from Oil to Gas heat. Unfortunately, only the first two sections of each rad is warming, if at all, and the system keeps shutting down prematurely. After a quick visit by the installer who eliminated the tstat and pressuretrol as the issue he suggested I replace the air vents on rads. We have 8 rads and I replaced all 4 vents with the pricey adjustable ones and still no luck. The boiler is an IN5 with auto feed and separate HW heater. The installer also inquired about the location of the vent at the end of the main feeder line(s). I found it last night behind a sheet-rocked wall. I made an access panel and did hear it hissing. I assume that is good!! Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated as the the 4 kids and a wife in one bed is fun but only on the first night. Let me know if further info is needed. Thanks.

Comments

  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,491
    Pictures

    Please post some pictures of the boiler and the piping around it as well as a few of the radiators.



    This will greatly help us help you.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JeffM
    JeffM Member Posts: 171
    new boiler?

    Did the conversion include a new boiler? Photos will help a lot, but it sounds like it may be a piping problem if it's a new boiler.

    The main vent should only vent when the system is getting up to temp - once the main is filled with steam and hot it should close. No steam should ever come out, just air.
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    return lines

    Heading home shortly and will take pictures. Yes this is a brand new boiler. Also noteworthy is that we did not have any heat supply issues with the oil fired - it simply cost too much to maintain and the 80 year old tank had a pin hole leak. In addition the small return line for the condensate developed a small leak about 10 feet from the system after it was installed. The installer did return, cut the pipe and installed a coupling like clamp. Could all of the vibration from install / cutting loosen the 80year old junk in the return lines and create a slow return issue?
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,492
    The Whole Enchilada

    None of the steam guys here would drop a boiler in and run for the door, as it appears has been done in your case.The system has to be evaluated completely, before the new boiler is installed. They should have known what main vents were used. At 80 yrs old, the wet return should have been replaced, or flushed at the least. Did they match the new boiler to the total EDR of the radiators?
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    pics

    As requested, attached are some pics. let me know if anything needs a retake. The gauges on the system are facing the wall so its tough to get a pic. The vent at the end of the main line is behind a wall but I did hear it relieve air as the temp is building.
  • Mike Kusiak_2
    Mike Kusiak_2 Member Posts: 604
    Thermostat?

    Was the thermostat changed when the boiler was replaced? Is it a newer type digital or the older analog type.



     If you have the older style thermostat, the anticipator will have to be readjusted for the difference in current draw of the gas control valve compared to the oil primary control.
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    Tstat

    Thermostat is 12 year old digital. It is programmable but we simply leave it on "Run" at 70 and turn it down at night.
  • Mike Kusiak_2
    Mike Kusiak_2 Member Posts: 604
    Shutdown

    When you said that the system shuts down prematurely, do you mean the boiler stops firing when the thermostat is satisfied, or when the cutout pressure of the pressuretrol is reached?



     How long does the boiler fire before it shuts down and does it continue to cycle on and off?
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    BTU

    Also he matched the "boiler plate" from the old to the new re: the BTU and Input etc. One of the estimates that I had actually counted the sections of all rads, I believe it was 122. The other two estimates only looked at the old boiler plate.
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    shutdown

    The thermostat is not satisfied as the basement reaches 75degress the 1st floor reaches 63 and the tstat is set for 70. There is only one tsat.



    The boiler is on for about a 1/2 hour before shutting down. It then cycles on and off every 5 -10 minutes.



    Also you mention the pressuretrol - The black and white dial gauge that says internal syphon never moves. I realize there is very little pressure needed but I don't think it ever gets off zero. Is that because the system in not on for long periods?
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    other observations

    The main feeder lines do seem to heat up the full length of the house, but right at the elbow to rise into the rads it gets cold. I checked the rad valves and they all appear to be wide open and un-moved since former system.



    Should the 4 new rad air vents be adjusted to the middle or left wide open?



    Also, not that I would attempt this, but could briefly explain how you could flush the return lines.
  • MDNLansing
    MDNLansing Member Posts: 297
    Work your way up

    It sounds like you need to keep it simple to start off. Start at the boiler and work your way to the radiators. Make sure steam is leaving the boiler; all the near boiler piping should be very hot and even. Then, move on to the mains. Make sure those are getting hot all the way to the ends. Then make sure air is venting from the radiators. Finally, make sure condensate is coming back to the boiler. Somewhere along the path from the bottom to the top you will find the spot where the heat stops and the cold starts. If you can identify that spot, you have a place to start working on. If the oil boiler worked fine, but the gas one doesn't, this should be a correctable issue without too much problem. That is of course as long as the near boiler piping is correct. The pictures will help with that. If you run air vents on the radiators, and they don't heat after a 30 min cycle, you might not be getting enough steam into the mains. Lets hope the pictures tell a pretty story...
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,182
    Questions

    Your pictures did not load, they have to be JPG and the file size should not be huge. If your using a DSLR or high end compact  set it for reduced resolution so the files sizes are modest.



    It sounds like your system is cycling on pressure and you say you found the main vent behind a wall, do you know the vent make and model? What make and model is the boiler?  New boilers make steam fast and can build pressure quickly if they are oversized. How long and what size pipe is your main, I'm thinking the main venting might be inadequate.



    What kind of vents are on the radiators? Make a list of all the radiators (height, number of columns deep, number of columns wide) and what kind of vent each one has. From that list we can calculate the sq ft of each one (EDR) and see how well the total matches your boiler.



    Your boiler has a pressuretrol that controls what pressure can build inside before it shuts down. You should not see more than 2 PSI, if you do the pressuretrol settings are wrong.



    Has the boiler been skimmed? Is the water in the sight glass bouncing around more than 1/2"? Installing a boiler introduces oils into the system and those oils have to be removed for the system to work right.



    Post some modest sized JPG's of the boiler showing the piping above it from a couple of different angles. Also post a picture of a representative radiator so we can see both ends and the piping that feeds it.



    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
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,764
    All Good Advice

    Everyone has given good advice, but I will add something short to help clarify. There are only 3 things that are going to shut the boiler off. 1, the thermostat , 2. the pressuretroll. 3. The Low Water Cutoff.

    It is possible for the thermostat to cycle off even when it is not satisfied. So, you might have to remove it and twist the wires together and see if that corrects the problem. I suspect it won't. That leaves the pressuretrol and the LWCO. The venting cannot shut the boiler off unless it is causing a rise in pressure because the air cannot get out of the piping fast enough. That does not sound like what is happening.



    You boiler installer has an obligation to make the boiler work.
    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.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
  • mcsteamy
    mcsteamy Member Posts: 77
    ..

    This is the biggest clue to me:  The installer didn't even bother to figure out what size boiler he needed.  So who wants to guess there are problems with the install?  Here's another clue:  The basement is at SEVENTY-FIVE degrees while the upstairs is frigid.  Pipe insulation, anyone? 



    Get those pictures posted and I will bet the problems are spotted with enough information to get you headed in the right direction in about, oh, 24 hours or less.  If it worked before but it doesn't work now, there's only one reason....
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    EDR

    We have 10 rads with the following dimensions and number of sections:



    68 @ 20" x 8"



    43 @ 26" x 8"



    3 @ 38" x 6"
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,491
    edited November 2013
    Piping

    Its hard to see but it looks like the take off is piped between the two risers which is guaranteed to suck water up into the steam main. Also, they didn't use swing joints which will void the warranty on the boiler and possibly damage the block.



    That said, it looks like you have a Dunham system! I believe those systems can really sing but you need to get a real pro in to work on it. I know almost nothing about it other than I wish I had one.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    other observations

    The glass tube does seem to have a 1" layer of floating oil/gunk.



    Is it normal for the glass tube to empty when the system fires and then refill after shut down?



    The make model of the boiler is Burnham IN5. I can not gain access to the main vent without opening the wall so I would prefer to leave that as the last thing to eliminate.



    Both of the main feeder lines come out of the header and travel about 10 feet and then turn and travel the length of the house, 30 feet.



    I can only see the "end" of one of the main lines where that white bowl shaped vent is. Would the other line necessary have the same vent?
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,491
    Water level dropping

    The water level dropping is likely being caused by the header being piped wrong. A lot of the water is getting sucked up into the steam main.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    header pipe

    Attached is a better photo of the header. Interestingly, it was piped the same way as the oil fired. The original pipe starts at the top of the vertical rise. The old system did have two riser coming from the hood.





    Can this be rectified by capping one of the risers and using only one?
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,491
    IN5?

    If it is an IN5 then yes you could cap one riser. However the equalizer must also be fixed as the elbow on the end of the header must point strain down to allow water to drain.



    Personally, I would recommend repiping it properly and using both risers as it will be beneficial. But, you could get away with just using one and fixing the elbow to the equalizer.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • mcsteamy
    mcsteamy Member Posts: 77
    edited November 2013
    Have you already paid in full?

    If you haven't paid in full -- STOP PAYING NOW.  As has been pointed out, the boiler piping is not correct, and it is unlikely that you will get that boiler working well with it piped like that.  How likely you are to get the installer back is another question.



    You say the old one was piped the same way.  Are you absolutely certain it was exactly the same?  If so, and it works, the problem probably comes down to something covered well in the Lost Art.  The old, inefficient boiler probably had a much larger steam chest, and was more forgiving of bad piping.  You often got decent steam even if the piping was crap.  Modern boilers are not so forgiving.  You either follow the installation manual, or have problems.  That is likely what you are seeing. 



    Edit:  Here is a thread with a discussion of proper header piping.  http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/77619/Drop-Header  Rod's post down the page a bit has a nice diagram.  The one on the right is called a "drop header" and is superior.  But, the one of the left will do.  Yours won't.



    Problem #2 is the line of crud.  It looks like the installer (who was not terribly competent) left the boiler full of oil and gunk.  The gunk floats on top of the water, and makes the proper production of steam virtually impossible.  The boiler MUST be skimmed.  This is something the installer should have done. 



    There are other nit-picky things that could be done to get this system working, but those are your first steps.  Again, it is your right to expect that the installer would have done this in accordance with the factory instructions.  The other stuff that needs to be done is mostly on you (vents and fixing the radiator traps and the like). 
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    installer

    Thank you very much for pointing me in the right direction. Installer is coming back on Friday to take a look. Will let you know the results.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,182
    edited November 2013
    Bad piping

    If you turn to page 17 of the manual you will see the minimum piping requirements and a warning about DOING IT WRONG.



    I would tell the installer that the boiler has to be repiped and that you want both boiler tappings used. I would offer to pay him for materials if he does it like the alternative piping method, the alternative method costs a few more dolars but the labor savings pay for it. At the same time tell him he has to install the skim port which he should have done in the first place.



    The boiler does need to be skimmed but I would get it repiped first. This is a great link to the does and don'ts of boiler piping.



    http://www.comfort-calc.net/Steam_Piping_Donts.html



    While your waiting for the installer to come back tell us how long the mains are so we can tell you what size main vent you should have. Don't worry about radiator vents till the piping is fixed, the boiler skimmed, and the right size main vents are installed.



    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
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    Dunham Return System?

    The boiler should be rotated 90 degrees and properly repiped. This is a 2 pipe system there should be no vents on the rads. The vent is on top of the return trap. From the picture is looks to be mounted sideways. The wet returns should be cleaned out or replaced. All the pipes in the basement should be insulated. Uninsulated pipes are radiators, this can cause the boiler to be undersized. Where are you located? Hopefully there is a pro nearby that can fix this. Also, all the thermostatic radiator traps should be checked and repaired if bad. Buy the "Lost Art of Steam Heat" to learn how these system work.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,492
    link

    I was going to post the same link that BobC posted showing piping "Don'ts". Look closely, your current piping is in there, as a classic "Don't".
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,764
    Dunham Home Heating System

    I see a dunham Air Eliminator but no Dunham Return Trap. Thus, that would make it a Dunham Home Heating System. It looks like someone has added a convector vent to the top of the air eliminator, an indication that some of the traps have failed open and have never been repaired. The convector vent will restrict the venting WAY to much, and that may be the reasons that vents have been added to the radiators. Or, sometimes the dunham traps will fail closed.... and thus the need for the vent.



    The solution is to repair the traps and correct the horrendous boiler piping. You usually and find dunham or mepco discs on ebay. That is dunham bush 1E or Mepco 1E.
    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.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,090
    Type of System

    Dave, thanks for correcting my error. This system can be very efficient once all the knuckle heading is corrected.
  • frozetoes
    frozetoes Member Posts: 13
    Thank you

    I mentioned the "possible" solution to the installer and he knew right away that he needed to repipe the header. The system was also skimmed and it sings beautifully now. Thank you so much for arming me with the right info.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,182
    And thanks to you

    for getting back to us with the outcome. Now that the piping has been addressed and the boiler skimmed you should have quiet economical heat.



    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
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