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Excessive Makeup Water Use/Proposed Elimination of Condensate Return Tank

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KevinK
KevinK Member Posts: 67
Basic house/heating system info:

85 year old house, with a one pipe steam system I purchased the house in 2010

Heated portion of house is 2100 ft2

Boiler age: the original boiler was replaced by previous

owner in 2000

Boiler info: 150,000 Btu (input); Utica Boiler PEG150C

Boiler is located in basement; basement dimensions are 28 ft by 34 ft

Boiler is located approx midpoint of long wall; two steam legs tee off of the boiler; each leg is approx 50 ft long; each leg is nicely pitched toward the condensate return drops

Main vents: two; both replaced in 2010

Radiators: 13 in total; all air valves replaced in 2010



I have a number of problems and issues with my heating system, and am waiting to hear back from the responsible contractor regarding these. For now I want to focus on two related issues. As necessary, I may address some other issues in a separate posting so as not to "overload" the discussion.



Issue #1: The boiler was replaced by the previous owner in 2000. At that time, the contractor added a condensate return tank and condensate return pump (CRT/P). The contractor did not, however, add steam traps (nor the requisite screens to protect the traps, and the necessitated repositioning of the main vents). As a consequence, I lose so much steam via the CRT open-air vent that my automatic water feeder gets activated 8 to 12 times per day (20 degree ambient temp; upstate NY). I have to leave a bucket under the outlet to catch all of the condensing steam, and the basement often feels like a sauna. Since it appears that the CRT/P is totally unnecessary and inappropriate for a residence of my size (Dan Holohan's books are very clear on this), I am considering having them removed.

Note: I have spent untold hours studying the system. There are no leaks.The only non-normal water loss is via the CRT vent.



Question 1. Any thoughts regarding my analysis or proposed approach?

Question 2. Any other cost effective options here?



Issue #2:

1. Shortly after I purchased the house, and during routine maintenance, the original iron condensate return (CR) lines broke, exposing corroded pipe and a 90%  occluded interior. So, I had the pipes replaced with new copper pipes. When the contractor replaced the CR lines, he located the new lines approximately 1 ft higher than the original lines. I did not know enough at the time to question whether or not this was appropriate.

2. As I understand it, by eliminating the CRT/P (see issue #1, above), I want to return the system to its original design, which in this case means, taking the currently "dry" return lines and making them "wet" again. But, again as I understand it, some or all of the CR horizontals must be located at a height such that they are some minimum

distance below the boiler's water line. With the original CR lines, this was the case - all, or almost all, of the horizontal portion (aprox 100 linear ft) of the CR lines were below the water line. However, for the current CR lines, most, if not all is above the water line. The lowest point in the line, just before it takes a 1 ft drop to the CRT, is only about 1 inch below the nominal water line.



Question 3. Am I correct in my assumption that this is not an adequate height differential (in light of my proposed approach to Issue #1, above)?



If I am correct, then it seems like there are two options to correct this:

Option 1: Lower the CR lines (all, or some portion?) so they are at, or near, their original height; or,

Option 2: Create a false water line. I got this idea from Dan Holohan's "Lost Art of Steam," p28. But, while I understand the concept, I don't understand the details enough to fully evaluate whether it would work in my situation.



Question 4. Any thoughts, suggestions, recommendations? E.g.: Any other options? Which option would be more cost-effective? Which is the "better" option?

Question 5. "How much" (e.g., what length or volume) of the CR line must/should be below the water line, and, how far below the water line? It would seem that the water "stored" in the CR lines is part of the overall system steam/water balance "equation" and, hence needs, at some level, to be taken into account? I hope that you can follow the line of my question. I know enough, here, to ask a question, but not enough to assess the significance or necessarily frame it correctly.



 Thanks in advance for any help. And, if any of the above is already addressed elsewhere in this forum, please let me know.
One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,559
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    The simplest way

    to handle this is going to be to replace the condensate return lines as low as you can get them to go -- the whole length of them.  They can be done in copper.  As I understand it, you do not have dry returns -- just a pair of parallel flow steam mains, with drips which go to the wet returns.



    It is quite likely that when the boiler was replaced, the water line of the new boiler was below that of the old one, which makes your height margin on the wet returns a bit small -- but so long as they are really truly below the boiler water line, you should be OK.  It doesn't take much -- a few inches is ample.



    So long as those wet returns are, in fact, wet, they don't need traps.



    And you don't need the condensate return tank and pump.



    With regard to Question 5 -- all of the lines need to be below the water line.  And indeed there is some water stored in there, but that isn't a problem.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,578
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    Go with gravity

    Jaimie is right, restore the wet returns, at least below the LWCO shutoff level , and do away with the condensate tank and pump. Don't worry about the amount of water in the return pipes, as it will not effect the total EDR of the boiler. Make sure you have some well placed valves to enable flushing those lines out at least once a year.

    Make sure the main vents on the end of the dry returns are very large. If headroom is a problem, then they may be mounted on an antler piped into the vertical drop (as high as possible of course).--NBC
  • sreja
    sreja Member Posts: 175
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    re: Excessive Makeup Water Use/Proposed Elimination of Condensate Return Tank

    " As a consequence, I lose so much steam via the CRT open-air vent "



    We had a similar problem in our boiler, where we use a condensate return pump.



    The cause was (as I think you suspect) bad traps that were letting steam into the return lines.



    My layperson advice would be to make fixing the traps your first priority over the other stuff.
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
    edited March 2014
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    Wet/dry clarification

    Thanks Jamie. You are confirming what my research has led me to believe.



     Point of clarification: Your are correct about the “pair of parallel flow steam mains with drips … .” But regarding the “… which go to the wet returns,” as I understand it, and what you and Nicholas (next post) are confirming, is that the contractor turned the returns into dry returns “twice:” first, when he installed the CRT, and second, when he raised the height of the CR lines.
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 666
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    Check all the piping.

    As is so often advised here on this forum, it would be wise to check ALL of the piping in the system.  If a condensate pump was added to a system that hadn't needed one before, there is a good chance that there are other piping errors too. 



    Get a copy of the boiler's installation manual and check the piping diagram to see if yours is is piped as shown in the manual.  If not exactly as shown, even a small detail can cause problems, or at least reduced efficiency. 



    I would say this is not your first priority, but if you're working to get things right, might as well get everything right while you're at it.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
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    Update: Response from contractor

    I received the awaited response from the contractor (FYI: written prior to the beginning of this thread). He implicitly acknowledges the validity of everything we have been discussing and provided a proposal/cost estimate to return the system to its original design. I am seeking additional information from the contractor so that I can evaluate his response. I will make a follow-up post in this regard when I have a more complete picture.                         Continued thanks to all who are providing input.
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
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    Re: Go with gravity

    Nicholas, thanks for the input. As you suggest, I want to make any repair plan "comprehensive.” More on this after further contact with the contractor (see my "Update" note below).
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
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    Re: Check all the piping

    Roger that. Will do. As an example of what you are saying, when the CRT was added, the Hartford Loop was removed.
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,949
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    Let me get this straight

    the contractor screwed up the system, and now he wants you to pay him to fix it?



    To put it mildly, this doesn't pass the smell test.



    If you're going to pay someone, pay a real Steam Man. Where are you located? Have you tried the Find a Contractor page of this site?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,559
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    Correct on both counts...

    " Point of clarification: Your are correct about the “pair of parallel

    flow steam mains with drips … .” But regarding the “… which go to the

    wet returns,” as I understand it, and what you and Nicholas (next post)

    are confirming, is that the contractor turned the returns into dry

    returns “twice:” first, when he installed the CRT, and second, when he

    raised the height of the CR lines."



    In other words, he messed up twice in a row.  His job is rather simple: un mess it up.  If that's a verb.  As Steamhead hinted, it would be nice if he admitted that he goofed...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
    edited March 2014
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    Re: Let me get this straight

    Steamhead - you hit that nail right on the head. That's among the reasons why I am seeking clarification from the contractor. I am hoping that he is going to "do the right thing" here. But he certainly has not been out in front to take professional responsibility for his actions, so far. I have to see how this plays out.



    Thanks for the reference to the Find a Contractor page. I checked it out. Unfortunately I came up blank for anyone w/in 50 miles of me (Syracuse, NY).
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
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    Re: Correct on both counts...

    Jamie - another nail hit squarely on the head. See my response above to Steamhead.
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
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    Status and a Note of Appreciation

    1. I have a fixer-upper house and medical problems. Between the two, I have to jump from task to task as I am able. Also, I am waiting for the end of the heating season before making major changes. But I will provide updates on this post as things become clearer. As necessary, I will be addressing related issues in separate posts.



     2. A note of appreciation to this site and all who maintain and contribute to it. This site is truly a wonderful resource.
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
  • KevinK
    KevinK Member Posts: 67
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    A “Did It Work?” Update (12/14)

    This is a quick and dirty update to this post. So readers can get the basic “did it work?” info. This post addresses the key “mission-critical” issues. There are some ancillary aspects that I will address in a later post.

    The key work that was performed:
    1. Condensate return (CR) tank and pump – removed (i.e., the system was restored to its original “gravity return” configuration);
    2. Height of CR lines – lowered to original configuration height (i.e., so that they are once again wet returns);
    3. Hartford loop – restored.

    Result:
    Absolutely “as-predicted” and absolutely fantastic! The system now works with all of the simplicity and beauty inherent in the one-pipe design. Highlights:

    1. Basement is no longer a sauna due to the steam/condensate that used to pour out of the CRT open-to-air vent;
    2. Condensate return pump no longer kicks on every 7 minutes;
    3. Auto water fill no longer kicks on every ~ 2 hours;
    4. The system is now so quiet, I hardly know when it is running;
    5. Old configuration temperature rise: to get 1 deg temp took ~ 1 hr; and, I gave up trying to raise temp more than 2 deg at a time;
    5A. New configuration temperature rise: to get 1 deg temp rise takes ~ 20 min or less; the system has no problem with 3 and 4 deg temp increases.
    One-pipe steam. NG fired. 2100 sq ft heated space.
    Utica Boiler PEG150C (150,000 Btu/hr Input) connected to 491 sq ft of radiation. Operating press 0.5 psi.
    KC_JonesRobG
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    How wonderful to hear back from you in regard to this.
    We're you able to come to such a resolution with the installer, that you would recommend him to others, or even to suggest to him that he advertise on this site?--NBC
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,746
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    Excellent! Everyone always appreciates updates!
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15