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Steam Trap - Kelmac Jr. Retarder ?

I have a home built in 1918 with two pipe gravity steam heat. When I moved into the home 5 years ago and we had gas bills of over $700 for a 2500 sq ft home. We have since used our heat pump that we installed (intended to use for AC and heat for the mild months here in central Nebraska) when we moved into the home. Unfortunately at this point I have had zero luck finding anyone who either understands steam or even wants to work on my system.



A couple weeks ago, our heat pump quit and our repairman accidentally turned on the steam heat while I was at work. He called and I came home to show him where the heat pump system thermostat was and I remembered how great steam felt! Since then, I found this website and have purchased every book I can and am close to finishing them. I figure I can't rely on finding people who work on steam and since I am in my lower 30's the problem will only get worse as I grow older.



I have of course found many problems after reading the steam literature on the website. These include one pipe air vents installed on two pipe, preassuretrol set as high as possible, stuck valves on all inlet pipes, hot water baseboard radiators in a bedroom and bathroom, zero insulation, and absolutely zero main vents among others. I think I have a grasp on the direction I need to start but I have found that my steam traps are no where to be seen on the internet or in the books that I have read.



Attached are two pictures of the traps. They all say Kelmac Jr. Retarder on them. Does anyone know what these are or where I would be able to get new "guts" for them as I am sure they are all shot.



Any information will be greatly appreciated.



Thanks,

Tony

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    Nerver heard of them

    You might try taking one apart to see what the elements look like. If you do post a picture of what you find in there.



    Has turning the pressure down changed the way the system acts? Your smart to learn how steam systems work because you can fix 90% of what goes wrong yourself for short money and you can explain what has to be done to a plumber if you get into any hairy piping work. My old steam boiler was only repaired once in it's 16 year life by anybody but me, I did have it cleaned out every year by someone.



    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
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927
    Bing sure doesn't help, does it?

    Came up with  a vacuum cleaner outfit in Australia... sometimes the 'net isn't all that helpful!



    However...



    Can you get the valves on the radiators freed up a little?  If so, there's a workaround until summer comes...



    Which is.  First, get your pressure as low as it can be made to go without the pressuretrol falling apart.  Then run the system and go around to the various radiators when the system has been on long enough for the radiators to get hot.  You are looking for returns -- below the trap -- which are steam hot (you are also looking for radiators which don't heat at all -- I'll get to that).  Not just warm or even hot water hot, but really yeouch hot.  When and if you find one, that trap is not closing against steam.  The trick and workaround is to partially close the radiator valve.  Most radiator valves on two pipe can, and will, throttle the steam to the radiator; the objective of the exercise is to reduce the steam to the particular radiator to just what the radiator can condense.



    It is very likely that you may have to make two or three passes around the house to get this right, as adjusting one radiator will affect the others, even at some distance.



    If you find a radiator which isn't heating, that means that the trap is failed closed.  If your steam inlets are at the top of the radiators, there is no easy way to work around that.  If the valves are at the bottom, and someone stuck an air vent on the radiator, make sure that the valve is all the way open and live with it until you can replace the trap.  Sorry...



    Main vents will help a lot.  Spend a little time with your new books and your system, and figure out where all the mains go.  That will help in deciding what vents to use, and where to put them.



    As Bob noted, most of the work which needs to be done you can do yourself, and it's rather fun!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,032
    Its a vapor steam system,

    not really much different than any other vapor system. It had a graduated inlet valve, and a radiator trap on the outlet. They just called the radiator trap a retarder to sound cool..buts its just a radiator trap. The company was really called the kellogg mackay company or something close to that.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927
    Thanks Gerry!

    I suspected that it was a vapour system of some sort -- but I can't keep them all in my head.



    That re-emphasis my initial thought -- that a workaround on a trap failed open will be to simply close the radiator valve enough to match the capacity of the radiator.



    It also means that the pressure needs to be really low; ideally, the OP should get a vapourstat for control, and set it around 12 ounces cutout and a differential of 6 ounces, at least to start with.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Inside of the Kelmac trap

    Here is the inside of the Kelmac trap. Gerry, you are right about the graduated inlet valves and I am sure I have a two pipe vapor system. My concerns are:



    1. I have a pressuretrol. .5 is the lowest setting right below 2 psi. Do I need to get a vaporstat for my system to work? My boiler is a 2001 Lennox. Before I started reading steam books, my pressure was as high as it could go which was some of the main reasons for the poor heating distribution and high heating bills.



    2. From what I understand with this trap that when steam is at vapor pressure (oz. vs. psi) these traps just have a set orifice that allows very little if any steam into the return lines. Since all of my graduated inlet valves (10 radiators) are busted or stuck do I replace these with a regular inlet valve? If so, do I understand it correctly that I would need to change the Kelmac traps for a thermostatic trap? I was hoping to use your information from the "Greening Steam" and your steam balancing ebook to try to get the system balanced and by changing to common thermostatic traps, I can use your charts to balance the system. I suppose changing over to regular inlet valves and thermostatic traps would allow me to keep the pressuretrol.



    Thanks for the quick responses!
  • Interesting? this looks like my near boiler piping

    Interesting? this looks like my near boiler piping. However, I know that I do not have an air separator, venting to the chimney from the return lines. This might also explain why I have never found a main vent or a plug where a main vent should be. Here is a picture of the boiler room.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927
    There are some problems...

    with your near boiler piping, but we'll let them go for the moment.



    In answer to your question no. 1, yes, in my opinion you should get a vapourstat and set it as I suggested.  You could keep the pressuretrol as a backup.



    Now on question no. 2.  The answer is "that depends".  First, before you do anything else, get your pressure down where it should be.  Then see how the radiators and returns are faring.  If you are really fortunate -- and you might be -- the valves will be stuck, alright, but stuck just about where they should be.  In that case, you will find that very little steam will get out of the radiator, and although the returns may be warm -- indeed, may be quite warm, even as much as say 180 to 200 -- they won't be steam hot.  On those radiators, "it ain't broke", so don't fix it!  Unhappily, you may also find some radiators where this isn't so, and on those, yes, I would suggest that the first thing you do is see if you can persuade the valves to unfreeze, so that you can set them properly.  If that doesn't work, and too much steam is getting in, then you may want to install regular valves -- but you can help matters considerably by also installing orifices (search for orifices on this site, or in your books) which will restrict the steam flow to what is needed.  This may take some experimenting.  If you're still having problems with steam in the returns, then go ahead and put in thermostatic traps -- but I'll bet that by this point in the proceedings it won't be necessary.



    On venting.  With vapour systems, it is essential that there be main venting so that the air can get out so the steam can get in.  If you have dry returns, you will need main vents at the point where they end near the boiler.  It will also do no harm to put main vents at the ends of the steam mains, assuming that there are no crossover traps there to do the job.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,331
    There's nothing inside that trap

    because someone removed the element. So for now it's wide open with nothing to keep the steam from reaching the return lines. Check with Tunstall, see if they have a replacement that will fit.



    That boiler is a re-branded Dunkirk, and it's not piped correctly by any stretch of the imagination. It needs to be repiped. I'll see if I have some Dunkirk install pics.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,032
    just checked barnes and jones

    and they list several different kelmac trap repair kits..so if they have them, then i image Tunstall would too.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927
    Thank you, Gerry and Steamhead

    for chiming in -- I'm not a pro as you know, and it's very helpful when you do!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,032
    You should be a pro Jamie,

    youve got the knowledge.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Thank You

    Thanks everyone for the information. It is greatly appreciated. I am going to read a few more books and hopefully find out more on my system's issues. Not sure why a guy would empty out all the traps. My goal is to take my time and make sure it is done right so I have some great steam heat next winter.



    Thanks,

    Tony



    Does anyone have any recommendations for steam guys in Central Nebraska? I am located in Grand Island.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    Kelmac system

    I did visit this site and would like to drag this thread forward.  The orifice valves are all mostly beyond repair.  The owner has stated that all traps are empty.  The old receiver/air separator has been replaced with a bullhead 1 1/4" tee and drops down into the wet return manifold at the boiler.  The original end of steam mains are dripped down into the wet return also.  There are absolutely no main vents at all.  There are 2 radiators that had vents added as some attempt to get heat. 

    I would like to run this plan past the more experienced steam people and get added advice and suggestions:

    1. Replace all orifice valves with standard valves with orifices inserted as per the Henry Gifford paper "How to make a two-pipe steam system really work"

    2. Abandon existing empty or stuck open traps.

    3. Add vapor-stat control (This may be one of the rare times when the replacement boiler of 571 Sq Feet is actually slightly undersized with a potential 662 feet connected.)

    4. Main vents can be added on the 1 1/4" dry return, but the two returns are bullheaded and the lower end of the drop is welded into the wet return manifold.  ( Is there a concern that the steam mains would only get venting thru the orifice/valves into the dry return thus being pretty slow for air elimination?)

    5. The end of each steam main drip (two) is 2" IPS.  Has any one had success tapping the top of a (1918) 2" pipe for a 3/8" nipple.  Then, would that opening do justice for a Gorton # 2.  (I realize a welded unilet would be ideal)

    6. The steam header is also welded but that may be for another day.

    Any added input would be appreciated--Thank to all of you!!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927
    Sounds like you have

    a pretty good plan there.  It will take some time to get the orifices "just right", but it's quite doable.



    By abandoning traps, I presume that you will leave them -- empty or stuck open -- in place.  That will work fine with the orifices and low pressure.



    You definitely want the vapourstat.  Without it it's pretty hopeless -- too much pressure.



    On venting.  You will need main venting, and the more the merrier, on the steam mains.  It is possible, with care, to drill and tap 1918 black iron pipe.  It is a little chancier drilling and tapping 1918 fittings, as they are probably cast, and can shatter -- which is annoying.  However, a 3/8" nipple is fine for a Gorton #2.  You will also need to find a way to get vents -- again, the more the merrier, at the very least after the last radiator return into the dry returns.  At the boiler is better, but if not... anywhere after the last radiator return will do.  Without the steam main venting, yes you are depending on the air getting out of the mains via the orifices in the radiators, and that is going to be slow and uneven.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    edited June 2014
    Thanks Jamie,

    The home also has a heat pump/electric furnace.  If things go well the heat pump would only be used in the shoulder seasons and the steam in use in a rather steady heating state.  The home owner is aware of the orifice sizing (guesstimating) situation and I assume would be patient for the process of obtaining the correct drill size. (I imagine this would not be unlike guessing the metering orifice for an AC coil,  as orifices are increased the pressure on the system will change).   Trap bodies would remain in place as a plumbing fitting only.  I do have access to the low pressure mercury vapor stat. 0-16 Oz.  Also would add 0-32 oz pressure gauge.  (Retaining original compound gauge and use existing pressuretrol as back-up)

    However venting the dry returns;  if you look at the center photo above in this thread, you see the bullhead tee (nearest to the back wall) and I wonder if this will be a problem of colliding condensate returns.  The last rads are close to the boiler itself.  Potential connected return from the left is 382 EDR and existing connected return from the right is 280 EDR.  Both returns are 1 1/4" to tee and drop into 1 1/2" pipe.

    This piping system has 38' of 3" (you might call this a horizontal express main)pipe from boiler room down the center of house, then tees left & right with 2" all the way back to boiler room with drops to wet return.  71' on right side and 77' on left side.  This this adds up to 5.21 cubic feet of steam main (if my math is right).  However we would also have venting on the dry return but as we agree that this would be slow and probably not be counted upon as contributing towards main venting??

    My best calculation at 2 oz would be 2 Gortons per main.  But what about the dry return? would you consider the EDR of rads air venting only?  All main/return vents would be right at the boiler.

    Thanks for help.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927
    You are indeed fortunate

    to have that mercury vapourstat!  Those things are worth their weight in gold.  So long as they are levelled properly, they work really reliably -- for decades!



    I don't think the bullhead T for the condensate returns is really going to be a problem.  Not ideal, perhaps, but not a problem -- the returns will be nowhere near full of water, after all.



    I'd put two Gortons #2 on each steam main -- that will get the steam out to the end nice and fast and evenly.  Then I'd put one Gorton #2 on each of the returns if I could do it.  Otherwise, you could put one tap into the top of the T and then come off with a short 3/8" nipple, 3/8" T, and two short nipples and elbows going up to the vents -- sort of an antler.  That will work just as well.



    Using the heat pump in the shoulder seasons is a good idea!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    Dry returns

    It is fortunate that the original receiver/air separator was replaced with 1 1/4" pipe with 2 unions so one may install proper tees at least 15 inches from the bullhead.

    The old literature listed above shows a mercury gauge for pressure indication and the mysterious air separator.  I am curious of how this worked....a float inside or some separation chamber; I know it is irreplaceable but am wondering how it worked.  Today air vents are the replacement; assuming no steam gets to that point because of the orifices; but then what will close the vents on the dry returns??  Or am I thinking too much? 

    Then orifice sizing...the Henry Gifford chart is based on 2 psi applied.  This is a vapor system with ounces. I have seen various discussion on sizing but nothing definitive for pressure in the ounces range.   This site is 140 miles away, that is 2 1/2 hours one way and being able to get a close start on orifice sizing would help out a lot.  If all goes well with the steam restoration I am thinking the heat pump would see a lot less business.

    Thanks again!
  • Fizz
    Fizz Member Posts: 540
    Orifice chart to edr

    You're in luck!  There is a chart that gives sizes of orifice for radiators up to 200 edr, for steam pressure 0-32 oz.  It's on this site. 
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    It is a large site,

    I've been looking for that chart previous to this posting but never come across it.  Fizz, could you or someone direct me to it, Please.  Thank You
  • Fizz
    Fizz Member Posts: 540
    I have a copy

    that I downloaded a while back, I can e-mail it to you if you'd like.
  • Fizz
    Fizz Member Posts: 540
    Here's copy

    Figured-out how to attach it, hope it's useful.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    Orifice charts

    Fizz,  I have everything you sent thanks very much
  • pickles
    pickles Member Posts: 3
    I know this thread is from some time ago, but was hoping someone still has a copy of the previously posted chart. It doesn't seem to be working any longer.

    I am trying to replace the missing orifices in my 2 pipe steam system and would love to take a look!
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    Pickles, I have that chart at home. Am on the road now. Hope to get it to you later this week.

    To use this method one must decide the operating pressure for the system. In this case above i was lucky with the guess. Not everything can operate in ounces without constant short cycling.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    Orifice sizing complements of Fizz:
    image
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    Thank you, also!
    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
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    edited January 2016
    I used 80% of EDR of each rad. The 18 ounce column was used, this ended up being less than the 80% because the system vapor stat is set to about 8 to 12 ounces, ( I believe). The idea is to be able to enlarge opening rather than install new smaller orifice.

    Attic insulation has added since 1918 construction. Still original windows I believe. I have been trying to contact HO since we have had some -0 temps to see how things have heated.

    There are no trap guts in original traps. Condensate is now returning cool to almost cold temp. Near boiler piping should not work but seems to be ok. No reports of water hammer.... so far.
    Accumulator tank you see in HO pictures was removed, there was no top connection to equalizer side of boiler so it was just a compression tank adding no water storage to the system.

    The original rad valves looked like orifice adjusting but were just like any ordinary globe valve once you took them apart.

    The steam main is well vented with G-2's as well as the dry return lines. My theory is that with fixed orifices rather than traps that the air removal thru the rads would be slow.

    This is a scan of my worksheet so I hope you can ignore the notes applied.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,760
    Just want to bump this up.....Pickles was looking for these orifice sizes.