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Balancing The Temperature in 2 Apartments

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Newbie, homeowner. My wife and I purchased a 1920's @ flat in Chicago last year.
We're trying to get the apartment temps closer together. They run about 7 degrees cooler on the second floor.
The 2 pipe vapor system has recessed fin tube rads behind grates. The thermostat is on the first floor in the dining room above the boiler room in the basement. I shut off or closed the valve in the dining room and 2 bedroom radiators to try to lower the heating on the first floor to trick the thermostat. I don't know if that's a bad Idea or not.
I have to go back to see what btu the boiler is. I'm pretty sure it's sized riight It's a newer Weil McLain with pressuretrol, a funky old Illinois rocker valve box condensate breather gizmo.
I just started to insulate the pipes in the basement. I think the previous owner/broker removed all the visible asbestos prior to listing the building for sale. I think the extreme heat in the basement is also influencing the temp on the first floor a well as shedding heat before it gets to the second. Using 1" fiberglass pipe insulation.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. It's hard to find good Dead Men here.
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Comments

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Most vapor systems are very sensitive to higher pressures. They like to be in the ounces rather than pounds. What pressure are you running? Closing that many radiators off will trick the boiler into thinking it is oversized and it is probably short cycling. You can partially close those valves but I would sshut them off completely. There are several guys/gals on this site that have and are very knowledgable of Vapor systems. I am sure they will provide some guidance. I'm also sure they are going to tell you to insulate those pipes in the basement. Uninsulated pipes condense steam before it can get to the radiators and waste energy.
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    Thanks Fred,
    I thought about the short cycling. There's definitely a problem with the pressure and I did hear ounces not pounds.
    The other day tenants complained of no heat. Bad thermocouple. Changed it and started insulating the pipes since I was there waiting for heat in the apartments.
    I started to notice the short/pressure cycling after a while, IN POUNDS! got to 5.5 and shut off, pressured down after a few minutes to 4 psi and started again. 2 minutes later back to 5.5 and so on and so on. It took for ever to get from 44 degrees to 72. I think it rose a degree an hour. Not good, but reading some posts on the wall I thought it was the big temp differential to overcome that started the short cycling.
    I don't know what the conditions are to get this thing running on ounces but I know we're wasting tons of energy and fuel.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    I second the need for pipe insulation, and ounces of pressure. Make sure the air is able to leave the system as it begins to fire.
    For your fin tube, you may want to change the thermostat settings to 2 or 3 CPH.
    When the system was first installed, it would have been even through out the building, and fuel efficient. Now the job is to return it to that condition.
    Post some pictures of the rads, and boiler.--NBC
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Clearly your Pressuretrol is either not working or way out of calibration. The Pressuretrol is mounted on a Pigtail. That Pigtail may be plugged with gunk. Take the Pressuretrol off and take the pigtail off and clean it well. What is your Pressuretrol set at? Cut-in should be .5PSI and Cut out (when the burner should shut down on pressure should be no more that 1PS differential.
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    I'll get some pics tomorrow as well as to see CPH setting. Thanks
    The only time the 2nd floor was warmer was last January when it was near zero and the system was running much longer, if that helps.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Believe it or not, steam moves much faster the lower the pressure. Running at the pressures you are seeing now are a good part of the problem. on a 2 pipe system there are traps that can fail and other piping configurations that may need to be looked at so post as many pictures as you can so the guys/gals on here can best understand what is going on.
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    That explains a lot about pressures and travel speed. The end of the loop sure takes a while and it shouldn't at the rate steam travels.
    Is proper venting the key to lower pressures? All radiator valves open and all steam traps functioning? Or more importantly venting at the condensate end? Let's see what story the pics will reveal.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    edited December 2014
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    Adequate Main Venting is very critical on steam system pressures and steam flow. Balancing those radiators once the venting is correct is going to be the next step.
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    I'll post pics tomorrow of this old "Illinois" vent/condensate rocker valve device. Someone suggested a 30 gallon boiler feed and venting through it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,299
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    Get that pressure down!!! If this really is a vapor system, you should invest in a vapourstat and plan to run a 12 ounce cutout and 6 ounce cutin. Yes they aren't cheap. You and your tenants will be a lot happier.

    Next -- venting. There are several different ways of venting vapour systems. In one, there are crossover traps at the ends of the steam mains which go to the dry returns, and all the venting is done at the ends of the dry returns at the boiler. The cross over traps are just like radiator traps, but are set above the steam mains. The other approach is vents at the ends of the steam mains, and additional vents on the dry returns. In either case, it is almost impossible over vent the system.

    Traps. Now for the bad news. If your system really has been running anywhere near 5 psi, it is very likely that some of the traps are junk. You need to check every single one. They can fail either open -- in which case that radiator may work just fine, but others on the same return either not at all or very poorly -- or closed, in which case the radiator won't heat much. If you have crossover traps, they need to be checked too.

    On a vapour system there is no harm to closing a radiator off, or throttling it way down, with the valve, although it can aggravate the situation if you close off a lot of radiation.

    I'm glad you are re-insulating those pipes!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    Thanks Jamie, I was definitely considering the vapourstat after reading a lot of previous posts.
    There are crossover traps at the end of the steam mains.
    Is there a way to check the traps to see if they're ruined or do I just bite the bullet and change the guts in 22 traps?
    Someone suggested only insulating the mains and not the dry returns too. They're plenty hot as well but it was suggested to have a temp differential for the condensate to return better.
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    I couldn't wait. Finished dinner and drove over to the building to take some pics. Everyone is so helpful.
    It's a fun project to see if I can get this to run right.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    search for trap repair here, and you will see that you are looking for overly high/low temperatures on the output of the traps.
    an IR thermometer would make it easier.--NBC
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    Will do. Thanks
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,299
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    Usually one does not need to insulate the dry returns. The fact that they are plenty hot, however, strongly suggests traps failed open! Warm, yes. Hot? Hmmm...

    There is a way to check traps, and it's not hard, although you do have to let the system run long enough to get the radiators full of steam. The outlet of the trap, measured a bit below the trap, should be no warmer than about 180, perhaps. Maybe as much as 200. But never steam temp -- 210 plus. A good IR thermometer is invaluable! Do compensate, though, for heavy rust or shiny paint etc. -- that can throw the IR reading off.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    Going to get IR and do some checking this week. I think returns were at near steam temp 210/209.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    You might find some painters tape will get you more accurate readings on the pipe.

    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
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
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    I'm thinking that boiler is oversized. ;)
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    What would cause you to think that with what we know up to this point?
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
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    Fred said:

    What would cause you to think that with what we know up to this point?

    I didn't want to get into this story, and my comment was merely to attempt to spur the OP to give us an idea of the attached EDR.
    But since you asked, I do a lot of work on the north side of Chicago. I noticed the installer's sticker on the boiler. I have done work on many of the installs (I'd guess more than 50, and closer to about 75) done by the person who installed the OP's boiler. The installer is "relatively well known" in the city for doing a "low cost" job and installing boilers without doing any EDR calculations. When I've talked to some of the owners who called me in to do some service, I would notice some of the classic symptoms of a oversized boiler. When I'd ask how the installer calculated the size of the boiler, some had no idea, some mentioned it basically came down to this installer asking the owner if current boiler heated up ok and adding 10-15% to the new boiler. Others positively stated that no calculation of radiators was done.

    EG65 is 654 sq.ft. of steam.

    OP, what is the attached EDR?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    That answers my question. Let's hope this one is at least close enough that it can be accommodated by downfiring it a bit if necessary.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    As far as the install goes a couple things jumped out at me right away. The header appears a bit low. Also all the important safeties on that boiler are facing the wall, the sight glass, LWCO and pressuretrol are all facing the wall. This goes along with what @Abracadabra said about low cost installs. I am guessing they did it this way because of the vent location and the mains. It probably saved on some materials. Also the way the return piping is pitching up into the boiler is going to tend to accumulate a lot of crud in that pipe and there doesn't appear to be any valves on the line to flush out that crud. I know it doesn't exactly relate to the original post, but I never view pointing out issues to the OP as a bad thing. Personally I would rather people tell me now than be surprised later. I am curious about the attached EDR as well. That's a decent sized boiler.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    edited December 2014
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    I kind of suspect the controls and sight glass may be behind that front panel. The boiler is too close to the wall for them to be on that side and they aren't on the other sides for sure.
    Judging from the height of the Hartford loop(if that is correct, I'd say the header is at least 24" above the water line.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    That's an EG same as the one I have, they are on the side facing that wall unless the installer did some re-engineering of the block...or didn't install them.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Something is strange there because it looks like that boiler is only a couple inches from the wall. Not enough room for any of the controls.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    To the OP, is the sight glass, pressurtrol and LWCO against that wall? I think the LWCO is for sure because I see a wire going back there from the auto water feeder. Good luck pulling the probe for yearly maintenance.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Oh and the skim port is on that side as well...lol Guess it surely wasn't skimmed when it was installed.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    I'm at a loss
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
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    PrestoJim said:

    It's hard to find good Dead Men here.

    You might consider giving Dave Bunnell a call (though last we heard, he was very much alive.)

    KC_Jones
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    I haven't seen him on here in a while?! Definitely call him!
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    I was wondering if somebody recognized the installer. Thanks Abracadabra. This guy won't come out to look. I get the impression from the real estate broker we bought the building from, that fits the "low cost" description. The boiler was there when we bought the building.
    I don't know how the installer calculated the size of the boiler.
    I didn't have a chance to get pics of radiators but they are an old fin tube, maybe 3"x4" recessed in the walls. 9 are about 20" long and 8 are about 30" going off of memory,
    The controls, drains, sight glass are on the side with maybe 10" between the boiler and the wall.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
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    PrestoJim said:


    The controls, drains, sight glass are on the side with maybe 10" between the boiler and the wall.

    Damn... You have to wonder what the hell he was thinking when installing it like that. Not surprised tho. If you can't get a hold of Dave Bunnell and you are on the north side, let me know and I can try to work out some time to take a look. I should start a book with pics of installs this guy has done :smiley:
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    I did have a plumber service the boiler last December who drained the boiler ,cleaned the sight glass and added a water conditioner. A couple months later ,heat went out and they replaced the pressuretrol. If he set it where it currently is, I don't think he was as qualified with steam as he claimed.
    Dave Bunnell is not taking any new business. Must be nice.
    If I dial back the pressure, will the system run?
    It doesn't seem that simple.
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    I started working with a HVAC guy but he seemed baffled by most of the system. He brought a guy from the far southside to have a look and he said this is the guy Bunnell calls when he's stumped. He talked about removing that "Illinois" device and that Hoffman pot and installing a boiler feed pump and tank.
    I'd like to have you come out if you can squeeze us in. How do we contact each other?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    What is the pressurtrol currently set to?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    I'd have to go check. When I was there a while it was short cycling from 4 psi to 5.5 like every 2 minutes. That was after a big temp setback when the thermocouple went bad. Tying to recover from 44degree back to 72.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    That pressure is way too high for any steam system. Check the settings the pressurtrol should be set as low as possible. Remember there is a setting inside on a white dial, it should be on 1 and the outside setting (screw on top) should be set as low as possible without disengaging the linkage.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    Will it still run? Going now to reset.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Yes it will run.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • PrestoJim
    PrestoJim Member Posts: 35
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    White dial is at 1 and outside is as low as possible already.