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New Home Owner with Single Pipe Steam Heat

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wilket
wilket Member Posts: 12
The home is running a Burnham Independence gas fired boiler that was put in in 2008. The steam outlet is 2" copper that quickly transitions to 2.5" iron. From the boiler, the main line splits and goes in two directions. In on direction, it is about 40' and the other is about 30'. The second floor of the home is much colder than the first floor. There is a vent at each of the end of the main line. Should I upgrade to Gorton air valves and if so is the Gorton #1 sufficient or do I need to go with the #2?

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  • rrwitherspoon
    rrwitherspoon Member Posts: 104
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    If you have headroom gorton 2 3x the air eliminating capacity of gorton 1. Gorton 2 is 6 1/2 inches tall.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    The general rule of thumb is 1 Gorton #2 for every 20' of 2" pipe. If you don't have room for #2 you could use #1, but you need roughly 3 #1 to equal a #2. What kind of vents are there now? Are you sure you have 2.5" pipe? Pipe is sized nominally and 2" pipe actually measures 2 3/8" OD. Additionally since you mentioned it that copper has to go, it doesn't ever belong on steam lines. How is the system running? What pressure? How is the split done that you refer to? All mains are supposed to be tied into the header independently.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,477
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    Post pictures of the boiler header and how it connects to the main(s). What pressure is the boiler running at?

    40 ft of main needs at least one #2 and would do better with two of them, you would need one or two #1's in addition to a #2 on the 30 ft main.

    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
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
    edited December 2014
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    Here are some pics. I will take pictures of the air vents today when I go back up there (we haven't moved in yet). Also, none of the pipes are insulated. The vents are on piping that is in the garage and the garage is cold so I know need to insulate that section of pipe asap.

    The pressutrol is subtractive and it is set at 0.5 diff with 1.5 main. The first floor is ok but the second floor is much colder. The thermostat is on the first floor so there's definitely uneveness in the heating up of the radiators. One of the 2nd floor radiator vents is leaking/hissing so I know steam is getting up there.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    The supply piping is pretty badly done. Download a copy of the installation manual, and compare what you have, with what is the minimum requirement. As it is piped now, your boiler will produce wet steam, and will run longer on each cycle, providing unbalanced heat to the whole system.
    Was any sort of inspection done before the purchase? This should have raised a red flag for any competent steam man.--NBC
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
    edited December 2014
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    I had a regular home inspection done and the guy didn't say anything about the piping. Why would the boiler create wet steam with the piping? There's a return line attached to the outlet before the outlet goes up. I would think any condensate will go down the return line before it goes up with the steam, no? Also, like couple of people have mentioned that copper is a no no. Why is that? Is it because its thermal expansion is higher than iron and your would have substantial movement in the pipe?

    Thanks all for your input so far. I am learning a lot.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Yes on the thermal expansion, but also because copper will "eat" the cast iron. If you look at a galvanic corrosion chart copper is more noble than cast iron so when the 2 are in contact the iron will be eaten up not the copper. As far as wet steam goes your header is too low by the looks of it. The idea is to pass as dry steam as possible into the header. Your theory of it dropping through the equalizer seems fine, but remember that steam is moving at a high rate of speed and anything in that pipe will be sucked right along with it. So on your piping what is most likely going on is the steam is carrying a majority of that water right across that equalizer. In addition your equalizer is in the wrong place, it is supposed to be at the end of the header. This way the steam can be separated from the water when it goes up into the main and the water will continue along and the only place it can go is into the equalizer and back to the boiler. Most boiler manuals want the header 24" above the water line to help keep the steam from putting excessive water into the header. The steam can suck the water up that far easily. This is why it is encouraged to use the largest riser possible and 2 if they are available. The more room you give the steam to escape the slower it is moving the less water it will suck out of the boiler.
    http://www.corrosionist.com/galvanic_corrosion_chart.htm
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
    edited December 2014
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    Oy vey! I guess I should get a good steam plumber to look at this and fix this up. Maybe after this winter passes. Any recommendations for someone in the NYC / Westchester area?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,477
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    I agree that boiler header is badly done and should be on your list of things to fix after the heating season, assuming it does not drive you to distraction first.

    In the meantime lets gather some information -
    How many radiators and what size are they?
    If it's single pipe steam what kind of radiator vents?
    What pressure is the boiler running at?
    What kind of main vent do you have?
    Any banging or other noises?

    The boiler sq ft of steam should match the total EDR of the system (total sq ft of radiator surface area), if the boiler is a lot larger it is liable to short cycle because it develops more steam than the system can use. If the boiler is much smaller it may not be able to fill the system with steam, most boilers are oversized if not correctly sized.

    A properly configured steam system should be quiet and economical. Find the boiler manual and take a close look at the suggested piping, that diagram is THE MINIMUM ALLOWABLE, there are things that can be done to make it work better.

    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
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Luckily, the scrap value of the copper supply pipes will contribute some value to the repiping cost, which you could do yourself in the spring.
    The worst thing is the bushed down diameter of the single riser, and the small header size. This could blow lots of water up into the pipes with the steam.
    Using both risers, full size, into a larger drop header, would make it easier to pipe. many people here have been able to repipe using off the shelf stock size large nipples from a local plumbing supply company.--NBC
    KC_Jones
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
    edited December 2014
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    I took some pictures of the main line vents today and they are attached. I also found a tee fitting with a plug in the bull of the tee mid way on the 40' run. I guess i can put a vent there as well. I'll try to answer sone of the questions posed:

    If it's single pipe steam what kind of radiator vents? Don't know but they are cylindrical and shiny. I am attaching a pic as well.

    What pressure is the boiler running at?
    diff at 0.5 and main at 1.5. The gauge on the boiler is a 0 to 30 so it doesn't register the pressure to well. That will be another thing to change out.

    What kind of main vent do you have?
    see the pictures attached.

    Any banging or other noises? No. Just hissing from some if the radiator vents so they will need to be either cleaned out replaced.

    I have 6 radiators on the first floor and three radiators on the second floor. They are all of the pipe in fin convector type.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    As others have said, all that near boiler piping needs to be corrected using black iron, threaded pipe and, at least built to the minimum recommendations in the owner's manual/Installation guide. As for those Main vents, they are probably close to original, if not original. Replace them with Gorton #2's if you have the room above the Main. The Gorton #2 is 6-1/2 inches tall. If you don't have that much room, use Gorton #1's but it will take about 3 #1's to do what 1 #2 can vent. The rule of thumb is 1 Gorton #2 for every 20ft. of 2" Main. You can build an antler using 3/4 inch nipples and elbows if you need multiple vents. That will help a lot.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Those main vents should be in a museum rather than in use. Start with some Gorton 2's on the ends of the dry return, on an antler.--NBC
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,477
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    One of your pictures show a main vent at what looks like the end of a main, it looks like a low capacity vent and should be replaced with 2ea Gorton #2's (if there is enough overhead - almost 7" tall). The other is at the end of a return or is that the end of a second main? Adding vents in the middle of mains does not do much good, better to vent the ends of mains as fast as possible.

    The convector vent you show looks like a USV-881; if so they really are not adjustable and probably vent too fast for convectors.

    Turn your pressure down if possible, a picture of the pressuretrol would tell us if it's realistic. Give serious consideration to adding an auxiliary 0-3 PSI Gauge.

    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
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
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    So I insulated a good deal of piping with1" and 2" thick fiberglass pipe insulation. I also changed out most of the radiator air vents with the home cheapo ones where you can adjust the opening. My second floor is still substantially colder but the radiators up there is getting heat. These radiators are not as hot as the downstairs ones but steam is getting up there. The radiators are pitched correctly but the take offs for these are near the end of line on the main in the basement. My next course of action is to swap out the main vents to Gorton #2 and I'm thinking about changing out the radiator vents on the second floor to D' s.

    One question, many of the radiators have 1/4" for the air vents but the previous owner reduced down to 1/8" and installed 1/8" air vents. Should I remove the reducers and put 1/4" air vents? II figure the orifice in the air vents are substantially smaller so the 1/4 to 1/8 reduction shouldn't be an issue. What do you guys think?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    I don't think any rad vents have 1/4" thread, but I have been wrong before. I would rethink using a D vent that is a huge vent (as big as a Gorton #1 main vent). Unless you have a rad the size of the titanic in a very tall building you shouldn't need a D vent. Generally on a 2 story house you can start with #4 on the first floor and #5 on the second as a baseline and go from there. You can not get the rads balanced out until your main venting is correct. If I was you I wouldn't even think about rad vents until you get those mains squared away. You may think you need a D vent because your mains aren't venting fast enough and that rad is trying to vent the main in addition to itself. You want to get those mains vented completely in a couple minutes or vented fast enough that the steam basically isn't going to the rads until it is fully vented. Get several #2 vents on those mains and go from there.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
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    The only 1/4" openings I've seen were re-tapings done because the original 1/8" were bungled by cross threading. The reducing bushing stands out.
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
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    Maybe they were bigger than 1/4". But are there Abby issues with the port reduction? Also, it's it bad to vent radiators too quickly?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Yes venting too quickly can cause issues. If the steam gets in so fast that the rad can't condense it quickly enough you end up with spitting vents in addition to the uneven heating you will inevitably create. Here is the best analogy I can think of. Say you are driving a car and you need to stop on the proverbial dime. Would it be easier to do that going 60 MPH or 5 MPH? In this case the "dime" is the temp you are trying to hit. Fast rad vents will heat quickly yes, but will overshoot and basically be out of control and you will have wild temp variations. In a sense you need to think like you have 2 systems in your house. You have main piping and you have radiators. Each needs to be handled separately. Get your mains in order you will be shocked at how much of a change that will make. There are no issues with port reduction that open 1/8" hole on that rad vents faster than even a Gorton #2 main vent so you have nothing to worry about there. Vent the mains fast and the rads slowly. Hope that helps.
    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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    Keep the 1/8" radiator ports. That's more than enough and don't spend any money on radiator vents until you vent the Mains properly. I suspect that will resolve you problem.
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
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    Got the Gorton #2's coming in today. I will install them tomorrow and see how things fare. If I want to shut off my boiler for the installation, can I just turn off the emergency switch to the boiler or is it just better to lower my thermostat so the boiler doesn't kick in?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
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    Switch at the boiler is best bet. Cold or cool pipes are also good. Those #2's have 1/2" male thread for the connection.
    The references above to the 1/8" and 1/4" air vent openings refer to cast iron upright radiators. Don't know about fin tube convectors that you have.
  • wilket
    wilket Member Posts: 12
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    Yeah the #2's will be on the main which has a bigger openings which I am hoping is 1/2".