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One Pipe Expert Needed

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Loyd
Loyd Member Posts: 29
My husband and I have been getting help lately from a heating expert (who lives 6 hours away-he's my dad's heating guy) via email to help with our "losing water for 15 years one pipe system" He's an expert because he understands these systems, went to Dan H. seminars etc. We have had every local company come out throughout the years who "knows steam." As soon as they jack up the pressure we know we have someone who does not know. I will not get into the millions of fixes we've tried ...does anyone know of a St. Paul MN person who can help? (the search via this website didn't find anyone).
There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
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  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
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    Sorry, don't have anyone to recommend in St. Paul, but have you checked all wet returns for leaks? How much water are you losing exactly? Maybe we can figure this out here. :smile:
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,379
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    Try this gentleman:

    info@badgerboilerservice.com
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Thanks for the replies!
    We have had to fill it every other night in the winter. This fall the boiler was leaking and we replaced it with a new Burnaham and an auto feed. Still had to add water every other night.
    Well...Glenn our expert via email said (from all the pictures we took) that it was piped all wrong. So our plumber re-did it all.
    Still have some sloshing radiators, spitting (shooting). I have repacked valve stems that were leaking, plumber added new vents to all, added new main vents.

    Glenn thinks the return may be plugged. Is this what you mean by the wet return? So my trouble is getting someone who knows how to do that...
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Aslo, one of the sloshing radiators has water shooting out the air vent...
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Try asking someone here:
    http://www.statesupply.com/
    They are in St. Paul, and may know of a local expert.
    Post some pictures of your boiler, and rads.--NBC
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Here is the entire house piping and pictures added.
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    A wet return is any pipe below the normal water level in the boiler. Do you have any of these other than right at the boiler?
    Are there any pipes that go into or out of the basement floor? Or any pipe above water level that drops down below water level and back up to be above water level?
    On a warm day does the boiler have too much water in it?
    Water either boils away (up the chimney) or thru a leak.
    Or leaks out unseen, perhaps under the floor. If no leaks then the water has to eventually return to the boiler.
    Everyone here would like to see good pictures of all sides of your boiler from floor to ceiling.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
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    What size are those riser pipes, and what model of boiler? They look awfully small next to that header.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Good point Southwest, It looks like there is a difference in diameter between the cabinet cutout, and the pipe size of the risers, so they must not have gone full size.--NBC
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,889
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    Not much of a difference. The risers look like 2" pipes, which would match the 2" steam outlets in the boiler.

    I think you're looking at a pair of 2" risers going up to a header that's much bigger, maybe 4". Nothing wrong with that!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,099
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    It would behoove you to hire a Gerry Gill/Steve Pajek (Wisconsin?) or even Steamhead (Maryland) to come out and put this problem to bed. Mad Dog
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
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    Hartford loop looks way too low. Where's the system risers? Header appears pitched wrong.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    So how much water do you add every other night? Does the auto fill add the water---it looks like it gives a read out of the water consumed. Or do you add more manually as the sight glass drops.
    If water is getting trapped out there somewhere it eventually comes back.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
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    Can't tell where the steam is being fed to the mains from the header. Can you post a better picture of the header and the equalizer and main
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    If your're doing pictures how about the lower pipes at the floor and if any come out of the floor?
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
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    Steamhead said:

    Not much of a difference. The risers look like 2" pipes, which would match the 2" steam outlets in the boiler.

    I think you're looking at a pair of 2" risers going up to a header that's much bigger, maybe 4". Nothing wrong with that!

    If they really are 2", that might even be a 5" header.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,889
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    Mad Dog said:

    It would behoove you to hire a Gerry Gill/Steve Pajek (Wisconsin?) or even Steamhead (Maryland) to come out and put this problem to bed. Mad Dog

    Gerry and Steve are in Ohio, near Cleveland. I've actually done some consulting in Milwaukee- they need a good steam specialist there.

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    1. the auto water feed adds a gallon every 2 days or so.
    2. yes auto fill adds it. water in sight glass is set below middle-as in picture
    3. The plumber who installed the new Burnham boiler this November piped it just like the old one was. He redid ALL the piping at the boiler per my WI guy's drawings and Burnham manual after.
    4.







    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    We have two main vents-which are new as of Nov
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,741
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    Do you have a pressuretrol or a vaporstat on that boiler? Also what is it set to? If it's a pressuretrol it looks high, but it's hard to tell in that picture. You say the main vent is new, but I notice what appears to be a piece of plastic on the ceiling above it. Is the vent spitting steam? If it is it's either bad or your pressure is too high.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    The main vent-that metal sheet was for the previous main vent. This current vent makes no sound-I can't even tell if it's working.
    Same with the other main vent at the other end of the house.
    Also, we have played around with the pressuretrol and it never has made a difference. The last guy had the Main up to 4. Moved it back down...
    Still sloshing radiators and blasting water out of some air vents...



    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    In this last batch of pictures, in the first one is that a pipe lying on the floor under what looks like a chimney clean out door? If so that would be a wet return, it is always full of water (read sludge) and always suspicious of being slow to return water and could be weeping water that evaporates away before you see it.

    I had a system losing water at about the same rate as yours.
    It kicked me for a long time, finally a cracked fitting showed up with a drip. A drip doesn't seem much but getting closer to it at 12' above floor it was steaming away more than a drip.
    Then a union had the same thing. Also had a #75 main vent above ceiling passing steam but not enough to stain tile.
    Repairing the 3 drips made all the difference, I was very surprised the effect on water loss.

    Has your operating pressure been mentioned? The slow leaker system I had did show rad valve leaks when pressure got near 2 PSI, it usually runs at 6-10 ozs.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    JUGHNE is there a way to test the wet return to see if it's plugged a bit and/or leaking?
    Last guy opened a valve at the boiler attached to return pipe and it flowed clear water. My WI guy says you really can't tell by just that.
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
    edited February 2015
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    First was that a pipe on the floor connected to the boiler?

    If the last guy opened the little garden hose valve near the floor attached to the large pipe elbow, he would get clean water from the boiler. If he waited for the boiler to drain down below the elbow of the Hartford elbow above it and had the water supply off he should start draining your wet return and that water would not look very clean. If you have much old wet return piping I would almost guess that little drain valve would plug with sludge and you would think you were done.

    So it is 13* here and you guys are always colder than me, my brother in law always says so (MN bragging rights). Maybe wait for a warmer day and you could try this.....shut off the boiler, let cool down, shut off the cold water feed. Open the little drain valve we talked about, (not the one on the boiler itself). drain the boiler down, it would go below the sight glass. then whatever is in your wet return will try to drain out of the valve. As mentioned the valve may plug, but you can open the boiler feed bypass for a second and maybe blow crud out in order to get is closed again. Boiler has to be cool enough to do this, as to able to keep your hand on the pipe going into the return. This might tell you what condition the return is in.
    If you're handy you could remove the not very useful drain valve and install a nipple & full port ball valve there. There is that drain set up on the boiler itself.
    If you're really into it you could open the union above the little valve, remove the bottom half and cap it, do the same for what looks to be a dry return pipe with new copper connected to the return. Then with the boiler end sealed up and your new drain valve installed you could hit this with the water supply for say 2-3 seconds and see what comes out of the drain valve. This will back flush the wet return. There could be sludge sealing pin holes in the pipe and you may now find more leaks than you have already if any . So for now I would just see what drains out unless you have a plumber ready to replace pipe.

    Can you follow this entire pipe or is it buried somewhere in the basement?

    Whatever you do, when done and refilling boiler be sure to fire it up to boil the new water. (Should be no problem in MN)

    (Also I can't stand to see anyone cry, not even a Twins fan. ;)
    Loyd
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Thanks for all this
    Yes pipe along floor is connected to boiler
    it stretches all around the basement-never into floor itself.
    I'm pretty sure the last guy drained it how you mention and was surprised water didn't turn sludgy. (I was with him for 2 hours)
    This is the trouble...we don't know how to do capping, sealing, etc. and that's why I need someone to do it. I wish I could do this.
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Also the plumber who re-piped everything (with a great attitude) would do this work if we could hand him directions "Here do this." Is there a diagram in the Steam book or another place?
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
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    Was the new boiler properly skimmed? How much does the water level bounce around when boiler is making steam?
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Don't think it was skimmed-water isn't bouncing.
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
    edited February 2015
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    How long did the last guy leave the drain open?

    The cap on the return at the bottom of the boiler, (under the lower valve of the sight glass) can be opened for inspection, after the boiler is drained, to see if sludge has made it that far.

    You could do the first part of the drain test that involves no large tools. Maybe a pliers to get the little drain valve to open and just in case get a brass garden hose cap with washer in the event that the drain will not close 100%. Make sure the garden hose threads are usable by screwing the cap on, wire brush if needed. If you have 30 to 40' of wet return, that water has been sitting in there since day one and could be slow to return causing water back-up in rads. You should get a fair amount of water draining out of that much pipe. (gallons) If it flows readily and the bottom of the boiler is fairly clean than you may not have a partially plugged pipe.
    The water loss could be from wet return leaks that are not obvious or elsewhere.
    As far as what to tell a plumber, I think he should treat it as a plugged drain line that could be cleaned by back flushing. The cold water is already connected at the boiler end. If the risers were capped (or better yet ball valve off) then pressure could be applied and new drain valve opened to remove sludge.
    For testing if all risers could be capped and water pressure applied (not much, just maybe 5 PSI) leaks would show up.
    You would not want to blow any sludge into the boiler.
    I hope you have a floor drain!!

    All the other piping suggestions by others above may still apply.
    Also skimming is probably needed, another subject for your plumber to address if no skimming port was installed.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    The last guy opened the garden hose valve and let it drain into floor drain for at least 5 minutes maybe.

    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    How long would it drain water after the boiler water line dropped below the bottom of the sight glass? That little valve is pretty slow to drain and there is a fair amount of water in the boiler to get rid of before the lower wet return drains out. If that valve were left open it should eventually drain everything above it.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Hmm maybe I will try this draining again. But not when its -30
    Twins...meh We like football - Packers!
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    In the meantime you could look in your boiler manual for the location of the skim port. I did not see one installed on your boiler. If I understand things right it should be a pipe coming out the side of the boiler just above the water line with either a valve or cap on it. Please post your results of the drain test. That temp sounds good to hear about on the weather channel but not be in, we might touch that once every 20 years........ Thanks
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Thanks for all this great advice! I'm on it.
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Jughne- is this the skim port in this picture?

    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Doesn't look like there is a skim port on that boiler. For some reason that is often the case with Burnham boilers. The tapping, near the top, that currently has your pressure relief valve mounted on it is the best port to use for skimming.
    With the boiler shut down (power off so that it doesn't come on), take the pressure relief valve off and take the elbow off. Replace the elbow with a sort nipple and a 3/4" Tee. Remount the pressure Relief valve on the top of the Tee and put a 3/4" plug on the end of the Tee. That end can then be used whenever you want to skim.
    Loyd
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Before I tackled draining the return (which I thought was done) I called the last heating guy and he said that he had drained the boiler down and drained the return line for awhile-no sludge. I remember we were disappointed thinking that was the problem...fix.
    SO my WI heating guy said he thinks a possibitlity is to cut the return apart, on the vertical drop, above the water line to see exactly what is happening.
    The best line to do this on would be the return for the piano room.
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.
    vaporvac
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
    edited February 2015
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    He may have drained the water out of the wet return but it is possible that it partially plugged part way back.
    So if you open the wet return drain port to drain down all water of the wet return and then you cut the vertical drop open BELOW the water line it should be empty. (Cutting below the water line will let you see the condition of the worst part of the pipe) Plumber will have to add pipe union there somewhere. If he put a temporary female hose ftg on that cut wet return at the far end and added the full port ball valve at the boiler end, then took a garden hose connected to your water supply, (drain valve of water heater would work) and flushed water thru from far end to ensure that return was clear. If partially plugged, then water would back up into other (if any) vertical return drops you have. You might have to cut and cap or flush all vertical drops individually . (how many to you have connected into this wet return?)
    I see a dry return of new 3/4" copper right at the boiler, does that connect to another overhead dry return?
    With the new full port drain at the boiler flushing water should freely flow out of that and not up into the boiler or 3/4" copper dry return.
    Your plumber could also set you up the skim port. It must mention the location for that in boiler book.
    All of this may not solve all problems but if you know the returns are flowing then that card is off the table, and pursue other issues.
    Loyd
  • Loyd
    Loyd Member Posts: 29
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    Thanks and now don't roll your eyes at his one but I don't understand what a vertical drop is especially in relation to the return...what:where is he cutting?
    There's no crying in baseball, but there sure is with steam heat.