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Replace Near Boiler Piping

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Edubs
Edubs Member Posts: 3
I moved into my home about a year ago, and just finished reading "We got steam heat", and of course there is copper piping in the near boiler risers. Since its already there, and the system works pretty well is it worth replacing to preserve the boiler and the rest of the system, or should I just let it be?

First winter went reasonably well. Some very occasional water hammer. More often some tapping noise from the steam system, and the third floor seems to heat slowly.

I have a two pipe steam system with vaporstat controller. Set to 2 lbs pressures less 8 ozs (cut in is high per the book).

The boiler is about 12 years old, weil mclane. There are various issues I want to address - this summer - check that the main air vent is ok (it looks pretty old), make sure steam traps on radiators work, get temperature averaging thermostats/ move thermostat (its currently in the warmest room and shares a wall with the kitchen which is on a separate hot water heat system). Since everything is in good working order, its really about maintaining the system.

Let me know if pictures are useful. Thanks!

Comments

  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
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    Pictures, please :)
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,578
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    While there are still chilly nights enough to run the boiler, check the radiator traps, as well as crossover traps for correct operation. If a dry return is steam hot, then that is a sign of trap problems. Replacing the innards of the trap is usually easier than replacing the trap.
    The copper is undesirable, but can be lived with for a while, as you make sure the steam distribution, and air removal systems are functioning properly.
    When you take pictures, tell us the makers name on the traps, and any other part of the return system.
    These systems can be absolutely silent, with even distribution, so you have improvements, and economies to look forward to.
    Your goal should be to have the system run on 2 ounces of pressure, verified by a good low-pressure gauge.--NBC
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,767
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    I agree, we need pictures.

    Occasional hammering is unacceptable and should never happen. Are you sure it's hammering and not just pipes rubbing against wood or metal hangers? It seems people often mistake that popping sound as the system heats or cools as hammering.

    What do you have as far as venting?

    2 pounds is a lot, especially if your third floor is having trouble heating. I get heat to every radiator in the house with as little as 0.25" w.c. which is 0.01 PSI.

    Get us some good pictures of all of the piping around the boiler as well as some of the steam mains if possible and let us know what vents are on all of the radiators and the radiator sizes. Length of piping to each radiator can also be important.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Edubs
    Edubs Member Posts: 3
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    Hi All,
    Thanks for the helpful feedback already. Please find attached a number of pictures.

    One follow up questions - How do I check if radiator steam traps are working. Is touch testing (radiator is hot, dry return warm) enough to indicate it is working?

    I think the suggestion that the "water hammer" is actually pipes rubbing against wood / hangars is likely. It can be loud at time, but isn't that pinging sound I've heard in the condo.

    We have two types of radiators - the traditional 3 and five column ones, and the "flat radiators". Traditional radiators have supply valves and steam traps labeled "HSco" and "Hoffman Supply Co" (presumably the same company). I don't want to force them but supply valves appear stuck.

    Besides the steam traps on the radiators, I can only see the air vent on the main return and there is that black bock labeled hoffman differential lock. I don't see any vents or plugs on the header.

    [You'll notice in the pictures attached we got a triangle tube hot water heat boiler this winter when the old boiler failed. It heats a sun room, the kitchen and family room, as well as a new indirect hot water heater. Installation is very tight to steam boiler - its a small room. Part of the appeal on on the condensing hot water heater was the venting. Our chimney liner, though double walled, was a bit small for all the BTUs venting into it ( previously hot water boiler, gas hot water heater), and there was concern about drawing enough supply air coming in the finished basement. but this is about steam - enough on the hot water boiler :)].
  • Edubs
    Edubs Member Posts: 3
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    picture of "traditional radiator" steam trap
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
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    I see a very familiar contractor sticker on the boiler (sends shivers down my spine). That means that I service your area! I'd be happy to take a look at the system and offer our services and recommendations. There is a whole lot you can do to make that system extremely comfortable and efficient.
    RobG
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,479
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    The piping looks very suspect and the pressure should be a LOT lower.If it were my system I would take @JStar up on his offer. You won't find anyone 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
    RobG
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,741
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    JStar said:

    I see a very familiar contractor sticker on the boiler (sends shivers down my spine). That means that I service your area! I'd be happy to take a look at the system and offer our services and recommendations. There is a whole lot you can do to make that system extremely comfortable and efficient.

    I would take that offer in a heartbeat if I was you.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    RobG
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,767
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    @JStar knows his stuff, highly recommended.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    RobG
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,419
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    That is a Hoffman equipped system -- and it looks as though you may be in luck. The Differential Loop is still there, and still piped properly. Can't say the same for the rest of the boiler piping, but JStar will get that straight for you in no time.

    The Hoffman equipped system has the potential to be one of the very best and simplest vapour systems. However -- you have to treat it right. For starters, it must never be run at more than 8 to 12 ounces pressure. Anything over that, and it will not work properly, if it works at all. If you really have a vapourstat (set at 2 pounds is high for a vapourstat, unless it is the somewhat odd 4 pound variety) start by setting it to a 10 ounce cutout with a differential of 6 ounces. That, all by its self, should improve your heat significantly -- and probably save a good bit on fuel in the process. And costs nothing but a few minutes with a screwdriver.

    Next, make sure that the crossover traps, which you will find at the ends of the mains connected from the main to the dry return, are working. The pipe leading to them from the main should be steam hot -- you can't hold your had to it -- but the pipe from the trap to the dry return should be no more than warm to hot, and significantly cooler than the steam main. If they are not working -- either failed open or closed -- replace the innards. JStar can do that for you.

    Then go on to the radiator traps, ditto.

    You may want to add (NOT, repeat NOT) a Gorton #2 where the green vent is connected to the dry return above the differential loop. I say again: do NOT remove that vent, unless it is failed -- and if it is failed, replace it with a Hoffman 75 or 76. Make an antler and add the Gorton #2 to the antler along with that vent.

    Do NOT add any other vents anywhere else on the system, no matter what anyone says. The Hoffman system is designed to operate without them, and will not operate properly if they are there.

    The radiator valves may be stuck. Don't mess with them until you are sure all the traps are working properly. It is possible that they were set correctly when the system was installed, and about the last thing you want to do is mess that up.

    Treat it right, and you will have one of the best and most efficient steam systems ever built. Treat it wrong, and she'll bite you.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    JStarSWEI
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
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    That is what a boiler with a Hoffman should look like is piped properly. I installed this one in Milton, MA
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    KC_JonesJUGHNETinman