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Just bought house - Having Steam System Issues

wildrage
wildrage Member Posts: 187
Hi All:

Excuse my inexperience, but I've been searching around the net, and can't find quite the answer I'm looking for.

I closed on a 6,000 Sq ft house last week. It has 2 furnaces - both a natural gas forced air system, and natural gas steam system. The first floor's room has a combo of forced air and steam heatin (never 2 in the same room), second floor also has a combo, and 3rd floor is strictly steam. There are 2 thermostats - 1 for each heating system. Seems to be a wire also connecting one to the other.

Temperature has been pretty mild here in PA (lows in the 50's - my thermostats are typically set to 60), I think that may be an issue - will come back to this later.

Forced air system works fine - won't speak any more of it.

Steam radiator fires, all radiators on 1st floor heat, and all but 1 radiator on 2nd floor heats (at the end of the line), NO radiators on 3rd floor heat. Seems like steam is only getting to 2/3 of the house. I also hear banging on one of the radiators towards the end of the line on the 2nd floor - going to explore pitch and venting soon.

Absolutely zero heat to radiators on 3rd floor - completely stone cold. The 3rd floor is vacant, but I am a bit worried about pipes freezing in extreme cold.

Any idea on where to start? So far I checked water level on the viewing tube and everything is fine. I have a few hypothesis, if I can get your feedback:

1. It simply isn't cold enough for the furnace to be on long enough to make enough steam to get to the 3rd floor. This may be a ridiculous assertion, but for some reason it makes sense to me.
2. The forced air system may be 'beating' the steam system - even though both systems turn on, the forced air warms faster, and doesn't give the steam enough time to rise to the 3rd floor.
3. Air in the system - I don't know a lot about this, but I've read that it may need to be purged. Not sure if the above fact pattern supports this.

Sorry for writing a novel here - but I'd really appreciate your feedback.

Jim

Comments

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,732
    Sounds like a balancing/air venting issue. What area of PA are you in? We might know someone who can help you out.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    Thanks for your help guys. I live in Northeast PA, about 25 miles north of Reading.

    The house I bought is pretty interesting. There are some ornate radiators that are over 5 feet long, but most are 2 foot by 4 foot short stubby ones. There are 3 on the first floor (including the massive 5-6' one, 4 not he 2nd floor, and 4 or 5 on the 3rd floor.

    One quick question - before I replace all of the vents, would testing the theory by replacing just the vent on the 2nd floor radiator that isn't working work?....or would I need to replace them all at the same time?

    Also, the vents on all the radiators seem to be this style - any idea what they area?


    vent.jpg 320.6K
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    edited November 2015
    I would improve the main venting, before changing the rad vents.
    These systems need zero back pressure for the air to escape the main supply pipes, so as to avoid the closer rads getting steam before the farther ones.
    A good rule of thumb is one Gorton #2 for each 20 foot segment of the supply pipes.
    The important thing to consider here is NOT the time it takes for the air to escape, but rather the resistance, measured by the back pressure in fractions of an ounce.
    As close to zero back pressure will fill all the mains, before any steam begins to travel upstairs, resulting in simultaneous steam arrival.--NBC
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,732
    wildrage said:



    Also, the vents on all the radiators seem to be this style - any idea what they area?


    Those are old Warco adjustable vents- a true blast from the past.

    Are there air vents at the ends of your steam mains?

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    Just looked for air vents on steam mains - appears not. I did see something that said it was a condensation pump or something, but not sure if related to the steam system. By estimate, 25ft of pipe come out of the system, then in branches off, and another 50 feet of pipe loop back towards the boiler, and to the other side of the house before heading up through the ceiling. On the other side, it goes another 25 feet or so before heading up. Along the way, at a one juncture, I see a small pipe coming out of the steam pipe and heading back. I'm going to take a video in a bit of the system. Here's an example of one of the massive radiators on the 1st-2nd floor stair case that is working very well...


  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    I posted a video of the system. That return pipe definitely goes down through the floor in that that condensation system. Not sure if that matters. Branch off at around .30, pipe out to condensation system at around 1:10. Please excuse the washer machine noise in the background :(.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=sKUcTy3LmnA
  • wildrage
    wildrage Member Posts: 187
    Thanks for all your help!