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Single Pipe Steam that mostly works! - But I'm here aren't I?

y2kc0wb0y
y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
edited November 2015 in Strictly Steam
Our Steam System
1925 Federal Row house with 98% original 1 pipe steam system. 2 story with basement.
Gas Weil McLain boiler probably about 10 years new.
Honeywell cut in valve .5 cut in and 1.5 off? (I choose the default suggestions on this site...but cannot exactly remember the numbers)
McDonnell Low Water cut off.
Unknown main valve (see picture)
5 radiators that have had paint on them at some point.
Air Valves are Hoffman #40 sans 1 which is #11

Our Issues
Radiator with longest run (second story) from boiler (basement) does not heat under normal conditions at all.
Mild banging from one (first floor) radiator that heats up the best of all of them.
Have to drain water from boiler a lot. maybe once a week a full bucket.
System heat is not balanced between 1st and 2nd floor.

What we have done so far.
In testing. A large (5 deg or better) thermostat jump in temperature WILL heat the problem radiator some.
In testing. Turning all valves off will also heat the problem radiator too.
Radiators have been tilted to allow water to drain back towards the valves
All valves are set fully open
Replaced one valve with aftermarket on main floor (that was fun) as it wouldn't close.
All air valves have been replaced with #40's sans the #11 which works very well
Drained all water from boiler before the season started multiple times to flush boiler out as well as I could.
Removed and cleaned sight glass
Remove and cleaned both top and bottom sight valves.
Replaced original steam piping to upstairs (second story) radiator during our home remodel and re-positioned radiator for a direct line of sight drop from valve to return line in basement.

Questions we have.
Do I have the wrong air valves? Guessing here.
Do you think the valve on the problem radiator is bad?
Should I adjust pestol (sp) cut out? to get a longer burn cycle??
How is the best way to go about balancing this system out between floors? For the most part the system works good except for our master bedroom. There is a noticeable difference between upstairs and down stairs in temperature that I could live with if we could get the one dead radiator to work.
Move the thermostat?
Flooding the boiler? The pipe from the boiler UP to the original sub-floor piping is cooper? Issue?
RE: Banging radiator, should I continue to add more tilt shims to the radiator that is banging to sort? Is there a point where the tilt is too extreme that its adding stress lower pipes? Should I pull it and flush or replace?

ANY help is greatly appreciated to get over the hump.
Scott

Comments

  • So many pixturesx1000 words, so it's difficult to see all of your problems. The Hoffman #40's are good, but the unknown main vent, which I could not see may be terribly undersized, so measure the length&diameter of your main supply pipes and post that here, so we can advise how many Gorton#2's you may need, for proper venting.
    Tell us what sort of thermostat you have, so we can advise whether it can be set to steam operation, or needs to be changed.
    The Honeywell cut in valve is known as a pressuretrol, a device of somewhat dubious quality, and accuracy, better left to weigh down papers on a desk, next to an open window in a hurricane. A vaporstat is better, coupled with a low pressure gauge (0-36 ounces/squ. Inch).--NBC
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,396
    That main air vent looks like a hoffman 75 that has seen better days. I agree you probably need a bigger vent there and might need more than one.

    If the boiler is flooding it usually is a pinhole in the domestic hot water coil (if you have one) or the seat on the automatic fill valve is weeping by.

    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
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    edited November 2015
    Bob knows!...Hoffmann #75 it is...FYI: It hasn't done this in a while but water used to flood this valve randomly.....Attached another picture. Seem the flooding is better now that I spent some time bleeding down the system a couple of times. I only had to remove about half a bucket this week. NBC I'll get the measurements for the main run this evening.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,398
    I agree with what has been said, you HAVE to get the main venting correct first before you even think about radiator vents. Measure the length and diameter of your main and we can advise on that. Is that a condensate return line that you have all that "stuff" hanging on? I would strongly encourage you to take that stuff down, those aren't hanging rods they are a mechanical system (would you pile trash on your car engine?). Over time that can cause sagging in the pipes which can cause issues. I want to also clarify, why are you removing water from the boiler? Is it overfilling? If so as Bob said you have another issue and you want to address that ASAP. Fresh water rots boilers so you want to add as little as you possibly can. If it's over filling on it's own (this is the evil of autofills) there are several possibilities. You could have a leaky valve that is feeding when it shouldn't, the domestic coil is leaking (if you have one), you have bad piping that is causing excessive surging and sucking the water out of the boiler or oils in the water are causing excessive surging. Could also be a combination of all of them. Please clarify your water removal. I also suggest posting some pictures of the piping coming out of the boiler a couple overall shots showing everything would be good. You mentioned copper pipes, but I am a bit unclear as to where specifically you are talking about. As a rule any steam carrying pipe shouldn't be copper.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    In addition to what has been said, You have set the Pressuretrol correctly .5 PSI cut-in, with a 1 PSI differential for a cut-out of 1.5 PSI, however I can't see how the pressuretrol and gauge are attached to the boiler. They should be mounted on a piugtail (a looped 1/4" pipe) That pipe protects the Pressuretrol and gauge from steam, however that pipe can, and often does get clogged. It needs to be taken off and cleaned out once a year or so. Sometimes you can take the Pressuretrol off the top of the pipe and blow into the pipe to clear it but actually taking the pipe off and washing it out is best. If that pipe is clogged, it will allow your boiler to build pressur well beyond what the Pressuretrol is set at. That added pressure can build to a point that it prevents water from returning to the boiler until the boiler ends its heating cycle. That can cause both some level of banging and it can also create a low water level in the boiler that causes the auto water feeder to add water to the boiler. Then, guess what? When the heating cycle is complete and the water that is out in the system returns, the boiler is flooded. Check that pipe, add more main vents (I use the Hoffman 75's too but I have multiple ones one an antler for each main. They are very reliable but it takes 2 of them to equal one Gorton #2, if you have the headroom for a Gorton #2, that's the way to go) How many you need depends on the length and diameter of your mains, as others have said.
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Steam Boiler Main Line Measurements
    32' 7" @ 2.25 inch steel pipe
    from boiler supply line.
    25' towards the back of the house and 7'7" towards the front.

    Lookes like 2" or 1"3/4 pipe for the rest of the runs except for the last run to the troubled radiator which is 1.5"
    That Hoffman #75 is the only vent and it's directly off the drain line at the 90deg before it drops back to the bottom of boiler water feed line.

    Gorton #2 is about HOW big? I can probably fit one in the same location if that location works...otherwise probably need to hire someone to place them as I don't have pipe wrenches big enough to manipulate that main line.

    Removed the stuff hanging from the drain line as requested.
    I see the Pressuretrol pipe. I will remove and clean as requested.
    Steamline up from Boiler to main line tee is definitley cooper.

  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    edited November 2015
    Fred! I'm guessing you saw this one coming.
    Totally clogged with black cloth like tarsand. No real smell but dark.
    Took a couple of minutes to flush this out. Got in trouble for cleaning in the bathroom sink... VERY encouraging progress though.
    I don't see any signs this was off before as the pressuretrol slightly rubs the boiler cover when removing. Will definitely add this to the maintenance list.
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Thermostat is a Honeywell too.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    edited November 2015
    y2kc0wb0y said:

    Fred! I'm guessing you saw this one coming.
    Totally clogged with black cloth like tarsand. No real smell but dark.
    Took a couple of minutes to flush this out. Got in trouble for cleaning in the bathroom sink... VERY encouraging progress though.
    I don't see any signs this was off before as the pressuretrol slightly rubs the boiler cover when removing. Will definitely add this to the maintenance list.

    I'm betting you will see some improvement in the way the boiler runs (during a longer heat cycle), just from that but the biggest improvement will come from putting a Gorton #2 on that 25' main, where the Hoffman 75 is now. The Gorton #2 is about 7" high. If you don't have the headroom, you can build an antler out of some black iron nipples and Tees and mount about 4 Gorton #1's on the antler. If that Hoffman 75 is still functioning (it looks like it probably may be clogged or stuck open) it could go on the 7' section of Main, otherwise put at least 1 Gorton #1 on that short Main.

    EDIT: I hate to say it (put we say it a LOT), that boiler is plumbed all wrong. It doesn't have a Header, the riser goes straight up (in a round about way) to the Main. If you have the owner's manual for the boiler, take a look at the pictures to see how it should have been piped. If you don't have the manual, you can google the model # and download a copy. Can't see if you have a Hartford loop on there (I'm hoping that is not suppose to be the Hartford loop that is about a foot above your boiler tied into that riser???) or not or how your wet returns tie back into the boiler.
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Fred - Thanks for allowing me to be yet another cliche'. I found the manual and after review assume we're dealing with a counterflow steam piping which means the boiler feed should drop into the main line from the top. If that is correct, then I agree my system is wrong which probably means the system is draining the front side of the house directly into the top of the boiler. That cannot be good... I think I can handle getting it plumbed correctly. The hartford loop is WAY up there and my wife remembers been told by tech that it was wrong. So it seems we have some work to get this system optimized.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    I hope I didn't offend you. Just wanted you to know that a good part of your issue is the near boiler piping. There should still be a Header above that boiler as well. The Riser(s) out of the boiler should tie into the header, then the Main(s) should come off the top of the header (if you have two mains, each should tie individually into the header and then your equalizer should come off the end of the header (opposite end from the boiler riser(s)) and the Hartford loop should tie into the equalizer a couple inches below the normal water line of the boiler (Normal water line is the normal water level when the boiler is not running). If it is Counter flow, the mains should be at their lowest point at the boiler and pitch upward from there. Just follow the installation instructions in the manual and you should be good.
    y2kc0wb0y
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    edited November 2015
    Fred said:

    I hope I didn't offend you. Just wanted you to know that a good part of your issue is the near boiler piping. There should still be a Header above that boiler as well. The Riser(s) out of the boiler should tie into the header, then the Main(s) should come off the top of the header (if you have two mains, each should tie individually into the header and then your equalizer should come off the end of the header (opposite end from the boiler riser(s)) and the Hartford loop should tie into the equalizer a couple inches below the normal water line of the boiler (Normal water line is the normal water level when the boiler is not running). If it is Counter flow, the mains should be at their lowest point at the boiler and pitch upward from there. Just follow the installation instructions in the manual and you should be good.

    Fred, absolutely not offended...just trying to be funny. I'm grateful for your time...truly.
    RE: headers, risers etc... you lost me but that's not really hard. I do well with crayons and pictures. :smile: We have one main pipe that basically runs the length of the house. The main pipe ties the front of the house and the back of the house and equals 32' 7" which the boiler feed ties directly into. Based on the attached manual EG-40 I thought it was simply a matter of having the steam feed dump into the main from the top. Seems there is more to it then that based on what you said not include the hartford loop. I'm just guessing it's counter flow but it seems since the return is at the end of the main at the back of the house...the "pipe" I had all the stuff hanging on makes me wonder. I can order and install the Gorton #2 in the original vent location but Gorton #1 on the front side of the house presents a challenge I'm probably not equipped for. Does anyone one have a professional recommendation for the Washington DC area that knows what's going on?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,398
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    y2kc0wb0y
  • vr608
    vr608 Member Posts: 144
    edited November 2015
    I found this site very helpful (in addition to our wonderful site) with respect to pictures explaining the different parts of a steam boiler:

    http://www.comfort-calc.net/steam_Piping.cfm

    A word of caution: once you have an interest in this stuff, you will not be able to 'unsee' it, and you'll begin to start finding things that are wrong in your installation!
    Peerless 63-03, 118,000 BTU (308 sqft), single-pipe steam system connected to 286 EDR of radiation, 30ft of baseboard and indirect DHW
    3PSI gauge
    y2kc0wb0ymisterheat
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    KC_Jones said:
    Thx, we reached out to Dan.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    If the return is at the end of the Main, most likely it is a Parallel flow (water runs in the same direction as the steam, to the end of the main and then drops down into a wet return) You only have one Main now but you probably should have two, one being fairly short. If you look at your main, near the boiler, you will see a Bull Headed Tee (where the boiler riser connects) A Bull headed Tee is where the steam hits the back wall of the Tee and bounces back, slowing the flow of the steam. That Tee should be taken out and both ends of the Main should tie into the Header (you actually don't have a Header the way it is currently configured). Also, in a parallel flow system, the Mains are at their highest point at the boiler and pitch slightly downward as it moves around the basement. If you contacted Dan, he will discuss all of this with you! Best of luck getting things squared away. If you thought the boiler was heating pretty well now, wait till it is piped and vented correctly!
    y2kc0wb0y
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Fred et al, just wanted to say thanks for the quick help. Today the water has stayed pretty even on the sight glass with just the little bit of work recommended so far. I'm looking forward to having this sorted so we can finish the basement out....I'll post back with details from Dan as we get them.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    Keep us posted!
    y2kc0wb0y
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Touched base with Dan and we've set an appointment. I purchased a Gorton #2 to replace the Hoff#75 and low range pressure gauge as recommended; however, we snapped the connecting pipe to the Hoff#75 straight off in the adjoining fitting. I'm currently soaking and hope to EZ-OUT. Weeeee..
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,456
    Caution on getting penetrating oil into your steam main. Others have done that and found out that a little oil goes a long way in producing foaming etc in the boiler and requires additional time consuming skimming to be done.
    y2kc0wb0y
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Noted. Kinda figured that introducing that would be a problem.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    If you can't get it out, at least it looks like you've got a couple elbows that you can work with.
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Feels like we achieved HERO status today. No go with the EZ-OUT; ended up cutting the broken piece with hacksaw blade in a couple of spots and it practically fell out after that. Purchased a tap to clean up the threads and then cleaned the inside of the fitting with a rag to mop up the penetrating oil run off and the crap that came off the tap. Gorton #2 installed! Low pressure gauge installed!

    Noticed two things on first boil.
    1. I heard a lot of water running back to the return once the steam started cutting in. Water level was high as well after sitting for a few days.
    2. The low PSI gauge I installed barely moved off the peg during the first full cycle. We may have gotten to .1 tops

    Should I be concerned with the water returning during boil? Does this mean we have sagging in the pipes/radiators still?
    Should I crank up the cut in on the Pressuretrol so we see .5 cut in? Or should we pitch the Pressuretrol and get Vaporstat?

    Thanks again...Dan and crew will be here on Dec 4th.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,396
    if your not building any pressure a vaporstat is probably a waste of money.

    Is the water line in the sight glass steady, if oils got into the system you may have to skim the boiler.

    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
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Partially plugged wet return?
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Low PSI gauge
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    The Pressuretrol should be set at .5PSI cut-in with a 1PSI differential (white wheel on the inside set at "1". It sounds like your operating pressure is excellent. The pressuretrol should only function if the boiler were to get to 1.5PSI. It would then shut the burner off and wait until the pressure drops to .5PSI before it allows the burner to kick back on. That should only happen on really long runs and if the boiler is properly sized to the toatl radiator EDR, it may never happen. The Pressuretrol is reall meant to be a safety device to limit pressure. You may end up having to skim the boiler if any of the penetrating oil got into the system but it is what it is. If you don't have any banging and you checked the pitch of everything, I wouldn't worry about the water you heard if it was in a wet return. They are always filled with water (up to the Normal water level of the boiler) and it just may have been air pushing against that water, on initial steam generation. Lower the water level to where it should be, in the boiler. After sitting for a few days, there is always a little residual condensate that slowly works its way back to the boiler. Another indication that pitch is probably OK.
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Fred thanks for closing the loop on all the common questions regarding the operation of these 1 pipe steam systems. Really has cleared up a lot of the questions I didn't have enough knowledge to search ON. RE: Possible boiler skimming - is there something I should be on the look out for regarding system contamination? Or should I just go ahead and flush it out?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    If you think it needs to be flushed out, you can go ahead and do that, just make sure the water temp is cool enouhg that you don't scald yourself. I would watch the boiler for the next few days. If you got any oil in the system, you will see the water in the sight glass start to bounce pretty violently. If it bounces more than 1/2" to 3/4" it needs to be skimmed. Skimming has to be done from a skim port located at or above the water line, not from the bottom drain valve. You want to remove the oils that are floating on the surface of the water and that means a very, very slow "Skim" off of the top of the water. When skimming, the flow of water out of the boiler should be no greater than the diameter of a pencil, even smaller is better. It should take about an hour to fill a 5 gallon bucket. I usually skim two to three 5 Gallon buckets worth, so it takes a little time. The idea is not to create any turbulance on the surface so that the oils flow right out of the skim port.
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Ok; I think I see the skim port as a BIG square plug on the side next to the gauge above the water line. We're smelling the oil around the house so I'll make sure this gets done.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    That would be the location.
  • y2kc0wb0y
    y2kc0wb0y Member Posts: 21
    Wanted to follow up after Foley's team came. They completely re-worked the near boiler piping. It was definitely wrong from what I have learned now. Cooper pipe riser from the boiler to the main. That's all been replaced with black pipe and sim port valve added.

    The auto-feeder was shot/leaking. Water level has been fine since we by-passed it. Holding great with just manually adjusting.

    We had a lot of dirt in the system (cake anyone?) - which I've come to learn is really the main problem to address when going for a quiet system. The wet return did not have a drain port so it had years of build up. All of that was cut out and replaced.

    The air vents were super dirty/clogged and had to be cleaned. Basically the entire system needed to be addressed.

    So much better now and I've learned a ton about these fairly simple systems. Ultimately I'm glad to have invested in restoring the system and appreciate all the help offered here.
    KC_JonesNew England SteamWorks