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Vacuum

Hi all any help would be greatly appreciated,
I moved into a 1900 home a year ago- I hired a GC before I got there to put in a new boiler he hired some lousy plumber who replaced my very old system with a new Peerless steam boiler. I was having some issues so I did some research and realized I had before Vacuum system.
(I have two pipe radiators with valves that say vacuum on them)
My question is are they interchangeable?
I see the guy installed it without a Hartford loop- is that needed?
Do any of the traps on the radiators need to generally be replaced as well as these vacuum valves?
I know the air release coming out of the "separator" is broken, I assume that is a standard part that can just be replaced?

What else am I missing? – wondering if I should get the GC to redo it, and put in equalizing line and Hartford Loop and...
I will attach pics of the new system as well some pictures that I found of the old one-



«13

Comments

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    edited November 2015
    Wow, no Header, no equalizer, no Hartford loop, no skim port, feed water dumping into the boiler near the top. My first suggestion to you is to look at the owner's/installation manual and make the contractor install it to those minimum specifications. There are drawings in that manual. Your need a proper horizontal header with the boiler riser going into one end of the header, the riser, to the main tied into the header and an equalizer tied into the other end of the header. The return condensate pipe should drop to the floor and then come back up (Hartford loop) and tie into thhe equalizer a couple inches below the normal water line, in the boiler. The header should pitch slightly towards the equalizer so that any water carried up with the steam can drop out and run back down the equalizer. The water supply should tie into the return pipe before it enters the boiler. Where the water feed is tied into the boiler is where the Skim port should be. A skim port must be installed so you can skim the boiler and rid it of all the oils from the new boiler and piping. Clearly they didn't even skim it for you. Once the boiler is installed correctly, then we can start to try and address any vacuum issues.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,424
    Oh brother...

    The only real blessing that I see is that you don't seem to have wet returns, so the fact that the new boiler sits about two feet too low may not give you trouble.

    Otherwise... as Fred says... oy.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    The only positive I see is that the single riser is full size of the boiler tap.....and that was an accident because the original riser was that size up to the flange and that coupling and nipple was cheaper than a bushing and then an increaser coupling.

    Other wise it is a disaster. An IMPORTANT item is if there is a Pressure Relief Valve on the other side of boiler that we don't see. Send a picture of it please and we will all feel a touch of relief. As far as the installation, it is time for the Torches and Pitchforks!! :s (even the soldering on the copper cold water tells anyone this is a hack job IMHO)

    Otherwise, how does it work/heat? The installation manual is probably still in it's bag somewhere in the basement or was thrown away. You can download one using the model number.
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    WOW,

    You guys are fast! The GC is sending the guy back, regardless he is being helpful, and said he'll get it fixed. So I want to make sure it is fixed correctly. Here is the picture of the other side ( there is a small return there as well) the manual is attached as well.

    ( the house is getting warm - the first floor is good the second floors less and the attic not at all, I think that's because the air valve is broken) there some small banging but I think that's notmal. The flush on the side (yellow handle I think is to clean out the oil and crap that you were talking about) no one told me I should be dischrging it every two weeks :-(

    Thanks again!!!!
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    That wet return on the back side and the return on the front side should all be tied together, just before they tie to the Hartford loop (that is missing). No Banging is "Normal" When done correctly, the system should be so quiet, you don't know when it's running and when it's not. Also, that yellow handle is to blow down the Low Water Cut-off, once every week or two to get the crud out of it but that does not serve as a skim port. The skim port must be above the water line to allow you to "skim" any oil off the surface of the water when the new boiler has operated for a week or two and when any pipiing work is done, now and going forward. Again, you need to make sure you understand the pictures in the manual so you can make sure the installer plumbs it correctly, if you want the boiler to operate properly and effeciently AND, you want the warranty the boiler comes with. If done incorrectly, the manufacturer will likely blame any failure on the fact the boiler was not properly installed.
  • FranklinD
    FranklinD Member Posts: 399
    I'm just a homeowner, and not a steam guy (though I love seeing them), but wow, I have to ask...did they drop that poor boiler down the stairs? Yikes.
    Ford Master Technician, "Tinkerer of Terror"
    Police & Fire Equipment Lead Mechanic, NW WI
    Lover of Old Homes & Gravity Hot Water Systems
    RomanGK_26986764589
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    One other thing, That pipe on your Pressure Relief Valve, that drops to the floor should be either PVC or Copper, by most municipal codes
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,380
    Their piping diagram leaves a bit to much to the installers imagination.



    Note that image shows a wye on the hartford loop, most just use a close nipple in that location and that is fine. That image also shows both boiler tappings being used and while that is desirable it's not strictly requried on a small boiler. The header should be a minimum of 24" above the water line.

    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
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    @FranklinD

    Yes they did, they slid it down the stair case- I wasn't happy about it but they said it's only cosmetic, let's hope :-).
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    samfiller said:

    @FranklinD



    Yes they did, they slid it down the stair case- I wasn't happy about it but they said it's only cosmetic, let's hope :-).

    Make them order new panels and install them! That is just crazy.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    edited November 2015
    Yes you have a pressure relief valve, however it needs to piped on the top of a 90 ell as in the book.
    The book also points out:
    A skim port with valve, Very important for cleaning the top of the water in the boiler.
    Riser size (1 or 2 depending upon boiler size)
    Swing 90 elbows
    Header size
    Equalizer size with correct fittings dropping down to the tee of
    Hartford loop. Usually both return pipes drop into wet return at floor then go up to Hartford Loop.
    Cleanouts for the wet return portion on the floor.

    And you should not/don't want/need the check valve in the return we see on the right side.

    Cold water fill should connect into the return well below the water line.
    And anything else Fred said that I did not repeat.

    How many return pipes do you have, we see 2 going into the air separator with the air vent on top. But then there is another coming into the left side of the boiler? Does that pipe come out of the floor?
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    @JUGHNE

    That "return" on the left is interesting, one of the feeds to the house actually has an output down then around the whole basement into there. I am thinking it's to heat the basement a little?

    I have attached picture.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    It looks like a typical dry return off the end of the Main that drops down and becomes a wet return. May circle the perimeter of the basement to get back to the boiler without crossing the floor in the middle of the basement.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,354
    samfiller said:

    @FranklinD



    Yes they did, they slid it down the stair case- I wasn't happy about it but they said it's only cosmetic, let's hope :-).

    They are right, but you know what else it shows? A compete lack of pride in their work and the sign of a hack. Would you accept a new car with dents? I am "just a homeowner" and installed my own boiler and mine doesn't look like that. I slide mine down, but didn't do it on the sheet metal casing. Takes about 10 minutes to take all that off. I am with Fred MAKE them order new panels on their dime, contractors like that need to learn lessons and the best lessons hit their bottom line.
    samfiller said:

    WOW,



    there some small banging but I think that's notmal.



    Thanks again!!!!

    If you meant to say normal there, you are wrong. Banging in a steam system is a cry for help. It should be silent when it's running and everything is correct.

    Please be clear with them when they come back, if you haven't gathered from the previous posts pretty much everything is wrong. There really isn't a way to "fix" what's there they need to start over.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    edited November 2015
    That is a wet return for that section of steam main. For some reason it is not over head, possibly because of head room. The drop for that looks to be a fairly recent pipe. Wet return are notorious for being plugged and often leak below the concrete where you cannot see them. (the concrete quickens their death).

    The tee with the riser nipple and cap probably had an air vent on it that leaked and someone "fixed" it with a cap. You need to add a Gorton #2 air vent there. Maybe more than one. You must be vigilant for losing water in that buried pipe, it will hasten the death of your new boiler.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    I would suggest for you to go to the "Store" and purchase the book "The Lost Art of Steam Heating" and maybe "A pocket of steam problems (with solutions). It seems there might not be anyone around that is tuned into steam and you should educate yourself. Where are you located?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    @JUGHNE , This is a vacuum system. That Tee with a nipple on it is probably where a radiator was removed. The only vent looks to be at that Seperator but you know these systems better than I.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,354
    I took a closer look at the pictures and the pressurtrol is set massively too high, appears to be about halfway up the scale. If this is a vapor/vacuum system you really should have a vaporstat and keep the system down in ounces not pounds. Even so the pressuretrol you have should basically be set as low as it can go. Also the water feeder isn't piped correctly. They put the bypass in, but didn't valve it correctly so you don't have a manual feed which means you also can't skim. It is supposed to have 3 valves and unions....actually just get the manual and look at the picture. It amazes me that a professional can't even follow a simple picture. Also I wouldn't be surprised if these guys give you the run around about information on the net and "I've been doing this for X amount of years". We have seen it a ton on this site. You should be stern, but fair and allow them to fix the mistakes. If they give you the run around you can inform them that the owner of this site has literally written the books on steam heat. Sorry I just get tired of seeing a fellow homeowner go through things like this. Here is a link to the manual for the feeder, I can understand them missing the piping diagram it's on page ONE.
    http://www.hydrolevel.com/new/pages/pdf_files/ModelVXT24Instructions.pdf
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    edited November 2015
    Fred, no I am not really familiar with vacuum systems, but how does one get rid of the air for that section if it has a wet return?
    I would guess this is a 2 pipe without vents on rads. Unless it is some form of hybrid. Without seeing the whole system it is hard to tell what this is. IMHO

    Edit: as I look closer there is a dry return right there so this could be the end of main steam drip?? But right now there are bigger fish to fry with the NBP.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,873
    WOW look at what they did to the back (side?) of that boiler!!!!!!!!!

    The totally wrong piping aside, a professional should know better than this. I'd want all damaged pieces replaced on his dime. Others have seen me complain on here when guys lay fittings on top of a boiler without a piece of cardboard or something, forget about dents!

    New panels and correct piping are a must.
    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
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    Give them a break, I don't think they slid it down the stairs, they rolled it! :/
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    @KC_Jones

    When you say pressurtrol I assume that's the PSI device (grey square with screw)? Also what makes something a Vacuum system? I understand originally it was "Vacuum", but is it still?

    I guess my question is Is vacuum a way to pipe a steam system? So the actual boiler is the same regardless if it's steam or Vacuum it just depends on how the heat will enter the radiators - steam=PSI, vacuum=lower PSI as its "vacuumed" through the system?

    Thanks!
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,354
    On the most basic level a vacuum system gets the air out of the pipes when the steam moves into them (through vents). Once the air is out and the pipes are full of steam the vent does not open back up, but seals. The condensing steam (1700:1 ratio between steam and water) creates a vacuum in the system to the point that it can drop the boiling point in the boiler and you continue to heat the house with the burner OFF. @vaporvac has one in her house and knows a lot more about it than I do as do most of the pros around here. As far as boiler piping for the most part it's pretty much the same on all systems, there can be subtle differences in the system piping, but as far as the near boiler piping it's the same. The system piping and vents are what make it vacuum or not. Either way even if you don't have vacuum, you say you have 2 pipe. What you could do is take pictures of radiator valves, and any specialty equipment in the basement and post them here. The experts would be looking for some brand name on this equipment which can determine what type of 2 pipe system you have. There may even be some information on this site about your system already. Oh and yes the pressuretrol is the grey box. It should ALWAYS be set as low as you can on the outside and if you open the cover the inside white wheel should be set to 1. Anyone that tells you different doesn't know what they are talking about.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    Thanks for the explanation :-)

    Here is a picture of the valve on one of the radiators.
    As well as the trap.
  • The key to efficient steam distribution is in getting the air out of the pipes as steam is being made in the boiler, and rising through the pipes. This is the purpose of the main, and radiator vents. Suppose you solved the problem by not letting the air back in, after the steam has condensed, leaving a vacuum?
    Then the steam could rush in with no impediment, and that is the beauty of a vacuum system.
    An additional advantage of the vacuum, or sub atmospheric system is that water will boil at much lower temperatures in a vacuum, than at standard atmospheric pressures, and that may or may not be useful for your particular system.
    In your case, it is best to make the system work as an atmospheric system first, and later make any additions needed to convert it to a vacuum system.--NBC
    KC_JonesJUGHNERomanGK_26986764589
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    @Fred @KC_Jones @JUGHNE
    If I understand correctly
    The "feed" should not be connected to the boiler directly it should be connected to the return, correct?

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,354
    That is correct. In addition the connection they used for the feed is your skim tapping. They need to remove everything from there and give you a proper skim port to clean the oils out from the new install. This should be a full size nipple (1 1/4" pipe) with a cap and it should be routed in such a manner that you can put a bucket under it or if you have a floor drain a place it can freely drain to that without dripping on anything else. When not in use screw cap back on.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    @KC_Jones
    I assume I can have him use a valve instead of nipple, so i can open when needed, correct?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    You can use a valve but you will want him to put a plug or cap on that valve so that, if someone decided to open it when the boiler is running, they won't be scalded.
    KC_Jones
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,354
    What Fred said. You will need a nipple no matter what, but if you want a valve that is just a step up so to speak. Always cap unused open valves like that for the reason Fred stated.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,755
    This is a Kriebel system, marketed by "The Vapor Vacuum Heating Company" of Philadelphia. You'll find it in chapter 15 of "The Lost Art of Steam Heating". The cast-iron chamber where the main vent is connected does say "Kriebel System" on the front.

    Samfiller, do all the radiators have those Hoffman traps on the return connections, or do some just have elbows on them?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    KC_Jones
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    @Steamhead
    I will check a little later but I think most do-
    @all
    Which Steam Air Vent should I have them use to replace my broken one? (Groton, Hoffman etc... what model?)
    Thanks!!!
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,755
    Gorton #2 on the dry return. Measure the length and diameter of your steam mains and we'll tell you what you need there.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    @Steamhead

    Can I trouble you to elaborate? (based on my pictures)
    ( I only have one Steam Air Vent that I can see)
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,354
    samfiller said:

    @Steamhead

    Can I trouble you to elaborate? (based on my pictures)
    ( I only have one Steam Air Vent that I can see)

    And that probably isn't enough. Many of these systems used to be coal fired and functioned very differently from today's gas or oil fired burners. The systems need A LOT more venting than they used to. You need vents at the ends of the mains and again on the dry return for 2 pipe systems. This is the problem with getting people in that don't know steam, they don't look at any of this and don't tell you about any of it. Remember you aren't having a boiler replaced you are having the "system" worked on. Can't do one thing without looking at the whole system.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    edited November 2015
    @KC_Jones
    The only exposed pipes I have are in the basement-
    So I am not sure where else I can put Steam Air Vent's.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,540
    I have backed away from offering any advice on venting this system because I know you want to return it back to a vacuum system once you get the boiler piping corrected. What we have advised on the boiler/piping must be done but, as far as venting is concerned, I think I will wait for @Steamhead to respond because I suspect he may reccommend that all of the venting be located at that Seperator on the dry return and no where else (at least not at the ends of the mains). I think anywhere else may prevent returning this to a functional vacuum system but let's wait for him to respond.
  • samfiller
    samfiller Member Posts: 48
    Good evening,
    Update-
    All the radiators I checked had that valve with that trap on it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,424
    Fred is right: if you really want this system to be a vacuum system at some point, all of the venting should be at the separator near the boiler, on the dry returns. So, you may ask, how are the mains vented? Crossover traps. These are usually radiator traps (sometimes a larger size) which are connected to the mains as follows at a T: up with a nipple, 90 degree el, over with a nipple to the inlet of the trap. Then straight down out of the trap to the dry return. This configuration will vent air out of the steam mains very very rapidly. Now, if you have a parallel flow system -- most are -- you will also need a drip to the wet return at the end of the main. Probably already there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    Samfiller; the place where I mentioned placing an air vent....That would be if you did not restore the vacuum setup for your piping. That location looks like it could have been the crossover trap that Jamie mentioned above. Could you back up and get more of the piping in a a couple of pictures from different angles, posting the old one with it would assist for the close up detail. Are there other end of main scenarios such as this this? You appear to have 2 dry return pipes going into the air separator/vent but only 1 wet return. Also more wide angle of all the piping above the boiler.