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one pipe steam or two pipe hot water

cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
Wow! I just discovered this forum.
I have recently purchased an old house originally horizontal return coal fed boiler, one pipe steam heat. This boiler was abandoned - possible in working order.
A "new" LP boiler replaced it. 400,000 btu in, 320,000 out. I have not turned this on. Recently, as I began inspecting the sight glass and water level controls, I discovered a lot of mud -- Boiler not cared for.
I have three phase delta available outside my wall as the former owners were about to replace everything with electric heat.
The electric company has a "Storage" rate that is nearly one third the regular rate. Similar to off-peak, "Storage" is where the electric is on at certain times each day, the energy is stored as heat then used during the day when the electricity is not available. The current storage systems uses ceramics to store heat, but I have all the parts available to store heat in water. 400 gallons of water is nearly 3 million btu at 5 lbs of pressure.

Some of the piping is damaged. Most of the radiators are intact. While wondering how much work it is to convert to a two pipe system, I came across some of your threads. Informative.

My goal is to determine the most efficient system to heat the house. Obviously, this boiler looses 20% before getting into any of the rooms.

I am inclined to use a water "storage" at 215 degrees, a three way valve to mix water with temperature varying from 100 to 212 depending on outside temperature and convert the radiators to a two pipe hot water system. I am looking at using this storage for the first 60% and a (the) LP boiler as backup. What are your thoughts?
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Comments

  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,682
    There are quite a few pitfalls here. First, the radiators may be of a type that will not work with hot-water.

    Second, hot-water operates at over ten times the pressure of steam. This higher pressure does a great job of finding potential leak points and turning them into actual leaks.

    Third, a hot-water radiator will only emit 2/3 the heat of a steam radiator with the same amount of heat-transfer surface. The difference is that steam gives off 970 BTU/hour due to its latent heat, while hot-water only has 20-40 BTUH available per pound.

    Unless it is extremely well insulated, a tank of the size you describe would lose a lot of heat with the hot water just sitting there. This would offset some of the off-peak discount.

    This scheme makes more sense if used for your hot faucet water, since the smaller tank needed would have much less standby loss.

    Post some pics of what's there, including pipes, boilers, radiators etc. Also, where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 4,042
    Not all steam radiators can do hot water heating. Post pictures of some radiators
  • jumperjumper Member Posts: 1,102
    If you can get by until summer I'd seriously consider electric hot water storage with two pipe.Because it'll be so maintenance free once kinks are worked out.Make sure you get a good blender. I'd replace windows and run modern flexible pipe to modern panel radiators.Sell the original radiators.

    If some of the piping is damaged maybe the reat is bad too.
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46

    I am located in Velva, North Dakota. This winter has been mild.
    I will get current pictures as soon as I locate my camera. It has been missing since we moved. (I found some pictures)
    The building is the Hotel Berry. There are old pictures on line, However, many of the artifacts have been auctioned off. Believe only the woodwork in these pictures.
    The building is two foot thick brick with no insulation (R factor of 2). I am in the process of removing the plaster on the outside walls (one room at a time) and installing metal studs for electrical and insulation (R-16).
    Most windows are double hung, original and still work. The first floor has twelve foot ceilings, the second and third is ten foot. The basement is 8 foot. The transitions above the doors all work indicating to me that the foundation is solid. The only concern I have is the 1-1/2 inch sage toward the center of the building. This winter's project is to level this.
    Someone, in the past sealed up all the basement windows. Therefore, there is no cross ventilation in the basement with a potential for mold. Steam heat will drive the mold out without ventilation otherwise, I was thinking of forced air.
    Most of the radiators do not look as if they can be converted to two pipe as there is only a stay-bolt holding the top together. One does have an upper header. Forced air would lend itself to an air handler type system.
    Until I discovered this site, I was considering eliminating the steam altogether. A hard choice as I have had an Omaha boilers license since 1999 and love steam.
    At this point I am open to all suggestions.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 7,785
    Lovely! That is going to be a wonderful project.

    Since you have a boiler license you obviously can spin pipe. Therefore, you can restore your steam system, and I dare say you can do it for less than any other possible heating option, so I would recommend -- strongly -- restoring the steam system. If you want air conditioning for some spaces, unit air conditioners or mini-splits of one flavour or another should work just fine.

    Sort of going off on a tangent... is this a commercial or partly commercial operation? Have you looked into any of the tax credits or grants which are available for historic preservation and restoration? You have a beautiful and historic property there, and a real preservation and restoration would be worth the effort! Contact the National Trust for Historic Preservation (http://www.preservationnation.org/) for more information on that, as well as a terrific resource for suggestions.

    Double hung windows. Keep them as they are. You can work on them to tighten them up a bit, perhaps, but don't even think of replacing them with modern junk. There is no gain. If you need to, you can use interior storm windows, such as Innerglass (http://www.stormwindows.com/).

    Do see about getting some basement ventilation. As you say, mould can be a real problem when things are sealed up too well, something the "I'm going to seal it up and save lots of energy" contingent never seems to think about.

    Be gentle about getting the sag out of the middle of the building (and, by the way, watch out for the pitch on those steam pipes when you are doing it!). Take is easy -- a little at a time. Don't try to jack it up that inch and a half all at once. Been there, done that, don't want to do it again. You may not be able to get it all out, but if the doors and transoms all work... do you really need to?
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I am told that a quarter inch a week is max for jacking. I will try an eighth inch. The plaster is in good shape and lets me know if I am not jacking properly.
    The house was built before electricity or water came to town. I believe that the coal boiler came original with the building. It has a cistern which I assume fed the boiler. The coal mine in town supplied the 2000 tons a year before it closed.
    If I restore the steam, it will require resizing as I plan to insulate. I cannot afford the current fuel bill.
    I read another thread where someone commented that the reason new windows are called "replacement windows" is because they need replaced every 20 years.
    This was a commercial property until the late forties. Then it changed hands expiring the grandfather clause and no longer met code. It went to residential until the previous guy got it in his head to rezone it to commercial and rent out the rooms. The city shut him down for code violations.
    It is still commercial. However, I have a handshake agreement that my wife and I can live in it as a residential. This allows me to rebuild it room by room to current codes.
    I have three phase Delta available. I have an agreement with the state electrical inspector that I will replace everything with conduit. We pulled everything. The knob and tube is disconnected. It originally had gas lighting. I am told that the piping is still above the ceilings.
    Our plan is to turn this into a bed and breakfast. Walking the line between original and functional is delicate. The rooms are 10x12 or 10x14 in front. While this was the standard even forty years ago, I doubt that today's public will find it comfortable. Therefore, the current plan is to remove a few walls Seventeen rooms rather than the current twenty-eight should be enough.
    Because the building was built before water, I have no qualms about removing the bathrooms installed above the dinning room. These were not original and I consider water as my enemy. I have decided on a floorplan that will stack the restrooms above the mechanical room. Three restrooms on each floor: men's with shower and bath, woman's with shower and bath and the claw-foot family room.
    Back to heating: After insulation, I think that an electric fireplace can heat each room in the upper floors. North Dakota has a perpetual spring for summer with a cooling season of roughly three weeks. An insulated building with high ceilings and transit windows might overcome that. Geothermal cooling might be practical here as we are in the mouse river valley and the water table is about ten feet down.

    I am not confident that I can insulate the lobby or the dinning room. The tin ceiling is original and I doubt that I can touch the walls without disturbing the garnish. These are the rooms that I will leave original or restore. I have two radiators, steam only. near the entrance: 38 inches high, three columns, thirteen sections each. Another radiator is 27 high, four sections, 19 columns, and has a header on top and bottom. Without measuring, I believe the two radiators in the dining room match the first two in the lobby. I have a ceiling mount radial Modine?) in the basement under the lobby. These radiators are high on my reactivate list.
    The two inch supply pipe in the basement is recently (within 40 years) insulated.
    The stairway is a 4'3" wide feature with landings between floors and a skylight at the top. Perhaps I will also activate the radiators at the floor landings. this would supply ample heat to the hallways and the core of the house.
    After insulation is complete, I anticipate the heating load to be 110,000 btu.
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    Jumper: do they make electric hot water storage units? I did not find them in my feeble search.
    also, by "panel radiators" are you talking something different than perimeter heat radiators?

    Jamie: don't go too far away, I am still searching for that fine line between restoration and practical usage.
  • jumperjumper Member Posts: 1,102
    You can ask electric storage water heater suppliers if they can be modified for higher temperatures with lower pressures. Companies like CanadianThermolux bid on my requirements.Those were rated for 300° and 150 psig if I recall correctly.
    By panel radiators I mean those low volume thin ones like Runtal makes. With modern windows you need much less heat output.
    Steam has advantages in frigid Dakota but requires more serious design work.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 7,785
    @cgutha -- don't worry. I'll be right here. Sounds like a wonderful project!
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,682
    Cgutha, I visited that building some years ago. I remember the old coal boiler- it was a brickset type which was quite inefficient on oil or gas firing. The steam system at that time was in pretty good shape. It should be pretty simple to restore it.

    Is the lineshaft still mounted on the laundry room ceiling?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 4,042
    AC season is really short in ND. We visited relatives in Crosby, (10 miles fm Canada & 30 fm Montana) It hit a record 90 plus and the relatives were really suffering. The window AC's were hauled down from the attic for those 3 days.

    Crosby has an annual parade of restored tractors, some of which are steam powered, really interesting event.
    Steamhead, you would enjoy it. Pretty long drive though. I never realized how much coal mining was a factor there. Now it is oil drilling but that is slowing down. $1.99 gal gas did that.
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    Steamhead: The wash machine is still there. I need to repair one of the wooden pulleys but I have the parts. I pulled on the belts and everything still moves.
    I plan on making this room into a working museum. My neighbor said she used in until the late 40's

    I walked through every room yesterday. All the radiators are of the same 2 column, 38 inch type. (EDR 3 sqr ft / segment) I doubt if they can be converted to hot water heat as they have only a bottom manifold. Everything needs resized after I complete the insulation phase.
    I started cleaning the expansion tank yesterday found the pump was full of mud. I have not looked at the "New" boiler yet, but am not holding much hope for it.
    I did find a warning label telling me not to use that tank with any pressure. I assume the penalty is rather severe.

    Jumper: Wall panels like Runtal might be practical.

    In looking at the heat system, I am looking at the entire building. Insulation and ventilation are as important as the furnace / distribution system. My idea for insulating is to remove the lathe and plaster to the brick. Set 3-1/2" steal studs, and fill this with Styrofoam sheeting. This way I loose only two inches of room dimension. I built an electric knife to cut the Styrofoam. While in the wall I can run conduit for electrical and signal (heat and fire). I promised the building inspector that I would bring the building up to code. My standard is 2 hour fire rating between floors and rooms.
    A few pictures of the ceiling detail in the lobby and dinning room explain why I am not going to touch these rooms by ripping off the plaster. The rest of the building can be insulated but these rooms will be a big hole in the envelope. However, they are already sized for heating aren't they?
    I see some of the windows were modified with triple pain. When the wind blows, I hardly notice. Maybe leaky windows are good as the rest of the building will be tight. Sealing a house too much leads to other problems.

    Jamie: The west and north windows have the remnants of shutter hinges. I assume that these were solid shutters to help ward off winter storms. The earliest pictures of the building do not show the shutters. Any clue what might have been here?

    ceg
  • vaporvacvaporvac Member Posts: 1,512
    Please keep the steam. Get it working correctly and you and your visitors will be happy. I do question why you want to replace those beautiful, original cast iron rads with panel rads. Why??? They equalize the heat beautifully and add so much to the look and feel of the place. When I stay at an old place I want to see cool old stuff, not modern replacements. I can see that at the Comfort Inn.

    You mention needing to replace them because of the change in load due to insulation upgrades, but that isn't necessary. With a properly sized boiler, they'll just heat partially. It's not like they'll put out too much heat. By decreasing the heat loss you will be able to decrease the piping losses and go with a slightly smaller boiler perhaps. In any case, they'll still work better than anything sold today. It would be a mistake to replace them, imo.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    Even if I go to hot water heat, I would keep the radiators.
    I guess I do not know the feel of steam or the difference between the feel of steam and hot water.

    Maybe I need to know how one pipe steam heat respods. From what you say, I can regulate the heat output of the radiators by lowering the rate of steam production. I guess I was thinking that steam would either be off or on. Does steam follow a "digital" pattern or analog? Hot Water can vary it's temperature so the pumps run a constant flow, but the heat output varies. Does one pipe steam heat allow this?

    ceg
  • vaporvacvaporvac Member Posts: 1,512
    I just saw two mentions of panel rads and re-sizing after insulating, so I thought you were heading in that direction. I can't personally comment on the "feel" of one-pipe steam since I have a two-pipe vaporvacuum system that has exquisite control at every rad and excellent heat retention between cycles. Others here are well versed on one pipe so I'm sure they'll "pipe in".

    Regarding your shutters, I'd suggest visiting this site and this newsletter:
    http://www.oldhouseguy.com

    http://www.oldhouseguy.com/?wysija-page=1&controller=email&action=view&email_id=47&wysijap=subscriptions

    He has the best info and links for expert info on windows, shutters, etc. Very knowledgeable. His section on windows is amazing. We all enjoy seeing pics of old buildings so keep them coming.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 7,785
    cgutha said:

    Even if I go to hot water heat, I would keep the radiators.
    I guess I do not know the feel of steam or the difference between the feel of steam and hot water.

    Maybe I need to know how one pipe steam heat respods. From what you say, I can regulate the heat output of the radiators by lowering the rate of steam production. I guess I was thinking that steam would either be off or on. Does steam follow a "digital" pattern or analog? Hot Water can vary it's temperature so the pumps run a constant flow, but the heat output varies. Does one pipe steam heat allow this?

    ceg

    First, you may not be able to keep the radiators for hot water -- some radiators work, some don't. They would have to be modified anyway. Some leak, some don't. It's a bit chancy.

    There are two ways in which one pipe steam can be regulated. Both rely on the fact that the radiators have a relatively high mass, so that although the steam production and delivery is essentially digital in nature -- the boiler is either on or off -- the radiators act like capacitors, if you will. Thus the two approaches: if you want room by room control, there are available thermostatically controlled radiator vents. These allow the vent to open -- and steam to enter -- when the room needs more heat. Second, if that level of control is not needed, the steam boiler itself is controlled from a thermostat. Properly set up, a steam system will produce remarkably even heat, with the space temperature varying less than a degree.

    In both cases the heat output of the radiator is varied -- partly by controlling the width of the heat pulses (the time the boiler is on or the vent open) and partly by controlling the height. The mass of the system smooths out the pulses.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I did write oldhouseguy They recommended another site/shop. I wrote that manufacturer but never got a response.

    My only exposure to one pipe is second hand long ago. I only remember that he was glad when the school removed the one pipe system.

    So heat is supplied in a series of pulses. The faster the faster and longer the duration of pulses the warmer it gets: sort of like the old "Hit and Miss" engines. If one controls the vent, the amount of steam entering is controlled. If one controls the fire rate the length of fire is varied.

    What does the valve on the radiator do. The steam will obviously pass it, does it keep the water in the radiator?
    The "new" boiler has 16 burners in it yielding 320,000 btuh output. I need one third at the most and would like to vary that.
    Finding a variable burner should not be a problem Then the production can better match the load.

    In an ideal world with unlimited funds, using a combination of burner control and computerized vent control would be ideal. Then rooms could have the temp lowered when not in use. it looks as if a constant supply of steam where the vent takes what it needs is ideal.

    The pendulum is swinging back toward steam.

    Here is some of my thoughts written before these last two responses:
    Steamhead: Might I assume that you were here on business before the “New” boiler was installed? Most of the pipes are in good condition. Some of the third floor is disconnected as the third floor was eventually closed off during winters. Of the 40-some radiators in the house, I have seen evidence of only 4 or 5 leaks.
    Let’s start at the top and work down. The most efficient use of my funds at this point is to insulate. I have already described my method. Going from an R-factor of 2 (the brick wall) to R-17 is cost effective with maybe a three year return. I am using the “White” Styrofoam. If I use the pink closed cell, the cost of insulation doubles with a gain of only R4 for a total of R-21. Not cost effective when one considers that there are some 48 windows the size of doors in this house.
    Windows: Assume the original windows were ¼” glass. This, by definition is an R-factor of 1. If I rebuild the original windows placing a double pane in each, and use a storm window also, (some of the windows already have 3-panes) this increases the factor to r-3.5 or so because of the air spaces. If I find an R-4 shutter that will withstand hail and U.V light. My windows with shutters approach R-8.
    The roof is a shed roof and easy to insulate. Ventilation will be required.
    Even if the Lobby and Dining Room is left uninsulated I anticipate cutting the heat load to one third.
    Let’s consider staying with steam: Because I am thickening the exterior walls by two inches during the insulation process, all upstairs radiators must be moved two inches – along with the pipes. The radiators were sized for steam before the insulation. Therefore, I need to remove two thirds of the sections. 27 of the radiators have five or less sections. This means I could have severe trouble with overheating. Even with a smaller boiler the steam hits the radiators, supplying three times the heat needed. Keep in mind that I am also considering placing an electric fireplace in every bedroom.
    On the other hand, if I go with hot-water will I need to modify these radiators? What if I use the ¼ inch vent hole as a return? Will I supply hot water to only one section? Will the remaining sections be filled with stagnant air and water acting as a large heat sink? Staying with black pipe, I can supply 212 water, but only for a short time. Storage heat is not designed to supply 100% of the heat. Like solar heat, there comes a point of diminishing returns. Hence the electric fireplaces.
    Does anyone have experience of using oversized “Steam only” radiators as hot water radiators? These radiators do not have an upper manifold. It is not cost effective to replace all the radiators, pipes and boilers.
    ceg
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 7,785
    Couple of thoughts here. Radiator valves on one pipe steam -- the actual valves on the pipe -- must be either wide open or fully closed, and the latter is something they rarely do! Otherwise the condensate trying to go back out through the partly closed valves gets into fights with the steam trying to go in, and at best gurgles and at worst hammers. One controls a one pipe radiator with the vent.

    Your radiators, with only the bottom connected, just won't work properly on hot water.

    However, I wouldn't take them apart -- unless you absolutely have to. I would keep them and control the output with vents (probably thermostatically controlled vents). The extra size will only assist in smoothing out the heat delivery from the radiator (like a bigger filter capacitor!) and won't otherwise affect the system.

    There are a variety of ways to repipe them for that 2 inch move, and I'm sure you can think of most of them. The two most important things are, first, the valve is matched to the radiator, so you must keep the valve and radiator pair (unless you really want to remove the spud in the radiator...). The second is to be sure that whatever pipe arrangement you use allows the condensate to drain freely.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,682
    edited January 2016
    cgutha said:


    Steamhead: Might I assume that you were here on business before the “New” boiler was installed? Most of the pipes are in good condition. Some of the third floor is disconnected as the third floor was eventually closed off during winters. Of the 40-some radiators in the house, I have seen evidence of only 4 or 5 leaks.
    Let’s start at the top and work down. The most efficient use of my funds at this point is to insulate. I have already described my method. Going from an R-factor of 2 (the brick wall) to R-17 is cost effective with maybe a three year return. I am using the “White” Styrofoam. If I use the pink closed cell, the cost of insulation doubles with a gain of only R4 for a total of R-21. Not cost effective when one considers that there are some 48 windows the size of doors in this house.
    Windows: Assume the original windows were ¼” glass. This, by definition is an R-factor of 1. If I rebuild the original windows placing a double pane in each, and use a storm window also, (some of the windows already have 3-panes) this increases the factor to r-3.5 or so because of the air spaces. If I find an R-4 shutter that will withstand hail and U.V light. My windows with shutters approach R-8.
    The roof is a shed roof and easy to insulate. Ventilation will be required.
    Even if the Lobby and Dining Room is left uninsulated I anticipate cutting the heat load to one third.
    Let’s consider staying with steam: Because I am thickening the exterior walls by two inches during the insulation process, all upstairs radiators must be moved two inches – along with the pipes. The radiators were sized for steam before the insulation. Therefore, I need to remove two thirds of the sections. 27 of the radiators have five or less sections. This means I could have severe trouble with overheating. Even with a smaller boiler the steam hits the radiators, supplying three times the heat needed. Keep in mind that I am also considering placing an electric fireplace in every bedroom.
    On the other hand, if I go with hot-water will I need to modify these radiators? What if I use the ¼ inch vent hole as a return? Will I supply hot water to only one section? Will the remaining sections be filled with stagnant air and water acting as a large heat sink? Staying with black pipe, I can supply 212 water, but only for a short time. Storage heat is not designed to supply 100% of the heat. Like solar heat, there comes a point of diminishing returns. Hence the electric fireplaces.
    Does anyone have experience of using oversized “Steam only” radiators as hot water radiators? These radiators do not have an upper manifold. It is not cost effective to replace all the radiators, pipes and boilers.

    That's correct, but the Weil-McLain boiler was already there at that point. The lady who owned that building had asked me to come to Minot and speak to the Preservation Society meeting on steam heating. While there, we toured your building and several others. I enjoyed it. Here is the thread that started it all- note that it goes back a long way and some of it is scrambled, including who posted what:

    http://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/100004/not-a-residential-system

    There's no point in trying to use your present radiators on hot-water. They just won't work properly. Fuggetaboutit.

    Not sure if you've done a heat-loss projection yet. But it may work out that if you're planning to make larger rooms by combining smaller ones, and each of the smaller rooms had its own radiator, you may be able to just use one radiator per larger room. Do the heat-loss and see how it works out.

    If you need more eyes on this thing, you might talk me into flying out there again.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    Thanks guys, this is helping.
    I took the time to look up differences of one pipe steam. gogeisel.com/geiselonline/support/Hoffman/Steam_Vents/Basic_Steam_Heating_Systems_1_2_Pipe.pdf. I then traced my pipes and came up with a variation of the mechanical return configuration.
    The difference is that I have two steam supplies one heading east and the other west. They then meet on the opposite side of the building (in the laundry room) where the west side loops four feet then comes back meeting the east side via a valve. The combined condensate then cuts back to the boiler room going under the concrete floor as it crosses the hallway then into the strainer, trap and return tank.
    The piping under the floor (a gigantic heat sink sucking all energy from the condensate) appears to be recent (as of the “new” boiler). It is hard to determine what the original was, but there is a 300 gallon return tank above the boiler.
    I will now read the old forum link.

    If I would have found this site six months ago, the first thing I would have asked is "What is the efficiency of a one pipe steam heat system?"
    ceg
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I think restoring the steam is winning the debate.
    In this first photo you can see where the second feed pipe taps off the first feed pipe. The header from the new boiler reaches its height near the chimney. It then slopes downward over the old boiler. Here in this photo the two separate. The western branch going under the header as it passes the new boiler. This might have made sense when the steam came from the old boiler. but I wonder how these extra turns and length affect the heating on the west side.
    The second shows the return junction. If you do a close up on the silver pipes in the background you might make out that the western pipe loops down and back while the eastern pipe simply joins with a valve. I do not know why one loops and the other does not. There is no drain at the bottom of this loop. This is the area where the sewer leaves the building. The two supply lines then combine to travel the pipe heading north to the boiler room.
    As I inventoried the radiators. I noticed that at least two of the radiators on the third floor had pipes continuing through the ceiling. Might these be vents going outside? Maybe the reason LoriMae had troubles heating the second floor was because these pipes were disconnected between the second and third floor.
    ceg
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    It looks like steam wins.
    Next I need to check and map out every pipe, elbow etc. to determine exactly what I have. The boiler has not been run for at least two years. Last winter the building was cold. this winter I am using alternate / localized heat. I need to recalculate everything -- not so much to change anything but to know exactly what is going on. Everything needs to be tested and brought up to standard. everything needs resized to make this as efficient as possible.
    Then I need vent controls. Are these valves between the vent and radiator or different vents altogether? the vents look new.
    Much to do. I want to know exactly how it is going to behave before I build it. I only have all summer to do this.
    If I find the boiler sound after I clean in, I can use it with a different burner. It may need replaced.
    Why was the original feed pipe split? Is there a limit as to how long this can be?

    ceg
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I am in error concerning the risers going through to the roof. evidently I was on the second floor when I noticed this.
    I traced the risers today. The risers going to the second and third floor each have four (one of them only two) radiators on them. the first floor has only the radiators on that floor but they are bigger. I intend to map these out by load.
    It is hard to figure out what was there originally. It appears that the west supply came out directly from the original boiler. then 90 at the North west corner and 90 at the south west corner to what is now the loop. Only four risers come off this pipe.
    The east supply caries the rest of the house with 14 risers.
    Can I attach the east riser to the west riser (sloping it correctly) so that I have a dry return and abandon the return that goes underground in the basement? I am looking for efficiency and that giant heat sink would return my condensate at 60 degrees.
    I have a problem with that.
    ceg
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 6,957
    First make it work, then make it efficient.
    You could always abandon the underground return, and run an insulated copper line on bricks at floor level.
    For efficiency, get the main venting maxed out, and use an EcoSteam controller from one of our members here.--NBC
  • vaporvacvaporvac Member Posts: 1,512
    any chance you could just clean the boiler out and start using it. then, at least you'd know where any issues are and have a base point to move forward from. I can't imagine it would fire right up with a good cleaning and looking over from a burner person.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I'll clean it this week end. se how bad it looks.
    ceg
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,682
    Post plenty of pictures, especially if you run into something you have a question about.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    Yesterday was a "Veg" day. All I did was map out the piping.
    I did not find a vent on the main. I looked again. Still nothing.

    When I re-plumbed the gas lines, I disconnected the boiler. It can be reconnected but not until it passes inspection.
    The agreement I have with the State electrical inspector is that I would pull all the wiring before the electricity was turned on -- No Grandfathering. The boiler is disconnected. All controls need checked, inspected and brought up to code before I light it.
    Come to think of it. I need to run water to the system also.
    The people who attempted to bring the building back between LoriMea and myself were doit-yourselfers. They went out of their way to violate every code in the book. I even found wires wrapped around screws the wrong way, 12 gauge lines reduced to 14 gauge before continuing on to the next outlet. I pulled everything. I have already re-plumed the water lines and some of the sewer. They both looked like spaghetti -- not suitable for commercial building that will stand the test of time.
    It would be nice if I could just flip a switch and start looking for leaks... I once worked for a place where I did that. I started the boiler, then just before it produced steam, I shut it off and started welding pipes. kept it going one week at a time. But that is not my preferred way of doing things. At this point, redesigning and treating it as a new installation is just as easy as turning it on and hoping for the best. Leaks leave their signs.
    My goal is to have it up and running for next year. This year we are keeping warm with space heaters.
    If all goes well, I will sprinkle the building and install a complete fire system this summer.
    But you have persuaded me to keep the old radiators and the one pipe steam heat. I am grateful and I thank you all.
    I read an article that said "Controlling the heat by way of the vents is a myth" Please tell me that this works because I am counting on it.

    The idea in my head is as follows: I still want to use electric three-phase "Storage" heat as part of the system. The current boiler (after inspection) will supply the back-up. The burner will be resized, variable. In an ideal firing, I add the same amount of heat as the load. Thus the boiler stays lit and at constant flame. The supply lines have a constant supply.
    If I can control the heat at the radiators using the vents, then the response is quick as the supply pipes are already "charged" with steam. Computer control of each room is available.
    I will look up "Ecosteam controllers".
    Thanks
    ceg
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    cgutha said:

    The idea in my head is as follows: I still want to use electric three-phase "Storage" heat as part of the system.

    How do you plan to make steam from storage? Unless you can store that heat somewhere north of 250°F, I don't see how it's going to keep the place warm. I suppose a deep enough vacuum could lower that, but you're still looking either at some kind of phase change material or a perhaps something like thermal oil.
    The burner will be resized, variable. In an ideal firing, I add the same amount of heat as the load. Thus the boiler stays lit and at constant flame. The supply lines have a constant supply.
    If the system will hold vacuum, you might consider varying that with OAT, similar to a Dunham Vari-Vac.

    EcoSteam
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Member Posts: 3,431
    edited January 2016
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I need to learn how steam vents work
    ceg
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 7,785
    cgutha said:

    I need to learn how steam vents work
    ceg

    In principle they are pretty simple -- there will be two elements inside (which are sometimes combined as one): one which closes a valve if the temperature rises above a certain point (which varies with the make of the vent) and one which closes the valve if water reaches the vent. That's it. Various manufacturers have various ways of going about doing that -- but that's what they do.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    A normally open mechanical valve that closes on heat or water: exclusive to one pipe steam heat.

    Heat can be stored in water as latent heat: 215 degrees looks like and is controlled just like a low pressure boiler. Thus, two boilers side by side, one electric (as storage), one gas for backup.

    I will study steam vacuum heat systems.

    Has anyone tried placing an (electrical) control valve between the radiator and air vent? What if I were to sample the room temp every five minutes (computer such as metasystem). If the room temp drops 0.5 degrees, from set point, the valve could open for a few seconds: the pressure changes allowing the steam volume to change.
    Let's say that the supply pipe carries a few ounces of steam. (I read EcoSteam.) With the valve closed on the radiator, the steam condenses creating a vacuum drawing new steam into it.
    With the valve open the volume of steam increases. The problem I see is when the room gets too hot. without forcing air back into the radiator, it could get toasty in there until the boiler is shut off.

    ceg
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I've worked on high pressure steam, High pressure Hot water, low pressure steam and hot water heat. This one pipe steam is a different animal.
    In the past, I have been accused of being spontaneous. Those people do not know how much I study a subject before I start. I thank you all for your input.
    The question at hand is: is there a way to control the temperature in a one pipe system other then telling the boiler how many minutes to burn every hour?
    ceg

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 7,785
    Yes, but not easily. Steam is, basically, an on/off type of system, and the on and off could either be the boiler -- how long it is supposed to run -- or the radiator vent -- how long it is supposed to be open (a TRV). The latter can accomplish room by room control, within limits. With one pipe steam, there is no way to change the amplitude of each pulse -- that is, the temperature at which the steam is condensing and hence the temperature of the emitter. You really are limited to atmospheric pressure. With some of the vacuum vent systems (Paul, for instance) you can run at a lower pressure (partial vacuum) and thus drop the emitter temperature. You can do the same with two pipe vapour vacuum systems. In both cases, you need a vacuum pump -- and a lot of added complexity.

    Keep it simple...
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • vibert_cvibert_c Member Posts: 54
    @gutha Look up "skip cycle control for electric heating". I have one made by Chromalox Canada running single phase ac. It would modulate your in room electric heaters very nicely. A thermister senses room temperature shutting off "one, two or three consecutive swings of the the sine wave out of every four transitions of the sign wave. It makes the switch on the zero crossing of the wave so as not to cause a transient.
    Nothing to do with steam .
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    Jamie: yes, I see one pipe steam heat as a series of "Square wave" pulses. The period may be 5 minutes or longer at the radiator, or one hour at the boiler. The average of these yields the temperature of the room. I guess it is time to rig something up and start testing theories. "5% inspiration, 95% perspiration."
    TRV looks like a possibility, Mechanical, can't wire them together and control them from one computer. That may be OK. I don't have to go completely state-of-the-art do I?
    I do not think I will consider vacuum. in theory one could lower the condensate temperature, but at one cost? As you all have reminded me, I already have a (one time) working system that was balanced. I am working with 1906 technology. The genius of simplicity often outperforms our current day contraptions. I just need to know how it works before I start. My 74 one ton van gets 12 mpg when tuned properly. A new truck does almost as good. However, I can work on my van.
    ceg

  • SynrGSynrG Member Posts: 35
    All of your steam questions are way beyond me (though I'll say I love our one-pipe system), but as a certified Old House Nut (and I have lots of company), I can tell you that you might be surprised at how well your original windows will work and how weather-tight they can be become, especially with the edition of either interior or exterior storms (look for the book "Working Windows").

    I know you've already been given one old-house type site, but also checkout www.wavyglass.org. You'll find a huge repository of knowledge for all things "old house" (including windows) in case you need information on tools, techniques, or workarounds for systems other than your steam heat. (I think it was the folks on wavyglass who referred me here when we bought our current house with the steam heat system.)

    Make sure you have lots of pics before you head over there. The more photos the better! :-)
  • cguthacgutha Member Posts: 46
    I found the main vent. It was thrown in a corner, rusting away.
    N0. 2 Quickvent Tran Co LaCrosse Wis Patt 1906
    I assume it is not worth rebuilding. I will save it for the museum.
    ceg
    Now I have a question concerning Safety vales. I suddenly realize that I never had to size a relief valve before. I notice that the smallest pressure relief valve I can find is 30 psig. Will my cast iron radiators handle such pressure or should I keep looking for something closer to 15psi? I would like to protect the entire system, not just the boiler.

    ceg
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