Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Advice Please - 1 Pipe Steam with LOTS of COPPER

Hi everyone, my name is Keith. I've been lurking, reading, and learning from this group for years now.. I have already been helped immensely by all the posts, discussions, photos, and videos. Thank you.

I have a 1996 Crown Jamaica JBF52-SPD with 150k input and 383 Net IBR Sq Ft Rad. It is piped badly in about 2" copper. I have a small house from the 1920's, Northern NJ, with new foam in the attic and basement rim joist & mud sill. The steam system is a parallel system (I believe) with the mains going out about 35 to 40 feet in both directions, then both drop after the mains and combines into my long wet return back to the boiler. The mains are 2" pipe covered in 1/2" fiberglass and then again in 1" mineral wool insulation. (Except the boiler piping, which has the copper Roxul wrapped with aluminum tape over it, additional insulation has been ordered online). My rads are all copper convectors, except one that is steel; all vented with Gortons.

So, I've calculated my total rad EDR to be 218. My system works. Works better because of all of you. I have cleaned my system, added Rector tablets, balanced my rads, angled the rads, and better vented my mains with a Gorton #2, Gorton #1, and Hoffman 75 at the end of each main. But my boiler is making wet steam and it's about twice the size I need. I had hoped to sort out the boiler piping, but I still have copper convector radiators everywhere. They drop the heat and vacuum out so fast!!

Do all the radiators have to go in order to REALLY sort this all out? Also, I know not to talk $$ on this forum, but how long would it take for the ROI on replacing the near boiler piping? Boiler? Radiators? I am glad I have steam heat and have really come to appreciate it as you all do as well.. the mechanics of it, etc. I wouldn't want to switch to water..
Advice?

Comments

  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,115
    edited January 2016
    Might not be worth it to pay to repipe a 20 year old boiler. Maybe it's time to have the proper boiler installed. Peerless 63-3L is 233 sqft EDR. Peerless makes excellent boilers. Being that you have convectors which heat and cool quickly have you tried adjusting the cycle rate of the thermostat to 2cph or even 3cph. Might work better than 1cph normally used with steam. Also posts some pictures of what you've got.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,889
    No, the radiators don't have to go. You are missing out on one of the advantages of steam heat -- the high mass of the cast iron radiators -- but only one.

    The problem with copper is that it expands a lot more than iron when it gets hot. Is this a problem? Not necessarily. What one does need to do -- and it can certainly be done -- is make sure that there is provision for the expansion to take place without putting too much stress on either the solder joints or on something else -- such as the cast iron block of the boiler.

    In fact, the only place in a steam system where the use of copper can be a real problem is in a poorly piped boiler, especially with two or more risers, as the pipe diameters are large relative to the length, and thus don't bend easily. Otherwise, so long as the pipes (or radiators!) are free to expand lengthwise, it's usually OK. I would have to look much more closely at the piping to advise on possible problems.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    Thanks guys.. I guess I might be too focused on the copper being "the battery" part of the system and corrosion, etc. I also thought that the copper was making the system 'bounce' in a sense with all the rapid cooling.. It makes a huge vacuum..
    Here are some pics of the boiler:
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    It didn't occur to me to convert the piping into a single riser system. How would that play with the steam quality if using a 2-stage gas at the 100% setting? Here are some pics of what my radiators look like:
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    Also, the copper pipe (under all that tape & insulation) is 2" or a bit less.. The manual calls for 2 1/2" minimum risers..
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    Thank you for your feedback and ideas.
    And yes.. The steam collides from both risers before going up to the mains as the boiler is setup. It sounds like a washing machine in there!
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    If I increase the thermostat (Honeywell T87F, anticipator currently set at 1.2) while the boiler is oversized, will that produce even more short cycling?
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    Thanks Hatterasguy. I'm in West Orange, NJ. Is there someone who you think would be willing/able to install the 2-stage gas and make the copper usable until we're at the full replacement stage?
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,115
    edited January 2016
    Gateway heating is in Orange NJ. They do quality work. Have you checked the manual for your boiler if they have a recommended setting for the anticipator? I have a Burnham Independence and the recommended setting is .8. Proper setting of the anticipator will set the cycle rate for your boiler. From my understanding there is a factor that you multiply the current draw of the gas valve by to get the proper setting. I use a Honeywell FocusPro 5000. You set the CPH in the set up. there is no anticipator to set.
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    I have a Honeywell YoYo T87F set at .6
    The copper convector rads cool so fast that as soon as the boiler stops I can soon hear the vacuum break usually on the smallest rad in bathroom. It drop so quickly that I'm thinking that maybe the short cycling is not a terrible thing with copper rads since they're all getting heat.

    Is there anyone else here operating steam with copper rads?

    The more I read about copper + steam.. Leaves me uncertain about fine tuning the steam heat with copper radiators. Trying to imagine what it would be like to have dry steam from a properly size boiler, maybe a 2-stage gas control.. And copper rads..
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,436
    Those would be considered convectors, not rads.

    For those I'd want more cycles per hour than with cast iron, a lot more.

    I also don't know how concerned I'd be about the copper. I often think the comments I see here may not be completely accurate. Those convectors aren't new by any means and there are steam systems out there that have been plumbed in copper since day one.

    Gerry Gill's minitube system has a lot of copper in it and when it comes to steam Gerry Gill is highly respected around here.
    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
    BobCHatterasguy
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,691
    Steamhead uses copper below the water line. I am not sure if I have seen any of his installs without copper to be honest, but I don't have them all memorized either. I did it on mine and I can say in that situation it keeps the wet return impeccably clean compared to the old one in iron.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    Yes, I apologize, they are convectors. I just got lazy with typing, so I tried to abbreviated a bit..

    Anyway, I completely understand using copper on the backend. For condensate returns and water feed, etc. But I think the characteristics of copper convecting the heat transfer makes the system respond differently. There's no glide......

    Sorry again, I have to ask a dumb question I've been pondering: What is the qualitative difference of my system (oversized boiler + copper convectors) running more frequently @ 3 cph at the thermostat, versus just continued short cycling as it is?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    I would try two cycles first. At 3 cycles, you might start to get to a point where the boiler doesn't run long enough to actually heat all the rads/convetors. I don't know how it would act on cold days, if the cycles overlap to satisfy the thermostat. Maybe someone can answer that question. I suspect the boiler will run through the cycles and act like it does if it were set to one cph.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    Guys, that boiler says Crown on it, but it's actually a Dunkirk. If you look on the rating plate you'll find it says "Certified by Dunkirk" or the name might appear as DRC or ECR or something similar.

    We all know what that means. These boilers do not run well at all without proper piping. You need to come out of that boiler with 2-1/2" piping and, except on the very smallest models, use both tappings, coming up to a header that is at least 2-1/2".

    So get that thing repiped properly.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    KC_Jones
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    On the usual boiler it might work, but I would still repipe a Dunkirk even at 60%- and we're not sure if downfiring that far would cause condensation in the chimney. So yeah, repipe it.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,115
    Is it really cost effective to pay someone to repipe a 20 year old boiler or install a 2 stage gas valve or both?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    On the header, yes. If done right, you won't have to replace the header when it's time to replace the boiler.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    SWEI
  • Mark N
    Mark N Member Posts: 1,115
    Ok thats good to know.
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,288
    @Steamhead it is an ECR boiler and I saw the label first hand. The return tappings on the boiler right below the hartford loop looked very scary when I got a close look at it. The chimney is an exterior one with no chimney liner and down firing it like Frank said could cause condensation in the chimney.
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    Ok. I always thought it was a Dunkirk as Steamhead said; labeled and marketed by Crown. The boiler and manual are identical to the boilers sold thru Sears as Kenmore. But here's a pic of the plate to help clear it up.

    Also, EzzyT was awesome! Thank you again for coming to check out my weird system. It was truly a pleasure to meet you. Again, thank you so much!

    Also, if we replaced the boiler in a few years, let's just say after doing a complete near boiler re-pipe (3" drop header and all), would that really be easily connected to... Let's just say a Peerless 63L..? The risers are in very different places.
  • BurntFingers
    BurntFingers Member Posts: 38
    Also, here's a better pic of the hopefully not too scary return Ezzyt mentioned:
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,288
    No problem Keith.
    It won't be an issue to adapt the near boiler repiping on an old boiler to a new one it just take a little bit more piping