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Read the book, still have question RE: One Pipe System

Got the book "We Got Steam Heat", and i have more questions.

System setup:
One-pipe system, divided into two mains each with a return to the boiler. One main services the front of the house (7 rads, 2 upstairs) and the other services the back of the house (6 rad, 1 being upstairs). Mains are 2-1/2", branches are 1-1/4. Mains are about 40LF each.


Questions:
1. There appears to be a vent at the end of each return pipe. It's located at the end of the return at the 90 at the top of the vertical pipe to the boiler. Is this normal? There wasn't any mention of there being vents on the return piping in the book. Wouldn't this make the steam go into the return instead of the radiators?

2. Only one of the mains (at the back of the house) has a main vent at the end of it. From reading the book it sounds like I need to add at least one main vent to the other line. How do you do this? (interestingly enough the front without the vent seems to be working better then the back of the house that has a vent?)

3. The glass water gauge; The water doesn't show in the gauge when the boiler is off, but when running it is right in the middle. Doesn't seem to bounce a lot. There is also a white powder that has come out of the bottom of the gauge. The system has an automatic water fill and a safety low water shut-off device installed. I thought maybe there was a leak, but I cleaned the area, and it hasn't come back. Is this white powder a sign of trouble.

4. Is there a "step by step" instruction somewhere on how to clean the boiler? Youtube video would be awesome. There are two cleanings, correct? one that is done once a year and one that should be done weekly?

Thank you for taking the time to read, looking forward to any and all responses. Thank you.

Comments

  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    edited January 2016

    Got the book "We Got Steam Heat", and i have more questions.

    System setup:
    One-pipe system, divided into two mains each with a return to the boiler. One main services the front of the house (7 rads, 2 upstairs) and the other services the back of the house (6 rad, 1 being upstairs). Mains are 2-1/2", branches are 1-1/4. Mains are about 40LF each.


    Questions:
    1. There appears to be a vent at the end of each return pipe. It's located at the end of the return at the 90 at the top of the vertical pipe to the boiler. Is this normal? There wasn't any mention of there being vents on the return piping in the book. Wouldn't this make the steam go into the return instead of the radiators?

    Pictures would help, but it sounds like you you have dry returns and the vent is at the end of it before it drops.


    2. Only one of the mains (at the back of the house) has a main vent at the end of it. From reading the book it sounds like I need to add at least one main vent to the other line. How do you do this? (interestingly enough the front without the vent seems to be working better then the back of the house that has a vent?)

    Lots of ways. Cut a fitting and replace it with something that will accomodate a vent, could cut a hole in the pipe and weld a nipple on to attach a vent. If there isn't a place to easily put in a vent some judicious piping with do it.


    3. The glass water gauge; The water doesn't show in the gauge when the boiler is off, but when running it is right in the middle. Doesn't seem to bounce a lot. There is also a white powder that has come out of the bottom of the gauge. The system has an automatic water fill and a safety low water shut-off device installed. I thought maybe there was a leak, but I cleaned the area, and it hasn't come back. Is this white powder a sign of trouble.

    Are you sure there's no water in a gauge glass when off? Or maybe the gauge is full and you don't notice an actual waterline. Waterline is visible only after water level drops while boiler is steaming. Pics of hartford loop and LWCO/water feeder heights?


    5. Is there a "step by step" instruction somewhere on how to clean the boiler? Youtube video would be awesome. There are two cleanings, correct? one that is done once a year and one that should be done weekly?

    Thank you for taking the time to read, looking forward to any and all responses. Thank you.

    Boiler needs to be skimmed only when new piping has introduced oil to the water of the boiler.

    You can use a "wand" to wash out the bottom of the boiler at the end of the season, but after refilling the boiler make sure you boil water to drive off an oxygen in the water.

    Weekly blowdown of a float-type LWCO is recommended during the heating season.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,934
    It does sound remarkably as though the water line with the boiler off is actually above the top of the glass. If you are brave, you could try draining some water out and see if the water line appears.

    There should be vents at the ends of both mains. There's usually a way to do it, with a little ingenuity. The vents at the ends of the dry returns are nothing to worry about.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    Wow, 2 responses already! Thank guys. I've attached a bunch of photos. The asbestos insulation was removed and I'm getting ready to insulate with fiberglass. Also, you might notice the pex tubing in one of the photos. The house sat vacant for about 2 years and the previous owner had this install to bypass the water direct to the boiler so they could shut it off to the rest of the house (at least that's my best guess as to why they did it.) It's shut off now though.

    So I checked the gauge again, as you can see in the photo the tube isn't very clear. I was wrong there is water in the tube, about 3/4th the way up with it off. I feel like an idiot, I looked at the thing 4 or 5 times and thought it was empty and this time I looked at it and I can see the water mark clear as day.

    The silver pipe is the end of the main that doesn't have the vent. The rad in the basement isn't being used right now, maybe in the future if we finish the basement off.

    The pressure looks like it is just over 2, is this good enough or should i learn how to adjust it?

    As far as adding the vent main, what's the process and dangers. I'm thinking about the shavings that would fall into the pipe if drilling. Also, I saw some mention of oil tube on another post.

    Is it possible to use that rad in the basement, maybe disconnect it put a tee or Y, reconnect it and add the main vent to the other end of the T or Y instead of drilling or cutting into the pipe?

    Thanks again for taking the time, very excited to hear from you all.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    1 - No equalizer on that header? I don't see a hartford loop either. No wet returns though.. so meh.. No equalizer means water is backing out of the boiler into the returns.

    2 - Looks like you need to seal up the chimney a bit better. Hope you have a CO detector in there.

    3 - Galvanized fittings on steam? :/

    4 - You need more main venting.

    5 - Turn down the pressure to 1.

    Nice knob and tube wiring...
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,934
    that's an easy pressure control to adjust, and if you dial it down to one it may work better for you. Just use a screw driver in that visible screw slot.

    The steam piping on the boiler is hardly ideal, as you may have already figured out, and may give you a little trouble with water hammer. I wouldn't worry about it for the time being; get things like the vents squared away, and the system up and running first.

    On the venting, keep in mind that the objective of the exercise is to get air out of the mains as fast as possible -- and any location for a vent which will do that will work. It's as much a matter of what is easiest for you -- or whoever you have working on the system -- to do, so long as it accomplishes the objective. Your suggestion might work very well.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    Thanks again guys.

    I'll turn down the pressure tonight. thanks.

    Thanks for pointing out the chimney, I will get on that right away.

    So no worries about the white powder?

    If i do the idea of make a T at the end, would you suggest a Gorton #2? They seem to be the fan favorite in other post. I found a vent-rite #35 for $18 bucks which is a lot cheaper then the Gorton's.

    We are actually rewiring the house, top to bottom, my cousin in-laws are doing the project night and weekends, so its taken a while. But all that is left now is the basement and garage. Once the upstairs was done, we insulated the walls and attic.

    I haven't been able to find a contractor that knows what they are doing up this way yet. Lancaster, NH. The guys that have come out so far know less then i do after reading the book.
  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,502
    1. If I am understanding correctly, you have two 2-1/2" mains that leave the boiler. One goes towards the front of the house, and one towards the back. I would like to see a photo of where and how the two mains tee off and head in their seperate directions.
    2. You have 2 pictures of vents. Do you only have these two vents? You seem to be describing 3.
    3. Vents would be ideally placed at the ends of your 2-1/2" mains, right after the last radiator takeoff, such as in your photo 0605, and before the pipe reduces for the return. However, it's not a big deal if they are placed at the end of the dry return close to the boiler (photo 0597). It looks like you have one of each. If you only have the 2 mains and the 2 vent locations, all is well except for capacity.
    4. For vent 0605 you probably need a Gorton No. 2. For 0597 (which also needs to vent the return) you'll need a Gorton No. 2 and 1 or 2 Gorton No. 1s on an antler. You'll need to remove the existing vent and that bushing in the Tee and install a 12" nipple/antler set-up, preferable with a Y strainer and a union.
    5. Before you install the new vents and with the old removed, fire the boiler and hold the riser going up from your boiler until it is too hot to hold. Begin timing. Now hold each of the nipples (do this seperately!) where your new vents will go and stop timing when too hot to hold and you see steam. This is as fast as you can vent. Once you install the new vents do this test again. It should not be more, or you need more vents.
    6. Other than that, your near boiler piping is incorrect. Start reading on page 76 for more insight.
    7. You need to get the insulation on your pipes quick. Performance will be quite poor without it. Be sure to use at least 1", and get the PVC fitting covers as well. They make a difference.
    8. What we like to do is solve problems. You haven't given us one yet...
    9. Photo of Gorton No1 & No. 2 vents on antlers with Y strainers attached
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    Yes, there are 2 vents at the boiler on the return line, they say Hoffman Quick Vent on them. The one at the end of the main says No 4 Dole.

    So what is the theory behind having these vent on the return line?

    How do I do this.......
    "Weekly blowdown of a float-type LWCO is recommended during the heating season."
    Do i attach a hose the the connection in the photo attached?


    One other issue I have is with the hot water. Sometimes we won't have hot water in the shower or tub, but if I think ahead and bump the thermostat up to call for heat, we don't have an issue.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948


    How do I do this.......
    "Weekly blowdown of a float-type LWCO is recommended during the heating season."

    You don't have a float type LWCO that I can see. Not sure I see any LWCO in any of your pictures. To be honest, I'd have a steam pro look at your setup in person sooner rather than later.

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    That drain valve in your picture is to drain/clean the wet return. It's a good idea to do that once a year and yes you can run a hose to a nearby drain. I can barely see what looks like the corner of a Cycle Gard LWCO in your 4th picture. If that is a Cycle Gard or Safe Gard or other probe type LWCO, you do not have to Blow down the LWCO at all.
    Sometimes vents are installed on a return, on one pipe systems only because that is/was the most convenient place to install and/or add vents. Ideally you can add them at the end of the Main, at the locations where your other two are.
    As for the hot water issue, maybe someone else will address that. It sounds like maybe your controls aren't set to make hot water a priority or your controls aren't set or working like they should.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,934
    On the hot water -- it looks to me as though your boiler makes your hot water directly, through a "tankless coil"? Is there a hot water storage tank? Either way, there should be a control called an aquastat. If the boiler does it directly, the aquastat is supposed to keep the boiler hot by firing it up -- not steaming, but good and hot. It may be malfunctioning. If there is a hot water storage tank, it too has an aquastat, same idea.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    There is no tank. I don't see anything that says aquastat on it but i took a picture of the area that i think is dealing with the hot water. We have actually been thinking about getting a hybrid heat pump water heater thinking it will be more efficient then using the boiler. Sometimes the boiler will just start running in the summer without a call for heat, and no one is running any water either. So i thought in the summer I could just shut the boiler right off if we had a different source for hot water. The boiler is also on the other side of the house from where all of the water fixtures are, so its travel 40'-50' feet before it hits the first fixture.

    The boiler happened to be on while I was down there so a snapped a photo of the gauge on front, this is after lowering pressure control to 1. I believe it was right at the 5 or just slightly above it before making the adjustment.
  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,502
    1. 0617 is your aquastat. This control tells your boiler never to cool down below a certain temp (usually around 120 degrees) so you always have hot water. Sounds like it is not working, so in between calls for heat your boiler cools and you have no hot water at that time. Take off the cover, that dial you can partially see is the temp dial. Or, your water level is too low, only covering half of the tankless.
    2. You might have had a matching vent at the end of the other main, but it was removed to add that ceiling radiator. Anyway, you're good with vent locations. You just need the right vents. Vents on returns fine, see page 40, that's you.
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    The aqua stat is set at just over 180, maybe 182-183. I'm guessing this is wrong from your 120 comment.
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    I still don't see a LWCO anywhere.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542

    I still don't see a LWCO anywhere.

    I think if th OP will take a wider picture of the other side of the boiler it may be there. On the first set of pictures, the forth picture, in the upper right hand corner, there looks to be a blue (probably CycleGard) unit there. Looks like the wiring goes over to the auto water feed.
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    Yes it's on the side. Thanks.

    The gauge on the front is still reading around 5 with the steam system running. I was expecting it to be around 2?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    Does that 0-30 PSI gauge actually work or is it stuck at 5 PSI? Have you ever taken the Pressure control off of that pigtail (looped pipe above you LWCO and cleaned the pigtail? They often get plugged and the Pressure Control can't see the pressure to shut the boiler burner off at the set pressure. They should be cleaned once a year.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    Does the gauge read zero when the boiler is cold or just warm? Has the pigtail been checked to be sure it's not plugged up?

    Old gauges can be inaccurate so maybe you should add an auxiliary low pressure gauge.

    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
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,934
    The 0 to 30 psi gauges are there to keep the inspectors and insurance folks happy. Sometimes they even work, in the higher ranges. In the lower ranges? Not so much. If you really want to know the pressure in the system, add a 0 to 3 gauge (you have to keep the 0 to 30).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    Is there an existing discussion on how to add the new gauge. I would love step by step instructions. Is there a particular brand gauge that is better then the others?

    Oh and no I've never cleaned the pigtail.

    I doubt anything has been done to this boiler in a really long time. the house is 1920's and the previous owner was the second owner and lived here for roughly 60 years. The final years the wife live here alone and after she passed the house sat vacant for about 3 years. the boiler plate says 1966. There is still some coal remnants in the basement.

    I had the local knucklehead come out to clean it and all he did was clean the burner. Asked him question about the steam part of it and he didn't have a clue. And this is the guy the previous owner always used for service.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    edited January 2016
    The picture shows the details of my installation on my old v75 boiler. You can buy the 1/4" NPT fittings from a decent hardware store or order them from Mcmaster-Carr online. Low pressure gauges can be had from a few sources, this seems to be the most popular source but Amazon carries a version and they also sell 1/4" pipe fittings..

    http://www.valworx.com/category/low-pressure-gauges-25-lower-mount

    The 33020 (0 - 3 PSI) is what most here use.

    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
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    That pipe and tee and elbow are 1/4"??? Not 1/2" pipe?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    Yes, 1/4"
  • LarryK
    LarryK Member Posts: 46
    When they figured out standard pipe sizes they were more concerned about what they could push through them than about how much space the pipe takes up, so they are based on the ID of the pipe, roughly.
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    I'm going to try increasing the main venting and have questions about using the old vents.

    My plan is to purchase two gorton #2 to replace the vents on the dry returns. There is plenty of space above these to do that. Then I was going to replace the existing dole #4 with a gorton #1. (I don't think the #2 will fit in this location without modification)

    Can I, or should I, then create an antler at the dry return location and add the old vents to it? If its a good idea, would you install them before or after the gorton #2's, or does it not matter?

    So I would end up with.....
    Back of house = Gorton #1 at end of main, and Gorton #2 and Hoffman at the end of the dry return.
    Front of house = Gorton #2, Hoffman and Dole #4 at the end of the dry return.

    Total investment about $225 bucks.

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    It doesn't matter if they are installed before or after the Gortons. You can even put them all on the same antler if you have room and the tapping is at least 1/2" or better.
  • Steve_in_NH
    Steve_in_NH Member Posts: 70
    So my new radiator vents came in the mail yesterday. I purchase 5 new vent-rite 1A vents. I really only needed 3 but by buying 5 I got free shipping which was the same cost as 1 vent. So i bought 1 extra to have 2 extra, basically. Anyway...

    1. The tongue of these new vents are loose and when I screw them in I can hear them rub on the inside of the radiator. I have no confidence that the tongue is in the right position now. I have limited experience with vents, having only replaced two in my life, but I'm pretty sure the tongue was in a fixed position on those.

    2. I replaced the vent on the last radiator on the run while the system was running, the steam hadn't yet reach it. With the vent off I felt the air coming out of the rad with my hand. It was cool air. It wasn't steady air, it was puffs of air. Is this normal? Or is it sign of what the issues are with the system.
    When i took this vent off, water came out of the vent, I would say that it was a lot of water for a small vent. I'm not sure what position the tongue was in, I wasn't paying attention but it is loose now.

    I've order the parts to help with the main venting, and still pricing out the insulation. So maybe these are the issues that would cause the puffing, or maybe its normal that the air wouldn't be steady.