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Trane Direct Return Trap Steam System

I came across a steam boiler replacement bid, and the system had a Trane Direct return trap. "?What?" I have never seen one of these before. There were two swing check valves in the lower wet return; one on each side of where the Direct Return Trap connects to the wet return. "You have got to be kidding me!" After extensive research; I came across a 1920’s “Sweet’s Architectural Building Catalog”, with the Trane steam system’s specialty parts, with a cutout view of each part. Too Cool! I learned this system was created to work with coal burning boilers - “only!”, and it is a vapor and natural vacuum system; but the boiler to be replaced is a 1950's, Sears, single burner, gas boiler (I’m sure it had an oil burner when new). Someone replaced the original dry return and main air vents with radiator air vents (I guess that was all they can find that would fit without cutting a hole in the plaster ceiling). The original Main air vents were “float vent traps” so that air could not get back into the mains and dry returns. As the steam in the mains cooled down and changed back to condensation, the system would go into a natural vacuum and the condensation would then flash back into steam. Too Cool again!

Sadly, some trades person moved the radiators in the kitchen to the back of the rec room (when a rec room addition was added) and piped over to the radiators with 1-1/4" copper, then reduced the copper to 3/4" before going up through the floor to the radiator. Customer says that room has poor heat in it, and wants the radiators replaced with something larger. I told him he really just needs 1-1/4” iron pipe all the way to the radiator, and not a larger radiator.

Where are the professionals in this trade here in the Detroit area? Too often I see specialty systems molested by so-called technicians; mostly due to zero research... Is a Man’s ego that fragile that he can’t admit to himself that he has no idea what kind of HVAC system he is looking at, thus do zero research; or is it the company he’s working for refuses to invest time to learn how to do things correctly. Who knows...

Our bid is built on removing all the Trane specialty parts except the radiator steam traps, and all piping up to the ceiling, and a few pieces at the ceiling (there are two mains tied together at the ceiling); and then rebuild the “near boiler” piping to today’s standards and rules for a regular two pipe system. Also, there is one Trane steam trap not working; hope I can find parts for it. If anyone knows if there are still parts for these steam traps, please reply.


  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,578
    Several people here have Trane vacuum steam systems, and will probably advise you to keep the Trane as originally installed. A vacuum is a terrible thing to waste!
    Barnes and Jones, (sailah) have parts for most traps.--NBC
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    You'd be doing a great disservice to this customer by removing those aspects of this system, but I'm a bit confused as to what actually remains. It shouldn't be hard to return it to its former glory of slow, EFFICIENT heat. The vacuum systems are the best for quick and lasting steam steam delivery and comfortable temps.
    It's oft repeated that they were designed exclusively for steam, but that isn't true. I have the original specs for my 1916 system and it was designed to work with a gas boiler from the get-go. It needs a Vstat and 2 CPH may deliver a better result, but I'm currently using just 1CPH.
    With the help of this forum, I designed my system using SlantFin TR50s with a gas conversion burner which has achieved 87% Eff numbers. It's fabulous and my gas usage has dropped immensely, while my comfort has skyrocketed. I didn't mess with any piping other than the near boiler, as there's an equalizer from the mains that's necessary. Ripping out this system seems a lot of work for no gain. Better to get spend the customer's money on a Wet-based boiler with a two-stage gas valve that throttles down after the piping is heated. It will generally run on low-fire in that case.
    I'm just a HO, but that's what I'd want someone to do to my system. I had many suggest otherwise, but I showed them the door and figured what needed doing. I'm glad you're considering what's BEST for this system and customer which is to get it working as designed.
    There is someone up there in Detroit, but maybe that's you! :)
    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
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    @ProblemSolver , we tend to see a couple inquiries a season here by HO looking for steam heat expertise in the Detroit/Michigan area. Are you listed in the "Find A Contractor" section? It would be great to have someone in that area that can work with a HO and steam systems.
  • ProblemSolver
    ProblemSolver Member Posts: 190
    I think this was my last post. I’ve been away for a couple of years. I switched-up my research abilities to solving a much more complex system. The human body! By July of 2016, my energy was running low earlier in the day; I wasn’t able to schedule as much work. By October of 2016, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Mantle Cell Lymphoma. The Chemo treatment they wanted to give me consisted of 7 different chemo drugs through 6 sittings, then the strongest chemo drugs to kill my bone marrow and immune system, then inject me with my own bone marrow in hopes that I am one of the 6 out of 10 that survive the treatment. I opted out and hit the books to become my own doctor.
    Today the cancer is in remission, but not totally eliminated just yet, because I chose to educate about how the body (an organic living entity) makes a cancer cell, then how to reverse that using organic medicine to change the internal environment to one the cancer cannot exist or flourish in. Of course, there is much-much more to it than stated, but organic medicine works when used correctly in our organic bodies.
    So I’m back, but now I am marketing myself to be a teacher and engineer on systems where the knowledge is lost or needs more input instead of doing the work myself. Wish me luck in this endeavor.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,479
    Godspeed on your journey to understand the medical community and buttress your body against cancer. That most doctors are not conversant with nutrition gives one pause when it comes to their suggested courses of action.

    I take whatever a doctor tells me with a very large grain pf salt. I do listen but I also do my own research before swallowing their advice. I am lucky not to have suffered any major blow to my health so far - 71 and counting.

    I wish you all the luck in the world,

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • SeanBeans
    SeanBeans Member Posts: 520

    Thanks for updating us. my wife has just become a Bone Marrow Transplant nurse here in Denver, CO. Do you have notes or anything on how you treated yourself holistically? I think she would be very interested to read how you went about your illness without the help of Chemo and BMT. thanks, Sean.